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The Dark Meltdown

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“The great king… Can we request an attention from you, for just a bit?”

Dedede, the large penguin king of Dream Land, vast, prosperous and peaceful country, opened his eyes and looked around. Instead of being in his castle, he just felt like he was floating around in the air. Where was he floating?

No idea.

Everything surrounding him was just darkness without any hint on a light source, so he couldn’t even see himself. It couldn’t have been space, since it doesn’t have any stars or planets or meteors in sight… Just where was he?

“Where the hell am I?” Mumbled he to himself.

“Great king, we insist.”

Dedede heard ominous yet oddly familiar voice once again. Feeling like he’s making a mistake but at the same time unable to fight the curiosity, he responded.

“Who are you?! What do you want?!”

Once unseen voice understood that it got Dedede’s attention it revealed itself right before him.

Dedede was suddenly greeted by a giant, bloody red eyeball that appeared out of nowhere right before him.

“Z-z-zero!.. Impossible… Thanks to me, of course, Kirby got rid of all of y’all kind! Dark matter is gone!”

“Dark matter, huh? Is the way you call us? Fascinating. Yet… My foolish, naïve king. We’re not Zero, I can say that. But did you really think that our clan is something that you can just get rid of? How silly of you. And yes, we all remember what you did. But I’m here simply to remind you that there is still part of us in you. And this part is getting rather bored.”

Dedede was getting increasingly terrified by this conversation, but he tried to keep his cool.

The King of Dream Land himself being afraid of something? Nonsense. As long as insects weren’t involved, at least. No dark spheres of negative energy could see him being weak, he won’t give them this satisfaction.

And yet, he had a crippling feeling that this huge eyeball was seeing through his bravado.

“I don’t give a flying Nova about how bored you are getting. I can kick your spherical ass right here and there if I so desire. You won’t scare me!”

“We’re not trying to scare you… Yet you still are afraid. Peculiar creature, you are. We just wanted to remind you of how fun it was to be with us. You could finally let go of all things that were weighing you down. Like… Your connections.”

“What are you talking about?! I like my connections a lot, thank you very much! And I would like to keep them.”

“Come on. You can be honest with us. Aren’t your Waddle Dees are just the most useless servants? They can’t protect. They barely do anything. Isn’t this annoying? Aren’t this Meta Knight person is just a pompous pretentious jerk that you can’t stand?”

Dedede was getting increasingly angry as this Zero look-a-like kept talking.

“And this is without even mentioning Kirby. We bet you would love to finally crush him for good. We can help you with that, you know.”

“SHUT. UP.”

Dedede tried to hit this giant eyeball with all of his might, but only thing his swing did is make him lose balance and start falling down this pit of darkness, getting further and further away from dark matter.

While he was falling, Dedede started to see flashes of all different times his dark thoughts and desires he bottled up were unleashed. He didn’t want to remember this, yet they flashed before his eyes without anything he could do as if they were small annoying flies. Dedede’s thoughts started to get increasingly confused and self-contradictory as he kept falling down.

Does he just want to beat everyone up and conquer everything? Does he want peace and best for everyone? He lost the track of what thoughts were his and what weren’t.

Dedede was getting more and more overwhelmed until he started to scream.

And with that he opened up his eyes again and realized that this was just a dream. No. Not just any dream. A nightmare.

But it was no simple nightmare either…

“Why I keep having this nightmare… It’s like a broken record. I can’t take it anymore.”

 

***

Bandana Waddle Dee was getting ready to start his day.

He was always had to wake up early, at 6 am, way before his king, so he can prepare breakfast and generally start his duties in the castle.

This wasn’t particularly necessary, as Dedede usually woke up somewhere around 1 pm, so it’s not like he would know whether or not Bandana woke up early, but responsible Dee was doing that out of principal. He’s a warrior in-training and warriors “have to keep healthy sleep schedule and can’t slack off”. At least according to Meta Knight.

Bandana Dee stepped into the big royal kitchen. This place was perhaps the most gargantuan kitchen on the entire planet Popstar. Considering Dedede’s appetite (and considering that one of the castle’s frequent visitors had an appetite to match too), this was a huge necessity.

Bandee almost started preparing the ingredients for the royal breakfast as he dropped everything in shock.

Let’s just say, it was unexpected to see Dedede sitting in the front of the small table and quickly consuming instant noodles at 6 am.

“Your majesty, did you wake up early today?”

“AH!”

Dedede nearly fell off. He still was quite shaken up by the nightmare, so he was quite jumpy.

“Bandana Waddle Dee, how many times I told you to not sneak up like that!?”

“…Zero?”

“…Probably. Sorry. I’m a bit nervous right now. Anyway, don’t worry, I just decided to start living a different life style from now on. Benefiting my royal status!”

Bandee was excited to hear that. Finally, his majesty listened to his tips regarding healthier lifestyle. After Dedede promised to follow them for 1000000th time, Bandee understood that this is not something that ever going to happen, so he gave up.

And yet, here we are, he was seeing his king actually waking up early today instead of slacking until the afternoon.

“I decided that I won’t sleep ever again!”

Bandee’s hopes and dreams were crushed in this mere instant.

“YOU CAN’T DO THAT, YOUR MAJESTY!”  Bandee screamed in worry.

“I am the king. I can do whatever I desire. Well, uh-h, almost. But you get the point.”

“Of course, your highness. It’s just… extremely unhealthy. And this worries me. Everyone needs sleep. Maybe, not in excessive amounts like you usually do, but… still. Going from one extreme to another won’t do any good”

Dedede frowned and sighed.

“You just don’t understand. Sleeping is just no longer an option for me.”

“What do you mean? Is something bothering you?”

Dedede blushed as he realized that he almost let it slip and started making wild hand gestures in protest.

“Of course not! I’m the king of Dream Land, nothing can bother me! You shouldn’t worry about my lack of sleep. Kings don’t need sleep. They are built different.”

The King decided to change the topic of this conversation quickly.

“Anywa-a-ay, isn’t there something you should be doing right now?”

“Well, I was going to start cooking breakfast for you.”

“Then why are you slacking off and wasting your time by talking?”

“But, your majesty? Didn’t you literally just eat?”

“My dear Bandana Dee. There’s never enough breakfast. This philosophy is why I am the king and you are not. (Yet.) So, get on it.”

“Honestly, I should’ve seen that coming.”

Bandee couldn’t go against Dedede’s wishes, so he started cooking breakfast, while Dedede slipped from the kitchen room.

“Kiddo asks a lot of questions. Need to be careful around him… The last thing I need is everyone learning about those dreams.” He shuddered at the thought.

“Everyone will think that once again this silly incompetent king let himself get possessed. No! I can handle everything by myself!” Mumbled Dedede to himself, while walking through castle’s long hallways.

“While he’s cooking breakfast, perhaps, it won’t hurt to do a little research?”

Dedede came close to the entrance of the castle’s library.

It was not the biggest one out there, but had quite a few books and few chairs to sit in and enjoy yourself. It was there ever since he made this castle his own, but he barely used it, as, how king himself puts it:

“Reading is for nerds.”

Which however, was just a façade.

Since, to tell the truth, Dedede was a nerd himself. However, he had to keep his “tough guy” image and “tough guys don’t read”. Especially romance novels. The fact that he was reading them was strictly confidential information which only Bandana Dee knew, since he sometimes was bringing books into his king’s bedroom whenever he didn’t feel like going all the way to the library.

After all, it was whole 20 meters away from his bedroom, quite a journey to make.

Either way, there was one section of the library he barely touched. Part filled with books related to various historical research and some outdated scientific and geographical information.

Most of these books were written in languages he didn’t understand or were simply too outdated to bother to finish.

Yet, this time, the king needed some information and fast, so maybe, just maybe, one of the books in the library might’ve contained the solution to his problem.

Shelf was understandably dusty, as no one bothered to touch it for a long time. After taking one of these books, a big cloud of dust rose, making Dedede having an uncomfortable combo of sneezing and coughing.

“After all this is done with, I will certainly yell at Waddle Dee who is responsible for the Library cleaning.” He thought.

Despite all the trouble, book he took was sadly not the thing he was looking for. Neither was the next book. Or the book after that. Shelf was becoming increasingly emptier, while pile of books right next to him was only growing.

He slowly started to lose focus, become increasingly drowsy. The atmosphere of the library coupled with the fact that he had to skim through these books started to take a toll on him. Dedede was becoming increasingly frustrated, until he came across a book with the purple cover that caught his attention.

Unlike all others, it didn’t have title or even a drawing that would describe what was inside. Intrigued, he walked up to one of the chairs, sat down and opened it. Maybe it was his lucky break after all!

Disappointingly, this was all for nothing. It was even worse than previous books, since they were at least written. With words. While this one not only had no pictures, it was all poorly scribbled gibberish.

“How this garbage even got into my library? Royalty such as myself deserves only the best books!”  Dedede wondered, skimming through this book with judgmental look as if he was some sort of literature critic.

Until he came across a very concerning page. Usual gibberish was covered in something black. At a glance, it looked like paint, but it couldn’t be it.

“What the?..”

After he turned another page he was saw the drawing that highly resembled… Dark matter.

“This isn’t good…” Dedede thought. He wanted to throw this book away, but his entire body just froze over and refused to move. This black substance resembling something he deeply feared started to grow, until it manifested into the same being that was haunting his dreams for many days.

“There is no escape, your majesty. There is no point in running. You just should… accept us. As part of yourself.”

Unlike the last encounter, Dedede couldn’t even force himself to speak. He couldn’t do anything, except for sitting and watching how Dark Matter was slowly growing and filling up the entire room. Towering over Dedede as it’s single eyeball was staring at him.

“YOUR MAJESTY, BREAKFAST’S READY!”

***

Dedede fell into the pile of books that grew behind him, failing to understand where is he or what is going on.

Then it hit him. He fell asleep once more.

“I should’ve known that this dump will just make everything worse. I will have to try different approach.”. He thought while getting up.

Besides, it’s time for Bandee’s signature breakfast that always lifted his spirits up.

He came to his big dining hall with a very long table. This hall was designed to accommodate as much guests as possible, but ever since Dedede took over this castle, it felt like it was designed to accommodate for his appetite instead.

King’s part of the table (which was most of said table) was filled with various sorts of tasty food, but Dedede decided to start with something less flashy yet amazing nonetheless, Bandee’s special apple pie.

He took a small bite to appreciate the flavor before diving into it proper, but… He didn’t feel anything. Food was in his mouth, but he didn’t feel any taste. Flavor senses weren’t tingling.

He took another bite, and another, he ate half of this pie, and yet, it just felt absolutely tasteless. It’s as if he ate a piece of paper or something and Dedede was pretty sure that even paper would have more distinct taste than this.

“Bandana Dee, what is the meaning of this? Why your pie today is so bad?!”

Bandee was surprised. Usually, it was part of the breakfast he was the most proud of.

“But I cooked it like I usually do, without any changes.”

“Are you sure?” Skeptically responded king. “Then maybe you won’t mind trying out a bit of it yourself?”
Bandana Dee was confident in what he said, so he came closer to the table and ate a little piece of pie. It tasted pretty great, as he came to expect. In fact, it was so great, little Dee couldn’t help but eat the entire piece of this pie.

“I don’t know what are you talking about, sire. I did it just like you always liked it.”

Dedede suddenly began to realize what was going on. He took a bite of every dish on the table and it led to the same result. He felt nothing. Somehow dark matter made it so he can’t taste anymore.

Another one of things that used to bring him happiness was taken away from him.

Dedede signed and got up from the table.

“Bandee, I’m sorry for lashing out on you earlier. I’m suddenly not in the mood for eating today. Thanks anyway for your service, I guess. You and other Dees can share this breakfast.”

“But your highness! This is so unlike you. Maybe I just should try to cook something else?”

“It has nothing to do with the menu. It was excellent as always. I’m proud of you. I just, don’t feel like it, that’s all.”

With these words Dedede slowly waddled away.

“He doesn’t want to sleep, he doesn’t want to eat. Something is clearly very wrong with His Majesty! I need to do something, quickly!”

And the best thing Bandee came up with is to go to Kirby for advice.

***

Bandana Dee quickly got from Castle Dedede to Kirby’s house, riding one of Dedede’s nruffs he kept for his Waddle Dees for the fast travel.

Kirby’s house was spherical and small, very much like its owner. Despite that, it manages to cram quite a few people inside if it was necessary. Which made this house to be one of the two common hanging out spots for friends in Dream Land, alongside Castle Dedede.

After he jumped off nruff, he came up to the door and politely knocked on it, expecting the response.

But there wasn’t any.

He tried knocking louder, but nothing happened this time either. Bandee walked up to the window and saw that Kirby was still sleeping.

While it took some time for Bandee to prepare breakfast, he forgot that it’s still relatively early morning. The fact that the king woke up early today threw him off.

Kirby (whether he likes to admit that or not), not that different in his sleeping habits from Dedede, he also usually liked to sleep until 12 pm at the very least if nothing bothered him.

Dream Land was currently in its peaceful days, at least it seemed so on the surface, so Kirby was rightfully relaxing.

As much as Dee didn’t want to wake him up, it was an emergency. It can’t be helped.

This time Bandee tried to knock on the window and it worked. Perhaps, too well. Kirby fell off the bed, panicking.

“OH NO! EARTHQUAKE!! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!!”

“Kirby, it’s me!” Yelled Bandee from the outside.

Kirby quickly noticed him and used his inhale ability to suck his friend right into his house. Window, of course, got broken in the process.

Kirby’s house was a bit bigger inside then you’d imagine looking at it from the outside.

Despite understandably not having any rooms, it was split into several small “sections”. Kitchen section with a fridge, few cooking supplies Kirby almost never used and a table, “Fun Activities” section where Kirby was drawing, watching TV and playing with toys he had and (the most important one of the bunch) Sleeping Bed section. That’s where Bandee landed now.

“What do you think you’re doing?!”

“What ARE YOU doing there?! There’s earthquake outside! It’s very dangerous!”

“There is no earthquake! It was me. I just knocked on the window, because you’re such a sleepyhead, you can’t hear knocks on the door.”

Kirby was half-asleep so he didn’t quite understand what was going on around him well yet. Realizing his mistake, he blushed out of embarrassment.

“I’m sorry, Bandee. What brings you so early anyway? Do you want to share breakfast with me?!”

Kirby’s eyes fired up in excitement.

“Well, not exactly…”

Bandee quickly told about Kirby about Dedede’s weird behavior this morning.

Kirby got very concerned.

“HE DOESN’T WANT TO EAT OR SLEEP? He must’ve gone mad! Why would one refuse such beautiful gifts of life?! We must save Dedede!”

“Phew, Kirby, I’m glad you are so enthusiastic about it.”

“But what are we going to do? Do you have a plan?”

“Actually I hoped you will suggest something?”

“Bandee, you know I’m not exactly great at staratata… Strete… Uh-h. Stra-te-gi-zing?”

Dee sighed. Kirby was right. He isn’t exactly “the brains” of the team, so to speak. He was strong, empathetic. Very emotionally intelligent and reliable friend. But coming up with plans wasn’t his strongest suit.

“Well, Dedede refused to tell me anything… Maybe he can’t refuse to the two of us?”

“Worth a try! But I can’t think clearly on an empty stomach. So, I’m going to have breakfast first.”

“Kirby, we got to hurry! And your stomach is never full anyway.”

“I know. Will you join me?” Kirby grinned and proceeded to go to his fridge, choosing food for breakfast.

Bandee shrugged. “Might as well, I suppose.”

After short (as in, 40 minute long, and this is with Bandee’s begging to hurry up), breakfast, Kirby’s fridge got completely empty and duo rushed off to the Castle Dedede on nruff, hoping that situation didn’t got worse with Bandana Dee gone.

Thankfully, his majesty was just swinging his hammer around in the training room.

It wasn’t used too often and when it was used, it was mostly for sparring matches between Dedede and Kirby.

Dedede rarely trained by himself. But this time situation was different.

“Maybe a little bit of training will take my mind off this stupid dream problem…” King was thinking while making another powerful hammer swing.

“Your highness, can I have your attention for a moment?” wondered Bandee.

“Ah, what?! Bandana Waddle Dee, what I was saying earlier today about sneaking up on me?”

“I’m sorry, your majesty. I just…”

Dedede noticed that Bandee brought Kirby with him.

“Oh, so you came to train! Perfect timing! This is wonderful!”

This is not a kind of reaction either Kirby or Bandee were anticipating, but they decided to roll with it.

“It’s about time Bandana Dee forgot about his puny spear and started training with the mighty hammer and Kirby learned how to use hammer properly.

“But I love my spear!” Bandee often had arguments with the king. Dedede really wanted him to abandon the spear in favor of his favorite weapon, while Bandee was quite comfortable with the spear and didn’t want to change weapons. Especially since hammer was very heavy and he couldn’t just carry it around so easily like Dedede.

“What is wrong with my hammer skills?!” Kirby quickly got mad.

Truth in that that Kirby couldn’t use one of the strongest hammer moves – “hammer throw”, properly. If he used it once, he would lose the hammer instantly. He couldn’t make it return like Dedede. This always stung Kirby and didn’t like to be reminded of this shortcoming he got.

Regardless, Dedede didn’t listen to any complaints and training was in session.

While Bandee struggled to even pick up hammer, Kirby was getting increasingly annoyed with how nitpicky Dedede was getting.

“No, no, NO! This is all wrong! You should have hands in different angle entirely! And what IS this feet position? And you call yourself a hero of Dream Land, pft.”

“I wasn’t calling myself that.”

Kirby’s patience was really wearing thin. He liked Dedede and hanging out with him, but at this point he was ready to smack Dedede’s head with this hammer at any moment.

Dee caught annoyance in Kirby’s eyes and walked up to him.

“Kirby, I know he is getting too passionate about this, but please, bear with him. He acts like himself today for a change. Humor him!”

Kirby had no choice but to listen. He didn’t want to disappoint his friend and he did want to help Dedede, after all.

Training was going about as smoothly as almost any activity with Dedede, but trio in the end was having fun by purely being around each other.

But then…

“Now, watch me closely Kirby. You always get this move wrong. Did you know that when you use “hammer throw”, you can actually do it without losing it?”

Kirby was genuinely intrigued.

“I had no idea! How can you do that?”

“Well, now you will find out, how real hammer pros, like me, do it.”

Dedede grinned. He was in his element. But then, before he could do anything, he saw Dark Matter right in the middle of the room. It was just floating there, staring at the king with its cold, emotionless eye.

Dedede’s hammer fell on the floor. He couldn’t believe it. Did he fall asleep again? He couldn’t allow that. Not when things started to go so well for once during this dreaded day!

“Not you again, you scumbag! Get lost!” Dedede screamed.

Dark Matter wasn’t responding. It just continued floating in place, without taking its sight away from Dedede.

“Go! Away! Go! Away!” Dedede start slapping himself, in hopes that this will force him to wake up.

 But the reality of the situation was that he wasn’t asleep.

Bandana Dee and Kirby were confused and terrified about what was happening right before their very own eyes.

Dedede was screaming at nothing. Beating himself up. He was begging something to go away. Something they couldn’t see.

“We should do something, instead of just stand and watch!” Said Kirby.

He didn’t quite know what to do, so he acted on impulse. Kirby finally gave him a good smack with a hammer. He used hammer throw move.

While it was imperfect, it was good enough to land on Dedede’s head and give him a good bonk. He fell on the floor unconscious.

“KIRBY, THIS IS NO WAY TO DO IT!”

“See, this is why I don’t come up with plans!”

***

When Dedede came back to his senses, he was in his bedroom, surrounded by his loyal Waddle Dees, Bandana Dee and Kirby.

“Your highness, you are alive!”

“Of course, I’m alive, you goofs. As if I can die this easily. But you all should get out of here. Right. Now.”

“Before we go, Your majesty, maybe you should tell us? This is obvious that’s something bad is happening to you. We just want to help.”

All Bandee wanted is to get some answers. He was becoming more and more worried. He admired and cared for Dedede so much, he wanted to help him at any chance he could.

“Yeah, tell us please! I cannot imagine how you decide to live without sleep or food! Why would you choose such miserable life devoid of joy?!” Kirby almost certainly overdid it. He really wanted to help his old friend, but his empathy perhaps got the best of him.

Dedede responded by throwing both out of his bedroom into the castle’s corridor and slamming the door.

After he did that, Dedede realized that waddle dees still remained in his room.

“Should you get special invitation like those two?”

Waddle dees didn’t need another word and left the room on their own terms.

“Great job, Kirby.” Bandee frowned.

“Thanks, Bandee! But I think we need to try a different approach.”

“And what should we try, exactly?” Wondered Dee.

“I think we should try… stake out.”

“Stake out? What is that?”

“Haven’t you watched any movies, Bandee? Stake out is when you are spying on somebody without him noticing! We might see something while he doesn’t expect anyone to be around him.”

“And how do you propose that, exactly?”

“Leave it to me!”

Kirby jumped into the nearby window and started floating. He was looking for something. After a few minutes he returned with cool purple hat with a yellow feather and with a bow behind his back.

“I’m an Archer Kirby now! And now we can proceed with stake out.”

Bandana Dee was quite baffled.

“How does shooting arrows going to help us?”

“Well, we won’t be needing arrows today. I think. It’s just that Archer Kirby got one of the best moves - “camouflage”!”

Kirby took a big cardboard in form of a bush out of thin air.

“This will be our cover!”

“…Kirby, this is just a bush. Bushes don’t grow inside the castle. And even besides that. It’s a cardboard bush. No one is going to be fooled by this. I don’t want to doubt you too much. But I honestly can’t see how this is going to help us.”

“Just trust me!”

Kirby looked at Bandee with very hopeful eyes. Kirby always gave him this look whenever he start to doubt him. Dee signed.

“Okay. We don’t have any better ideas at the moment.”

Bandee and Kirby hid behind “the bush”. One of the Waddle Dees was passing by. He looked at the bush with very thoughtful look on his face. After which he just shrugged and continued to go wherever he was going to.

“Kirby, this is incredible! I shouldn’t have doubted you for a second.”

“I know. I am pretty incredible.”

“And you said that you can’t come up with plans.”

“Well, sometimes I can.” Kirby blushed.

Duo slowly crawled while holding their “cover”. They slipped into Dedede’s room without much noise.

King, of course, was a man of his word, and wasn’t sleeping. He was just sitting right next to the window and looking at the night sky.

Nothing of interest was happening… Just Dedede staring at the sky.

“This stake out is so boring!”

Kirby was getting rather impatient pretty quickly.

“Shhh, Kirby, he might hear us… And it was your idea anyway.”

“Yeah, but I thought something exciting would happen right away! Like in the movies!”

“Kirby, hate to bring this to you, but we are not in the movie right now.”

“This is the sad reality we living in. I wish I was in a movie.”

Despite Bandee’s worries, Dedede didn’t really notice Kirby’s mumbling. Copy ability’s power was this strong.

While Dedede wasn’t going to sleep any time soon, it didn’t mean that Kirby and Bandee were prepared to do the same. They tried to fight it, but soon enough they grew more and more sleepy. Eventually they couldn’t resist any longer and just fell asleep.

Bandana Dee was first to wake up, he trained himself so he won’t be wasting too much time on sleep.

What he saw was… Their cover fell off.

“Oh no.”

He looked around. Both of them still were in Dedede’s bedroom. But there was no Dedede himself anywhere…

“Kirby, wake up! Dedede went missing!”

Chapter Text

“Yeah, tell us please! I cannot imagine how you decide to live without sleep or food! Why would you choose such miserable life devoid of joy?!”

Kirby just wanted to help by asking this question, but King Dedede only got more infuriated.

He didn’t want to share his burden with anyone, besides, reminding him of things he could no longer enjoy was a big mistake on Kirby’s part.

Dedede threw Kirby, Bandee and other Waddle Dees out of his room and slammed the door.

“Pesky, annoying, stupid…” Dedede rambled.

Then he yawned. Oh no. It was a night time and this was the most dangerous period for his new sleepless life. Thankfully he prepared something beforehand. A coffee machine to be exact.

“This will do, at least for now. I hope.” He thought.

Dedede took big cup of hot coffee and started drinking it.

He instantly started feeling more energized and sleepiness went away, for a bit, anyway.

He would feel relieved that he found solution to his problem, but he was still very much concerned. Dark Matter seemingly started to follow him not only in his dreams, but also while he was still awake. Was that just a very vivid hallucination or something more?

Dedede had no answers for any of these questions, he didn’t even have any idea on where to begin to look for them. He felt trapped.

Telling someone what was happening to him was not an option. It would be admitting his weakness and he very much didn’t want that.

“I can already see Kirby laughing at me. “Look at this big fool, he got possessed by Dark Matter again!”  Bandana Dee will of course say something pseudo-intellectual to belittle me “Sire, the super power of team-work would save the day from the start, why didn’t you say anything?!” or whatever.”

But not telling this to anyone? Problem would only get increasingly worse and worse. Maybe getting to the point of beyond any help. Making a choice in this situation seemed rather difficult.

While he had these thoughts, he didn’t notice how he already drank the entire cup of coffee.

Usually that would be enough for him, but since he was trying to battle his sleep at any cost, he booted up coffee machine again, for another cup. Just to make sure.

After that, king decided to stop thinking about his problems for a second.

He was becoming more and more distressed and this is not state of mind he wanted to be in.

He put one of his chairs in the room right next to the window from which you could see the view of the entire Dream Land, which was pretty peaceful right now.

Soothing view of mountains, forests, small villages in the moonlight and the beautiful night sky riddled with shining stars made Dedede’s concerning thoughts go away, if for a moment. He finally began to relax.

However, no matter how much coffee he drank, it could help only so much. This soothing view relaxed him down probably too much. He started to feel drowsy.

No matter how hard he tried to keep his eyes open, this had only one predictable outcome: Dedede was starting to fall asleep. No matter how hard he tried to fight his own body, it was futile.

He internally screamed into the void feeling absolutely defeated. His desire to stay awake was so strong that it even carried over into his dream.

Coffee was purely temporary fix. It won’t help him in a long run.

So, what can he do?

He was, once again, floating in the black space full of nothingness, but this time, very far away from him, there was one light source. A light source that resembled form of a door.

Whatever was that, it was probably the key to waking up faster, before all this Dark Matter stuff starts happening again. Dedede had no choice, but to quickly float through this strange place. He started to move as if he was swimming and soon enough he came close to the light.

Once he walked into it, Dedede ended up in some sort of room where he could actually stand on his feet and walk around.

This was pretty well-lit, seemingly endless, dark grey hallway.

Despite its length, there was seemingly nothing special was about it, except for the fact that walls both on the left and right were covered in mirrors. And yet it felt off.

Extremely eerie.

Shivers went down Dedede’s spine, so he decided to pay no attention to the mirrors. After all, he just wanted to wake up as soon as possible, which meant that he should end this dream as fast as possible. This would mean he can get out of this eerie hallway soon as well.

Dedede was walking and walking and it didn't feel like he was progressing. Only clue that he even was moving was that “door” he went through long became a small dot in a distance in the back.

He was becoming so bored, he couldn’t help but start looking at mirrors. Dedede decided to make goofy faces to entertain himself.

Usually, he did those for Kirby whenever they travelled together.

His reactions were always amusing. He either did his precious loud laugh or he was extremely confused on what Dedede just did.
Revisiting fond memories like that did a strange effect on the mirror. It cracked.

Dedede immediately stopped walking and looked all over the crack. He had no idea what could’ve cause it. Suddenly, Dedede’s own reflection start to change in shape. This sudden anomaly scared the king.

“What the hell is going on here?”

Reflection soon lost any resemblance of Dedede and simply became Dark Matter.

“Long time no see, my great king. Still in denial?”

“Get away from me! Stop stalking me! What do you want from me?”

“Only thing we want is you to stop suppressing us. Not only this is useless… We feel offended. Let me show you how fun it is when you are not bottling us up.”

Dark Matter took shape of Dedede’s reflection again. Suddenly, reflection of Kirby and Bandana Dee appeared out of nowhere right next to it.

Making scary grin, reflection suddenly got Dedede’s signature hammer in its hands. It was slowly going towards Kirby and Bandana Dee.

“No… Don’t do it! STOP!”

Dedede was trying as hard as he could to convince his reflection to stop him from doing what it was about to do. But he couldn’t.

Right before it prepared to hit the kids, Dedede looked away. He couldn’t bear to watch. He only heard screams. When he opened his eyes, in the mirror he saw Kirby and Bandana Dee lying on the ground, all beaten up and unconscious.

“You… Monster… How could you do this to them…”

“What do you mean?”

Reflection changed again into Dark Matter.

“How funny. Didn’t you realize? We were simply imitating what you were doing. Like a good reflection.”

Dedede looked away from the mirror and then he noticed Kirby and Bandana Dee lying right before him in the corridor. Suddenly he realized that he was holding the hammer.

He was speechless. Did he… actually do that?

He surely couldn’t. He didn’t remember doing any of that!

Then he remembered. He’s sleeping. This is just an illusion, part of the dream. Dark matter kept messing with his mind. And it was winning.

Dedede woke up in a cold sweat. It was an early morning.

As he thought, this was just a dream. He probably never felt so relieved that this was merely a dream. He stood up from his chair and turned around.

He saw something that sent chills down his spine.

Kirby and Bandana Dee were lying in his bedroom, seemingly unconscious.

“Oh my… This… This can’t be real, right? This has to be a dream, right?!”

He quickly walked up to them and listened to their heartbeat. It was normal. They were alive.

They were breathing and didn’t look beat up. Kids were probably just asleep.

“Thank goodness…” He didn’t even question how or why they ended up in his bedroom. He was just glad that they were okay.

But this feeling of relief was short-lived. Now fear settled inside Dedede’s head. One, very big and persistent fear.

Now it wasn’t just a simple matter of his pride and reputation. Dedede began to realize how dangerous he truly can be to people he considered close.

If he won’t stop dark matter, the worst-case scenario could happen.

Dedede signed. This has to be done.

He had a long walk ahead of him.

***

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN WENT MISSING?!”

“THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I MEAN, KIRBY!!”

Kirby and Bandee looked around in the room everywhere, hoping that Dedede just wanted to play hide-and-seek with them, when they wake up, but no such luck. There was no trace of the king in this room.

“This can end badly… Really badly…”

Bandana Dee was all shaking from the stress. He was really worrying for him. For him and many other Dees, Dedede was the closest thing to a father they got. Many others in Dream Land could relate, including Kirby. Even if he wouldn’t admit it outright.

Dee didn’t want to lose him.

“There’s no time to panic, Bandee.”

Kirby said that with a serious look on his face. A rare sight to behold. But this is when you know it’s time to get serious.

“You are the captain of the royal guard, right? You should ask your subordinates to search all over the Castle Dedede.”

“You are right, Kirby… Sometimes, you are such dependable friend.”

“Yes, I am… Wait, sometimes?”

Waddle Dees were searching every single room, every nook and cranny in the castle. But despite all the effort, it was futile. There was no sighting of Dedede anywhere in the castle.

“This is bad, this is really bad…” Mumbled Bandana Dee to himself.

There was no time for panicking however, as another Waddle Dee was hurry to make an important report to Bandee.

“Captain, Captain, I obtained a vital piece of information!”

These were the words Kirby and Bandana Dee really wanted to hear.

“Some of our guards reported that they were buying products for the royal kitchen in the nearby village few hours ago and they saw the king himself leaving it and going towards the north!”

“North… Why would he go in that direction?”

“Dee, there’s no time to question these things. We have a lead. We need to follow up on it as soon as we can. Until it’s too late.”

“No offense, Kirby, but when you aren’t jolly, it’s kind of scary.”

Kirby gave Bandee really unamused look, after which he continued:

“With my warp star we will catch up in no time. Let’s go.”

Kirby yelled as hard as he could:
“WAAAARP STAR, COME HERE, PLEASE!”

And soon enough, it was right next to castle’s windows. Kirby jumped through the window onto his favorite type of transport. Bandee hesitated. Warp Star was convenient, but it’s erratic movement often made him feel nauseous. Dedede tended to agree with him.

Memory of him gave him courage and strength to overlook this.

He jumped on warp star and it quickly headed north.

Warp star flew past Mountain Dedede, the village, Kirby’s house, Whispy’s Woods, Cookie Country, Rainbow Islands…

Yet there was still no sign of Dedede anywhere. Bandee was starting to worry again. Kirby noticed worrying look in his eyes and held his hand.

Bandee started to feel calmer right away.

Warp Star was getting closer and closer to the Rainbow Resort, which was one of the coldest locals of Pop Star. And then finally…

“Bandee, I see him, I see him!”

“WHERE?!”

Kirby pointed his stubby arm towards small dot way below.

Warp star descended a bit, so this dot could be more clearly seen. This was indeed Dedede.

He was walking with his trusty hammer in his hands, with very determined and tired expression on his face.

Kirby made it so warp star slowed down a bit, he didn’t want Dedede to notice them.

“I will call this operation… The Stake Out: Part 2.” Murmured Kirby.

“Hopefully this sequel will be more successful than its predecessor.”

Why would Dedede go to the Rainbow Resort, was thinking Bandee. Until it hit him. This is the very same person who wanted to never sleep again.

And he was going to Fountain of Dreams. This probably is not going to end well.

“Bandee, he is going!..”

“Yeah, I figured it out already.”

Fountain of Dreams is a wonderful fountain that existed on every planet in the Gamble Galaxy Kirby and Bandee ever been to. This fountain always supplies good dreams and rest for all inhabitants of the planet, as well as collects their hopes and dreams.

It was stunning sight to behold, it was often a tourist attraction on any planet you could think of, Pop Star was no exception.

Everyone went to visit Fountain of Dreams at least once, to see its mystical beauty with their very own eyes.

When Magolor settled down on the Pop Star he of course couldn’t pass up the opportunity and opened up a merch booth right next to the fountain which, of course, attracted only more people to this place, even those who been there before.

But right now, all of this didn’t matter.

Kirby made warp star land on just big enough distance from Dedede, so he wouldn’t notice their presence. Kirby still had an archer ability with him, so he used camouflage move once more to slowly (but unnoticed) get closer to Dedede.

“Finally. It all ends here. No more bad dreams, ever again.” Mumbled Dedede to himself, walking up to the fountain.

“No more dreams, ever again.”

He was prepared to strike by the foundation of the fountain with the hammer, until…

“I saw enough, Bandee. I don’t know what is happening to Dedede, but I’m going to stop him right here and now.”

Bandana Dee couldn’t even manage to say anything in return, as Kirby with blazing speeds jumped over their cardboard cover and masterfully shot an arrow at Dedede’s arm.

It didn’t hurt him all that much, but it was enough of a surprise for him to drop the hammer. 

Kirby. You followed me here. Why am I even surprised?”

“What are you doing, Dedede?! Are you up to your old tricks again? How could you?! And I thought… I thought you’ve changed and we were friends now…”

“Listen, I’d do everyone a favor by...”

“…By what?”

Kirby was willing to give Dedede a benefit of the doubt. But the answer that followed wasn’t what at all he wished to hear.

“…by smashing Fountain of Dreams into pieces.”

Dedede wanted to elaborate why, but hesitated.

He thought that if he destroys the Fountain, his nightmares would stop too. And maybe he will be finally happy again and safe for everyone around him.

“If this is what are you going to do, I’m not going to let you. Because everyone needs Fountain of Dreams. Everybody deserves to have good dreams and rest. You can’t just take it away from everyone on Pop Star because of… Whatever is happening to you right now. There has to be another way!”

Dedede didn’t respond. He picked up his hammer from the fountain’s water and turned away from Kirby.

“If you want to fight for this fountain, so be it.” Dedede wasn’t willing to spill the beans.

He lashed onto Kirby with his hammer, but Kirby dodged.

Kirby managed to avoid every hammer swing without any trouble. Even though they were powerful, Kirby was always faster. Dedede wasn't slow, but being mobile wasn't his strongest suit.

Kirby found a perfect moment and shot a few arrows at Dedede, but this time they didn’t reach the destination, as he repelled them all with his hammer. Kirby realized that shooting many arrows at once not going to cut it.

“I can’t just stand around here and watch how two of closest people to me fight each other! I’m going to stop them.” Thought Bandee.

He left cardboard camouflage behind and ran towards Dedede and Kirby.

“PLEASE STOP, IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY!”

Bandee stood right between the opponents. Kirby immediately stood still, but Dedede didn’t manage to react in time.

Hammer swing that was supposed to hit Kirby, hit Bandee instead. He flew towards the foundation of the Fountain.

It was the wake-up call for Dedede.

He finally realized what he was doing right now. What he tried to avoid, what made him go all this way to Rainbow Resort, in the result, happened anyway.

Feeling defeated, he dropped the hammer into the water again and fell into it himself.

“What am I doing? This is just hopeless.”

Kirby quickly ran to check on Bandana Dee. Thankfully, he was okay. While this strike was powerful, he could endure even stronger hits than that. He was just slightly bruised.

In the relief, Kirby hugged his buddy.

“Let’s go and check up on Dedede. It seems like he realized that this is not right.” Insisted Bandee.

Even after all that, Bandana Dee’s loyalty remained strong. Even if Kirby felt pretty sour towards Dedede right now, he didn’t want to disappoint his friend.

After all, he did promise him to help. And everything aside, he felt awful that this fight even had to happen.

Kirby walked up to the king.

“So, are you giving up?”

“Yes. I’m not going to touch this precious Fountain. This won’t solve my problem.”

Kirby’s mood has changed dramatically. He was glad to hear that Dedede didn’t turn back into this jerk he used to be.

“I’m happy that you are back to normal! Even if you had to fight a little bit first before that, but eh, what a little sparring can’t solve? Now, are you going to tell us what’s been bothering you, so we could help?”

“…No. This is none of your business.” Dedede answered in extremely cold tone.

Kirby frowned once again.

“This IS my business. Not only you just tried to destroy one of the most important things on the Pop Star, but you also attacked your own friends. I want to know why my friend was behaving so strange lately. It’s only natural that friends want to help friends. That’s what they are for.”

Dedede went silent for a second.

Friends…”

Before his eyes flashed all these times they spend together as a team. Those were good times. For a second, he considered sharing his troubles with Kirby. But then, he remembered his last nightmare.

He valued those good times too much. He valued his friends too much.

“I have no friends.”

He got up from the water and picked up his hammer.

“What do you mean, you have no friends? Who I am to you then? Who is Bandee to you?”

“Who are both of you? You are nothing but a bunch of nuisances. That’s who you are.”

It was painful for Dedede to say that, but he had to. That was the only way. Or at least he thought so.

“Bandana Waddle Dee.”

“Yes, sire?”

Scene that was happening before his eyes was incredibly upsetting for the poor Dee.

Hearing that he is nothing more than a nuisance to the closest thing he had to a father was incredibly disheartening.

“You are fired.”

“What?..”

Bandee couldn’t believe what he just heard.

“Yes. You are fired. You are no longer the captain of the royal guard or the royal advisor.

All other Waddle Dees are fired as well, you can tell them that from me. I want all of you gone from the castle by today’s evening.

As for other civilians of Dream Land… They are not allowed to come nowhere near Castle Dedede. My last order for you as my subordinate is to spread the word. Everyone should know that this zone is now off-limits.

Make sure that when I get back to the castle, these news are well-spread. I know that you used warp star to get here.”

“…But… But… Sire…”

“YOU CAN’T JUST DO THAT, YOU BIG JERK!”

Kirby completely lost his temper at this point.

“YOU CAN’T JUST LEAVE ALL YOUR PEOPLE HOMELESS! WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?”

“…Who do I think I am?.. That’s a good question.”

With these words, Dedede walked away from the duo.

“I’m a problem, that’s who I am.” Mumbled he to himself, not that anyone could hear it.

Bandana Dee was incredibly upset. He was so upset, he could start crying at any moment.

“This can’t be happening… It can’t be…”

Kirby came up to him and tightly hugged.

“Don’t worry. You can live in my house now, if you want to.”

“It… It doesn’t matter where I live Kirby… You just don’t get it…”

Kirby got it better than anyone. One of the qualities he was personally proud of is making friends with almost anyone.

Dedede was the first difficult friend of his. Their relationship went all the way back. To see it in shambles right now, was incredibly devastating.

However, Kirby had to retain composure. If not for himself, at least for Bandee.

“We just need to accept that scope of this problem just went way beyond our reach.”

“What can we even do now?... Is there even any problem to fix?”

“There clearly is… But I’m not good at this kind of thing. I thought after I beat him up, he will come to his senses, but this didn’t happen. So I guess this is time.”

“Time for what?”

“Time to call Meta Knight.”

Chapter Text

The day was coming to a close in Dream Land.

A huge line of Waddle Dees was slowly walking away from the Castle Dedede. It was a pretty depressing scene to witness.

Even usually disinterested in Dedede’s antics villagers were watching this scene with surprised and somber looks on their faces.

Everyone who saw this had the same question on their mind:

“How did it all come to this?”

“Never would I thought that Dedede would get rid of his Waddle Dees…”

Bandana Dee was packing his every possession into his backpack. There weren’t a lot of them…

There was an old photo of him, Kirby, Meta Knight and his king from one of their past adventures together.

There was a personal journal where he occasionally wrote about his wishes and fears, his favorite pillow and toothbrush.

Also, assortment of his freshly cleaned bandanas, just in case if something happens to one, he’s currently wearing.

The rest was technically just Dedede’s stuff, such as the book from the library he started reading recently but didn’t get a chance to finish.

He technically could take it with him and Dedede probably wouldn’t notice, but Bandee’s loyalty was undying. He couldn’t do something like that to him, even if Dedede was awful today.

Bandana Dee took a closer look around his room for possibly the very last time with tears in his eyes.

It was pretty small compared to Dedede’s bedroom, but he didn’t really need anything else. Not that he spends too much time here anyway. But it was still nice to know that there was a place you could call your own.

Where you were loved and appreciated. And now he didn’t have that anymore. Kirby of course offered to stay with him in his house and it was always great to hang out with his friend. But it wasn’t the same.

Kirby was waiting for his friend in the corridor.

“Hurry up, Bandee. I understand that you feel sad, but we don’t have time to dwell.”

“You are right, Kirby. Let’s go.”

Dee felt guilty for not being able to accompany his men… No, his brothers, after what happened, but he had no choice. This mission was personal and he couldn’t involve every single Waddle Dee like that. It will be better off for them to stay unaware of the situation at large.

As soon as Bandana Dee finished his preparations and left the castle, majority of Waddle Dees had already run off and scattered across Dream Land.

“I guess they know where to go, at least…”

Waddle Dees were very emotional creatures.

They didn’t cope with sadness very well. Usually, they relied on Bandana Dee for emotional support, as he was the wisest and most mature of them, but seeing that he was just as sad as them left them feeling broken.

The best thing they could do for now is to leave places that make them sad.

Kirby tried to cheer up his buddy as much as he could, but it didn’t really work, Bandana Dee still looked pretty somber.

“We can’t give up, Bandee. We will call Meta Knight now and we surely will come up with something. Don’t worry, we will bring everything back to normal!”

“I hope so…”

Even though Bandee knew that it would be better to take action rather than just continue to drown in his sadness, it was pretty hard to convince himself. At times like these he was really glad to have Kirby as his friend.

“We faced hurdles way worse than that. We can handle anything!”

Even though Kirby was reassuring his buddy, he himself wasn’t so sure if he could fix current problem.

Usually, dangers were simple. Some bad guy showed up and Kirby had to beat him up with the help of his friends. But he never encountered the situation like this before in his life.

But he couldn’t be sad. “If I will give in and get sad, everyone will lose hope”, Kirby thought.

“I have to be strong for my friends.”

Dedede, who just recently returned from Rainbow Resort, was quietly observing how his Waddle Dees were leaving through the window.

It was hard for him to watch. But he had to make sure that everyone has left the castle.

He needed to know that no one but himself was left in the castle.

After seeing that nightmare and showdown at the Fountain of Dreams he felt like being around those that were close to him wasn’t an option. He had to distance them from himself as soon as possible and as much as possible.

For their safety.

Soon he noticed how last Waddle Dee left. Said Waddle Dee turned around and looked at the castle with deep sorrow in his eyes.

“Sorry, little buddy. But it’s for your own good.” Said Dedede.

Waddle Dee almost certainly wouldn’t be able to hear him from such long distance, but he just had to respond to this look somehow.

“The hell with it.” Rambled the king, turning away from the window. Dedede promised himself that he wouldn’t cry. He’s a tough guy after all. Tough guys have to make tough decisions. But he did shed a single tear.

It was black.

 

 

***

A while ago Meta Knight installed brand-new, state of the art, video-phone in Kirby’s house, which allowed Kirby to call anyone across the galaxy and if a person who he called also had video-phone, they could even see each other.

But Meta Knight has soon regretted giving him such device.

Kirby was maybe renowned as a hero, but he’s essentially just a child, which meant that he used this phone all the time and not just for emergencies. Primarily not for emergencies.

More often than not, he used it just to call Meta Knight and sing him a song he just came up on the spot or to tell him about “how amazing this ice cream was” that he finished just now.

Yet, Meta Knight couldn’t just hang up on Kirby all the time, because it just might be the moment where something bad happened and he was needed in Dream Land. So, he had to endure Kirby’s antics over and over again.

At the same time, he couldn’t deny that endearing charm of Kirby’s naivety often lifted his spirits up after the long day of patrolling, but misuse of important equipment annoyed him.   

This time, however, Kirby had serious intentions while calling Meta Knight.

“Are you sure that he’s going to pick up the phone? It’s pretty late.”

Bandana Dee was far from the optimistic right now.

“Don’t worry! Meta Knight is very reliable! He always answers my calls.”

Meanwhile, Meta Knight was relaxing with a hot coffee and good book in his room in his battleship Halberd.

Meta Knight had a pretty rough week, so having an opportunity to relax for once was something he didn’t want to waste. But as he was getting comfortable, he heard a very loud noise.

That noise was, of course, ringing of Halberd’s video-phone.

Meta Knight groaned.

“Let me guess, it’s Kirby again.”

Axe Knight burst into Meta Knight’s room.

“Sir Meta Knight, Sir! Kirby—”

“…Is calling, I know.  Can you answer for me and say that I’m unavailable until tomorrow?.. I’m really not in the mood for his shenanigans.”

“But, my lord, perhaps it’s something important? Kirby usually doesn’t call this late…”

This got Meta Knight thinking.

“You have a point, Axe Knight. Perhaps, it’s worth a shot. But, if it’s Kirby telling me about how good Kawasaki’s cakes are again, you will be responsible for this waste of my free time. You will be cleaning up the entire ship for the next week.”

Axe Knight gasped.

“Well, perhaps then, it’s not worth it?..”

But it was too late, Meta Knight was going to the main deck to answer the video-phone. Axe Knight could only pray that Kirby called for important reasons.

“Heeey, Meta Knight! Long time no see!”

Even if current situation was pretty gloomy, Kirby was always happy to see his friends, this always cheered him up. However, such introduction didn’t instill too much confidence into Meta Knight.

“Kirby, I am… Certainly seeing you right now too. So, let’s get to the point. Why are you calling me right now? Did something happen?”

“Well, yes. However, I think Bandee will explain it better than me.”

“Bandee?”

Meta Knight was surprised. It probably is something important if Bandee was in Kirby’s house so late at night.

“Hi, Meta Knight. Something terrible was happening here today…”

Bandana Dee explained the entire story with Dedede up until this point. Meta Knight didn’t interrupt, he was just carefully listening.

When Bandee finished, there was a bit of a silence on both ends.

“So, what do you think? Can you help us?”  Kirby decided to break the silence before it got too awkward.

“Well… Perhaps. We need to meet up quickly. I will soon come to your house, Kirby, so don’t go to sleep just yet. We have some matters to discuss.”

“Can’t we just do that over the phone?”

Meta Knight shook his head in disagreement.

“This is simply too important to discuss this like that. We need to do that in-person.”

With that, Meta Knight hung up.

“So, was is it important, was it?!”

Axe Knight didn’t have an audacity to eavesdrop his boss’s conversations, yet he was incredibly worried for his fate.

He really didn’t want to be responsible for cleaning up the entire Halberd for the entire next week.

“Don’t worry, your hutch was right. It was definitely an important call.”

Axe Knight sighed with relief.

“However, I got really grave news. I must go now, I have something to discuss with Kirby and Bandana Dee.”

“What happened, sir?”

“…”

Meta Knight really didn’t want to say it out loud.

“King Dedede is dying.”

“Oh… Can we do something about it?!”

“Yes. I hope. Come along with me since you’re awake anyway.”

It didn’t take long for Meta Knight to arrive at Kirby’s house. However, he wasn’t alone, but accompanied by one of his subordinates – Axe Knight.

“I hope it’s not too much of a bother that one of my men accompanies me. I think it would be useful if he learns what about to discuss as well.”

“Not at all, I love having guests!”

One would assume that they came to the slumber party rather than to discuss the important issues. Kirby managed to retain cheerful demeanor no matter the situation. At least on the surface.

Axe Knight slightly blushed in return

“Mhm. Then, perhaps, I should tell my side of the story as well.”

Kirby and Bandana Dee glanced at each other.

“You experienced something similar to this before?”

“Yes. In fact, I was afraid for the longest time that this will happen to Dedede. It seems like my worries weren’t for nothing. Bear with me, as I have to tell you one story from my past.”

Kirby and Bandana Dee didn’t mind this at all. They always loved hearing different stories of Meta Knight’s past adventures. He didn’t share them too often so they always felt special.

Meta noticed vigor in the eyes of the kids and with a cold tone in his voice made sure to calm it down:

“Unlike my usual stories however, this won’t be very exciting.”

* * *

A few years ago, after Meta Knight’s failed attempt at taking over Dream Land, he took… a break. Not feeling himself like a proper leader and not completely understanding his current purpose, he left Meta Knights for time being and decided to embark on a journey, completely by himself.

He needed to self-reflect.

One day he just… vanished.

Pop Star is a big and vast planet, with many corners not being visited by any intelligent life form, where only nature thrives. Perfect for the journey in solitude.

Sometimes Meta Knight came across small rural villages where he stopped by to restore some of his food supplies, but he never took the opportunity to sleep at any of the houses. Making himself stronger both physically and mentally was the main point of his journey and such luxury wasn’t something he could allow. Not to mention he couldn’t look into another person’s eyes after what he had done.

“What… What was I thinking?”

He quickly was shaking off those self-deprecating thoughts as they came. The point of this journey wasn’t to feel sorry for himself, but to become a better person.

So far it was going as he planned.

He started to feel much more content and peaceful while spending more time outdoors, alone with the nature.

He had some time to rethink his life and goals up until his point, to look at them in hindsight.

Slowly but surely pieces of the puzzle were coming together. But then, one fateful day came.

Meta Knight woke up from the strange noise. It was very loud and unsettling. It was nothing like he ever heard before. Looking left and right, hoping to see the source of this sound, only thing he saw is long black tentacle-like thing in the sky that was coming from very far, behind the mountains and going far-far ahead from him.

This didn’t look good. This didn’t look good at all.

However, why would Meta Knight care about this? Pop Star already had one defender. Defender that could easily take care of him, if he so desired.

Meta Knight thought:

“This is none of my business. Unless… Whatever this thing is, will attack me, I won’t interfere. It’s Kirby’s problem now.”

With this in mind, Meta continued his journey.

No distractions allowed. All was seemingly well.

This tentacle few days later vanished, confirming Meta Knight’s suspicion. Kirby was already taking care of things. Meta Knight wasn’t needed.

But then he came to the closest village. Meta Knight was running low on the food and water supplies, so he had to make a stop and get some provision before he moves on.

Looking around, it was very quiet.

Too quiet.

It almost seemed like no one lived in this village. However, there was no way to check, as all windows were closed off either by curtains or shutters.

Meta Knight would usually ignore such weird sight and continued moving along, however he really did need to get some provision.

He was pushing his limits, sure, but he still needed some food to keep his energy going. He was tough on himself, but not unreasonable.

He walked up to a house with a “shop” sign. Clearly, this was the place where he could restore his food supply. But it was closed, just as the rest of the houses in this weird village.

Meta Knight had no choice but to knock. Strangely enough, door wasn’t really closed. From the slightest contact with the door, it slowly opened up, making an incredibly loud creak.

What was inside of the shop was barely visible, it was all dark.

Meta Knight opened the door a little bit more, so light from the outdoors could make this place a little bit more visible.

He didn’t really notice anything out of the ordinary at first. Just shelves filled with food and other necessary every-day life products.

But then, accidently, he looked up. He saw a body, covered entirely in black goo, laying on the celling, seemingly defying all laws of physics. This goo almost looked like it took shape of a cocoon.

Meta Knight froze over. Now it all started making sense.

That black tentacle thing? This was Dark Matter. The accident involving it made him worry about the state of Dream Land’s defenses and forced him to try to invade the country in the past.

And this person on the celling? Clearly a poor sap possessed by dark matter.

Meta Knight wasn’t feeling very heroic at the moment. And he soon realized, that if he wakes up this person, all other possessed people all over the village will wake up too.

Maybe he will be able to defeat one by himself. Maybe two.

But not the entire village.

Meta Knight was maybe strong, but he didn’t know how Dark Matter operated exactly, and didn’t really know how to fight these innocent civilians that just caught up in a terrible event, without hurting them.

So, Meta Knight reasonably decided to back off.

Even though his food supply was running thin, it wasn’t the extreme emergency. He could take a few days without food until he comes across another village, after all.

Meta Knight was slowly, but surely backing away. Until the squeaky floor betrayed him. One wrong step and it’s over. Sound of this loud squeak would probably wake up even some of the biggest sleepyheads on the planet.

And yet somehow that person on the celling that got consumed by Dark Matter goo didn’t respond.

Meta Knight got pretty sweaty from this experience and one small drop fell on the floor.

Now this. This somehow woke this thing up.

Where usually would one person’s face, big, singular yellow eye with bloody red iris has opened instead.

And loud screech soon followed. Meta Knight could hear similar screeches from other houses in the village. They found their new prey.

He didn’t have any time to lose.  Only other option right now would foolish, other than to leave. And fast.

Meta Knight quickly turned away and sprinted from this shop and village as fast as he could. However, this wasn’t enough. The entire population of this village was quickly catching up with him.

Which admittedly in any other situation wouldn’t be much of a handful, but possessed by Dark Matter?

That’s some very bad news.

One of them shot the lightning attack at Meta Knight and he fell on the ground. He had no choice but to fight. Villagers soon stopped resembling anything remotely familiar, they deformed into just black blobs of goo with everchanging shape, with one thing being constant. Huge yellow eye with bloody red iris.

Meta Knight took his trusted Galaxia from the scabbard and stood into a fighting position. Meta Knight’s swordsman skill allowed him to defend himself without much trouble.

But villagers soon started to overwhelm him. He needed either to try to retreat again or to start attacking.

Neither option was desirable. Meta Knight was cornered. Until an arrow appeared out of nowhere. On the tree nearby Meta Knight noticed a silhouette that looked familiar.

This person shot a few more arrows and possessed villagers finally turned their attention towards that tree. This silhouette quickly jumped from the branch it was sitting on and vanished.

Confused villagers scattered across in hopes of finding the one who dared to shoot at them with arrows. Meta Knight sighed in relief. It was safe… For now. But where was this person that helped him out? He had to give his regards to him.

Out of nowhere, near that tree, this person appeared again. It was a small figure, wielding a bow. This person wore a purple cloak and a crimson hat that was hiding his face, presumably to keep his identity masked.

Meta Knight knew him. Not personally, of course, but by all accounts, it was him. Spynum, one of the most famous archers of this generation. A noble warrior, travelling across Pop Star.

This was an incredible coincidence to meet such honorable warrior in a place like this, or so Meta Knight thought.

Meta Knight bowed to Spynum in gratitude.

“You have no idea how lucky I was to be around you. Tales of your archer skills go long ahead of you, Spynum.”

“I’m impressed that such legendary swordsman as yourself, Meta Knight, heard of my escapades. Alas, this is me, who is grateful to meet you.”

“Why is that?”

Meta Knight was incredibly confused.

“I’m ill. I need help.”

Meta Knight wanted to explain that he is on his own mission and he didn’t have much time on anyone else…

But this person saved his life. He just couldn’t leave him alone in this wilderness, especially if he’s ill.

Meta Knight decided to break away from his journey and get Spynum to the nearest hospital.

“What kind of illness do you have?” Wondered Meta Knight.

“I… I don’t know. I was visiting this village, as it’s my home village, while this strange big tentacle appeared in the sky.

It started to rain, but it wasn’t raining with water, it was raining with strange black goo. Soon it consumed everyone in this village… It tried to do the same with me, but I managed to fight it off. I wanted to help the rest too, but no matter what I tried, it was futile.”

Meta Knight moved his sight away from Spynum for a second.

He knew the feeling of being unable to help someone he cared about. His mind flashed to that accident on Halberd and how his men desperately tried to stop Kirby for him, while he could do nothing about it but watch. He ordered them to leave, but they didn’t listen.

Even though they were alright in the end, he never could forget this feeling of helplessness.

“I understand how you felt. But sometimes it’s just better to accept that there’s nothing you can do about it and move on. When does your illness come into play?”

Spynum didn’t care about Meta Knight’s “move on” remark, but he decided to ignore it.

“I managed to hide thanks to my camouflage skills.

I decided to keep watch at this village for time being, either to help strangers that manage to wander off here or to wait until perfect moment and get rid of this filthy goo.

But then I started feeling unwell. I felt as if all my inner will was just… Gone. I didn’t have motivation to do anything. I started to feel incredibly sad. Only things I could think about is how I failed my friends and family. Then I started having nightmares about this. Never-ending nightmares.

And then I noticed how my color started to become more and more washed out.”

Meta Knight had no idea what could be happening to this person.

He never encountered an illness with such symptoms. The closest thing he could think of is depression.

But as far as he knew, it didn’t cause your body to lose its color or strength.

Whatever that was, Meta Knight had to help him.

“I feel guilty for leaving this village before I thought of a way to help, but it will be even more of a shame if this illness will take me out before I could help them.”

“This is reasonable. I will help you; this is the least I can do for you for saving me.”

Even though Spynum seemed so energetic only moments ago, it seems like he used up all of his remaining strength on rescuing Meta Knight.

Trying to make a few steps made him collapse. Meta Knight had no choice but to carry him. It wasn’t much of a hassle as Spynum was fairly light.

Meta travelled before in pretty relaxed pace, but now he didn’t have any time to lose. He had to speed up for the sake of another life at stake.

Meta Knight’s cape turned into big bat-like wings and he quickly flew away from these parts.

The closest place where Spynum could get help was Rainbow Resort.

Somewhat of a Dream Land’s capital, which was a fairly big city at the north, mainly known for its main attraction – Fountain of Dreams.

But he didn’t really care about it right now.

Only thing of importance to him was hospital that was located there.

As much as Meta Knight wanted to get there as quickly as possible, constant flying was really tiring him out. He had to take breaks, as much as he hated the mere fact.

Spynum didn’t mind. He was constantly encouraging Meta Knight and didn’t want him to overwork himself.

“I really appreciate your help. But there’s no need…”

“There IS a need.”

Even with his outfit, Meta Knight noticed that Spynum becomes paler and paler fast.

He had to hurry.

“What are you thinking about right now?”

Asked Meta Knight during one of flights.

“This doesn’t matter…”

“You are ill. If you are thinking about something negative, this isn’t going to help you.”

“I know… but I just… can’t get horrified look of their faces out of my head.”

Meta Knight really couldn’t argue with that.

It’s clear that negative thoughts only hurt him more, but he really didn’t know how to encourage or distract him.

He wasn’t very sociable person. And he had quite a bit on his own plate too. So only thing he could do, is to try to get to the Rainbow Resort as fast as he could.

And finally, they were there.

It took them a couple of days, but they finally arrived at their destination. Meta Knight was incredibly tired, but found strength in himself to keep going just a little bit further to get Spynum to the hospital.

Once he stepped into the hospital, he yelled on the top of his lungs:

“This man needs help!”

After which, he collapsed. He was unconscious from exhaustion.

When Meta Knight woke up, he found himself on the hospital bed. Without his mask. He quickly started panicking and looked left and right to find his mask. It was hung on the hook near the door. Meta Knight stood up and quickly put it back.

He felt extremely uncomfortable without his mask. He didn’t even want to imagine how long he was laying there like that.

One of the hospital’s doctors soon entered Meta Knight’s room.

“Meta Knight, you are feeling all better already!”

“…Yes. How long was I out?”

“Only a day, don’t worry. Especially considering how tired you were.”

“Okay, this is good. But how is Spynum?”

Doctor didn’t answer. His face quickly turned grim.

Meta Knight repeated the question in much more irritated tone.

“How is Spynum?”

“We are doing the best we can. But currently, he is in the coma.”

 “No… I was too late… What is the number of his room?”

“105, but…”

The mere thought made Meta Knight absolutely horrified. He had to check on him, quickly. He ran away from his room as the speed of sound. Doctor didn’t even get to react.

Meta Knight arrived at the room 105, only to notice a chilling sight.

A black sphere was slowly coming out of Spynum’s body, while monitor next to him him was showing unnaturally fast heartbeat.

Meta Knight was too late. This black sphere opened its singular yellow eye with bloody iris and left right through the window.

Monitor started to show relatively normal heartbeat again, but Meta Knight knew, it probably meant nothing.

And he was right. As soon doctors discovered, despite this body continuing to function normally as no organs were damaged, it seems like any brain activity just… stopped. This was nothing but a husk that could no longer move, think or feel.

“I wasn’t fast enough… I wasn’t good enough… This journey was all useless in the end.”

Meta Knight’s mind was occupied by these gloomy thoughts that seemed like they never could go away.

But then he realized. If he didn’t remain indifferent towards that tentacle, if he tried to do something about whatever was happening right now, right away, none of this would’ve happened. In the end, while Kirby was a hero, he couldn’t save everyone at once, just like Meta Knight thought initially. Even if he was strong and empathetic, he was a kid. Lone kid can’t handle all threats by himself. He can’t save everyone alone.

But this doesn’t mean that he should take over Dream Land. It doesn’t mean residents of Dream Land deserve it since they leave lazily and peacefully.

It just means that Kirby needs help, to fight off forces that are beyond his reach. Even though Meta Knight felt incredibly guilty that he let this happen to Spynum, he decided to not succumb to these thoughts. But to move forward. To prevent anything like this from happening ever again.

This was the day Meta Knight’s journey ended. He left Rainbow Resort in the search of Meta Knights. It was time to help Pop Star to completely recover from the aftermath of Zero’s invasion.

And to spread the good will of Spynum, the noble warrior that fell trying to protect ones he cared about the most.

Since then, archers all over the planet heard about his fate and in respect, continued his legacy, so his name will never be forgotten.

* * *

Kirby and Bandana Dee knew where this was going when Meta Knight finished his tale.

Dedede has the same illness as Spynum did.

And this made them even more upset than they were before. Especially Bandee. Axe Knight was also on the verge of tears, but had to hold his own in front of his boss and the kids.

Kirby bottled his emotions up. If he will be upset too, then Bandee will feel even worse about the whole situation.

“Since then, I did a bit of a personal research, to make sure this will never happen again. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried, I haven’t found any concrete records of similar events ever happening. I got only some vague bits and pieces that could potentially help us.”

“So, what did you find out?” Bandee couldn’t handle the thought of this happening to Dedede. He needed to know what he could do to help.

“Again… Not much. From doctor’s records, they did quite a few analyses, including x-ray, but couldn’t find any instances of anything in his body. Including Dark Matter. From research I conducted myself since then I found out that similar illness was documented before. Apparently, the cause of it is so-called “dark matter pieces”.”

“But didn’t you said that doctors couldn’t find Dark Matter inside Spynum?”

“Yes. But that’s the thing. This piece is incredibly small. It doesn’t really affect anything except for person’s brain, supposedly. It affects person’s thoughts and emotions, feeds off them and then becomes full-fledged Dark Matter sphere, after sucking away every little bit of soul inside of person’s body. But not before it manages to destroy all positive feelings and emotions said person had. I assume Spynum went down so quickly partially because there were no positive emotions in him left. Dedede is still in control purely because he probably can still feel them. But soon enough there won’t be anything left that could give him joy and he will succumb to Dark Matter piece.”

“What can we do? We have to do something!”

Bandana Dee was getting hysterical.

“Bandee, calm down.”

“Kirby, stop calming me down! This isn’t helping at all! My papa… I mean, my boss… He is in danger… He could die and I can’t do anything…”

“Believe me, Bandana Waddle Dee, I also feel horrible about what’s happening with His Majesty right now. But Kirby is right. We won’t be able to do anything if we will succumb to our negative emotions. Remember what happened to Spynum, after all. We have to stay in clear state of mind. What we need now is more information, and…”

Meta Knight turned his glance to Kirby.

“You’re the best person to ask for this sort of thing.”

“Me?”

Kirby was really confused.

“Why me? I didn’t even know anything about this Dark Matter pieces stuff before you told me. How could I possibly know anything?”

“You fought with Dark Matter before, multiple times. Out of all of us, you are the most experienced one in this field.”

Kirby got sweaty. He indeed fought Dark Matter multiple times in the past… But it doesn’t mean that he knew anything about it! Kirby was not the type to ask questions about motivations and plans of the villains he fought.

“I’m sorry, I really am. But I really don’t know!”

“You have to know at least something.”

Meta Knight was quickly losing his patience.

Kirby, as he thought, was the key to solving everything. He was the one who faced off against Dark Matter multiple times. He HAD to know something.

Axe Knight noticed Meta Knight’s increased annoyance and tried to calm his boss down.

“Don’t be so hard on him… Even though he is very strong, remember, he is still a kid.”

Meta Knight sighed. Axe Knight was right. He fell victim to the same mistake he was fighting against few years ago. Kirby was still a kid; it was silly of him to think he would know anything.

“I got it!”

Meta Knight’s eyes became all fired up.

“What did you remember?”

“I don’t know how useful this is, but, remember that time I fell into underground and I got lost and while I was trying to find a way back I found tons of treasure along the way?”

“Yes, Kirby. We remember. You told us this story a million times already.” Said Meta Knight, Bandana Dee and Axe Knight in unison.

“And now Magolor turned these underground caves into museum. It’s awesome. You should go there sometime, sir.” Murmured Axe Knight to his boss.

Meta Knight threw a death glare at his subordinate.

Even though Magolor “has changed”, he still couldn’t forgive him the betrayal and hated his guts.

So going to that so-called “museum” was out of the question for him.

“What does this have to do with our current situation?” Meta Knight was starting to think that he got excited a bit too early.

“Well, the thing is, in one of the parts of the underground I saw… I forgot the word… Pictures? Err, drawings? Err…”

“Maybe, “murals”?” Suggested Bandee.

“Yes, Murals! Exactly! I saw murals of Dark Matter down there.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 4.

It was nighttime.

Dedede was sitting behind the desk in his bedroom, which was brightly lit by a candle, and looking at various photos in his photo album.

These photos pictured him, Kirby, Bandana Dee and Meta Knight during their various adventures.

Some photos had just him and Kirby, some just him and Bandana Dee.

Some were gifts from Kirby from journeys Dedede didn’t participate in.

But there was one thing that connected these photos together: looking at them made Dedede feel warm inside.

Lately joy from his life disappeared almost entirely… These photos were one of the few things left that kept him sane.

It was quite bittersweet feeling. On these photos everyone was happy. Not troubled by anything. They were all together. Dedede took this very much for granted back then.

In fact, at first, he even hesitated to accept that he hangs out with Kirby. This brat humiliated more than he could count. And yet even then he couldn’t help but look back at those moments fondly. They felt like a such distant, but oddly comforting memory. Over time he grew to care for the boy.

As much as he hated to admit it, but he knew well that Kirby helped him to change, helphim him to become a much better person.

People often say that you don’t truly appreciate something until it’s gone. Well, today the great king truly understood the meaning of this saying.

He only now came to realize how much he came to love these goofs. They were like a family to him.

But at this point he burned all bridges. There was no way to go back to how things were. “And it’s probably for the best.” Dedede thought. “As much as I’m sad because I miss them, I will be even sadder if they will be gone because of me.”

“You are still looking at them, huh.”

Dark Matter materialized itself right next to Dedede. Was it a hallucination or reality? He couldn’t tell. Not that he cared anymore.

“You really should stop living in the past, you know. This is not going to help. What will help… If you finally embrace us.”

“Shut up.”

“Excuse us?”

“You made me lose almost everything I ever cared about in life. These photos… Is all I got left. Just, shut up and get lost. I’m not going to give you any satisfaction.”

“We didn’t do anything. Everything that is troubling you right now is your doing.”

Dedede’s patience was running thin.

“Go away.”

With all his might he smacked his desk. Few photos fell on the floor and candle went out. The only light source left was the bright moonlight from the window.

When Dedede looked again, Dark Matter went away. Did he scare it away? Or his mind stopped playing tricks on him? There was no way to tell.

But the worst part about this that Dark Matter wasn’t entirely wrong. It was his actions that made him currently miserable.

But how much exactly could he trust his own mind and body? He didn’t know for sure. As much he missed simpler, happier times, safety of his friends was a much bigger priority to him. No matter how much it hurt.

Unknowingly, this little smidge of warm and fuzzy feelings left inside his mind is what kept him safe for now. Power of the dark matter piece stuck inside of him was slowly taking him over, but this process was far from finished.

Dedede’s genuine love and care for his friends… This is something dark matter piece couldn’t take care of.

Kirby, Meta Knight and Bandana Dee still got a chance to save him.

* * *

“Dark Matter Murals?! Why didn’t you tell us this before?”

Meta Knight felt both slightly relieved since he finally got information that gave him some hope on saving Dedede, but at the same time he was mad at Kirby for not bringing this up in the first place.

“I’m sorry, but I was in that place such a long time ago that I forget unimportant stuff like that!”

Everyone glared at Kirby.

“…Well I didn’t know that it will be important later!”

“Are you sure they are murals of Dark Matter?” Bandana Dee wanted to believe that Kirby was onto something, but he was the type of person that preferred to get concrete information before becoming too excited.

“Well, they looked like a big dark circle with one creepy eye. Got to be it, right?”

“Sounds about right. We will have to check that place tomorrow.”

“So, we will visit Magolor’s museum after all?” Despite this trip being motivated purely by noble intentions, Axe Knight couldn’t help but get giddy at the prospect of visiting a new Pop Star attraction.

Meta Knight just realized that going to the old tower meant meeting with Magolor.

Oh boy.

“No, Axe Knight. You are staying on Halberd. I have a special mission for you and other Meta Knights. Tomorrow, while I’m gone investigating alongside Kirby and Bandana Waddle Dee, you will start additional research on Dark Matter pieces. I didn’t look for anything regarding the topic in a while, so some new information might’ve appeared since then.”

Axe Knight’s enthusiasm quickly went back to zero. Meta Knight felt sorry for him, so he added:

“…if you do a good job, I will get you a ticket to that blasted museum, if you want to.”

Axe Knight’s spirits immediately went up again.

“Thanks, sir, you are truly the best!”

Meta Knight awkwardly brushed it off.

He loved his men dearly, but didn’t want his façade of a “tough boss” to disappear either.

So, every time he showed affection to any of them, he quickly changed the topic as if nothing happened.

“In any case, we must be going to sleep now.”

“To sleep?!”

Bandana Dee was furious.

“What do you mean, to sleep? We just found out about something that could help us and we are just going to go to bed? Why?! We should do something!”

“Bandee…” Kirby tried to calm his buddy down, but he just got too fired up to listen to him.

“I understand why you want to jump into action immediately. But think about it this way. Didn’t you berate Dedede for not going to sleep yourself? Healthy sleep is needed for any warrior, you know this better than anyone else in this room. Except me of course.”

Axe Knight and Kirby didn’t take this remark too kindly and squinted at Meta Knight.

The noble warrior with good sleep schedule conveniently ignored this.

“All of us should now go to sleep and get some rest before tomorrow. If we will have to fight, we will have to be strong, not exhausted. And I can tell that you two had a long day today.”

Bandee reluctantly agreed. As much as he hated to admit it, Meta Knight was right. There was no point in rushing things and they needed to get some rest.

“Besides… the museum is likely closed for the night and if we break-in Magolor won’t shut up about it until the end of time. And will likely make me pay a huge debt. Which is something I don’t want to do in the slightest.”

With all that settled, the group agreed to meet up near the museum tomorrow. Meta Knight and Axe Knight left Kirby’s house to get some rest on the Halberd, while Kirby was preparing a sleeping bag for his guest.

Bandee wasn’t in the mood for sleeping. In the slightest. There were many thoughts and feelings which he couldn’t even comprehend all at once.

Closest thing he had to a father is in grave danger. How could he allow himself to go to sleep?

But at the same time Meta Knight made such a good point. He always followed his word.

Kirby saw how concerned Bandana Dee looked. Usually at times like these he would’ve tried to cheer him up in his usual Kirby way. But this time wasn’t like the usual ones.

“Do you… Want to talk about it?” Kirby asked quietly.

Bandee sighed:

“No. Not really.”

With these words Bandee just sat on the sleeping bag and started looking into the window with a blank look on his face. Whenever his mind was right now, it wasn’t in Kirby's house.

Kirby jumped down from his bed and sat right next to Bandana Dee. They both looked into the window. Soon, the calming view of a night sky calmed the kids down and they started softly snoring, comfortably leaning on each other.

The next morning came. Bandana Dee woke up feeling somewhat well-rested. It wasn’t 6 am for sure, it was a bit later than usual, since he didn’t have his alarm clock with him.

But with feeling much more energized, he was ready to fight for his king’s life.

Strangely, he didn’t see Kirby anywhere around the house. It was fairly small, so it was basically impossible to hide there.

Curious, Bandee looked in the window. Kirby was outside.

That surprised Bandee. Of course, when it was needed Kirby could wake up earlier, but usually it was always a reluctant, slow awakening. Kirby might be a courageous hero sometimes, but he was still a lazy kid.

Bandee was surprised to see Kirby wake up not only before him, but also to see him… training?

Kirby was trying to execute something with hammer copy ability outdoors. Bandana Dee feeling curious, walked up to his buddy.

“Hey, good morning, Kirby.”

“Good morning, Bandee. If you want breakfast… I think something was left in the fridge? Maybe nothing is left in the fridge. I might’ve eaten everything in the fridge. Sorry about that.”

“Don’t worry Kirby, I anticipated something like that, so I brought my own food. I was just curious about…”

Bandana Dee once again saw Kirby fruitlessly throwing his hammer at a nearby tree.

“…whatever you are doing right now.”

“I’m planning to save Dedede today. And I want to do it with a hammer! And I want to master that “perfect hammer throw” he was talking about. So when he is saved, he could see how cool I am with this move.”

Bandee found Kirby’s determination to work on his flaws and to help his friend both impressive and endearing.

He felt much better than yesterday.

“You train for now, I will have some breakfast and then we will go to the museum, okay?”

“Okay-okay.” Kirby answered without even paying much attention to his friend.

If Kirby was focused on something, it was hard to distract him. Which just frustrated others, like Meta Knight, who tried to train him in the past.

If Kirby didn’t have any motivation in the moment, he wouldn’t feel like doing anything and got distracted easily.

But not this time.

While Bandee was finished eating a slice of his apple pie, he noticed that Kirby was still attempting to do “perfect hammer throw” to no avail.

“Come on, you can try to do this again later.”

“But… Bandee, I can do it, I know for sure…”

“Of course, but we don’t have time right now. Remember? We don’t want to be late to meeting with Meta Knight, do we?”

“You are right. I guess I can train on our way.”

Kirby picked up hammer and followed after Bandee.

* * *

Magolor’s new museum’s placement was rather unfortunate.

It was in the middle of the woods, place that wasn’t particularly noteworthy in itself. That’s what happens when you decide to establish a museum in a hole that leads to the series of weird caves.

But Magolor was a good businessman, so the world of mouth spread fast, thanks to this alone this museum was a big event in Dream Land.

The fact that it’s the first museum to be established on Pop Star helped, of course.

If you wanted to get there without lines, you had to wake up pretty early, since most of Dream Landers had a fairly lazy lifestyle. And by early, you should be there at least by 10 am.

Past that every man for himself.

Meta Knight was already waiting for his companions next to the ticket booth.

He really didn’t want to encounter Magolor on his own.

He hated his guts.

While Kirby and Dedede forgave him long ago, and Bandee, while not completely trusting, didn’t have any grudge against the guy anymore, since he trusted Kirby and Dedede’s judgement, Meta Knight couldn’t forgive the betrayal so easily.

“He may be swayed Kirby and Dedede with that theme park nonsense, but I still don’t trust him.”

In fact, every time he saw the guy by himself, levels of his murderous urges were suddenly increasing at the top speed.

He didn’t want to do anything he would later regret.

Thankfully, he saw Kirby and Bandee running towards him already.

“Thank Nova.”

And as if by command, Magolor showed up in a ticket booth as well.

“He-e-ey, Meta Knight, old buddy, good to see you again!”

His voice was so artificially friendly and endearing it made Meta Knight sick.

“Oh, and Kirbster, nice to see you, cool dude! And Bandee, tough little man!”

Kirby and Bandana Dee waved to Magolor, while Meta Knight was trying to hold his own as much as he could.

“So, I was waiting for you all to show up here sometime! After all, this place is themed after your exploits, Kirby!”

“Really?!”

Kirby’s eyes sparkled with excitement.

“Of course! Everyone wants to explore caves you discovered a while ago! Plus, to see some of the mementos of your past adventures!”

“Where… did you get them?” Bandee was confused. Kirby didn’t seem to lend anything to Magolor.

“I just created some replicas. Well. I hired someone who created those replicas.”

“So, there are no real exhibits in the museum? Pitiful.” Shook his head, Meta Knight.

“Don’t tell anyone about this though-, this is a corporate secret.”

No one could see it, but Meta Knight smirked underneath his mask.

He will tell everyone about this.

And he won’t spend any point stars on Axe Knight’s ticker here.

“At any case, what brings you here right now? You seem like a pretty determined bunch.”

“We didn’t really come here for fun, Magolor.”, Started explaining Meta Knight while keeping his cool, “We actually came here because of the certain important matters. We need to access the old tower area in the museum.”

“Sorry folks, but the old tower area is currently off-limits. Because it’s still in reconstruction to be safe for customers. I don’t want anyone to sue me, you know.”

“Meta Knight, what does “sue” mean?” Kirby always asked Meta Knight meanings of the words he never heard of before. Meta Knight brushed it off.

“I will explain later, Kirby. Magolor, by “we need to get to the old tower”, I mean that there’s a life at stake if we won’t get there. Pretty sure you know that we can take care of ourselves.”

Meta Knight took his Galaxia out of scabbard. It shined really brightly against sun's rays.

Magolor quickly became sweaty. Meta Knight didn’t joke around.

“Alright, alright. You convinced me. But I need to know what’s your deal with that place. Who’s life in danger?”

Meta Knight reluctantly responded:

“Dedede’s. We seriously needed to get there.”

Magolor was a shady fellow, but he had a soft spot for this group. Especially Kirby and Dedede.

“…You can go. But to make sure there won’t anything happen to you, I will accompany you. As any responsible museum owner.”

Meta Knight groaned after hearing Magolor’s generous offer.

“Thanks, but we don’t need to…”

“No, no, no, this is out of the question. I’m coming with you. I didn’t really explore much of this place myself yet anyway, I’m really curious to see what it contains.”

Magolor was concerned for Dedede.

But also knew that if this group goes there, there must be some priceless information hidden as well.

70% Magolor was sincere with his intentions. Other 30% were purely selfish desire to gather more knowledge that might help him.

“There is no time to argue. You can come, if you so desire. Just don’t be nuisance.”

“Wonderful! First off though, you will have to pay for your ticker.”

“…Pardon? Didn’t you say that this area wasn’t even finished in reconstruction? Why should I buy a ticket? Why am I only one who buys a ticket?”

“Because you are an adult. Only kids can visit the museum for free. And kings. You are neither.”

Kirby and Bandana Dee didn’t want to witness Meta Knight’s slow descent into anger, so they hurried up and started going down the fancy staircase to get to the underground.

 

 

 

 

* * *

The Old Tower area indeed was really unpolished compared to the rest of the museum, which actually did resemble modern-day museums on other planets.

There was still construction work going, with many of materials and instruments lying around, but there weren’t any workers at the moment, it was still too early before their shift started.

“Behold! The Castle of Ancient Secrets!”

“That’s how it’s called?” Kirby was surprised. He didn’t think that this building had any established name.

“It is, Kirbs. That is, it will be called that once it will be opened for the customers to see. It takes longer because it will be actually an interactive museum. With a few games and such! Kids love this stuff. And their parents will bring the money.”

Group was going down the escalator, the only thing that was completely finished in this project.

Before the only way to get down was to fall from the hole.

Fine for Kirby and his friends who all can fly in some capacity, not fine for the customers without extraordinary powers.

 Soon they approached the tower's entrance. This location always had an atmosphere that was way different from the rest of this series of underground caves. It felt like it came from a different world, it was mysterious, lonely, claustrophobic.

Kirby didn’t like hanging out in that place at all but he didn’t have much choice at this point.

He wanted to save his friend.

Group entered the tower. It was dimly lit by small lanterns hanging all over the place by construction workers. Kirby looked around and pointed to one specific wall.

“Guys, here! That Dark Matter plural!”

“That’s “mural”, Kirby.” Corrected him Meta Knight.

Magolor came closer to the mural and looked at it with a very meaningful look on his face.

“You know something, Magolor?”

“Nah, I was just thinking that it’s kinda creepy looking. I don’t want to scare away my customers. I will have to put wallpapers here.”

“…of course. How I could expect anything else from you.”, Meta Knight rolled his eyes, “But anyway, yes, this does look a lot like Dark Matter. But this doesn’t really give us any information. We need to explore more. These murals mean that this tower was somehow connected to Dark Matter or at the very least, to people that knew a lot about Dark Matter.

We will have to split up, this way we will be able to cover more ground on our own.”

No one wanted to do that besides Meta Knight. Especially Bandana Dee. This place was really unsettling to him.

“Maybe, we shouldn’t? What if we find something dangerous? We would be put into disadvantage.”

“You make a good point, Bandana Dee. We will split up into groups instead.”

The obvious pairs would be Magolor/Meta Knight and Kirby/Bandana Dee, but Meta Knight didn’t want to be in pair with Magolor.

“So, how will we decide the pairs?” Meta Knight was hoping others will come up with a good solution to this dilemma.

“I know!”, Magolor quickly said that as if he was anticipating something like that happening, “We should play “rock-paper-scissors”!”

“Yeah! Great idea, Magolor!” Kirby loved to play games like that. But then he realized that he doesn’t have fingers.

No one in this group had fingers.

“Uh. This won’t work sadly. Unless you want to play “rock-paper-rock”, he-he. I know!”, suddenly Bandee felt inspired, “Maybe we should split based on alphabetical order?”

“That would be…”, Meta Knight started reciting the alphabet in his mind, “…A, B… Bandana Dee… J… K… Kirby, L… M…  Magolor and Meta Knight…”

There was awkward silence for a second.

“Universe hates me for something. I have no idea what it is, but it sure does hate me.” Meta Knight thought.

Meta Knight had no choice but to go with Magolor at this point. He accepted his fate.

Teams split up and went into the opposite directions. Just in case either group finds something, they should call another group.

Thankfully both Meta Knight and Kirby had handy mobile phones with them. And thankfully somehow both of the phones could catch a signal even underground.

Well, that’s where Kirby found his in the first place.

Kirby and Bandee were slowly going through the tower's corridors. It was a very eerie place to explore.

There was just something extremely wrong about it. Kirby also got this feeling way back when he first explored it.

He didn’t feel comfortable being here in the slightest. Walls with this Dark Matter imagery gave off the feeling as if they were all looking at him. Spying after his every action.

Not to mention the tower was just extremely annoying to traverse with all various traps and occasional pits and gaps. Some of the gaps were clearly just showing how old the tower was, while others felt like intentional traps for uninvited guests.

As they went deeper, the place was becoming less and less lit. Construction workers clearly didn’t get this far into the tower yet.

“Kirby, tt’s getting dark here. Do you have anything to light this place up?”

Bandee wasn’t a scaredy cat, but he did feel uncomfortable in the dark. Especially in the place like this. He could never fall asleep in Castle Dedede without his night light on, for example.

“Of course!”

Kirby took a hammer in his hands and concentrated really hard. Soon it started to fill up with energy that manifested in bright red flames.

Despite looking intimidating, they weren’t dangerous to Kirby, only to those who wanted to taste hammer’s wrath on themselves.

These flames were much brighter than those lanterns, but the ominous atmosphere of the place remained.

“Do you even know where we are going, Kirby? I mean, you explored this place before.”

“I blocked it out of my memory. We are lucky I remembered what the walls looked like.”

They reached the humongous room, where they had to use platforms to climb up to get anywhere. There were few branching paths too, which added to annoyance.

Kirby sighed. This was another reason he hated this place. Any other time he could’ve easily ignored it, but not right now. They absolutely had to look everywhere for the sake of their friend.

“Bandee, this is getting exhausting. And kind of creepy. Let’s talk?”

Dee had a very worried expression. Unsettling atmosphere in this tower was getting to him, not even mentioning his worry for his king.

“Yeah, Kirby, this is a good idea. I wanted to ask you something.”

“Sure! But don’t ask super-hard questions or anything. I’m not Meta Knight, I don’t read too often.”

“No, this is more of a personal question. How do you keep being so cheerful no matter what? I legitimately want to know. Because I want to be as strong as you.”

Kirby went silent for a second.

He couldn’t just say to his friend that his optimism lately was more for the show, rather than his genuine feelings.

He felt worried for Dedede as much as Bandana Dee. But if he will be visibly worried, everyone will just devolve into nervous sad sacks.

And Kirby didn’t want that. So, for the sake of everyone, he tried to keep up his cheerful image.

After much thinking, Kirby answered:

“I just think about how when this all is over, we will all go together on a picnic, have some pizza and tell each other jokes!

I don’t think about how we get to this point.

I just think about how we will get to that point, no matter what.”

“You are so confident. Don’t you worry about that, well. We might fail?”

“Bandee, we always win! We always defeat these dark forces of evil! How can you feel so unsure about that?”

“You are right. But Meta Knight did fail once.”

As they were climbing the platforms, they both went silent.

“…Well, back then, Meta Knight was alone. Now we are a team! We are simply unstoppable together!” Kirby’s cheerful demeanor found its way back into conversation, for the better.

Bandana Dee felt much more relaxed after talking to Kirby.

While Kirby felt a bit more stressed than he would be willing to admit.

As they were talking, they reached another corridor that would be nice to check. It was completely dark, but thankfully, Kirby’s hammer lit the place well.

However, soon they reached the dead end. It was rather peculiar though. Walls and the floor were very different and colored in brown rather than in dark greys like the rest of the tower.

“Great. Now we have to go all the way back. Who even builds castles with dead-ends?! This is why I hated exploring this place.”

Kirby got so frustrated he stomped with all his might. This made this dead-end shake.

“Oh, I think I remember what this is. It’s an ELAVATOOOR—”

This elevator suddenly activated and went down with very high speed, making Kirby and Bandana Dee forcefully fly up and stuck to the ceiling.

When the elevator reached its destination, kids painfully fell back down.

“I hate this place.”

* * *

Magolor and Meta Knight went the other way.

Meta was trying his best to stay focused on the mission and not get distracted in his fury he felt towards his current “companion”.

Magolor meanwhile didn’t seem to mind Meta Knight’s company.

In fact, he seemed to weirdly enjoy it.

“Hey, Meta, buddy.”

“What do you want? Did you notice anything important?”

“No. Just wanted to say that we should hang out more.”

“I doubt it. But you know. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I have a question for you.”

“What is it?”

“How haven't you explored this place before by yourself? After all, you love exploring various ancient places. Also taking their artifacts and using them for nefarious purposes.”

“Oh, come on, Meta. Okay, once I stole the ship and crown, almost conquered the universe… Is it such a big deal? I mean, everyone makes mistakes, right? Didn’t you also try to conquer Dream Land once?”

Meta Knight hated when others used this “you tried to take over Dream Land” trump card.

Yeah, he did.

But this was such a long time ago, he barely resembled himself during that event.

At the same time. Magolor did have a point. He also made an effort to apologize and change. But forgiving him would make Meta Knight a hypocrite.

Because he still hasn’t forgiven himself.

“Okay, you have a point. But you still didn’t answer my question.”

“Simple! I was too busy. You know I also manage my theme park, right? And my merch shop in Rainbow Resort. I can’t simply be everywhere at once, you know. I did want to explore this place sometime, but errands just kept piling up. But you all presented me a perfect opportunity to finally do it.”

Soon both of them reached a wide-open room with strong wind currents and a huge pit in the center, making traversal pretty complicated and dangerous.

Meta Knight wondered:

“Where this wind comes from?”

Magolor immediately went into business mode:

“I have no idea. But it’s one of those things that halts my construction work.”

Meta Knight started thinking of how he should get across this pit.

Using wings is obvious solution, but wind currents might lead to unfortunate disasters. And on a rescue mission this is the last thing he wanted.

While he was thinking about the safest route he looked around and noticed that Magolor was nowhere near him.

“Where did he go?”

Then he noticed him on the other side of the room.

“It’s sure convenient to be able to float all the time, isn’t it?”

Keeping composure was becoming increasingly difficult for Meta.

“Anyway, you should hurry up. This room leads to the second floor. Maybe it contains the info we… I mean, you. Yes, that you might need.”

Meta Knight rolled his eyes. He had no choice but to use his wings. They should be stronger than these wind currents.

Right?

He spread his wings and took off. Currents made this, otherwise trivial action, much harder than usual. And then, from this pit along with wind, sharp rock flew up. Rock that pierced right into one of Meta Knight’s wings.

He couldn’t fight the currents any longer and started falling down.

No matter how hard he tried to keep up in the air, it was useless. He fell down the pit.

Magolor chuckled.

“Well. That was amusing. But I have to save him, don’t I?”

Fully ignoring the wind currents Magolor started slowly descending into the pit.

* * *

Kirby and Bandana Dee found themselves in a very dark room. Thanks to elevator shenanigans Kirby lost all of his concertation, so all flames in his hammer went away.

“Kirby, we need the light!... I’m getting scared!”

“Don’t worry, I’m with you. And while I’m with you, you shouldn’t be!”

Kirby concentrated his energy once again and the hammer was enveloped in bright flames once again.

Of course, the sight they witnessed wasn’t very exciting. It was yet another corridor.

“Just great.”

Kirby was optimistic, sure. But even his optimism had limits.

“We are wasting our time here! There are no answers to anything! Why did I ever remember this tower even existing!”

“Kirby, calm down.”

“No, I won’t calm down! This is just not funny anymore! Where when we will find something? Anything? You yourself said that time is running out for Dedede and all we do is just walking around in this stupid place!!”

While Kirby was throwing a tantrum, he was doing wild gestures with his arms and light from the flames sometimes fell into corridor.

Bandee couldn’t help but notice something peculiar about those walls.

Wait! I think we should go in here.”

“Of course, we should go in there, it’s not like elevator is working anymore.”

“No, I mean, walls! These walls have different murals!”

Kirby suddenly got excited again.

He looked around and ran into the corridor, leaving Bandee behind.

WAIT FOR ME, KIRBY!”

Walls down here indeed had something different from just Dark Matter images.

These were crude murals depicting… Fountain of Dreams? And various people standing around it. It almost looked like they were praying. While one of the people was floating above the fountain.

“What does it have to do with Dark Matter??” Kirby was really confused while looking around.

But this confusion was of a good kind. He felt genuinely excited and hopeful once more.

As both of them reached the end of the corridor, they found themselves in the very large, round hall.

It didn’t have any windows or windows. It was a complete dead end.

But walls?

Walls were filled with various weird murals and text. Though, neither Kirby or Bandana Dee could read it.

“Do you understand anything here?”

“Nope. Meta Knight’s handwriting is more understandable than this.”, as Kirby said that, he took his phone, “I guess it means that it’s time to call Meta Knight.”

He tried to make a call, but the worst thing happened. There was no connection. I guess this part of the cave was too deep even for this one.

“Come on! When we finally found something?”

“Kirby, we are probably so deep in the underground right now that no reasonable connection can reach here.”

“I guess… What a bummer… What are we supposed to do now?... Walk all the way back?!”

The mere thought made Kirby fall down.

“Kirby, remember what you said? Let’s just think about that picnic, right?”

“I do think about picnic now. Somehow it doesn’t give me much strength either.”

Suddenly, both of them heard a loud crash.

They looked around for the source of this sound and noticed Meta Knight who fell from somewhere.

Kirby looked up and noticed a light coming from way up there. It seems like this strange hall was the bottom of a pit.

“Meta Knight, you are just in time! We found something!”

“G-great…” Mumbled swordsman, while trying to stand up.

Then, Magolor also showed up.

“Oopsie-daisy, Meta, hon. I wanted to catch you, honest, but you were crashing down so fast, I simply couldn’t manage in time! You should go on a diet.”

Meta Knight ignored all of Magolor’s quips and instead took Galaxia out of scabbard. He concentrated all his energy into the sword and suddenly it became extremely bright. It was overcharged with energy.

This was a much more effective way to light up this room in comparison to flames on Kirby’s hammer, which had much less reach in comparison.

“What is this writing doing here, at the bottom of the pit? How both of you got here, you were going in a different direction entirely!”

Meta Knight couldn’t make sense of anything that was happening anymore.

“I guess they just circled back here. Maybe this gap up here wasn’t intentional part of the construction (hopefully, otherwise I have no idea what the purpose of it would be) and this place down here was totally secret.”, Magolor was throwing around his guesses, “Now, let me check these writings. Maybe I can read them.”

“You can read ancient texts?” Bandee was surprised.

“Well, of course. That’s how I learned about the history of my ancestors on Halcandra and such.”

Magolor flew up to the walls.

“My goodness! These texts look remarkably similar to those I saw on Halcandra! Could there be a connection here?”

Magolor’s inner history and archaeology nerd woke up and was restless. With a very meaningful look on his face, he was studying the texts thoroughly.

Kirby, Bandee and Meta had no choice, but to wait until his investigation was done.

He was the only one here who could supposedly read these texts. And as much as Meta Knight didn’t want to trust him in the slightest, this was the only lead they had right now.

He couldn’t allow it to go to waste.

Kirby couldn’t help but be mesmerized by murals all around this room.

They were big, elaborate and highly detailed. It was hard for him to understand what they were depicting exactly.

There were many vaguely people-shaped figures that were all looking sad. But the person with sparkles all around him did… something around Fountain of Dreams and these people became happy-looking.

“I’m done! So…”

Magolor flew up to the gang.

“Before I begin, I have one personal request.”

“What is it, more point stars?” Asked Meta Knight in an annoyed tone.

“No, no, silly. I want you to say “Magolor is a genius” 3 times in a row.”

“Why?!”

“Because I think this will be highly amusing and most of all, quite truthful.”

Kirby and Bandee couldn’t help but chuckle. Meta Knight had no real choice.

He of course could argue about this request a little bit longer, but he understood that he won’t be able to change Magolor’s mind.

So, the faster he will be done with this, the better.

“Magolor is a genius. Magolor is a genius. Magolor is genius.”

“Hmmm, I feel like this was quite disingenuous. Try with more feeling!”

“I will try with more feeling to shove Galaxia up your… Bottom, if you won’t stop acting like a buffoon and tell us what these texts say.”

This warning was quite effective.

Alright, good enough.

Anyway, I didn’t completely understand everything as my knowledge of this language is full of blanks so far.

But what I could gather is:

We are full of regret. We wanted power, but only got misery. This wretched place has to be buried and forgotten… But If history repeats itself and you want to stop The Matters of the most Dark, you will have to immerse yourself into Realm where all people’s desires manifest. This is where the Matters are at their most vulnerable. Only the purest of hearts can enter the Realm…”

Meta Knight was slowly piecing together information he just got.

“So, this tower… Was it full of Dark Matter worshippers? This is why their murals were all over the place? But something went wrong and they learned of Dark Matter’s true colors. To get rid of their influence you have to entire the Realm where people’s desires manifest…”

Kirby mumbled:

“Fountain of Dreams…”

Everyone glanced at him.

“Fountain of Dreams collects the hopes and dreams of everyone on Pop Star. To assure them a good rest.”

Meta Knight has an eureka moment:

“That’s it! We have to get to the Dream Realm through Fountain of Dreams! But how are we going to get there? Magolor, was there anything about how to enter the realm?”

“Sadly, even if there is, I couldn’t understand it.” Regrettably informed him Magolor.

Bandana Dee walked up to the walls and looked closer at the murals. Especially the part where a person was standing next to the fountain and doing something.

This part of the mural was in very poor condition, it was all scratched and hard to make out what was depicted there.

But Bandee seemingly could understand what this part of the mural represented.

“To enter the Dream Realm, we would have to sleep In Fountain’s waters.”

“This… does make sense. One of us would have to enter the Dream Realm and get to Dedede's dreams and vanquish the Dark Matter piece that got stuck inside him. This is seemingly something that only manifests in your mind before the piece sucks out all energy out of you. And dreams are windows into your mind and soul.”

“But who will go?... Maybe we all should go together?”

“This won’t be it. Did you forget?

Dedede doesn’t want to sleep anymore. Someone will have to force him to do it.

And someone else will have to watch over the person who will enter the realm, to make sure nothing happens to the body. Besides…”,

Meta Knight looked at Kirby, “Only purest of hearts, huh?”