"Popo, wake up."
"Huh?" I snap my eyes open upon having my body softly shaken, my heart beating so hard that it threatens to burst out of my chest. "Are we- are we under attack? Did they find out where we are?" I frantically question my sister Nana as she tries to calm me down. Once I realize that we're in no immediate danger, she responds with a shake of her head.
"No, we're still hidden away... for now, at least," she answers with a depressing tone not because she's not grateful, but because she understands that that could change at any given moment. As we huddle close together in a dark room, we could hear the rummaging of the vicious group of enemies we're hiding from. I could tell Nana is afraid she spoke too soon, if at all.
"..." our rapidly thumping hearts are the only thing in the room making a sound, but as we saw our friends get taken away earlier, its impossible to keep it still. With the sounds getting closer and closer, we hold each other tightly, and our breaths become still when the sounds stop. Eventually, the sounds resume before fading away, allowing us to assume that they passed us.
"Whew, that was close," I sigh in relief as soon as I am sure that we aren't going to get discovered quite yet. However, it does little to ease my sister's worries, as made evident by the way she only fakes a smile before frowning. Truth be told, I have trouble convincing myself: I don't have a mirror, but I could tell I might not have fooled myself either.
How did it come to this? I think it over and over to myself as we sit in darkness.
"Look, sis! It's beautiful!" I excitedly exclaim as I motivate my sister up the mountain, being the first to make it to the summit. Leaning back to offer her a hand, I lift her up so she could see the view as well. With widened eyes and an open mouth, I could tell Nana appreciates that the destination was worth the journey up here.
"It is..." she finally says after a while, though the look on her face makes that thought quite clear. As we gaze up what seems to be an endless horizon, we decide to take a break with one another, perhaps a little tired from climbing so much. I'm smaller than my sister, since she is the oldest, so she let me lean on her arm to support my body.
It's a bit embarrassing to be so close to my sister, but at her insistence, I suppose it couldn't hurt to make her happy. As I rest my head on her, I could feel my eyes getting a bit heavy: did the trek take more out of me than I realize, or is this position just so comfortable? Closing my lids, I could definitely nod off, but then something happens that could be considered an eye-opener.
Off to the distance, we could see that, apparently, we aren't the only ones up here. Further away, my sister and I watch as two figures, one a bi-pedal creature and the other a tiny man in a mask, stare at the sky as a giant spaceship appearing to crash into them. However, while it's instinctive to run the other way, these two brave heroes decides to jump onboard as though to steer it away.
But it's impossible for them to redirect it in time, and once it hits the other mountain does it redirect towards us! With a fright, I immediately jump up and run the other way, my sister right behind me. Unforunately, no matter how fast we are, there's no way we could outrun a ship at ramming speed, and the impact blows us off the mountain.
"Ugh..." I groan as I land on my back, which is aching so much that it cramps whenever I try to move it. "Nana, are you okay?" I call out of her as I lift up to my knee, struggling to get myself upright. "Nana? Are you there?" I start to get a little worried, hoping that she responds soon before my over-active imagination starts giving me possible outcomes I really don't want to know.
"Y-Yeah, I'm fine," I could hear my sister a little bit away. She doesn't seem like she's completely unharmed as she rubs her chest. It's clear which side of herself she landed on, and I'm sure those things don't exactly double as airbags.
Thankfully, we both land close to one another, and we don't seem to be suffering from anything severe, judging by the way we are both able to pick ourselves up. However, as soon as we hear approaching footsteps do my sister quickly become protective. Not knowing who's coming close as the smoke from the debris dampers visibility, Nana picks up her wooden mallet and readies it.
"Stay back," it isn't clear if she's talking to me or the people arriving onto the scene, but what is clear is that she will protect me if necessary. I just hope it isn't.
"Hey, are you guys alright?" we could hear someone ask us. Neither of us responds, instead opting to stay silent, but apparently this person isn't alone as we could hear the footsteps of others. "That was quite a scene, isn't it?" a man wearing a red shirt and matching red hat comes out with his arms up, and no sooner could we see him do we recognize who he is.
"Oh my gosh, it's Red!" Nana lowers her guard upon seeing the legendary Pokemon Trainer, who tips his hat forward with a nod. "Oh, and there's Marth, Ike, and Lucas as well!" Nana calls out as the rest of Red's group arrives on scene in the order she lists them in. "Are you guys in the Super Smash Brothers tournament too?" she couldn't help but wonder if they're competiting.
"I'm afraid things are a little more serious than that," Red continues to speak for the group, especially since Marth doesn't appear to be able to speak a lick of English. However, each of them agree that there's something much more dangerous going on. "Look out!" he points up into the air, figuring that it's much easier to see what's happening than to explain it.
From the side of the mountain, we could see these weird, purple, bug-like creatures creeping at us before deciding to leap out of their hiding spot. They quickly surround us, leaving a sense of dread as they attempt to corner us. Scary enough, some of the bugs get together to form some kind of foe, as though they need to be something big to threaten us.
"Marth, Ike, cover their approach!" Red gives out the order, apparently really accustomed to doing so. With a nod of their heads, the duo unsheath their blades and ready themselves for combat. "Lucas, stick with me and use your PK powers to keep the ones on the mountain at bay," Red sees Lucas nod his head before using it to dish out the damage.
"Squirtle, I choose you!" Red calls upon his Pokemon to help by tossing a red-and-white ball into the ground, propping it open for the pocket monster inside to help out. "Squirtle, use Water Guns and Bubblebeams to help Lucas!" he points to the side Lucas would be unable to cover by himself, and the tiny turtle nods its head and does what he is told.
With a slash of their swords, Ike and Marth team up to defend the frontlines from the monsters coming from the way they came while Lucas tries to snipe them out of the sky with his telekinetic powers. Thinking that they'll need more firepower, literally, Red opts to send out not only his Ivysaur to Vine Whip the creatures away, but also a Charizard to burn them back.
"We should help out, too!" Nana mimics what's going through my mind as well, so we both pick up our mallets to squish any of those "bugs" that come close. With a tight formation in this narrow mountain path, we could hold off for a while. With Red calling the shots, and everyone being so powerful, we take down dozens, if not hundreds, of these... "Shadow Bugs" that these people are calling them.
It is fun at first to work together like a team like this, but with so many of these things, they could easily overwhelm us with numbers alone. Eventually, they start to wear us down: Marth and Ike could swing their swords only so many times before their equipment, if not arms, break; Lucas looks like he's getting headaches from the over-use of powers; and Red's team looks like they're running out of Power Points.
"Agh!" we could hear Ike scream out as the dozens of bugs starts to overwhelm him, and when Marth tries to shake them off his buddy does he leave himself open to the swarm. Within seconds, both of them are consumed by the purple creatures, and it sends a chill down our spines as they reach out for help. Unforunately, we could all use a bit of rescuing ourselves.
"There's too many of them!" Red calls this a losing battle as Lucas is the next to be taken down after being rendered mentally tired. As he backs away, he figures that there's only one thing left to do. "Squirtle, Ivysaur, Charizard..." he calls out to the remaining members of his team, "Clear us a path! Hydro Pump, Solar Beam, Fire Blast!"
Though the domesticated monsters are clearly tired, they acknowledge their master's orders and give the enemies one last finale: using their strongest attacks in tandem, they unleash a blast so super effective that they save their remaining teammates by cutting a hole through the enemy's offenses. A great deal of the Shadow Bugs are annihilated, and the end of the battle is in sight, but there's still enough of them around that they could still win.
"You two, get out of here!" Red calls out to us specifically, much to our surprise.
"No, we're can't leave you with these... things!" I shout back worringly. I don't know what these Shadow Bugs want from these guys, nor what they'll do if they take our comrades away, but Red isn't having it.
"Don't worry about us! Just get out of here!" Red frantically replies as Charizard and Ivysaur are the next to be taken down. With his trusty Squirtle the only one left in the fight, Red couldn't abandon his best friend: even though the fight is clearly lost, Red is determined to stay with his buddy until the very end.
"Popo, don't let their sacrifice be in vain!" Nana snaps me back from seeing Red being devoured by the swarm of Shadows. As reluctant as I am, I nod my head and follow her out as soon as the army of bugs starts roaming our way. "Quick, we need to find a place to hide!" Nana looks around for anything we could squeeze ourselves into, and no sooner than she says that does she spot a small crevice. "In here!" she shouts for me to go first.
"Nana, follow my lead!" I yell as soon I enter the tiny opening, my sister quickly following suit. I immediately turn around and use my hands to form blocks of ice. "Cover the opening!" I plant a block of ice one after another to plug up the hole, and my sister repeats everything I do. With enough blocks in place, we then sealed up the cracks with the icy breeze, buying us time to find another spot.
"We can't stay here! They'll break through eventually!" Nana states the obvious, but there's nowhere else to go. Fearfully, we start looking around for ideas, but even though beggars can't be choosers, that doesn't mean her idea's a good one. "Here, let's get on the ship!" Nana sees the door to the crashed vessel, pries it open, and tells me to get in.
"...Is that such a good idea?" I question, clearly skeptical, but with the sound of cracking ice echoing through this tiny area, I don't dwell on it. I jump inside and she shuts the door before locking it, unlike the last employee to come through that entrance.
"There!" Nana makes sure it's secure before we move on. Satisfied that they won't be coming from that door, she goes over of the room to open that one... only to find it locked from the other side. "No, this can't be happening," she whispers to herself, but within the small confines of the room, I could hear her all too clearly.
"..." I don't know what to say: if we go out the way we came, we'll be overrun by those Shadow Bugs, but chances are, whoever's going to open the other door isn't going to be a friendly. With that realizing sinking into the both of us, we could only sit in silence, awaiting our fate.
"...Popo?" Nana is the one to break the silence, her voice quiet not because she's concerned with any potential enemies outside. "If we don't make it out of here..."
"We will," I try to convince her that we'll get through this.
"But if we don't-" she seems insistent on riding this train of thought.
"We will," I interrupt her.
"Popo, listen to me!" she pleads as she approaches, making sure that I understand that she has something serious she has to say by turning me around to glance a look into her eyes. "If we don't make it out of here... I want you to know... I-I want you to know..." she keeps trying to find the words, but it doesn't sound like it's coming out...
Until she swallows all her anxiety, in fear of never getting to say what she wants to say.
"...That I love you," she finally gets it out, and a blush sweeps across her face.
"...I know that," I don't exactly understand what is so hard about saying that to a sibling, nor why it would cause any sort of embarassment, or why she groans in frustration to my response. "I love you, too-" I casually begin to say, but she thinks it's better to show, not tell.
She kisses me on the lips, which I can quite clearly see, considering I didn't shut my eyes like she does. At first, I think this is a joke, albeit one taken a bit too far... but she leans in closer, planting her chest across mine, I slowly, but surely, start to come into the realization that she's serious.
As precarious as the situation is, I couldn't help but get the impression that she isn't doing this because she doesn't want to die alone. As I think back to our time together, I always wondered: why did she want me to come on the dangerous mission with her? Why would she turn down an invitation to a combat tournament unless I was fighting alongside her? And why did she insist that we went to the summit of the mountain alone?
And now... now I know.
As she stops kissing me to take in a breath of air, I could see a string of shared saliva connecting our lips together.
"It's... hot in here," she says as her face turns bright red, and she starts to undress herself by zipping down the hoodie she's wearing. Like the color of her pink parka, she's wearing a pair of pink underwear, and she eventually removes her jacket to give me a better look. "Are you... feeling hot, too?" she asks me, but I'm too speechless to answer, nor object as she removes my clothes.
Maybe I love my sister more than I thought.
"..." I flash my sister a smile as we both decide to get dressed, wiping the dirt off our jackets before putting them back on. As she smiles in return, we both know that, if we get out of this alive, it's definitely something we're going to be bringing up once again.
With a banging at the door, however, we hurry up and finish slipping into our clothes. With our matching jackets on, we pick up our weapons, not intending to go down without a fight. Our hearts may be beating from the adrenaline, but it isn't fear that courses through our veins: we might accept what comes next, but we are determined not to go down quietly.
Eventually, we hear the tumblers of the door that's locked from the other side starts to unlock, and we grip our mallets tightly. We couldn't see who's opening the door at first, the dim hallway lights are still too bright for our eyes to adjust immediately. When we could, however, we let down our guard, but not because we are faced with an enemy we couldn't stand to defeat.
"Kept you waiting, huh?" a man in a tight body suit smirks upon sprouting that line. I instantly recognize his voice, which is so iconic in its gruff and gravelly tone that it should never be replaced.
"Snake?" I widen my eyes in surprise, clearly not believing who our savior is. "Snake?" I have to ask once again, and no sooner does he nod his head do I jump out and hug him with open arms. "Snaaaaaaaaaaaaaaake!" I damn near tip him over with my body when I lunge at him, but the man is able to hold his ground.
"Easy, there, Popo," Nana pulls me back down, literally, as she grabs the back of my jacket. She might think I'm overreacting, but I couldn't help myself, seeing as how this man is the winter soldier of the Shadow Moses incident. I don't care how the media portrays him, I knew deep down that he is a hero in my heart.
Out of the room, we could see that Snake isn't alone: standing besides us, upon closer inspection, the two figures we saw in the mountains earlier. Now that we can recognize them, they are the fighting Pokemon Lucario and the masked character Meta Knight. Behind them, however, are tons of other characters set to competite in the Super Smash Brothers tournament.
"How did you guys know where to find us?" Nana is curious to know how they are able to track us in this ship, considering Snake didn't pull out his iconic SOCOM pistol to shoot us in the face like he would've anything else in enemy territory.
"You can thank Lucario," Snake points to the Pokemon, who nods his head to acknowledge the appreciation. "He sensed that there were two figures in that room that might be friendly," Snake might not understand how Lucario is able to do that, but Lucario isn't the only one to receive credit. "I was skeptical at first, until someone else was able to vouch for you guys," Snake then turns his head, and in that direction comes another man.
"Red!" Nana calls him by his name and not the color of his hat. "I'm so glad to see you guys are alright!" Nana smiles upon seeing the rest of his team step forward from the crowd. "How did you guys manage to get out of that?" Nana recalls how bad the situation has gotten when we were there, but apparently, Red has an answer for that.
"You can thank Mario and his crew," Red tips his red hat towards the bearer of the other, as the mustached man comes out in his iconic blue overalls, and not in that gaudy doctor get-up. "They arrived as the Shadow Bugs were taking us away, and saved us," Red couldn't thank the fat plumber enough, as who knows what would've happened.
"Is Ike okay?" I couldn't help but ask as I spot Ike being somewhat sullen.
"Huh? Oh, him? He's fine," Red doesn't sound like he's dismissing the warrior, but he doesn't sound overly concered either. "He said something along of the lines that he's too weak, and wants to get stronger and build muscle or something," Red explains why we shouldn't worry about it, as the motivation to get stronger will surely help him out in the future.
"Speaking of getting stronger, we got a nice little group here," Snake, having plenty of combat experience, becomes something of the de facto leader of this ragtag group. "If we're going to save this world, we're going to need everyone to work together to take down Bowser and Ganondorf! Who's with me!?" Snake sure knows how to motivate us, as everyone gets swept away in the moment and cheers to loudly that the whole enemy ship could hear us!
But maybe that's not as bad now.
Travelling through the ship, we eventually get to a place where hundreds of these Shadow Bug enemies are stationed, ready for deployment of the world invasion. Figuring that we'll stop as many of them as we can here, Snake orders everyone to start attacking, and the small battalion rush out into the field. Seeing everyone working together in this alliance is quite possibly the coolest thing ever, but there's no one else I'd rather fight alongside with than my sister.
"You ready, Nana?" I ask before we dive in head first.
"I am always ready... as long as you're with me," Nana smiles as she holds my hand in hers.
"Then let's get ready for the greatest battle of our lives!" I exclaim loudly.
"...Tag me in," Nana only replies before we jump into the fight.
"P-P-!" I hear a female voice call out to me.
"P-P-!" I hear once more. Strange... even though I'm still half-asleep, it doesn't sound like she's saying "Popo"...
"PAPA, WAKE UP!" I awake to see a little girl screaming into my face instead of thankfully my ear, but in her excitement, she decides to slap me across the face. Even with those tiny hands covered in those tiny pair of mittens, she clearly has her mother's strength.
"I'm up, I'm up," I throw my hands up as though surrendering to her might, much to her giggling smile. "Hey there, Napo," I give her a hug before carrying the tiny girl in my arms as I pick myself off the sofa I've been sleeping on in the living room. "Where's mommy?" I look around but I don't see her, so I decide to ask.
"Mama's carrying in the groceries," Napo points to the open front door since that is presumably all the little girl could do to help her mother. "She says she's going to make her eggplant parmesan for dinner tonight!" Napo is really looking forward to eating it, but she isn't the only one.
"She is? That's great!" I could feel my mouth starting to drool, but I try not to let it overflow and spill onto my daughter's face. As I approach the front door to see if the wife needs any help, she immediately walks through the front door carrying a paper bag full of food. "Hey, Nana, how's it going?" I want to inquire about her day.
"Could've been better," she answers back with a tired smile before turning it into a genuine one, "But I can't complain." She kisses me on the lips real quick before heading into the kitchen to set the supplies down. Before closing the front door, I notice that there's an envelope on the floor, and I decide to set Napo down so I could pick it up and take it inside.
"What's that?" Nana wonders what it could be, walking towards me to find out, careful not to bump into the energetic little girl as she zips by.
"Looks like a letter," I shrug before pulling the red wax seal off and taking the piece of paper out of read. "Dear Ice Climbers," I say aloud with fanfare, "For being combatants of previous Super Smash Brothers tournaments, and for your valiant contributions during Operation: Subspace Emissary, we are proud to invite the two of you to the next Super Smash Brothers tournament! Please respond to us at your earlier convenience!"
"...Couldn't you have read it normally?" Nana might be saying that like she wants me to act normal, but I know she finds my goofiness amusing. "Anyway... what do you think?" Nana couldn't help but ask me my thoughts on the matter.
"...I think we have our own fight to take care of," I reply as soon as I lay eyes on my daughter, and Nana seems to agree, so I neatly fold the letter and slide it back into the envelope, intending to respectfully decline the offer. "Maybe next time," I could tell we are both disappointed to miss out, but we know it's for the better, "Please understand."
"It sure would've been nice to see our old friends again," Nana wistfully reminiscent how much fun we had despite the life-or-death scenario we were placed in. Then again, once we joined up with everyone else, we had one of the coolest battles ever, and one of the best parties too.
"I'm sure there's no big adventure going down anyway," I try my best to let ourselves down easy, though I feel a little disappointed not being able to attend after hearing Goddess Palutena was entering as well... but I wouldn't dare tell Nana that.
"Daddy, carry me!" Napo cheerfully asks, as though all the running around she did tuckered her out. She reaches her arms at me to make it easier to handle her, and I pick her up by her tiny waist, swinging her around. "You know my birthday's coming up soon," she reminds me after clawing me in with her cuteness, her devious plan all along.
"I know," I chagrin a smile as Nana strokes her daughter's hair. "What would you like mommy and daddy to get you as a present?" I know that that has to be what's on her mind... but I certainly do not expect what her answer would've been.
"A baby brother!" she exclaims loudly, inciting a blush across my face. Napo may not know what such a deed entails to, judging by her innocent smile... but the thoughts in me and Nana's heads aren't so innocent, as evident by the way we both blush towards one another. "Can I have one, please?" she feels like a sweet smile is going to win us over.
"...Well, can she?" I couldn't contain a smile of my own from perking up as I direct the decision to the one who's going to be bearing it.
"...We'll see," Nana couldn't stop smiling either, and all three of us are looking so goofy that even a professional photographer couldn't take a picture with a straight face. "We could get started tonight, if you like..." Nana teases me for what's to come.
"Could I help?" Napo eagerly wants to assist if it means getting a sibling faster.
"..." Nana and me could only stare at each other with our jaws hanging, Napo cocking her head to the side as she wonders what the problem is. "Ask your mother," I say it as a joke to break the awkward atmosphere, inadvertently making it worse. Napo responds with a pout of her lips... but she isn't the only one as Nana slaps me on the arm.
"Ow," I say instinctively. It doesn't actually hurt, as Nana could tell I was joking by the way she smirks. "Alright, Napo, go play or watch TV or something," I set Napo down as she giggles: she might not understood the joke, but anytime she sees daddy gets hit does she laugh.
"A brother, huh?" Nana repeats the object of her daughter's desires in a very wistful tone. "Out of all the things she asked for..." she trails her voice as though wanting to see if I'll inquire the rest of it.
"What?" I couldn't help but play into her hands.
"I can't believe she wanted the same thing I asked our mom for!" Nana kisses me on the cheek.