A/N: Spoils the solution to a Friend Heart puzzle in the DL2 Animal Friends section of Heroes in Another Dimension. And yes, I'm talking about THAT one.

"Blimey! How in Planet Popstar are we goin' ta' get all tha way up there?"

Rick's concern was not an unfounded one.

The problem that he and his allies were facing appeared to be rudimentary at first glance — a key and a locked door. Sounded simple enough, right? It seemed as though all one needed to do to solve the issue on hand was to simply fit the key into the keyhole and open the door.

As simple as 1+1=2, wasn't it?

Well, it was just too bad that the laws of physics—and thus as a consequence, reality as well—didn't quite apply in the place that the crew of four were traversing in at the moment — Another Dimension. And while the subject was being broached, math probably broke in here too… one would probably require the usage of advanced calculus to solve '1+1=?' equations in this weird realm.

Case in point: the locked door scenario. In a practical world, opening the door would simply require a person to have the key with them and stand in front of the door to undo the lock.

Too bad Another Dimension was anything but a practical world.

As such, the ones who'd locked the door forgot to build a ledge at the doorway… leaving the edge of the doorframe literally suspended above thin air, as though it was some door of destiny out of a fantasy novel.

…unless it was actually made this way deliberately, in which case the Ancients were probably hollering and laughing their butts off at the confused crew of four while muttering something that probably went along the lines of, "Heh, did you see my prank? One side of the door leads to thin air! Yep, good luck to the poor fools who want to open this door from that side in the future!"

But whether it was deliberate or not, said door was still very much out of reach to the four heroes gazing upon it from a height of about two floors below. Which was a major problem, you see, considering that it had three collectible Friend Hearts kept within, taunting those outside from inside their locked cage.

"Gosh!" Kine tilted his head up, his mouth widening as the oceanic creature admired the unusual sight with awe. "You don't see that every day."

"I'll say." Coo agreed with a swift nod of his head. "The most likely explanation for this confounded mess is that the ledge by the door above has crumbled into its elementary particles over time." He held his wing to his beak, tapping it as he gruffed in frustration. "Though I'll say that this has caused quite the inconvenience…"

"Especially as there are Friend Hearts locked in there." Kirby was quick to point that out while gazing forlornly at the key lying on the ground, the puffball running through his head to try and decide on the best way to approach the situation. "It means we have to open that door."

There was silence for a moment as the four pondered their minds and racked their brains as to how they were going to get the key to a physically impossible location.

Coo unconsciously bristled as he felt everyone's eyes falling onto his figure. "Oh no you don't! I know what you sneaky braggarts are thinking. Well, don't even consider it, not even for a darn second! I starchily refuse!" The owl hastily waved his wings to deny his friends the possibility which he knew was brewing on their minds.

"But why not?" Kine had his mouth wide open in surprise — wider than the usual dopey expression that the sunfish usually had plastered on his face, at least. "I mean, you're definitely the one who's best suited for the task!"

"Perhaps…" Coo murmured, shifting his talons uneasily as he glanced up to the blasted obstacle above, which as much as the all-knowing owl was loathe to admit it, mystified him. "Maybe you can't visualize this as you aren't a creature of the skies," he told Kine, "but you can't seriously expect an avian like me to fly in such a reckless manner!"

Coo reached down to the key and picked it up with one wing, waving his free wing erratically to prove his point. "I'll have to use one wing to stay airborne while carrying this confounded key with my other wing… as you can see, it's an impossible handicap! If I ever attempted this foolhardy stunt, I'll fall into the abyss of Another Dimension and end up being lost to the void forever!"

His face turned grumpy when he saw Rick and Kine snickering at his concern. Evidently, they didn't quite understand. "Come on now, fellas! I'm not exaggerating!" the owl insisted, throwing the key back down to the ground as he gestured a wing towards the empty void that lay below the yellow platforms that the four were currently standing on.

"You think that I'm some sort of miracle worker? Heh, you overestimate my abilities! I wasn't kidding when I said that I'll fall straight into the chasm under me if you make me do this! If you still doubt me so much, well… do you wish to experience the feeling of careening into that darkness forever yourself?"

Coo huffed when he saw the hamster and sunfish briefly contemplate his spoken scenario and decide that the answer to that was unanimous. "Yeah, I thought so," he gloated. "I would think not, wouldn't you agree? In that case, trust me when I say that I adamantly cannot take flight with only a single wing! Find some other way to get your key up there!"

Kirby cheekily grinned at his owl friend, puffing himself up and floating slightly before exhaling and somersaulting back down to the ground. "To be perfectly fair, you have to worry about falling to your demise the least of them all! I mean, you have the power of flight on your side, Coo!"

Coo preened at the praise, pecking his lavender feathers with his beak. "Ah, yes. That is true, Kirby. I'll concede that much…"

"And yet ya still can't fly while carryin' a bloomin' key." Rick deadpanned. "Master of tha air, my hind!"

"Oh, is that the case?" Coo huffed at Rick, slightly upset. "Then perhaps you'd like to suggest a better alternative?"

The silence that followed Coo's retort was only broken by a NESP enemy materializing and firing off a psychic orb of energy, one that didn't get very far before the launcher of the projectile ended up in Kirby's mouth.

The newly powered-up ESP Kirby grinned vicariously. "So, if I can't float and Coo can't fly while carrying the key, we need some other way to open the door. Let's brainstorm this out, shall we? We'll probably have to think outside the box to solve this one, just like how we used to do it in the good ol' days!"

Coo's beak fell. "Just like the old days? You mean like with the Rainbow Drops?" he muttered with disdain.

"Or tha Heart Stars?" Rick grimaced, the hamster involuntarily shuddering and clenching his eyes shut as painful thoughts of scaling a mountain in Cloudy Park to meet with his significant other—why Pick had asked for a date up there of all places, he'd never know—returned from the fog of his darkest memories. It wasn't even the first time in the past that Kirby had challenged him to duke it out in Coo's usual forte just for the sake of nabbing a collectible — the Rainbow Drop in Red Canyon predated it.

"Or the Crystal Shards?" Kine shivered, literally freezing ice around himself. "Gosh, I heard from Adeleine that you had trouble gathering those!"

Kirby's eye twitched at Kine's words. "Hey, don't put words in my mouth!" he cautiously warned. "You guys weren't even there on that occasion — Ribbon and I had to tank that one! All seventy-four shards of that thing!" He shuddered. "Yeesh, never again."

Coo sighed as he looked up to the suspended door. "Well, I guess it's time to rack our brain cells again. Any ideas on how to get the key up to the door, gentlemen?"

"I know!" Kine's eyes lit up, the fish excitedly hopping about. "Let's balance the key on top of Kirby's forehead! That way, Coo will have his wings free so that he can fly up while Kirby puffs himself and float upwards with him. Then, all Coo has to do is to simply grab the key from the top of Kirby's head and huzzah… the door's open!"

"I'll say, that idea doesn't actually sound half bad, Kine." Coo raised his wing to his beak, appearing to consider the plan.

Kirby shook his head with a smile. "Ah, but there's a problem there." The puffball raised his arms and made a circular shape with them. "I'm round. Things placed on round objects aren't stable. Unfortunately, the key would quickly fall outside my center of gravity and roll off my head while I ascend, falling back down below and putting us right back at square one."

"Oh." Kine said in disappointment, upset that his idea had been shot down.

"So much for dat, huh?" Rick snorted. "Who would've thought dat yer puffiness would work against ya for once, Kirby?" he added as a joke.

"Oi!" Kirby folded his arms, glaring at his gerbil friend with a playful glower. "Careful there, Rick! My puffiness is off-limits for jokes!"

Coo furrowed his brow inquisitively at Kirby. "So… out of curiosity, what's your Puffiness value as of now?" he asked.

Kirby shrugged, giving a non-committal reply in return. "That's a good one, y'know. Haven't faced Computer Virus in a while. I'll check it out some time later."

"Say, 'bout puffiness…" Rick started, shooting a passing glance towards Kine. "How 'bout we get Kine to bounce up ta' tha door with the key? I hear dat fish can jump pretty high outta water."

"D-D-Don't look at me like that!" Kine cried, the downcast fish looking down to the glowing yellow floor. "I'm not a flying fish! You guys can't possibly expect me to flop all the way up to that door! It's like, at least five meters off the ground!"

"Then how do ya propose we get dat blasted key up there?" Rick complained, glancing up to the locked door that was taunting them from its locale. "Why, there're a couple of Friend Hearts in there, mate! We can't just ignore tha trophy ahead of us and simply carry on with our merry way!" He gazed up at the door with mild contempt. "There's gotta be some way ta' open dat blasted door!"

"Well, don't look at me!" Kine indignantly cried in response, sadly shaking his head.

Rick scowled, the normally jolly hamster getting visibly agitated. "Hey! There's no need to put a damper on tha situation, ya know? At least some of us are tryin' ta' figure this out!"

Kine didn't reply. Instead, he idly hopped about on his fin, a distinct frown on his face when he realized that he could pose literally no help to solve their current conundrum.

While Kine and Rick were having a stare-down below, Coo was stubbornly flinging razor-sharp feathers at the door, reluctantly giving up when the owl saw that he couldn't even put a single dent into it.

Elegantly twirling about in the air, he then flew back down. "Well, I'm back. It appears that my Cutters don't quite work," Coo informed as he touched down, interrupting the growing feud below. "So, did you two come up with anything, perchance?"

The icy glare Rick shot him was answer enough.

Ever the mediator, Coo calmly spoke as the situation slowly grew tense. "You know, hate to be the bearer of bad news, but all this arguing is getting us nowhere fast."

Coo's blunt comment was like a blade piercing through armor. It struck the others right to the core.

"Ya know… yer actually right. I'm sorry for tha temper…" Rick apologized, lowering his head in shame of letting his anger control him. "It's just…" he began, attempting to justify his actions, "…it's been so long since I've had ta' deal with an annoying puzzle like this dat I forgot just how much they drove me up the wall last time!"

Kirby jolted at the words, a contagious grin slowly spreading across his figure. "Wait, I get it now!" he smiled, a brainwave hitting him full-force. "Thanks for the reminder, Rick!"

"Uh… 'kay? Nice ta' see dat I somehow managed ta' help ya…?" A befuddled Rick cocked his head at Kirby's thanks, prompting the puffball to elaborate on.

"Teamwork!" Kirby's eyes gleamed as he emphasized the word. "Loads of those old puzzles all required teamwork to solve! Perhaps if we work as a team, we'll be able to conquer this obstacle together!"

"Ah, yes!" Coo squinted his eyes, the owl falling deep in thought. "I can't deny that one. All three of us had to use our abilities for you to get Cloudy Park's Rainbow Drop, if I recall."

"I remember that too!" Kine gasped. "That one took forever to figure out, but it was so satisfying when we got it!"

"Oi, oi, it was!" Rick grinned ravenously. "I agree with ya, Kirby! Perhaps we all oughta think 'bout this from a different angle!" He pursed his lips, tapping his foot impatiently as he held his head high in thought.

"Say, Kirby… maybe ya can use dat newfangled Copy Ability to levitate tha key up to dat there door?" he finally suggested.

Kirby sighed, shaking his head. "No can do, Rick. These keys are made of metal. I can only levitate earth-like ore objects with ESP, not metallic ones. I hate to admit it, but I'm not that apt with telekinesis."

"Even for something as small as a key?" Kine questioned, his eyes brimming with curiosity. It wasn't often that Kirby gave up on something without at least making an attempt at it.

"Yep, yep. Tried it before." Kirby adjusted the comfortable blue cap on his head, doffing the hat slightly. "Blast those Halcandrans… they made these keys from a special alloy that's impervious to virtually all psychic and incorporeal abilities. Seriously, even if I were to bust out Ghost Ability and try to float up while lifting the key, I would fail as I'm unable to grab ahold of it… the thing has to be physically carried by hand!"

"How annoyin'!" Rick mumbled, before tilting his head at Kirby. "Say, wait a sec… did ya just say dat ya can move rocks with yer ability?"

Kirby nodded. "That's right!" he confirmed, buzzing off a brief flash of psychic energy with Psychokinesis. "Why do you ask?"

"Ya know, I happen ta' have an idea. A mighty fine one, if I don't say so myself!"

Kirby, Coo, and Kine all looked towards Rick, the hamster's bold statement instantly capturing their attention.

Rick merely grinned in response, strutting towards Kirby before curling into a ball and briefly transforming into a huge boulder. The hamster uncurled himself from his stone form after a brief moment, letting the display speak for itself.

"Ah… that's right! I get it now! Geokinesis!" Kirby slapped his forehead while seeing Coo and Kine nod from the sidelines. "I'd done it before with Rockys, but I can't believe it slipped my mind that you have a Stone transformation as well. Yes, I can totally lift you up to the door with ESP!"

"But just like ya, I'm mighty round as well in my Stone form." Rick appeared briefly uncomfortable at the admission, rubbing his plump belly with a paw self-consciously. "So someone needs to be on top of me when Kirby lifts me up, or else dat key will just fall right off!"

"Not to fret… I'll do it!" Coo reached for the key before pouncing onto Rick's back. With a thumbs-up, Rick then transformed into his boulder form, with Coo perched precariously on top of him.

Kirby walked up to the duo, winking at Rick and Coo. "So, is it Friend Ability time?" he prompted.

"Alrighty, Kirby! Let it rip!" Coo called out in affirmation, signaling to Kirby that he and Rick were ready to go.

"Affirmative, Coo!" Kirby closed his eyes to focus, raising a translucent purple ball of psychic energy above him. It rapidly grew in size, encompassing the entirety of the two Animal Friends as Rick's stone form fell under the influence of ESP Kirby's telekinesis powers.

Kirby opened his eyes, tentatively moving an arm and grinning with joy when he saw Rick and Coo moving alongside his hand movement.

Geokinesis was a resounding success. The glee on his face was echoed by Coo and Kine — probably Rick too, if the hamster wasn't currently suspended off the air in his Stone form.

Kirby brought his arms up, trying to shift the flying boulder towards the mid-air door with as much finesse as he could. He knew that he had to be careful — one wrong swipe of his arm and his two pals would be sent careening off to who knows where. He'd much rather avoid that scenario.

But it was then that Kirby encountered a problem. Namely, that of the hamster's weight.

The puffball grimaced, beginning to struggle to hold up the combined cluster that was Rick and Coo. It didn't help that they were still at least two meters shy of the door… two additional meters of height that they needed to gain through propulsion from his psychic abilities.

Kirby let out a shaky breath, a trickle of sweat flowing down his cheek as he began to regret his hastiness in accepting Rick's plan. He should have analyzed the extenuating factors more — during previous Geokinesis sessions, the Rockys were not as heavy, they didn't have an additional owl perched on them to add to the weight, and he didn't have to lift them up as high.

He worriedly glanced at the aloof Rick and Coo above, oblivious to his struggles down below. Frankly, he wasn't sure if he could spare them that much energy.

"Are you okay, Kirby?"

Kirby let out a shaky breath in response. "Kine… I think you might want to move outta the way!" he tepidly warned. "I'm not sure how much more I can hold… them… uppp!"

Running out of energy at the last word, Kirby had no choice but to halt his Geokinesis, letting a surprised Rick and Coo abruptly fall back down to earth, landing in a crumpled heap by the ground.

Coo raised a wing to his forehead, fending off his dizziness as shakily he got to his feet. "Ohhh, my aching head…" he groaned as he rubbed his temple. Turning to the boulder that had clipped his wings, Coo scowled. "Confound it all, I should have known that this would have never worked from the start!"

"Why, ya…" Rick hissed at Coo's tactless remark as he uncurled from his Stone form. "I thought dat it was decent! It was yer fault, Coo! If ya hadn't fell, we would've unlocked tha door for sure!"

"Oh, so you're putting the blame on me now?" Coo rolled his eyes. "Just because I happened to lose my balance?"

Rick put his paws to his waist. "That's right, ya clumsy oaf!"

"Geez…" Kirby muttered under his breath as the argument between Rick and Coo devolved into a shouting match. He wisely decided not to tell them that him catching his breath was the real reason they had fallen. "Man, I wish I didn't let them fall. It must have really hit them both really hard to be so close and falter at the finish line. Gah, I should've brought along something like Wing Ability. It would've worked wonders for this, much better than how ESP is faring for me right now, at the very least…"

Kine could only nod along in concurrence as the owl and hamster continued to trade subdued insults to each other out of agitation at their failed plan.

"Well, guess that's a bust." Coo turned to Kirby and Kine. "Anything else? I'm seriously considering giving up on this and coming back later with a set of abilities that's better suited to this obstacle."

Kine hopped once, making a one-eighty-degree turn as he gazed to his back. "I dunno, Coo…" he murmured with a contemplative expression, "This thing may not be here for us later. Kirby once told me that Another Dimension used to have a looming wave of darkness that chased him, eradicating everything in its path. If we give up, we might not ever be able to backtrack to this place again."

"So what yer saying is dat if we choose ta' give up, we'll be givin' up tha three Friend Hearts as well…" Rick growled, the defiant expression on the hamster's face making it clear which choice he'd rather pick.

Kirby was resolute on his decision as well. "Yeah, no go. I don't know why Friend Hearts are scattered throughout this locale… or why the portal to Another Dimension even opened up at the Jambastion Cult's Divine Terminus in the first place. But I stand firm on this after all the times that I'd to use those collectible artifacts for Dark Matter… we probably need those Friend Hearts!"

"Hoo…" the owl hooted in admiration, his lower beak falling open in surprise at Kirby's defiant declaration. "When you put it this way, you're probably right…" he sheepishly admitted. "So then, what do y'all propose? I must confess that I'm fresh out of ideas…"

Coo was interrupted by Rick pointing up to the sky, whirling around to face ESP Kirby. "Hey… didn't ya get rid of dat NESP enemy earlier?" he asked as he caught side of the esper-esque enemy wafting out a ball of psychic energy.

Kirby groaned. "Nah… they respawn. Very annoying, especially when I had to deal with a whole horde of them back in the Access Ark during the Haltmann invasion."

Rick, however, was paying Kirby no heed, instead eyeing the slowly moving projectile with a rising smirk.

"I've got it! I think dat I know how ta' unlock the door, folks!"

The looks of surprise on the other three were instantaneous. The hopeful and cautious "What?"s that came thereafter were also in sync.

Rick tsked in response, kicking at the ground as he picked up the fallen key. With an enthusiastic clap of his paws, the hamster hopped back up on a small ledge and headed back onto the path that they had been traversing earlier before running into what they were now dubbing the "who-in-Gamble-Galaxy-put-a-door-up-here" puzzle.

"Watch n' learn, ya rascals!" Rick boasted with a rambunctious grin. "This is a circus act dat y'all won't soon forget!" He leaned forward slightly in preparation for a sprint, before breaking into a run and jumping off of the ledge with a leap of faith.

The three others gaped as Rick went airborne. "Beam me up, my friends!" he yelled as he landed…

…right on the NESP's psychic ball of energy.

But instead of being damaged by it, Rick stomped on the projectile with his feet instead, bouncing off of the orb to gain more height.

The grey-cloaked NESP jerked back in shock at the sight, instantly regretting his life when he felt a very chubby hamster stomping down onto his head from the momentum that he had gained from jumping off the projectile.

And with that final push, Rick was able to clear the height needed for him to reach the same altitude as the door. His snout slammed into the door, the key in his paws magically unlocking the door upon contact.

He then fell to the ground, dusting himself off from the landing as the others stared at him with wide eyes.

There was silence for a few seconds as Rick proudly admired his handiwork, holding his paws out as an invitation for the others to speak.

Finally, Coo broke the uncomfortable silence, his words very succinct. "Verily… that makes no sense! Absolutely, positively nil! How the… j-just… how?!" The normally-serious owl was dumbfounded, finding himself at a complete loss of words for once as his head sagged downwards.

"Forgot dat I could perform a double jump off of enemies, eh?" Rick chuckled. "I mean, ta' be honest, I kinda forgot myself, but still!"

"W-Wait a minute! You can actually do something like that?" Kine asked, the fish still amazed by the display that he'd just witnessed. Although he and Rick were miles below Coo (and Pitch, for that matter) in terms of aerial maneuvers, the duo at least had some dexterity when on land.

However, the sunfish was forced to admit to himself that he would never be able to pull off the reckless stunt which he'd just witnessed Rick perform. Geez, now that was awesome.

"Hah! What did I tell ya, yer skeptical seafarer and avionic! Ya didn't trust me when I said dat I could get the key ta' the lock, eh? Well, I just so happen ta' be the master of my own domain as well! Go, me!" Rick bragged, folding his stubby arms as he proudly held his head high, admiring his handiwork as Kirby floated up to grab the Friend Hearts within.

"Alright… I heard you. Loud and clear, you landlubber…" Coo admitted as he exhaled a sigh of defeat, taking a short flight up to confirm that Kirby had indeed collected the Friend Hearts. "It seems like you've successfully beat me at my own game, Rick."

As Coo's tone of voice made his words sound more like a stealth insult than unilateral praise, an agitated Rick ended up raising his snout up towards the hovering owl. "Ya know, maybe if ya kept dat beak of yours shut more often, perhaps ya could have carried dat key in yer mouth and flew up there with both yer wings free!"

There was a stunned silence for a moment as the four friends—inclusive of Rick himself—simultaneously realized in that exact split-second that Coo gripping the key between his upper and lower beak so as to keep his wings free for flight… was actually a legitimate solution.

"Crikey…" the hamster facepalmed himself. "Please don't tell me dat what ah' just said would've actually worked out. If it does, I'd literally—"

"Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but I'm afraid to inform you that it would have most likely succeeded." Coo smirked as he cut off the irate Rick. "I am perfectly capable of flying with an object in my beak. How else can I enjoy a quick meal in the middle of a flight?"

Rick stared at Coo in shock, his eyes wide with disbelief. "Don't tell me dat yer were gonna eat tha key!" he shouted while gesturing his arms wildly about. "Ya'll choke yerself!"

"…Key? I was talking about food, Rick!" Coo extended his wingspan in exasperation. "I can discern a grub from an inedible meal, thank you very much! Do you really think that I have such bad taste when it comes to food? I must confess that I am regrettably unaware of your species' diet, but surely it's not that far off from mine!"

"Hey! Are ya implying dat my diet is made of grubs? I'm most obviously not a bird!"

"Well, keep up this attitude and you'll soon be as stubborn as an aging owl like me…"

"Hey!" Rick had fire in his eyes, taking grave offense from the last remark. "Don't ya ever call me old! I'm young at heart!"

"You're as old as I am." Coo slyly pointed out, ruffling his feathers as he sighed yearningly. "Ah, I'm beginning to age. What I would give to be a young owlet flying about Big Forest again…"

"Want ta' feel youthful? Get a girlfriend then, Coo!" Rick shot back, knocking the owl out of his reminiscence. "Like, almost every one of us is paired up except for ya. Ya need a life!"

"H-Hey! S-Stay out of my personal affairs!" Coo stuttered, something of a first for the composed owl. "I'm perfectly fine as a bachelor!"

"Dat's what they all say before becoming twitterpated…" Rick had a wry grin on his face as he approached the jumpy Coo. "And then, before ya know it—"

"Ce-cease this teasing at once, you… you fiendish little gerbil!"

Kirby could only sigh and shake his head as Rick and Coo got into another heated—though vitriolic—argument. Deciding to take his leave before he ended up being sucked into a vortex he couldn't escape from, Kirby dropped his ESP ability, gesturing a goodbye to Kine before silently continuing his walk along the linear path of Another Dimension.

He didn't make it beyond ten meters before running into a small switch. Hitting it opened up the wall and revealed a canvas portrait hanging above a door. Kirby glanced up to the picture which informed him of the next Dream Friend that would be accompanying the puffball on the perilous trek through Another Dimension.

The framed canvas showed a happy, innocuous looking lavender-purple jester wearing a cute red bowtie… with not-so-friendly yellow heart-tipped wings and glowing mirror shards protruding out from his sides.

Marx.

The hero of Dream Land visibly winced, spinning on his heel to look back at the squabbling trio of animal friends.

It was at this exact point where Kirby prudently decided that perhaps it might be worth it to stay in this locale for just a little while longer.

…even if the situation back there appeared to be quite awkward and humorous, based on bits and pieces of the conversation between his three friends that Kirby was able to discern from the distance.

"There's nothing wrong with being single! I strongly stand by this, and there's nary a thing you can do to change my mind!"

"Quit being so stubborn! Bein' attached is glorious, ya know? Why don't ya ask Kine? I mean, he already has a wife!"

"Yeah… my wife Mine is the best fish ever! To be perfectly honest, I actually think that Rick has a point about the relationship part, Coo! With a girl by your side you won't feel so lonely anymore… in fact you'll have a lovely companion together with you for life!"

"La-la-la-la-la! I'm not listening to your blatantly false propaganda, you twits!"

"Come on, now! I can tell dat yer interested — yer usual nonchalant façade's breakin' apart! By tha Stars, it's so damn obvious dat yer in denial! Ya need ta' settle down with a girl owl and let out some steam, Coo!"

"Rickkkk! Remove that blasted idea from your head right this instant! It will never happen! I adamantly refuse to seek out a mate, and none of you will ever change my mind! I'll be single till the day I drop dead!"

Kirby had a small smile on his face when he saw Rick and Kine ganging up to tease Coo about relationship issues in unison, the flustered owl covering his ears with his wings in futile response. He couldn't help but to let out a chortle while witnessing the rowdy antics of some of his oldest friends. The three had been with him through some of the toughest times in those early days, and although they'd changed a fair bit over the years, in many ways they were still the exact same as they once had been.

Perhaps that was why the Animal Friends had clicked so quickly with him after being reintroduced back to adventuring after a decently long hiatus. The trio had been pleasantly surprised when their old friend Kirby had extended an invitation for their help during the Jambastion crisis. But even though it had come right out of the blue, they'd still accepted the puffball's offer and subsequently joined up with his team of time-tested true friends—the Star Allies—without a moment's hesitation.

And even though the frustrating puzzle earlier tested their bonds, by the end they had successfully come together to solve it through tenacious brainstorming, the trio of animal friends making up in the process as well, if the current joke between them at Coo's expense was any indicator.

If that wasn't a testament to their iron bonds of friendship, Kirby didn't know what was. He could clearly see that Rick, Coo and Kine would remain the best of friends for many years to come, even in spite of all the differences between them — from their vastly differing personalities, right down to their varying specialties in land, air, and sea respectively.

And to Kirby, that was all that mattered. True friends were hard to find and even harder to keep, so he had resolved to always treasure the ones whom he was lucky enough to obtain.

May those precious bridges of friendship forged between us never die… Kirby thought while shooting a passing glance at the smirking hamster, complaining owl, and ecstatic sunfish.

He then peered towards the sealed room that had previously caused them all so much grief. Yet another obstacle conquered. Kirby smiled as he remembered his personal mission to find all of the Friend Hearts that were scattered throughout Another Dimension, the pink puffball concluding his earlier thoughts with a firm declaration.

and may tomorrow bring forth a brand-new wave of potential future friendships!

Author's Note:

This is the only puzzle in the entirety of Heroes in Another Dimension that stumped me. Literally the only one.

Not even the Waddle Dee ball at the end of Dimension IV or the sneakily-placed Friend Heart hidden directly under the Friend Train platform in Dimension II got me, but this one was devious! Of course I'd dedicate special attention to it.

Like, I'd played Kirby's Dream Land 2 before and it still slipped my mind that Rick could stomp off of enemies! To be fair, HAL had used the hamster's double-jump technique as a puzzle solution multiple times before in the Dark Matter trilogy (underwater Kirby 64 shard that requires the Rick transformation, anyone?), but I still forgot about this unique feature of Rick's in the heat of the moment and was consequently stuck here for ages.

Not gonna lie… the first time my brother and I went through this mode, we unintentionally cheesed this puzzle — other players teleport to Player 1 when offscreen, so after ten minutes of messing around with Geokinesis and stuff, I fluttered next to the locked door and scrolled the screen up as P1 Coo. He, as P2 Susie, went offscreen and thus proceeded to teleport up to me… consequently unlocking the door as a result since he was still holding the key when teleported to Coo's location. This co-op trick works with a similar—but easier—puzzle in Taranza's segment.

Technically, Kirby's not supposed to be here as HiAD forces Player 1 to play directly as the Dream Friends… but where's the fun in that? I need Kirby — he's like my outlet for snarky inner monologue when all these crazy shenanigans go down, haha!

And wow… looking up tags, it seems as though there are almost zero fics featuring the Animal Friends, on both FFN and AO3. I'm… genuinely surprised. Funnily, while writing this tale, Rick and Coo somehow ended up butting heads due to the circumstances, which is certainly unusual, but I do hope that their vitriolic back-and-forth end up giving the impression of organic banter between close friends. Yeah, I sincerely hope that I did the DL2 Animal Friends justice in this.

Anyway, I know that my other fic, Starcutter Express, made a reference to Heroes in Another Dimension with Zan's retort to Kirby at its conclusion, but now I seriously do think that I might write more fics set in the HiAD continuity. The shenanigans that me and my brother went through (maybe because I was determined to get all 120 Friend Hearts first try) on our blind playthrough of the subgame made the DLC mode extra memorable to me.

If I do write more Heroes in Another Dimension stuff, they'll probably be shorter pieces just like this one. There are at least two other puzzles I can think of which would be quite fun to adapt, but I won't adapt every single Dream Friend that there is… I have a life outside of Kirby too, you know! Regardless, I hoped that you guys liked this, especially if the RCK puzzle had you stumped as well!