"I knew I'd find you in here again."
Meta Knight smirked beneath his mask. "Your ship is depressingly sparse. Where else would I desire to go?"
Magolor shrugged good-naturedly. "The kitchen."
"Yeah, yeah." Magolor took his place beside Meta Knight and together both of them gazed down at the red amulet inscribed with runes. "Why do you come here so often?"
"As I said, it is the only object of interest aboard the Starcutter. Furthermore it intrigues me. It is not often that I can sense magic, least of all so potently."
"Well, we already know the runes are unreadable, so that's that!"
"Come on, MK. I bet I have some rahis boards or something. Best board game ever, and Halcandran through and through. I'll teach you."
"What would it take," Meta Knight said solemnly, "for you to divulge some of your secrets to me?"
Magolor stiffened. "What?"
"Magolor, you slink around the subject so often that I would think you are nearly begging me to demand the truth. You lie so terribly that I would think you wish to be caught."
"Maybe… maybe I do wish that." He seemed infinitely embarrassed at the confession, and hurried to amend it, "You're a pretty cool guy, MK. And honestly you keep so many secrets yourself, I can't see why you'd have trouble with mine!" Magolor's voice cracked; he glanced away nervously.
"Then tell it. I will listen."
Magolor let out a deep breath. "You won't judge me for it?"
"I have experience enough with your behavior; I think you are not culpable for anything you need to relate."
"Please understand, I can't just give away all the details," pleaded Magolor, "But I know I really gotta talk about it. Otherwise I'll just keep feeling worse about this!"
"Anything that would relieve your conscious, Magolor." Anything that would get him to stop lurking around the Lor Starcutter like a guilt-burdened criminal.
The Halcandran slumped against the display case and let out a tense exhale. "Okay. I-I don't have any prepared in a good speech or anything. Not too good at the whole oration thing."
"This is about the friend you are searching for?" prompted Meta Knight.
"Yes, him. When you talked about your companions in the war, I had to think of him, because… you guys all had your brotherhood going on, and Marx and I kinda had that too. Relying on each other and all that. He's basically my only…" he trailed off.
Magolor blinked and turned to find Meta Knight's eyes illuminated in an unholy blood red; his cape flared out into wings. Up close they looked even more demonic.
"Gyah!" Magolor skittered back. "Holy Nova, MK, are you okay?"
The glass case cracked under Meta Knight's clenching fists. "Your friend," he hissed from behind clenched teeth. "His name is Marx?"
Magolor's face paled. "Y-you've heard of him before?"
"I had the misfortune of meeting him." To put it lightly.
"Ah, um…" Magolor sidled further out of Meta Knight's reach. "I hadn't exactly anticipated that. Um."
Meta Knight's hand dropped from the glass and circled the handle of Galaxia.
"Whoawhoawhoa," Magolor's own gloved hands flew up to guard his face, "MK, I can explain! He's – I'm – he dragged me into it!"
"Into what, exactly?" seethed Meta Knight, drawing out Galaxia in a fierce cackle of electricity. The golden sword illuminated Magolor's terrified eyes. With a yelp, he jumped away.
"I get that you're pissed; I do. I get if you're out for blood, I really do. But before you think I've done anything wrong, please let me explain!"
"Trust me," Meta Knight growled, "I will not kill you until I know everything you know about Marx."
"Okayokayokay – just – just put down the sword, will you? Point it somewhere else? I'm not responsible for anything he's done!"
"No, but if you have any ties with him you have your own sins, undoubtedly."
"Nothing unusual," Magolor attested. "Please. I can tell you everything."
Meta Knight stayed his hand, and Magolor accepted this as incentive to continue.
"You probably got him on his bad side," Magolor said, "judging by your reaction. But he's not all bad, I promise. I know he's strange, but he was never… Let me start over. When we knew each other really well, he was extremely idealistic. He read a lot, and found things in books other people wouldn't read. Like… Like Nova, actually."
"The Comet Nova?" echoed Meta Knight, having heard the name only in legends before.
Magolor nodded. "One in the same. He started talking about 'fixing' the world, and… I'll admit, it sounded crazy at first, but he started getting me hooked too. You don't understand, he can be extremely convincing. With everything torn up by the war, I thought that anything had to be better."
"The war," spat Meta Knight, "the war has never made it to your realm. Why would you care of the politics of our war?"
"I didn't care about mine!"
"That is not a good enough excuse."
"I spend a lot of time in this galaxy. I've seen what the war does to people. Anyway, Marx has this weird effect around him, I swear. When he gets passionate about something, you just can't help catching it."
"He had some conception that he could, in your words, 'fix' the world?"
"Right off the bat it was probably a bad idea, but he made it sound so convincing."
"You listened to him?"
"Hey! I didn't know it was gonna end badly! I thought – I mean, he sounded-"
"I am not judging you," Meta Knight said, "I only am verifying your story."
"Oh. We collected all the star power from the necessary planets – I-I know they sort of need it for protection, but if our plan would have worked, then they wouldn't need protection!"
"Well, it didn't work. We summoned Nova, but…" here Magolor went quiet. His eyes reflected some unseen tragedy, and his next words were low, "Nova... wasn't what we expected. Everything went wrong. Please, it's not his fault, he's-"
"And now?" prompted Meta Knight. "Now do you know where he is?"
"Marx? No… no, I don't know."
"Or what he is planning?"
By careful increments, Magolor's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?" he said slowly.
"If he has gotten in his head another idea, perhaps," urged Meta Knight. "Might you know what it is? Is this why you are searching for him?"
"Well…" Magolor sucked in a deep breath. "Yes."
The world lurched; someone shouted out, and suddenly the chair sent them both spilling to the floor in a tangle of limbs.
"Ow ow…" Kirby flailed.
"Get off of me!" Marx snarled. He elbowed Kirby hard in the ribs and shoved the teen off with all the hostility he could muster.
In another moment, he'd leapt to his feet, his face twisted from hatred to pure awe. "Magolor! Oh Holy Nova and the merciful stars, Magolor!"
"I can't believe it!"
"Whaddayamea-" Kirby pulled himself up beside Marx to find himself staring at a pair of curious yellow eyes, buried beneath a white and blue scarf and hood, and framed altogether by the Halberd's computer screen.
Marx was veritably squirming as he yearned towards this virtual figure with unrestrained glee.
"Wait…" Kirby said slowly, "this is the person you were talking about?"
"Yes yes yes this is him! You finally caught up to me," Marx crooned to the screen, "Oh Mags, I know I skivved out on you for a while there, but I swear, I've been looking for you-"
"Uh, yeah about that," said the yellow-eyed Halcandran. Kirby noticed what the jester failed to: Magolor fell far short in terms of enthusiasm.
Marx continued undisturbed, "I got all these books, you have no idea, but Halcandra isn't anywhere! Where the - oh wait… you haven't heard yet. You don't know!"
"Marx?" Magolor iterated. "Now isn't really the time. We need to ta-"
"Look what I have!" Marx grabbed Kirby's shoulders roughly and shoved him in front of the screen. "Tell me I'm not good. Tell me I haven't-"
"Stop!" Magolor finally yelled, clenched his gloved hands into fists. "You listen to me for once!"
"Eh?" Marx peered around Kirby's shoulder.
Magolor winced. "Sorry. I just… this is serious."
"Nonono." Marx pushed Kirby aside. "This is me, being serious. I'm serious."
And to Kirby's utter shock, Marx was clearly making a sincere effort to be so: his eyes were round and attentive, like a puppy awaiting a command.
He doesn't act that way with me. Frowning, Kirby sidled against Marx's side and crossed his arms. Magolor, for his part, settled his curious yellow eyes on him for only a moment before turning his attention wholly to Marx. In that single moment, though, Kirby felt himself inspected and judged, and he could have sworn something like awe flickered in the Halcandran's strange gaze. If there had ever been anything there, though, it quickly vanished as Magolor turned his attention to Marx;
"I'm really, really glad to see you too," Magolor was saying, "In fact, things are going better than ever. I'm ready to meet you again."
Marx's lips peeled back into an evil expression. "Did you get the Lor?" he purred.
"Actually, I'm uh, I'm on her right now!" Magolor gestured vaguely and his eyes crinkled into a smile, but even Kirby, having never met Magolor, could tell there was something not quite genuine about that smile. Perhaps Marx had given him a penchant for detecting lies.
The jester only looked even more wickedly delighted. "Well, well, Magolor, I happened to get a ship myself. I-" His grin faltered. "Wait a minute. How did you contact us?"
"The Lor," Magolor explained. "It's very intelligent. I tried to search for your location and pop! this screen just came right up!"
"Delicious. Useful. Clever…"
"That's right. It unfortunately doesn't have any kind of tracking device. Where are you currently?"
Kirby yanked hard on Marx's sleeve; the jester glared. "Be quiet, Kirby. This is more important than you."
Those words could tear nerves. But Kirby leaned close and whispered into his ear, "you trust him?"
"With my life," he hissed back. "More than I can say for you."
Kirby gritted his teeth, "I just saved your life a few days ago!"
"I did most of the work."
"He sounds like he's lying!" Kirby whispered heatedly. "How do you guys even know each other?"
"He's my friend," Marx said firmly, as if that answered everything.
In a way… Kirby could kind of see how it did. Marx couldn't exactly have many friends; what few he had he must to some blind extent, trust. The thought was uncomfortable. Because what did that make Kirby?
"Hey guys?" Magolor waggled his fingers. "I'm still here!"
"Yes, yes! Marx and his pet have just left the thriving desert planet of Nashira. Your Lor must be able to find that."
Magolor nodded, "Lor's got it covered. Can you stick close to Nashira?"
"Ah…" Marx's eyes darted to the waning fuel gauge.
"No," Kirby uttered to him, "we don't have enough fuel to just stay in space, Marx. C'mon, please, we need to make it to this next planet."
"Yes. Marx can wait. Where are you?"
"Popstar, near Dreamland. I stopped by there for repairs on the Lor; it's a long story. But hey, now that I know for sure where you are, I can head right your way!"
"Dreamland?" echoed Kirby.
"Shut up," spat Marx.
"That's sixth months away!" Kirby said loudly. "We're going to have to wai-?"
"Shut up!" Marx clapped his hand against Kirby's mouth, "Don't you think I know what I'm doing? The Lor Starcutter can go through wormholes, Kirby. That means he can travel a lot faster than this hunk of metal!"
"You'll still have time to kill," Magolor cautioned. "I can't go through wormholes too close to planets; not without risking the ship."
Kirby tore away from Marx's grip and demanded, "how long? We're almost out o-"
Crack, Marx backhanded Kirby hard across his face. He lurched the side and barely caught himself on the Halberd's control board before clutching his cheek in horror. "Y-you-?"
"I told you to be silent," Marx remarked, stepping forward aggressively.
Magolor cut in lowly, "That's enough, Maruku."
He glanced back to the screen with a very ugly expression. "He was being annoying!"
Marx sighed. "Fine. Ignore the Kirby, please. We'll wait."
"It'll be two weeks," Magolor said, "give or take. You'll be near Nashira?"
"We'll be right by it." Marx's lips curled up into a sardonic smile, his fingers clenched over the Halberd's control board. "So you have the Lor, Magolor..."
"Yes. But we can't talk any more right now; I need to go."
"Don't be so reserved! That's always your problem, Magolor. You always wait to the end to get happy, but you need to celebrate the small steps. I've got Kirby, you've got the Lor, few more steps and-"
"Yes," Magolor said loudly. "I need to go, Marx."
"But Mag-" The screen went black; Marx was left staring with eyes as round and sad as Kirby had ever seen them; yet again, his heart wrenched with unwanted spite. Who was Magolor to make Marx act like this? Who was he to make Marx so irate with him, where in the days preceding this one, he'd been… not exactly kind, no, but at least a little gentler.
"You hit me," Kirby said.
Gone was the facsimile innocence. Marx rounded on Kirby with his teeth bared. "If it weren't for you, I could have talked to Magolor longer."
"Marx, I think he was lying to you-"
Another step forward, and fear replaced any sense of bravery. Marx needed to know that Magolor had been lying – at least, as far as Kirby could tell, and if he gave Kirby a bad feeling, then something had to be wrong. But Marx wasn't going to listen; he could see that in the brutal murderousness of his eyes. And… and in an fairness, Magolor had stopped him. Which he was not here to do now.
"Magolor," Marx bit out, "does not lie to me. And if you had just kept quiet, I could have talked longer to the only friend I have. Do you know how long it's been since I last talked to him?"
"N-no." Because you never tell me anything I know nothing about you two I have no idea what's going on.
"Years," Marx snarled, "It's been fucking years."
"Well it's been a year since I've talked to my friends! You don't ever seem to care about that!"
"You have no friends; I killed the only friend you ever had, Kirby, and now you have nothing."
"I thought you actually cared!" he screamed, clenching his fists. "Don't you even remember? When we left Dreamland, you said this was all for me!"
"Well how selfish of you," sneered Marx. "Maybe nothing has ever been about you because you're worthless."
"You promised you'd help me!"
"I lie," he smiled twistedly.
"I hate you!" Kirby yelled, and for the first time in his life he truly wanted to hurt someone. He wanted to kick and scream and strike; he was so furious he couldn't even be afraid. His nails dug hard into his palms and he could swear they were drawing blood but he couldn't be bothered to stop. His whole body trembled with a need to lash out; he ground his teeth together and silently begged Marx to come closer to give him an excuse to hurt him.
But Marx just stood there, arms crossed, a smug smirk playing at his lips. As the seconds crawled by, the hatred waned and left something broken.
Kirby sagged where he stood; at last, his fists loosened.
This was the second time. The second time in barely a week that he'd felt such an overpowering hatred. This kind of anger, this kind of hate – it wasn't him. It was so unlike him that losing control to it made him horror-stricken.
"Done?" Marx said slyly. "Or would you like to throw another fit?"
"I'm done," Kirby echoed.
"Good." Stepping nearer, Marx looped his arms around Kirby shoulders. "I suppose I can forgive you for interrupting me during my conversation. Your response afterward was amusing enough for me to forgive you, at least. And soon enough we'll get to see Magolor in person. I think you'll like him."
"I don't like him very much yet," Kirby said dully. His cheek stung; he wondered vaguely if it was bruising.
"He should grow on you, Kay. He's soft like you are. Nice and all that."
"He doesn't seem like me."
"You'll like him."
Tears were pricking at the corners of his eyes, but Kirby didn't know why. He didn't feel much of anything at the moment, why was he trying not to cry?
"What about the fuel?" Kirby said softly. That was logical, wasn't it? Not that he felt afraid now.
Marx waved his hand dismissively. "It's only two weeks, Kay. Honest, that planet we were heading to was way more than that, maybe a month, maybe two. The Halberd can make it easy."
At that moment, the lights overhead sputtered and went black; the engine's hum grated down into a screeching rasp and the ship wobbled unsteadily. Forgetting everything, Marx seized Kirby, his eyes evincing everything but confidence.
"You said we had enough!"
The lights shocked back into life; the rasp returned to a hum, the Halberd steadied.
They stood frozen for a moment, equally wide-eyed, equally certain that the engine could fail at any time. When, in the span of several long seconds, the Halberd remained steady, Marx's arrogance returned.
He pushed Kirby away and said, "See? We're… we're fine. Totally fine. One hundred percent nothing's going to go wrong."