Finally, we reach the conclusion of Checkmate. I apologise for the delay - not only did the writing take very long, I was also faced with an Internet outage...
Many thanks to all those who've supported me throughout this fic – NinjaSheik, lupyne, Shadow Blues, Dusk-N-Dawn and Souldin… thanks also goes out to negative panda, Pikachu127, Rhenroh and Sugar Baby Cresselia. Really, without your support this entire thing would have been so much worse off.
Moving on from here, I'm going to wrap up the Days of Our Lives arc as quickly as I can. The appeal's starting to die out, and there's something to be said for not dragging on an arc for longer than it's welcome.
That said, I hope to be putting on two final spins on the arc, with upcoming oneshots Reflection and Stars. Please do keep a lookout for those, as those will provide some sort of closure to everything. And of course, after those comes Cheers, which will be in an entirely different environment. It's been time for a change of scenery, and I must say that I'm enjoying myself immensely as I write for Reflection and Cheers.
But back to the point. Thank you all once again, you guys have really made all the work worthwhile, and for that I thank you all. Comments and constructive criticism are always welcome. So please, sit back, relax, and enjoy –
Checkmate – Chapter Seven
Not long after, they were all crowded back on the Halberd. Not just Meta Knight, Lucario and Snake, but almost the entire roster of Smashers. The Brawlers lined the metallic corridors of the ship. In fact, after they had gathered on Meta Knight's ship, the corridors seemed to be spilling over with the various Smashers.
Meta Knight silently walked to the head of the crowd, the assorted Smashers parting to let the diminutive warrior pass. As he did, he ran a glove along the riveted surface of one of the hallways, feeling its rough surface through the material of his glove, relishing each slight bump and the uneven texture of the wall, until it came to an abrupt halt at a doorway.
Lightly gripping the edge of the rusty door, he allowed his eyes to travel. The Smashers by now had fallen silent, watching Meta Knight as his gaze travelled slowly from the arched doorway, to the rusty walls, and to the corridor roof and floors.
Releasing his grip, he slowly walked to the front of all the Smashers, his back towards them, choosing to face instead an open door. That open door lead directly to the bow of the ship, the control room of the entire Halberd, and the captain's chair that once had been his. And now, he had reclaimed it.
After his long search, the Halberd was his once again. To top it all off, the Smashers were once again reunited, after many, many long nights. The Smashers all threw their gazes at him, from the eternally hungry and unfortunately familiar face of Kirby to the other Smashers from other universes, all at one point on the other suffering from the invasion from Subspace. Sure enough, Meta Knight would not have taken kindly to them all on the Halberd at the same time – nothing to say of them stowing their ships on in the Halberd cargo – but this was a special occasion.
It would mark the beginning of the end for the Subspace Army.
Turning around, his cape flared out behind him, eventually settling behind him in a dignified manner. At the same time, he withdrew his short sword, what little light there was in the dusty corridor immediately reflecting off the golden blade. Holding it up high, like a baton-wielding conductor, the sword's reflected brilliance glimmered in the dusky hallway.
They saw it long before it saw them. The Subspace Gunship was a massive metallic monster out of a giant Subspace portal, armed to its very teeth with smaller gun turrets on its side and a singular ridiculously, almost comically large main cannon. Its purpose was to create larger and greater Subspace portals more efficiently, but it was adequately prepared to defend itself with a formidable arsenal of weapons.
Over the horizon, Meta Knight's hand floated almost dreamily over the rim of the captain's steering wheel, sending the Halberd yawning gently to one side. Reaching for the controls for Halberd's own weapons, Meta Knight calculated the possibilities in his head. If he'd got in the first hit, there was a possible chance that he would be able to take down the Gunship, even without the need for Kirby's back-up plan…
The Halberd was no floating coffin by itself either. It was well-equipped with its own supply of turrets, coupled with a large cannon on its deck – which apparently bore marks of usage from the Subspace Army, Meta Knight observed – which ensured that the Halberd posed a considerable threat to the conventional opponents, such as would-be pirates and boarders.
However, the Gunship wasn't a conventional opponent.
A bright flash of light soared in an arc, quickly approaching the Halberd. It appeared to be on a collision course, but Meta Knight saw it coming and quickly lifted the Halberd out of danger, the blast passing harmlessly below the Halberd's metal underbelly. However, it was immediately followed by ten more of its brethren, and many more behind them… and now that the initial shock was over, the firing sounds reached Meta Knight's ears, confirming that the Gunship had already started its assault.
"Brace yourself!" commanded Meta Knight over the intercom, before strapping himself to the captain's seat, and sending the Halberd rocketing forward and towards a side. In doing so, most of the shots skimmed past the ship, but a single shot glanced off its exterior, leaving a burn mark in its wake. Meta Knight winced, but his eyes widened ever so slightly at the sudden barrage of firepower from his opponent.
The innumerable turrets on the side of the Gunship had started to open fire, resulting in thousands of low-damage, yet overwhelming barrage of shots being sent directly to the Halberd's doorstep. Impossible as it was to evade all the shots, Meta Knight swerved and yawed the Halberd, resulting in only superficial damage to the Halberd, at most, severe scorch marks on its flanks.
In return, the Halberd opened fire, its own turrets madly machine-gunning ammunition in the general direction of the Gunship. Due to its colossal size, it would probably result in hits; yet due to its colossal size, it would probably result in nothing more than very minor worries about the paintwork. The main cannon of the Halberd was slowly gathering its charge, and very soon it would be ready to fir–
There was a sickening crunch, and Meta Knight instinctively whipped around. A fin had finally given in to the repeated barrage of ammo, and a couple of on-target high-power shots had done in another. Already many other sections of the Halberd were increasingly stressed, and the hull itself was sustaining heavy damage. Just as that realization occurred to him, the scorch of heat informed him that another shot had passed close by, and how close the Halberd was to –
An alarm blared, Meta Knight glancing down at his controls. Port wing breached, starboard side quickly giving way. The hull was holding, but the main cannon would be ready to fire any minute now, and then the Halberd might just stand a chance…
Just as Meta Knight hoped against hope, a high-energy shot connected squarely with the main cannon, physically ripping it off its hinges and sending it clattering loudly across the deck, almost like a fallen giant's hand, eliciting a wail from a high-pitched alarm. Electricity crackling about it, its charge dying away and releasing in sporadic explosive bursts, the cannon body dipped into the Halberd itself, cracking open the deck and starting to fall.
After the fight with the Great Fox, in which Meta Knight wrestled back control of the Halberd, it was already not at its peak. And yet, it managed to nearly crush the Great Fox, separately taking out the Ice Climbers and very nearly Meta Knight and Lucario, too. But now, even the formidable Halberd seemed to have met its match. Conversely, the Gunship's main destructive cannon was a glimmer of light, signaling it was ready to fire. In a couple of seconds, Meta Knight made his decision.
Reaching over for the intercom microphone, he calmly dictated that the Smashers leave. It was a good thing that they had their smaller ships safely stowed away in the Halberd's cargo; but although the Halberd was lost Meta Knight wouldn't forgive himself if he had let them and their ships go down with it. After he gave the order, he simply let go of the microphone, its bendy stem bounding back into its original position, and the puffball collapsing backwards into his chair.
And so, amid the destruction, the smoky control room, and the alarms blaring, Meta Knight rested a single hand on the top of the steering wheel, occasionally gently tilting it left and right; almost as if he was out taking the Halberd for a cruise.
"So, this is how it ends," he murmured to himself.
The door to the control room violently swung open, slamming against the wall behind it, the grinding sound of metal on metal jolting Meta Knight out of his reverie. Turning around, he saw the figure of Captain Falcon standing in the doorway, helmet on and visor down.
"Let's go, Meta Knight. The Falcon Flyer's ready, so are the other Smashers. We gotta get out of here, the Halberd won't hold for much longer –"
"I know," Meta Knight cut off the bounty hunter, turning and staring ahead at the scenery of destruction unfolding in front of him. Flashing lights vied for Meta Knight's attention, informing him of heavier and heavier damage the Halberd was sustaining. The alarms' voices started to fail, their ringing starting to falter and descending into pathetic whining. How far from the great and mighty Halberd just a couple of weeks ago, when he was slowly taking it for a joyride at the outskirts of Skyworld and admiring the night sky! Here Meta Knight took one hand off the wheel, turning to squarely face the Captain.
"But the Halberd is mine."
There was a sudden electronic whine, Meta Knight snapping his head backwards towards the windshield. In front of him he saw a pinprick of light, moments before he heard the deafening roar of the Gunship's main cannon. In a couple of seconds its powerful homing beam would develop, eventually to fire and reach the Halberd no matter what he did – and then who knew what then?
Ignoring the muttering Captain behind him, Meta Knight thought it would be best to repeat the order for Smashers to abandon the Halberd in their respective ships. But as he reached for intercom microphone he saw a growing different, reddish fire reflected in the windshield… from the inside.
Directly behind him.
His eyes widened as he whipped around, his hand immediately going to his sword, a little too late. "Captain, what are you –"
Even here, it didn't look good. There were red warning lights aglow, illuminating the hall in a sickening reddish tint. The Captain, glad for his fast feet, Falcon Dashed the last few feet to his vehicle. Lucario, however, was outside, staring anxiously at the Captain.
I believe Meta Knig – "Just get in!" Before the Aura Pokémon could protest, the Captain threw something into his paws, Lucario instinctively grabbing and holding onto it. Before he knew what was going on, the Captain had seized the opportunity, picked up the shorter Lucario by the scruff of his neck, and forcibly flung him into the open door of the Falcon Flyer.
The Falcon Flyer's door was still open, so the Captain immediately jumped into the open hatch and slammed it shut. Solid Snake was beside him, otherwise, no one else was inside. Without a moment to lose, the Captain floored the accelerator, the force causing Lucario to stagger backwards into the backseat of the Flyer, as it followed closely behind Falco's Arwing taking off into the sky from the Halberd's gigantic cargo hold.
For the first time, Lucario inspected the round thing he caught, to be surprised when it turned out to be an unconscious Meta Knight. He hardly had the time to react before the Flyer shifted gear and roared into action, speeding outward at a spectacularly fast speed. The racers on Port Down Aero Drive were extremely fast, capable of knocking unsuspecting Smashers out of the arena in a hit; but evidently there was a reason why Captain Falcon was their racing champion.
What – "Refused to abandon his ship. Had to Falcon Punch him into the ground then skedaddle," the Captain answered, without so much as a look back. Startled, Lucario examined Meta Knight slightly more closely, but the Star Warrior seemed to be uninjured but simply out cold.
"Couldn't abandon him, could we?" Captain Falcon took a second to look back, staring straight at the Pokémon. Even though he still kept that air of bravado, Lucario knew that he was just as affected as the other Smashers, a sad smile where his cheerful grin ought to be. Not knowing what else to say, Lucario mutely shook his head, still staring at the puffball in his paws.
Just as the Flyer cleared the last of the runway, they were greeted with a sudden burst of colour as they joined the Smashers' smaller craft, soaring into the clear sky, and the Halberd exploded violently behind them and ceased to exist.
Lucario winced inwardly, and felt Meta Knight squirm slightly in his unconscious state; then fall back motionless.
"Good thing he wasn't awake," muttered the Captain from the front.
In front, seconds too late, Kirby's Dragoon finally gathered up enough momentum to bodily pierce the Gunship, rendering it smoking and out of commission. In silence, the Smashers' various ships flew past the remains of the Gunship, still protruding out of the portal, into Subspace beyond.
After Meta Knight woke up, surrounded by faces of concerned Smashers, he probably had grasped what had happened. Nonetheless, if he knew, he didn't seem to want to say anything about it, following the contingent mutely from their parked vehicles in some conveniently located Subspace parking lot.
Eventually, as they were walking, Meta Knight turned to Lucario, who happened to be alongside him. "Thank you," he muttered in his low voice. Slightly startled, Lucario replied. What for? The Captain saved you, not me.
"I mean, for trusting in me," Meta Knight stopped, turning to stare directly at the Pokémon. "I was knocked out, but still managed to get an idea of what was going on. You," here he pointed an accusing finger at the Pokémon, before relaxing his stance. "You waited for me, too."
Lucario nodded once. Of course.
They continued to walk on in silence.
A golden piece struck insubstantial-looking Subspace floor, ricocheting off with an angry crack, bouncing a couple of times and landing a fair distance from the board. The initial arrangement of pieces at the start of the game had been entirely overthrown – and now that it seemed to be the endgame, the Smashers had grown in number and unity, and were steadily beating a path to his residence.
His generals had failed him one by one, and their discarded trophies had been placed by the side of the chessboard. However, with each successive defeat, Tabuu had gotten more and more impatient – and although he wouldn't admit it – more and more concerned that the Smashers might actually stand a chance.
That's why he decided to obliterate them in one go, taking the opportunity when they were in the flying steel can they called the Halberd. As Wario was nowhere to be found, he had Master Hand command Ganondorf and Bowser to take charge of his second-greatest weapon yet.
The Subspace Gunship was the product of countless Primids' labour, as well as the investment of an enormous amount of time. Metal was salvaged wherever possible, throughout the Primids' early excursions into the Smashers' worlds, and it had culminated in something even Tabuu thought looked good. And in fact, being able to unveil it to the Smashers in such spectacular a fashion was something he took a pride in; and how it had utterly decimated the much smaller Halberd was immensely satisfying.
However, there always seemed to be a flaw in the best laid of his plans. Not only were his many generals being picked off one by one, his numerable backup plans failing one after the other; but the two blockheads had been so concerned with the Halberd they forgot to look the other way.
Kirby. Of all the Smashers, his proudest achievement had to be dashed by one of the most innocent-looking, youngest and smallest of them all. One single hit from his Dragoon had bodily pierced the Gunship, straight through the main cannon. And the two idiots had decided it was best to retreat after one hit – just because all their plans to take over their world failed after a single accidental touch by a plumber or a sword-wielding fairy didn't mean his had to.
Nonetheless, that added Kirby to his list of Smashers he now had a personal vendetta with – right next to the pretentious pilot Falco Lombardi for destroying a Dark Cannon right in front of Bowser.
And so now, the trophy representing the Gunship had clattered uselessly to the floor. Idiots, thought Tabuu. However, upon calming down a little, he inspected the piece a little more closely. Battered, definitely. But not completely destroyed… Kirby and the Smashers had evidently left it for dead after Bowser and Ganondorf retreated… perhaps there would be use for it after all.
His thoughts were momentarily distracted from the chessboard. A Dark Cannon had gone off in the near vicinity. Tabuu peered over the knuckles of Master Hand, only to see a long figure ascend a platform. And behind him was a discarded Cannon and the trophy of Bowser… well, well, it seemed like Ganondorf was too focused on the promise of power, even to the point of taking out a "fellow general".
And then it clicked.
Ganondorf was now all alone. And with the Smashers all quickly gathering, it would finally be time to unleash his final safeguard, his best weapon yet.
Meanwhile, oblivious to the greater picture, Ganondorf stood on the platform, summoning Master Hand. Tabuu allowed the Hand to appear to him, but the Gerudo immediately realized something was up, scrutinizing the Hand closely. Little by little, Tabuu revealed the Chains of Light, slowly leading Ganondorf's gaze until they reached him himself.
Smirking slightly, Tabuu tugged on one of the Chains, one of Master Hand's fingers moving accordingly. At this point, the point was clear – Tabuu was the true mastermind behind the invasion, the true Subspace Emissary.
Enraged, the King of Evil leaped upwards, using Master Hand as a platform to propel himself towards Tabuu. At the same time, his fists clenched and moved backwards, a sinister purple fire gathering about them.
Warlock Punch, one of Ganondorf's most powerful attacks, capable to knocking out multiple opponents in Brawls and greatly feared all throughout his native world and even amongst his own subjects. Some say it rivaled or even bested the legendary Falcon Punch in its raw power and might – and even in their days at the Mansion, even the cocky Captain Falcon always fell back when Ganondorf attempted to throw one of these powerful punches, not daring to even counter it with a Falcon Punch.
And now, it was directed straight at Tabuu.
If Tabuu could, he would have laughed. How could things be getting so easy?
The instant Ganondorf almost touched Tabuu, the blue being rippled a shockwave of energy out from his being. Even in his immobilized state, that was enough not just to defeat Ganondorf and render him a trophy, but also had enough power left over to send the trophy hurtling back down to earth at unimaginable speeds.
As it did, it so happened that Ganondorf's trophy slammed against the back of Master Hand. The result was that at the incredible speed the trophy was travelling, it simply snapped the Chains of Light, one by one, out of Tabuu's grasp. Strictly speaking, Tabuu held on tightly to his end of the Chains – but the momentum was so great that the Chains of Light simply broke under the strain.
An accident, but easily corrected.
Crashing down onto the floor of the cavern, Master Hand took but only a second to get his bearings. And then, wordlessly, he launched himself at Tabuu, reaching speeds so high then the beginnings of a flame started to spark and fly off his bruised knuckles. However, Hand or Gerudo, they met the same resistance – the second shockwave Tabuu released was enough to knock Master Hand out and throw him in a wide arc.
The Hand limply continued that arc, heavily crashing down onto the Subspace floor for the second time in ten seconds; his fingers twitched once, then relaxed and went limp. Almost immediately came the pattering of many feet, and around the corner appeared the contingent of Smashers, who looked on with surprise and shock at Master Hand's limp figure…
…and more importantly, his growing blue wings.
Tabuu's Off Wings were his final, and most powerful asset. Its incredible power meant that he could only use it once in a while, but what did it matter? A single beat of his wings would ensure instant defeat for all Smashers. A shockwave many times the magnitude of that which overpowered Master Hand would transverse the entire cavern, and there would be no way of escaping it.
Most importantly, all the Smashers were now either lying as trophies near the beaten Hand, or standing there and gawking.
Tabuu stretched, glad to finally be able to use his limbs. With Master Hand's defeat, his spell over him was broken, allowing Tabuu to freely move once again. Being able to move once again, his mouth slowly broke out into a broad smirk. Pulling his hands apart, blue motes of light quickly solidified about his back, forming a large set of intricate, deadly wings.
"Up-a ahead!" came Mario's shout, followed by Falco's "Come on!" Urged on, the remaining Smashers broke out into a run, running across an eerily insubstantial Subspace platform. Lucario's Aura Filters picked up a positively odd Aura, along with an ebbing and diminished Aura of… Master Hand?
The Smashers broke out into a large cavern, seemingly composed of nothing, its walls too far apart from each other to be seen, yet gave off the purplish glow associated with Subspace. On the floor, Lucario spied the half-hidden trophy of Ganondorf, but that was quickly forgotten when the monstrous frame of Master Hand came into view a split second later, lying prone and motionless on the floor with scorch marks on his gloved knuckles.
The platform tapered off away from the group of Smashers, ending in a cliff-like protrusion. In this direction, suspended in what seemed like the middle of the gigantic cavern, was an odd blue figure.
Lucario immediately identified it as the source of the odd Aura, but behind it he discerned the indistinguishable features of… he didn't quite know what he was, but he caught some glints of gold, small sparks of bright colour against an otherwise drab purplish sky. Almost like faraway trophies…
A burst of Aura intruded upon his thoughts, Lucario jerking his head up and spying the figure suddenly having wings materialize upon his back. Visible waves of power flowed into these wings, making them brighter by the second, while strong waves of Aura washed into Lucario's vision. The Auras told of confidence, a smug self-satisfaction, and what could be best described as sinister laughter.
The figure started to stretch its arms out, relishing the power as it flowed through its limbs. Behind it, its wings glowed ever brighter, until they illuminated the entire cavern and the purple walls reflected it in a light tint.
The Smashers themselves started to cry out, taking up battle stances. Some were only halfway through drawing out their swords or weapons, but in the middle of that the blue figure beat its wings once, an enormous shockwave traversing the entire cavern.
They saw it before they heard it, but they felt it before they could do anything about it. Lucario felt the icy cold sensation as the shockwave invaded into his torso, bodily lifting him off his feet and blinding his eyes. Through Aura vision, he realized that all the Smashers had met the same fate, and not one had escaped.
At the same time he heard a soft ping, and felt a familiar, grotesque sensation spreading from his torso, an inky coldness and rigidity spreading around its fur. A quick check confirmed that everyone else was experiencing the same thing – Auras were quickly diminishing, reducing. Somehow, a single attack had managed to defeat the entire roster of Smashers in one fell swoop.
Lucario's eyes widened, realizing the gravity of the situation. If all of them were rendered as trophies, there would be no one to revive them.
They would be trapped, pinned to their immobile trophies.
As he struggled to stay awake, his Aura flared out and lashed out against the encroaching cold and darkness. Although it did help him stay awake for longer, but in the end his willpower and ability could not overcome the incredible power behind the attack, and Lucario once again begun to fall into semi-unconsciousness, mentally thrashing about as he descended.
As the blackness claimed his vision, and his Aura senses started to shut down, he received a final burst of Aura from the outside world. It was from the odd winged creature, an explosion of pride and smugness and above all, an overwhelming sense of victory. The creature made no excuses for his smugness, savoring his victory and basking in it, such that even with his rapidly diminishing capacity, Lucario could pick it up. And with it, there was a single word that permeated his diminishing consciousness.
In some aspects, being trophyised was even worse than his being trapped in the staff. At least in the crystal, Lucario could still occasionally see Aura-tinted, crystal-hued bluish visions of the outside world once in a while. While it was true those were cruel temptations to an imprisoned Pokémon, at least it gave Lucario something to focus his energies on.
As a trophy, he saw nothing.
It was like suddenly being stripped of the five senses, not being able to see, hear, touch and feel anything, suspended in a murky black void. For Lucario, at least his Aura senses were still barely functioning, allowing him to think and to telepathically speak to himself, although that admittedly wasn't much use.
However, one sense it didn't render useless was the heart, and it was here where Lucario was repeatedly stabbed multiple times, over and over again. The exasperated sighs were only magnified with his telepathy, immersing the Pokémon further in his loneliness.
Perhaps he was a little too hasty… Meta Knight was but one Smasher, and perhaps he trusted too easily – once again. Trusting in the Smashers to keep safe together, trusting in each other's ability to revive each other…
In the end, this was the result he got – his just desserts, he supposed.
If he could have, Lucario would have sat down and kneaded his head in his paws, but since he couldn't, nor could he even feel his paws, he simply didn't try.
After an unknown period of time – it could have been seconds, or it could have been centuries – there was a flash of colour in his field of vision. Blearily blinking once or twice, he found himself staring at a metal-plated ceiling.
Suddenly the feeling of the cold metal he was lying on rushed into his back, the Pokémon immediately sitting upright. Data from his six senses suddenly flooded his brain, temporarily overwhelming it with so much information that he felt giddy. As the Aura-blue haze started to clear from his eyes, he discovered who it was that rescued him.
In front of him were the duo from the Halberd – the diminutive Meta Knight and the mercenary Snake. The human raised his Rocket Launcher, leaping past Lucario to beat down a couple of Primids and finish off a group further away, as the Aura Pokémon stared blankly on. Meta Knight waved Galaxia to get Lucario's attention, the short sword making swishes in the air.
"Come!" Turning, he half-flew, half-glided down the rest of the corridor.
Should he trust him once again?
In that split second, a Giant Primid suddenly loomed out of the ground, in front of Lucario. The Pokémon suddenly looked up, staggering backwards one step in amazement and shock. The Primid raised one gloved hand, ready to strike out –
Then there was a ball of fire and heat, Snake suddenly appearing beside Lucario. "Go!" Letting loose another round of rocket fire at the Giant Primid, Snake grabbed Lucario's forepaw and ran.
Unfortunately for the spy, he misjudged and grabbed his paw-spike instead. Suddenly pulling his hand away, Snake only paused just enough to grip fur instead of spike before continuing to drag the slightly-dazed Lucario through the corridor.
Lucario struggled out, wrenching his paw from the spy's grasp. Sorry, are you – "Fine," completed Snake. "But hurry up! We're going to need all the Smashers we can get…" Seeing him point down the darkening corridor, Lucario followed Snake's finger, seeing a distant Meta Knight waiting and beckoning for them to follow.
He made up his mind.
The rest of the story is well-known. The Smashers reconvene, including the troublemaker Wario and surprisingly enough, Bowser and Ganondorf, on the steps up towards Tabuu's Residence. Sonic the Hedgehog breaks through to Subspace at the last possible minute, shattering Tabuu's Off Wings and finally crippling his final line of defense, forcing him into a head-to-head battle with the Smashers.
With a force of twenty-something Smashers against Tabuu, it was still a close victory, but a victory nonetheless.
After Tabuu's defeat, Subspace began to rumble, as Tabuu reflexively relinquished the power holding the portions of their worlds together. Hurriedly, the Smashers entered into a bubble, hoping they would emerge somewhere safe. They ended up on a cliff overlooking where the Isle of Ancients once was – not far from the Mansion, but still a sad reminder of the time past.
Everyone had immediately assumed the ghost and the curse of Tabuu had permanently been put to rest, after they had invaded his Residence and sent him careening into the dark abysses of the Subspace cavern.
Truth be told, the Isle of Ancients was not entirely lost, nor were Tabuu's pawns utterly decimated. Although none of the Smashers saw it, the chessboard was not entirely emptied after Tabuu fell. A few pieces remained in Tabuu's side: one was a replica of the Isle of Ancients, a glowing bubble permanently suspended in Subspace. Another was a Bob-omb, and it was only a short walk from the Isle to the Mansion… where the Smart Shields' controls were located…
Another piece was a portal; conveniently disguised as a Smart Bomb, ready to be activated when he was ready to launch a counteroffensive.
And the last piece was now twirled about by long blue fingers, before being delicately placed in a remote corner of the chessboard, revealing a rather wrecked, nearly-functional, but not entirely defeated Gunship.
So, the game ended not in a checkmate, but in a pause. One side had been forced to the edge of defeat, but fortunately for him the other party up and left the game for tea before it could properly conclude.
The typical movie clinché – never assume your enemy is dead, even if you have got him into a stranglehold on the chessboard – finish the game properly and you will be rewarded. However, like the multiple worlds and kingdoms the Smashers hailed from, antagonists were always given the – accidental – chance of a comeback.
The next round, he would be even more careful.
The roof of the Smash Mansion was seemingly deserted. Yet as he stepped out, he knew that someone was there, watching him. Putting a foot forward, the roof tiles clattered loudly, announcing his not-so-silent arrival as he grimaced. Ignoring them, he continued walking, until he saw a silhouette seated at the edge of the roof.
The Pokémon Trainer attempted to tiptoe across to where Lucario was seated, but only succeeded in making even more noise. Giving up, he walked over normally, stopping a couple of paces behind the Pokémon, who did not stir.
Hearing the Trainer clear his throat, Lucario tilted his head to the side, allowing himself to catch Pokémon Trainer in his physical vision. The Trainer pointed at the spot beside Lucario, the Pokémon's gaze obediently following his finger.
"That seat taken?"
A brief startled look crossed Lucario's face for an instant, replaced immediately by his usually stony expression. However, he shifted a little away from the spot, patting it lightly with a paw. No, not at all.
They sat in silence for a while, Pokémon Trainer occasionally humming broken, disconnected tunes before faltering into silence, whereas Lucario on the other hand tried his very best not to make any eye contact with the Trainer at all. Very soon, the Trainer started fiddling with some Pokéballs, but never made to throw them, only allowing them to slip continually from his fingers.
Eventually Lucario stirred, the Trainer perking up. Still not looking at the Trainer, the Pokémon stared off into the distance, where the darkened sky started to blend into the first signs of day.
I guess I should apologize…
The receding night found both the Trainer and Lucario together on the roof, watching the daylight break. Or more accurately, Lucario watching the arrival of the new day – the Trainer had fallen fast asleep, silently resting, sprawled on the Mansion's roof.
Eventually, as the dawn finally broke over the Smash Mansion, the roof was lit up slowly, bit by bit with gold, Lucario quietly getting up to leave. However, at the slight jingling sound of the staff, the sleeping Trainer suddenly jolted awake, rubbing the remaining specks of sleep out of his eyes. Lucario waited for him to scramble up, offering a paw to help, but the Trainer waved it aside and quickly stood upright.
"To the future?" he asked, extending his hand out to the Pokémon.
As the Smashers turned away from the cliff, heading back to the Smash Mansion together, Meta Knight extended his hand towards Lucario.
Paw in glove, the two fellow Smashers faced each other, thankful for the others' company. Meta Knight's brow creased in a sign of a uncommon grin, his eyes lighting up just a little bit more – Lucario catching that small sign and returning it with a rare, small smile of his own.
Doing something he would not have thought possible only a few weeks before, Lucario slowly grasped the Trainer's hand in both paws, locking his eyes steadily within the Trainer's own. Even though it went in defiance against all that Lucario had thought and believed before, at the moment the Trainer's hand and his paw came into contact, something changed. Between the both of them, they shared a hidden smile as the dawn sky started to catch fire and blaze into morning.
I trust it will be good.
Days Of Our Lives