In the early morning, King Dedede opened his tired eyes. He had not slept through the night, much like everyone else in the village. Turning his head, he saw the distant rays of the rising sun filling the sky, and somehow, he felt relieved. As he was slowly getting out of bed, he jumped when someone bashed on the door, and he found himself annoyed quite quick this morning.
“What is it!” he yelled over the knocking. “Can’t you see the time?”
“I’m sorry Your Majesty!” Waddle Doo’s high-pitched voice echoed from behind the door. “But the Demon Hunter you payed caught something! He’s waiting in the courtyard at the moment, there’s a lot of people too.”
It took him a few seconds to quite understand, and just like that, his anger was all gone. He sprung to his feet, ran behind the folding screen where he jumped out of his pyjamas into his king robes, and ran back toward the door which busted open right in Waddle Doo’s face. The poor one-eyed dee sat there on the floor, barely able to feel his face, watching his king run down the hallway screaming:
“Finally! That demon-beast will stop giving me nightmares! ESCARGON!”
He didn’t even wait to have an answer of some sort, and just ran down the stairs of the main hall to run through the front doors. As the captain of the dees said, the Hunter was surrounded by a crowd of cappys from the village. The new knight puffball with wings shuffled the said appendages, holding a hand out to the side where Dedede expected to see a giant, monstrous beast with wings and claws… but instead, there was a tiny cage, with an even tinier… thing inside. The penguin king bent forward to take a glance at it, an unconvinced look on his face, just as Escargon arrived, out of breath.
“Oh!” the snail exclaimed. “You caught it! Finally!”
“What the heck is that thing?!” Dedede yelled at Galacta Knight, who crossed his arms quite nonchalantly.
“It’s not the demon-beast you paid me to catch,” he said, “but I just saved your crops and your sheep, so I still expect to get paid for both catches when I get the other one. This little guy was burning down the fields and roasting sheep like nothing since this morning.”
Dedede and Escargon both looked up at the crowd of villagers and farmers, only to see they all held buckets of water in their hands, ready to throw them at any time. Dedede burst out laughing, only to get himself weird looks from everyone.
“This little thing?” he repeated. “I’m pretty sure it’s not that big of a deal! Let’s see here.”
Bending forward toward the cage again, he opened the barred door and held out his hand to take the thing by the scruff. It didn’t bite nor did it yelp, and Dedede pulled it out to show it off. It was a dog- a puppy to be exact. With its fur a bright vermilion nearing orange, it looked more like a little plush toy than a real animal. However, its red eyes told everything about its origins as it looked up at the king with a confused and tired gaze. Dedede laughed again and held it up higher, causing the villagers to back away with scared wimpers.
“Y’all scared of that little thing?” he called out even as Escargon backed away. “Hahaha! That’s ridiculous! And you woke me up just for that!”
However, the moment he made eye contact with the animal, it opened its mouth and a sudden burst of flames poured out. With a cry, he let go of it just in time before his face roasted and the flamethrower simply passed above his head. The flames quickly disapeared when the pup fell on the ground, and Dedede backed away behind Escargon.
“I told you so,” Galacta Knight said calmly, walking up to the little pup as it coughed up smoke for a moment. “Though this demon-beast is still young, it’s already quite fired up I gotta say. But don’t worry, Your Majesty, I think it was its last flames for today.”
From the main doors came the whole Parm family, who had probably heard all the ruckus from down here.
“What’s going on?” Fumu asked, barely able to hide the sleepy bags under her eyes.
“Oh! A little puppy!” Memu exclaimed holding up her hands. “Bun, didn’t you always pester me for a dog?”
Galacta Knight laughed whole-heartedly, putting his hands at his hips and petting the little demon on the head only to take back his hand when it tried to munch his fingers.
“Haha! I don’t recommend this dog, m’am. Wolfwraths tend to get quite big and, um, dangerous as they grow.”
“A Wolfwrath?!” Fumu and Bun both repeated while many around them, including their parents, paled at the thought and the memory of the wolf demon that defeated the Captain of the guard and put the castle on fire.
“And what exactly is this Wolfwrath doing here?” a voice echoed from above the crowd.
Everyone looked up above the main doors to the balcony just overhead to see Meta Knight, looking down on them, wrapped in his cape like usual. Galacta Knight waved his hand nonchalantly, like nothing particularly important was going on.
“Hi Meta Knight! Hey, come down here, you gotta take a look at this guy! We’ve never seen one so small, it’s actually cute. I’m sure even you would find it interesting.”
With a grunt that clearly showed how much sleep the knight has had that night, Meta Knight silently jumped down from the balcony and landed near his magenta cousin, eying the young wolf suspiciously. The villagers all quacked with fear when the small demon-beast began yapping and howling, jumping around with a sudden burst of energy.
“Keep that thing away from me!” Dedede yelled as the Wolfwrath jumped too near for his liking.
Galacta Knight tried to calm people down by reminding them that the demon was surely out of fire by now, but Fumu and Bun weren’t so sure as they eyed the pup carefully. It was jumping around away from anyone’s grasp, and even when Dedede ordered the Waddle Dees to get it back to its cage, the dees didn’t move one inch.
“Get that thing back to its cage, now! You,” Dedede yelled at Galacta Knight, “do it!”
“Does that mean I’m getting paid for this demon-beast as well?”
“You’ll have all the money you want, I don’t care!”
“Now we’re talking the same language, Your Majesty.”
And the next minute was spent trying to get the young demon without getting bitten. With the Wolfwrath jumping around like that with the pink warrior running after it, Meta Knight quickly grew tired, more than he already was, and had to restrain himself from growling when he shouted:
Strangely enough, the young pup immediately stopped, turned to him, and sat down, ears up and eyes large. Galacta Knight stopped as well and turned to his cousin, eyes large as well in disbelief.
“Wow! I didn’t know you had a touch with animals.”
“… I didn’t know either.”
“That’s all good and all, now get that thing away from here before it burns everything!” Dedede called out, still hiding behind a pale Escargon.
“Your Majesty, wait!” the snail said before whispering something in his ear.
“Uh… uh-uh… Ooooooh, not bad!” the king said, straightening up, before pointing at the castle knight. “Meta Knight! You’re going to train that dog, wolf, thing, so it’ll protect the castle from other demon-beasts!”
After some gasps from the Parm family, there was a short silence in which Meta Knight simply stared at Dedede.
“… Excuse me? Train it?”
“You have a problem with that?” the king asked with a tone that suggested that there shouldn’t be any problem.
“No, of course not. But, Your Majesty, did you not give me another job already?”
“A job? What are you talking about? Bah, it doesn’t matter! Whatever I told you to do, forget it, and get to work, now!”
“I will be glad to do as you say, but this is still an infant, Your Majesty. It won’t be a watch dog for quite a while, maybe, say, a few weeks.”
“Pff! At the pace this demon catching game is going, that dog-wolf-thing’ll be old by the time it’s done with! Now, no more questions, I want that guard dog as soon as possible. Now all of you, get lost! There’s nothing more to see here!”
Slowly but surely, the villagers and the farmers that expected to see the demon-beast gone with, left the castle courtyard whispering and talking among themselves, leaving the Parm family and the knights in the courtyard. Dedede quickly left as well with Escargon after him. Meta Knight only stared at the small Wolfwrath for a moment before sending a fiery glare at Galacta Knight.
“Where in the stars did you find this Wolfwrath?” he asked in a dark tone the others had rarely heard from him.
“You heard me,” Galacta answered, “it was burning sheep and crops out there. It must have gotten separated from its mother, I don’t know.”
“… I don’t believe you, but I’ll have to go with it for the time being.”
Sword and Blade, who were both waiting near the entrance, walked up to them and took a closer look at the Wolfwrath, much like Fumu, Bun and their parents, who now saw that the pup was not dangerous. The young pup simply blinked at all the people staring at it, then looked back at Meta Knight.
“Are you really going to train it, Sir?” Blade asked the question everyone had. “It is a demon-beast, after all.”
“If that is the king’s command, then I must,” was his only answer.
The blue knight then turned on his heels and walked back toward the main doors, only stopping once to whistle to call the wolf, who sprinted after him with a small yelp. As soon as they were gone, Galacta Knight sighed exagerately.
“Phew! Your king is either crazy, courageous, or really stupid. You can’t keep a Wolfwrath and expect it to listen to you!”
“Sir Meta Knight has had some past experience with a Wolfwrath,” Blade said calmly. “Personally, I think he should be able to tame it, considering Nightmare’s influence is gone.”
“Maybe,” Galacta countered, “but you two and I all know that he has other, much more important things to do. Like, I don’t know, protect the damn planet!”
“Wait, what?” Parm and Memu both said at the same time. “What do you mean, protect the planet?” the first continued.
Galacta Knight waved his hand and opened his wings, taking the small cage in hand.
“This whole village should know! I suggest you bring everyone to your stone sage, he has a lot to tell you, maybe even the reason to your nightmares. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a real demon-beast to catch, before Meta Knight trains another one to do my goddamned job.”
With those final words, the winged hunter flew off with his trap, leaving a confused family behind.
“What was he talking about?” Memu asked toward Sword and Blade, quite confused herself.
Sword and Blade shared a knowing look, while Fumu stared at Bun. She knew that he was aware as well of what was going on, considering what she had seen… the night before.
“He’s, um, right. You should go to the village and bring everyone to Kabu,” Sword said to the Parm. “From what I’ve gathered, they’re all tired and would like some answers. He’ll surely have something to say that will be much better than anything we could explain.”
“Now if you would excuse us,” Blade continued. “Fumu, we would like to talk to you. You too, Bun.”
They both turned and left as well toward the main doors, the children right behind, leaving the parents, confused, outside, to stare at each other. What were their children up to…? Lololo and Lalala floated down to them, eyes half-closed and holding hands. Those two poor ones had just woken up from a nightmare when the noise from down here made everyone crawl out of bed.
“Do you want us to…”
“…keep an eye on them?” they both said one after the other.
“If you could, yes,” Memu told them as a worried look flashed on her fatigued face. “I know they’re old enough now, but I can’t help but worry for them…”
“Come and tell us if anything happens,” Parm added.
“Right away!” the small demon-beasts said at the same time before flying off without a sound inside the castle.
Kirby woke up from a restless night early in the morning, but he didn’t want to get out of bed. While he usually would have left the house, this time, he didn’t move from his bed until later that morning. He laid there, on his back, staring at the ceiling with eyes that wanted to close but couldn’t, with eyes that saw things on the walls and ears that heard whispers in echoes all around him. He had this nightmare again- the one where eyes stared at him in the dark and engulfed everything and everyone he knew and loved. He didn’t count how many times he had this dream in the past month, but he wasn’t stupid, he knew very well this wasn’t natural. And with this demon-beast on the loose, everyone was saying it was it that caused the dreams… Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. Even he wasn’t sure. He realised he never really questionned anyone about the nightmares. He listened to others as they spoke about it, but never talked about it himself, only on some occasions with Fumu, or that one time with Sir Meta Knight the week before where he mentionned it. His mentor had simply said that it would pass, and that very soon, he would be able to sleep. He could only latch onto those words and repeat them whenever he woke up from a dream. It would go away, the eyes, the voices, the dreams…
With a sigh, he slid out of his bedsheets, ready to face the day. Tokkori had left early too, so Kirby was alone when he came outside in the warm sun of the eternal summer. He made his way to the village, thinking about going first to Kawasaki’s to get something to eat. He felt like his appetite had gone away for the last weeks, and it only felt weird. Maybe if he ate properly again, he would feel much better. However, upon arriving on the main street, he found the village completely empty. It was silent. Many things had been destroyed the night before during the attack of the demon-beast; broken windows, trees had been cut down, stalls and outside shops were turned upside down and destroyed. The cappies seemed to have started cleaning, but there was much to do, and Kirby knew everyone was as tired as a log.
Kirby walked up to the restaurant and pushed the curtain door open, calling the chef, but once again, there was no one. Confused, the Star Warrior went back outside in the main square, scratching his head.
“Where is everyone…?” he muttered to himself, wandering the place slowly. “Did something happen…?”
Not knowing what to do now, he wandered outside of the village and into the fields, hoping to even meet someone out here. The sheeps were in their pasture like always, but there wasn’t anyone watching them. Defeated, Kirby went on without thinking into the roads on the outskirts of town, alone. It was only some time after, farther from the village, that he saw someone he knew, and a bright smile finally made its way to his young face. Meta Knight was sitting on a bench near the road between lush trees and bushes, wrapped in his cape. To his surprise, Kirby saw a small dog running around in front of him, whining and making some weird noises instead of barking. The young Star Warrior quickly walked up to his mentor, who turned his head to him when he approached and nodded his head as greeting.
“Hi, Sir Meta Knight!” Kirby greeted before looking at the dog when it ran up to him.
It wanted to play and was jumping around, trying to get him to run after it. Kirby loved little dogs and this one reminded him so much of the pet dog he once owned that he had to oblige, so with a laugh he ran after the dog with a laugh.
“Hello, Kirby,” Meta Knight greeted back, watching the two play around the bench. “I see you seem to like this little one.”
“He’s adorable! Where did you find it?”
“It is a demon-beast that Sir Galacta found this morning. His Majesty wanted me to train it so it will guard the castle against other demon-beasts.”
Kirby skidded to a stop as soon as he heard those words and turned to him, eyes wide. A demon-beast?! Before he could ask anything, Meta Knight continued.
“Without Nightmare to control them and install his dark powers in them, infant demon-beasts like this one are mere animals, you see. The best example would be your friend, Phan phan, who lives in the forest now. Same thing with Lololo and Lalala.”
Kirby looked down at the young Wolfwrath, who had stopped in front of him and settled down on the ground, his small head on his foot. His large, glowing red eyes looked up at him, then at Meta Knight. He looked intelligent, almost like he could understand them.
“So,” he said, “it’s all nice now?”
“At first,” Meta Knight said, “I didn’t think a Wolfwrath could be nice or tamed, but, apparently, it can, and it is. This one still being young, it has yet to learn what it can hunt and what is dangerous.”
“And Dedede wants you to train it?” Kirby asked, holding his hand out to pet the little wolf on the head. It was soft, and the small demon emitted some sort of pur from its tiny throat.
“Yes. And I’ll be honest, I don’t know where to start. It’s too young to do anything drastic, except make it a tame dog as it grows.”
“Do Wolfwraths grow fast?”
“I have rarely met any Wolfwraths of different age, so it is hard to say. But, I do know that Nightmare made his demon-beasts so they quickly grew out of their juvenile years, but how much time it will take for this one, I do not know.”
“I see… Does it have a name?”
Kirby sounded quite excited at the thought of a new friend and that alone made the knight smile tiredly.
“Not yet. Do you want to name it? It’s a male, quite lively and energetic.”
Kirby looked down again at the dog and scratched it around the ears, causing that strange purring noise again that would make one think it was more of a big cat than a wolf. Looking at it and petting the fur on its head, Kirby felt something hard on his forehead, and moving the hair around he saw a tiny blue stone above the eye brows. It was quite the contrast against the red fur, and a word immediately came to his mind.
“How about Azure? Not very original, but it fits him!”
Kirby looked back at his mentor, expecting to see him staring ahead as usual, only to plunge his eyes into two pools of wavering blue through a black visor. The knight nodded his head, setting his back against the bench more comfortably.
“Yes,” he said softly like a sigh. “Azure is perfect for him. Would you help me train him?”
“Oh! Yes! Of course I would! It’s gonna be fun, right Azure?”
Reacting to his sudden excitation, the young Wolfwrath sprung to his feet and wagged his tail, eyes suddenly shining.
Galacta Knight was flying toward the canyon, where the guardian of wisdom was settled. As he had recommended to the Cabinet Minister’s family to ask of everyone, the villagers were now all here, in a large wave of cappies, before the stone sage. The knight flew overhead, wings opened wide to go slowly and listen to the sage’s booming voice as he told the same story the young lady from last night had heard.
“Popstar will be engulfed in Dark Matter. Dreamland will be destroyed.”
The villagers all exploded in a frightened clamor that reverberated against the walls of the canyon, making it sound like distant howls.
“But Kabu!” the Mayor called above the others’ cries. “You said Sir Meta Knight was protecting us, right?”
“It’s true!” the police chief, Borun, added quickly. “Won’t that be enough to hold this Dark Matter thing back?”
“Kabu does not know for how long Sir Meta Knight will hold against the evil surrounding Popstar. Kabu sees only darkness.”
“Can’t Kirby do something about this?” some cappy called out, the other villagers aggreeing quite loudly with him.
“Yeah! He’s right!”
“Kirby got rid of Nightmare, he can get rid of this Zero!”
There was a short moment of silence before Kabu answered.
“Kirby is not ready. Kirby needs time.”
And despite all the questions the cappies asked, Kabu didn’t have anything more to say, and they were left in their own panic of the events he had predicted, of things that had yet to come. Galacta Knight flapped his wings and headed out of the canyon, his business here done with. One day, there would be a time where the peaceful populations of the universe would need to stand up for themselves, he thought. Without Kirby to protect them, the cappies were alone, only hiding behind a single, tired knight. Galacta Knight knew little of how the original Halberd came to be or how Meta Knight ended up bringing Kirby directly to Nightmare, but he had no doubts that the people here trusted him. Maybe, now that everyone knew, it would make his cousin’s job easier. On his part, he now had a race to win against him by catching the demon-beast before that Wolfwrath grew too much. A piece of cake!
Even though… in his mind, he still couldn’t take away the image of the infant demon-beast listening to Meta Knight’s orders… like he was its master already.