Eyes in the Skies
Destination Up Ahead
(Uploaded on October 23, 2019)
Summary: Three worlds in, and Dedede still has barely any idea what Taranza's motivations are, or even what his character is beyond 'lookie here, I'm a big six-handed douche!'. But he's gradually gleaning info from the latter's regular 'discussions' with himself and his friends—and he's not liking what he sees.
Notes: This chapter starts while Kirby is travelling through the third world of Triple Deluxe, Old Odyssey.
Old Odyssey – Frozen Hills
Contrary to the warm, sunny weather we had been blessed with for the previous two worlds, Taranza and I were now riding through hails of wind and blisteringly cold conditions. If it wasn't for my coat and all the feathers on my body, I have the feeling that this atmosphere would be utterly intolerable—even without taking my current exhaustion into account.
I have to give this spider credit: he may be a crazy over-the-top villain – as crazy and over-the-top as I used to be, maybe – but he certainly knows his way around this kingdom.
Too bad for him Kirby's just as good at navigation. And he figure things out on the fly, too.
(Say, how the heck did these islands go hidden for this long? And how did they miss out on the Dark Matter crises and whatnot?
…that's a question for another day, I guess.)
Notably, Taranza was scowling, a far cry from the smug smirk I had come to associate him with. "That pesky puffball doesn't know when to stop," he groused. "I hide out and fly about all over Floralia, and still he persists on chasing me! Anyone would run after the forces I have at my disposal!"
"Some of us would quiver," I said, "but that doesn't mean we'd run. My subjects are better than that. And my friends, too. Trust me—eventually, they'll back you into a corner, and then there'll be no escape for you."
The wind began to howl furiously past our ears. I could see the telltale signs of a snowstorm building up around us as I spoke.
"H-H-Ha ha ha ha ha!" he laughed. "Him and that unremarkable Waddle Dee…? They may have survived this long, but the road only gets harder from here! They'll—They'll give up before they even make it to the Moonlight Capital!"
…his voice caught on for a moment there.
What's that about?
…deal with it later.
"And I'm sure the fact that they've survived a Whispy clone and a demented artist don't factor into the equation at all," I sniped. As fatigued as I felt, I still had enough left in me to dish out some burning-hot snark. "Gee, you really don't understand 'em at all. Isn't there a saying about not underestimating your opponents…?"
"I—I—I don't need to know what they're capable of!" he retorted. "I have you, the hero of the lower world—" There's that title again—"held hostage, and there can be no one stronger who can stand up to our forces! Those two, they've just been lucky! That's all!"
I sighed. Oh, for the love of NOVA… this was getting old. "Alright, let's just… agree to disagree, shall we? We've been arguing in circles for the last couple of hours." Seriously, Taranza just refuses to give up on his stance. He stubbornly clings to it like a baby Dee who doesn't want his blanket taken for laundry purposes.
"Fine. But I still say you're wrong!" He began making these wild gestures, posturing in the grandest way I've possibly seen. "I am Taranza, second-in-command to Her Majesty herself, Queen Sectonia! I am the enforcer of her every command, the bringer of r-righteous justice upon the People of the Sky! If there is a mission Her Majesty requires me to accomplish, I—I will do it without hesitation! For her glory and her acceptance is all I need—!"
And then the ongoing blizzard interrupted him, bucketloads of snow being pelted into our faces (Gah! What I wouldn't give for a parasol right now!). He promptly shut up and went to seek shelter.
Old Odyssey – Cave
While we were getting all nice and cozy in a nearby cave as we waited for the storm to die down, I took the time to think about everything I've learned over the past few days or so.
I've been kidnapped by Taranza, a servant of Queen Sectonia from the Kingdom of Floralia. Supposedly, she wants to extend her reign – a reign of terror, I'll bet – over to all of Pop Star (which is nothing new to us, sadly). To that end, she sent her servants to go kidnap the 'hero of the lower world'—whoever would theoretically serve as the biggest threat to her plans.
And apparently, they've decided that hero… is me. Because I'm the ruler of Dream Land, or something similar to that.
…their logic is somewhat sound, I'll give 'em that.
I'm more of the 'hero's best friend', honestly, but if it keeps Kirby away from Taranza's clutches, then I'll let things slide. For now.
Better not to risk him realizing who the real hero is 'round here.
…there's something about Taranza that I haven't quite pinned down yet.
Something about him that… actually reminds me a lot of—well, me.
Me before 2008. Me when I still held a grudge against Kirby.
I decided to ask a question. "…hey. Taranza. What's it like, being under Sectonia's rule?"
"Queen Sectonia's rule," he immediately corrected me.
…seriously? That's what he chooses to focus on?
Okay, Dedede, just go with the flow. "Right, right, under your precious Majesty's rule. If I'm gonna be meeting her—" in spite of the fact that I really don't want to "—then I need a better idea of the type of character she has." Being a king's taught me you've gotta know how to make a good impression – and preemptive information can help a lot on that front.
Taranza brightened up, all traces of his cocky persona completely wiped away. A wide smile broke out on his face as he eagerly began to discuss his clearly beloved (to him) regent. "Oh, I'm glad you asked!"
He cleared his throat. "Her Majesty is the most beautiful and most benevolent queen in existence! Her might reaches beyond any mere soldier in the ranks of our forces! Those who honor her decisions and succeed in carrying out her orders are treated with kindness!" He scowled. "It's a shame that our people keep trying to rebel against her. If they would only stop, they'd find that she is a most merciful individual!"
I raised an eyebrow. "…I'll take your word for it." And by that, I mean I'll take it with ten tons of salt. "I assume you're pretty close to Queen Sectonia?"
"Like I said, I am the enforcer of her every command!" he preened. "We've known each other since we were young. Everyone in Royal Road saw me with her so often, they took to treating me like I was royalty myself." There was a blush on his face, and his eyes began to glaze over. "…in those days, Secton—Her Majesty was a sweetheart. She always told me how much she wanted to be the greatest queen, to bring about an age of prosperity to Floralia.
"Th-Things aren't perfect. Even I can see that. But Sect—Sectonia, she's… she's trying her best! Wh-What she's doing, they're—they're the right decisions to make! …they have to be…!"
…he's spilling out all this information rather easily.
Nobody just does that, especially not a villain who's working for an even greater villain.
I looked at him closer. The glaze wasn't just out of remembrance – it was out of sadness. Concealed regret, even – the kind you don't want to admit to yourself, can't admit to yourself.
And that last line…
'Because if I can't win against him, despite all my efforts…
…then what good am I as a king, self-proclaimed or not?'
…it brings back memories.
More quietly, he was muttering, "A-And sure, she—she may p-punish me a lot nowadays, and she isn't as lenient or as forgiving as she used to be toward me – it—it's been a while since her last compliment, a-actually – but deep down, I… I know she still cares for me! I'm—I'm her best friend, after all…!"
…and that just makes me even more worried for this guy's well-being.
Dear NOVA, just what did I get involved in?
Taranza shook his head. "Wh-Whatever. I've given you p-plenty of enough information already. You—You should be more than prepared to m-meet Her Grace by this point! Her descending to your realm is a good thing, y-you'll see!"
I frowned and crossed my arms, tired though I was. I wasn't liking the picture I was getting, not one bit. "…I don't really believe that," I said, barely audible. "And I know you don't, either."
A very long silence filled the cave after that remark of mine.
Wild World – Jungle Depths
Eventually, after a couple of hours of waiting, Taranza was once more able to weave his way through the frozen hills and frigid cliffs that made up this part of Floralia. And from there, he continued on completing his appointed quest, bringing me to the next region of this kingdom, the Wild World.
He was making good progress in traversing the entirety of this island – so far, he's been good at avoiding Kirby up 'til the end of each area – but unfortunately for him (and fortunately for me), life isn't content on giving him a clean ride.
"G-Give back Great King, you fiend!"
Which is why Dee is giving him a hard time right now.
Taranza was firing back as good as he got at my assistant, orbs of energy shooting from his hands and toward Dee's position. True to form, Dee side-flipped and ran away from the arachnid's attacks, tossing a spear as hard as he could at his foe.
Spider-Boy's mouth curled, casually moving aside from the not-particularly-well-thrown weapon – though it served its purpose as a distraction rather well. Dee closed the distance between the two of them, jabbing his spear at the electric net trapping me. I'm pretty sure he was intending to cut it open, but sadly, magic doesn't work like that.
With that having failed, he moved on to attacking Taranza directly – can't use magic to hold me if he's out cold, I guess. Luckily for him, he managed to get a few good hits in before he flew too high to reach. Next, Taranza flung several volleys of webs at Dee, trying to encase him in a cocoon – Dee responded by spinning his spear in circles and deflecting them rather easily.
"Just give up, Waddle Dee!" the glorified minion growled. "You may be tenacious, but you have nothing against the valor of Her Majesty Queen Sectonia!"
"N-No way I'll do that!" Dee retorted. "You've still got Great King, and I'm not just gonna sit by and leave him alone with you! That's not what a friend does!"
Dee charged up, and suddenly shot into the air at a fast pace, spear pointed directly at Taranza. The latter barely had enough time to widen his eyes before he was struck in his chest area, my faithful assistant turning around almost immediately after the attack and tossing a set of three spears at his now-much-closer target. The arachnid grimaced, spun around, and warped away after wrapping himself in a spider's web.
And just to make things more headache-inducing, he went and teleported multiple times, putting as much space between him and Dee as possible. It's a weird feeling! You're in one place for one second, another place the next; it gives me a migraine trying to comprehend it.
Eventually, he stopped in place and spawned two fairly-huge purple diamonds by his sides. "How can you be so devoted to your king, to the point where you'd face impossible odds for him…!? You're not a hero—just a stupid and annoying servant!" He threw and respawned jewel after jewel across the makeshift battlefield, each of them shattering and spreading their sharp shards as they crashed into the ground. "So why… do… you… con-tin-ue to per-sist!?"
"Th-That's easy!" Dee shouted, jumping about and dancing around the newly-created gem fragments. "Great King's not just my liege, he's—he's one of my best friends! And he's one of K-Kirby's, too! And if Kirby's taught me anything, it's that you shouldn't let anything stop you from helping your c-companions out—even if that means having to save them from themselves, s-sometimes! Because real friends…" He used his spear as a pole and vaulted into the sky, breaking a diamond while it was still arcing. "…real friends don't ever give up on each other. D-Don't you know that, T-Taranza…?"
"Save them… from… th-themselves…?" Spider-Boy repeated under his breath. I could see that that struck a nerve with him. A litany of nerves, even. "Don't ever… give up… on each other…? You're—You're naïve. A n-n-naïve fool! That's not how it works—that's not how it works!"
Taranza created a medium-sized web in one of his hands, and pitched it hard at Dee. While it was in mid-flight, it abruptly grew larger and trapped Dee inside of it, electricity sparkling and shocking him as he urgently tried to escape with his spear. The spider, not bothering to savor the sight of his trapped foe, took off while he still had the chance. He soared into the background—and, much to surprise, I could see teardrops streaming from his eyes and past my cage
The gears in my head started to turn rapidly.
I didn't like where my thoughts about Taranza was leading to.
Endless Explosions – Volcanic Crater
By the time Kirby caught back up with Taranza at the end of Endless Explosions (that name is not at all hyperbole, by the way), I had managed to fill out a better assessment of Spider-Boy's character.
The outward demeanor he puts up – the one full of cockiness and confidence, of assurance in his ability and His Majesty's 'love' – it's all a façade. A façade he desperately pushes to the forefront in order to cope with the disconnect between the kind Sectonia of the past and the cruel Sectonia of the present. In fact, he's pushed it so far forward that he's convinced himself entirely that it's his true personality; that it's what he wants deep down.
As a guy who used to struggle with his desires and his duties, I can pass on this fact: leaving such a conflict unresolved does you no good.
If it wasn't for Kirby, I… I'd have ruined myself.
Taranza, beneath the layers upon layers of falsehoods he's put up, seems to be someone kind and a little insecure. He's the type of person who'll cling onto his friends at all costs, even if they're too changed to be recognizable as their former selves. He hasn't had a functioning support structure in a long time, and it doesn't help that the Kingdom of Floralia has been isolated from Dream Land for basically an eternity.
He's got a gentle heart, and even though he tries to hide it, he wears his emotions on his sleeve.
And unless Kirby and I can get him away from Sectonia, that heart of his may end up cracked beyond repair.
…I don't know where things are gonna go from here. Heck, I doubt even Kirby does, and he's got far more experience in these matters than I'll ever have.
But when everything's said and done, I just hope that…
…Taranza'll turn out alright.
And even if he doesn't, even if he breaks from the impact…
…then we'll happily be there to pick him back up; to help him let his soul smile for real.
That's what friends are for, right?
Triple Deluxe doesn't show a whole lot of Taranza prior to the final confrontation with him, and what little else we get of him is from lore told elsewhere. With this fic, I wanted to take a bit to really establish what he was like prior to Queen Sectonia's fall from grace. (Well, second, if you count her personality death after the Mirror happened.) Hence, a little 'quiet' scene from midway through Kirby's adventure.
Based on the dialogue he gets during Triple Deluxe's cutscenes and his mannerisms from his battles in both Team Kirby Clash Deluxe and Super Kirby Clash, I decided to pin down Taranza's characterization as something of an insecure and badly treated individual, desperately pining to satisfy his best friend's needs in whatever way he can. His confidence and cocky demeanor serves as a façade for him to unconsciously stay distracted from that aspect of himself – that is, until Sectonia's actions bring him crashing right back down to Pop Star.
It shouldn't be at all surprising that Dedede would catch on to some of these qualities, seeing as he himself once used to be insecure and desperate (though definitely not to the same degree as Taranza). He can't do much about it now unfortunately, given his current circumstances – and Taranza's certainly not gonna listen to anything he has to say – but he'll definitely keep note of it for later. You don't just dismiss unnerving hints like that, after all.
Also, when I said 'liberal amounts of Bandana Dee', I meant it: any good excuse for writing him in is an excuse I'll gladly indulge in! And what better way to do that than to let him have another scuffle with our favorite eventually-adorkable arachnid?
It's the only time I'll get to write in elements from his Team Kirby Clash-related appearances, so I'll take it!
Well, that's all for now – next time, we meet back up with Dedede and Taranza during the final boss fight. See you guys then!