Link smashed the face of his shield into the door. The hinges gave away with an ear-splitting creak, and the door tumbled inside at an odd angle.
The second the dust cleared, a wall of fire raced toward him. Link rushed on to meet it. The fire crashed into his shield, and he felt the heat wash over him. Every step he took was a massive struggle against the flames, pushing through the tide of red and orange. Through the curtain of fire, he caught sight of three Koopa-Troopas, the red, bulbous plants in their hands holding him at bay with a stream of heat.
Gritting his teeth, Link stepped forward. The flames forced him back. Link dug his foot into the ground and pushed harder. Inch by inch, he began to move forward.
Then a pink blur moved across his line of sight.
In an instant, the flames vanished. Link lifted his eyes. Kirby stood before him, the flames curving inwards into his open mouth.
The Koopa-Troopas backed away, a nervous glance exchanged between them. Kirby just smiled, and he swallowed.
Link's hand came up to shield his eyes from the blinding flash.
The crackling came first, roaring and hissing. Heat washed over his shield, and he almost dropped it. His eyes flickered open.
A pillar of flame stood atop Kirby's head bathed the room in an orange glow as stood in the center of the debris. Pots hit the floor, spilling dirt and roots over the wrecked desks. The Koopa-Troopas turned tail and fled.
White sparks gushed out from Kirby's eyes. Link barely had time to put his shield up before he felt heat crash into him. A wave of fire surged over the upturned desks and paper scattered across the floor, painting the walls a searing-hot red. The Koopa-Troops yelled, tumbled to the floor, and lay still.
As he lowered his shield, Link grimaced. All around him, small fires licked the ruins of the office.
Kirby brushed past them as he hopped over to the unconscious Koopa-Troopas, and he stuck out his tongue. Link frowned as he walked past him.
"Don't get too comfortable," he muttered. "We still have a lot of stairs to climb."
Kirby's grin flickered and died. There'd be time for fun after they won the battle.
"Come on," Link said, motioning forward. "The stairs behind us have cut off. There's a stairwell up ahead that will take us higher."
He jogged over the flaming wreckage, clearing himself a path with the tip of his shield. The door leading inside leaned across the doorway, blocking the way.
Link's sword came down, and two halves clattered to the ground. His careful gaze traced up the stairs, climbing higher and into the dark. Keeping his sword before him, he stepped inside.
Above him, he saw something drop.
Kirby jumped to the front. His breath came out as a hot stream of fire. Orange light washed over the walls, revealing one–no, two bombs flying towards them.
Two explosions went off, one after the other. Link felt the walls tremble from the force, saw the walls light up. He cursed, and he threw his shield in front of Kirby.
Rubble pelted his shield's wooden face. As the shower of debris slowed to a trickle, Link let his arm fall back to his side and sighed.
Then he remembered that Kirby probably hadn't needed his help in the first place.
He looked back down, but the puffball was already climbing the stairs. Five steps up, Kirby turned around and gave him an expectant grin, as if to say, Come on, what are you waiting for?
Link kept his mouth shut. As Kirby turned away, Link let a scowl slip through.
Am I even needed here? he thought bitterly. I've got the best training in all of Hyrule, and all I've been is useless, useless, useless.
Greenie was being a real grouch.
Kirby didn't see why he was so mad. The last six minutes had been nothing but fight after fight, blood-pumping, heart-pounding action. Moving left and right, this way and that while blasting away the bad guys with waves of fire, he felt like a super Star Warrior! And Greenie watched it all with a big frown.
At first, Kirby thought he was one of those boring heroes who never smiled, like Meta Knight. But Greenie wasn't super old, so that couldn't be right.
As long as he had bad guys to stop, Kirby was happy. He just assumed everyone else was like that too. Maybe Greenie was just special.
Greenie's frowny face never lifted, even as he bashed down another door. He charged in with a yell. Kirby followed after him, ready to spew fire at any moment.
They were immediately greeted with a billion hammers flying toward them.
Kirby ducked to the right. Greenie dove left. They pressed their backs to a pair of upturned desks, waiting out the storm to the rhythm of hammers pounding the wood.
Greenie was the first to poke his head over the top. His eyes widened, and he yelped, before he slid back down. A hammer flew over his head a second later. It bounced off the wall, spun in the air for a bit, before it crashed into the floor.
A shower of dust sprinkled into his shiny blond hair. Greenie grumbled angrily, and he tried to brush it out.
As he shook the sawdust out of his hands, Greenie craned his head over his shoulder to look at Kirby. "The last stairway is up ahead. If we get past these guys, we'll reach the top," he said. "When I say go, you–"
Whatever he'd been about to say, it probably wasn't important. The sooner they stopped talking, the sooner they got to beat up the bad guys. They couldn't wait, they had to go go go!
Kirby flung himself over the desk. Flames burst to life on his arms, and he shot forward like a cannonball, leaving a trail of fire behind.
Hammers were batted away, barely slowing him down. Kirby caught a glance of the two hammer-turtles, their mouths open in shock.
Kirby caught each of them across the cheek with a flaming punch. Both of them flew away. The first crashed into a pile of upturned desks, disappearing beneath the rubble. The second flew headfirst into the opposite wall. A web of cracks burst from the impact.
Faintly, Kirby heard the building groan. For a moment, he expected the ceiling to just cave in.
A second passed. When it didn't collapse into a mess of rubble, he sighed in relief.
He turned around, a proud grin on his face. He thought he'd done well. Apparently, Greenie didn't agree.
Kirby winced. He snuck a peek back to the doors. A big slab of stone that definitely wasn't there before blocked the way. Above, dust poured in from a hole in the ceiling.
So much for the ceiling not caving in.
Overhead, Kirby could hear faint voices start to yell. "What was that?"
"Sounds like something just went BOOM! They're getting closer, can't you feel it?"
"Shouldn't we check it out?"
"Oh no no no. Our little welcoming committee won't do with less people, don't you see? They'll get lots of love up here. No need to extend our invitation any more."
"And now they know we're here," Link growled. His gaze landed on Kirby, and the puffball was startled to see so much anger in his eyes. He hadn't done anything to make him this mad. Had he?
"If you had waited for me, we would still have a way up! Why did you have to run off and do your own thing?"
"Poyo!" Kirby puffed out his cheeks and tapped his wrist. They didn't have time for waiting, he tried to say. He grabbed Link's sleeve and tugged him forward.
"Kirby, stop!" Link pulled his hand away. "You can't just go ahead and do whatever you want. Not everyone has all your crazy powers, you know."
Kirby... wasn't quite sure what he meant by that. Everyone didn't need his powers, did they? Was there anything wrong with being super strong?
He opened his mouth to say something.
A shadow blocked out the sun. Kirby spun around, eyes wide. Outside, he saw a big red bird, growing bigger and bigger by the second. Its shriek resounded through the walls moments before it broke through the window.
The sound of shattering glass rippled through the air. A thousand shards blew into the room, scraping against Kirby's face. In a streak of fire, Kirby lunged forward. He felt the bird's talons brush over his head. Kirby spun to face the bird. He was just in time to see a set of talons close in on his face.
The ground cracked under him as the bird's talons pressed down. Kirby pushed back, his mouth tightened in concentration as his arms held the bird back.
Slowly, he felt the bird push him toward the open window. He wasn't worried, though. He had his Warp Star to fall back on if things got messy.
Then Kirby remembered Greenie was still there. He glanced back at Greenie, standing just behind the bird. His sword was out, its sharp tip pointed at the bird. Yet he didn't step in to help.
Kirby met his eyes. Greenie was giving him this weird look, one he couldn't quite place. Was it anger? Was it sadness? He didn't know.
Whatever it was, Greenie didn't stick around to say. Instead, he shook his head, turned, and climbed through the hole in the ceiling.
And then, Kirby understood.
He could blast away as many bad guys as he wanted, but he was part of a team now. He couldn't just run ahead like he was all alone, or he'd leave everyone else behind.
The bird cawed. It flapped its wings loudly, and it gave one last shove.
Kirby tried to stand strong, but all his feet found was air.