He was in complete darkness, in silence. Suspended by two chains holding his arms to the ceiling, his body was limp, almost lifeless; he could barely hear his own heartbeat. This position was hurting his already painful muscles, stretching the fresh scars of his face. His back was the worse, however; burning, like molten lava was being poured constantly and yet he had no voice to scream. He was glad, however, for he was finally alone by himself. No more voices to taunt him, although he could barely remember what they had told him. He was about to doze off, slowly, into peaceful slumber, when a familiar voice came to him, calm and serene.
“Hello, Meta Knight. Are you feeling alright?”
Tiredly, he tried lifting his eyes to see where the voice had come from. He could barely see anything… It felt like he was blind. Past the bars of his cell, there was… light? Blinking, his own voice came out like a hoarse cough.
“Who… kof!... kof… who are… you?”
“My name is Vei. Tell me, my friend. Do you feel like a demon-beast?”
“Wh… What…? A d… A demon-beast… No… No, of course not… I am not…”
He trailed off, frustrated that he couldn’t rub his itching eyes. The light shone still at the other end of the hallway.
“That’s good. We are already on a good path. I understand you are tired, though. Speaking with Nightmare is never an easy task.”
He closed his eyes, understanding that it was no use to try and see. He could only hope he wouldn’t be blind for the rest of his life.
“Why are you here, Vei…?”
“For reasons very similar to yours. Our paths will cross more than once, thanks to the Dark Lord Nightmare. But I will be honest. I am here because I can predict the future. Nightmare wanted me to predict his destiny.”
“The… The future? That’s silly… No one can see the future…”
The voice chuckled briefly, strangely cheerful in such a dark place. He tried opening his eyes again, and, somehow, his vision seemed a bit clearer. But what he saw… He thought it to be an hallucination. There were stars on the other side of the bars, in the opposing cell. Stars and swirling galaxies, bright as tiny suns. He couldn’t even see a face in the surrounding darkness…
“I knew you wouldn’t believe me,” Vei said. “ I can show you. Do you want to see the future? Or the past? Or maybe both?”
“…Show me… both…”
It all changed suddenly. He blinked, and the darkness disappeared. All of his pain was swept away, replaced by a strange, blissful numbness. At first, he couldn’t tell what he was looking at. He was floating in veils of blue and orange, with distant rays of light piercing the surface… like through water. Then he tried to breathe. And he choked.
Kirby gasped and straightened up. His breath was quick and brief, and he found himself unable to calm down for a long moment. His eyes still stung from the dream and he couldn’t see clearly what was in front of him. It was only when he started breathing deeply that he realized it was only because they were filled with tears, and he angrily swept them away with his hand. It was the first time that a vision had come to him when he hadn’t even touched the Warp Star, as a dream. What did that mean? His thoughts were interrupted when a warm claw touched his shoulder, making him turn his head. He had fallen asleep against Azure, who was still on the ground in the sleeping quarters; his head was comfortably set on a pillow that Ribbon had probably put there for him. His eyes were still closed, but his tired voice touched his mind kindly.
“You were mumbling in your sleep… Did you have another vision?”
Kirby’s eyes widened. He was sure he hadn’t told anyone else about this.
“How do you know I have visions…?” he asked his friend.
“I overheard you talking to Sir Dragato, on Ripple Star… You have visions about Master… Memories… from his star…”
While the wolf slightly lifted his head to yawn with his mouth wide open, Kirby looked back in front of him, toward the ground. The wolf continued.
“I don’t know what it is you see, but… I always thought, from the moment I first met you and Master, that… you two shared more than what was told…”
“What do you mean…?”
“Your heat. I can tell the difference between people, with their heat signature alone. There was no difference between you two. I had to learn to differentiate you both by smell… It doesn’t surprise me that you share his memories…”
Now Kirby was even more confused. What was that about the heat? It didn’t make sense to him. Before he could ask what exactly that meant, or if he had even an idea, the door slid open, and Sir Dragato walked in. The limping man lightly tapped his cane as he made his way over to them, nodding to Kirby as greetings. Kirby remained silent; his mind was too foggy to align more words together. He watched as Dragato softly caressed the injured wolf’s mane, resulting in a soft pur from the fiery beast. Maskless, the knight seemed… odd. His face was neutral, but his eyes looked concerned, like something was wrong. Still, the words didn’t come. It was him who spoke first.
“Kirby,” he said softly. “Arthur wants to talk to you. He’s on deck.”
He nodded, and as he stood, the knight said something more, something that suddenly worried him.
“Whatever he says, Kirby, don’t panic. Alright? If anything’s wrong, just come to me.”
Confused, Kirby left the room, and headed to the front of the ship. The air seemed strange in here suddenly; like everything was too big, too heavy… The deck’s door slid open and he silently entered the room. Arthur was facing the screen, talking to Sword’s image.
“We’ll talk more when we’ll be on Neo Star, Sword Knight,” was what he heard upon entering
While they spoke, Kirby walked over to Ribbon, who was standing silently near a table, on which lay the torn up shoulder pad from the pirate. The fairy smiled at him, slightly reassuring him, but the smile he gave back was more of a grimace than anything else. He couldn’t help but see that both of her wings were quivering, even the one that had been hurt. Maybe she would be able to fly with it again soon, hopefully on Neo Star. Soon, Kirby saw Sword salute the leader, then the screen turned off and showed the stars outside once more. Arthur turned back to them, and nodded as greetings, arms linked to his back as he walked over to the table.
“Kirby,” he started, “we’ll cut to the chase. The pirates we met on Rock Star have been sighted on Aqua Star as well, so it will be no surprise to hear of them on Neo Star next. But this is not your average pirate crew. They are impersonators.”
Kirby blinked. Imper-what?
“Im… Impersona…tors?” he repeated. “What is that?”
“Impostors,” Ribbon cleared, drawing his gaze on her. “People who take someone else’s name and pass themselves for this person.”
“Oh… And who are they imperson…ating?”
There was a short moment of silence, in which Ribbon looked at Arthur, who shook his head and sighed. He only lifted a hand toward the table, and Kirby turned to look at the shoulder pad. Hesitantly, Ribbon held out a hand and slowly turned the piece of armor… until the insignia printed on it was revealed. That M and its sword suddenly flew up at his mind, covering all of his surroundings; there was only that M. M. The M of Sir Meta Knight. Something awful grew in Kirby at that instant, something that burned in his guts and made his heartbeat rumble like thunder. Anger. Kirby wasn’t used to being angry; he almost forgot to breathe.
“These pirates have stolen Sir Meta Knight’s name,” Arthur said, confirming his thoughts. “I have already told Sword Knight about it.
“B-but!” Kirby stuttered, turning to look at him with his wide eyes. “They’re making him look like a thief! They took his name and attacked Ribbon and Ripple!”
Arthur lifted a hand, interrupting him before he ranted.
“It isn’t the first time bandits and the like have stolen a name,” he said calmly. “Back in the glorious days of the GSA, many of these groups took the names of my predecessors, or great warriors that had fallen in battle. Their goal was to put nothing but shame and mud on these names. Do not let them anger you, Kirby. I am angry as well, but we mustn’t let it shroud our judgement. Do you understand, Kirby?”
The young Star Warrior dropped his head, staring at the elder’s golden cladded feet, ashamed of his own feelings.
“Yes, Sir,” he mumbled.
Arthur patted him on the shoulder, trying to comfort him, and said a bit more softly:
“You should go get some more rest. Worry not, we will catch those thieves soon enough. We’ll be on Neo Star in a couple hours, so I suggest you two wait with Azure. He’ll need the company in his condition.”
As the leader turned to head to the pilot’s seat, Kirby looked back at the shoulder pad. Azure’s teeth had torn it up pretty badly, but still that M and its sword were taunting him. Sir Meta Knight was dead. He had sunk into the sea with his own sword planted through his chest. And yet, no matter where he turned, he was everywhere. Could it mean…? No. It meant nothing.
Neo Star’s formation was fairly recent in the galaxy’s history. Millions of years ago, the volcanic clouds covering the planet cleared, and from the new world’s ash-covered lands sprouted life. As the ages passed, the planet flourished with the elements fairly quickly, and when the fairies became interested in this new world, they explored it, thinking it was too soon to find intelligent life, but not too soon to find evolved creatures of sorts. Even though they had had their doubts, the closest form of sentient, intelligent life they found was a sort of bird which populated the planet the most. The high trees of this jungle world were filled with their nests, and the way they acted reminded the fairies of a primitive society. Ever since that time, the fairies have been working closely with these birds, which they named the Neons, in order to help them rise with the planet. They saw the potential, and today, several thousand years later, the Neons had grown into a stronger community close to the fairies, like old friends, even though they had yet to civilize themselves. It was to the Neons that Ribbon was to take the Crystal, because the Queen had known that their friends would help them protect it.
Ribbon was ecstatic to meet them again, and she happily shared her enthusiasm with Kirby in hopes of making him smile again.
“You’ll see,” she told him and Azure, “the Neons are very nice! I’ve met them a few times when their representatives came to the castle, and I’ve made a few friends with them. I wonder if we’ll have time to find them…”
“Are they tasty?” was the only question the wolf asked, to which Ribbon only laughed and explained they weren’t to be eaten.
Even from space, it was clear Neo Star was bursting with life; the land was nothing but green, lush forests for the most part, while many chains of active volcanoes lined the continents. This planet was so beautiful from space… Kirby knew it was very different from Popstar, but still it reminded him of it, with its life, its forests… Somehow, he wanted to go back home. Forget everything. Go back to an old, lazy life of eating, sleeping, laughing… But he was a Star Warrior, and he knew that this wasn’t his destiny. He was the last one with the Copy Abilities, the last and only one to possess the powers to defeat the Dark matter, or even just repel them. If he wanted to preserve these beautiful worlds from the Dark matter’s corruption, he had to hold on. He put on his seatbelt when the ship started its descent in through the atmosphere. For some reason, he was very nervous, like something was pinching his heart here and there, and it worsened when they traversed the atmosphere and arrived in the skies of the eastern continent of Neo Star.
As always, his bad feelings became reality. As Arthur, with Dragato as the co-pilot, directed the ship toward the ground in search of a place to land, the ship suddenly shook, making everyone gasp. The ship took another hit, and another, and when the lights turned red and the alarm went off, Arthur cursed. Through the windshield, three orbs of black smoke flew by, one of them even turning to look at them with its bright, red eye.
“Dark matter!” Arthur growled.
“The engine is damaged,” Dragato informed, quickly pressing buttons and adjusting levers, redirecting the ether of the ship to keep it flying. “Whatever they did back there, it completely busted it! Damnit! We’re out of ether!”
The Dark matter flew away, but the one that had looked at them suddenly made a brisk turn and flew right back at the diving ship, hitting the windshield twice before flying away again. Kirby’s pumping heart lifted when he felt the sudden weight and speed of the falling ship as it headed straight for the jungle. Arthur tried to straighten the ship by pulling on the commands, but it did little to slow it down and Kirby had to close his eyes tightly in fear of what was to come, clenching his belt with his shaking hands. The sound of trees breaking and the engine exploding was all he heard before his belt broke and sent him flying across the room, where he hit his head against the wall, with Ribbon calling out to him. He blacked out right away.
When he woke up, he was still on the ground, but his back against the wall. His mind was foggy and he had a headache, but it wasn’t as worse as he had thought. He held his head a minute, confused and dizzy, and looked up when a warm hand touched his head.
“Are you okay?” Ribbon asked him.
The ship wasn’t moving anymore. He looked around. The windshield was completely shattered; a large tree branch was going right through it to half of the room. The alarm had been turned off, but still the red lights put an eery shade on everything in here. He needed to get out, to breathe. He tried to stand up, and Ribbon helped by holding his arm and his back.
“Sir Arthur is checking the engine,” she said as they went through the corridors. “Sir Dragato and Azure are outside.”
The cargo hold was drenched in darkness, but the opened ramp door allowed a few bursts of light to come through, almost hiding the world beyond. The sudden warmth that Kirby felt with the breeze made him forget his headache. He and Ribbon walked outside, and everything changed. They were surrounded by gigantic trees and massive flora; plants that reached above the ship, of all sizes and shapes. The canopy seemed so far away, so far above that the trees seemed to disappear through a veil of green light. The sounds that echoed around them were endless; distant birds’ songs and calls of all sorts, the sounds of insects in all directions, and the far away call of an animal.
“Pretty, isn’t it?” Ribbon laughed as he nodded his head, mouth agape and eyes wide.
Turning around in circles, Kirby saw where they were exactly. The ship had its front stuck in the giant roots of a tree, while the rest was covered in leaves and dirt. The surrounding area was rather clear, like a path through the glade. Sir Dragato was farther down the path, and when he saw them, the knight waved over for them to come over. When they joined him, he looked Kirby over, his eyes worried.
“Are you alright?” he asked him.
Kirby nodded, rubbing his head.
“Yeah, I think so… Just a bit of a headache. What happened?”
“Dark matter,” was his answer. “As you can see, the ship is useless now… If the Dark matter are here, then it may be possible the inhabitants need our help. For now, Arthur is trying to fix what can be fixed, but I doubt the ship will fly again. Let’s just hope Sword Knight and the others can still be contacted.”
“I’m sure the Neons could help with the ship,” Ribbon said, buzzing her wings. “The problem is to find them… I have no idea where we are.”
Azure appeared on the path, limping with his broken leg against his chest; even injured, the sturdy wolf still looked ready to leap at everything. The large beast sat down before them, tongue hanging.
“The road continues down south,” he said. “I smell a lot of things in these woods, I can’t tell which from which, but this road is not natural.”
Dragato hummed in thought and turned to Ribbon.
“Do the Neons make these roads?”
She shook her head.
“Not usually, they’re birds, so they travel through the trees… I don’t know what this road is…”
Dragato decided to wait for Arthur before making any other move. Kirby, Ribbon and Azure went to sit on the giant root above the ship, so to have a nice view of their surroundings. It was so hot here, they were sweating, except for Azure, who was fairly happy. The wolf was busy brushing his fur when he asked Kirby:
“What did Sir Arthur tell you earlier? When you woke up from your dream?”
Kirby froze. Oh stars, what to tell him… He looked at Ribbon for advice, but she shook her head with nothing to say.
“It’s, um… Well… You know that shoulder pad you got from that pirate? Well, um…”
“Just say it.”
“… The pirates have, um, stolen… Sir Meta Knight’s name…”
Kirby watched as Azure froze in place and slowly lifted his head, red eyes unreadable. He was only staring ahead.
“And, um, his insignia, the same as on your collar, is on their armor too…”
The Wolfwrath suddenly stood up, making them jump a bit, and they watched as he jumped down from the root, on the ship’s roof, and back on the ground. Silently, the wolf walked on three legs down the road, and sat down as far away as possible at the end of the path before a turn, simply… silent.
“I don’t think he took it well,” Ribbon sighed.
They could only wait after that. Sir Arthur walked out of the ship ten minutes later, and everyone immediately regrouped around him, even Azure, who remained silent. The leader didn’t hide his frustration and deeply sighed, handing a wireless radio to Dragato.
“I was able to call Sword Knight and warned them about the Dark matter. We’ll keep contact with these radios.”
“Is the ship repairable?” Dragato asked, to which Arthur shook his head.
“I don’t know what the hell they did to the engine, but the crystal literally blew up and the ether condenser was busted along with it. Unless we remove everything and replace it all with new parts, this ship is not moving from here. Now, all of you take all that you could find necessary, because we’re not coming back here. We’ll meet up with Sword’s team when they’ll be here, and that won’t be until a few hours. They’ve had some problems on Aqua Star.”
Everyone separated and left to pick their backpacks, which were still in the sleeping quarters. For Azure, they had to pack more medical kits than usual, and it almost frustrated the wolf to be dependant on these things. While Kirby was looking through his bag to make sure nothing was missing, his heart skipped a beat for a second. Where was it?! He had left it here; where was it?! Standing up, he looked around almost in a panic. During the crash, a lot of things were sprawled around on the ground. It must have rolled out of his bag!
“Are you looking for this?”
Kirby wiped around to see Dragato; near one of the beds, he was holding the blue star. Kirby breathed out in relief. He had thought he had lost it, or maybe the Dark matter had stolen it while they had come inside the ship. Dragato walked over to him, but he didn’t hand it over immediately; instead, he looked it over, as if amazed. Its blue light shone against his mask, reflected in his eyes.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “He’s had it his whole life, yet I’ve never seen it, not one time. Where you use your Warp Star to travel, he always hid it. You said he had hidden it in the Kabu statue in Dreamland?”
“Yeah,” Kirby nodded. “I don’t think even Sword and Blade knew about it…”
Somehow, watching someone else hold it made him feel… insecure. He felt much more relieved when Dragato handed it back to him; he stared at it for a moment, before finally putting it back in his bag.
“It’s a good thing he gave it to you,” the elder said with a gentle smile in his eyes. “Did you have another vision?”
Kirby hesitated. Should he tell him about the dream? He wasn’t sure if it counted as a vision per say, but he knew, very well, that this had been a real memory. Meta Knight had been to Nightmare’s fortress before. He had met this man, Vei, and he had seen the future… his own death. Perplexed, Kirby only said this.
“Um… Well, uh… it’s not really a vision… but I did hear a name. Do you know anyone named Vei?”
“Vei?” Dragato repeated.
He stood there puzzled for a moment, looking at the wall to try and remember.
“It does sound familiar,” he answered. “Arthur should probably know more about this Vei. Do you mind if I ask him later?”
“No no, not at all!” Kirby said quickly, shaking his head. “I was just curious… Does… Sir Arthur know about my visions?”
“Not yet… I feel it would be best to let him know. But this is your decision, Kirby.”
The young Star Warrior took a moment to think about it, but they both heard a call from outside, telling them it was time to leave. Dragato sighed and put his hand on Kirby’s head, patting him gently.
“Come on,” he said as he gestured to the door. “You got everything?”
And as the group went off into the jungle, leaving the ship behind, they were unaware that, in the trees, a thousand curious eyes were watching them.
The jungle was far from silent. Sounds, distant cries and rustling leaves came at them from every direction, almost picking on their nerves. Since they knew that there were Dark matter on this star, the orbs of darkness could fly at them at any given time. Arthur was leading them, but he was always on his guard. Every sound made him lift his eyes, and every time the leaves moved, he made everyone stop with a signal of his hand until he saw the small hiding critter run out of the bushes, crying out excitedly. Kirby proposed multiple times that he should use the Wing ability to fly up to the trees and see where they were going, but for his safety, Arthur refused, saying that it wouldn’t be safe to be alone up there, even though, he assured, he knew Kirby could well defend himself. The road seemed endless; it curved here and there, tightened through the roots of giant trees and snaked its way on small, mossy stubs of dirt and took them farther and farther to the south.
It wasn’t until later that day, about after two hours of travelling, that Azure suddenly jumped ahead and bounced on a producing root, standing on his back legs with his ears perked up. Arthur lifted his fist, making everyone stop, and he stared ahead of the road, trying to see what the wolf could see. The Wolfwrath growled slightly.
“There is someone ahead. Running this way.”
Arthur drew his sword, and Dragato did the same, keeping the younger ones behind him, even though they both went on their tip-toes to watch what was happening. Just as Azure said, someone did appear on the other end of the road, from a curve that circled a rock formation. The two knights gasped; a Kiridan! As the person came closer, running as fast they could and definitely out of breath, they saw that it was but a child, even younger than Kirby! At about half of Kirby’s height, this child was a deep, dark blue spot against the green of the forest; with its arms above its head, the child was running straight toward them. Arthur and Dragato both put away their swords, but they were even more surprised when the child ran up directly to Arthur and took his hand, tears streaming down from its innocent, large, white eyes.
“Please Mister! I need help!” the young child cried, pulling at his hand.
From that voice and the shape of the child’s eyes, Arthur could tell it was a girl. With his free hand, he held the child in place by the shoulder, trying to hide his astonishment by clearing his throat.
“Wait a minute,” he told her calmly. “What happened?”
“It’s my friend!” the girl hiccuped. “Something black attacked him and he slipped and he’s not moving! Please, help! I don’t know what to do!”
“Where is your friend?”
“Down the river! There’s a waterfall where fishies swim up, he’s down there, but I can’t go, I’ll slip too! Can you help?”
Arthur looked back at Dragato, who nodded his head immediately, and turned back to the young girl, nodding as well.
“Show us the way,” he said gently, “and we’ll help.”
The small girl smiled brightly while tears still ran down her rosy cheeks, and she quickly jumped up for a short hug before wiping around and springing into a run. The others immediately followed behind, both concerned and amazed. What was a Kiridan girl, a child so young and small, doing in this jungle in the Gamble Galaxy, the one galaxy that had the fewer odds of finding a Kiridan? They couldn’t ask questions now, however, for the girl was already leading them down a second beaten path; she was surprisingly fast for her size! It wasn’t long that they saw where she was leading them; the said river that she mentioned was straight ahead, a rather small yet clear stream that snaked through rocks and pebbles of all sizes. Here the vegetation was much less invading and left an almost flat soil covered in smaller plants that one could easily jump above. The girl turned at the river and led them further down its banks, until they reached a small cliff where the river turned into a fast and noisy waterfall. When the group looked down, they saw… something that wasn’t a Kiridan. It was a dragon. Little did they know that another one of the same size and color was in Sword and Blade’s ship. The lizard was lying down on the river’s bank, head in the mud and unmoving. Looking around, they saw why the little girl couldn’t get to it, as the cliff offered little footing or safe ledges; the rocks that produced out of the land were mossy and slippery.
“He’s there!” the little girl pointed at the dragon. “The black thingy flew right at him and I think he hit his head or something. Can you get him? Please?”
“Did you see if the black thing went inside your friend?” Dragato asked her.
She shook her head, whimpering.
“No, I don’t think… I think it left…”
For some reason, Kirby’s heart broke, seeing that small girl’s crying face. She looked so… familiar. Somehow. Maybe because she had the same face as he had when he was younger. Maybe she reminded him of himself. He stepped up and set his backpack down, walking up to the ledge.
“I can go down easily!” he said to Arthur, who sighed but still nodded his head.
“Go, but be careful. That Dark matter can still be around. We’ll watch your back.”
The younger Star Warrior looked at the small girl and offered her his kindest smile, before turning and taking a deep breath. His body inflated, much to the young child’s amazement, and he took off. He floated down gently like a balloon, unaffected by the mist and drops from the waterfall, and softly landed on the closest rock. Careful not to slip, he jumped down in the mud and ran up to the dragon. He hesitated, but he touched it; it didn’t react, but he did see its nostril move and take deep breaths, as if he was asleep. Kirby easily saw the gash on its head where it hit its head and felt sorry for it, but it wasn’t the only thing he noticed. One of its wings was held tightly in bandages and clasps around the joints, preventing it from moving. It was likely broken, he thought…
Careful not to hurt it, he pulled it out of the mud, surprised at how little it actually weighted compared to how bulky its head looked with its large horns and spikes. He continued to pull it up, and when they were on the grass, he tried to hoist it up on his back, even though he was much smaller that this large beast. Biting his lip, he looked up at the cliff; how would he climb that? Taking a deep breath, he inflated his body once more, but when he saw that he wasn’t flying up, he breathed in even more, trying to get as big as he could. His skin stretched, more and more, until he couldn’t feel his hands and he was stumbling on his feet. Bouncing from tip-toe to another, he succeeded; although he didn’t fly, he jumped high enough to reach a small ledge, where he jumped again, and again, until he was at the top with the others. Immediately, Arthur and Dragato took the dragon off of his shoulders, allowing him to breathe out.
When they set the beast down, the little girl jumped in place, a small ball of pure joy, but she remained silent as Dragato looked the dragon over, inspecting for wounds. Setting his backpack down, he took out one of Azure’s med kits, saying:
“It should be alright, don’t worry. Your friend should wake up soon, and then we’ll see if there’s Dark matter in him.”
The little girl then quickly ran up to the knight and hugged him tightly, surprising him. But still Dragato laughed and rubbed the girl’s head, watching as she smiled brightly at him and went off to hug Arthur next; the leader didn’t seem to know how to react, but the little girl laughed still and ran to the closest person, Ribbon, wrapping her little stubs of arms around her waist. The fairy smiled and hugged her back, soon letting her go. She next ran up to Kirby, her hero, and nuzzled her cute little face against him, trying to fit her arms around him. Kirby happily hugged her back, amazed at the feeling of holding someone smaller than him. When the young girl looked up at him, face lit up with stars in her white eyes, the lights somewhat faded, and her smile turned into a questioning “o”. Her head slightly tilted, and the question she asked almost made his heart stop.
She shook her head, blinking multiple times before backing away a bit. The others were listening in confused silence. Her head dropped.
“Sorry, mister… You look like my big brother. I have pictures of him! Wanna see them?”
As confused as he was, Kirby still smiled, heart strangely palpitating in his chest.
“Yeah, I would love to!” he nodded, looking up at the others.
Arthur stepped up, making the young girl look at him when he asked:
“Are you alone here? Where is your family?”
She pointed her stub of a hand up the river.
“Over there! My mommy and daddy are there, and lots of people too! I can take you there, if you help me take Landy home!”
“Your friend is called Landy?” Ribbon asked her, slightly bowing to look at her better and appear friendly.
The girl nodded.
“Landia! But I call him Landy and he loves it.”
Ribbon giggled with her as Arthur went to take the dragon up, whistling to Azure to come over. With Dragato’s help, they hoisted the unconscious dragon on the Wolfwrath’s back, secured by the spikes that lined from the wolf’s shoulder blades. Azure tried to turn his head to sniff him suspiciously, but he didn’t say anything. Arthur turned to everyone else and particularly the girl.
“Alright,” he said. “Can you lead the way? Kirby will stay with you ahead.”
She smiled brightly and immediately turned on her heels to lead them, with Kirby holding her little hand and Ribbon on the other side. And as the group followed the river’s flow upstream, Arthur and Dragato remained at the back, quietly discussing about what they had just witnessed, and Dragato took this moment to tell his friend about a young Star Warrior’s visions. This little girl… She felt all too much familiar. Her tall, white eyes were haunting with memories.
“So what’s your name? I’m Kirby, and this is my friend Ribbon.”
“I’m Maëlle! Nice to meet you!”
The second group had just traversed Neo Star’s atmosphere when Landia woke up again. Deciding it was best to see where they had taken him, he breathed in deeply and stood up on the bed, twisting his neck to look at his wound. It had been treated and cleaned, and even though he could feel it pinch and itch under the bandages, it seemed like he would be alright. Landia jumped down from the bed and left the sleeping quarters of the ship, following the smells to find his way to the deck. From a porthole, he saw they were high in the sky, drifting along the clouds and slowly descending. The land below was stricken with lush forests and mountains of fire, and on the horizon lay an endless ocean. With a flick of his tongue, the dragon continued on his way, and soon the door of the deck slid open before him. There were four people here, and all of them, even the one piloting the ship, turned to him.
“You’re awake!” one of them exclaimed, a young knight dressed in green.
“I told you it would wake up eventually,” said the female Kiridan hybrid. “Are you feeling alright? Do you even understand us?”
With a flick of his tongue, he nodded his bulky head, hearing them sigh in relief. They were even more surprised when he spoke. His voice was like a hiss, mixed with growls and groans that formed the words.
“We are Landia. Where are you taking us?”
“Landia, huh?” repeated the pilot. “Nice to meet you. We only took you with us because you were dying. We are now on Neo Star, and we’re gonna meet with another group of us.”
Landia walked closer to the computers, between Sword and Hailan, and looked at the commands curiously, then out the windshield. Again, he flicked his tongue.
“We were on the star of water, with a part of the fairies’ Crystal. Where is it?”
“We’re collecting those,” Hailan told him after sharing a look with Sword. “The fairies are in danger without the Crystal, so we collect the pieces to save them. Why were you on Aqua Star, Landia?”
He growled, making the child standing near him back away a few steps.
“Who?” Blade questioned.
However, they couldn’t continue, for Hailan suddenly gasped and stood up on her chair, bringing everyone’s undivided attention. Her eyes were wide and strangely glowing, pupils dilated.
“Gods!” she exclaimed. “What tremendous energy! At one o’clock, there! I see a huge source of light! It just appeared!”
“Crystals?” Sword guessed.
“It must be! There must be many of them!”
“We gotta go there!” Bun exclaimed. “Before those pirate guys go!”
“He’s right,” Blade added. “The others can wait, they’re safe for now.”
Sword nodded, and after a short moment of thinking, he took better hold of the commands and made the ship turn in the direction Hailan was telling him. At least, they would have more crystal shards to show the others when they reunited. Landia gladly stayed with them. These people were his best chance of joining back with his other selves, likely scattered across the Universe.
The captain jumped, but it was another kind. This time, he felt uneasy, but he was almost used to it by now. It wasn’t new. He knew it would soon leave anyway. He stared ahead, took a sip of his cup and straightened.
“My Lord. Everything seems to be going to our advantage. We are way ahead of these fools, as you wanted.”
He heard the familiar sound of the radio being turned on, and soft music began to play, an orchestral tune that was joined by a voice he often heard on this ship. The music reverberated throughout the corridors in beautiful echoes.
“Though… We still lost some shards to them. I take it you got a plan for that, too?”
There was a chuckle, low and rumbly.
“Worry not, my friend. They will regret ever taking what is mine.”