Harmony Never Really Dies
Here We Reside, the Right Timeline
(Uploaded on June 5, 2020)
Summary: It's a quiet night in the Great Forest. Serene and peaceful, just as the Animal Buddies prefer.
…that is, until everyone is awoken by something—or rather, someone showing up in the forest's waters.
(Well, we can't win them all.)
April 12, 2020 – Evening
A crescent moon shone brightly over the sleepy stretches of Dream Land.
All the stars were visible in the night sky, with not a hint of cloud to be seen.
There was no crisis underway, nothing to worry about over the horizon—
—just relaxation in the air and laziness in everyone's bones.
Which is exactly what the doctor ordered for Rick, Kine, and Coo.
The trio was very much enjoying their time off, for lack of a better phrase to use. Rick was sleeping on the ground, Kine was sitting in the river, and Coo was snoring in a tree high above the former. (Hey, nobody ever said owls had to be quiet.)
It was a… unique arrangement, to be sure—but it was theirs to continue. And after all the revelations and renewed chaos of the previous month, it was nice to get back to routine.
Of course, that routine was about to be shaken up tonight.
For the fourth member of their little brigade—Gooey—was still wide awake, eyes swirling in perfect obliviousness.
Ordinarily, he'd be snoozing with the rest of his friends. In fact, he was such a Cloudcuckoolander that he could fall asleep at any time.
Today was a tad bit different, in a way he couldn't quite articulate.
(Not that he could articulate a lot of things, anyway.)
And so, here he was, staring out at nothing in particular. Asking only the biggest unsolved questions to life, such as—
I wonder how much apple juice you could drink in a single day. Can Whispy make apple juice? Does Whispy drink apple juice?
Hmm… It'd be nice to have apple juice anytime you want.
Gooey was… a very simple creature, as you could see.
Anyway, as he was staying up for no real reason in particular, something caught his eye.
A body was slowly drifting down the river. A human, to be specific.
Now, Gooey didn't know a lot about humans – the only one he knew was Adeleine, and she was one of a kind. But even he could tell that one of them showing up on Pop Star, completely out of the blue like this, was a most unusual event.
He reached out with his tongue and tapped Kine on the fin, as the sunfish happened to be sleeping in said stream. "Hey. Hey, Kine," he whispered.
Kine groaned as he stirred awake—much like the rest of Dream Land, he very much valued his beauty sleep (interruptions not appreciated). "Gooey?" he mumbled, blinking away his fatigue. "What are you…?"
"Kine. There's a new friend in the river. Come look."
"…excuse me?" The Animal Friend stumbled to his nonexistent feet—and lo and behold, there was the 'new friend' the blob had mentioned, approaching his position at a steady pace.
"Well, I'll be," he said, bemused. "There really is a guy floating along. How… sudden."
He swam over to the unconscious individual and inspected his appearance. He had relatively short proportions, comparable to Adeleine in her more adolescent days, and his face was noticeably more cartoony than hers ever was. He wore a tennis-themed black beanie, a black leather jacket, and a black-and-blue striped jumpsuit—
—and much to the sunfish's alarm, there was a chained metal cuff attached to his leg.
He's—He's not an escaped prisoner, is he? he wondered. That clothing can't just be a fashion statement…
"Gooey, keep watch over him," the senior Dream Lander ordered. "Make sure he doesn't try any funny business. I'm waking up Rick and Coo."
The blob stuck out his tongue happily. "Okay!"
Kine hopped out of the river and over to his two compatriots. By this point, Rick was sprawling and fidgeting as he tried to get comfortable; Coo, meanwhile, was snoring even louder than he had already been.
He started by shooting plungers at the owl, since he was too high up to nudge away. One happened to stick onto his face, causing him to panic and unceremoniously crash to the ground. "W-Wah—!"
He lifted his head and shot his fellow Star Ally a withering expression. "Kine, what the heck!? I'm trying to sleep here! Have you gone mad!?"
"Sorry, Coo, but we've got a situation on our hands." The aquatic dweller went over to Rick and gently shook him with his fins. "You and Rick need to see this, trust me."
Coo looked indignant. "Oh, and you couldn't have woken me up the way you're doing Rick over there!?"
"I'm a fish, buddy. I can't exactly fly to you. I don't have wings."
"Even still, there's about a dozen other methods to try first! Surely, one of them'll be more painless than—freaking plungers!"
"Jeez, mates, heck are you two goin' on about…?" Slowly, the hamster rolled to his feet and rubbed his eyes. "I was havin' a nice dream 'bout that barbie from last month…"
"Kine just sent me spiraling from my tree!" the violet bird immediately protested. "And he's being absolutely rude about it, too! Rick, tell 'im how unacceptable that is! This is bird abuse, I tell you, bird abuse!"
A brief moment of silence passed.
Rick turned to Kine and raised an eyebrow. "Okaaaaaaay… so—Kine, what's the news? Do we have to deal with those cultists again, or is this somethin' else?"
"Hey! Don't you ignore me, too!"
The sounds of Gooey's slurping soon disrupted their conversation. The trio moved to face the blob—and bore witness to him nonchalantly licking the young stranger's cheek, all thoughts of their earlier dispute completely forgotten.
"…wha—wha—when did he get there!?" Coo gawked. "And without us noticing!?"
"Whoa, blokes," Rick said, somewhat in awe—"that's—that's a human, ain't it?"
"Yep. That's who we're dealing with tonight," Kine confirmed. He jumped back into the river and waded back to the still unconscious figure, gesturing for the others to follow. "C'mon, we better get him to dry land. I'd do it by myself, but… you get the idea."
"Already on it, mate."
"Don't have to tell me twice…"
Working together, the Animal Buddies managed to hoist the (now clearly identifiable as a) teenage male out of the water and onto the grass. It was pretty easy, all things considered—even barring their semi-unusual levels of strength, the guy weighed barely anything.
(A little concerning, given Kirby's own ratio of cuteness to combat ability.)
"And here I thought our forest wouldn't be gettin' any more surprise visitors," the hamster mentioned. "This year might be more extra-excitin' than we had expected, eh?"
"Tell me about it," the owl replied, now significantly less grumpy. To Kine, he remarked, "Y'know, Kine, you could've just told me that we had another human roaming around. Contrary to popular belief, I'm not that much of a sleepyhead!"
"I know," the sunfish admitted. He smirked. "But that wouldn't be as fun now, would it?"
Coo snorted—though Kine's reply was certainly very provoking, they'd been friends long enough that neither held any real malice toward the other. "I'll be sure to pay you back with interest later, then. There's a lotta things I can drop on your head without warning, pal."
"And my reaction time hasn't gotten any worse in over twenty years. Take your best shot, Coo."
"Oh, you bet I will!"
Finally, after a few more minutes of waiting for their guest to rouse…
"Ooh, he's awake," Gooey drooled. "Look, everybody, he's awake."
"Better late than never," Rick chimed in. He put a paw on the teen's shoulder and shook it a bit. "Hey, mate. You okay? You've been out of it for quite a while."
The beanie-wearing boy lazily opened his eyes.
It took him a few seconds to register this action even occurring.
"…huh. I'm… alive."
He stared in silence at the sky, before sighing in an almost disappointed way. "Well, what do you know? I can't even die right. What a sorry state I've fallen into."
Okay, this guy clearly had all the hang-ups in the world, holy crap.
He sat up and tiredly glanced about; it was telling how exhausted he barely raised an eyebrow at the cartoon creatures surrounding him. "So, you're the ones who found me?"
Kine nodded. "That's correct. We're the best-known trio of Animal Buddies: Rick, Coo—" The hamster and owl waved their paw and wing, respectively. "—and then there's me, Kine. Oh, and we can't forget Gooey, the 'lil guy who spotted you."
"Hi," the blob gladly introduced himself. "I'm Gooey. I like fish, and fairies, and friendship. It's nice to meet you." He stared right into his deadened eyes and blinked in curiosity. "You look alone. And troubled, too. That's no way for anyone to live."
"Hmm… you're pretty astute." He closed his eyes and breathed. "I'm Ryoma Hoshi. I was called the Ultimate Tennis Pro. I should be dead, but… I guess fate has a different story for me."
"Must be one heck of a story," Rick frowned. "Well, we're no stranger to the weird and the wild, so how 'bout you tell us how you got here? We've got all night."
"Says you…" Coo grumbled.
"You sure?" he chuckled lowly. "It's not a tale for the faint of heart."
"We've gotta start from somewhere," Kine shrugged. "And besides, it can't be all that bad, even with the mention of death."
"Pal, you have no idea…"
Ryoma's story was… not exactly what the Animal Buddies were expecting.
After Void Termina and all the revelations that came with him (especially in relation to Kirby), they had believed that they'd seen the worst the universe had to offer.
Apparently, they had been mistaken.
Wherever Ryoma had come from, it was a world with morals more pitch black than Zero.
A Killing Game? Motives to kill? Class Trials of endless despair and distrust? Being brutally executed for being forced to submit to their captor's wishes?
"I take back what I said," Kine flinched. "Dear NOVA, this makes Hyness sound sane by comparison."
"This 'game' is, bar none, the most despicable thing I've ever heard," Coo hissed, eye twitching wildly. "If I knew where your world was, I'd be gearing up for the mother of all rescues!"
"Not alone, I'd hope," Rick said, all traces of merriment gone from his features. "I'm more than happy to join you on that—and all the other Star Allies, too…"
NOVA knows Kirby, bless his bleeding heart, would love to crash that particular party in spectacular fashion. In fact, the Animal Buddies would probably have to hold him back from outright torching the place.
"…I don't get it," Gooey stated, tilting his head. "This game doesn't seem very fun. What's wrong with simply doing friendship-y things instead?"
Ryoma snorted. "Just another mystery for the ages, I guess."
He laid back against a tree and closed his eyes. "Everyone else is gonna have a bad time next morning," he remembered. "If Kirumi did her job right, I reckon they won't find my body 'til the magic show tomorrow. That seems like the most opportune time, in my opinion."
Equally as concerning was how casually the formerly-dead student was speaking of his own murder. Even after facing off against the darkest of the dark (and the oddest of the odd), the Star Allies were never this nonchalant about things.
And between the all the members, they'd seen apocalypses, alive artistry, villains-turned-demons-turned-heroes, color-splashed shenanigans…
"I still can't believe she'd do something like that, her people be danged," the owl muttered. "Even on his worst day, Dedede would strive for about a dozen other solutions instead!"
His hamster-y friend was in agreement. "Say what you will about his conduct ten years ago; at least he had morals."
Ryoma hummed, though he seemed mostly lost in his own thoughts. "After that… If Kirumi wins, then twelve Ultimates will die 'cause of me. If she loses, a whole country could be potentially be placed in peril. Either way… I'll probably become an even worse murderer than I already am."
The Animal Buddies caught on to his reference.
"It won't be your fault," Kine said firmly. "This Kirumi lady, she shouldn't be considering murder as a viable solution at all. And Monokuma sounds like a butt in general." He walked over to the Tennis Pro and placed a fin on his shoulder. "If there's anything I've learned from living in Dream Land, it's that you can't blame yourself for things outta your control. So… don't."
"What Kine said!" Coo flapped his wings and looked at Ryoma sternly. "I don't want any more of that self-deprecating stuff, y'hear?"
"You're here now. You've become our friend, too," the Dark Matter blob affirmed confidently. "Nothing can take that away. Not if don't want it to be."
"…even after all I've told you, you're not gonna run?" Ryoma took in a breath. "Huh. I… don't know what to say."
Rick shrugged, his laidback demeanor coming back. "That's just how we roll, mate. We make friends first and figure things out later." He patted the quartet's newest guest on the back. "And, well—you look like you could use a friend."
"…I see." They didn't judge, nor did they condemn. They had conviction, and refused to be stymied by perceived barriers.
Maybe… Maybe they were exactly what Ryoma needed in his (second) life, after everything.
"If you're willing to accommodate me, then… I suppose I could stay with you guys for a while."
"Yaaaaaaaay," Gooey cheered, tongue wiggling about in the air.
"That's ace!" the hamster beamed. "In that case, since we're not gettin' any sleep tonight—"
"No thanks to Kine," Coo sniped.
Kine blew him a raspberry.
"—then we might as well show you 'round the Great Forest! Chuchu, Pitch, and Nago'd love to meet you—and we've got a load of other pals hangin' here, too. C'mon!" Rick leaped to his feet and marched toward the forest depths. "Time's a wastin'!"
"Heh." Ryoma let a small smile come into being. "Not like I have a whole lot else to do… sure, I'm game."
"Don't worry," the sunfish laughed, "you'll get used to Dream Land in no time. We may be eccentric, but we don't live in a World of Peace for nothing."
"I'll take your word for it."
Castle Dedede – Dedede's Bedroom
A familiar tune began to ring from Dedede's Star Phone.
The drowsy king moved his hand to hover over his bedside's countertop. He brought it down to grab his phone—and missed it, due to his lethargic state.
"Whuh?" he mumbled, barely cognizant. "Could've sworn it was here… mmm…"
As he continued his somewhat fruitless mission, the incessant ringtone was disturbing Kirby and Bandana Dee's rest, the former having decided to sleep over for a while (what with the whole interdimensional visitor thing going on).
Kirby groaned and stuffed his pillow in his face. For once, his ability to instantaneously clock out hadn't kicked in, much to his chagrin.
"Dedede, make it stop!" he whined. "I have so many cakes to dream about!"
Bandana Dee tossed and turned as he tried to get comfortable. "Uuuuuuuuuuuh…! No, Great King…" he murmured dreamily. "D-Don't eat that roasted walnut… I want it…"
"I'm on it, I'm on it…"
Several more attempts later, he succeeded in grasping his phone with some semblance of consciousness. He tapped the 'Accept Call' button and tiredly raised it to his ear. "Hello, this is King Dedede speaking."
"Dedede. We need to talk."
Hearing that voice—deep and serious, with traces of a long-built fondness beneath—instantly wiped away the sleep from Dedede's eyes. "M-Meta Knight! You're still up at this time of night?"
This loud revelation sent the puffball and assistant springing onto their best friend's bed in shock.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, Meta Knight's calling!?" Kirby exclaimed, wide-eyed.
"I—I thought he was still on that t-training trip with his crew!" Bandana Dee said, similarly gobsmacked.
The now-identified Lone Swordsman let out a satisfied hum. "Good—Kirby and Dee are with you, too. They're gonna want to hear this latest development as well."
Dedede put his phone on speaker and frowned. "I'd say this better be worth it, but I know you'd never call me—us—like this without a good reason." He sat up and gripped his device more firmly. "Alright, Meta Knight. Lay it on us. What's the deal, and how big of a party do you need?"
Battleship Halberd – Holding Cells
"It's nothing as dire as last month, thankfully," Meta Knight replied as smoothly as ever, "and certainly nothing that requires a thirteen-strong intervention. However, it is concerning nevertheless—and I don't believe in it simply being happenstance."
"Coming from you, that's saying a lot," Kirby's voice echoed from the Star Phone. "Judging by our own recent experiences, I'm… going to take a gander and guess that you've been greeted by an unexpected guest of your own."
"Hmph." His eyes twinkled from behind his mask. "I suspected you had an inkling of what was going on."
It had been a decent couple of weeks for Meta Knight.
As it turned out, taking a round trip across Pop Star was just what he needed to cleanse his palette after the Star Allies' latest adventure. It didn't hurt that it was a good excuse to get some training in, too.
His satisfaction best showed in the results: the Halberd had achieved a hassle-free flight (for once), his troops' skill level had seen noticeable improvements, and overall, he was feeling very refreshed.
…which was why this incident occurring didn't do his mind any favors.
"Allow me to explain. Half an hour ago, my night guards discovered an intruder in the Halberd and activated the alarms. When I arrived, there was a girl attacking several of my troops with a broom—and holding out rather well."
He briefly stopped to grimace. That had not been fun to stumble onto.
"Thankfully, I managed to subdue her in very little time—but her appearance and her behavior were comparable to a Soul Boss. The mindless rage on her face… I've scarcely seen anything like it."
Meta Knight cast a glimpse at the holding cell close by. She glowered intensely at him, in a way that would most certainly frighten anyone with a lesser will. In fact, it was unsettling to the Meta-Knights set to guard her; they were doing their best to keep their gazes as far away from hers as possible.
"I'd show you with a Video Call, but… I think you'd prefer to be able to keep sleeping tonight. Trust me on that."
Dedede audibly shivered on the other end. "Doesn't sound like any Broom Hatter I've met," he said—"or Brianna, for that matter."
"T-Talk about scary, too!" Bandana Dee gulped. "I—I know I wouldn't want to be the f-f-first witness th-there…!"
"In any case, she calls herself Kirumi Tojo, with her profession being the 'Ultimate Maid'. And 'Prime Minister of Japan', as the case may be." The dubious undertones of Meta Knight's voice couldn't be missed. "She refuses to hear me out, though I have gotten her to calm down from her… manic state. Seeing as you three seem to have an idea what is going on, I think it would be prudent to discuss this new situation, lest we be caught off-guard again. Have you learned any details from your own visitors?"
Kirby, King Dedede, and Bandana Dee glanced at each other worriedly. "…you could say that, yeah," the puffball reluctantly answered.
"Dear NOVA… I can already tell—I'm not going to like what I'm about to hear, am I?"
"No. No, you won't."
The story, to the best of the trio's knowledge, was retold in detail to the vacationing knight. The Killing Game Semester as a whole; Kaede and Rantaro's backstories; their showing up near Kirby's house and in Dedede's library, respectively… none of it went untouched.
"…and here I thought the actions of the Haltmann Works Company was as despicable as you could get." Their absent friend sounded as if he needed an aspirin – and honestly, none of the core Star Allies could blame him. "Our planet truly is a magnet for the strange. It's an unpredictable nexus of fate, even."
"Th-That's the understatement of the century!" said the self-proclaimed Assistant of the Stars. "You could make a drinking game b-based on what we get into—with, uh, s-soda or something! Th-There'd be lots of soda!"
Dedede sniggered. "Yep. And the ensuing sugar rush would be insane. We'd probably wake up to Dream Land on fire. Or in Another Dimension; one of those two."
Meta Knight cleared his breath. "Back on topic… As this situation is still developing, it is prudent for us to meet up to further discuss our plans of action. I expect us to return to Orange Ocean by tomorrow morning—and from there, I believe your castle would best serve as the host for our conference. I assume these are acceptable conditions?"
"You got it!"
"If G-Great King says yes, then—y-yes!"
"Then it's settled."
A small smile practically radiated off the Lone Swordsman. "I look forward to seeing everybody again," he admitted. "These last two weeks have been good for the soul, but no individual moment can match the time I spend with you three."
"Awwwwwwww—love you too, buddy!" Kirby audibly grinned. "Well, we better get back to sleep. If we're gonna meet up, we might as well do so fully energized."
"Wh-What he said!" Bandana Dee cheered. "He who sleeps another d-day will… umm… uhh… be good at doing things that same day, I—I guess!"
Dedede laughed heartily. "That's as close to the proper saying as we're gonna get. Alright—have a good night, Meta Knight."
"You too, my friends."The warrior ended the call there, and silence returned to the holding cell area.
"Are you done?"
Meta Knight turned to face his temporary prisoner, and took stock of her appearance again.
She was decently tall and thin, and had short, sandy blonde hair kept in place by a black headdress. True to her claims, her uniform was distinctively that of a maid, what with the black apron and the white dress beneath it. A white frilly shirt, purple tie, and black ringed gloves further complemented her outfit's theming—though her implied elegance was a bit ruined by the harsh glare in her lime-colored eyes.
"I am," he confirmed, putting his Star Phone away.
The two stared at one another in a silent clash of wills.
The Dream Lander was the first to break the silence. "…I'm not going to hurt you, if that is what you were fearing."
She scoffed, clearly not believing him.
"I mean it. I follow a knight's code of honor—and though I've had to bend it in the past, I've never strayed far from its spirit."
Her glare, if possible, seemed to intensify.
Meta Knight unwrapped himself from his cape. "Let's try this again. Tell me, why are you acting so hostile? I understand that your arrival was sudden, but even so, your reaction was far too extreme to be normal. What exactly happened to you during this Killing Game?"
"…I have a duty to my people."
"What?" That came out of left field.
Kirumi clenched her hands into fists. "I have a duty to my people. To protect them from all that would endanger them; to bring joy unto their every face. This is the code I myself follow, one that I have selflessly devoted myself to time and time again. And yet, I am being prevented from continuing to follow it—by you."
"Everything I've done has been in service of the greater good. But though you claim to have a similar level of integrity, here you are, treating me like a—an undignified prisoner! You call yourself a knight, locking me up like this…? There's no honor in any of this!"
She violently threw herself against the bars, startling the other Meta-Knights in attendance.
"Don't you understand what's at stake!? There is a crisis going on! Everyone's lives back home, I carry on my shoulders! I don't have the luxury of waiting around and praying that everything will be okay! That is why I must do what I must do!"
Her face grew increasingly redder, and her hair became wild and untangled. She was screaming herself hoarse, desperate in her struggle to get her way.
"I survived my execution! I was given a second chance! I have a responsibility to do what's right, no matter who I must sacrifice in the process! So I refuse—I refuse to surrender to this self-righteousness of yours! Do you hear me!? I REFUSE!"
True to form, Meta Knight stayed stalwart in the face of her fury.
He waited for her to catch her breath before he spoke up again.
"…are you done?" he bluntly asked.
Kirumi paused. "I—!"
"It appears to me that you are in quite the delusional state," he went on, disregarding her attempts to reply. "Furthermore, said delusions are prohibiting you from realizing the truth: that you are not on your homeworld, and—though you may be your country's head of state—you are under our jurisdiction now."
"…what?" The wind seemed to be knocked entirely out of her sails.
"There is no Japan here for you to return to. And there is certainly no turning a blind eye to the crimes you have committed." He shot a sharp look at the Ultimate Maid, making her scoot back. "The only reason I haven't passed judgement on you yet is because that isn't up to me—it's up to Kirby and King Dedede.
"For your sake, I hope that there is a glimmer of a good person behind that despair of yours. Because if there isn't… then I'm afraid your fate will be very grim indeed."
He spun around and began to walk away.
"Meta-Knights. I am entrusting her to your care. Make sure she doesn't do anything rash before we reach our destination tomorrow."
"Leave it to us, sir!"
He continued on his way, leaving Kirumi behind to stew in her thoughts. As he placed a considerable distance between him and her cell, he couldn't help but sigh at what he had gotten himself into.
"Dear NOVA… was I ever like that when I commandeered the Halberd? I'd recognize such single-minded determination anywhere…"
He shook his head. "…I'll think about it later. Tomorrow will be a big day—it's best I get rested up."
"Kaede, Rantaro, Kirumi…" Dedede counted off. "…and one more unknown on top of that." He laid back in his bed and hummed disconcertedly. "Four out of sixteen Ultimates gone, and it hasn't even been a week since Kaede arrived."
"We've sure got our work cut out for us," Kirby chimed in, his voice a little more wistful than usual. "I'd love to go and figure out where their Ultimate Academy is, but—it's better to take things one at a time."
"It's okay. It's okay!" Bandana Dee belted out, trying to keep himself calm. "We—We can d-do this! If we w-work together, then there's—there's no one we can't turn into a friend!"
He hoisted his covers over his body. "T-Tomorrow, we should probably see where the o-other new guy went. I hope they're not far; it'd s-suck if we had to go a-all the way to White—White Wafers to get 'em!"
The regent smiled, as did the pink puffball. "Attaboy, Dee. Attaboy."
"Yeah!" Kirby agreed. "Worst comes to worst, we can always try using the Dimensional Mirror! I'm sure Adeleine and co. won't mind their vacation being interrupted a bit…"
This chapter's title is derived from the lyrics to Oktavia's cover of Rats Died.
It's been a while, hasn't it?
To absolutely nobody's surprise, the other Star Allies are gonna get to join in the fun as well. It'd be weird if they didn't show up, given how many Ultimates'll be ending up on Pop Star.
Each new victim or blackened will be arriving close to one of Kirby's cherished friends on Pop Star (or a group of them; it'll depend on the situation). This is primarily to diversify the possible interactions between both parties – it's a crossover, I might as well take advantage of that!
For this arc, I decided to have Ryoma end up with the Animal Buddies—in one of the Great Forest's pools of water, because I love me some irony. They're pretty down to earth, so they'll be good for his way-too-depressed psyche. And it's a good excuse to give 'em more screentime, anyway.
Meanwhile, Kirumi is starting out in Meta Knight's terrain: given her… state of mind at the end of DRV3's second chapter, she'd need someone who can really bring her back to her senses. Meta Knight's pretty rational and he's an experienced leader himself. He's no Kirby or Dedede, sure, but he sure can get things started for her.
Well, that's all for now – tune in next time for when Kaede and co. get quite the rude awakening!