"I'm sorry that Great King doused your house in watermelon juice," Bandana Dee said, and his brows would've been knitted but Kirby couldn't see those anyway. He held the basket of fruits out. All the minions in the castle had collectively gathered the best fruits they could find and made the prettiest ribbon they could with leftover tablecloth to make an apology gift for Kirby, again. "For you."
Kirby hummed, receiving it with both hands. "It's fine, I don't mind. Dedede must know that, too." He jostled with the fruits in the basket, gleaning through its contents. "And tell all of them thanks again."
Even without telling them, Bandana Dee was sure the minions already knew Kirby was grateful for their efforts. This kind of thing had happened before, although not too frequently, so it wasn't a hassle to put a gift like that together once in a while. Bandana Dee glanced at the exterior walls of the semi-spherical house and sighed; at least the king's antics were easy to clear up after.
"It was fun to clean up, so don't worry," Kirby laughed, turning inwards and placing the basket on the wooden table inside. Flustered that his thoughts had been predicted, Bandana Dee did a salute before Kirby pointed at him and chuckled again. "You want to come in for a while? I made curry for lunch."
Kirby's killer curry born straight from a volcano. Bandana Dee had tried it once and he ran out of the house to the nearest river in tears with snot dribbling down his nose. When he got back to the house, Kirby had whipped up a salad bowl and apologised through an amused smile.
And, anyway… "No, thank you. I have to go back to the castle and finish up my workload." If he ran all the way back, he'd make it in time before his break ended. And maybe someone had saved a red bean bun for him. When his break started, he ran to Kirby's house, first thing, so he hadn't eaten since breakfast.
Kirby bounced back to the doorway, hand on the wooden door. He had that furrowed-brow smile on his face that jabbed at Bandana Dee's conscience. "Well, that's too bad. Your salary will get cut if you're back late, right?"
"...Probably." Bandana Dee wasn't sure. He always returned early.
"Well, you can't do that. Your family still needs money and stuff back in that hidey-holey village far away, right?" Kirby pushed on Bandana Dee's shoulders lightly. The waddle dee skittered backwards, and Kirby reached for the doorknob. Then Kirby paused. "If you need money that badly, then why don't you work somewhere else? Some jobs offer a higher salary for less work in the village, you know."
He knew. And he had considered it before, many times, when he first moved to this side of Dream Land. At first, the castle was his only bet since he had no resume whatsoever and he had heard that everyone who got interviewed got accepted. (Now that he was part of the minions and had his go at interviewing employees, he knew that was completely, hundred-percent true.) With a few years of work experience, he could probably get a job in the village, and he had aimed for that from the start. He already had his multiple years of experience, but he remained in the castle even with his qualifications.
"I know," Bandana Dee mumbled. "But, it's fine. Thanks anyway."
Kirby tilted his head, smiled knowingly, waved, then shut the door.
"You look like you're about to die."
"Thank you, Danzi. I needed that."
"Welcome. By the way, the Fluff said he wanted you to bring tea up to him. Chop-chop, or I'll poke your butt."
Bandana Dee lifted his face off of the table to stare at Danzi with his worst zombie expression. The waddle doo opposite him laughed. The kitchen they were in was on the first floor of the castle; the furthest distance from the king's throne room and sleeping chamber. (Not including the large, tunnelling basement where the minions resided when they weren't on duty.) He wasn't sure if he could pull sprinting up the stairs while balancing a tray after he'd been starved the whole day. The sandwich Danzi had thrown together was still in the microwave.
And it was dark out.
"Tea?" Bandana Dee rubbed his eyes. Danzi reached over and slapped his hands away. "At this time?"
"You asked me once to go out into the woods with you at that camp so you could pee, remember?"
"That's… That's completely different." And also a really, years-ago experience. "Do any of the kitchens have ready-made snacks?" Knowing the schedules, there probably wasn't any. Day hours were about to end, so all the day workers had probably eaten all the leftover food they made. Still wouldn't hurt to ask.
Danzi jumped off his stool. "I'll go make some now."
Bandana Dee momentarily considered stopping him—Danzi had come from a different country altogether which meant a lot of ways-of-life that he had taken to were not the same as the ones in Dream Land. Even his name was completely alien; the waddle doo had attempted to teach Bandana Dee how to pronounce it right, but now he just snorted whenever Bandana Dee said his name. No one had ever taught him how to cook, so he'd probably make something weird from his own homeland, right? And there was the big chance that the king wouldn't like it, right? And Bandana Dee couldn't ever give the king something he didn't like, right?
His bones collapsed on him and Bandana Dee returned to face-plant on the table and get some shut-eye time.
Really, he thought he only got about five minutes in when Danzi began prattling off about the lack of variety in the kitchen.
"Here you go," Danzi sighed, sliding the plate up to Bandana Dee and folding his arms. Bandana Dee was pleased to see that he had taken simple biscuits out of the tin and used the teabags from the cupboard, although the arrangement was weird and looked capable of being part of a ritual. "I thought I'd make something different but there's no flour."
"You can't bake anything in time," Bandana Dee pointed out. He glanced up at the clock and hoped he was right. Eight fifty-three. He had about seven or eight minutes to fly up the staircases before the king thought of throwing a fit.
"Nope. And you still look like you want to die." Danzi blinked. Whenever waddle doos blinked, it always made a wet sound. Bandana Dee has asked before and Danzi had said their eyes needed to be damper than most so their eyeballs wouldn't fry out when they used their laser. "You don't have to bring it to him, you know. He can't cut your paycheck or anything. Nine is the start of the night hours."
It wasn't the first time Danzi had said it. And Danzi wasn't the first person who had said it, either. And what they were saying was irrefutable; Bandana Dee, Head of the Minions and such, didn't have an obligation to serve the king until his bones dissolved, especially not when he wasn't getting anything materialistic out of it, and he was just tiring himself out more and more.
Bandana Dee tilted his head, didn't even think about it. "No, it's fine. I'll still do it."
Bandana Dee, who, at that time, didn't have the right at all to be called Bandana Dee with his bandana-less status, winced, watching the bucket of soapy water go down, bouncing off one of the wooden ladder steps and then clattering and rolling onto the ground. Murky liquid spilled from the inside.
Eyes turned to him. He flinched, holding the dirty rag up in front of him. The waddle dee supervising sighed, scratching the back of his head.
"Eh… don't worry about that, newbie. Everyone's pretty much an idiot when they first come here." It didn't help the staring. Staring at him because he messed up. Bandana Dee—or, well, just Dee, at that point in time when he first joined—wrung the cloth in his hands uncomfortably. "Go on and refill the bucket, clean the mess up and then continue."
"Y-Yes, Sir," Dee mumbled, clambering down the steps, feeling intimidated even though he knew the supervisor hardly meant any harm.
Back in his home, Dee had only done farming. His mother would do all the cleaning in the house, and if he did any cleaning at all, it'd just be wiping the tables. They needed more manpower in the field; they had a big family to feed. Dee had some seven younger brothers, some biologically related and some not, but it didn't matter. They all needed to be fed.
Then the weather started getting drier, and then there was less work for Dee to do by the day. Of course his parents gave his brothers their food, but that meant less for them. And he couldn't take the sight of them become thinner and thinner as the weather became drier and drier. He needed to get a proper job. The next time those foreign waddle dees came on their run-down, large chariots, Bandana Dee boarded on along with several other of his fellow villagers who had the same idea as him. He didn't have a clue as to where he was going or as to what eh was going to do, but anything would work.
Cleaning windows was just the start of it. Yes, cleaning windows was just the start. He had to persevere. He had an entire family back in his village, after all—
"Hey, you losers!"
The kitchen door slammed open. Dee yelped, freezing up, his foot stilling just as it came down onto a puddle on the steps that his fallen bucket had created, and then all of a sudden he was facing the ceiling and his hands were holding onto nothing. His vision flipped again and then he was facing a wall and the blood was rushing into his head and he—smashed his head against the floor.
His head spun. But from what he could see, none of the other minions looked displeased at the insult. Frowning but smiling, in fact. Then his world whirled again.
"I asked tea to be brought up ages ago! And you're still cleaning the kitchen?!" It was something big… and blue… and big… pretty colourful.
"Apologies, Great King. The kitchen needs to be cleaned."
"And a penguin needs to be fed, am I right? Hurry it up. I'm starving over here!"
Dee's visioned cleared. A bright yellow beak on a blue penguin with robes… oh, it was—the king, right? He scrambled to his feet, turning right around in the grey puddle and jumping to his feet. Again, he miscalculated and slipped, but managed to regain his footing this time.
Some of the minions were descending from their ladders, presumably to prepare their food, and the supervisor was yelling a bunch of stuff that equated to "move along quicker". Respective dirty areas were still being cleaned. Nobody was staring at him anymore. Only the penguin king was.
Hurriedly, Dee bowed, thinking that it was just the appropriate thing to do, and then reached for the bucket.
"Oi, what're you doing?" Dee froze. Multiple times he'd been told he was paranoid, but he knew when words were being directly needled at him. He glanced up. Sure enough, the king was staring. "What're you messing around for? Y'think you have time to be messing around and slacking here? We don't hire bums!"
"I—I—" In the midst of his panic, Dee almost said but you hired everyone, but he bit his tongue and pretended the bottom of his eyes were heating up with something uncomfortable. "I'm sorry, it was an—"
"And you fell over when I came in! What's up with your feet? Butter-feet?" The king guffawed. "Look, out of all the jobs in the castle, cleanin' has to be one of the easiest. What d'you think the rest of the jobs are gonna be to you?"
The bottom of Dee's vision blurred. And then the rest did. He heard the supervisor saying, "Great King, he's a new guy. This is pretty common, actually—"
"If you can't even do this, maybe y'should consider not doing this job."
It wasn't even a breakthrough statement. Not anything like, you're useless, get out of my life, or anything even close to those soap operas he had seen his mother watching on their glitchy black-and-white television. That was why he couldn't explain why he bolted out of the kitchen into the hallway, darting to the nearest bathroom while furiously rubbing his eyes.
He knew that all his life he'd only been pulling out vegetables from under the soil. He knew that he hadn't received the slightest bit of education. He knew since he was young and his parents doted on him and even in the field his father had taken the brunt of it.
He removed his hands. They were wet.
Collapsing into the nearest empty-seeming bathroom, Dee fumbled his way to the sink while continuously swiping away at the… water. It was just water. Of course it was. Just some warm water.
"Whoa, pal. People go blind doing that, you know."
Dee spun the knob. Water gushed out from the tap. "Doing what?" And he tried to ignore how nasal he sounded.
"Er, rubbing your eyes out like they're stains in your face." Dee splashed his face with icy water, then glanced up at his companion in the bathroom. It was a waddle doo. And he was—
"You're bald," Dee said through sniffs.
The waddle doo made an offended noise. "No, that's wrong. I'm Danzi."
Dee twisted his tongue. "Dan… jee?"
"No—actually, never mind. Go with that. Everyone calls me that, anyway." Dee wasn't sure if he liked being lumped with everyone. "So? You're a newbie, right? Which part of the job traumitised you? The awful bathroom on the second floor? Or the laundry area on the fourth?"
What? "No, it's…" he almost bit his tongue, "...the king." After a hesitant pause, he added, "He's awful."
"Oh, the Fluff." What? "He's a huge tsundere. Don't worry about it. What did he say to you?"
It almost clicked in Dee's mind that the (bald) waddle doo was a complete stranger and it would've been terrifyingly awkward to confide in a complete stranger. Luckily, it didn't. Dee rubbed the snot away from his nose, and then it got onto his hands and he had to run it under the water. He didn't want to think about it.
He didn't want to think about it, but…
"He said that—" A lump in his throat caught his words and he had to swallow first. "He… said that… maybe I shouldn't work here."
"And?" Dee squinted at him like he was mad. What else was there to say? Maybe he should've recounted from the start of the story? "It's just… It's my first day—actually, it's my first hour here—and I've already been… technically… dismissed…"
Danzi stared at the Dee for a long time like he was mystified. Dee stared back, then when warm snot came dribbling down again he swiped at it and splashed at his face with more cold water. His eyes still felt damp around the edges, but they weren't leaking anymore.
"You have to be more thick-skinned."
Dee lifted his head. "Excuse me?"
"Yeah, more 'I don't give a crap about what you think', that kind of thick-skinned." Danzi nodded, folding his arms, closing his eye and tapping his foot. "If you get down from this you'll probably start crying a lot, so you really shouldn't take the king's words at face value. Like I said, he's a tsun—oh, maybe you don't understand that? Culture differences. He's a huge social awkward. Biggest softie in the castle but he insults everyone everyday."
Dee turned the tap off. "Biggest softie in the castle."
"And… insults everyone everyday?"
Dee stared at the floor.
"I'll also bet my hair that you weren't actually dismissed. The Fluff said it to me on my second day here, and it's my third month working here now." Danzi walked forward, around Dee, and began pushing him out of the bathroom. "Just walk back in there, pretend you weren't bawling, and you'll get your money and stuff. All's well."
Half of it didn't even make any sense. Dee wanted to point out Danzi didn't even have any hair to bet.
The sentiment of it all still made him smile, so he didn't.
There was also a time Dee couldn't come to rely on Danzi for moral support.
Like when he was in front of the throne room, knowing that he hadn't been summoned at all, a personal request worrying his hands. The patrolling waddle dee outside had looked at Dee inquisitively, but continued marching on. Dee both appreciated and hated the nonchalance that was turned on him.
Dee kicked at the ground. The last time he had interacted with the king was several weeks ago when the king had called him a total buffoon for falling asleep on the job. That one had been Dee's fault, yes, but none of the other minions had blamed him, and Dee had learnt to take such insults from the king in his stride. If anything, he knew that his supervisor had been glad and reassured to promote Dee into an official minion. He had later found out that the requirement for this to happen was to not burst out of the room crying if the king spewed one of his worst insults out. Most newbies made it through. It was easy to get used to, somehow.
That didn't change the fact that Dee and the king had never had a decent conversation once. From the start, Dee hadn't been planning to. It was inappropriate for a king and his minion to even have a friendly chat. But he still wished he had; he was about to make a stupid request that was so stupid there wasn't any reason for the king to grant it unless he was a huge, huge… stupid.
He still had to try. It was this, or… all the reasons why he came to the castle to work was for nothing.
Dee knocked on the door. "Excuse me?"
The gruff response was immediate. "What is it? Come in!"
No, wait, wasn't the security a bit too lax..?
Dee pushed the door open. The throne room was large and daunting as ever. He'd been in there a few times when the king wanted a snack and no one else was available. Clearing his throat, he said, "It's, um…" and then upon realising he didn't have a proper identification, "...a waddle dee. A waddle dee minion."
"Yeah, come on in!" the king said irritably.
Dee skittered inside and shut the large wooden double doors behind him. "Um… Great King," he started uncertainly.
"Hold on," the king said, crossing his legs and putting his bowl of soup down on the armrest, "who the heck're you?"
"A… A waddle dee minion—"
"I have eyes. Who're you?"
"Er—" Dee fumbled. "I don't—people just call me… 'Dee'. There wasn't… back in my village, it's…"
"Y'know what? Whatever." The king leaned backwards in his seat, clasping his hands together. Dee breathed a sigh of relief. "So? What did you come here for? If it's resin—resignation, you gotta take that up with one of the bosses down there." He pointed at the floor. "Not me."
Dee let the words sink in for a bit. "The… The supervisors. I know." The king raised a brow. "I'm not here to resign. I just wanted to… make a request."
Make a request to the king that he'd done absolutely nothing for to gain brownie points. The king didn't even know who he was. Dee knew he was just another minion. It didn't matter. It was either the king agreed, and all went well, and Dee make his own offer in return, or the king didn't agree and it was all over. A pretty deep gamble, Dee thought. Or that was what he had thought.
The king didn't even mull over it. "Well, what is it?"
Okay, here it was. Three, two, one, or… nothing. "I was wondering… regarding the paycheck… this month's—I mean, for the next few months—"
"You want a raise?" Rather than indignant, the king looked completely baffled.
"No!" A raise was good, but Dee hadn't come to bargain for that. He sucked in a ball of air. "I was wondering—if I could get my salary for the next ten months by this week."
His request was met with silence. Dee knew it would have been. It wasn't the type of thing anyone could just agree on simply without even thinking. First of all, it didn't even make any sense. Second of all, it increased the chances of Dee escaping after he'd gotten his salaries in advance. Which meant he would be paid for free. One minion doing it wouldn't even put a dent in the castle's wallet but it'd be enough to piss some of them off.
The king wiggled on his throne. He didn't look angry in the slightest, and Dee was grateful. "What? What d'you want that for? That's just weird. As if you weren't already weird to begin with."
"That's… because…" Dee had already rehearsed the scene a thousand times over in his head. More than that. He could do it. He memorised what to say! All he had to do was follow his mind-script— "One of my… younger brothers—back in the village, there's a—he's caught a… there's… a, a really bad disease. And… he's caught it. One of my younger brothers. A doctor was employed there, but my family… doesn't have the funds for it."
That went horribly.
The king stared at him. Dee waited for his words to sink in. The king could understand that, right? Did he have to repeat it? Did he have to say it all over again? Should he? What if the king actually understood but was stupefied by the stupidity of his request?
If his brother wasn't treated in time, he'd die. It was treatable—definitely. And it was costly—even more definitely. Right at that moment, Dee was sure his little brother was in a straw bed, waiting with swollen eyes and hoping that his older brother would be able to send some money his way. Right? If the disease was left alone for a month, he was gone. But it'd only been a week. Dee could make it if the king accepted his request. He definitely could.
The silence drew on. Dee squeezed his hands. It was either this, or—
The king clambered out of his seat. It was Dee's turn to stare.
"Don't just stand there. Follow me," the king huffed like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Stunned, Dee nodded and skittered after the king's footsteps.
They headed behind the throne, where another pair of large, wooden double doors were. Upon scrutinisation, even from a distance, Dee could clearly see a keyhole for those doors. The double doors that acted as the entrance to the throne room had a lock, too; but the keyhole was much smaller and was beginning to rust. The new one that Dee had just discovered seemed like it was made out of gold.
The king reached into his robe, pulled out the largest key Dee had ever seen, stuck it into the keyhole, jiggled it until Dee heard a click, then removed it. He pushed the doors; they moved stubbornly against the force, and Dee would've jumped in to push the doors for himself if he wasn't absolutely sure that he was way weaker in terms of brute strength compared to the king.
Behind the door lay…
...a giant circle. It was a really giant circle. It was silver in colour, and it looked like a giant piece of mechanism Dee had never seen once in his entire life before. It was also really big. Was it a door? Beside it, there was a calculator-like object stuck to the wall. There weren't any signs like plus, minus or equals on it, though, only the numbers and an "ENTER" button.
A giant, circular door and a pseudo-calculator?
The king approached the not-calculator, pressed in a bunch of digits, then clicked enter. Dee watched the circle spin round and round until it clanked loudly, making him jump, and then one side of it swung open a little. It really looked like a door. ...Oh, it was a door.
"Go on and push it," the king ordered, sounding impatient.
Dee swung around, blinking, before scurried over to where the door was ajar, then pulled at it. He miscalculated its heaviness and wheezed when it wouldn't budge. It was a door, right? Why did it feel like a window that hadn't been opened in a thousand years, then? And he was just a tiny waddle dee!
By the time Dee was done pulling it completely open, he lay on the floor, completely defeated, sides heaving. It occurred to him that maybe pushing it like the king had ordered would've been a smarter idea, but he decided he would've died all the same. No point regretting it.
"Oi, get up! I didn't open this stupid thing so you could sleep!"
"Sorry," Dee mumbled, not feeling sorry at all, pulling himself off the ground and dragging his feet around the circular door. The king looked pretty irritated, although Dee had learned long ago that the king's exterior was a stark contrast to what he was actually feeling, most of the time. "I don't understand what this—"
There was a huge pile of gold in front of his face.
A pile? Even "mountain" didn't begin to describe it. If it was a room, it must've been stuffed chock-full with shiny gold things, and when Dee took a closer look at them, they were coins. One of them must've had double the value of Dee's life. (That was an exaggerated comparison, he knew, since life was incomparable against anything.) If the whole world had a value against it this amount of money was probably enough to buy the world ten times over.
This amount of money? Behind the throne room? It had to be the castle's stash, right?
"It's a vault, you idiot. I thought you were smart," the king said almost triumphantly behind him.
"Um. I'm uneducated." He often prided himself as streetsmart, but looking at the other minions, he realised he was probably a very inferior streetsmart-er. "But I just wanted—the next ten months' salary—"
"Isn't your brother gonna die or whatever? Take however much you need." The king turned, probably to leave. Dee stood as still as a bamboo pole. "Oh, and bring me tea later. Before nine. I've got work to do."
"Wait—what are you talking about?" Dee whipped round. The king was already leaving. He considered calling the penguin a huge buffoon. "I could be lying! Just to get money! You're going to let me take however much I want from this… va—volt..?" As an afterthought, he added, "I don't even know how to close it!"
"That? Just shut the door."
"What about the rest of what I said?"
The king didn't even hesitate. "Any idiot who starts crying because I said they're unfit for a job probably wouldn't be lying about something as smart as this."
Dee was left staring at the back of, in his mind, a newfound hero.
"And he gave you all that money? Just like that?"
"Well, it was kind of… yeah."
"Seriously? Hey, help me think of some sob story. I want in on all the cash, too."
"Juuuust kidding. At least I'll know where to go if I gamble off all my money. Accidentally."
"I thought you don't gamble."
"I don't. So, are you still getting your salary for the next however-many months?"
"...I asked a supervisor. They said they didn't see anything different about the paycheck records—or something…"
"I can't believe this. I'm working for a loon. A naive, loony loon."
Dee thought he was pretty privileged to work under this naive, loony loon.
Dee stared at the rectangular, dark blue piece of cloth dangling from the king's hands. The edges were fraying. And it was really creased. Otherwise, it still looked pretty new, stainless with its colour still bright.
"Erm… what's this for?" Dee asked, hoping he didn't sound offensive or just stupid.
"You're gonna be the new Head of the Minions, right?"
"I… what?" Dee almost choked on nothing. "I'm going to… what did you say?"
"And your name is just 'Dee', or whatever, so I'm obviously gonna need you to have a proper name." The king shoved the cloth in Dee's face. He took it with a blank look. "You can go fix it up or whatever. I dunno how to sew."
"That isn't the issue…" Dee spread it out so he could have a look at it. If he ironed and trimmed it… "Since when was I going to be the new Head of Minions? I wasn't told anything about that."
"Well, duh, you weren't told. I made that decision myself today, since the old Head resigned a pretty long while ago." Dee remembered the previous Head; a nice knuckle joe, but getting late in his years. He stepped down and returned to his country a few months ago. Dee missed him. "You've been working here for a year, right? The other minions won't complain."
Dee thought they might have, seeing as how other minions had worked much longer there, and… he didn't see himself as leader material. The only reason why he was still there was because he had coincidentally stumbled into the bathroom Danzi was in, and then his fellow minions had treated him like one of them since day one. He could think of at least twenty other minions who would be more fitting for the job.
But it was the king's decision. And Dee trusted the king's judgement of character.
"I'll do it," Dee said firmly.
"I wasn't asking for your agreement… whatever."
The next time the other minions saw him, he wasn't just Dee anymore.
"Great King, I've got your tea."
Bandana Dee nudged the wooden doors open with his foot, and then trundled in, holding the silver tray upright. The king was browsing through some sort of book with a lot of pictures.
"You're late," the king said with a scowl.
"I'm sorry," Bandana Dee said, aware he didn't sound sorry at all.
"What's with this weird arrangement?"
"Danzi made it."
The king squinted. "Your hairless friend?"
"My hairless friend."
"If you say so." The king waved his hand dismissively; Bandana Dee took that as his cue to leave. He turned around. "Thanks, as always."
Bandana Dee left the room, positively glowing.
A/N: "I guess I'll write about Dedede for once." *accidentally writes too much about Bandy*
I can't help spoiling him. He's a precious child.
Just to take note—I poured my heart and soul into formatting and italicising all my nice words, and then FFN decided to clear formatting on everything and also add bold sentences wherever they felt like it. It's offensive. I've removed all the bolding (I hoped) and re-added as many italics as I could see while scanning through the original document, but remember, if you don't get the full experience: everything is FFN's fault.
It's never mine. Deeeefinitely... not.
I used Kirby's personality from the Minion project because I missed writing that Kirby. There's also an OC that's showing up for the first time here: because he's from a faraway country, I've given him a Chinese name so it's more foreign-y. This isn't part of the Minion project, so I didn't want to involve any of my OCs from there, but I also wanted to describe Dedede through different methods. Thus, another idiot was born.
I think... that's about it? Please let me know if there are any formatting errors. They're annoying me. Thanks for giving my 5k dump a chance.