Blade was the first to speak after Galacta Knight had told them where his king supposedly resided. Meta Knight remained silent for a while longer, eyes trained on the winged warrior that stood next to his door. He could see clearly how the small smile that had forced its way onto his face melted away like snow in the sun. Okay, that was more poetic than he had intended it to be, but still a rather accurate description.
"Popstar, yes," Galacta Knight repeated, folding his arms in front of his chest, "In a region called Dreamland."
Meta Knight could tell by the way the winged warrior tensed up that he was troubled by their reactions - or lack thereof. He himself felt oddly calm despite this turn of events. It was entirely impossible that another king was residing in the area, he would know. Especially if said king had an entire army at his disposal, along with the Greatest Warrior of the Universe to lead it for him. No, this was impossible. Maybe he was talking about a different Popstar? But that couldn't be the solution either, a region called Dreamland only existed on this Popstar.
"This is insulting!"
Galacta Knight's hiss of anger tore Meta out of his thoughts. The former Greatest Warrior had taken a step toward where the four of them sat; his wings were bristling with anger. Meta Knight wasn't sure what had been said, but it was obvious he had to intervene now. His hand strayed toward Galaxia's hilt and from the corner of his eye, he could see how Sword and Blade discretly readied themselves, too. To be honest though, he would prefer if this ended without bloodshed.
"Sir Galacta Knight," he said, voice steady and composed, "Our current location is the castle of Dreamland, on planet Popstar. There is no king named Magolor around, nor has there been for as long as we have been here."
Galacta Knight glared at him; his hands were opening and closing like he itched to have a weapon. He shook his head until strands of pink hair fell into his face. Combined with the ruffled feathers, it gave him an almost insane look.
"Liar," he spat at Meta, shaking with anger.
"You have not been around here for some time. It's possible that a King Magolor used to rule the planet before we arrived," Meta Knight stated and forced himself to remain calm. He didn't like where this was going, it didn't look like they would be able to get rid of Galacta any time soon now.
The winged warrior opened his mouth to speak, but Fumu piped up first: "Sir Meta Knight, I have read all the history books and Curio's reports on his research, too," she paused nervously when she found the gaze of the still enraged Galacta on her, but continued to speak, "There... there has never been a king named Magolor. Or a large army that doesn't consist of Waddle Dees."
Meta looked from the girl to Galacta Knight. He seemed to have calmed down a little, though his posture was still tense, but the feathers on his wings didn't look as fluffed out as before. Perhaps it was because of how young Fumu still was? The Why didn't matter right now, though.
"Sir Galacta Knight," he addressed the warrior again, "I can assure you we will... investigate this matter. As for now, I'd like to invite you to stay at the castle until this is sorted out."
He wasn't all that fond of the idea, but better have this warrior where he could keep an eye on him than have him roam around the town or, worse, get into a fight with Kirby. For all Meta Knight knew right now, Galacta Knight could be anyone, a dangerous lunatic who had accepted hallucinations as memories. Then again, to be completely honest, Meta Knight saw nothing but a warrior whose pride had been hurt badly and who was confused on top of that. Still, what Galacta remembered couldn't be true.
Also, he wasn't sure if the winged warrior would even accept his offer. Meta Knight didn't bear him any ill will, but he didn't know where exactly they stood, either.
"I will talk to your king about this," Galacta Knight finally replied, voice composed and smooth like it had been earlier.
Meta Knight bit back an amused response; his mouth twitched into a smile for a moment, hidden under his mask. When he had woken first, the pink-haired man had mentioned the king, too. Maybe it was good to set his picture of Dreamland's ruler straight.
"Very well," the masked knight agreed and nodded at his knights who looked like they wanted to say something. They understood and stayed silent, and so did Fumu. "The king will be sleeping for another few hours," Meta Knight went on, "until then... Fumu, your parents should be up already, it's past dawn."
The girl stared at him, but nodded. Meta Knight stood up.
"It's time we pay them a visit then," he turned to look at his knights, "Sword, Blade, you are in charge of the morning patrol around the castle. Captain Waddle Doo will help you."
Both nodded firmly and got up, too. Fumu muttered something that, or so Meta Knight guessed, wasn't very flattering, then she followed the others' example. Sword and Blade gave them one last look, then left the room, their steps fading into the distance quickly. There was a short silence when the remaining three listened to them disappearing deeper into the castle. Finally, Meta Knight cleared his throat.
"Lets go," he said, wrapped his cape around himself and started walking.
Had he been told to draw "awkward", Galacta would have made a sketch of his current situation.
Around a round table in a large apartment sat the Cabinet Minister Parm, his wife Lady Memu and their kids, a boy with long bangs called Bun and, of course, Fumu who looked like she would fall asleep any second. No wonder really, she had been up late during the past night. Sir Meta Knight had found a spot, too, and he himself sat in-between Bun and the blue-haired knight he disliked so much.
The only good thing about this was that it kept his mind from drifting into a mantra of "They're lying, we can't be on Popstar, what is going on, what if they are right, what if I will never get to see my lord again, but that is impossible, they're lying..." again. It was to be questioned if the curious gazes of the Cabinet Minister and his wife were that much better though. At least Bun seemed not to pay too much attention to him - or maybe he just preferred to concentrate on his plate of fried eggs instead. Really, the boy seemed very... devoted to stuffing all the food into his mouth like someone was going to steal it.
Galacta had a plate in front of him as well, but his held a slice of toast coated in jelly. A cup of tea stood next to him; the steam rising from the hot liquid carried a very appetizing scent and Galacta was quite tempted to act the same way as Bun. He hadn't had proper food in... weeks? He couldn't be sure, but it felt like it. But he had to stick with his manners - King Magolor's knights did not stuff their faces in such an undignified way!
And so he ate slowly, with careful bites, occasionally sipping from the tea in the most refined way possible. His eyes darted from side to side while he did, almost as if he was awaiting an attack; his wings were drawn close to his body, so close in fact, it hurt a bit. Why was he so NOVA forsaken nervous?
He glanced toward Sir Meta Knight who held a cup of tea in one of his gloved hands without drinking from it. Parm and Memu were looking from him to Galacta and back continually, though they tried to hide it; meanwhile, Fumu stared into her bowl of cornflakes like it held answers to all questions in the world.
A tense silence filled the air, almost like electricity; it made the small hairs on the back of Galacta Knight's neck rise. He had never been so glad to finish a meal before. Once his plate and cup were both empty, he muttered his thanks and excused himself, then headed for the door.
Just as he opened it, he heard a quiet splash behind him and glanced back - Fumu had landed face-first in her breakfast. The winged warrior shook his head, slipped outside and closed the door.
Once outside, he walked down the hall a few meters, until he reached a window. Outside, he could oversee the town at the foot of the hill as well as the forest behind it. The air seemed to waver from the heat outside, even though it was cool inside. Between the green leaves on the trees he also spotted a few dapples of red and yellow. So summer was coming to an end, hm?
Not that he paid that thought much mind; his gaze wandered back to the village. Now that he was taking a closer look, the way the houses were positioned actually did look like the town he knew...
No. No, his home was bigger, the houses taller and painted in brighter colors.
But where was his home? Just... just assuming this was Popstar, where had the town he knew gone?
He shivered slightly, wings twitching. His eyes closed and he leaned forward until his forehead touched the cool glass of the window. The chaotic, almost panicked thoughts in his head continued to swirl, unaffected by the feeling. Galacta Knight forced them to part as he delved deep into his own mind, searching for an answer, a clue, anything that might help him understand...
Cold, hard material surrounded him, shackled him, threatened to suffocate him. His muscles strained, he fought the grip, but the something around him didn't budge, kept him still in place.
He screamed, mouth wide open, but there was no sound here, just the smooth surface of his prison and he tried to move and twist again, but he was immobilized completely.
Anger flared up inside of him, seemed to burn through his insides like acid and there was despair, too, mixing with it and then he let out another soundless scream.
Trapped, he was trapped, imprisoned, helpless .
Galacta's eyes shot open and he found himself back in the castle. His breath came in short, shallow gasps and he could feel cold sweat on his brow and neck. He forced his body to stop trembling, a hard task, but he managed by telling himself he didn't want to be found so weak looking. Which reminded him...
The knight looked around nervously, but the hallway was empty. He could hear voices from inside the Cabinet Minister's apartment, so he decided he should be fine for the moment.
The winged warrior leaned his head against the window pane again, though he kept his eyes wide open this time. He wrapped both arms around himself and concentrated on slowing down his breathing.
"What is happening?," he muttered to himself in a voice that was barely more than a whisper, "Am I losing my mind?"
Meta Knight glanced up and down the hallway. No sign of the warrior with the white-feathered wings. He bit back a sigh; he should have followed Galacta the moment the knight with the pink hair left the apartment. What if he had left the castle? Meta Knight didn't think he would outright attack anyone, but he still posed a great potential threat to the villagers.
On top of it all, Galacta Knight seemed to have disguised his aura, so Meta Knight had no way of finding his presence in his mind, either. A mixture of worry and frustration chased him through the castle and he had to force his feet to slow down to a dignified pace.
The sun shone brightly through the windows and suddenly, the knight realized that the king had to be up by now. He turned around sharply and walked toward the throne room. Galacta had mentioned that he wanted to talk to the king. Somehow, it didn't strike Meta Knight as a very good idea to possibly let him meet Dedede on his own.
He rounded a corner and halted in his tracks. The door to the throne room had been opened just a small bit and peeking inside was no other than the knight Meta had been searching for. Voices sounded from behind the doors and the blue-haired knight quickly recognized them as Escargon and Dedede.
"I don't care if that cake was a gift, I want it!"
"Your majesty, could you n-"
The walls seemed to shake with the unmistakable sound of Dedede's trusty mallet hitting the floor. Meta Knight hurried over to where Galacta stood and pushed the door shut. With his back pressed against the wood, he looked at the other knight-
The winged warrior turned around to face him while the argument continued inside. Perplexion filled his features and Meta couldn't help but grin under his mask.
"That... that is the king...?"
He nodded and Galacta stared at him, his aggression towards the blue-clad knight forgotten for the moment.
"How can he rule a country? How could a country make him their ruler?," the winged knight asked, running one hand through his hair in an almost nervous gesture.
"Ah, well," Meta replied, amusement clear in his voice, "You see, he is a kind of... dictator, you could say."
Galacta bristled: "What?! Why would you, a knight, serve a dictator?!"
He only got a tired shrug in response: "So? He has yet to do something worse than steal cake and race a Star Warrior child. It's not like he has any evil intentions."
Except for ordering Demon Beasts for his own entertainment. But Meta was not going to mention that; it was actually quite nice to talk to Galacta when you didn't get to feel his hostile side. And he was not going to ruin this almost-friendliness by leading the former Greatest Warrior to believe he was siding with demons. Not to mention that those events lay in the distant past now.
Galacta Knight looked like he wanted to reply with a sharp remark, but shut his mouth again without saying anything. He glanced to the side: "I... I think I understand."
Meta Knight tilted his head curiously at that, but the other knight didn't seem too keen on continuing the conversation in this direction.
"So his majesty's approval of my presence at the castle is not needed?," he asked, clearly avoiding the topic. Meta decided to not to pry, but made a mental note to investigate on the matter later.
"No. As long as the Cabinet Minister and the knights agree, King Dedede won't mind, unless he sees a rival for his position in you."
Galacta nodded and Meta Knight noticed how he tensed up a little, his expression changing to a less welcoming one when his usual attitude returned.
"Very well then. I will be going now."
Meta Knight held back a heavy sigh when he heard the cold tone with the underlying hostility from the other. So they were back to this already?
"You are welcome to have lunch with us later," Dedede's knight replied, dipping his head slightly. Galacta reacted with a firm nod, eyes narrowed, then turned around sharply and walked down the hallway. Meta felt his gaze wander over the pink-haired warrior's wings to his hips; they swayed slightly as he walked and some small part of his mind noted how slender Galacta's body was for a strong warrior.
'Maybe those abilities are taking a physical toll?,' he wondered while the winged knight disappeared around the corner. Maybe that would also explain how Galacta Knight's skin was such an almost sicklish pale color, while his own, Meta Knight's, was a dark shade of brown.
A second later, Meta shook his head. That wasn't his business, interesting as it might be. He should rather be worrying if Galacta would leave the castle, the only place he could keep a direct eye on him, and possibly endanger the residents of the village. Brushing back a strand of hair that had slipped out of the bond holding his ponytail together, he set off to find Captain Doo.
Galacta Knight strolled through the hallways in a slow pace; at first sight, it seemed like he was taking his time to inspect his surroundings. Truth was though, the winged warrior still had no idea how to properly keep his bearings in this place. The fact his mind was still in constant danger of falling back into the storm of thoughts and false memories as it had earlier didn't help either.
He had, however, spent the time between finding the throne room and having breakfast with the Cabinet Minister's family memorizing the way to the guest room he had woken up in. Or more, he had stumbled upon said room by accident and then tried to remember certain marks - torches, curtains, paintings - to find it again.
And really, it seemed to have worked: The room he had been looking for came into sight soon. He slipped inside, wings drawn close to his back so they wouldn't get stuck between doorframe and door. Once inside, he looked around carefully. The oil lamp didn't wasn't lit now, but bright sunlight filtered through the window. Feathers bristling slightly, he noticed how the curtains had been drawn back - someone had been in here while he was out. The broken chain on the bed was gone also and the sheets had been folded neatly.
A quick glance to the side told him that fortunately, whoever had been here had not touched his mask. As much as he hated wearing the thing - outside of battle that was, it was quite nice to not be stabbed in the face - it had been a hassle to get it custom made for his horns.
The winged warrior stood, overseeing the room again. Now what?
Absentmindedly, he started to run one hand through his hair again - ah, right. He pushed one hand into the pocket of his pants until his fingers brushed against something familiar made of velvet. He pulled it out - a ribbon, about a centimeter wide and ten centimeters long. With quick, skilled motions, he braided his hair at the back of his head and tied the bond around it. Not that his hair would get in the way much, it didn't even reach his shoulders, but he preferred to keep it out of people's reach. People, every single one of them, could turn out to be enemies any second. And in battle, hair that could be grabbed often proved as fatal.
He was done with his task. But... now what? He could stray around the castle some more, but to be honest, the thick walls and often window-less corridors already felt uncomfortably constricting to him. His wings twitched involuntarily at the thought. That decided it.
Without further ado, he left the guest room and searched for the nearest possible exit. A balcony, a window, anything would do. Ah, there, a few meters ahead was one, a wide row of windows without glass. Galacta quickened his steps until he reached them and hopped light-footed onto the windowsill. He remained in a crouching position on the stone and looked down.
Far below, he saw the waves of the sea rolling against cliffs, water splashing up high, but not nearly high enough to reach him. The screeching on seagulls filled the air and a hot, surprisingly dry breeze ruffled his feathers. Galacta closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. He felt a few lose hairs tickle his face when the wind moved them. Just during this brief moment, his heart felt light and free.
The warrior leaned forward, further and further, and felt his feet lose touch with the stone of the windowsill. Wings folded tightly and eyes shut, he fell face first. The air on his face felt sharp and dusty and salty, all at once.
He lifted his eyelids and spread his wings wide only a few meters over the water and cliffs. With strong, steady wingbeats, he brought himself up high, then dove down again to fly close to the water's surface for a while, further outside and away from the cliffs and breaking waves. He stretched out one arm while the rest of his body remained tense and stiff to stay in the best possible position to fly. His fingertips broke the surface and drops of cool water flew through the air, glittering in the sunlight. He watched them with a sudden pang of happiness and content, then flew up high once more.
He hovered several meters over the castle's roof then, legs dangling down while he looked around and wings beating lazily to keep him up. He had to shield his eyes from the bright sunlight with one hand in order to see.
'Hm, where to go, where to go?,' he thought and tilted his head, 'The village, maybe? Or further out over the sea?'
Then a thought struck him and his feathers ruffled uncomfortably. His weapons. His lance and shield. He hadn't seen them anywhere around the castle and while he wouldn't put it beyond Meta Knight to hide them from him, he didn't remember bringing them in the first place. But he needed those. Perhaps they would still lay around the spot where he had woken up first, in that forest?
Galacta dove down once more, but this time, he caught himself earlier and flew over to where the lush green leaves grew, dotted with gold and red here and there. He heard a few shouts when he crossed over the village, but since nothing was hurtled at him he didn't pay them much mind. Actually, he was quite glad for that part; while traveling without the rest of the army, he had been mistaken for an attacker more than once. Of course, as he remembered with pride, his attackers had - literally - fallen to their knees and begged for his forgiveness as soon as they realized who he was. Admittedly, he continued that thought with a frown, it was more of a 'Please don't drag me back to the king and throw me in the dungeon' kind of aplogy than an 'I'm sorry I hurt you because I didn't realize you are one of those who protect us' kind. He still wondered how he got a reputation like that, he wasn't... he hadn't been that bad, had he?
Enclosed, immobilized, unable to move, to scream. He wanted to get out, it physically hurt to be confined like this and he squirmed, but there was no freedom, just the cool material around him, no air, nothing and he thought he was going to suffocate, but not even that he could do. His fingers curled ever to slightly, nails scratching uselessly against his prison, he wanted out, he wanted to move-!
The painful feeling of branches hitting him in the gut brought Galacta back to his senses. He struggled to stop his fall for a few seconds, then he hit the ground. The air was forced out of his lungs upon impact and he gasped, drawing in short, harsh breaths afterwards. Cold sweat coated his brow and every inch of his skin seemed to be covered in scratches that burnt when the salty liquid found its way into the tiny wounds.
Galacta tried to grit his teeth, but gave up on that quickly when it prevented him from getting the air he needed so badly. Eventually, he managed to push himself up on his hands and knees. A quick glance over his shoulders showed him his wings ruffled, the feathers pushed into the wrong direction and leaves and small twigs stuck in-between them. His breathing slowed down and he wiped his brow with one hand, not even noticing the smear of dirt he left there. He needed to calm down, he shouldn't let those weird images, those false images, mess with his head. Absentmindedly, he started to pick the small reminders of his rough landing from his wings and brushed the feathers back down.
His mind, in the meantime, struggled to settle down, to fight back the memories of what he had seen only minutes before. They threatened to overwhelm him and for a moment, Galacta was sure he would fall back into them. He clutched his wing, fingers digging into the fragile skin under the feathers. A quiet hiss escaped him, but the small jab of pain rushing into his brain chased away the haunting images. The winged warrior exhaled in relief.
But as he stood up, dusted himself off and started to look around, he knew that he had not found a permanent solution to the false memories invading his mind as soon as his concentration failed. They would come back.