Super Smash Brothers: Conflict

Chapter 3

Fear the Dangerous Mind

"Mario, what are we going to do? Demons... And we know so little about what is going on!" A worried, feminine voice echoed around the small bar connected to the mess hall, barely audible over the din of the jukebox. Smoke from the bar's single employee wafted through the room, hanging in a cloud over the pair, while the plumber's reassuring voice washed over the princess.

"Peach, it's-a gonna be okay. Everything wills-a work out in the end." Peach held her red-clad Knight's hand in her own as she looked down, bright blue orbs glossy with tears. While Zelda was contacting the other Smashers, Daisy helped out the kitchen, serving their two unannounced guests. Peach was scared of what was going to happen, scared of the vivid pictures Dante painted in her mind of the horrors of Hell. Even the Subspace Army was not this frightening...

"But... What if it doesn't? What if the Kingdoms fall?" There was a pregnant pause as the blond finally looked up to her one and only Hero, tears gleaming on her porcelain face. "And what if they don't answer? What if they've already captured the other Smashers? Link? Pit? Roy or Marth?"

Mario frowned, wrapping an arm around his Peach, who started sobbing, burying her head into the fabric of his overalls. Worry lined the brunette man's face, sighing silently into the princess's blond hair. The plumber rubbed her back in smooth, soothing circles, shaking his head. When the Princess had called him, voice cracking and emotions straining, he had taken off at a run for the Smash Stadium, making it there in record time.

"It's-a okay, Mama... Everyone will get-a here safe and-a sound." The Hero of the Mushroom Kingdom murmured, frown deepening.

What he had not told Peach was that his trip here had not been so smooth. Between the Mushroom Palace and the Smash Stadium was a large expanse of grassland and pine trees, turned to dust and bone due to the odd drought. The trip would have been uneventful, if not for one thing. He had run across a group of odd looking creatures, bone and rags, led by a single figure garbed in blue. Mario had snuck up on the group, trying to find out what was happening, but the man disappeared, and the creatures exploded into dust. It worried him greatly, especially since none of the descriptions given to him by Dante matched the blue man...

"Can I get you two anything else?" Mario looked down at Toad, the bartender, who stood off to the side on the other side of the counter, polishing a glass with an uncomfortable look on his face. The floor had been raised behind the counter to give the short-statured Mushroom a chance to serve taller customers.

"Yes, a cola with-a rum, please." Mario ordered quietly, while his Princess's sobs quieted into soft hiccups. Outside, the wind rattled the few high windows, howling for all it was worth. Ice clinking together as the drink was handed to the Mushroom Hero, Peach stifled a sob, putting a hand to her chest. Underneath the chaste white gloves, on her left ring finger, a small pink-orange glow emanated, pulsing weakly.

"Alright, Zelda. I'll see if I can't get in contact with the Star Fox team... I haven't heard from them lately." Samus's face bore the signs of worry and lack of sleep, framed in the screen of the Communications Room of the Smash Stadium. The Hylian Princess could see both things clear as day, even over the bad quality of the picture chat. The fact that this was all visible only worried the warrior princess further.

"Thank you, Samus." The graceful lady bowed slightly to the screen, looking down to check off a series of names on her clipboard. Several names were slashed out on the extensive list, in a violent red color. Those were the Villains, as the group of evil-doers had been called since the Subspace Incident. Bowser, Ganondorf, Dedede... The list went on. They were officially on the Roster for the tournaments, but no one wanted them around.

"Oh, and Zelda..." Just as the eldest of the Royalty was about to switch off the monitor, the Bounty Hunter's voice stopped her. "Please, be careful until I return."

Zelda nodded, switching it off with a firm and final click. She sighed, setting the clipboard down on the control panel, and flopped into her seat. Around her, screens were lined up on the walls, showing feedback from security cameras that Snake had insisted on installing. Thinking back on it, it had been a good idea, although most of the Smashers were not pleased with the thought. Snake... He was one of those she could not contact. The Star Fox Team, Star Wolf, Snake, Olimar, and... And Link. He had been gone for two weeks, sent out to confirm a rumor that had reached the ears of the Smashers. It all seemed so trivial in the face of the new threat, looming in the distance like a storm on the horizon. She still had to try and get in contact with those that didn't have technology; Prince Marth, Prince Roy, Kirby and Meta Knight, and all the others...

"You seem awfully close to that chick. Didn't know you were into the girls like that... Damned shame, that is." A sudden voice interrupted the Hylian's train of thought, making her wheel around, spell flaring at her fingertips. Dante laughed as he entered the room, bowing with a flourish. It finally clicked with Zelda what the red-clad warrior was insinuating.

"! It's not like that at all!" Zelda exclaimed, hands held in tightly closed fists by her sides. Her face paled a shade, and Dante smirked.

"If you say so, Princess. What's the story so far?" The hylian's shoulders slumped, the last traces of anger fading away rapidly as sorrow rushed in to replace the emotion. The dark blond leaned against the cool metal of the control panel, a barely audible sigh escaping her lips. Her heart throbbed with each beat, a dull pain that reminded her of the situation, and just how far her loved ones were.

"Samus, a Bounty Hunter that has been in all three tournaments, is taking care of reaching those we can't. Unfortunately, that includes a good one-fourth of last year's roster, including Red and the Pokémon that have competed." Eyes slipping closed; the princess took a deep breath to steady her, that uncomfortable feeling of dread creeping up on her again. "In addition, contact has been cut off from the Eastern half of the continent, from the old Ruins onward. This means I cannot contact the Ice Climbers Nana and Popo. Finally, there are a few central figures from my country that I cannot find. Namely... Link."

There was a pause from the silver-haired man. "Link's the kid that saved you several times from that Ganondorf guy, right? Where was he last?"

"On his way to the Jungle, to confirm rumors of the attacks on the Jungle Railway." More grief rose up from the dread, rising higher and higher, threatening to drown the princess in tears. Thoughts turned painful when she felt Link was in danger. And somehow, deep in her mind, she knew that he was. "That was two weeks ago."

"I see... Trains are how you guys keep in touch with the rest of this continent, right?" Gone was the mocking tone from Dante's voice, replaced by a tired curiosity. "They take that out; there goes most of the communications."

"That is correct... Mister Dante, can we trust you? I mean, really. With so many gone, we need to know we can rely on those we still have." The mercenary could hear the blatant pain in the woman's voice, as familiar to him as his own. Dante sighed, sticking his hands in the pockets of his leather pants, a worn smirk gracing his handsome lips.

"Yeah, you can trust me and Lady. Demon Hunting is our business. You'd be hard-pressed to find demons organized like this anywhere, even Hell." He paused, shaking his head, the near-luminesant locks shadowing his baby blue eyes. "Whoever's doing this knows a lot about demons. And if they're that strong, they may know something of value to me..."

Zelda was silent for a moment. She had not guessed that the red-clad warrior was capable of emotions like this. Even his dark aura that put her on edge reflected his own sadness. "...and may I ask what that would be?"

"Information on some family of mine." Elegant brows bunched together in confusion, as a single stone in her crown flashed dimly. The light was not noticed by either party, but as it faded, cast a weak red-purple glow.

"The shattered pieces of star have been set on the playing board. While this dark storm tears at the edges of this frail paper moon, hope exists in the smallest of things."