If you thought the previous chapter was something, um... Enjoy this thing! I don't even know what the first half of it is!
Chapter Thirteen: Do You Know the Muffin Man?
"You're hiding something from your king, aren't you?" King Dedede accused loudly. Though, "loudly" seemed to be the only way the towering, overweight penguin knew how to speak.
A week had gone by since Waddle Doo's burial, and things had slowly returned to normal. Well, as normal as the circumstances would allow, anyway. The Cappies had been saddened by the news and frightened by the thought of a murderer lurking among them, but they never really knew Waddle Doo that well, so it was difficult for them to truly grieve over his demise. The waddle dees… Well, Nova knows what happens in their heads. Bandana Dee was handling the situation better than Meta Knight had anticipated, though it was clear that he was simply putting on a brave face. Still, the other waddle dees obeyed him, and he was proving himself to be a good leader thus far. The Ebrums and Kirby, of course, had known Waddle Doo better than most, so they of course had been shaken by the tragedy.
Dedede and Escargoon… Well, they were Dedede and Escargoon. Although, the latter had been far more sympathetic.
As for Meta, he had a lot on his mind. He couldn't look Bandana Dee in the eye. He avoided all waddle dees whenever possible (quite an accomplishment, considering how many lived in the castle with him). He avoided passing Waddle Doo's room if he could help it.
I could have done something…
He. Lived. In the castle. Asleep or not, he should have known there was an intruder. He should have heard something, felt something in his gut. If only he'd been more alert or reacted quicker or not wasted two seconds putting on his Comet-damned mask-
"Hey, Meta Knight!" Dedede screamed in his face. "Answer me!"
"Yeah," Escargoon added, raising a light purple hand toward the "king," "just what are you hiding from His Majesty?"
In hindsight, Meta Knight thought, perhaps he had brought this amateur interrogation on to himself. He had done his best to behave as though everything was fine, but it seemed these two - or at least the king - had interpreted his grief and self-loathing as something else. So, now he was trapped in the throne room with an idiot and his lackey standing over him like they thought they could overpower him if need be. May as well humor them, he supposed.
"I assure you, I have nothing to hide," Meta said calmly. It was a lie, of course. He could have written a novel out of all the things he was hiding.
But, the main thing at the moment was Galacta Knight. It had been about three months since Kabu had warned him of the monster. Meta Knight may have been carrying on as normal, but that didn't mean Kabu's words didn't echo in the back of his mind.
"IT IS YOUR DESTINY, META KNIGHT, TO SEEK OUT THIS EVIL AND DESTROY IT. THIS IS WHY GALAXIA CHOSE YOU."
Meta couldn't help wondering...was it Galacta Knight who had snuck into the castle, who had killed Waddle Doo? What purpose would such a thing serve? A warning, perhaps? Or, perhaps not. Most monsters were incapable of thinking for themselves, and when they did, they were merely following orders. Of course, there were a handful of demon beasts that were sentient enough to have their own thoughts and desires, intelligent enough to carry out their own plans successfully. From the sound of things, Galacta Knight would certainly be capable of-
"Nothing to hide, eh?" Dedede sneered. "What about that mask of yours? You got something to hide under there, doncha?"
Escargoon placed a hand on his chin and sounded genuinely curious when he asked, "Come to think of it, what do you look like under there?"
Meta held his cape the slightest bit tighter around himself. "What makes you think I am wearing a mask? Did it not occur to you this 'mask' may actually be my true appearance?"
They looked taken aback, unsure of how to respond, and Escargoon muttered, "Wonder if he eats like a waddle dee."
Meta chose to ignore the comment. "Forgive me, Sire, but might I ask what the point of this is?"
Dedede scowled at his question and took a step forward. Because, that made him so much more intimidating… "You've been acting weird, and I wanna know why!"
Escargoon crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes. "It's not like you to be so jumpy. How do we know you're not plotting something?"
"Yeah," the king agreed. "You working with someone or something? Got yourself a bunch of lil' Escargoon's doing your bidding?" Escargoon seemed a bit miffed at that.
Meta suppressed an eyeroll. "Oh no. It seems I've been found out."
Escargoon's deepened scowl showed that he'd picked up on the sarcasm. King Dedede on the other hand laughed in triumph. "That's right! I caught you red-handed!" Escargoon facepalmed. "You may as well come clean, Meta Knight. Who are you working with, and what was your lil' plan? I'd like to know so's I can laugh at it while I throw you in the dungeon."
I swear, you've gotten dumber over the years. Meta just had to talk his way around this foolishness. Shouldn't be too hard. "Sire...do you know...the muffin man?"
Escargoon rolled his eyes, but Dedede looked intrigued. "The muffin man?"
"The muffin man."
"Huh… Yeah, yeah, I know the muffin man. One who lives on Dreary Lane?"
Escargoon snorted then fake-coughed when the king glared at him. "Eh heh. Something was stuck in my throat."
Dedede's hand curled into a fist, and he pounded Escargoon on the head. As the snail painfully rubbed the sore spot, Dedede barked, "That oughta get it unstuck!" He turned back to Meta Knight. "Now, what's this about a muffin man?"
...He was actually buying this nonsense? Meta smirked. Maybe this would more fun than he thought. "Well, he was going to help us sneak into a witch's gingerbread house in the woods."
"A witch lives in the woods? And, in a gingerbread house, no less?" Dedede asked, completely convinced. Seriously, had this guy never heard a nursery rhyme or fairy tale before? "How come I didn't know about that?"
Escargoon covered his mouth with both hands in a last-ditch attempt to hold back his giggles.
Meta paid him no mind but was glad his mask covered up his own grin. He just hoped his eyes weren't pink right now, though the king might not have known what that color meant anyway. "Well, maybe if you had climbed the Dreamstalk and-"
"I have climbed it!"
"Oh? Then, I suppose you have spoken to the giant who lives up there."
"I see. Anyway, since Jack had broken his crown in the process of trying to fetch a pail of water, and since the giant as a goose that lays golden eggs-"
"Hold up. Who's Jack, and why's he have a crown? He a prince or something?"
At that point, Escargoon burst into laughter. And, since his cover was pretty much blown as a result, Meta let out a quiet chuckle as well.
Dedede just looked back and forth between the two, slowly realizing what just happened. He growled at Meta Knight, "You're trying to mess with me!"
"Why, Your Majesty, I would never do that," Meta Knight said, still chuckling as he walked out of the throne room.
"I know you're up to something!" Dedede called after him.
Still giggling, Meta closed the door behind him and composed himself. How someone that stupid managed to become king was beyond him. Then, he frowned. All joking aside, there was still the matter of his theory. Galacta Knight could be out there. Perhaps he would consult Kabu.
"Oh, Sir Meta Knight!" The tiny voice made him freeze where he stood, his hand still on the doorknob as Bandana Dee charged up to him. "I've been looking for you all week."
"I've, uh, been busy," Meta lied, choking down a fresh wave of guilt. He knew they would have to speak eventually, but… Maybe it was cowardly of him, but Meta had been hoping to put this off as long as possible.
Bandana Dee's eyes saddened. "Kirby said that you were taking...this pretty hard. I just wanna make sure you're okay."
...He...wasn't angry? Of course not. He didn't know whose fault it was. "Are you?" Meta asked sincerely.
Bandana sighed. "I guess. I'm still getting used to everything, and I miss Captain Waddle Doo a lot, but I think I'm alright."
"That's good to hear, my friend."
Meta tried to sidestep him, but Bandana stepped in his way. "Are you alright, though?"
He wanted to lie. He wanted to say that he was fine and leave it at that. But...looking into those big, sympathetic brown eyes...he just couldn't. "Bandana...Malcolm, I…" He sighed. "I'm sorry. This-This is my fault."
Bandana blinked twice. "Huh? What do you mean?"
"I was right there, Bandana," Meta confessed, suddenly unable to meet this gaze. "If I had just been a little faster… If were stronger or more vigilant or something-" Bandana flinched at his tone. Meta lowered his voice but couldn't push back his anger and wrapped his cape tightly around his almost-shaking shoulders. "I'm a knight, a Star Warrior. It is my sworn duty to protect people, yet look what I let happen!"
"Please, don't blame yourself, Sir Meta Knight," Bandana soothed. "I know I don't blame you."
Surprised by such kindness, Meta finally met his eyes. "You-You don't?"
Bandana shook his large head. "Nope. And, I'm pretty sure you're the only one who does. Come on, no one knew anything bad would happen. You did the best you could, right? That's what matters."
Meta smiled sadly under his mask. Malcolm was too kind for his own good. "Forgive me for my outburst."
"It's fine. We're all a little on-edge lately." Then, he turned more serious. "That reminds me; did you ever figure out who did it?"
Should he say? Maybe not. Bandana Dee didn't know about Galacta Knight, and Meta could have been wrong. (Though, his gut was telling him otherwise.) "I...have a theory. I was on my way to consult Kabu about it."
"Oh!" Bandana stepped aside. "Well, I won't keep you then."
Meta nodded. "Thank you. And, keep up the good work with the other waddle dees. Waddle Doo would be proud of how well you are doing."
Tears welled up in Bandana's eyes as he nodded and walked away.
But, before he could get too far, Meta called after him. "Wait." Bandana hastily wiped his eyes and turned around, deep sadness still lingering in them. "I once knew a man. Sir Morpho Knight, was his name." Meta's eyes glowed a fond blue as recalled his old friend. "He was a mentor to me, taught me everything I know about fighting and chivalry. Our time together, short as it was, was time that I will cherish for the remainder of my days."
"What happened to him?" Bandana asked, enamored by the story and quite possibly the mere fact that Meta was actually sharing something about his past with him.
Meta's eyes flashed gray but just as quickly returned to their natural yellow. "He was...rather old when we'd first met." Bandana didn't need to know the whole story. "But, they say that his spirit still lingers, watching over his fellow Star Warriors and helping them pass on when their times in this world end. I am telling you this because, while Waddle Doo was never an official Star Warrior, I am confident that Morpho has done the same with him. Why, perhaps Waddle Doo is watching over us even as we speak. I may have lost my own mentor, but years later I became a mentor myself. And, one day, Sword Knight, Blade Knight, and Kirby will surely pass down my teachings, the way I passed down Morpho's. Waddle Doo expects you to do the same with your fellow waddle dees, my friend. He made you his successor for a reason, did he not?"
As Meta turned to leave, he heard a thick, "Thank you," from behind.
Heart aching, though not quite as much as it once did, Meta turned around, nodded in acknowledgement at Bandana Dee, and continued on his way. He was aware that a certain shimmering insect had been perched on the wall throughout the conversation.
His sabatons crunched the colorful leaves beneath his feet. The crisp autumn air blew gently through the canyon, and Meta pulled his cape tighter against the cold as he stopped in front of the great totem.
But, before he could say anything, Kabu bellowed, "COME INSIDE. THERE IS SOMETHING YOU SHOULD SEE."
Meta nodded wordlessly and walked down the steps that led to Kabu's entrance. What the average person didn't know was that Kabu had a hollowed out inside. He was a refuge, a safe haven for Star Warriors, and He was often used as a shelter for them and their most valuable possessions. Meta stepped into the center of Kabu. There wasn't much to see, just a big, empty space. The only noteworthy thing was a small pedestal which held Kirby's Warp Star.
Meta's heart paused as he carefully approached the star, small enough to fit in your hand, only growing large enough to fly on when Kirby needed it to. Though its origin was unknown, it not only strengthened Kirby's already great power when summoned, but it was also linked with Kirby's very life. If one went, the other would soon follow. But, this is not what frightened Meta Knight.
No, what unnerved him was the Warp Star's unusual appearance. Under normal circumstances, it was a cheerful yellow and even seemed to be perpetually glowing. Now, however, it was alarmingly dull, almost sulfur-colored. Meta had been keeping a close eye on Kirby ever Sword Knight and Blade Knight's assessment, but nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.
Now that Meta thought about it, Kirby had mastered his wings much faster than most. And, where had Kirby learned the mach tornado technique? And, what if the flashing red eyes weren't his imagination, as Meta had originally thought? And, what if that mark on his face wasn't really a scar? And, why was he outside the night that Waddle Doo…
The orange butterfly flew inside and landed next to the Warp Star, tentatively tapping it with its tiny leg.
"DO YOU KNOW THE MUFFIN MAN, META KNIGHT?" Kabu asked.
I don't know how this happened. Things just escalated quicker than I thought they would. So, review! I guess.