United by the Crystal Shards

Chapter 5
The Gang's All Here!

(Uploaded on May 23, 2020)

Summary: All the Crystal Shards on Pop Star have been collected—but Kirby and co.'s journey is only just beginning. What awaits them out there in the greater Gamble Galaxy?

The crew can't wait to find out!

Notes: This chapter is set during and after Pop Star's boss stage.

Great Forest – Clearing

Ribbon couldn't have been happier.

Okay, that was a lie. She'd be pretty happy if Dark Matter hadn't invaded Ripple Star to begin with.

But… then she might've never had met Kirby, or any of her new friends.

And she certainly wouldn't have ever known how beautiful Planet Pop Star was.

It had been only a few days since she crash-landed on the little puffball, and things were definitely looking up. She'd found a crew she could trust, her Great Crystal was gradually being repaired…

…and moreover, she was still able to smile regardless of all that had happened.

It wasn't all perfect yet, of course. She still had a long way to go until she could reasonably say her life was back to normal.

Here and now, though…

So long as she had these guys by her side…

"AAAAAAAAAGH! What the heck is UP with this STUPID TREE!?"

"D-Don't sweat it, Your Majesty! J-Just keep at it—you can do this!"

"You too, Kirby! Show that overgrown plant what you're made of!"

…she'd be fine.

Spiky tree roots extended from the ground in wave-like motions, rushing toward Kirby and Dedede one after the other. The hero and the king jumped and dodged with the grace of an athlete, swinging their lightsaber and hammer in tandem with Whispy Woods' attacks.

If one didn't know any better, they'd say the two had been teammates for far more than a few mere hours.

From the outer edge of the battlefield, Adeleine and Bandana Dee cheered their friends on. The artist had set up a canvas in case the on-field duo needed any emergency food supplies thrown their way. Given that she and he weren't really fighters, they were fine sticking to the background—Kirby and Dedede could handle Whispy all by themselves.

And as for Ribbon…

She was hovering over her pink-colored friend, giving him whatever aid she could in the midst of all the chaos. Adrenaline was pumping through her veins; she'd never been in the thick of things like this before, and dang it, it was exciting (even if it wasn't remotely safe).

"Heads up, Kirby!" the fairy called out—"Apples coming in from 10 o'clock!"

Kirby somersaulted to the right, comfortably dodging a barrage of apples tumbling his way. He cocked a smile at her. "Thanks, Ribbon!"

He ran up toward the tree and slashed at his trunk, slicing the apples being dropped on him as a defense. The tree shook in irritation, and he leveled a glare at his current foe.

"What?" he nonchalantly asked. "Don't tell me you're having second thoughts about this!" He spun his saber around, and beamed at him as brightly as possible. "C'mon, I get that you like that Crystal Shard and all, but there's no harm in parting ways with—"

Whispy responded by lifting himself off the ground, just as he had two years prior.

Kirby blinked. "…okay, I guess you prefer aggressive negotiations, then. No pressure!"

Ribbon gawked. "T-Trees can do that!? Excuse me!?"

He hopped away as the angered tree started approaching him, held back only by Dedede stepping in and raising his hammer. "Ugh…! You've got some nerve, tryin' to go up against him and the king!" He pushed back hard against the boss, sweat going down his head, his teeth grinding in his mouth. "I'm not having any more of it, y'hear!? You're giving us that Crystally Thingy, and you're gonna like it!"

"Tell 'em, Y-Your Majesty!" Bandana Dee shouted.

Adeleine grinned, and quickly painted an encouraging picture: that of Kirby with his hands in the air, the word of his signature catchphrase ("Hiiiiiiiii~!") hovering over his head. "I know you can do it, guys! Take 'im down, Super Stars!"

"You don't have to tell us twice!" Ribbon nodded. She and her two companions turned their attention back onto their opponent, and bore witness to him summoning little Whispy Woods Jrs. to help him out. The newly expanded squad ruffled their leaves and let out a coordinated roar… to the nonchalant expressions of everyone watching.

"So he's sending his children out to help take us out," Kirby said, twirling his lightsaber. "Cute, but it's not gonna help him."

"That's one thing we can agree on!" Dedede snorted, slinging his hammer over his shoulder. "Get ready, Whispy! By my royal decree, you're going down!"

"Go, go!" the fairy pumped her fist in the air.

"Wow, look at everybody go," Pitch chirped.

Seven denizens of the Great Forest—Rick, Kine, Coo, Gooey, Pitch, Chuchu, and Nago—were nestled up in the trees surrounding the clearing. With curious eyes, they watched as a veritable storm blew on from the heart of their home, with a few familiar faces at the center of it all.

"Kirby really knows how to put on a show, eh mates?" Rick spoke up, scratching his whiskers with his paw. "He and Dedede are making 'ol Whispy look like a chump."

"That's not very surprising," Kine said. "Anyone can do that, really—it's just that Kirby's the most experienced fighter here, so the difference in ability is that much more emphasized."

"Serves that tree right!" Coo huffed. "He shook me off his branches last night—and he even had the nerve to attack me afterward!"

Rick glanced at the owl. "You sure that wasn't 'cause of your dazzlin' personality?" he teased.

"Ah, shaddup! It was still rude!"

"Maybe Dark Matter did it," Gooey mused—notably, a lot more sagely than his expected norm. "Dark Matter makes everyone act weird. We shouldn't hold it against them."

"That's right," Chuchu affirmed. "I mean, the two of us didn't let Adeleine's little freak-out stop us from befriending her! …admittedly, her freak-out was less 'cause of possession and more due to being scared, but—the point stands!"

"Speaking of which…" Nago looked at the members of the anti-Dark Matter team this time around. Seeing Kirby at the helm wasn't unexpected, given his status as Pop Star's premier protagonist… but the rest of the crew served as something of a surprise.

There was Ribbon, the fairy girl from Ripple Star, bright and bubbly in spite of the horrors she'd witnessed.

There was Bandana Dee, the admirer from afar, earnest in his desires to support Kirby and co. all the way.

There was Adeleine, more a friend(ly artist) than a fighter, but willing to lend a hand nevertheless.

And finally, there was King Dedede, discarding his sedentary nature and deciding to be the hero for once.

They were a diverse group of characters; a ragtag bunch of misfits, one might call them. Though they didn't have the same type of camaraderie as the Animal Buddies, Kirby made things work all the same. He united them, he let them bounce off of one another—but most of all, he… simply encouraged them to be friends.

That was it. He gave them a chance to shine.

And shine they did.

The adventure was only beginning, of course, and there was still plenty more room for them to grow. But it was clear that the puffball had assembled quite the crew—and the Animal Buddies were fine with that, honestly.

"…his crew is pretty entertaining, I'll admit," the cat continued. He leaned back against the tree they were on, tilting the edges of his mouth upward. "He's certainly got a knack for drawing in the weirdest crowd possible."

"You're making it sound like we're all weirdos, Nago," Chuchu pouting.

"Well, we are," he shrugged. "Shiro would agree with me, at least."

"Speak for yourself…" Coo grumbled. "I'm a perfectly respectable owl, thank you very much!"

"I think it's fine," Gooey threw in his two cents. "Kirby gets to have more friends, we get to have more friends—and they get to be the best of friends. Everybody wins." He stuck out his tongue and let it curl. "Isn't that what friendship is about?"

The other six Animal Buddies returned their attention to the scene below. Everyone was audibly having a good time: Kirby was spouting out his usual sass; King Dedede was throwing his banter of his own back; Adeleine, Ribbon, and Bandana Dee were shouting excitedly into the wind…

"C'mon, Dedede, keep up! You've gotta use that bulk for something~!"

"Don't you be sassin' me now! We can't all be fancy schmancy-pants like you!"

"F-Fight, you two, fight! You've—You've almost got this!"

"That's one way to put it, Gooey," Rick said, with a chipper attitude. "With them goin' 'round, I'm sure the galaxy's in good hands."

"Maybe we can get a break for once," Kine chuckled. "I know I've been looking to spend more time with Mine, 'stead of running around dealing with Dark Matter."

"Mama would like to sleep, too," Pitch tweeted again. "Naptimes are good for everybody… I think." He waddled in place. "Do you think Adeleine and Ms. Fairy would like to join us, after everything's done?"

"Maybe, Pitch," the resident octopus said. "Maybe."

Soon enough, the battle drew to a close.

As hard as he tried, Whispy Woods just couldn't match up to the two superior fighters facing him. Lightsaber and hammer swung down at his sides, and dealt the final blow—

—and the tree ended up reeling back and slumping per usual, a teardrop going down a closed eye. A Crystal Shard fell from his leaves as well, and Ribbon wasted no time in collecting it for the team.

Kirby and Dedede stared at the fallen boss for a bit before relaxing. The puffball pumped a fist into the air and cheered. "Aw, yeah! We did it!"

"We did it!" Ribbon spun around her friend and repeated his action, so excited she was at their victory. "High five!"

The two clapped their palms together and rejoiced in the sound it made. The hero, in turn, went to Dedede and offered up his hand. "High five!"

The king's response was succinct: he whirled around, crossed his arms, and huffed. "No."

Kirby took it in stride. This wasn't unexpected. "Suit yourself!"

Something ruffled about in Whispy Woods' branches, drawing everyone's attention. It leaped up into the air, revealing itself to be a blob of Dark Matter. The entity narrowed his eye at the five before him, and then took off into the sky.

For the third time in five years, the forces of Dark Matter had been expelled from Planet Pop Star.

And hopefully, this time… it'd be the last time.

"I think that's the last of 'em," Adeleine said, peering into the sky with a hand horizontally on her forehead. "Dream Land's completely Dark Matter-free now!"

"W-W-WOO-HOOOOOO!" Bandana Dee cried. "They're gone forever!" He took the artist's hands and started hopping up and down in excitement, happy tears streaming from his eyes. "N-No more possession! No more fear! YESSSSSSS!"

"Wh-Whoa, hey!" she protested—"Don't go jumping so hard, Dee! I—I need my arms intact to paint!"

The seven other Dark Matter veterans leaped down from their vantage point and approached the victorious quintet.

Rick whistled. "You sure sent 'em packing, Kirby," he remarked. "That was an even better spectacle than last time, methinks!"

"You think?" Coo snarked. "He's got a lightsaber; even I can tell that's not something to trifle with!"

Chuchu shuffled closer to the puffball. "I bet you're having a lot of fun figuring out your new toolkit," she said. "We must've rubbed off on you, what with our own Ability Mixes and all."

"That's an understatement, I'd say," Ribbon giggled. "You should've seen him with a big flaming sword! And his giant drill, and his curling stone—oh, and his electrified rock mace, too!" She took a glance at the various Dream Landers before her, and smiled softly. "Y'know, I… I wish we got to hang out with you guys more. You all seem like great people, and there's plenty of stories I still wanna hear."

Bandana Dee nodded profusely. "U-Uh-huh! I—I understand if you'd p-prefer to keep to yourself, th-though! I mean, we—we are the new guys on the block…"

"Hey, it's alright," Kine said. "We're pretty cool 'bout everything, anyway. 'Sides…" He wryly smirked. "…we wouldn't wanna intrude on your fun."

"We've had our chance to shine," Rick added—"this is you guys' show now, mates! Well, you and Kirby's, but still!"

Now those were some lofty prospects to live up to.

If you were to ask Ribbon about this last week – about the chances of her getting to go on a grand adventure with so many new friends, regardless of the circumstances behind it – she'd tell you that it was a pipe dream, at best.

And yet, here she was, in the thick of things with Kirby and co.

…she loved it.

She loved it a lot.

If Ribbon was being honest, a part of her felt sad that—eventually—this would all come to an end. She'd only known everyone for a short time, and yet… that time felt far more like years than it had days.

But… there was no reason why she couldn't enjoy that time to the fullest until then.

This was their journey—

—and she wasn't going to give it up for anything.

"We'll do our best to live up to your expectations, then," Ribbon replied.

Dedede hmphed. "Do you really have so little faith in your king?" He stood up straight and puffed a fist against his chest. "You better put those doubts aside! Lemme tell you, I'm gonna hit Dark Matter so hard, they'll be seeing stars!"

"Yeah, what he said," Kirby chimed in, still spinning his lightsaber around.

"Somebody's all hyped up for this," Adeleine grinned. She clasped her paintbrush tightly and waved it in the air. To everyone else, she said, "Well, while he and Kirby do that, I'll make sure to paint everything I see as a souvenir for y'all! There's a whole galaxy for us to explore, and I'm not gonna miss any of it!"

"Yaaaaaaaaay!" Pitch hailed brightly. "More paintings! They're gonna be so pretty!"

"I like souvenirs," Gooey added as well. "Ado makes the best ones."

"So long as you don't overextend yourself, we'll take it," Nago said. "Just try not to stumble too badly, alright?"

Kirby laughed. "Don't worry, we won't."

Ribbon's Great Crystal proceeded to float out of her hands, glowing brightly as it did. It transformed into a portal, depicting a peculiar-looking planet: a series of continental pieces barely holding themselves under their own gravitational field.

This was the crew's next destination, the nearest repository of Crystal Shards in the galaxy.

Rock Star.

"It's time to go," Ribbon said. She cast one last glimpse at the Animal Buddies and waved her hand. "It was nice meeting you all. I hope we'll get to catch up some other time!"

"You too, Ribbon!" Rick said back.

"Be a good friend," Gooey randomly advised.

"Show those creeps the real superpower of friendship!" Chuchu suggested.

The pink-haired girl flew off into the portal, and her current companions prepared to follow.

"Right. 'Nuff sitting 'round. Let's go save the Gamble Galaxy—and Ripple Star too!" the puffball declared. He pointed his laser blade at the star-shaped Warp Hole and smiled determinedly. "To a world without Dark Matter!"

"To a world without Dark Matter!" his team chorused as one.

The four jumped into the gateway, all together—which then immediatwly turned back into the Great Crystal, still shimmering with latent positive energy. It shot off into the sky, much to the awe of the gathered Great Forest denizens—

—and just like that, Kirby and co.'s adventure was kicked off for real.

At last—another prequel fic has been completed! Woooooo-hoooooo!

Since this is the last I'll be showcasing of this 'verse's version of Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (disregarding flashbacks), it's only right that I give the whole crew a chance to shine, united here as they are.

So here's them facing off against Whispy Woods together. Again, they're not entirely best friends yet, but it's a start—and dang if I'm gonna give up the chance to write some more battle fluff!

Originally, I wasn't going to include any of the Animal Buddies here – but since this is the end of the Dark Matter Trilogy, I figured it'd be a waste not to. They've been with Kirby all this time, after all; they deserve a good send-off of their own, even if their influence in this adventure is fairly limited in scale.

I've had a lot of fun writing this fic over the past month or so, and I hope I've managed to provide greater context for the crew's interactions down the line. It may not be much, but it's definitely an important step forward for everyone here.

Well, that's all for now! See you around!