"異空の数だけ、自由に飛ぶ「ニル」が いた。
星のように 輝く彼を見て、古代の人々は 謎と共に書物を残した。

夢が、闇が、魂が、心が…
その物質に 混沌と可能性が全て集い、淵源の祖となり 生誕する。

新たに書物に残される その存在は、
破神か、星の盟友か、それとも!?

Void exists in all dimensions, but his shining form in another dimension inspired the ancients to transcribe his mysteries in sacred texts.

What will be written next? Will the new scrolls describe a destroyer of worlds, or an ally to the stars?"
— VS Void Termina (EX Phase 2), Kirby Star Allies


Chapter 17: Principle of Duality

There was a saying which stated that time would appear to stand still when individuals found themselves stuck in a truly dire situation. From their perspective, the seconds ticking by would slow to an absolute crawl, time itself appearing to freeze over like a chilling temporal snowstorm settling down around them as primal fear gripped their hearts.

"I will have… absolute power!"

Right now, if the crazed demon beast to her front was any indicator, Fumu could safely say that that analogy was entirely right. The Cappy girl found herself gnashing her teeth together as the machine proceeded to gloat shamelessly.

"With this ultimate ability vested within me, I am now indisputably the most powerful demon beast ever produced by Nightmare! Behold, mere mortals… for I am creation itself!" Slice n' Splice brandished its staffs, eyes gleaming. "With my sun and moon rods, I can now single-handedly boost the number of demon beasts held by Holy Nightmare Corporation to a ludicrous amount! Our grip on the universe might have been tenuous after the climax of the great war with the Galaxy Soldier Army that ended fifteen thousand years ago, but now no one could deny Nightmare the universal control and power that he and I rightfully deserve!"

Whup. That sucked. Yet another mess which King Dedede started, and yet another one where he abdicated before assuming responsibility for his massive screw-up, leaving her to do the cleanup.

"Can you imagine it, puny locals of Dream Land?" Slice n' Splice asked, clunkily turning to Fumu as it hobbled on its four legs. "Actually… forget it," the robot instantly backtracked, patronizingly rolling its pupils. "I doubt your puny minds can even begin to comprehend this development."

Before Fumu could counter the robot, it began to speak. "Let me elaborate. Nightmare is the sole promulgator and creator of us demon beasts. But even the King of Darkness has his limits," it proceeded to admit with a scowl.

Fumu shot Bun a look. Now that was a first. Over the past week, both Kabu and Meta Knight had hyped Nightmare up to be this unstoppable megalomaniac whose only fear was the Star Warriors, all because of the prophecy which stated that he would fall before one. Every other statement regarding the tyrant had been made with absolute seriousness, with both of them stressing that his company sowed chaos and discord all over the universe.

As a result, it was rather surprising that the first disparaging comment which broke that invincible illusion came from the side of the enemy. Talk about self-deprecation!

"Creating a capable demon beast is a hefty investment to Holy Nightmare Corporation, and you of all people know why, Lola."

Lola shivered as his name was called out by the mechanical menace, but straightened himself up as he steeled himself to explain. "All demon beasts are born as a blank slate." He averted his misty eyes before concluding his statement, his voice distant and shaky. "They actively have to be… trained to be bad."

Bun laughed in disbelief. "Yeah, right!" he said sarcastically, rolling his eyes as his mind instantly flashed back to a few recent flunkies which Dedede had ordered. "I highly doubt that!"

"It's the truth, you dolt!" Lola snapped in frustration, taking in a deep breath before continuing. "A select few blindly follow their starting orders, their personality already rotten. But most usually resist initially… though not for long. Sometimes they are brainwashed. Sometimes their mentors torture them to imbue a sense of resentment within their darkened hearts, resentment which soon turns to anger at the world around them, suppressing their conscience and bringing out their destructive tendencies."

Lola shook his head in pity, struggling to keep his words coherent as he let out a shudder. "Regardless of the method used, they are always broken mentally when still young and impressionable. It is an experience which taints their very soul, all but converting them into a loyal foot soldier in Nightmare's arsenal…"

With an expression of stark horror, Fumu realized that the explanation conferred by Lola—she still needed time to get used to that name—finally solved the discrepancy that she had noticed between Lololo and Lalala as compared to the other demon beasts.

This explained everything! Lololo and Lalala were nice all because they were born with no memories… like what Lola had said, a clean slate! With personalities that haven't been corrupted yet and hence still malleable, the duo had thus been groomed by her parents and as such grew to have a cheery disposition, one which they wouldn't have had if they'd remained under Nightmare's tenure.

"The training is the problem," Slice n' Splice muttered, not noticing Fumu's sudden epiphany. "It introduces unintended variables. Take this useless fool, for instance," it said, pointing at Lola, who glowered back with ire. "No matter how hard we tried, he failed at his primary role. The decision was hence made at the very top to eliminate Lola, but all that time and resources which we had invested into him was thus wasted as a result. Now just imagine that, but on a company-wide scale. Countless resources being inefficiently wasted on merely training a batch of incompetent novices just to do their jobs," it grumbled.

"But that shall be an issue no more! With my duplication powers, I can simply clone the most competent of Nightmare's men, thereby eliminating the lag time incurred by training newborn demon beasts from birth! With an infinite army of the most powerful demon beasts at his disposal, Lord Nightmare will finally crush all resistance to his rule! What remains of the Galaxy Soldier Army will be grinded and mashed into microscopic elements that are smaller than dust!"

Slice n' Splice whirled towards the two Kirbies, cackling with its mechanical voice. "And I shall start with you, Star Warriors!"

The purple Kirby yelped, snapping out of his trance and whirling around at the source of the voice. It was quite evident to any onlooking bystanders that he had been distracted before being called out by Slice n' Splice. The white Kirby, on the other hand, didn't even flinch, acting aloof with a condescending smirk on his visage.

"Kirby!" Fumu cried, eyes nervously darting to the two puffballs.

"Kirby?" A tentative pause. "So that's the Star Warrior's name? Well, I split him in two earlier as a test run to disorient them," the machine revealed—though it was info which everyone had already deduced from contextual clues—as it slowly marched towards the two puffballs, "and now that both of them are back and look just as confused as before, I will put an end to them. You whelps will bear witness to me carrying out Nightmare's mission — exterminating your precious little Star Warrior!"

The robot held up the moon staff, an act which instantly caused the purple Kirby to pale and scamper away, running so fast that he almost wiped around the corner.

The white Kirby snorted and promptly gave chase, a straight line callously drawn on his lips as he casually strolled in the direction which his purple counterpart had departed in.

"Running away, you cowards? Flee all you want… I always get my prey!" Slice n' Splice snarled, a tinge of amusement creeping into its eyes. "Hickory, dickory, dock…" it began to chant.

Almost at once, Lola began to hyperventilate. He wasn't the only one to have an adverse reaction. Lalala hid behind Lololo, and the blue orb wasn't faring all that well himself.

Despite their best efforts to control their reaction, the nursery rhyme was almost akin to that of a trigger phrase for them. It was Slice n' Splice's catchphrase before using his moon staff to slice others apart — an experience which was wholly traumatic to all three of them.

"Once I've succeeded in my mission of destroying the Star Warrior who dares stand in Nightmare's way, I will return in glory to Nightmare using the demon beast delivery system." Fumu and Bun stared at the robot when it actively confirmed what they'd all known for a while — that there was indeed a hidden system in place for Dedede to contact Holy Nightmare and get demon beasts from the company. "Surrender to me, Star Warriors! You are all that stand in the way between me and destiny!"

Lola finally snapped. "Not a chance, bozo!" he yelled, flying up to Slice n' Splice's eye level. "You ruined my life and split me into two just for kicks! The very thought of someone like you getting unlimited power makes me sick!" As he ranted at the machine, Lola gave an understanding nod towards his two… halves? Counterparts? Parallel-parts? Seriously, who actually had a proper answer as to what he should call Lololo and Lalala?

Things were confusing enough as it is! He was already having trouble wrapping his head around the fact that he had become two. And now, those two that had once been him were their own person, having independent thought and free will apart from him.

Man, his head hurt. This sucked more than a puzzle with multiple Don Medusas.

Lola shook his head firmly, trying to clear his mind from the enigma that his life has become. "Slice n' Splice!" he roared at his former colleague, using the harshest voice that a creature who was about the size of a Rubik's Cube could possibly garner from their vocal chords. "You'll have to go through me if you want to harm a hair on either of their heads!"

"Hahahaha! I'll like to see you try!" The robot rattled and vibrated as though it was simulating the effects of laughter. "You're the wimpiest demon beast alive, Lola! You can't possibly beat me now that I've been proven to be the best of Nightmare's mechanical forces! What can you possibly do to me!?"

Fumu tugged upon a few loose strands of hair from her ponytail as she glared upon the scene, so infuriated with the demon beast that she almost pulled a clump of blonde hair out of their roots. Slice n' Splice was this close to supplanting Kracko as her most hated demon beast which Dedede had the nerve to bring to Dream Land thus far. It was only by virtue of the fact that Kracko had killed Dyna Blade which gave the lightning cloud the edge… for now.

But its words regarding the true nature of its powers were foreboding. Not to mention the brutish and downright condescending way that it talked down to Lololo and Lalala—and Lola too, she had to give herself a metaphorical kick to remind herself of her two helpers' combined state—was utterly reprehensible. It made Fumu want to go up and kick the robot once again, despite how futile that had turned out when she'd tried it the first time. At least the intent of hate was there.

Further adding insult to injury, Slice n' Splice was also the one who was responsible for the plight of Lololo and Lalala, and had thoroughly humiliated her father without mercy. She was already quietly scheming in her mind on how to take down this particular demon beast.

Ironically, the answer came to Fumu when she was least expecting it.

"Kit-ta-ri! This sun staff turns anything I split apart back into its original state. Kind of like an undo button, you can say?"

At that moment, Fumu realized that as Slice n' Splice was bragging about its greatest triumph, the robot had also inadvertently revealed its greatest flaw, unintentionally letting slip that something it had split apart with his moon staff could in fact be undone!

The sun staff… it could reverse the effects of the demon beast's powers! The unassuming rod that it held in its left hand was the key to putting Lololo and Lalala back together… and also how they could return the two Kirbies back to one!

She needed to get it.

Having borne witness to the robot's despotic speech from earlier, Fumu knew that she couldn't let an artifact of this power remain in the hands of a tyrannical maniac far worse than the likes of Dedede. She had to pilfer the staff away to not only end Slice n' Splice's regime before Nightmare learned of his demon beast's full potential, but also to use it in the name of good to save her friends and return everything back to normal.

"Bun."

Her brother turned to her. "Yes, sis?"

"The staff… the staff!" she repeated, more fervently, "We need the sun staff!"

Captain Waddle Doo blinked up at Fumu. "The staff?" he questioned, eye drifting upwards in confusion, "What for? So that you can disarm that demon beast?"

"Hey! Why should we tell you, Waddle Doo? Keep your nosy nose out of things!" Bun was quick to react, the boy pointing a finger at the captain in suspicion. "How do we know that you aren't on Dedede's side and end up using whatever my sis says to your advantage just so you can help him?" he asked, putting his hands by his sides and playing devil's advocate by posing the question to Waddle Doo in spite of the fact that he was being hypocritical — he actually had no idea of what Fumu's thought process was, and was keen to know himself.

That said, the idea of Dedede possibly learning and getting an ace up his sleeve was enough to quell Bun's innate curiosity. No amount of knowledge was worth Dedede getting the upper hand.

Waddle Doo pulled a face. "His majesty fled the coop because his own demon beast went power-crazy and had the gall to backstab him. Keeping that in mind, I really don't think that there's a conflict of interest…" He glanced towards his broadsword, admiring the reflection earlier. "Plus, I almost got punished by King Dedede himself just for helping you out earlier! Enough with the clout and suspicion already, alright? We have a common foe to deal with now!" Eventually lowering his voice, the captain made a compromise. "If you really want it in writing, then let's make this a temporary truce until that machine goes down."

He then pointed his broadsword up to the ceiling, raising his voice as he let out a shrill battle cry which reverberated around the castle corridors.

"Waddle Dees, charge!"

Almost at once, there was a low rumbling noise which steadily grew in amplitude. Before anyone realized what was happening, an entire horde of Waddle Dees swarmed down the corridor in pursuit of their commanding officer's voice, heeding the call to arms without hesitation.

"What the—" Slice n' Splice started, before his pupils shrank as he saw the literal wave of foot soldiers that was rapidly headed his way.

Memu had to hold onto Parm to avoid being swept away as thousands of Waddle Dees—all jolted awake and operationally ready at the sound of their leader's cry—began to converge onto the hapless robot from all directions.

"Good work, lads!" Waddle Doo praised his men as they rushed at Slice n' Splice in formation. "Now go ahead and pry that sun staff from that robot!"

"Get off of me, you little scamps… I said get off!" Slice n' Splice tried to swipe its moon staff about, though it was to no avail as the robot quickly started to realize that trying to attack by using his staff to split its attackers apart was a bad idea when it was in danger of being swamped by the sheer number of Waddle Dees that were surrounding it and trying to clamber onto its glossy body.

Fumu had to admire Captain Waddle Doo's cunning. His plan was downright brilliant — effectively playing Slice n' Splice's greatest strength against it by rushing the overzealous robot with overwhelming numbers, nullifying its attacks and rendering it helpless since trying to use its ability on the enemy would only backfire, as it would instead multiply the number of Waddle Dees and leave it in a more compromising situation.

Talk about the definition of 'divide and conquer'.

The realization that it had been caught in a predicament dawning on the target of the Dee army led to Slice n' Splice dilating its pupils in anger, making its eyes appear to be a consistent red. "Pompous fool! You'll never take my staffs, not as long as power still flows through my circuits!" it hissed.

Waddle Doo took his retort as a challenge. "Be sure to take the moon staff as well," he commanded, closing his eye pridefully, "We don't need our enemy having a weapon to cause any further trouble, do we?"

Slice n' Splice glared, its eyes dripping with venom. "When I get rid of these swarming flies, I'm going to enjoy splicing you apart! Just you wait, kit-ta-ri!"

"Hey! Psst!"

Lololo and Lalala were jolted out of their laughing spree at the Waddle Dees' antics when Fumu beckoned them over to her side.

"Yes, Fumu?"

"What is it?"

Fumu smiled as they hovered over. It was hard to imagine that their last actual interaction had ended in Bun smothering them with a pillow. That all seemed like it'd happened over a lifetime ago.

Come to think of it, it was now obvious that the reason that Honey, Iroo, and Hohhe were dragged into this mess was because of Bun. The phone call that he'd hung up in a hurry when she confronted him earlier must have been to one of them. At least the three rambunctious kids had the good sense to run as far away as possible when they saw Dedede himself scrambling to escape.

When even the fearless ruler of Dream Land himself knew that he'd taken things too far and ran with his tail between his legs, it probably was a good idea to flee from the vicinity as well.

"Remember how you two were always the king and queen of tag?" Fumu asked, keeping her eyes on Slice n' Splice.

Lalala nodded once. "Indeed we were!" she agreed with pride. After all, a game of tag was ridiculously unfair when you could actually fly.

"So what do you want?" Lololo queried.

"Slice n' Splice is focused on trying to keep Captain Waddle Doo from nabbing those weapons." Fumu pointed at the staffs. "That single-track mindset means that it'll never see you two coming for a sneak attack!" she stated excitedly. "When that robot lost enough of its focus, rip the sun and moon staff from it and get to a safer location!"

Lololo gave a mock salute in acknowledgement. "You can count on us!"

"We won't let you down!" Lalala added, smiling.

The duo then proceeded to stalk Slice n' Splice like a predator eyeing their prey, poised to strike when it finally let its guard down.

That moment came sooner than they expected.

"Oof! How dare you attack… me… wh-whoa!"

The Waddle Dees were all trying to find their target's weak spot through trial and error, and through sheer determination managed to get the robot to buckle by concentrating their attacks on its two front knees, which were relatively unprotected compared to its body. With only its two back legs taking the brunt of its full weight, Slice n' Splice lost its balance and began to fall forward.

Lololo and Lalala saw their opportunity and swooped in.

Slice n' Splice firmly held on until it felt something hard slam directly into its side, causing it to let go of the staffs momentarily in shock. The robot let out a howl when it saw Lololo and Lalala grapple onto the sun staff, wrestling it from its grip as it face-planted onto the ground. "Nooooooo!" it screeched in fury as they made away with its weapon.

Before it could regain its footing and swash its way through the sea of Waddle Dees and attempt to retrieve the staff, another force unexpectedly hit its other arm.

"Lola!" Slice n' Splice shrilled, seeing the hardened demon beast making off with its remaining moon staff. "You will pay for this insolence, you… argh!"

Any remaining curses from Slice n' Splice were soon muffled as the Waddle Dees surrounding the fallen robot began swarming it like hungry locusts converging on a corn field, all but submerging the machine entirely under a writhing mess of Dees.

Parm winced as he saw the numerous Waddle Dees relentlessly dogpiling their target, making a mental note in his mind to never cross Captain Waddle Doo. A glint from the sun staff that was reflected from the candlelight proceeded to catch Parm's eye, causing him to notice that Lololo and Lalala had disappeared up a spiral staircase with his children running alongside then in tow.

His face went gentle as he shuffled his feet towards the stairwell. "Let's follow our children, shall we?"

"Of course, dear."

As Parm and Memu walked hand in hand and began heading up the stairs, Lola gazed at the couple wistfully, straining to maintain his grip on the moon staff.

His eyes narrowed at the object in question. This thing had caused him—and his two-part clone as well, it would seem—untold amounts of misery. He wanted nothing more than to destroy it.

And yet…

"The DNA of the two split copies gets spliced apart once more, but the mRNA will finish its transcription that started during the combining phase and eventually be able to reform the original protein strand… in essence, duplicating the original copy off its split counterparts!"

Lola's expression hardened as he gained speed, first catching up with the adults and then the children.

It appeared that Slice n' Splice's moon staff would serve one final purpose, one far less malicious than what Nightmare had originally intended.

Sure, what Lola had in mind differed from what the megalomaniac had probably envisioned when he made Slice n' Splice… but by this point, Lola had made up his mind. Holding the moon staff tight, he was able to hear the two younglings speak as they ran up the stairs.

"This has been bugging me for a while — why do we actually need the sun staff, sis?" Bun dropped the question on Fumu as they ascended the spiral stairwell that led to the top of the watchtower, causing her to groan when she realized that she'd never answered him earlier amidst all of the chaos. All that said, he really should've been able to pick the answer up himself based on contextual clues.

"When Slice n' Splice was explaining how its powers worked, it mentioned that the moon staff is what splits people apart. However, it also happened to bring up that the sun staff reverses that!" Fumu jabbed a finger into the air, her face resolute. "You know what that means? It means that the sun staff will be able to put those who have been split apart by the moon staff back together!"

"Whoa… I never caught that!" Bun gaped, scratching his fringe in amazement. "That's a great idea, sis!"

Reaching the end of the stairs and their destination, the group collectively ran out to the open balcony of the castle watchtower, looking at the sun staff in awe.

In ironic juxtaposition — or perhaps as an omen, the full moon loomed high above them in the night sky, supplementing a backdrop already filled with countless stars, all sparkling brightly as it was still before daybreak.

Fumu inhaled sharply, filling her lungs with fresh, cool air. She had managed to catch a few glances of the breathtaking sight earlier as one side of the corridor she'd walked by in Castle Dedede offered her a view of Cappy Town and the skyline, but actually seeing the sprawling skies unimpeded by a ceiling was a different experience altogether.

It enthralled her. Fumu couldn't help but to feel like a small and insignificant speck when the entire universe spanned across her eyes.

But as she watched, she noticed that a few stars had already begun to dim. "It's almost dawn…" she murmured.

"What was that, sis?"

"The sun's coming up," she pointed out, noting the dimming stars. "We've been settling this whole thing throughout the wee hours of the morning." For once though, the obedient girl chose not to classify her midnight rendezvous as a misadventure and a waste of her sleep, the corners of her lips instead curling upwards as her eyes crept towards the sun staff held by Lololo and Lalala. "Sounds like a good prediction of things to come!"

As everyone admired the sun staff, Lola languidly shifted the moon staff that he held in his hands, indirectly catching Fumu and Bun's attention.

"Sis!" Bun tugged on Fumu's clothes, gesturing at the floating Lola. "He has the moon staff. How did he get it?"

Fumu looked at Lola warily. Although she could reconcile Lola as the being that Lololo and Lalala were born from, a part of her was still not used to the whole concept.

And honestly, a small portion of her was still prejudiced against Lola. That guy's a demon beast, though and though! Even if he looks reformed, unlike Lololo and Lalala, he's not your friend! He even knows about Nightmare and the corporation! Now that's bad news!

Before Fumu could say anything however, Lololo and Lalala beat her to it.

"Hey there. You're… here." Lololo was trying his best not to show his discomfort at Lola's appearance, although his nervous disposition meant that he'd already royally failed at that task.

"And you brought the moon staff, too." Lalala shyly observed.

"You two left it behind when fleeing with the sun staff," Lola spoke calmly. "And quite honestly, I wasn't going to let that monster hold onto such a cruel weapon."

There was an awkward silence that followed before the ice was finally broken.

"So, y'know… I can assist you." Lola averted his eyes as he spoke. "I can use the sun staff that you two are carrying to recombine you both together again," he said, meshing his two hands together. "That is, if you want to…"

Lololo and Lalala shared a look that only their significant other could decipher, thinking of Lola's offer in their minds. Sure, now that they were privy to the knowledge that they had been one once before, a part of the two helpers yearned for them to be merged back into one singular entity.

However…

"But if we're you and we choose to undo what Slice n' Splice did to us…" Lalala stated, worryingly tugging on the yellow bow primly tied atop her crown.

"…Lalala and I will become whole again," Lololo finished, before looking at Lola, who was hovering nearby. "But if our original self, Lola, is right here, existing alongside us as a clone—" he ignored the annoyed "hey, I'm the original here!" that came from Lola, "—then what'll happen to us?"

The question fell from his lips, dire. What made it worse was that there was no obvious answer. Even Fumu, Bun, and their parents found themselves slack-jawed, having not thought this far ahead.

What would happen to them…?

"I knew it…" Lola murmured, looking over to the side and having his visual organs being greeted by a sleeping Cappy Town that stood erect down the hill. "I had a feeling in my gut that you guys wouldn't risk it. In which case…"

"Hey, wait a second!" Fumu interrupted the flying demon beast as she caught a flash of purple and white out of the field of her peripheral vision. "It's Kirby! No… both Kirbies! They're up here too!" She smiled at their presence, quickly realizing that they must have taken this route up to the watchtower roof before them.

Lola rolled his eyes. "Or I suppose they can be our first guinea pigs…" he mumbled, looking at the two Kirbies.

Choosing to ignore Lola's curt remark, Fumu waved her arms fervently, trying to signal the two Kirbies to come in her direction. "Kirby! Over here!"

Unfortunately, this had also attracted the attention of a puffball who was pointedly not identified as Kirby.

Void gave the girl a passing glance, jabbing his hand in her direction as Kirby looked forth. "Well, lookie here. If it isn't your annoying little friend." He smirked when he saw Kirby frown at his insult. "And it looks to me like she'd brought along both sun and moon staffs… just for you." Void promptly chuckled at the sheer irony, laughing at Kirby's distraught expression. "You should be honored, Termy. Soon Void Termina will be able to return to a physical plane of existence, and it's all thanks to your friend's obliviousness!" he heckled with a snide tone.

"Poyo!" Sword Kirby gave him a warning look, upper and lower lips separated as he growled. Don't you mock my friend Fumu!

Void didn't even waste a single second before dismissing Kirby. "Hush, now. I'll insult her however and whenever I want. A mere girl like her is nothing more than trash. We are on the level of gods, Termy! Why should you even bother corresponding with someone who is of that low a caliber?"

In an unusual show of bravery since the whole Void Termina identity fiasco had started, Kirby proceeded to dauntlessly spit the answer in Void's face. Though he knew he was risking a lot by encroaching this specific topic, he freely let his thoughts out regardless. "Po-yoo!"

Because unlike you, I actually have feelings! You said it yourself when you explained how I came to be — the only reason I exist at all is because you're incapable of feeling positive emotions like happiness. In other words, you're basically nothing more than a cruel, cold-hearted… s-sadist!

There was silence as the echoes of Kirby's ultimatum slowly tapered off. Void gaped at Kirby, his jaw wide open in disbelief before eventually placing his hand to his head and starting to quiver in laughter.

"Hahahaha! Can you even hear yourself right now? You sound like some stupid fool reciting the script of some self-help motivational talk! Happiness? Bliss? Joy?" Void rattled off the name of each successive emotion with increasing amplitude, his face contorted with anger as he paced about the stony floor. "Who needs them!? Such worthless, inhibiting empty emotions!"

He then transitioned from a walk to a jog, running towards the Cappies with fervor, before pointing at the sun and moon staffs with pleading eyes. With a jolt, Kirby realized exactly what Void was up to.

Gah, that manipulative little pest!

Lola's expression brightened for the first time in a while. "Oh, so you figured it out as well? Looks like you're pretty smart yourself," he praised the white puffball as Bun and Fumu looked at each other in befuddlement.

Not one to be left out, Fumu made a simple demand. "Okay. Explain."

"You see, I took the moon staff for a reason. There's nothing stopping us from doing what Slice n' Splice was bragging about earlier now that we've snatched them both." With a callous grin Lola shifted the moon staff in his hands, pointing it at Kirby and Void. "We can use both the sun and moon staffs on these two to have the original Star Warrior appear and yet keep both split-copies in existence."

Except by doing that you're playing directly into Void's plan! Kirby screamed internally. That's exactly what he wants you to do! You'll keep both Void and I split apart AND revive Void Termina with both staffs! Can't you see from contextual clues that Void's the very definition of evil?

"I highly doubt that they can. Akin to a viper biting the hand that feeds it, nobody expects the adorable and innocuous Star Warrior to turn on them until it's too late…"

"Yargh!" For once, Kirby didn't utter a 'poyo', a gasp of surprise emanating from him when Void caught him off guard by answering the sarcastic retort that he was thinking within his mind.

"I think you forget that I can still hear your inner thoughts," Void taunted, a wily grin embellishing his features while Kirby shrunk back in embarrassment.

Hahaha… very funny. Kirby was trying his best to keep his thoughts placated so that he could avoid freaking out and panicking in front of Void. I legitimately forgot you did that when we first met. Oh wait, I bet you can still hear me as I'm thinking this in my head…

"Indeed I can," Void confirmed pridefully. "How very perceptive of you."

Kirby slouched, uneasy at taking Void's compliment. Thanks, I suppose… hey, wait a minute! What I am doing, talking to you so calmly?! The purple puffball snapped out of his submissive behavior and quickly fired back at his instigator. You're nuts! This plan of yours will never work! Lololo and Lalala will never use the staffs on us both if I make known to them that getting merged back using the double-staff method is tantamount to suicide!

"Hmph! You really have faith in those two?" Void questioned, his eyes gleaming under the moonlight. "It makes no difference whether it's that robot or some floating orb who holds the blade. The instant that machine stupidly revealed that both staffs could clone an original off two split copies, both friend and foe were intrigued and hence only ever going to bother using this new method to attack when armed with the staffs. But in their folly of committing to this move without truly understanding the consequences behind it, they will unwittingly bring forth our original form! Muhihihihi!"

Kirby's reaction was understandably harsh. "Poyo!" You think I'm just going to stand still and let this happen without a fight? You're out of your mind!

Void appeared decently humored, the puffball chortling at Kirby's retort. "Jumping to conclusions once more. I mean, I am a logical person. I don't expect you to remain motionless without putting up some resistance…"

He trailed off when he saw a Waddle Doo clambering up the last few stairs, joining up with the Cappy group. His eyes filling with amusement, he continued on with a bored voice. "Looks like that Waddle Doo's right on schedule. Must have left his men behind to do the dirty work… just like I expected him to. Such a shame… thanks to all those pesky emotions, everyone is simply so predictable…"

Kirby glowered at Void. "Poyo…" he drawled. What do you mean by that…?

"Alright, you two!" Lola interjected before Void could shoot Kirby a response, raising the tip of the moon staff into the sky while Lololo and Lalala followed suit with the sun staff in their possession. "Get into position! It's mix-and-match time!"

"Don't worry, Kirby! It'll be over before you even know it!" Lalala reassured when she saw Kirby's horrified reaction to Lola's declaration.

"Yeah!" Lololo reaffirmed. "We're putting your original body back together with these two staffs while still being able to keep both your current separate selves distinct. Neat, eh?"

No! This is NOT neat, Lololo! Hold up, backtrack, rewind! Keeping Void around or revitalizing our "true" original form are both very terrible plans! Gah! Can't you see that he's manipulating you three?!

Never before had Kirby hated the communication barrier he had with the Cappies so much. If only he could just tell them not to follow through with the plan! They needed to use just the sun staff, not them both!

Alright… Kirby's eyes flickered about. If I can't make it clear that I don't want to be struck down by both staffs in words, then it looks like there's only one way for me to express my opinions!

Void jerked back when he read Kirby's mind, the villainous puffball instantly on edge. And sure enough, instead of taking position next to Void and the duo of Lololo and Lalala, Kirby turned tail and ran in the opposite direction.

"Wh-what? Where's Kirby goin-woah!" Lololo scratched his head in bewilderment, almost losing his grip on the sun staff due to letting go of the bulky weapon with one hand. "Sorry, Lalala! I'm really sorry!" he yelped, immediately apologizing profusely to an irritated Lalala as a result of that unfortunate maneuver.

"No, Kirby!" Fumu reached her hand out to the fleeing Kirby. "Don't be scared! It'll be alright, I promise!"

Kirby restrained himself from sighing when he discerned her words. Just like he'd anticipated. A concerned Fumu had tried to oversee him again.

He had to admit that while the sibling duo were overbearing at times, it was nothing compared to some of the other villagers of Cappy Town, who actually treated him like he was at the mental capability of an infant. Although he tried his best not to show it, Kirby really disliked being babied by the Cappies.

And it was this mistaken perception of him being a youngling in need of support that would ultimately do him in.

Since Fumu and the gang still saw and thought of Void as an extension of Kirby instead of the heartless abomination that Void really was, Kirby knew that if he were to frivolously resist, they would simply see it as the purple puffball being afraid due to his previously apprehensive personality before, when he actually was Kirby.

In a manner very similar to the tale of the boy who cried wolf, they all would not realize the truly dire predicament that they were in due to Void's plaintiff behavior subconsciously leading them to believe that nothing was wrong. Void's calmness in comparison to his jitteriness? It was no contest. Even though it'd only been about a week and a half since Kirby first met Fumu, he already knew that she greatly preferred calm and order. Her confirmation bias would cause her to ignore Kirby's apprehensiveness over Void's reassurance that nothing was wrong.

Kirby knew he couldn't fight against Void if he were to try and convince Fumu without explicitly telling her the situation using words. Therefore, his only option was to not even bother and try to stall things out until they finally got that something was amiss.

"There's no need to fret! I've been through it as well! I assure you, it's… whhaaaa!?" Just as Lola was persuading Kirby to return, a strong gust of air interrupted him.

"It's Kirby!" Bun stated, pointing at one of them, before correcting himself when he realized his mistake. "Sorry, I mean one of the two Kirbies! Ugh, this is so confusing! Can't we just differentiate them by calling one of them 'Kirby A' and the other 'Kirby B'?"

The next observation definitely could not be mistaken, though.

"Hold up… he's inhaling! That's where the wind's coming from!"

Kirby stopped running and turned around, seeing with mounting horror that Void had in fact targeted the group of Cappies with his inhale. Soon, the suction power led to a glinting sword being wrenched from Captain Waddle Doo, who had no choice but to drop to the floor to take cover and let the weapon fly off lest he ended up caught in the updraft himself.

"No! My pride and joy! Th-Th… That's my sword!" the captain cried, his single eye fully alert. Still lying against the ground, he futilely reached his arms at his sword, which was now gyrating into the air. The broadsword spun about continuously until Void caught it in his hand, stopping his inhale attack as he admired the blade.

"I've been far too patient with you, Termy. That ends now. Whatever meager rebellion you wish to attempt will be crushed before it can even get five feet off the ground!" He slashed at the air around him with his newly acquired weapon before looking directly at Kirby. "Just accept your fate… Void Termina awaits us!"

Kirby tightened his grip on his own sword in response. Not another sword duel! For crying out loud, it'd barely been half an hour since his previous one with Taranza! And that one had ended disastrously, too, which was seriously a foreboding omen to him.

Not a good sign for things to come.

"Wh-what's going on, sis?" Bun asked, a bead of sweat trickling down his forehead. "Why do both Kirbies look like they're ready to throw down?"

"Poyo…" Because we are, Bun. His croaked answer was terse and devoid of humor.

On his part, Void attempted to play innocent, acknowledging and replying to Bun's question even though the boy could not possibly hope to understand his answer, hearing it as a 'poyo' instead of a meaningful response. "Oh, you poor fool. We're not actually fighting…"

Kirby couldn't stop the snort of disbelief which escaped him.

"You see, I'm simply trying to convince Termy over here to see things from my point of view… but since he's reluctant and unwilling to take the plunge, I'm afraid that I'm going to have to give him a little push, persuading him to see things my way through coercion and force."

Also, Void trying to play innocent didn't work. Even with the Cappies unable to understand him, the chalk-white puffball appeared about as innocent as a condemned convict trying to feign ignorance while being put on trial.

…at least to Kirby. To the magenta puffball's dismay, Void still had the Cappies captivated under his mask of innocence — as a result, they still did not know why Kirby was resisting so fervently.

"You know, even with all his gesturing, I still don't know why both Kirbies look like they want to fight," Parm finally said after the strings of poyos had silenced everyone else.

As though Parm's voice had shattered the illusion, a scandalized Waddle Doo promptly began jumping up and down at the head of the spiral staircase.

"G-Give me back my sword!"

He quickly strode in Void's direction, only to be stared down by Void, who gleamed his eyes menacingly at the captain. Suddenly well aware that his weapon was in the hands of the person he was threatening, Waddle Doo wisely fell back and decided to wait for a better opportunity.

The two puffballs circled around each other, each trying to psych the other into losing their nerve and making the first move, whose strike they could then parry to place their opponent at a disadvantage. It was a waiting game with incredibly high stakes, and Kirby did not want to be incapacitated in this duel. Taranza had already managed to disarm him earlier, and had it not been for Blade's timely intervention, there was no doubt that the furious Floralian would have sliced right through him when he was down and helpless.

A repeat of that would suck.

Kirby briefly glanced at the sun and moon staffs, both being held up by a clueless trio of floating helpers, ignorant as to what hitting both puffballs with them would really do. As Void had put it to him most eloquently…

"Once that incognizant demon beast manages to land a strike on the both of us using the two staffs that it holds, our sovereign amalgamation shall coalesce together from its two equal halves—me and you—and manifest as the Destroyer of Worlds!"

Yep, a repeat loss would really suck, since that prediction would then almost certainly become a reality. Kirby held his gaze steady, never taking his eyes off of Void, who simply looked back at him with a comfortable grin.

Man, this was a battle of mental endurance. The tense atmosphere around him felt like a ticking time bomb that could go off at any time.

Kirby blinked when he saw Void leaning his body forward as though he was on the edge of his seat. For someone who had done literally nothing but brag and monologue constantly about ultimate power and achieving his dystopian future ever since he'd first shown up, Void's bite surprisingly lived up to his bark. He was nimble and swift, the milky-white puffball resting on the balls of his feet so that he could attack or defend at a moment's notice.

He gulped. Kirby suddenly felt inadequate, and to make matters worse, Void soon voiced that same opinion.

"You really think that you stand a chance against me?" Void flippantly strolled around his counterpart in a slow and deliberate manner, a plaintiff expression of pure annoyance on his face as he went into a confident strut. "Oh, how you amuse me so. Your naïve self has been a constant source of entertainment to me ever since we first split apart."

Kirby was not going to lie. Void's comment ticked him off quite a tad bit, and the Star Warrior showed it by pouting at his chalk-white other half. He was well aware that Void was trying to deliberately rile him up as a means to distract him in this precarious high-stakes match between them, but that didn't stop his words from being effective.

Void simply cackled at Kirby's reaction. "Hahahaha! Don't blame me for laughing! I just find it frankly amusing that you dare to stand upon the shoulders of giants! You're still so green, simpleton… and by green, I mean that you're still a greenhorn," he clarified, a flash of amusement appearing on his stoic expression for a brief moment as he noted the double meaning in his words. "I don't mean that you're literally green. After all, you happen to be tinted a rather fantastic shade of purple. I do recommend keeping that color, Termy. I must say, it looks good on you."

Sword Kirby shook his head at Void's suggestion, shifting his feet slightly as he tightened his grip on the sword in his hand. The fact that Void approved of his current color scheme had the stark opposite effect on Kirby, causing him to dislike it.

"Do you know what color I happen to think will go well on you as well?"

A vexed Kirby snapped back. "Poy!" I don't know!

Void smirked at him.

"Red."

Before he could comprehend what Void meant, the other puffball dashed at him. With stark horror, Kirby realized that Void had been steadily creeping closer to him while he had been narrating about colors.

And wholly distracted, he hadn't even noticed.

Everything became a blur after that. Lagging behind, Kirby tried his best to react, with cries from the others nearby only fueling the confusion.

"What the—"

"One Kirby's attacking the other!"

"I can see that, dear!"

"Are they actually fighting for real? I thought that it was all a feign, Lalala!"

"Me too, Lololo! I don't know what's happening anymore!"

Kirby managed to orientate himself in time to see that Void was fast approaching from his four o' clock position. Turning to his right, he made preparations to block the attack. Just as Void made an underhand swing at him, Kirby thrust his sword horizontally to parry the blow, a relieved sigh escaping him.

…until he felt a burst of pain coming from his right arm.

"Poyo!" he yelled, losing his hold on his sword. The blade clattered to the ground, forgotten.

"Come on now!" Void clucked his tongue, disappointed. "Did you really think I was aiming for your face? I already know that you're going to parry me, so your hand was a more enticing target."

And indeed, Void had switched the direction of his blade at the last moment, instead targeting at the general area where he knew Kirby would have to bring his hand up to in order to block where Void had originally been aiming at. It was a cruel plan, and it worked as he'd intended, hitting its mark and scoring a direct hit on the palm of Kirby's right arm.

On Kirby's end, he found himself in a state of shock. All thoughts of the impending merge and even Void Termina had escaped his brain, the Star Warrior only able to blankly stare at the sword that was impaled through his hand. Even the frantic cries of the Cappies staring upon the scene weren't registering in his mind.

Kirby didn't know how long he was in this dream-like state, but he did know that he was only able to snap out of it when Void eventually yanked the broadsword out of the entry wound in one swift motion, causing him to yowl in pain as multiple of his exposed nerve endings screamed.

T-That was a cheap shot! Kirby yelped, cradling his bloody arm and holding the injured appendage close to him with teary eyes.

"Cheap shot?" Void looked at his other half with disdain and disappointment. "I'm afraid that there's no such thing as a 'cheap shot'. A sneak attack like that is simply par for the course — all's fair in love and war. Out in my world, instinct is king! Hesitation will only get you injured… or killed." He dropped the bombshell in a completely casual manner, acting like it was no big deal.

Kirby was only half-listening to Void, his mind focused more on his injury than anything else. He continued to put pressure on the bleeding wound to control the blood flow. The stab wound that Void had inflicted on his arm was quite a bad one in his honest opinion. Man, he really hoped that the thing wouldn't get infected or scar.

He eventually removed his hand when he was certain that the wound had stopped bleeding, wincing when he got a good look at his injury. It was a deep gash that snaked across his right arm, already starting to scab.

Shuddering when he saw his other hand caked with dried blood as he'd used it to control the bleeding, Kirby took a good, long look at Void. The expression that his other half sported was one which reeked of victory, only exacerbated by his posture as he stood high and mighty over Kirby.

"It's over," Void sneered, throwing his own sword down as if to punctuate that fact. "You don't have the energy to flee." Without missing a beat, Void let out a whistle, beckoning the demon beast trio towards them.

Lololo, Lalala, and Lola were unaware as to why one Kirby had to subdue the other with force, but deciding to complete their original objective regardless, the trio flew over with both sun and moon staffs in tow.

"Here they come. Destiny awaits…"

Despite the tears brimming in his eyes due to the pain, Kirby still managed to hiss back at Void in his mind.

Y-You! I won't let you… get away with this…

Void raised an eyebrow, shaking his head in bemusement. "I've already won," he stated confidently. "Give up this foolish dream of yours, Termy. You were always destined to be assimilated back into Void Termina, so this new development allowing you to coexist alongside him should already be an honor."

I don't care! From what little I've heard, I already decided that I'll never let Void Termina walk this earth!

"Why do you resist, Termy? It's almost as though you abhor the idea of us being one again…" Void said boisterously, despite already knowing full well that this was indeed the case. The fact that Void had dramatically raised his arms to the dawn sky as he lamented was the cincher.

"P-Poyo!" Kirby retaliated before wincing as a sharp burst of pain overtook him. I-I don't! I do want to be one again… but not with you being the one in control!

"What's so bad about me being in charge, huh?" Void asked as he marched over to Kirby, his presence looming over his other half. "Lighten up a little, won't you? Give in to the darkness… and let it consume you!"

Kirby looked around to see that Lololo, Lalala, and Lola had taken up positions. Feebly trying to limp away and make his way over to Fumu by the watchtower parapet, he let out a pained cry when Void grabbed ahold of his hand to prevent him from escaping.

Let go of me! Kirby tried to shake his pursuer off, only to have the injury worsen as Void refused to release him, only holding tighter onto Kirby. With nothing left to lose, Kirby was forced to resort to begging with his captor.

Please, I plead with you! I can't turn back to a destructive Void Termina in front of Fumu! She'll never forgive me if she learns the truth!

"Excuse me…? You want me to back off just so that girl remains blissfully ignorant as to your true purpose? You can't possibly be serious!"

I-I am serious! Please… at least have a twinge of mercy on me…

To say Void's reaction to Kirby's confirmation was an extreme one is definitely an understatement.

"You think that I should cater to your whims? Hahahahah… in your dreams! To hell with society norms! You think that you should play nice just because that's the way those cowards around you have integrated themselves into society?" Void let out a humorless chortle before staring into Kirby's eyes. "Sod off, Termy! You shouldn't obey and comply with others just for the sake of fitting in! Instead of abiding by their rules, revolt against those who would dare keep you docile! Rebel against those chains which would hold you back, break free from those shackles, and unleash the inner beast that lurks within you! Let your primal rage roam free and travel around the cosmos… before utilizing it to ruthlessly conquer the stars by tearing them to shreds!"

Kirby froze in place, hypnotized by Void's baleful glare. The other puffball projected an aura of pure confidence, exacerbated further by the first rays of sunlight peeking over the horizon.

"Do you see that, Termy?" Void closed his eyes melancholically, basking in the glow of the morning sun. "That is the dawn of a new era… my new era!"

Kirby remained silent, feeling all of his willpower leave him as Lololo and Lalala raised the sun staff and Lola raised the moon staff, all three blissfully unaware of the consequences that would follow as a result of their actions.

Please, no! Not like this! I plea to anyone who can hear me… don't let it end this way!

Void could hear Kirby's inner turmoil telepathically, but only gripped tighter onto Kirby as he laughed. "This is it! Our day of reckoning has come at last! And this time, I will ensure that the summoning ritual will not be botched!"

He began to chant, madness twinkling in his eyes as he held Kirby in a stranglehold. "Rise! Oh, Dark Lord of Despair!"

Kirby kicked and squirmed, his face wrought with horror when the lyrics and tone of the prayer song took a turn for the worse.

"Crush the stars… lay waste to care! Rise and cover the land in sorrows!" Void sung the verses with jubilant joy, the way he enunciated the lyrics making him the splitting image of a reverend priest preaching a mantra to their devout followers.

If so, he was the most insane preacher ever, as the chalk-white puffball was cackling with unrestrained excitement as sun and moon staffs loomed over them both. With a devilish smirk that Kirby knew would haunt his nightmares, Void crooned the crescendo with valor, concluding the performance with a grand flourish.

"May our symphony of emptiness bring the end of all tomorrows!"

Almost as though they were in sync with the song, two large shadows blotted out the sky, and before Kirby knew anything he felt a blow on the top of his head.

Both staffs made their mark.

Despite everything, he'd failed to stop Void.

Kirby moaned as the sun and moon staffs were lifted by the trio of helpers. He was seeing stars… literally. When he finally garnered enough energy, he took in a deep breath and composed himself before sweeping his eyes around the area.

He was still on the castle watchtower, Void next to him.

Four Cappies.

Captain Waddle Doo.

Lololo, Lalala, and Lola.

Nothing seemed awry…

…wait.

Where was Void Termina?

"Hey, sis!" Kirby could hear Bun saying from the distance. "Nothing's happened!"

And with that, Kirby had a separate source all but confirm that the two staffs didn't perform their intended effect. Very peculiar.

"Impossible…!"

Void's angered cry quickly caught his attention. The other puffball stared at Kirby in shock, blinking his eyes as he looked around the surrounding area, his jet-black eyes flitting about as though he was expecting a mammoth beast to manifest at any moment.

When a few more seconds passed by and that didn't happen, his face plummeted like a stone falling into a well. He then stomped his foot on the ground, releasing his grip on Kirby to let out a blood-curdling scream into the air.

"Why!?" he screeched, "That should have worked! It should have! I was supposed to bring back Void Termina! What in the name of the Divine Terminus went wrong!?"

Kirby felt a smile finally creeping onto his face. Even the sharp pain emanating from his injured arm couldn't dampen the mood. If Void Termina couldn't be brought back by recombining and merging them together, Void's current plan of using both staffs was practically done for.

Of course, Void didn't share that opinion. The puffball was desperately muttering to himself. "Wait a minute… for the process to be a success and lead to us being whole again when hit by both staffs, our DNA must be complete so that it can be re-spliced into Void Termina when we're momentarily combined…"

Void suddenly stopped talking, closing his eyes as though he was in meditation. But when he opened them, he locked eyes with an unexpected person.

"No… I understand now! You! It is all your fault!" he shot daggers at Fumu, who cocked her head as she was unable to understand Void's words, instead hearing a shrill 'poyo'.

Despite his cute outward appearance, Void looked positively livid. If looks were able to kill, his vicious glare would have massacred everyone in the area at least twice over.

Bun tugged on his sister's arm. "What's going on, sis?"

"I don't know," she responded. "First the staff fails, and now Kirby's looking at me all weird…"

"You still don't get it…" Void hissed at Fumu, gritting his teeth as he snarled at the Cappy girl. "So be it! I'll make my point crystal clear, even with the language barrier in place! Ahahaha…" he chuckled softly, the tone of Void's laugh oddly more serious than his usual maniacal ones which were admittedly hard to take seriously. In fact, Kirby had only taken them seriously due to the words that had accompanied them in the past.

This specific laugh articulated by Void, however, was different from any of the prior ones. There was a hint of desperation in it, which made it infinitely more terrifying than whatever previously over-exaggerated chuckles Void had thrown at Kirby's way before.

He finally spoke again, his eyes narrowing to pinpricks. "You must think that this is the end for me," he stated bluntly. "Isn't that right, Termy? You're thinking that my big plan is finished just because there are a few hiccups in it?"

Void didn't wait for a response before prematurely snapping. "No!" his telepathic voice rang in Kirby's head, the puffball losing his composure for the first time since he'd appeared. "It is not done, you hear!? My glorious return will not be thwarted by extenuating circumstances! Void Termina must rise once more from the simmering ashes! It is our destiny… our destiny!" he declared with an unhinged voice, before making a dash…

…for the fallen broadsword that he'd unceremoniously tossed onto the ground earlier.

Kirby realized what Void was doing too late. Before he could even try and intercept him, Void had managed to snatch up the hilt of the sword and was waving the blade around dangerously.

"I'll gouge your eyes out!" he yelled at Fumu, running towards her with the sharpened blade.

Kirby stared at the unfolding scene in shock before reality caught up with him. Using his uninjured arm, he hastily lifted up his own sword that he'd dropped when Void had stabbed him and without wasting a single moment, proceeded to charge straight at Void, forcing the other puffball to turn around to block him.

"Poyo, poyo!" I won't let you hurt her!

Kirby had tried to keep his voice level for a good portion of this whole ordeal, but seeing Void brandish Waddle Doo's broadsword and attempt to use it to stab the first person who he'd managed to befriend in Dream Land was definitely a tipping point for him.

"Get out of my way!" Void ordered, flecks of spit flying from his mouth. "I've had it with you, Termy!"

"Poooyyooo." Kirby placed his hands on his hips, an expression of pure anger on his face. I'll relent when you stop attacking my friends! I mean, why even attack Fumu? Is it out of desperation? A little superfluous, wouldn't you say? Have you become that petty for revenge just because you can't get what you want?

"Shut up, you!" Void howled, grinding his sword into Kirby's as their blades were crossed. "That stupid girl is all that stands between us and our revival! If eliminating her means that Void Termina will live, then I will personally ensure that she perishes… by my hand!"

As he completed his vow, Void used his feet to knee Kirby in the belly and roll him backwards, before using the blunt edge of the broadsword to smack a disorientated Kirby in the cheek.

"Poyo!"

Kirby cried as he fell to the ground. That was the second time in a row he'd been flummoxed and caught off guard by his other half. Yet again, he'd ended up paralyzed by Void's unorthodox fighting style.

It was certainly a candid observation. Kirby could not fathom how Void constantly got the better of him, but still. Twice definitely implied a pattern.

"And now that there's no one to stop me…"

Kirby could only watch helplessly as Void made a beeline for Fumu, the swing of his sword now unimpeded.

"…vengeance will be mine! No one interferes with my ritual and lives to tell the tale! Your life is forfeit, girl!"

"Sis, is it just me…" Bun placed his hand to his chin, taking in the situation. "Or is the Kirby holding the sword headed right at us?" he pointed out, before realizing just how terrifying his observation actually was.

Parm shrieked when he realized that his only daughter was now in deep trouble. "Get away, Fumu!"

Hearing warnings coming from both her father and her little brother, Fumu managed to twist her body out of the way just in time to avoid catastrophe. The sword, which had been aimed at her face, clipped a few strands of her blonde hair instead.

After being attacked out of the blue like that, Fumu was too shocked to move, only managing to will her body to when Void came at her for a second attempt. Feeling a second wind go through her, Fumu turned away and fled for her life.

Parm's outraged cry put it best. "Hey, you! Just what do you think you're doing to my daughter!? Get that blasted sword away from my Fumu!"

"Yeah! You leave my sis alone!" Bun got into a fighting stance, hopping about on his two feet as though he was a boxer preparing to throw down.

That said, Void wasn't intimidated by Bun in the slightest. "Am I a joke to you?" he muttered under his breath.

"Bun!" Fumu yelled, dashing back for her brother. "What are you doing? Are you crazy!? He has a sword!"

Void laughed at Fumu's reckless bravery, raising the sword in his hand as she approached Bun, who was still trying to feign landing a punch on the puffball. "That's right, you imbeciles. Come to me…" he murmured cruelly, beckoning her towards him by holding out his arms, "…the edge of this polished silver blade awaits your fresh blood!"

Bun continued to throw out punches until his eyes, obscured by his usual mosaic-colored bangs, managed to catch a close glimpse of the white puff's callous grin. Seeing a heartless expression on the puffball's face that seemed more befitting on King Dedede than Kirby was so astonishing that it caused Bun to halt his motions.

Ironically, it was this hesitation that saved him.

Right when he would have normally thrown another punch, chalk-Kirby brought his sword down. The blade only managed to contact air as it swung, but had he continued with his flurry of jabs, he would have definitely received a nasty scratch.

"Pooyyoooo!" Bun could hear the puffball hissing angrily at the missed attack, causing him to back away in fear.

"I-I think he's real mad, sis!"

"You don't say? Get out of here already!"

At his sister's behest, he nodded and quickly took her hand to run away to safety.

"Bun, Fumu!" Parm yelled from the distance, with Captain Waddle Doo and Memu standing next to him. "Get down to lower ground!" he insisted, gesturing to the spiral staircase that had led them up to the top of the watchtower to begin with.

"Yes, dear!" Memu agreed with her husband, trying to move her two children in the direction of the stairs. They had drifted away from their parents to get a closer look at the re-merging of Kirby earlier, and now it was clear that their initial separation had a consequence.

"What's going on?" Bun felt his head hurting. "I don't understand… why is Kirby attacking us?"

"I don't know either…" Fumu admitted, troubled about the whole affair. Looking back to see that the pale-white Kirby had given chase was not exactly an uplifting sight to witness.

Bun suddenly pointed at the center of the area they were in. "Look, sis! There's the other Kirby!" he said, pointing at the groaning magenta Kirby still slumped on the floor. "Didn't you see the white Kirby with the sword attack this purple Kirby earlier?"

"I did see that…" Fumu bit her lip, beginning to feel the onset of exhaustion start to claim her muscles after sprinting for close to a full minute. "I almost thought that he did it as a necessity to try and calm him down, but it looks like we've both jumped to an incorrect conclusion here."

"Yeah!" Bun agreed without hesitation, his decision no doubt propelled by the sneak attack that had almost claimed his arm's structural integrity earlier. "That white Kirby's definitely bad, almost as bad as one of King Dedede's demon beasts! But how and why…?" he found himself questioning. "Didn't Kabu and Sir Meta Knight say that Kirby's supposed to be a good guy? A Star Warrior?" the boy quoted the sagacious duo, speaking in a formal tone which befitted the both of them. "If that's the case, then where the heck did this guy come from, then?"

Fumu paused in contemplation at her brother's words. "You're right. That white Kirby… evil Kirby… he acts completely nothing like the Kirby we know. He's been acting weird since we first saw him, in fact."

"It's almost as though he's behaving in the complete opposite manner that Kirby does…" Bun stated, causing Fumu to gasp in realization.

"That's it, Bun! Now I know why this situation seems awfully familiar! I should've known!"

Bun blinked in confusion. "I did…?" he whispered.

"I read about something like this once before, in a book that focused on double personalities. Yes, I remember now — 'The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde'!" Fumu pursed her lips as she recounted the piece of literature in question, before taking a moment to frown at Bun when she saw that her brother had a clueless look plastered on his face. "You can't be serious…" she looked at Bun, incredulous. "You've never heard of it?!"

Bun at least had the dignity of looking sheepish, rubbing the back of his hair in embarrassment. "'Fraid not, sis."

"Ugh. You really need to read more good books and get off Channel DDD. That stuff rots your brain and turns it to a gooey mush," Fumu complained, running alongside Bun as she continued to try and dodge evil Kirby's swipes of the broadsword. "The book talks about a well-endowed gentleman who goes by Henry Jekyll that is seemingly being haunted by a sinister man known as Edward Hyde."

"What does this have anything to do with—"

Fumu slapped her brother's hand lightly, staring at Bun crossly. "Will you listen quietly and let me finish before interrupting?!" she stressed before continuing, "Following the first-person perspective of Jekyll's friend Utterson, the twist revealed at the end is that the modest Jekyll and the cruel Hyde are in fact one and the same, as Jekyll has formulated and consumed a potion so that he can transform into a completely different person, all in the aim of pursuing his vices uninhibited by the norms and rules which he would have previously had to face as Jekyll now that he could keep up a masquerade under a completely separate identity."

Bun snapped his fingers. "Now I get it! So you're saying that the white-colored Kirby is actually the bad half of Kirby that came out when that monster got 'im and split him up into two Kirbies?"

"You don't think!?" Fumu yelled, stray strands of hair flying in her face as she raged at her brother's impudence, uncouthly elbowing him in the sides out of frustration.

"Well, if that Kirby's clearly the bad one, what do we have to do?" Bun asked, awaiting further instructions that wasn't along the lines of 'run for the hills'. "I mean, for all intents and purposes, he's still Kirby. I don't wanna have to fight Kirby… he's real strong!"

Fumu groaned. "I mean… do we really have a choice here? I don't like this either… but what can we do?" she complained. "We have to lure him back to the purple Kirby so that we can combine them back to the way they once were through the sun staff."

"That's a great idea!" Bun chirped, before frowning when a nascent thought struck him. "Only one problem… how can we possibly do that when he's being so edgy and carrying a very deadly sword with him?"

The normally argumentative Fumu was stunned into silence. Loath as she was to admit it, she had no answer to that.

Before she could attempt to find a solution to their conundrum, she heard her father call her once more. "Fumu, Bun! Don't run about in circles!"

"That's right, dear!" their mother quickly agreed. "Come to the stairs so we can flee to lower ground! It's not safe up here!"

"We're trying! We know it's not safe!" Bun insisted, flailing his arms to further make his point as Void continued to chase him and his sister. "But evil Kirby here is trying his best to keep us at bay. Every time we want to make a dash for safety he cuts off our escape route!"

"…Evil Kirby?" Parm recited with a tremor in his voice, "Wha…" He stared at the scene, paying close attention to the puffball chasing about his children. He'd been so used to Kirby carrying about a weapon in lieu of Dedede's constant demon beasts that he hadn't noticed that it had been of malicious intent this time until it was brought to his attention.

Although Kirby—evil Kirby, apparently—had swung his sword at Bun earlier, Parm had assumed that it was all in jest. After all, Bun had been punching at Kirby in such an exaggerated fashion that he was under the assumption that the sword slash was a roleplay gone wrong.

"Can't you see, Dad? One of the mini-Kirbies that Dedede's demon beast split apart from the original Kirby is evil!" Fumu exhaled in a single breath, unable to believe that the jumble of words that she'd just said made up a coherent sentence.

Out of context, it probably sounded ridiculous.

"Po-yyooo!"

Everyone in the vicinity turned to the source of the angered screech — the white puffball who'd abruptly stopped running and started breathing heavily. Only the downed Kirby, however, could decipher Void's words.

"Enough of this wild goose chase! I will end this, right here and now!"

Pulling himself to his feet, Kirby watched in horror as Void raised the tip of Waddle Doo's broadsword to the sky, the silver edge reflecting off a ray of the rising dawn sun. "You think Nightmare's demon beast is the only one who can slice someone in two? Guess again!" As he smirked, the sword began to glow white, shining like a radiant star as power slowly flowed into the blade.

"The only difference is that whoever I hit with this technique won't be breathing in the aftermath. Rather, they'll end up being skewered into a gory mess!"

"Cr-crud!" Bun squealed, pointing a trembling finger at the sight as he stood rooted to the ground. "I recognize that move… it's Sword Beam!"

"S-Sword Beam!?" Lololo and Lalala yelped, with Fumu following suit. It was no surprise — they'd all seen the move cut cleanly through Bugzzy with their very own eyes.

"You're all mine, girl!" Void declared, launching himself high into the air. He watched the people below him with undisguised contempt, preparing to bring the broadsword down and discharge the attack in their direction. "Let's see you dodge this! Muhihihi!"

"R-R… run!" Parm's jaw went slack with terror when he realized that his two children remained motionless. He turned to his two helpers, an edge of panic in his voice. "Lololo, Lalala! Get my children out of there!" he ordered.

They both nodded, with Lalala immediately swooping towards the children.

Lololo wanted to follow his other half, but the weight of the sun staff was immediately a hindrance. "We need to go after Fumu and Bun! Mind holding this for a moment?" Without waiting for an affirmative response, he'd already tossed the sun staff in Lola's direction.

"H-hey!" Lola yelped, his eyes widening as he swooped down to catch the airborne staff before it hit the ground. "How 'bout an advance warning next time?!" he protested, struggling to hold both staffs in his hands.

"Sorry!" Lololo apologized, already catching up to Lalala and falling into formation alongside her.

Still in the air, Void hadn't noticed the two aerial helpers. "Only one sword instead of two… but it'll do… just a minor loss of effective range with this specific attack," he murmured as he locked his eyes onto Fumu, who just so happened to be looking up at him with defiance in her emerald eyes.

"You dare look me in the eye? My, my… such arrogance! Well, I'm about to wipe that smug look off your face… or what will be left of it!" He proceeded to bring his sword down diagonally, a wave of fiery energy emanating out of the blade from the motion of his slash. From its trajectory, the resulting blast would encompass practically the entire open space of the watchtower, leaving no room for escape.

Almost at once, two things happened simultaneously.

Lololo grabbed Fumu while Lalala grabbed Bun, quickly dragging them away before they ended up so mesmerized by the attack that they were caught in it.

However, Kirby also raised his own sword and charged up a counterattack, quickly sending his own Sword Beam back at Void at a right angle to Void's attack.

The two diagonal energy waves intersected in the middle, exploding in a spectacular blast.

Void landed on his feet, donning a mask of pure indifference as he strutted in Kirby's direction. "Still protecting that girl. Why am I not surprised?"

Although Void kept his voice level, Kirby was able to detect traces of agitation in his tone. Much like Taranza before him, his confident other half had lost his phlegmatic composure ever since his dual-staff plan flopped, making this the perfect opportunity to turn the tables if Kirby played his cards right.

As such, Kirby let his knees give out, slumping back down onto the stone floor.

"How pathetic," Void snorted, gazing down at the fallen Kirby with contempt. "You are so beneath me that I don't even have to inhale this sword to gain the Sword Ability for myself…"

Kirby widened his eyes, uttering a confused question in his mind. Wait, hold up… Sword Ability? Y-You can use Copy Abilities!?

"Whyever not? Of course I can utilize Copy Abilities to their full potential… our species has always been able to! Shouldn't you know this?" Void answered in an idiosyncratic manner, before raising the sword high above his head. "Oh, that's right… your amnesia. Bah, it's not like it even matters at this point. If you wish to protect that girl so much, I'll make sure to eliminate you first!"

Right as Void stopped in front of Kirby, the grounded puffball suddenly slashed at Void's feet, causing Void to elicit a cry of surprise. Taking his chance, Kirby stood up and knocked the sword out of Void's hands, sending it flying.

All's fair in love and war, huh? How do you like it when your very own adage is turned against you?

"You feigned falling down on purpose just so you could catch me in a compromising position…" Void accused, his eyes sliding over to the broadsword, which had already been hastily retrieved by Waddle Doo. Then, he laughed. "Congratulations! I didn't think you had it in you. Pulling a sucker punch like that… now that's something I'd do myself."

I did what I had to do, Kirby growled inwardly, resolving not to let Void's words get to him. We're nothing alike. You hear me… nothing alike!

"Whatever you say, Termy." Void chuckled impishly, "You're simply in denial."

"Hey, he doesn't have a sword anymore!"

Void was halted from further embarrassing Kirby by Bun's words. "Muhihiheheh! Like I need a sword to protect myself!" he replied.

"The sun staff… use it now! Hurry!"

Void froze, whirling around at Fumu. "Wh-what!?"

"You two take it!" the purple orb looked at Lololo and Lalala, "I can't hover there in time while carrying both staffs!"

"Sure thing!"

"We'll take it from here!"

Void cautiously regarded Lololo and Lalala, who had snatched up the sun staff from Lola and were flying towards him and Kirby with it. "You fools actually think that you can stop me now? Not a chance! Not even a teeny one! You're all going down!"

Right as Lololo and Lalala were about to nail him and Kirby in one fell swoop, he used his slide maneuver to squeeze underneath them and flee.

"No!" Bun clenched his fists, before running his hands over his bangs and turning his formerly neat and properly groomed hair into an unkempt mop.

"He's getting away!" Fumu exclaimed. A part of her wanted to give chase, but she was feeling fatigued after sprinting around for so long and hence unable to muster up the energy.

"Ahahaha! So long, suckers!" Void ran for the stairs, turning back to the stunned Cappies to give his foes—namely Kirby, the only one who could understand his 'poyos'—one final speech. "You sly, conniving Star Warrior! You almost had me, Termy!" he praised, curtsying at the other puffball. "But I know when to quit and collect my dues, so I'll proceed to take my leave. Enjoy your victory for now, because I'm afraid to inform you that this isn't over. I will return, and when I do—"

"You think I'm going to let you waltz off and threaten my children another day!?"

Void whirled around and came face-to-face with a fuming Parm, who had been waiting by the stairs for his children this entire time. Even though Parm couldn't understand what Void was saying, he was able to tell from subtle clues that the puffball was trying to escape and had been speaking in a condescending manner to his helpers and children.

"Get away from my daughter, you freak! You mess with my family, you mess with me!" the cabinet minister shouted, running up to the surprised Void and kicking him in the back of his head. Due to his round body, Void rolled over and over like a bowling ball, only stopping when he slammed into a wall.

Kirby wasn't going to lie. That was immensely satisfying to watch. He nodded at Parm in approval, ignoring Fumu looking at him disapprovingly as he guffawed.

"You…! How dare you!"

Void slowly rubbed the back of his head, glaring at the man with undiluted hatred, the last bastion of his already dwindling patience now completely smashed alongside his bruised pride. All thoughts of leaving the vicinity now ejected from his mind, he got to his feet with his back to the stairwell, a cruel smile tugging on his lips as he looked at the Cappies on the watchtower.

From his vantage point, Void could see the horizon and the rising sun. How coincidental — his next attack would complement the skyline perfectly. Raising his two stubby arms to his targets, he took solace in the look of surprise on their faces when his hands began to shine a ghostly white.

"The symphony of the stars has begun! My harmonious laser light show will truly be a sight to behold!" Void proclaimed, the light shining from his arms culminating in two energy orbs that were a precursor to the glorious array of laser beams he could now discharge at will.

Bun tapped on Fumu's shoulder. "I don't like the look of that, sis." Next to them, Sword Kirby got himself into a defensive stance, really not looking forward to what Void's decree of a 'laser light show' implied and entailed.

"Say good night, cretins!" Void yelled, firing off the charged laser from his right arm as a demonstration. The white beam flashed through the air like a shooting star streaking through the sky, the attack clipping Lola and causing the flying orb to fall to the ground in pain, with the moon staff that he had been holding clattering to the base of Void's feet.

"What in the—"

"Since when could Kirby do that!?"

Void smirked, glancing briefly at the moon staff but ultimately ignoring it because the weapon was currently of no use to him. Instead, he flicked his right wrist and charged up another laser. When it hit full power again, he pointed both arms towards the hapless group that were huddling together in the center of the watchtower.

"Gee… I wonder what measly remains would be left of you if I were to fire this in your general direction?"

Still armed with the compressed laser orbs that could be released at any time from his arms, Void turned towards Parm, who looked like he'd aged ten years since he fired off the first laser. "What's wrong, old man? Try kicking me again in the head now!" he challenged, engaging in a violent staring match with the minister. "I guarantee you that your daughter will be nothing but a pile of burnt cinders before you even contact my head!"

"Oh, I forget…" Void trailed off when he saw Minister Parm unable to conjure up an answer. "You can't actually understand me. That being said, I'll wager that you and your wife can clearly understand my threat nonetheless, can't you?"

Said wife had fainted onto the ground thanks to the whole ordeal, actually. Captain Waddle Doo was kneeling next to her, fanning her with his stubby arms to try and rouse her back to consciousness.

"Look…" Parm finally managed to breathe, getting on his knees to Void's amusement. "I'm sorry for kicking you, okay? Just… please leave my children out of this! I beg you!"

"Hm…"

"Poyyoooo!"

You can say and threaten Fumu's father for all you want, because you won't win this one! I refuse to let them get hurt on my watch!

Void turned towards Kirby, raising his arms protectively over Fumu and Bun. "So be it." He shot a leftwards glance at Parm, shrugging at the sobbing man with indifference. "I guess that means your precious children will be on today's special BBQ breakfast menu—"

"My moon staff!" A cold mechanical voice interjected. "That belongs to me! Give it back to me, you little runt!"

Bun yelped, pointing at the stairwell where a furious box-shaped robot now stood. "It's Dedede's demon beast… Slice n' Splice!"

Fumu dragged her palm across her face. "First we get threatened by an evil version of Kirby, and now this guy comes back? Could this get any worse?!"

Void, though surprised by Slice n' Splice's unexpected appearance from his back, didn't bother turning back as his focus was solely on the targets to his front. As a result, by the time he realized that the demon beast had been acknowledging him and not Lola due to the fact that the staff in question was now with him, it was too late.

Slice n' Splice grabbed the moon staff from the ground and swung the blunt edge of it down at Void, hitting the puffball like a golfer putting their golf ball.

"Yaahhhhhh!"

As Kirby heard the airborne Void letting out a howl of surprise, he realized that this was their chance to finally end things. "Poyo!" he waved at Lololo and Lalala, hoping they would understand his nonverbal gestures.

It's now or never! When he's disorientated, you have to merge him back with me!

Fortunately, Lololo and Lalala were smart and had the exact same idea as well. Right as Void landed in the middle of the area, he was greeted by a smug Kirby.

"Poyo!"

Now! Do it now!

Right as Kirby gave the signal, Lololo and Lalala instantly slammed the sun staff down at the two puffballs.

As they raised the weapon from the ground after squishing the two Kirbies, they were joined by a curious Fumu and Bun, huddling around to see if their plan would be a success this time.

Kirby rubbed his head, smiling at Lololo and Lalala before focusing his attention onto Void.

Void staggered, stumbling backwards in a daze with an expression of utter disbelief on his face. He could only continue to stare when he felt a force of attraction pulling him towards his other half, the villainous puffball immediately comprehending the reason as to why with great dismay.

"The sun staff… no! Not now, of all times!"

Kirby looked at him wearily, knowing exactly why Void was being so panicked over the current turn of events. Void had stated earlier that he'd previously wanted to trick him to use the sun staff and suppress Kirby's personality during the resulting merge of their bodies. But now that Void was exhausted and not at full strength, there was little doubt as to who would be the dominant personality in their battle of wills when they combined back into one.

There was a tense finality when Kirby exhaled at Void, a tired and triumphant smile on his face.

"Poyo."

It's over. You lost.

Void did not take that well.

"No… i-impossible! I won't go down li-like… this! Yo… you won by sheer, dumb luck! That Cappy girl and those emotions of care and concern she displays… I can't understand it! What compels her to save a wretch like you!? What drives you to feel the slightest shred of sympathy towards her well-being!?" Void growled, releasing a primal cry that resonated with rage and despair. "Gragh! I adamantly refuse to have my plans be dashed b-by… a… n… inferior copy of me! I disallow it!"

The rays of the morning sun shone upon the horizon, tinting the surrounding area a pale yellow as Void continued to talk, physically struggling to pull his face away from Kirby so as to avoid getting sucked back into the magenta puff. "You see that, Termy? Those glistening rays of sunlight breaking through the horizon as morning puts an end to the eternal night? Those tiny bright rays signal the beginning of a new day. A parent star of a planet which orbits it will always rise and fall daily so long as the planet itself isn't tidally locked by interstellar forces — yet another unchanging constant in this realm. Despite your valiant attempts to resist… there are just some things which cannot be altered from their predestined path."

Void let out an exhausted sigh, pausing to catch his breath after his continuous spiel before resuming with a dire prediction. "You are me, and I am you… we are a single entity! There is but one sky and one destiny that awaits us both, and it is one stained crimson red with blood! You cannot fight against fate — regardless of what personal issues you have with the truth, you can't change the fact that the two of us make up the Destroyer of Worlds! We are Void Termina!"

Kirby shook his head, eyes downcast in somber acceptance of Void's remark. "Poyo." So what if I am Void Termina? That's all you, not me! I don't have to follow your footsteps, I don't even act like you! Plus, you're going back inside my conscious, where you rightfully belong!

"Ha! You actually believe that? Ga-ack!" Void sucked in a breath, pressing his blue-violet feet against the ground, the agony now visible on his face as the demigod proceeded to use all of his strength to resist the pull of the sun staff. He then spoke again, his telepathic voice now fatigued. "You're wrong, by the way," he warned, a chuckle escaping his lips as he gave Kirby a forewarning, "I'm afraid you won't be rid of me that easily…"

Kirby's smug expression wavered.

"Termy, I hereby bequeath to you our eternal legacy! You may elect to dance around and deny your true calling for all you want, but unfortunately for you, our fate has already been written in the stars! Muhihih-graah! Celebrate your momentary freedom wh-while you can… because I'll always be within you…" Void had to strain himself to speak now, his telepathic voice hollow, though his cautionary words still carved the impact that they were designed to make. "Go ahead and rejoice for now, but here's a word of advice. You better perpetually keep your guard up or I'll be sure to gladly take back control over your body from right under your nose — control which I rightfully deserve!"

Almost as though a second wind was flowing through him, Void jerked his head towards Kirby, his eyes bloodshot. "And when that day comes… my perpetually unsated soul will lay ruin to this wretched universe! This… I swear to you, Termy!"

That was all he said before he flew at Kirby, a bright flash then enveloping the white and purple puffballs as they met.

When the light died down, the first thing that greeted Kirby's eyes were stubby pink arms.

Pink. Not magenta purple.

He was Kirby. No more Void, no more Void Termina, no more magenta and white, and no more of that infuriating 'Termy' pet name.

Man, he couldn't be happier. Of note, he wasn't the only one ecstatic about this.

"Alright!" Bun whooped for joy, heaving a sigh of relief. "Looks like evil Kirby is no more!"

"Yep! Kirby's finally back to normal!" Fumu followed suit, though she remained wary of Slice n' Splice, who was currently being yelled at by Captain Waddle Doo.

"How did you get out? My brigade of Waddle Dees swamped you!"

Slice n' Splice ignored the commander, instead hobbling towards the flying duo of blue and pink.

"You two… Lololo and Lalala."

The duo perked upon realizing that this was the first time that the demon beast had referred to them by their actual names instead of Lola. Not only that, but there was a hint of raggedness to its voice that hadn't been there before.

"You stubborn fools. Return the sun staff to its rightful owner… now!" Slice n' Splice growled menacingly, its synthesized voice as cold as ice when it saw the mutual defiance in Lololo and Lalala's body language. "Your measly courage is nothing but a pitiful farce! I can see right through you two… after all, I am your maker! You both wouldn't even exist right now if I hadn't split Lola apart!" it furiously howled.

Lalala cradled Lololo close to her, refusing to unlatch from him. Lololo growled, his brows furled upwards in anger. "Take that back, you cold-hearted monster!" he spat with determination, feeling his blood boiling within him as he spoke in a low yet firm voice. "We deserve to live… both me and Lalala!"

Slice n' Splice gave Lololo and Lalala a dubious stare, acting almost as though it had been personally slapped by the duo. Even now, after Waddle Doo had thought outside of the box and managed to uncover his flaw — using sheer numbers to overcome the threat of being split apart, it still obstinately refused to yield. Slice n' Splice had managed to acquire a sip of power, and with its taste still fresh in its mind, it knew that the only way it could ascend to greatness and stand amongst tyrannical titans along the likes of Nightmare was to defeat the Star Warrior and take back the sun staff.

And the machine refused to let two worthless expies ruin that dream.

"You two actually think you deserve to live?" Its eyes flickered as it held up the moon staff. "You're both nothing more than mere copies! Your lives are worth nothing!"

Lololo and Lalala shared a knowing look, their gloved hands intertwined as they each gave the other the support they needed.

"You're wrong!" Lalala countered. "You said it yourself earlier!" She managed to control her shallow breathing, looking directly at Slice n' Splice without fear. "Lololo and Lalala — you acknowledged us as that!"

"That's right! We aren't Lola, but Lololo and Lalala!" Lololo's voice was resolute as he agreed wholeheartedly with Lalala, before pointing his thumb at himself. "I'm Lololo—"

"—and I'm Lalala!" she followed up, instantly knowing how to complete her comrade's sentence. From then on, the two alternated their sentences as they flew up to Slice n' Splice and proceeded to unleash their mutual comeuppance on the robot, their vigor fueled by the part within them that was once Lola.

"It doesn't matter if we aren't back together as one!"

"We work perfectly well as two for the last ten years!"

"Sure, you can say that we might have been a demon beast in the past…"

"…but our conscience is clean, as we're now humble servants in present day!"

"And now, the two of us have made up our minds!"

"We won't stand for you any longer!"

Slice n' Splice actually appeared to be visibly unnerved by the duo's combined speech. "I don't believe my auditory sensors. Since when did you actually grow a spine!?"

A purple orb flew to Lololo and Lalala's side. "Since the moment that all three of us unanimously decided that we've had more than enough of Holy Nightmare Corporation!" he answered on their behalf.

"L-Lola!" Slice n' Splice spluttered, literally vibrating in agitation. "Not you too! Dealing with your disembodied clones is already giving me a short circuit… I don't need you joining in on this threesome!"

Lola wagged his finger. "Well, too bad! I'm already in any camp that defies you!"

Now fuming, Slice n' Splice proceeded to blow his top. "Silence! You pathetic fools are far too late to stop me! I didn't venture over to Planet Popstar on Nightmare's orders just to lose to a bunch of lowlifes like you! Soon, Nightmare will be privy of my power and I will get the seat of influence that I rightfully deserve in this organization! Anyone who defies me and my incoming promotion shall be crushed like mere insects! I will decimate your futile attempts at resistance, you hear me?!"

He held the moon staff level, before charging at the group with it. "Hickory, dickory, dock… your precious time is up! The sun staff is mine! And with it, I will rule over this universe!"

Kirby's face hardened, glaring at the approaching robot with resentment. Not a chance, buddy! You started this whole mess to begin with! I would have remained blissfully unaware of my origins and Void Termina if it wasn't for you and your stupid moon staff!

Before anyone could stop him, Kirby jumped into the air, preparing to slash the robot with his sword.

Slice n' Splice instinctively swung his staff upwards, using the metallic rod to counter his strike in response. Due to Kirby's light weight, the movement flung him back to the ground. He landed gracefully on the top of Bun's head… though Bun did protest.

The sword, bearing the full brunt of the impact however, flew further and arced off the edge of the watchtower.

Okay, trying to parry a sixteen-foot long staff with a sword only about a quarter that size was not one of his better ideas.

"Petulant Star Warrior! You intend to quash my reign before it even begins?" Slice n' Splice raged, holding the moon staff high. "How about if I respond by slicing you into two again?"

An image of Void was immediately transposed onto Kirby's mind as Slice n' Splice made his threat, the moon staff glinting as it caught a ray of sunlight.

No… Kirby absolutely did not want to see his cruel half again. Like, ever. Taking in a deep breath, the Star Warrior opened his mouth and looked at the robot with a determined expression, beginning to inhale.

His target? That very moon staff.

"He's inhaling, sis!" Bun said, diving for cover.

"I can see that!" Fumu snapped back, with Lololo, Lalala, and Lola hiding behind the two Cappies while vehemently holding onto the sun staff that the robot was after.

Getting dragged by the strong air currents, Slice n' Splice was forced to drive his feet into the ground to maintain his foothold, the robot groaning as it was forced to use both arms to hold onto its prized possession.

"G-G-Gah…" it struggled as Kirby's inhale threatened to take away its one remaining staff from its grip. "So it's come down to this… it's all or nothing! If you want this moon staff so badly… take it, then! Kit-ta-ri!"

Slice n' Splice sprung into the air. Instead of resisting Kirby's inhale, it cleverly used the gust of wind to propel himself towards the Star Warrior, preparing to swing the moon staff at him from above.

Kirby watched this happen with apprehension. Timing was everything. If he botched this up, Slice n' Splice would split him into two again… the consequences of which were too terrible to even contemplate.

3… 2… 1… now!

Right as the staff was about to make contact, Kirby clamped his mouth shut, abruptly halting his inhale. As Slice n' Splice had flung itself into the air while taking the wind conditions into account, the rapid loss of wind speed severely affected its trajectory, causing the robot to slam face-first into the ground instead of accelerating towards Kirby as it had originally intended.

Its premature crash landing caused it to lose its grip on the moon staff, which bounced harmlessly onto the ground. Decisively making up his mind that he wasn't going to let anyone get their hands on this dangerous weapon ever again, Kirby sucked the enormous staff into his mouth, gaining an early breakfast.

Bun trembled excitedly, roughly knowing what to expect. "Oh boy… it's happening!"

Fumu fervently gripped onto her brother's hand. "Yep. I think the tables are finally about to turn! I know that look — it's the face Kirby takes when he's about to swallow and gain a Copy Ability!"

And sure enough, Kirby jumped up into the air, a hardened expression prominent on his face as he spun around, feeling a wave of energy coalescing in the pit of his belly.

A butter-yellow cap emblazoned with two black eyes and white wings as decor plopped onto his head, spinning rapidly around until the rim of the cap and the false black eyes aligned with Kirby's actual eyes. A sharpened double-edged silver blade then materialized, flying around the puffball in a controlled manner until it lodged itself on the top of the hat from behind, the embedded boomerang pointed in such a way that it symmetrically split the hat in half vertically.

"Whoa! What kind of Copy Ability is Kirby using right now?" Bun asked as he took in the sight, before suddenly realizing that Meta Knight wasn't there to answer that query for once.

Huh. That was highly unusual. Normally he'd always be there whenever Kirby inhaled a new Copy Ability so that he could say his words of wisdom regarding the ability out loud.

Fumu herself also noted Meta Knight's tardiness with much trepidation. Then again, the events of this entire day were already out of the norm, so it really didn't matter anymore.

"Y-You! My moon staff! Where did it go!?" Slice n' Splice got to its feet, staring at the Star Warrior as he landed on the ground.

Kirby simply pointed to his belly with a malevolent grin, causing the robot to angrily stamp its feet in agitation.

"So… do you have any idea what to call this Copy Ability?" Bun continued to pester while watching their antics. "No? You don't know either, sis? Well… since he's armed with a sharp cutter, how about Cutter Kirby?" he suggested.

Fumu shrugged at Bun's proposal. "Cutter Kirby it is then…" Since Meta Knight wasn't around—why though, he was conspicuously missing in action—no one had any final authority as to the naming convention of Kirby's Copy Abilities.

The newly powered-up Cutter Kirby nodded at the name, before he unfastened the projectile from his hat and sent it flying at the robot.

Slice n' Splice widened its eyes, jumping backwards to dodge the flying blade. "A boomerang? You really think that the blunt, tiny weapon hanging limply from your limb can even lay a scratch on me?" it taunted as the cutter passed by harmlessly, "Don't delude yourself, Star Warrior!"

Kirby glanced at the cocky machine wryly. "Poyo…" he drawled, amusement dripping from his tone.

You know what they say about boomerangs? They always come back!

"Wha…" Slice n' Splice turned back, but Kirby's cautionary warning came too late. The Cutter Boomerang sliced straight through its left arm, causing the demon beast to howl in pain as Kirby retrieved the blade.

"Yes, yes, yes!" Bun shouted, exhilarated. "Beat that guy into a metal pulp, Kirby! Take revenge on it for everything that it'd done!"

Kirby nodded as he jumped high into the air. Instead of throwing the dagger, he held on to the sharpened cutter in his right arm, somersaulting in mid-air and letting gravity do the rest.

"No!" Slice n' Splice widened its eyes as the pointed edge loomed at it from above. Now that the robot knew that its hardened body was no match for the blade, it wasn't going to just stand around. It prepared to run and dodge… only to find that it was held in place and couldn't move, a sticky material gluing him to the stone floor.

"What the—what is this substance!?" Slice n' Splice cried when it realized that it was stuck.

"Go, Kirby!" Bun cheered at this turn of good fortune. "Kick 'im while its down!"

Fumu, however, found herself wondering as to when exactly the robot had gotten stuck. The girl let her eyes wander about, the subject boggling her mind.

It had to be right after Slice n' Splice had gotten to his feet after Kirby gained his Copy Ability, which literally just happened less than thirty seconds ago. But none of them had been responsible for it. She could see everyone on the watchtower, and nobody besides Kirby had made their move. So how had it…

Then, she got her answer.

Although the roof of the castle watchtower was already quite high, it was not the highest point of Castle Dedede. Next to the open roof they were on was a slightly higher tower, namely housing the ceiling of the spiral staircase that they'd used to ascend up here in the first place.

And from the summit of that tower, Fumu could see a purple bowler hat peeking out, the owner of the headwear observing the scene below him with rapt interest.

She knew that bowler hat.

Fumu couldn't believe her eyes — standing about the height of one floor above them was Commander Webby, the Como who'd terrorized them unrelentingly less than twenty-four hours ago. Of course… now that she knew that he was here, it all made sense! Slice n' Splice had gotten himself caught in a silky web… which she recalled to be the arachnid's specialty! In other words, Webby had been the one to trap Slice n' Splice in place!

Though Webby was helping them for some reason, the bigger question to Fumu was what he was doing here in the first place. From the way that he'd acted when they last fought at Dyna Blade's nest, she highly doubted that he had a change of heart so suddenly.

Before she could bring anyone's attention to their unwelcome guest, her mind was brought back to Slice n' Splice, who was now slamming his one remaining arm against the ground to try and get its legs free.

Seeing Slice n' Splice trying to pry his limbs free from the sticky trap, Parm ran up to the robot, jumping up and pulling onto its arm in an effort to distract it.

Slice n' Splice flailed wildly. "Let me go, worthless organic creature! I can't concentrate on freeing myself with your incessant grip getting in the way!" Its eyes widened in panic as the blade drew near. "Release me right this instant!" it screeched, pulling upon its stuck legs with all its might.

Parm staunchly maintained his hold on the cylindrical arm even as Slice n' Splice shook him about, only releasing his hand and letting himself fly a meter away from the resultant inertia when he saw Cutter Kirby's shadow fall upon the robot. "No one messes with my servants! This is for Lololo and Lalala!" Parm announced snidely as he dusted himself off, knowing that the robot now had no hope of dodging Kirby because of his interference.

"You little rat!" Slice n' Splice spat. "I'm gonna—"

Lola dove over to the robot's front and slammed right into its body, using the collision to knock the machine back and allow its eyes to point up. "Revenge is sweet, Slice n' Splice! Looks like you're the one going to be sliced in half now!" the purple beast chuckled with glee before flying back to safety.

Now that its eyes were finally focused on Kirby again, Slice n' Splice emitted a gasp of horror when it saw the Star Warrior has reduced the distance between them to such a minuscule amount that he was practically right on top of its head. Calculating the moment of impact to be less than two seconds away, it let out a horrific scream.

"Nnnnnnoooooooo—"

Schluck!

The sharpened edge of Kirby's cutter cut through Slice n' Splice's main body like butter. Kirby landed behind the robot, which now had a hairline crack spreading vertically across eighty percent of its outer shell. "…n-noooo…" it whimpered as a white light began to shine out of the large crack that now spanned its body. Sparks began to fly out as it furiously tried to control its overloading processes.

"I… cannot be… terminated! Not by… a weakling… like you! The dawn of the final hour… cannot possibly loom on a… superior lifeform… like me! I was supposed to… usher in… a glorious new age… to Holy Nightmare! It is… not yet… my time… to… w-what!? Fata… sys… error…?" its garbled vocal processor managed to output, pupils shrinking in fright. "Vital processes… shutdown imminent? Visual sensors… processing nothing… but static… no, no, no!"

"Y-You!" Slice n' Splice roared, managing to keep its main body intact through sheer willpower. "If I'm done for… I will… take you… with me!"

With a superhuman effort, it turned around and charged at Cutter Kirby, attempting to use its body to crush the puffball as a last-ditch attempt.

Kirby's face turned resolute. He remained still right until Slice n' Splice was upon him, before an inner instinct from within told him what to do.

"Poyo!"

Final Cutter!

Admittedly, he'd made up the attack name on the spot, but his gut told him that it was a perfect name for his upcoming series of consecutive attacks. He slashed at Slice n' Splice with the blade once, then twice, before jumping into the air and sharply bringing the cutter down, generating a blue shockwave which completely penetrated through the initial crack, this time cutting the robot cleanly in two vertically.

Slice n' Splice was tousled back from the sheer force of the shockwave, the light in its eyes dying out as the robot slumped lifelessly to the ground.

Less than two seconds later, it exploded spectacularly, metal pieces and dust flying everywhere. As almost everyone was looking at Slice n' Splice, they were thus forced to shield their eyes to protect them from the ensuing debris cloud.

Only Fumu, who was looking in a completely different direction, noticed that Webby had tossed a piece of web at the flying debris. With a fiendish grin, he jumped off the watchtower and snatched the newly-created pod of silk that encased a piece of scrap, making off with whatever he'd managed to pick up from the explosion.

"Hey, sis!" she heard Bun call. "What were you looking at? You missed the robot going 'kaboom'!" Bun said excitedly, exploding his arms outwards to simulate said effect.

Fumu rolled her eyes. "I doubt that anyone up here can miss that… geez, I bet the sound and shockwave of the explosion managed to wake up everyone in Cappy Town." Her gaze lingered on where Webby once stood, before filing it in her memory. She could deal with whatever this meant later.

It was probably for the better that she made that decision, as Webby had jumped all the way down to the base of the castle, the steep angle and height meaning that he was pretty much out of sight to anyone on the watchtower. The angle of his jump allowed him to clear the moat, and thus the Como chuckled as he landed back onto solid ground.

As he prepared to walk off with his prize, he was interrupted by a voice coming from behind.

"Hai! It's been a while, Webby! Did you miss me?"

Webby remained silent, his three eyes lingering on Kirby, who had run up from behind him. It didn't take him long to deduce that Kirby must have floated over the castle moat to catch up with him. Arachnid stared down puffball, neither one blinking. While Kirby's eyes were brim and full of energy, Webby's appeared dull, as though they had lost all of their luster.

Their staring match only came to a close when Kirby warmly shot back at Webby with a cheeky smirk, causing him to flinch and break the tension.

Webby mentally cursed himself as he looked away. "Ditched your Cutter Ability so quickly, Kirby? Then again, by the time I escaped from Bandana Dee, I managed to see that you'd ditched Sword for Cutter, so what do I know?" He let out a sigh, schooling his expression to a neutral look. "Seriously, what are you doing here?"

"Just thought that I'd say hi," Kirby responded. "I talked to your boss earlier, but we didn't really get a chance to chat, did we?"

"Chat?" The Como stared at Kirby like he'd grown a second pair of eyes. "You want to talk amiably after everything that's happened thus far?"

Kirby answered without missing a beat. "Yep!" he nodded with a smile.

"Ugh… this carefree attitude of yours." Webby bounced the pod that he'd snagged earlier in his legs. "I understand that it's your typical brazen personality, but it perfectly encapsulates everything wrong with the situation right now!"

Kirby found his eyes hovering towards the bouncing pod. "Say… what's that?" he queried.

"Oh… this?" Webby held up the pod in his hand. "Remember the robot you just blew apart with Final Cutter?"

"Yes?" Kirby wasn't going to tell him that it was Carby who had been the one to do it though.

Also, the robot was already destroyed? Dang, he solely wanted to do that to the Mr. Shine and Mr. Bright staff wielding brat so bad…

"I don't know if you saw me, but I managed to make it onto the roof at the very last moments of your fight with that robot. That's right… I was the one who physically incapacitated it with a Web Scatter attack so that you could execute a Cutter Drop, which was followed up by a Cleaving Cutter comboed into a Final Cutter in rapid succession, completely blowing that sucker to pieces!" He snorted at the memory, his fangs chattering as he laughed. "And when it exploded, my eyes happened to catch sight of a piece of the robot being flung into the air. What can I say? I couldn't resist. As a result, I fetched in my prize using a Skyward Web…"

Webby held out the pod, before knocking it to the ground to break the silk threads and reveal a square-shaped metallic chip to be the object that had been encased within the tightly woven pod. "…that's right! I have that machine's main control circuit board!" he crowed.

Kirby stared at the mechanical chip in surprise. "Wait… hang on! You're retaining that robot's control chip?" The puffball was befuddled as to Webby's motives, which eventually manifested as an uttered, "Why?"

"As a trophy, that's why! I intend to keep the chip as a reminder of its pathetic end!" Webby snarled, his tone reproachful as he shot a baleful glance back to Castle Dedede. "It completely deserved the fate that it got, by the way. I was glad to contribute to that blasted piece of technology's finishing blow."

"Whatever happened to 'don't interfere with the likes of this world', eh?" Kirby muttered, repeating Taranza's words to him as an ironic echo.

Despite Kirby's hope for a reaction, Webby shrugged the verbal jab off. "Bah, nobody saw me!" he insisted. "Besides, the rules have changed!" When the Como saw that Kirby remained unconvinced, he let out a sigh. "Look, I couldn't help it, okay? It was a robotic being…" his voice lowered an octave, "…it must be destroyed. No exceptions to that rule!"

Using Web Hold to spread a web all around him, the Como used heaps of webbing to encase the circuit chip underneath a mountain of silk, re-sealing it inside another pod. "Don't you see?" Webby bared his pinkish fangs, his grin turning feral. "Nature will always reign supreme over technology!" He took off his bowler hat, slipping the spherical orb of web that used to be a square circuit board into the hollow section within, before replacing the headgear back atop his head.

"And what better example I can quote regarding that…" Webby paused, grinning to himself as his eyes gleamed, "…than the downfall of Haltmann Works Company."

"Haltmann Works Company?" Kirby parroted, feeling a chill run down his spine as his Como friend paced about the grassy field.

"Yes… that scummy, greedy corporation. Those corrupt executives laid waste to all of Dream Land's lush greenlands all for the sake of making a damn profit!" Webby gripped his hat, fidgeting with the rim as he pulled it down. "Do you know what it was like… seeing a wave of robots swoop down and devastate our habitat all for the sake of mining resources for money!? Do you have any idea how much anger still lies dormant within me, only to be brought to the surface whenever I have flashbacks of them callously razing my home to the ground without mercy!?"

He continued on his tirade, undaunted by Kirby, who could only look on wordlessly at the raving Como. "Prism Plains to Patched Plains, Rainbow Route to Rhythm Route, Onion Ocean to Overload Ocean… and that's just naming a few examples. The complete list of landmarks that they'd ravished all around Popstar for the sake of mechanizing the planet is inexhaustible."

Kirby shuddered, the events of the Robobot crisis coming back to him. As a matter of fact, he'd actually visited all of the areas which Webby had mentioned. "Yeah, they were meticulous in their job," the puffball was forced to concede. "The entirely of Popstar pretty much fell under their influence. And because of that, I've had my fair share of run-ins with them, so I can plainly see where you're coming from…"

However, as Kirby was speaking, a distinct memory from his adventure flashed across the puffball's eyes.

"Just look at this planet — a diamond in the rough that had managed to remain under the radar as our company combed the vastness of Gamble Galaxy. Up until now, that is…" The speaker's tone turned melancholic as she spread her discombobulated arms wide open, gazing forlornly at the glass panes and pillars of water surrounding her that separated the interior of the aquatic base from the ocean outside. "Clean air, fresh water… there is a wealth of natural resources to be found here. Your planet is truly a lucrative goldmine, and yet all of you who live in this world take that wealth for granted. How very regrettable…"

Kirby placed his hand to his cheek. "Secretary Susie…" he said slowly, "…I do recall that she was the prime stakeholder of the mechanical invasion that took place about six months back—"

"…Susie?" Webby interjected, wringing his feelers as his expression immediately soured. "You dare bring up that emotionally-detached, pink-haired corporate swine?!" he shouted, every subsequent word louder than the previous. "Even back when I lacked the ability to speak or command, my primitive mind already wanted to blow apart her mechanical suit so badly! She made it a point to personally be at every single area of Popstar when her mechs took over, so I had the horrified honor of seeing her robots pulverize my home forest… while she stood there, watching with a wry smile!"

Webby stomped his feet on the ground, leaving an imprint on the grassy patch below. "She actively stood there and smiled! Did she think that the destruction of my home was funny!? Because I'm not laughing!" Hatred imbued his voice as it rang across the clearing.

Kirby stepped back, taken aback by the Como's harsh condemnation. "Webby…"

"Be quiet and listen!" Webby tiptoed upwards in an attempt to intimidate Kirby by gaining a few centimeters on him, only continuing when he saw Kirby biting his lip and keeping silent. "But in all seriousness… is it really a surprise that a secretary like her would speak in an overly condescending manner to us? Us, who she had described—and I quote, using her own words—as 'a bunch of natives'?" He kicked at the grass, his voice tired and bitter. "Is it really that much of a shocker that she sees us as mere fodder?"

He paused, letting the rhetorical nature of the question hang briefly. "…surely you understand more than anyone that the rights of lowly insignificant forest dwellers like us aren't taken into account when the folks at Haltmann Works Company are coming up with their business plans?"

Kirby shook his head ruefully, remembering the determined words that Susie had said to him after she curtly introduced herself as the representative of the company and the one who was spearheading the invasion project.

"But at any rate… our Mechanizing Occupation Project is now under way… and your people have unfortunately been identified as… obstacles. Isn't that most unfortunate, Pinky?"

Obstacles.

That was the derogatory term which Susie had used, the female considering the native people of Popstar as nothing more than a hurdle to her goals. It was exactly this flippant disregard and nonchalant attitude towards the Dream Landers—and the entirety of his home planet in general—that had majorly ticked Kirby off during his initial encounter with her at Overload Ocean.

Considering that it looked like Webby also had his own personal encounter with Susie as well, it was no wonder that the Como despised the secretary given her dismissive attitude.

It was certainly a trend. After all, her calculating superior, the man who helmed the intergalactic corporation, hadn't fared all that much better when it came down to the subject of compassion either. Kirby would never forget the grandiose tone that the man had used to introduce himself with while sitting cross-legged on a chair that was made of solid gold.

And no, the contraption hadn't been varnished with gold paint. It was literally pure gold. The affluent man had been freely flaunting his wealth, no doubt about that. In fact, it was very much like how he'd flaunted his power and authority in front of Kirby in the pinnacle of the invasion climax six months ago.

Kirby had just defeated Susie's Mecha Knight+ (exactly what sort of name was that, anyway? Affixing a plus at the end of a name to define a superior model screamed of sheer laziness to him) when the chief of the company deftly revealed himself by swiveling around on his golden recliner so that he could acknowledge the meddlesome Kirby.

"Well then…"

The purple-haired man cleared his throat to catch the attention of the pink puffball who brazenly stood before him, before sporting a contemptuous sneer when he saw the intruder adamantly standing his ground without even showing the slightest sign of a flinch. "Since you're the one who'd been a spanner in the works to the Haltmann Works Company for far too long… I suppose that a meddlesome native like you has rightfully earned the few seconds that it would normally take for me to make a formal introduction. Congratulations. I hope you take that knowledge to your demise," the man had sarcastically quipped at him, the scorn which he genuinely felt towards Kirby coldly laced into his impassive voice.

Nonetheless, Kirby tried to alleviate the rising tension, keeping his facial expression passive for the moment. The man to his front was the mastermind behind Susie and the underlying reason as to why his planet had been mechanized to begin with — it could be easily inferred from the overwhelming number of portraits and statues he'd seen featuring the man placed all around the Access Ark.

Though it seemed unlikely, if Kirby could somehow manage to convince the man to leave Popstar alone in a diplomatic manner, it would all be over without further conflict.

"If we're trading names, does that mean I can also make an informal introduction to you?" After Kirby posed the offer, the puffball didn't even wait for a response before rubbing the back of the spunky red-and-blue ESP Ability baseball cap atop his head and opting to introduce himself anyway. "Sweet! Did your secretary happen to tell you anything about me, perchance? If she didn't… well, my name's Kirby — Dream Land's ever-lovable hero!"

The plump, egg-shaped man raised a brow in anger. "Disrespectful brat! You are in the presence of the most influential and wealthy man in the known universe! You should be quaking in fear, mere peasant," he muttered, choosing not to acknowledge Kirby using his actual name. He then proceeded to gesture his hands around in a conceited manner while his golden chair made a ninety-degree turn and hovered to Kirby's right.

Kirby simply stared in awe as the formally-dressed man leaned back into the comfortable velvet-backed chair that was being propelled above the carpeted floor. 'Air suspension system,' he thought, noticing the three exhaust pipes on the bottom of the chair emitting blue fumes — though ironically, they appeared to be purple due to an optical illusion caused by the deep color of the red carpet being mixed with the translucent bluish smog.

Geez, could these guys be any more environmentally unfriendly?

After what seemed like an eternity, as though the man himself had finally noticed that he was dragging things out just for show, he introduced himself with a haughty tone as the chair slowly moved across his company's head office.

"I am the president and CEO of Haltmann Works Company, Max Profitt Haltmann! However, my subordinates simply acknowledge me by my appointment… President Haltmann."

President Haltmann… was a douche. There was no mistake about that. The purple-mustached executive had been relentless in pursuing his goal of sucking Popstar completely dry until the planet was nothing but a withered husk. Was there ever any doubt that Kirby needed to stop him at all costs?

Kirby had only seen Haltmann and his executive assistant interact twice — once when the man had coldly dismissed Susie without the slightest acknowledgement of her efforts to keep Kirby at bay just so he could deal with the resistance personally, and the other was when Susie backstabbed her own boss by taking Star Dream's program controller from him just so she could sell the Mother Computer off for profit.

…as if their company weren't prosperous enough.

He furrowed his brow as he found himself pondering more about Susie's supposed reasoning for her curious actions back then. Come to think of it, he never really did believe her claim despite how much sense it appeared to make initially.

Even in the heat of the moment, he distinctly recalled feeling as though something had been off about the whole affair, especially since Susie quickly contradicted her own words about the reason that she'd stole the program controller from Haltmann after Star Dream had gained sentience and taken off from what used to be the head office of the Access Ark. Susie might have been perpetually condescending towards him whenever they met… pretty much every single time, but something in the distraught secretary's tone sounded genuine when she was lamenting in the aftermath of her plan's failure.

So if she simply wanted to wake her boss up—from what, actually? His obsessive nature? He didn't know, Susie had been vague while mentioning the subject—and teach him a lesson, then why even bother going to the extent of stealing Star Dream, considering her loyalty to President Haltmann? Wasn't that a bit too extreme?

It just didn't make sense…

And chances were that he'd never be able to learn the answer, considering that Susie had left on her mech without saying a word in the aftermath of Haltmann Works' collapse, flying high above Popstar's stratosphere and into deep space, most likely making her getaway before angry Dream Landers could seek their vengeance.

Putting all of that aside however, he couldn't help but feel that solely based on those two interactions, Haltmann and Susie really did deserve each other — both president and secretary were eerily similar in personality.

"No… I understand," Kirby softly admitted. "She didn't care, did she? I'm truly sorry, Webby. The Haltmann Works invasion must have really messed you up…"

Webby grinned when he saw the puffball conceding to him. "Of course I'm right about this! Glad to see you agree with me, Kirby. Those money-hungry buggers were the sole reason why a whole group of Comos… me included, of course—" he emphasized as he preened, eyes flitting up towards the dawn blue sky, "—had no choice but to leave our ruined habitats to survive in a rapidly globalized world comprised mainly of metal and concrete. We meandered about aimlessly in a post-mechanized Popstar, the only thing keeping us going being the hope of a promised neverland — a natural haven left untouched by the cruel fangs of capitalism…"

"None of us Comos had ever ventured outside of Prism Plains before, but nevertheless we trudged forward without fear! Our fangs might have chattered against the chilly winds of an air-conditioned casino, but our fiery spirit never died! I rallied the other Comos and motivated them on in our darkest hour, telling them through the fire in my eyes that we could not give up… that we will resist the grip of that tyrannical corporation and hold out until the end by finding our precious grasslands!"

Webby took a step forward, his pitch lowering an octave. "And at long last, our journey was not for naught! After approximately thirty-six hours of blindly wandering about, I managed to lead the other survivors to find a beanstalk that led above Popstar. Undaunted, we clambered on and became explorers of the sky, managing to discover a hidden aerial highland up above! To be honest with you, I almost cried when my three eyes lay sight on our natural refuge — a kingdom of flowery fields completely shrouded in clouds!"

Kirby hit his hands together as the puzzle pieces all came together. "You're talking about the Dreamstalk that leads up to Floralia!"

"That's the Kingdom of Floralia to you, Kirby!" Webby corrected, emphasizing the full title as he took a bow.

"But I thought the Dreamstalk went back to normal size after the whole Eternal Dreamland disaster?" Kirby pondered. "I remember it being in full bloom last I checked… and most definitely not strangling Dream Land like the thorny vines of an invasive ivy."

Webby gave Kirby an irritated pout. "Hmph… I'm an idiot. Of course you wouldn't check on the Dreamstalk when you could just hover up there. Geez, I always forget you can float almost infinitely by puffing your body up…" He shook his head in annoyance. "But to answer your question, the Dreamstalk actually appeared to have grown in size during the Haltmann Works invasion. It was significantly larger than normal and thus able to reach Fine Fields of Floralia. Perhaps it subconsciously grew in size as a response to the planet's mechanization?"

"But I suppose that's just a theory!" Kirby admitted, a widening grin plastered mischievously on his face. "A gam—"

"Do not finish that sentence." Webby glowered, already knowing what the cheeky Kirby was going to say before the words were even halfway out of his mouth. "Arghhh… you're a filthy memer."

Kirby pouted. "Fine, fine." He folded his arms. "But to be fair, your boss glossed over how you Comos ended up under his tenure, so I do appreciate the elaborate lecture."

"Why, thank you! That's the nicest thing you've said in a while," Webby beamed. "Though the Dreamstalk had grown in size, it still didn't leave an obvious trail to its destination unless one was actively looking for it. Floralia's location in the upper atmosphere led to it being enveloped by mist and fog when seen from the ground below, causing the entire kingdom to go completely unnoticed by Haltmann Works, miraculously resulting in the chain of floating islands remaining untainted by machinery!"

Kirby nodded in understanding. Taranza admitted that much to him when the two had chatted on better terms.

"A blessing in disguise… or perhaps, is it fate? Who knows, and frankly… who cares?!" Webby shrugged, rolling his eyes. "We Comos most certainly didn't question the circumstances when we took this reprieve! Eventually we opted to take up residence in the Kingdom of Floralia until the whole thing blew over, which happened surprisingly quicker than I had anticipated."

Kirby grinned, bashfully puffing his chest out as he gleefully soaked in the unintentional praise. "All thanks to me, of course!"

Webby groaned, shaking his head in exasperation. "Nevertheless, while we took temporary solace in Floralia while you were busy doing 'your thing'—" he made sure to put emphasis on the words in hopes of leading Kirby to feel mildly embarrassed and show some humility (it didn't work), "—us Comos ended up being treated well by Taranza, the de facto ruler of the kingdom in the absence of a monarch. It was his extension of a helping hand when we were in dire need of assistance that eventually led to us all eventually ending up under his charge."

He stepped forward. "Sure, you can argue that all of this was before you tossed me a Friend Heart and gave me the ability of vocalizing my inner thoughts through speech, but even then I still felt a sense of loyalty to my employer."

"Loyalty has its own rewards…" Kirby muttered. Funnily enough, that staunch loyalty to Taranza was what was causing so many problems for him now. If Kirby thought that Webby wasn't as subservient to his boss as he currently was, then he most certainly would've kept the Como in the loop. But since he wasn't confident that Webby would clamp his fangs shut, and Taranza wasn't in the right mental state to take the truth right now…

Beep! Beep! Beep!

Kirby's thoughts were interrupted by an incessant beeping noise. Less than a second later, he noticed the befuddled expression on Webby's face, one which meant that the Como hadn't been the one to make it.

"Gah! Are you kidding me right now? Low battery? Ah, I knew I should've charged it…"

With his jaw dropping in shock, Kirby realized that someone had been eavesdropping on his conversation with Webby all along. He followed the sound of the voice, looking up to see a yellow bird perched on a tree branch huddling onto a silver object.

A very familiar yellow bird.

"I… just said that out loud, didn't I?" Tokkori asked with a sigh as he silenced the notification coming from the object in his wings.

"…you did," Kirby deadpanned.

"Heh!" Tokkori attempted to play it cool, looking away with an annoyed huff. He then puffed his chest out, all traces of uneasiness vanishing in an instant. "It doesn't matter anyway! You two were so wrapped up in yer talk that ya' didn't even know that I was here till the low battery notification blew my cover, huh?"

His nasally laugh filled the air, the yellow bird flitting in pleasure as he smirked down at the duo triumphantly, both stunned into silence from his surprise entrance. "In case you're wondering what the purpose of this is for, you can consider it payback for punting me into a tree! Let's see you try to play punk and squirm your way out of this when I have video evidence on my side, junior!"

With a gleeful cackle, he lifted the wing that had been obscuring the metallic object, revealing it to be a video camera.

Kirby recognized it, too. It was the exact same camera that Tokkori had used to capture a video of him retrieving Dyna Blade's hatchling from her nest two days prior. The little pest had caught him off guard by taking the footage from an aerial bird's eye view, zooming in on Kirby from afar.

By the time that Kirby realized that he was being recorded by the tiny little speck in the sky without his knowledge or consent, Tokkori had used the distance between them to get a head start and dart off with the incriminating evidence. As he had a snoozing Dyna Blade's hatchling tossed over his shoulder like a burlap sack at that moment, Kirby was hence unable to give chase, unfortunately resulting in the video falsely incriminating Carby as the perpetrator when it was swiftly aired on national television the following day.

And now here it was again, reappearing to no one's applause, with its cold reception very much like that of a bad punchline to a lame joke.

"That's right, junior! I've recorded your entire conversation with that talking spider from start to end on this here camera — video, audio, and all!" Tokkori bragged, using the tip of his right wing to wave around the camcorder in his possession, the end of the device tucked snugly against his feathers. A tiny red LED light—presumably the power indicator—being lit up along the video camera's side was all the confirmation which Kirby needed to know that Tokkori was indeed recording them.

Webby paled, all three of his eyes blinking up at the cocky bird in horror. "E-excuse me?" he stuttered, the Como's lower jaw dropping as he began to twitch. "I'm sorry, you did what!?" The last word was squealed, reaching an embarrassingly high pitch.

Now this was more like the Webby he knew well. Despite the tense situation, Kirby had to stifle a giggle. Webby had always been this flustered around Alma, the Birdon helper, so Kirby had ever seen him in such a vulnerable state before in the past. Honestly, with the exception of Bandana, this was the first bout of familiarity he'd seen since he stepped foot on this alternate Planet Popstar.

Tokkori's grin merely widened when he saw that he had the upper hand.

"I. Recorded. You. Two," he answered before turning to Kirby. "And speaking of which, I honestly haven't the slightest clue on how you managed to survive the resulting pitchforks after I caught you stealing away Dyna Blade's kid from her nest and leading her to attack Cappy Town to begin with, but I'll just chalk it up to luck," Tokkori shrugged, annoyance flickering as he let his beak hang open in displeasure.

Kirby merely sniggered. He did have to admit that luck was often on his side.

Tokkori recoiled back at Kirby's chuckle, taking it as an insult. "Hey, laugh all you want. Everyone's luck peters out eventually!" He shifted his talons, giving the video camera a good hard pat with his free wing. "And I'm quite certain your luck's just run out, because I happen to have hard evidence of your treachery this time! Let's see you suck up to Fumu after word of this gets out, Kirby!" Tokkori snarled down to Kirby, before flashing himself a self-righteous smirk as he roosted.

"Y'know, I really have to hand it to ya — you're mighty crafty. Covered yer tracks pretty well." Tokkori placed his wing to his forehead, rolling his eyes in concession. "If I didn't know any better, if ya' haven't revealed that you could actually talk by losing your temper and launching me into a tree in the first place, I never would have seen through your façade! Let me tell ya', it was an absolute torture for me to scrimp and scavenge enough evidence just to make my case, but now that I have both the facts and scoop with me," he grinned, gesturing at the camcorder, "it's going to be a complete blast for me to reveal your secret!"

Kirby instantly stopped laughing upon hearing Tokkori's declaration. The puffball changed his tune on a moment's whim, now waving his arms about in a bid to calm the irate Tokkori down.

No, no, no! That footage absolutely cannot get out, especially considering that he had brought up many sensitive topics when he had been chatting to Webby earlier. If Tokkori leaked this, the fragile status quo which he had been trying to maintain and preserve so that he would be able to keep a watch over Carby would be shattered irrevocably!

This was bad. Verrryyyyy bad.

If he still had the Magic Ability, he could have used Card Trick as a ranged attack to knock the camcorder out of Tokkori's grip by throwing a sharpened playing card at him. But since he'd dropped the ability for the sake of pretense by pretending to be Carby in front of Webby, he now had no projectile attack and thus would have to puff himself up to Tokkori's level just for a chance to wrestle the recording device from him.

But as Coo and Pitch could attest, his vertical ascension speed was relatively slow as Kirby had to puff himself up to boost his altitude, unless he happened to be complemented by either a flying Animal Friend or an aerial-based Copy Ability like Wing, Jet, or Beetle that would grant him superior aerial control. But since he currently lacked all of the above, if Kirby were to make an attempt to float up and confront Tokkori right now, he would see it coming a mile away and could easily escape with the compromising video by flying off.

Sensing that he had Kirby cornered, Tokkori grinned and held his head high, the movement causing the lens of the video camera to glint as it caught a ray from the rising sun. Like a lens flare effect simulated by most feature films when the cameraman aimed the POV camera up to the harsh sun, the light being reflected off the convex lens of the video camcorder gave Tokkori a menacing bode as the bird sneered down at Kirby, simultaneously shooting off a pompous gloat for good measure.

"If you ask me though, I bet that those lazy Cappies will be simply delighted to discover the hidden, twisted truth about you! Whoever would've guessed that their precious idol, the Star Warrior predicted by Kabu to be the chosen one destined to save them from the horrible demon beasts that Dedede constantly wrought upon Cappy Town… had been coldly lying to their faces all along! What cruel irony, amiright?"

The lens of the camera glinted once more as Tokkori tilted the camera at a downwards angle in tune with his next words, words which chilled the two on the ground to their very core.

"I betcha everyone would just loveeeee to know that you've been blithely acting like a deliberate moron the entire time just so you could play all of Cappy Town like a fiddle! Won't they… junior?"


Author's Note:

Happy one-year anniversary to Terminal Paralysis! This chapter should go up exactly one year after the day that the first chapter of this story was initially put up!

Geez, I can't believe that this is now longer than about 99% of all Kirby fanfiction and still going. Oh my god, seriously, the sheer amount of time I've spent working on this monstrosity as a whole. This was supposed to be a harmless "what if the games meet the anime crossover" and "let's speculate Void Soul's pause lore" muse! It wasn't supposed to turn into a sprawling epic… though, to be honest, I'm glad it did in the end.

That's keeping in mind that I'm stupidly patient too with regards to the unexpected expansion of this story… the Fofa Factor arc climax was something that I've been desperate and hyped to write from the very beginning. And well, as you can clearly see, it pretty much took a whole year simply to get to this point, let alone write it. Regardless, I hope this chapter neatly answered all of the questions posed by the previous chapter's A/N… especially the final one. Yes, I am a teasing troll. I freely admit it.

Before I forget, I would like to give thanks to everyone for the overwhelmingly positive reaction received by the previous chapter. It truly means a lot to me! Also, to the guest reviewer who's wondering if this arc was an endgame arc, hahahahaha no… I would classify it as a mid-season finale tbh — and fyi, we're technically still in Season/Act 1. Yep, this is merely the beginning, as of now we are nowhere near the finale.

So that's Void and Slice n' Splice. To say that this is a massive payoff of a chapter compared to what I've previously offered is an understatement… there are so many Chekhov's Guns that I've patiently set up being triggered left and right, with heaps of information being generously handed out to everyone in and out-of-universe. Hope the battle was worth all the buildup — this is the single longest piece of continuous prose I've written thus far at about 23.5K words. I'm never going to write anything this long again for quite a while… I hope.

Please do give your thoughts! And nope, we're still not done — we still have one conclusionary chapter to go before wrapping up The Fofa Factor once and for all. See you there for the finale!