It had been a couple of hours since the action and overflowing adrenaline from the battle between Kirby and King Dedede vs Queen Sectonia, and the sun has risen high in the sky. Now things were finally cooling down as Kirby and Dedede said their farewells to the People of the Sky and Taranza. The fairies were more than grateful for the heroes’ efforts, and Taranza felt guilty for causing all that trouble. So, with that guilt, he left straight away after a rather short goodbye.
I wouldn't want to cause any more trouble than it's worth, he reasoned with himself.
It took around an hour to fly down from Floralia (It took even less time with the weight of Kirby’s house and King Dedede), but it took a little more than half a day just to fly back up. It was a magic defence making gravity strange in the area that kept their kingdom safe from any flying beasts, and no one really went back and forth from Dreamland to back for it to be a complaint. It was tiring after all the rushing adrenaline in Taranza’s body left him, but he carried on until he reached the castle at Royal Road.
It was a hurricane wreck. The sun had just set when Taranza had reached the castle, and recent memories came back from the battle— buggy dees panicking from sudden quakes, the Dreamstalk sprouting even further up the castle floors, Taranza controlling a king who he thought was Dreamland’s hero, and summoning Her Majesty when he couldn't fight for himself…
But when Taranza blinked again, it was all gone and silent. Not a single soul was in or near the castle, just himself and the wind. He slowly floated into the castle ruins and made his way into the throne room. The dark halls were always looming down on Taranza, even long before the whole fiasco started and he was fairly new to the castle walls’ interior.
That was all a lifetime ago, however, and Taranza knew these halls like the back of his hand now. If only he was as young as he was before, back when the biggest anxiety in his life was finding a friend to be with…
As he floated past the old crumbling walls, older memories crossed his mind , back to a more lighthearted time.
Taranza and Sectonia, who looked remarkably similar to Taranza back then, were racing through the hallways while sunlight shone through the windows. The two little spiders laughed and played together as little buddies would.
“Princess, look what I can do!” Taranza giggle as he stopped to grab Sectonia’s attention.
“Taranza, just call me Sectonia!” She giggled, “‘Princess’ is too fancy for me.”
Taranza nodded courteously. “Okay Sectonia, but just look at me!” He spread his spider hands apart, and in each hand appeared a small bouncy ball made of magic glowing webstrings. He started to juggle all six balls while humming a silly tune.
Sectonia stared in astonishment, soon followed by applauded him. “That's amazing, Taranza!”
“Thank you, p-princess-!” As soon as his concentration was broken away, he lost control of one of his hands and a ball slipped and fell on his head, followed by another and another. He chuckled in embarrassment. “It's a small magic trick I've been working on for you...”
“It's funny!” Sectonia giggled softly, and then she got an idea. “Can I learn magic from you?”
Taranza grinned brightly at the suggestion and nodded vigorously. “Of c-course!! I'd do anything for you!” He ran off toward his tiny house just outside the castle, looking back to see Sectonia. “Follow me, p–Sectonia! You’ll be the best mage in the world with me!”
Taranza sighed. That was such a long time ago, when him and Her Majesty were mere children without any worries about their kingdom at that time, yet he still remembered that one moment.
“I miss those days,” He thought aloud, “I miss them so much…”
Still, he floated.
Taranza soon was going up the stairway. The throne room seemed much further away at night, and he was starting to get dizzy from fatigue. But on his way up, he noticed something familiar on the side of the castle window.
It was a quaint and square patch of dead soil, and the only thing alive in it was the moss that has overgrown itself onto the stone borders. Taranza knew what it was beyond its dead appearance; it used to be Sectonia's favorite garden, full of the most beautiful flowers in Royal Road.
They were a bit older than before, but just by a couple of years. Taranza and Sectonia were still the best of friends, closer than ever. They were strolling through the castle’s halls once more as a hobby, but Sectonia started to slow down until she stopped somewhere, getting Taranza’s attention.
“Sectonia?” He has grown used to being informal around her now that they were closer together. Sectonia turned back to him with a sweet little smile on her face. It was her idea face.
“Taranza, I want to show you something special.” She grabbed one of his hands and dragged him up the castle stairs. The touch of her hand on his made Taranza blush a bit.
See, they were the closest of friends, but lately Taranza’s have this warm, fluffy feeling inside of him whenever he was around Sectonia. It grew a little bit bigger every time he'd see her smiling face, whenever she'd laugh her angelic laugh, and whenever she was very close to him. Taranza didn't know what this feeling was yet, but he was kind of nervous to find out. So he just kept his mouth shut and followed to where Sectonia was taking him.
“And we're here!” They stopped abruptly in front of a small square garden full of the most colorful flowers Taranza had ever seen. Sectonia floated in front of the garden and grinned. “Taranza, this is my personal garden. I always wanted to tell you that I love flowers!”
This didn't surprise him, though; whenever Sectonia passed by anything with petals and a bright color, she would grab his hand and point at it, spout random facts and just gushing over the frail things. It didn't take someone as observant as Taranza to figure out her favorite thing in the whole wide world.
“They're very vibrant,” Taranza mumbled, trying to add any little comment to the conversation; he didn't actually have anything cool or special to say right about now, though.
“I know!” Sectonia sighed dreamily, “Flowers just have this natural beauty to them, don't they?” She floated down to a bench right next to the garden patch, Taranza eagerly following. “Nobody cares whether they're different to the smallest details; flowers still have their colorful petals and sweet smell… that's why I love them.” She chuckled lightly and wore a smaller smile than usual. “It's funny, thinking that it's nice to look at something that will always be more beautiful than I'll ever be…”
Taranza whipped his head at Sectonia and looked at her with disbelief. Her, not beautiful? That would be one of the last things he’d describe her as. And this wasn't like her at all, looking down at herself over something as comparison with a flower.
“That can't be possibly true, Sectonia!” He blurted out, “You're just as beautiful as your flowers, if not more!” He stopped himself from saying anymore, even though he had a lot more in mind to cheer up his princess. Taranza had this silly and rather stupid (according to himself) habit of blurting out all of his thoughts to Sectonia, which makes it harder for him not to be nervous around her.
“Am I really?” Sectonia asked him, full on frowning, “Even with the raggedy ghost hair,” She pointed to her smooth, silky white hair, “the big scary horns,” She pointed to her daintily slanted horns, which have a deep shade of purple shining in the sunlight, “the big, buggy eyes?” She pointed to her eyes, which looked like two white moons shining through any darkness possible, “I couldn't be beautiful with this look on me…”
Now this was just flabbergasting. “Of course you're beautiful, how many times would I have to say it?” Taranza grabbed a couple of her hands to get her attention. “How and when did you have that thought? They're just some silly flowers!”
“...The townsfolk that live beyond Royal Road…” She answered slowly, “Whenever I go down to visit them, they get rather nervous if I look at them. Some just run away from me… It made me wonder if they didn't like me because I was too scary to even look at.”
“Then the townsfolk just have to get to know you,” Taranza resolved, “It just wouldn't be right; you aren't just pretty, you are smart and kind, and not to mention the best friend anyone can ask for. Also, it would be strange to be afraid of a queen-to-be.” That was true; Sectonia would become the queen of Floralia in several years or so.
She smiled slightly, glad to hear of Taranza’s reassurance. “Thank you, Taranza. You are the best friend anyone could ask for, please don't forget that.” She started to closed her eyes and yawned.
Taranza smiled and sat still with Sectonia, closing his eyes to rest in the sun with her. “I wouldn't dare.”
That was almost too painful to think about. Taranza shook his head and floated faster up the stairs, itching to find the throne room and get away from all the pain.
What was that feeling inside his throat, trying to claw its way up to his face? It's not something he’s felt for a long time, that's for sure.
Finally, after a not-so-welcomed trip down Memory Lane, Taranza made it up to the throne room, the highest room in the castle meant to look over all of Floralia. But right now, it seemed shabby and ancient from its former glory before the Dreamstalk Adventure.
Oh, if only Queen Sectonia hadn't destroyed her palace; if only Taranza hadn't fled to the Lower World to kidnap Dedede; if only she didn't bestow cruelty among the fairies and bugs; if only…
If only what? Taranza asked himself, What came before the Dreamstalk, before the change, before everything that made her this way? It was becoming harder and harder for him to keep afloat, with his mind starting to black out from fatigue.
But it's obvious, a little voice inside his head answered, you just don't want to think about it. Taranza looked up tiredly and saw right there, behind Sectonia’s crumbling throne, was the beautiful golden mirror he had found all those years ago, mockingly gleaming in the moonlight as Taranza's eyes started to droop.
You were the reason she's gone now, and why she'll never know how you feel.
And then he fell to the ground.
Taranza was darting from shop to shop, from fae to bug, anyone that could help him out. God, it was so nerve racking just to find a gift for his newly crowned queen!
Okay, it's been finally realized by himself that he may have looked at Sectonia as something closer than a friend… much closer…. But this makes it even harder to act natural around her. Taranza couldn't think of a single reason why she would share the same feelings as him from before, back when they were young and innocent and just friends , let alone if she would when she just became coronated as queen.
Nonetheless, he still wanted something to show that he appreciated her no matter what the circumstances. What would Sectonia want?
The answer hit him hard on the head. Wait, no, that was a shop’s wall that hit him in the head. But the answer did come after the bump when he looked up.
~Boutique des Fleurs~
“Flowers, of course!” Taranza was panicking so much that he forgot the thing Sectonia loved more than anything: flowers! He rushed into the shop to see a shocked Flower Fairy in the clerk’s table.
“T-Taranza!” She stuttered, floating back to the wall when she saw him. “I-I didn't expect you to be so far away from the prin- I mean Her Majesty-”
“Please, I don't have much time to spare!” Taranza cut in, glancing around for any flowers for sale. But strangely, there were none in sight. “W-Where are all your flowers…?”
“Ironic, isn't it?” The fairy sighed gloomily, “A flower shop with no flowers to sell… How pitiful.” She shrugged and floated into the back of the shop, probably to avoid looking at the scary spider before her. “Maybe I have something in the back, but it'll take a while or two.”
“But—bubububut-” Taranza couldn't wait a while! He groaned and darted out of the shop before the fairy could come back. When she did, she was carrying a big, orange seed that seemed to glow.
“Well, would you look at the rarity I found in the storage! Legend has it that this seed will grow into a beautiful beast of a flower only when...” She looked up and realized Taranza had left. “Pff, that Spider Boy should learn to have more patience!” The fairy crossed her arms and put the seed somewhere safe. “What could he possibly be in such a rush for?”
Taranza flew around Royal Road for more shops, but it was either crowded with customers or closed. Soon enough he found himself on the outskirts of the castle territory and even closer to the clouds.
“God, if only I was more reliable than this!” Taranza muttered, bashing himself in the head with a hand as he flew aimlessly. But seeing as he was going too far out, he stopped and stayed in place for a moment. “Get yourself together, Taranza! She wouldn't want to see you panicking like this!” He took a deep breath and let it out, calmer this time. “Okay, if you were Sectonia, how would you look for what you wanted as a present? Well, she would like something with bright colors… a shiny object, no doubt… something that would make her laugh and smile and be happy…” Taranza sighed as he thought about how joyful Sectonia would be if he found the perfect gift, his cheeks glowing a little pink. He noticed that he was losing focus, and shook away from his daydream.
“And if it couldn't be a flower?” He continued to ask himself, flying around slowly to see every detail of the landscape. “Well, then, if it couldn't be a flower, Sectonia would really like something made of-”
Something shone across the horizon. It wasn't the bright white-pink of the clouds, but rather contrasting against the clouds. It almost looked like…a dark and metallic yellow.
“Gold!” Taranza flew at full speed to the yellow splotch. “Gold all the way up here! What are the chances?” He used some of his puppet magic to lift the gold a bit more from the clouds, only to reveal a golden and beautifully carved mirror with wings still as stone.
“Wow… what a gorgeous mirror…!” Sectonia would love this, no doubt!
Taranza nodded to himself and stressed out all his strength into his hands and managed to pluck the mirror from the clouds.
“Okay, it's back to the castle with you,” He said, “Someone is going to be very happy to see you!” With all his might, he hauled the giant mirror up and flew jerkily up and down towards the castle.
“This is going to be great… What can possibly go wrong?”
A bright light pushed gently on Taranza's eyes, bothering him as he slowly regained conscious again. He opened his eyes only to see a blinding light from behind the throne room. He had to cover his eyes after being in the dark for so long, but soon he was able to adjust to squinting.
It was dawn. A creamy, bright dawn starting off a brand new day. Anyone seeing it would feel relaxed or invigorated to rise up with the sun, feeling ready for anything with a great big smile on their face. The sunrise would make anyone happy.
And yet… it made Taranza sadder than anything right about now… Just why? He should be feeling good about himself, finally getting a good night’s rest. But something bothered him about the sunlight. No, it wasn't some other memory, but something seemed strange about the background of the sunrise…
Wasn’t the Dreamstalk in this spot?
Now that he thought about it, Taranza hadn't seen the Dreamstalk in its old spot the night before, either. It was definitely there on the night of the battle, he remembered that clearly. It was strange… how could such a magnificent and powerful thing suddenly vanish in a moment’s notice?
Taranza looked around the castle ruins, trying to find a piece of evidence to where the Dreamstalk might've vanished. With the sunlight rising up, it was easier to see the rest of the floor without as many shadows. But with the shadows gone, something caught Taranza's eye— a glimmer of something pinkish.
With that in sight, he floated right towards the thing to get a closer look. It was a flower; a small, dainty, pink flower somehow finding a way through the cracks of the stone floor. It was peculiar, seeing a flower in the midst of the wreckage, but it was there.
“A flower?” Taranza muttered to himself, “How did this get up here ?” But with getting a closer look, he noticed how it wasn't just pink; it had thin stripes of yellow and white, and an orange bud, as well. In fact, it did sort of resemble—
“The Dreamstalk…!” It was by then that Taranza realized this flower was possibly what became of the Dreamstalk. Of course it couldn't be by coincidence that a flower just happened to sprout after the battle. But how did shrink? No, that wasn't the only question.
How did it end up here? Didn't Kirby destroy the Dreamstalk with his Hypernova Laser attack? And even if it was destroyed, how did it unfuse with Queen Sectonia?
...Wait. Where is Sectonia now? She was apart of the Dreamstalk! Taranza stared at the presumably shrunken Dreamstalk, silent for what felt like an eternity. After that long moment, he felt a small hunch in the back of his head, telling him what to do next. Taranza floated to the ground and carefully scooped up the flower in a handful of dirt. The roots haven't been damaged, which was good.
She is apart of the Dreamstalk, He answered for himself. Though it was just on a hunch, it was scary how it oddly made sense.
Taranza floated down from the castle throne room, down across the corridors, down passing Her royal garden, down to the Royal Road entrance. He couldn't help but get teary eyed for leaving his only home.
But there was nothing left of this place for Taranza now; all he could do was go on forwards. The most he could do now, however, is take care of this flower.
It's what the Princess would've wanted…
A couple of tears fell on top of the Dreamstalk’s petals, then rolling off onto the soil.
She did love flowers, after all.