"Thirty-six, thirty-seven, thirty-eight…"
The guards ranged from waddle dees to knuckle joes—Bandana Dee was, frankly, surprised that that many of them made the cut. Over half of them looked like they were fresh out of their homes and didn't know the first thing about self-defence. It probably had something to do with them promising any inexperienced guards training. Well, they all started somewhere.
"Forty-two… there are forty-two of them present, Sir Meta Knight." Bandana Dee lowered his clipboard where he had been tallying in messy lines. "I counted twice."
It was rare that Meta Knight ever came out on the field—the last and only time Bandana Dee had seen him in a battle was… when was it again? More than just a few years ago. The changed nothing about the fact that he was still the most esteemed knight of the castle, and they'd probably pay him just to be there, really. He didn't go out to take action, often, but he offered to take charge of the new guards who required training.
Meta Knight looked over the new batch, and, unblinkingly, he said, "There should be forty-three."
Bandana Dee almost jumped. He looked down at his clipboard and recounted in his tallies in a hurry. He counted forty-one first, then forty-three and breathed a gulp of fresh air, but when he counted again he found forty-two. In a panic, he threw a glance at Meta Knight, who had been watching him, and even more flustered, he began recounting again.
"I'll have a look," Meta Knight offered, stretching out a hand.
"Wha—no! I couldn't—"
"You tallied twice, yes? Even if you're not sure, I trust that you were able to record correctly."
"O-Okay." Bandana Dee handed the clipboard into Meta Knight's outstretched grip and began praying very deeply to the spirit of Nova that his counting was correct. He might scream if it wasn't.
In front the platform made of empty wooden crates, the new guards were mumbling and nudging each other with furrowed brows and fidgety feet. Bandana Dee remembered being like that, a long time ago. The pit of his stomach had felt like it was going to boil over and bubble out of his mouth—it could only be worse for them, who had to wait for a possible missing forty-third person. He hoped Meta Knight was going to finish soon. Wait, if he had counted wrongly, he'd be told off or just be disappointed in. He hoped Meta Knight didn't finish soon.
After a moment, Meta Knight passed the clipboard back to Bandana Dee. He hastily grabbed it back. "The tallying is correct and I counted them myself as well. There are only forty-two here."
Bandana Dee released the breath he had been holding and it came out wrongly as some sort of pig-sounding snort. Thankfully, Meta Knight didn't stare at him.
Maybe they were late. That was uncommon, but not impossible. Or… maybe the registry had messed up. Uncommon, but not impossible. The problem was that because both were possibilities they had no way to confirm but to run all the way back to the office that was crammed in the corner on one of the higher floors of Castle Dedede. It'd take a while.
And Meta Knight knew that, too. "Do you think they would know anything?" He gestured to the new guards.
"Um… I don't think so, Sir." The new guards weren't told anything about each other, and they each had one cramped room to themselves so they weren't forced to interact with each other, either. They could be complete loners and nobody else could account for them.
It looked like Meta Knight mulled over it for a few seconds before arriving at a decision. "We'll wait for a while. If they don't come, we'll just proceed without them. Being punctual is their duty."
Anyhow, the missing forty-third had made him lose his composure. Bandana Dee wanted to gnaw on the hem of his bandana. He didn't look too unprofessional to the new guards, right? Image was important, as a leader.
They waited a while. The guards were looking up at them and whispering to each other. No doubt they were debating on why they hadn't begun yet. They looked nervous. Bandana Dee hoped he didn't look nervous. Looking nervous would make them even more nervous.
Meta Knight looked at Bandana Dee, then nodded. Bandana Dee blinked at him, then nodded back, turning to the new guards and clearing his throat. "We're sorry about the delay, but let's now proceed—"
"Waaiit! I'm late, I'm here!"
The voice, while definitely belonging to a male, was a fraction higher-pitched than normal. Bandana Dee heard the bouncing of feet before a pink puffball with magenta feet rolled onto scene. All eyes turned to him as his sapphire ones lit up like he'd done no wrong in his entire life.
"Sorry I'm late," the pink puffball trilled. He didn't seem embarrassed or nervous or anxious at all that he was not only the last to arrive at the morning assembly in the yard but also half an hour late. "I got lost. Big castle."
"Lost?" Meta Knight repeated incredulously. "From the second floor dormitories, to here?"
Meta Knight said nothing. Bandana Dee made a mental note to put up signs for directions soon.
"Er, okay." Kirby acknowledged Bandana Dee's words with a beam. Bandana Dee unceremoniously cleared his throat again. "Um, we're sorry about the delay, but let's now proceed with the introductions, followed by the basic rules you will have to follow as a new guard, and then as a full-time minion—"
"We have to introduce ourselves first, Bandana Dee," Meta Knight prompted quietly.
"Oh! Right. Uh." Bandana Dee rocked back onto his heels. "My name is Bandana Dee, and I'm the leader of the minions. So, if you encounter any problems while working in this castle, even when you're not a recruit anymore, you can report to me." He glanced at Meta Knight, who made no motion. "This is Sir Meta Knight. As you can tell, he's a knight of this castle, but he's offered to help out in training recruits and new minions."
Oops. Recruits and new minions meant the same thing. Nobody called him out on his mistake, thankfully.
"And back to what I was saying before. Let's start with introductions. We'd just like to share your name and what weapon you're proficient in using." After a beat, he hastily added, "Or any other forms of self-defence would work too."
They rustled and glanced at each other, but no one volunteered.
Bandana Dee glanced around and found a bio spark at one side of the crowd, with the pink puffball bouncing up and down next to him. Pointing, he suggested with a faint smile, "Why don't you start?"
The bio spark didn't flinch or show any signs of hesitance. "I am Ragnus. As most bio sparks do, I specialise in stealth and shurikens. It is a pleasure to work with all of you."
Shoori-what? Bandana Dee could never get those foreign-sounding names right. "All right. Erm, thank you." Ragnus nodded. "Can I have the person next to him to go next—?"
"Me? I'm Kirby! Nice to meetcha." Kirby didn't let his smile drop, and didn't lower his loud tone, either. Beside him, Ragnus made a face.
Bandana Dee forced a smile. "Um, and, your weapon..? Or any sort of self-defence…"
"Self-defence? Erm…" Kirby tilted his head, blinking at Bandana Dee, then his gaze flickered over to Meta Knight musingly. "I… like to eat stuff, I guess!"
Everyone stopped fidgeting. Bandana Dee had several questions. "That's not… a weapon, or self-defence? Can you manage anything? Like, um… swords?"
Kirby shrugged like he'd never committed an offence in his entire life, again. "Mm, I can eat those."
How did he even pass the recruiting test? What was going down in the office? Bribery? Bandana Dee's head spun. Maybe he should go have a word with them. Was this a fluke? Surely the pink puffball hadn't written down eating as his form of defence in the application form. But that was what he had just said. And they had let him become a recruit? Maybe there was some sort of mistake. Maybe there wasn't a forty-third member, and Kirby hadn't gotten the rejection notice and just bumbled back to them.
Someone couldn't be that daft, right..? Kirby's words were sinking in. Wait, there was absolutely no way anyone could eat swords—that wasn't a form of self-defence, that was a form of self-murder. The creatures on Pop Star were strange, so maybe it was possible. But… eating? It'd take a while to chew through it. That wasn't efficient at all. ...Why was he even considering this possibility again?
Meta Knight had either been stunned into silence or pondering what grave crime he'd pulled to have to deal with such a situation. In any case, he composed himself far faster than Bandana Dee could. "And how would that help in combat?"
"Well, if you eat the dangerous thing, the dangerous thing will disappear," Kirby replied like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"Into your stomach."
Kirby patted it fondly. "Yep."
Another pause. Meta Knight was probably collecting himself again. Bandana Dee wasn't sure how he was doing it, because he, for one, was still all over the place.
"You would eat a living thing?" Meta Knight pressed. "Just like that?"
"It's sort of gruesome when you say it like that, but, well, yeah."
"No, no, no no no," Bandana Dee interjected, rubbing his left temple with a hand. "We—You can't just eat your enemies on the field like… um, some kind of predator. You'll be acting as a guard and they can't—"
He stopped when Meta Knight lifted a hand. "It's all right, Bandana Dee." He lowered it when Bandana Dee didn't follow up with any sound. "And what if you can't eat it? If it's, let's say, too big."
Kirby tapped his cheek. "Big?" And for a split second, Bandana Dee was absolutely sure he was going to say well I'll just chew it off bit by bit, and that would've been the ultimate deal-breaker, if nothing else was. He was sort of amazed Meta Knight was entertaining the ordeal. "I'll eat an appetiser first, obviously. Then I'll finish it off."
The more he spoke, the more Bandana Dee was sure that… "You know you're applying for a guard job, right?" he said cautiously.
"Hm? Of course."
"Not… a food-tester, or anything..?"
The other recruits began to mumble amongst themselves, looking at each other and creasing their brows, peeking at Kirby and then averting their gaze away immediately.
Kirby laughed like Bandana Dee was the one being silly. "No, of course not! It's too hard to be a food-tester if your specialty is eating everything. Most of them taste the same, you know."
"Uh… right… okay." None of it was okay. None of what Kirby was saying made sense, to begin with, and Bandana Dee was considering the possibility that he'd just broken in from outside because there was no way the office let an airhead like him join. Maybe he had hidden qualities. Maybe Bandana Dee was underestimating him. He hoped so. "Um, Sir Meta Knight?"
Half of Bandana Dee expected Meta Knight to dismiss Kirby on the spot, but he was silent following Bandana Dee's prompt. Kirby was grinning brightly like none of what he said was dubious at all, and the rest of the recruits were eyeing him with suspicion—even the calm and cool-looking Ragnus was inching away from him. Bandana Dee couldn't blame any of them. There were sometimes batches that included a troublemaker—they were normally sent home right after their poor behaviour, but Meta Knight didn't seem to be protesting and Bandana Dee was just at a loss for words himself.
Meta Knight folded his arms under his cape and nodded.
"I'll take your word for it. Now, next."
Bandana Dee stared at him in awe.
Was it because they were the same species? Bandana Dee hadn't seen Meta Knight under the mask, but he had registered himself as a puffball. And Kirby was a puffball. So maybe he felt some sort of affinity towards Kirby? After all, there weren't many puffball minions in the castle. They were more like a rarity.
The rest of the introductions went in one ear, did a loop-the-loop inside his head, and then came out of the other all jumbled up. He was watching Kirby; the puffball in question didn't notice. He was leaned forward and looking at his fellow recruits as they mumbled out quick monologues about themselves. Maybe Meta Knight had already double-checked with the office and knew precisely what they were getting themselves into. Yeah, then that all fell into place—Meta Knight wouldn't make an oversight over something as important as minion recruiting. Bandana Dee maybe, but not Meta Knight.
He was so caught up in his thoughts he hadn't realised they had already gone one round and the yard had fallen into distinct silence, save the harried footsteps on floors above. He almost squeaked when Meta Knight coughed into his cape.
"Oh! You—" Bandana Dee began.
"You all have the rest of the day to unpack your things, settle in, and get yourself accustomed to the castle. Dinner will be served in the canteen where you had breakfast. That is all. Dismissed."
The recruits nodded in a disturbingly out-of-sync manner and began to scatter—Kirby included. It seemed he had already attached himself to a sir kibble and his mouth was moving at the speed of light. He had been an anomaly to Bandana Dee and perhaps a frustration to Meta Knight, but he didn't look like he was having any problems swimming along with his peers, at least—
This time, Bandana Dee squawked and then instantly pulled his bandana down in shame. "Er—yes, Sir Meta Knight?" He missed a pause then blurted out, "I'm so sorry! I was spacing out for the most of the time, I didn't realise… I wasn't really paying attention, and then I forgot—um, I'm sorry I didn't—"
"You were observing Kirby?" He hammered the nail right on the head. Bandana Dee swallowed and nodded. "I don't blame you. I was curious as well."
For some reason, that lifted a gargantuan weight off Bandana Dee's shoulders. "You were? Er, Sir?"
"It'd actually be more strange if I wasn't." Meta Knight looked at the wooden crates below them as if in thought. "It's not every batch we get someone like him."
"Right. But he was so—"
"Erm." He had said that not-word a bit too many times in that hour. "No, I think… he felt a bit…"
That sounded really mean. But: "Well, yes."
Meta Knight met Bandana Dee's gaze and the dee wanted to uncomfortably squirm. He never dealt well with people with actual authority actually looking at him. (The king aside.) "You're not wrong. But it's not our duty to test them. It's our duty to train them."
Bandana Dee blinked like it hadn't occurred to him. Oh. He was right.
The way Meta Knight put it made him feel like an idiot. Bandana Dee was overstepping his boundaries and being a worrywart for nothing. As usual. He exhaled. Thank goodness he had someone so down-to-earth to put him in place.
"That said," Meta Knight said, beginning to walk past Bandana Dee, "it does indeed make me curious, so I'll check with the office again."
Bandana Dee quickly sidestepped to move out of the way. "All right. Sir."
"One more thing." Meta Knight stopped. "If you don't mind doing me a favour?"
"Not at all, Sir!"
Maybe to most, favours were burdens or just an extra little something. But no matter whose mouth it came from, if it was Meta Knight asking the favour, it was more like an honour. And Bandana Dee, easy to please, was almost sparkling at the prospect of being asked a favour by the Sir Meta Knight. Imagine Meta Knight relying on Bandana Dee. He could brag about that. Everyone except that snarky doo friend of his would be in awe.
He didn't really know he was about to be disappointed by Meta Knight for perhaps about the first time.
Meta Knight glanced at Bandana Dee sideways.
"Can you help me take charge of Kirby?"
20 March 2018
(This is rated T because it somehow feels wrong for me to rate something I type with these ungodly hands a K+, and there are some scenes of mild violence so erh yeah.)
"Dude you have like another story and you're making another one?" Look, okay, listen—
This is… well, it is what it is. I don't really have anything to say. Actually, I do.
1. This is Gameverse and I cannot stress this enough. If you get excited just because Meta Knight's a knight in the castle here then. Well. I'm. Sorry? You might not like what you'll be reading.
2. Contains OC but they'll be on the side; I'll be recycling OCs from previous fics instead of making new ones because I love my children.
I'll be adding notes as I go along. Thanks for the read!