First off, happy 2021 everybody!
Hopefully this year will be better for a LOT of things.
And for further warning, while I only recommend reading Steve and Aegis' chapters of Everyone Is HERE! due to me saving them for the next chapter of World of Light, reading Sephiroth's is absolutely crucial to understand the Mysterious Dimension part of this chapter.
Let's get right into it, shall we?
"JUNIOR! JUNIOR! WHERE ARE YOU?" Bowser yelled to no one in particular as he continued to search the wastelands of the Sacred Realm for his son. Punching apart a piece of rubble, Bowser began to get increasingly desperate in his efforts to find his son that he failed to notice that a fierce sandstorm was beginning to whip up in his general area. After failing to find Junior in the rubble, Bowser sat down next to a piece of said rubble, exhausted from the sheer amount of time he had spent searching for his kid. Retreating into his shell, Bowser emerged shortly after, holding a picture from when he and Junior had taken a tour of Isle Delfino after Mario and company had returned to the Mushroom Kingdom.
Sighing, Bowser put the picture away and was about to get up to resume his search, but he heard a familiar laugh coming from the distance. His eyes widening, the Koopa King looked up to try and hear where the laugh had come from, only to see a huge cloud of sand slowly heading his way. A determined look settling onto his face, Bowser, putting his arms up to protect his face, charged towards the sandstorm.
After a while, Bowser's shell tumbled out of the other end of the sandstorm, lying motionless in the desert until the Koopa King emerged from the shell and began shaking the excess sand out of it in annoyance. Looking around, he once again called out, "JUNIOR!"
Bowser audibly gasped, and ran towards the source of the voice, which turned out to be in the middle of a ruined caravan. Hurrying towards the assorted wagons, Bowser began tearing one of them apart in order to find his son, only to find nothing on the inside. Hearing the same voice come from his left, Bowser ran towards another wagon and tore it to shreds, finally finding his son in the Junior Clown Car—the one Bowser had painstakingly built for Junior's seventh birthday—looking both hostile and terrified at the same time, his eyes a deep purple. Reaching out, Bowser began, "Junior..."
Junior then tumbled out of the Clown Car and doubled over, clutching at his head in agony as he screamed in pain. At the same time, his voice began to rapidly shift between each of the seven Koopalings, their Spirits all wrestling for control of the Koopa prince's body. As Bowser watched in shock, Bowser Jr. suddenly pulled out the replica of E. Gadd's paintbrush he had built using stolen schematics from the eccentric professor's main laboratory in Boo Woods and pointed it at his father.
"Come on, you brainless buffoons, point it away from Lord Bowser!"
"What the heck do you think we're trying to do, you pompous pushover?!"
While the rest of the Koopalings were squabbling and trying to point the paintbrush away from Bowser, Larry's voice spoke, "Lord Bowser, is there any way you can remove whatever the heck is possessing the prince?! We've been trying to help out but its hold is just too strong- gah!"
"Well, a hard blow normally puts these dumb Spirits on the bench but-"
Roy, still arguing with Ludwig, yelled, "Great! Then just hit Junior so that we can get him back, Your Majesty!" before going back to yelling at his fellow Koopalings.
"...I don't want to hit Junior," Bowser finished underneath his breath.
Out of shock, Iggy and Morton both exclaimed, "You WHAT?!" Recovering, Morton, the older of the two, inquired, "But Lord Bowser, didn't you and Junior face each other multiple times over the course of the last tournament?"
"All of our matches involved lots of ranged weapons," Bowser admitted. Taking a breath, Bowser continued, "Besides, he's a good kid, and I want to teach him the right way to rule the Koopa Kingdom; lead through respect, not fear! He'd become scared of me if I ever hit him, and... I don't think I could forgive myself if I did."
In the midst of Roy and Ludwig's argument, Lemmy giggled and said, "Well put Lord Bowser, we'll do the dirty work for you and just shoot Junior ourselves!"
Bowser and the rest of the Koopalings save Iggy exclaimed in shock as Lemmy continued his childlike fits of laughter, and Iggy, the mad scientist of the seven Koopalings, let out a similarly kooky laugh, saying, "We love Junior too, but we don't any qualms with putting the brat in his place if he gets a bit too big for his britches, and besides, you're not hitting him, are you?" letting out another cackle before forcing Bowser Jr. to point his paintbrush at his chin. Ignoring the other Koopalings' protests, Iggy yelled, "READY! AIM! FIRE!" before shooting a high-pressure blast of paint right at Bowser Jr.'s head, launching the Koopa prince out of the Junior Clown Car.
"JUNIOR!" Bowser yelled as he ran after his son, who was beginning to fall towards the ground. Leaping forward, Bowser performed a diving catch and scooped his son up in one arm before running back to the Junior Clown Car, where the Spirit Orb that housed all of the Koopalings was sitting, having been forcefully ejected from Junior's head as a result of the blast. Bowser gently set his son in the Junior Clown Car and anxiously waited for him to wake up, standing guard at the same time just in case something were to come by.
After a while, Bowser Jr. woke up, clutching at his head as he groaned, "Ugh, what hit me?" Bowser then grabbed him in a crushing hug, causing Junior to yelp in alarm before reciprocating. After a bit, the Koopa prince squeaked, "Crushing me..." causing his father to let go.
As Bowser sat down next to his son, Junior asked, "Papa, what's this?" pointing to the Spirit Orb that lay next to him in the Junior Clown Car. Before Bowser could answer, the Spirit Orb levitated and flew right into Junior, causing the young Koopa to sit up straight as if he were electrocuted, before clutching at his head as he took time to recover from the spinning sensation said Spirit Orb had caused him.
Iggy's voice said, "Glad to have ya back, Prince Bowser!" while Lemmy let out a series of giggles that seemed to indicate agreement.
Bowser Jr. reassumed control of his body and knocked on his head, shouting, "Hey! My body, my rules! You better not be messing with me!"
Putting on a phony voice, Ludwig smoothly reassured, "Of course, Your Princeliness, we wouldn't dare dream of doing anything of the sort."
Bowser rolled his eyes before turning to Junior and asking, "So, what do you want to do, son? We've got something important to do, but I'll do anything you want for a little bit."
Putting a claw to his chin in thought, Bowser Jr. began, "Well..."
"Well fellas, we're here," Banjo said as he gestured towards the entrance of Gruntilda's lair.
Popping out of Banjo's backpack, Kazooie muttered under her breath, "It's been several years and the old hag still couldn't get a renovation? Sheesh, she must be broke."
"From what I remember, 'ol Grunty was never a big fan of what was 'hip and modern' back when I used to work with her..." K. Rool mused, which earned him puzzled stares from the two Kongs. Pointing his bulging eye at the two while he shifted personalities, Kaptain K. Rool said, "Aye, I have a life outside of the two of ya landlubbers," which weirded out the Kongs even more.
"Hey hey hey, less talking, more walking, we've got a witch to take care of!" At that, Kazooie flipped the backpack over all on her own and took off running into the lair with the Talon Trot, Banjo holding on for dear life as she raced up the first flight of stairs which led to the small hub that housed the entrance to Treasure Trove Cove.
The Kongs and K. Rool caught up shortly after, the reptilian monarch panting in exhaustion as the two Kongs began looking around to see if there was anything to take note of. After a brief moment of silence, Diddy asked, "Doesn't that sister of Grunty live in here? Y'know, the one who's the complete opposite of her?"
Helplessly shrugging, Banjo answered, "Last I heard, she moved out..." before running up yet another flight of stairs... only to let out a startled yelp as he and Kazooie were overtaken by a Spirit Orb, that, immediately after assimilating the two, homed in on the Kongs and King K. Rool, sucking them in.
Landing on the floor with a hard thud, Banjo groaned and was about to push himself up... only for K. Rool and DK to land on top of him, causing Kazooie to let out a pained squawk as Diddy Kong bounced off of King K. Rool's golden gut and onto the floor. Banjo wheezed as the two giants lifted themselves off of his body, Donkey Kong helping him up, and after looking around, the massive primate asked, "Where are we?"
"You have trespassed upon the Chaos Shrine, for that... YOU MUST DIE," said a booming metallic voice. Around the four (five counting Kazooie), the air became cold as a dark vortex opened in the heart of the temple, and a hulking metallic Ganondorf, sword and all, stepped out of the portal and laughed, boasting, "I, Garland, will knock you all down!" before swinging his sword in a wide arc and stomping, causing the chamber to rumble.
Diddy scrambled onto his uncle's back and achieved liftoff with his Rocketbarrels, lifting himself and Donkey Kong off the ground as Banjo leapt off a Shock Spring Pad and clung onto a pillar while Kazooie extricated herself from his backpack, asking, "What the heck is going on- HOLY MOTHER OF CANARY MARY!" as her eyes momentarily bugged out. Shaking it off fairly quickly, the Breegull spread her wings and took flight, dodging pieces of the crumbling ceiling as Banjo fished through the backpack for Kazooie's magic wrench. Exclaiming in satisfaction once he extricated the weapon, Kazooie blew apart a large piece of rubble with a Fire Egg, allowing the bear to wave the wrench like a magic wand and send the bits of shrapnel flying towards the Gerudo King.
However, Garland simply raised his free arm to block the rubble, laughing once more as he swung his sword towards the two once again, though Kazooie activated Wonderwing at just the right time, enabling the two of them to just run through the sword unharmed, much to the shock of the knight.
Meanwhile, also in the air but much closer to the ground, Diddy Kong concentrated really hard on lifting a piece of the ceiling off of the floor as he flew himself and DK closer to it, revealing that K. Rool had been pinned underneath it from the moment Garland had shown up. Paying the reptilian monarch no mind, Donkey Kong punched the piece of rubble towards Ganondorf, who destroyed it with a swing of his sword.
At that moment, Garland briefly set aside his colossal sword and delivered a fierce uppercut to an off-guard Banjo and Kazooie, sending them flying into a wall. Noticing, DK looked at his nephew and said, "Go and help your friends! This hunk of metal's all mine!" as he broke free from Diddy's grasp and landed in a four-point stance next to King K. Rool, growling the moment the reptilian monarch gave him an odd look, K. Rool reciprocating in kind almost instantly.
After a tense staredown, the two of them were interrupted by Garland nearly skewering them by plunging his sword into the ground, and the fallen knight laughed, exclaiming, "Look at the two of you, bickering even when knocking on Death's door! This'll be easy compared to those accursed Warriors of Light!"
Kong and Kremling exchanged a somewhat reluctant glance before nodding, and K. Roolenstein pulled a giant magnet out from nowhere in particular before changing to King Krusha K. Rool and using his enhanced strength to pull the magnet back as it began to attract itself towards Garland. As the metallic Ganondorf began to take a step forward, his foot suddenly became attracted to the magnet, throwing him off balance and causing him to drop his sword. As he struggled, Donkey Kong began to scale the colossus, dodging any attempts by Garland to shake him off. Once he reached the top, DK began wailing on Ganondorf with a flurry of powerful punches, managing to cave in parts of the Gerudo King's head.
As Garland attempted to pluck the ape off of his head, DK crushed the fingers on his hand one by one, causing the fallen knight to let out a warped, metallic howl of pain as Donkey Kong continued to pummel him even further.
It was at that moment when King K. Rool stashed away the magnet, causing Garland to lose balance and topple over, Donkey Kong falling alongside him. However, the ape recovered relatively quickly and delivered a final series of strikes to finish the job, heavily panting as he stood over the unmoving Ganondorf's caved-in face. As Donkey Kong hopped off of Garland's body, Diddy swooped in while carrying Banjo, setting down the bear as he himself came in for a landing. The four of them waited for something, anything to happen... and then the body of Ganondorf convulsed and twitched as something began poking at his chest from the inside.
A humongous, four-armed Ridley erupted from Ganondorf's fallen body and let out a terrible screech, but before Chaos could do anything, he was skewered from behind by a humongous sword that appeared to be slowly drinking away at his life force, turning him thinner and thinner until he was nothing more than a withered, lifeless husk. Ridley collapsed to the floor, revealing an imposing armored figure who rumbled, "To the Void with you," not even paying attention to the group of five in front of him before subsequently warping away.
Banjo looked at Diddy with an expression of confusion, at which the monkey could only give a helpless shrug. A bright light shone from the two bodies as they turned into Spirit Orbs, one housing an armored knight and the other being host to a menacing demonic figure. Diddy walked forward and collected the two orbs, causing the five of them to be warped back into Gruntilda's lair.
K. Rool landed on the floor first, followed by DK, Diddy, and Banjo, with Kazooie flipping the bear over in midair so that she was the one who had her feet on the ground when they landed. Taking in their surroundings, the five of them saw that they were inside a swelteringly hot cavern of lava, with only the only way through being a bright, colorful path above the boiling hot brew. Thinking out loud, King K. Rool wondered, "This place looks oddly familiar... I remember that old hag showing me the blueprints to this place all those years ago-"
"Grunty's Furnace Fun," Banjo and Kazooie groaned in unison.
Sephiroth, the silver-haired slaughterer of SOLDIER fame, let out a mirthless chuckle as he saw a flash of fear race across Cloud's eyes, continuing, "I made good on my promise, didn't I?"
Cloud's hands began shaking as his grip on the Buster Sword tightened, asking, "Wh-what are you doing here?"
"If I told you, it would ruin the surprise, wouldn't it?" Sephiroth replied as he cast Megaflare, engulfing King Dedede, Pyramid Head, and Wolf in a massive explosion of blue flames before casually knocking Kirby aside with a lazy backhand punch. Pointing Masamune at Cloud's chest, Sephiroth continued, "A duel. Just me and you, though I don't really care if your pathetic little friends are collateral," keeping Master Hand's conditions in the back of his head as a reminder of his deal with the eccentric host.
Mewtwo attempted to read the mind of the newcomer to see if it could learn anything about him, its eyes flashing blue as it used Psychic, but upon doing so, Mewtwo was immediately greeted with horrific images of a burning town with corpses strewn everywhere. As Mewtwo witnessed the carnage in the newcomer's mind, it saw the silver-haired man standing in the midst of the flames, a cruel smile fixed onto his face as he turned to look at Mewtwo. Mewtwo immediately severed the connection, its eyes wide with alarm, and with a soft growl, it began charging a Focus Blast as Sephiroth and Cloud began their duel.
Meanwhile, Mega Man and the RO-X were locked in a seeming stalemate, with the clone matching the Blue Bomber in both range and hand-to-hand combat. Switching to the Knight Crusher, Mega Man attempted to mace his clone, but he was stopped cold by the RO-X using Centaur Flash to lock him in place. Grabbing its progenitor by the throat, the RO-X switched weapons to the Super Arm and slowly began to squeeze as the effects of the Centaur Flash began to wear off.
As Rock struggled in his clone's grasp, he switched weapons to the Noise Crush and aimed at the ceiling, firing three sound waves which ricocheted off of it and back onto Mega Man, amplifying his next shot. Straining as he raised his Mega Buster to meet the RO-X's face, Mega Man fired, causing a cacophony of bat screeches to reverberate all over the room, which threw everyone off kilter. The RO-X dropped Mega Man onto the floor as it attempted to recalibrate its sensors, and Rock took the opportunity to run back to Dr. Mario and Joker, who were both attempting to shake off the side effects of the Noise Crush.
Stefano felt somebody tap his shoulder, and as he looked to his right, he saw Mega Man attempting to hand him a Silver Tomahawk, which he accepted with a confused expression. Though his ears were ringing, Dr. Mario could faintly hear Mega Man say, "Use it to defend yourself," as he turned his attention back to the RO-X, the Blue Bomber attempting to blow up his dark doppelgänger with a salvo of nearly every explosive Special Weapon that he had on hand.
On the other side of the room, Pyramid Head had recovered relatively quickly from the Megaflare Sephiroth had tossed his way (Wolf and Dedede were completely out of it), and began storming his way over to Snake and Bayonetta, before feeling a sudden jolt of pain flare up his spine. Whirling around with unforeseen speed, Pyramid Head unintentionally embedded his Great Knife in a wall as he tried to find the culprits... both of whom had hit the floor to avoid getting sliced in half from the waist down.
Captain Falcon and Little Mac both slowly got up, exchanging shaken glances before refocusing their efforts onto Pyramid Head. Little Mac began by sliding underneath the behemoth's legs before striking him with a one-two punch combo as he emerged up front, while Falcon struck one of Pyramid Head's legs with a monstrous backhand punch, creating a small explosion which actually staggered the juggernaut.
Matthew, having just shaken off an earlier bout of shock as a result of seeing Pyramid Head again, attempted to strangle Sephiroth with Abyss-tainted Growth Psynergy, but was met with a stunning burst of Scintilla, the magical barrier exploding and sending a powerful wave of energy Matthew's way. As Matthew recovered, he once again attempted to blast Sephiroth with another Psynergy attack, however, Fox was blasted across the room for attempting to assist Cloud in his duel against Sephiroth, landing on top of Matthew as he did so.
As Fox helped the Adept back to his feet, he saw that Pyramid Head had been staggered by something, and he sprinted off to make sure that the monster would hopefully not be able to recover.
Sephiroth chuckled as his Masamune clashed with Cloud's Buster Sword once more before forcibly breaking the blade lock and snapping his fingers, causing a wave of corrupted Lifestream to flow from his hands towards Cloud, who ducked out of the way before infusing his sword with Blizzaga and jamming it into the floor. From the spot on the ground where the Buster Sword had been embedded, a cluster of ice spikes erupted before racing over to Sephiroth, who merely used Scintilla to block the spikes before forcefully stabbing his Masamune into the ground where Cloud was standing. The stab kicked up both a shockwave and a cloud of debris that displaced every last Materia Cloud had equipped onto himself, sending the ex-SOLDIER into a frenzied panic not unlike one that his friend Yuffie would have undergone as he tried to recover the small orbs of crystallized Mako.
While Cloud was distracted, Sephiroth took the opportunity to confront another person of interest... that person being Matthew. As the Adept was recovering from Fox's unwelcome crash landing, something pinned him to the wall via his jacket. As Matthew looked to his left shoulder to see what it was, he saw that it was a sword that was as long as he was tall, causing him to quietly swallow.
Sephiroth, having thrown the Masamune in Matthew's direction, slowly began to walk towards the Adept while neutralizing every other combatant in the room save for Cloud, who was still searching for his Materia, through various methods: Greninja and Incineroar were sunken into the floor waist-down with Stoneja, while Popo, Nana, Fox, and Little Mac were all disposed of by Gigaflare.
Mewtwo let its Focus Blast fly in an attempt to take out the fallen SOLDIER, but Sephiroth idly flicked his right hand, casting a Reflect which caused the Genetic Pokémon's Focus Blast to harmlessly bounce off of him and into Solo and Corrin, incapacitating them. Wolf clawed his way out of the rubble he had been buried under as a result of the Megaflare from earlier and attempted to take a shot at Sephiroth, who shot a glare at Wolf before sealing him, Kirby, and a still-unconscious King Dedede in pillars of earth using Quaga. Looking at Snake, Bayonetta, and Captain Falcon, Sephiroth cast Stop on them before they could do anything, halting the three of them where they stood. Sephiroth bound Mewtwo and everyone else in the room not named Cloud or Matthew with Tabuu's Chains of Light—provided to him by Galeem—before finally reaching Matthew, watching with a cold smirk as the Adept struggled to free himself from the Masamune.
"So, you're Matthew... Galeem's taken quite an interest in you, from what I've heard." Sephiroth pierced his sword further into the wall as to further reduce Matthew's chances of escape before continuing, "Hmm... you're quite a conundrum, I must admit. You claim to be a champion for the light, yet I sense darkness all over you... but your claim is also correct. Just what are you?" Matthew's expression contorted into a hateful snarl, but before he could answer, Sephiroth tapped two of his fingers to the Adept's forehead and began to read his thoughts. Sephiroth was immediately greeted with a relatively peaceful scene of Matthew and his friends sitting outside of Belinsk on a well-earned vacation, with everyone intently listening to a story from Eoleo.
"Hmph... there's more to him that what's immediately apparent," Sephiroth thought as he continued to riff through the Adept's mind, breaking through the vision and seeing a scene of Matthew resentfully looking up at a pair of adults in a ravaged town, the two of them having lost their home to the Grave Eclipse and blaming the Adept and his friends for it. Quietly tilting his head in acknowledgement of the memory, Sephiroth dove even further, watching as Matthew struggled to deal with just how much the eclipse was affecting both all of Weyard and himself, and finally the Adept willingly accompanying Sveta to what he presumed would be his demise at the hands of the Apollo Lens.
Shaking his head not out of pity, but disgust, Sephiroth broke through that memory to find... something lying within the center of the Adept's mind. Chained to nowhere in particular was a dark red orb with a pulsating electric blue eye, the eyeball struggling against the chains and letting out an animalistic roar, forcing Sephiroth back into reality, though the fallen SOLDIER appeared to be more annoyed than shocked when he broke the connection. Looking behind himself, Sephiroth saw that Cloud finally recovered all of his Materia and quickly snapped his fingers, simultaneously binding Cloud in the Chains of Light and casting Sleep on him and everyone else in the room not named Matthew.
"And just so you don't get any funny ideas..." Sephiroth warned as he snapped his fingers, causing a ring of Shadow Flares appear above the sleeping ex-SOLDIER. Turning back to Matthew, Sephiroth noticed that the Adept's body had seemingly gone limp, and when he went closer, the false seraph heard a quiet murmur.
"I said RELEASE ME, you pathetic laboratory experiment!" Matthew snarled as he whipped his head up to face Sephiroth, revealing that the color of both his eyes had become Dharkon's striking electric blue in addition to the fact that there were some black pulsating veins running along the teenager's neck, most of them having been concealed by his scarf. However, just as quickly, those traits faded away, and Matthew slumped over, the brief spell under Dharkon having sapped away most of his energy.
Sephiroth for once seemed to be genuinely taken aback, and he silently pulled his sword out of the wall before surveying the destruction around him, ignoring Matthew as he fell to the floor. Remembering Master Hand's conditions, Sephiroth left the sleeping Smashers alone as he took a look at Pyramid Head and the RO-X still struggling against the Chains of Light.
"Hey kid, wake up!"
The muffled sound of Captain Falcon's voice caused Matthew to slowly come to, and once he was fully awake, Matthew unsteadily helped himself back to his feet and slowly unsheathed the Sol Blade so he could lean on it for support.
"Glad to see that you're awake, Matthew," Snake's unmistakably dry voice said as he walked up to the Adept. As he and Snake looked at the rest, it was only then that Matthew realized why no one had left the room despite Dharkon's seal having worn off: Pyramid Head's mangled body was lying in one of the room's corners, and the RO-X was nothing more than a pile of scrap strung up on the ceiling lights, leaving behind an occasional drip of black goo.
Everyone else—except Cloud, who was still out cold—appeared to be in just as much confusion as Matthew was, and the Adept turned to Snake, asking, "What happened while I was out?"
Tightening his bandana, Snake shook his head and replied, "None of us know, kid, Douglas was the first of us to wake up and he found the room in its current state," before turning on his Codec and ringing up Otacon.
"So Snake, what's the occasion?"
"Hal, we've got a weird situation on our hands. We were all put to sleep in the middle of our fight by some tall guy with silver hair and a big sword, and when we woke up, both Pyramid Head and that weird robot were... disposed of, to put it lightly. So far no one's been able to gather any clues, but I only just found this lying on the floor..." holding up a black feather to show it to his friend.
The line went silent, and for a few uncomfortable seconds, Snake heard nothing from Otacon. "Hey Hal... you there?"
"Black feather, massive sword, silver hair... it all sounds vaguely familiar, yet I have nothing."
Snake's eyes widened, and he parroted, "Nothing?!"
"I'm sorry David, I couldn't find anything... nothing in the Smash tournament's database correlates to that."
"Damn... thanks anyways, Hal, just-" Snake was cut off by a burst of static, and afterwards, he asked, "What just happened?"
"I don't know... we've never had this kind of interference on the Codec ever, do you think it could do with a Spirit?"
"It's a possibility... but anyways, thanks for trying to help, Hal."
"No problem, Snake." Otacon deactivated the Codec just as Cloud began to come to, the ex-SOLDIER letting out a slight groan.
Cloud clutched at his head as he stood up, using the Buster Sword for support, though as he slowly began to regain awareness, his confusion morphed into horror, with the current state of the room reminding him of Sephiroth's bloody escape from the Shinra building, the images of a bloody trail lined with severed body parts flashing in and out of his view. Looking over at Snake, Cloud saw that the mercenary was holding a black feather in his hand, which confirmed the worst of his fears and made him mutter, "Oh no... this is not good."
"What's the matter, Strife?" Dedede asked as he slung his hammer over his shoulder while examining the damage that had been done.
"This was all Sephiroth's doing."
A collective exclamation of confusion came from all those present in the room save for Snake and Mewtwo, the former of whom activated his Codec and said, "Otacon, see if you can find anything about a 'Sephiroth' in the tournament database... I vaguely remember Strife mentioning him at the very start of all this, but he refused to elaborate further when I asked him."
"Got it, Snake."
As Cloud kept deflecting questions from various Smashers on just who Sephiroth was, he curtly stated, "It's not important, now let's get out of here so we can find the rest of that goddamn key," beginning to walk out of the room.
However, a swarm of bats flitted his way, blocking the exit before reverting back into Bayonetta, who leaned down to match Cloud's height and said, "You seem awfully defensive about all of this, little one-"
"And I'm over five hundred, but that's besides the point." Her eyes narrowing, the Umbra Witch pressed, "What is it that you're not telling us? Surely that Sephiroth fellow is important if you're deflecting our questions about him."
"I'm not deflecting anything-"
"That's a load of bullshit, Strife, tell us who he is so we know what we're dealing with," came the gruff voice of Wolf, the lupine mercenary lurking in a corner of the room.
Everyone else began to voice their agreement with Wolf, the cacophony of voices asking about Sephiroth unintentionally triggering a "hallucination" for the ex-SOLDIER. The Buster Sword clattered to the floor as Cloud saw Sephiroth standing behind Bayonetta, and he slowly began to pick up his sword, calmly muttering, "Move out of the way, Cereza..."
"What's the matter Cloud, afraid I'm going to murder another female friend of yours?" Sephiroth inquired before casually tossing Bayonetta aside with a blast of dark magic. Looking at the crowd of Smashers before him, the false seraph chuckled once more before unfurling his wing... and promptly eating a kick to the face courtesy of one of Bayonetta's heels, which merely caused him to flinch. "And what was that for?" Sephiroth inquired dryly.
Pointing her guns at the fallen SOLDIER, Bayonetta said, "I can't just let you sneak attack me and get away with it... and besides, didn't you know, pretty boy? Killing angels is my specialty," throwing a flirtatious wink his way to cap off her boast.
"Save the trickery for another time, witch, I'm only here to relay a message from Galeem himself."
His hand inching towards his holster, Captain Falcon cautiously asked, "And what is that message?"
"He wants you all in one piece by the time you defeat Dharkon," Sephiroth's eyes flitted over to Matthew at the last part of that sentence before continuing, "So that he can properly finish the job that he started at the Craggy Outlook." Looking at the Smashers' horrified stares, Sephiroth shrugged and lazily said, "His words, not mine," before beginning to vanish. Looking Cloud right in the eye, Sephiroth coldly said, "And Cloud... surely you can tell them everything I've done to you and your little band of friends... starting with that pathetic flower girl inside of your head."
The last bit set Cloud off, and he lunged towards where Sephiroth had been standing, smashing his sword into the ground with as much force as he could, but by then it was too late, as Sephiroth had vanished. Breathing heavily, Cloud turned back to face the others, his eyes shining with unshed tears as he silently dared them to ask him anything about what Sephiroth had mentioned, before storming up the a flight of stairs that led to both the final floor and exit of Brookhaven Hospital. After a tense silence, with many uncomfortable glances exchanged, the rest of the Smashers followed suit, with Snake holding up the rear as he contacted Otacon on his Codec.
"Hal, did you manage to find anything on this Sephiroth guy?"
"I'm sorry Snake, there was absolutely nothing about him mentioned in the tournament database, and every external source I've looked into has also yielded no results either... guess you're going to have to go in blind on this matter unless Cloud starts talking, which between you and I, is probably not happening anytime soon."
Snake nodded his head in agreement before saying, "Again, thanks for helping, Otacon," before disconnecting the Codec and finally exiting the Brookhaven Hospital. Snake took in a breath of fresh air—as fresh as it could get in the Mysterious Dimension—before walking forward... and promptly bumping into Corrin, who seemed to have stopped in front of a gnarled tree along with everyone else, with a ruined RV buried in overgrowth next to it.
On the tree was Kirby's archenemy Marx... or rather, what was left of him, as he had been sliced into bits and strung along the tree by strands of his innards as if he were a very gruesome Christmas decoration. At the foot of the tree were two pieces of the Apollo Sanctum's key, which Snake presumed the little jester had been intended to be the guardian of before he was sliced to ribbons.
Rather than react with shock or horror like everyone else, Cloud walked up to the trunk of the tree, picking up both a jet-black feather and the pieces of the Apollo Sanctum key and handing the latter items to Matthew. Examining the feather, Cloud wearily sighed and was about to press forward until Mewtwo used Teleport on the ex-SOLDIER to pull him into his proximity.
Letting out a low rumble, the Genetic Pokémon asked, "You don't even know where to go, do you?" Cloud shoved his way past Mewtwo, only to be warped back to where he was standing. Mewtwo's eyes flashed as it used Psychic, and Cloud was lifted up into the air, surrounded by an eerie blue glow. "Now listen here, Cloud. You can't just expect everyone else to go in against this monster completely unprepared. I read his mind, and I've seen the atrocities he's committed from his point of view. Tell them what you know."
Cloud's grip on the feather tightened, and he shook his head, snarling, "Why don't you go and tell them? I'm sure that you were able to find something on Sephiroth when you almost completely shattered my mind back then-"
The hatred in Cloud's voice completely dissipated as he asked, "What did you say?"
"I saw nothing in regards to Sephiroth in your mind back then. Either you got hit really hard by selective amnesia, or you've repressed any and all memories of Sephiroth so well that not even skilled mind readers such as myself could find anything." Pausing, Mewtwo lowered its head in shame before continuing, "And regarding that incident towards the end of the fourth tournament... that was a completely unwarranted breach of your privacy on my part, and for that, I apologize."
Cloud's eyes softened as Mewtwo lowered him to the ground, and once he was standing on his own two feet, he looked the Genetic Pokémon up in the eyes and said, "I'll tell them." Mewtwo nodded in approval, and the two of them walked back to the others, while behind them, the Piranha Plant had waddled towards the RV for seemingly no reason at all. Looking at the mass of overgrowth that entangled the vehicle, the plant lightly tapped its head on the metal surface, causing it to lightly rumble as the door to the camper opened up.
The Piranha Plant was about to waddle in until it was suddenly scooped up from the ground by Incineroar, the Heel Pokémon saying, "Woah, stop right there, buster! You can't just- what the heck is that?"
A large purple plant with a similar head to the Piranha Plant had shuffled out to the front, letting out a large belch as it chewed on an arm, and the Piranha Plant made some snapping noises towards the bigger plant, who thoughtfully continued to chew on the arm.
"You're asking for a MAP?" The Piranha Plant turned towards Incineroar and nodded, and he began, "But how-"
The Chomper lightly growled and flashed its razor-sharp teeth towards Incineroar, who got the gist and piped down. Going back into the RV, the Chomper came back out shortly after with a fully detailed map in its leaves, passing it to the Piranha Plant while grunting out a message.
Looking at the map, the Heel Pokémon looked up towards the Chomper and asked, "Do you know anything about the guardian you're directing us to?"
Shaking its head, the Chomper rumbled something that sounded a lot like "Good luck," before closing the door to the RV.
"...And that's everything I know about Sephiroth," Cloud finished with a sigh, Mewtwo nodding in approval behind him. Looking out at the shocked faces of everyone else, Cloud turned to look at Matthew, and he did a wild take upon seeing the blonde teenager somehow having a single dark red devil's wing sprouting out of his back, while his eyes were a startling electric blue, the pupils having turned into snake-eyed slits not unlike Sephiroth's. Rubbing his eyes, Cloud looked towards Matthew again, and saw that the Adept was back to normal and staring at him with a confused look.
"Uh Cloud, are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine, thought I saw something," Cloud said.
Behind him, Incineroar strolled up, holding the Piranha Plant in one arm as he asked, "Hey bub, what did I miss? Also, we've got a map now!"
Cloud groaned and was about to tell him the story, but Mewtwo intervened, telling the ex-SOLDIER, "I'll take it from here," floating the map out of Incineroar's hands and into Cloud's before beginning to tell the Heel Pokémon about Sephiroth.
"A-HA! Fawful has found you, Dark Star, like the parched journeyman who has found the Chuckola of sweet victory!"
Stefano recognized the voice immediately, and muttered, "Oh, you've got to be shitting me..."
In front of them, Fawful was beginning to absorb the energy of the Dark Star, transforming into that bizarre insectoid form he had taken up during his final furious assault on the Mushroom World.
"Are you sure it's this way, er... Eleven?"
The Luminary nodded, the Mark of Yggdrasil continuing to gently pulse with a golden light as he led the two Hylians deeper into the Lost Woods in an effort to find the Triforce of Courage. As they pressed forward, Toon Link looked down at his left hand, which began to emit its own golden aura in the shape of the Triforce, with the glow being the brightest at the Triforce of Courage.
As for Link himself, the Hylian Champion sighed in resignation as he looked at his right hand, the Triforce being conspicuously absent from his dominant arm. Next to him, Toon Link gave his alternate self a sympathetic look and asked, "Is it not manifesting?" Link shook his head, and the Hero of the Wind continued, "Yeah... for some reason the Triforce of Courage is usually the last to manifest in the trio, mine specifically manifested only at the end of my first adventure," before coming to a halt as Eleven stopped walking.
"We're here," Eleven announced as the mark on his hand began emitting a glow so fierce that the Hylians behind him had to cover their eyes with the help of their shields. Once the glow subsided, the Luminary pressed forward... only to be caught off guard by someone flinging a Spirit Orb at his face, sucking him in.
The Luminary crash-landed onto a small cliffside overlooking a large waterfall. Looking up, he saw the fortified walls that guarded the city of Heliodor, which could only mean...
"Hey, isn't this the place where we first met?"
"ERIK!" Eleven cried out as he turned around, seeing a blue-haired Link in a faded green garb which heavily resembled Erik's main traveling outfit. Running towards the body which housed Erik's Spirit, Eleven asked, "Is it really you?"
"Well yeah, 'course it's me. You haven't told anyone but me about that birthmark on your-"
"Okay, I get it!" Eleven chuckled in amusement before pulling his boyfriend into a tight embrace, Erik reciprocating in kind.
Once they broke off the hug, Erik asked, "So, you've got a world to save, huh?"
"How did you know?"
Playfully pinching Eleven's face, Erik answered, "You've got that look in your eye again, y'know, the one you got when we fought Calasmos?" Erik then rested his head on his arms and continued, "I found it kinda cute, to be perfectly honest with you."
Eleven fiercely blushed as Erik laughed and began to glow with a radiant aura, transforming into a Spirit Orb. Flying inside Eleven, Erik's disembodied voice said, "You know I'm with you every step of the way, right?"
Laughing, Eleven nodded, replying, "Yep, I love you too, Spikey," as he was brought back into the Sacred Realm.
Eleven touched down in the Sacred Realm with a huge smile on his face, only be greeted by a flaming arrow that narrowly missed his face as Toon Link ran right past him, yelling, "Get him!"
Another diminutive version of Link chased after Toon Link, and finally Link himself showed up, the three Heroes of Hyrule undergoing a wild goose chase that ended when Young Link tripped up Toon Link with his Hookshot and pointed the Kokiri Sword at his neck. Inching the sword closer, Young Link snarled, "Wait... you're the one who took my place?"
"DON'T LIE TO ME!" Young Link screamed, Dharkon's influence bleeding through in his motions and mannerisms. "I was forgotten about for two whole tournaments and no one batted an eye when you showed up as my replacement!"
"It isn't like that!" Toon Link shot back, kicking at Young Link to push him off. Standing up, Toon Link continued, "If I was really meant to be your replacement, would Master Hand and Crazy Hand have invited you back for this tournament?"
"I..." Young Link paused at the momentary lapse in his logic as his eyes flickered between their natural color and the color they were under Dharkon's control, allowing Link to sneak up and smack him in the head with the hilt of the Master Sword, causing the Hero of Time to crumple to the floor, knocked unconscious by the force of the blow.
Sighing, Toon Link looked between Young Link's unconscious body and Link as he said, "I'm going to need to talk to him once he wakes up..." while Link sat down on a log with Eleven, staring out into the thick of the woods in thought.
Before Link could get too lost in his thoughts, however, Eleven tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Hey, just so you know, what we're looking for is over there," pointing towards a pedestal in front of a great gnarled tree, the mark on his hand emitting a bright glow as he did so.
"Well, I suppose we could right now, but I want to wait for the other two to come back because I don't think it'll respond to me... must've been my failure to protect the kingdom a century ago," Link despondently muttered. "For the longest time, I thought it was the goddesses trying to test me once I reawakened, but now..." Link trailed off to let his point sink in.
Meanwhile, Young Link came to with a splitting headache, clutching at his head as he sat up on the floor. Looking around, he saw that both of his alternate selves were staring at him in concern, along with a new arrival dressed in purple, who gave him a friendly wave. Looking at Toon Link, the young Hero of Time asked, "Who's he?"
"I'll explain later... can I talk to you in private?" Though confused, Young Link nodded, and walked with Toon Link to a small clearing in the forest not far from where Link and the Luminary were. Taking off his hat to shake off any twigs that had gotten stuck on there while fighting Young Link, Toon Link looked at his alternate self dead in the eye and asked, "You said some very... interesting things when we were trying to free you from Dharkon's control." Letting that hang between the two of them, Toon Link continued, "Did... you really see me as your replacement?" Young Link looked at the ground, mumbling something indistinct, which made Toon Link ask, "What?"
"Yes..." Looking back up at his cartoon counterpart, Young Link continued, "I thought you were supposed to be my replacement because I saw so many of the people in the auditorium looking at me with confusion and then back at you..."
"Ah... I see." Looking at Young Link, Toon Link carefully asked, "Is that why you were so distant with me during the Newcomer Ceremony?" The Hero of Termina shifted uncomfortably as he nodded, and Toon Link nodded in understanding before continuing, "Look, I know we've gotten off to a rough start, but what do you say that we try again once this is all over?" gesturing to their general surroundings for emphasis.
"Yeah, try again. It'd be very nice to have new friends to mess around with at the Mansion, and I know that Ness and Popo really miss you because you frequently came up in conversation whenever we were talking about practical jokes." Extending a hand out to Young Link, Toon Link asked, "So, what do you say?"
Young Link took Toon Link's hand and smiled as he shook it, saying, "Sure," and the two walked back to where Toon Link had first found him to reconvene with Link and the newcomer, who introduced himself as Eleven. Once the situation had been explained to Young Link, he and his two legacies walked over to the pedestal by the tree, which began to glow with a golden light.
"Ahhh... so you three are reincarnations of the Hero's spirit. I am certain that the two of you clad in green need not any explanation as to why that is important, but for the newest of your lineage... I request a brief audience with him." All three Links nodded, and the Hylian Champion stepped even closer to the pedestal, reaching out to the orb of light. Once he touched it, everything went white, and Link was transported into an empty field that was just by the Riola Spring. As he took time to look around, Farosh, one of the three dragons of Hyrule, emerged from the spring and flew towards Link. "Hero of the Wild, I knew this day would come."
Shaking its head, the dragon continued, "That is merely the name I adopted to conceal my true identity," emitting a bright green light as it turned into a young woman with short green hair wearing a sarashi and a sirwal. Looking at Link, the woman flicked at his nose playfully and said, "The name's Farore, Goddess of Courage." In front of her, Link began to take a bow, only for Farore to laugh, saying, "Oh, you don't need to do that, don't worry." As Link stood back up, his face slightly flushed with embarrassment, the goddess asked, "What seems to be the matter?"
"...Am I not worthy of the Triforce's power?"
Farore, though surprised at his bluntness, answered, "The Triforce is quite fickle in how it shows itself to its chosen champions, however, I chose you to be the reincarnation of the original Hero's spirit for a reason. Never forget that, Link."
As Farore snapped her fingers, catapulting Link back into the Sacred Realm, the Hylian swore he saw a faint light appear on his right hand...
When Link came to, he saw the faces of his two alternate selves and the Luminary looking at him with concern. Sitting up, Link accepted Eleven's hand and said, "I'm alright, but thank you," staring at the golden orb by the pedestal, which glowed even brighter than usual before turning into one of the three pieces of the Triforce, specifically the Triforce of Courage.
The three heroes stared at the artifact in awe before being interrupted by, "Oh, thank goodness we-a found you guys!" Mario, Sonic, Geno, and Olimar ran over, being followed by Lucas, the Mii Swordfighter, and Red, who was helping an injured Leaf walk. "We-a saw the golden glow shortly after reconvening with Lucas and-a his group, so we decided to-a come over."
Next to Toon Link, Young Link wiped some sweat off of his forehead and muttered, "Jeez, just how much have I missed out on?"
"You missed a lot," Toon Link stage whispered before continuing, "Though in regards to the Subspace Incident, I'd say you lucked out by not being here..."
Geno said, "Olimar here has found us a way out of the forest thanks to his Pikmin," Steve proudly puffing his chest next to Olimar, who nodded. "I believe that it is imperative that we depart now that we have found everything that we are looking for, we mustn't waste anymore time."
Sonic kicked up a massive cloud of dust as he sped off on the designated route out of the forest that Olimar had carefully made, and once it settled, Mario, after a small coughing fit, said, "Okay, let's-a follow the small trail of fire he's left behind..." and everyone else followed suit, chasing after Sonic's trail to escape the Lost Woods.
I used Morton's personality from Paper Jam because I'm not a fan of how much of an overt simpleton that they made him from Color Splash onwards.
And yeah, the Luminary's sexuality was an idea I had my mind set on for a while, I just never got a chance to do it until now.
Group 1 (Dracula's Castle): Luigi, Ness, Peach, Villager, Rosalina, Simon, Daisy, Isaac, Samus, Wario, Yoshi, Pikachu, Pac-Man, Mr. Game & Watch, Eight, Ike, Ken, Robin, Richter, Byleth, Chrom, Steve + Alex
Group 2 (Sacred Realm - Triforce of Courage sector): Link, Toon Link, Mii Swordfighter/Brian, Red + Leaf (Squirtle, Ivysaur, Charizard), Sonic, Eleven/Luminary, Geno, Mario, Lucas, Olimar, Young Link
Group 3 (Sacred Realm - Triforce of Wisdom sector): Ryu, Zelda, Falco, R.O.B., Lucario, Marth, Jigglypuff, Meta Knight, Min Min, Mii Gunner/Faye, Pyra + Mythra
Group 4 (Sacred Realm - Triforce of Power sector): Banjo, Ridley, Inklings (Meggy, Evan), Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong, King K. Rool, Bowser, Erdrick/Arvus, Terry Bogard, Duck Hunt Duo (Ollie, Mallie), Bowser Jr.
Group 5 (Mysterious Dimension): Matthew, Joker, Snake, Kirby, Dr. Mario, Cloud, Fox, Greninja, Mega Man, Little Mac, Pit, Piranha Plant, King Dedede, Captain Falcon, Ice Climbers, Wolf, Incineroar, Bayonetta, Solo, Corrin, Mewtwo
Group 6 (?): Sephiroth
Apollo Sanctum key pieces: 7/13