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Volumes:

To start reading a volume part, click on an item in the bullet points (e.g. to read the first part of "All Dogs, Ducks, and Hunters Go to... Smash?", click on the bullet point with "Part 1" underneath the volume boldly titled "All Dogs, Ducks, and Hunters Go to... Smash?").

  1. All Dogs, Ducks, and Hunters Go to... Smash? (Featured Game(s): Duck Hunt)
    • Part 1: You All Meet in Alley's Tavern… 
    • Part 2: Lessons (Re)Learned
  2. A Spark of an Idea (Featured Game(s): Gen. 1 Core Series Pokémon; alternatively (and more accurately) Pokémon FireRed/LeafGreen) 
    • Part 1: Attack on Pidgeotto
    • Part 2: A Certain Pink Puffball
    • Part 3: Pokémon Battle: Master Hand v. Red and Leaf!
    • Part 4: Letter Giving
  3. New Donk, New Donk (Featured Game(s): Super Mario Odyssey)
  4. Pac-Man is Missing! (Featured Game(s): Pac-Man, Pac-Land, Other Arcade Games)
  5. The Pokémon Battle Revelation (Featured Game(s): Pokémon Battle Revolution)
  6. One More (Featured Game(s): Persona 5)
    • Part 1: The New Customers of Café Leblanc
    • Part 2: Received Messages

Appendix

Chapter Text

 Hand-Delivered-Letters-Cover-Art

It was at the end of a long day of neighborhood patrolling that Robert "Bob" Hogan drove home from work. Getting out of his car, the mustached officer walked to the front door of his house and gave it a few knocks, only to be greeted by a few barks and a quack. Turning the key into his home he opened the door to see a dog with sandy brown fur, followed by a duck with a distinct pink head, blue back, and cream belly. Hogan smiled and gave the dog a gentle rub on the back.

"'Ow's the day goin', Duck Hunt? C'mere, you—you too, Duck."

While Duck Hunt woofed and licked Hogan's hands, Duck didn't budge and instead gazed at the wooden floor with an unfamiliar look in his eyes. Upon noticing this, Hogan stopped petting Duck Hunt and frowned.

"Aw, what's wrong there Duck? Got a stomach ache or somethin'?"

Duck shook his head, his eyes still fixed on the floor. Hogan walked toward Duck, then stooped to look at him.

"Tell ya what. I'm off the next day, so ya don't hafta worry 'bout me bein' gone. That a deal for ya?"

At this Duck looked up and opened his beak, then nodded. Hogan smiled.

"All right then, partner," he said, turning his eyes toward the dining room. "Looks like we should get eatin' now, huh? You two must be starvin' after waitin' for me all day."

After fixing and eating dinner, they went into the living room, where Hogan relaxed into his favorite recliner with a copy of The Gunslinger. He loved to read during his downtime as a way to keep himself occupied after giving up duck hunting several years ago when he and Duck Hunt found and cared for an abandoned duckling during a hunt with his fellow former outlaws. Being a rather straightforward man, Hogan named the duckling Duck, and since then the three of them have become inseparable; no matter how long Hogan was out doing his duties as a police officer, he always looked forward to returning home to be with Duck and Duck Hunt.

But as Hogan continued to read, his eyes drooped, and he fell asleep with the book still in his limp hands.

 


 

A rasp from Duck broke the otherwise quiet morning in the house, and Hogan, still in his uniform, yawned and smacked his lips.

"The heck was that all about…" He got up from his recliner and rubbed his eyes and his forehead, while Duck and Duck Hunt looked at him with concern.

Hogan tried to remember. Like many other dreams, it didn't make any sense. Duck and Duck Hunt were there with him, along with a few other people and strange creatures that he had never seen before. They were traveling across a large expanse of land toward… an enormous something. He was Roland Deschain, a legendary gunslinger, walking toward the eponymous Dark Tower, or so he saw it. But whatever the thing was, it was too vague for him to remember.

"Maybe I'm just thinkin' too much out of somethin' too little," Hogan said, shaking his head. "I mean, it's just a dream anyway."

He went upstairs into his bedroom to change out of his uniform. After putting on a new jacket, shirt, and pants, Hogan went outside to take a walk with Duck and Duck Hunt. But even as he strolled through his neighborhood with his two pets, he couldn't help but wonder what the dream meant.

 


 

Alley's Tavern was near the edge of town. Since its establishment, it has come to be known as a place visited by almost every sort of character that you can think of: the local drunks, the shady types, the usual travelers, the average Joes, and the mysterious strangers. The Tapper family has been its proprietors for a while, and some of them also served as bartenders. Many of the Tappers knew their usual patrons, so when Hogan entered through the front door of the somewhat empty building that night, Marvin Tapper looked away from the TV screen broadcasting the latest baseball game to see Hogan take his spot at the bar counter.

"The usual, Marvin," Hogan said.

With much agility and finesse, Marvin filled a mug with root beer and slid it down the long counter toward Hogan. He drank some of it.

"Y'know, Bob, there have been some strange things happening around here lately," Marvin said.

"Whatcha mean?"

Marvin looked around the room with narrowed eyes, then walked over to Hogan.

"Have you heard about those two guys that were here last night?"

Hogan shook his head. "What two guys?"

"You mean you haven't seen or heard of them?"

"Wasn't here last night, Marvin."

Marvin sighed. "All right, all right. I'll tell you something, 'cause I tend to see a whole lot of things that go on around this place." He looked around again, and Hogan frowned.

"Just what exactly is goin' on 'round here, Marvin? Ya keep lookin' as if you're expectin' to see a ghost or somethin'."

"Sorry, Bob. Have to be a bit careful."

"Why?"

"Last night, there were two people in here sitting at one of those tables behind you. When I asked them what they wanted to order, they turned me down and one of them—the older gentleman—asked me if I knew you. I said, 'Yeah, of course.' Then he asked me if you—probably meant you, Bob—had any pets, and I said, 'I don't know, you'd better ask him yourself.' It was weird for him to ask me that, but then he nodded at me, looked at his brother—at least, that's what he called him—and told me that they had something important to tell you. I didn't know if they're your friends or something."

Hogan cocked his head and rubbed his chin. "Ya remember what they looked like?"

Marvin nodded. "Yeah, very clearly. Both of them looked like businesspeople, except that their suits were white. Even their hair was all white. But those weren't the strangest things about them that I remember."

Hogan sipped his root beer. "Whatcha mean, Marvin? They're probably just your run-of-the-mill weirdos. A whole lotta different people come and go here, after all."

Marvin shrugged. "Sure. Anyway, the old man told me they had some sort of tournament going on in the near future. I also remember they had ties with a weird circle on them and that they had one glove on their hands, so one of them only had one on his left, and the other only on his right."

"Ya sure ya didn't get tipsy and started seein' things?"

Marvin became serious. "Come on, Bob. I've always kept my head up, or else I wouldn't be able to run this place. I swear that everything I told you was true and happened in front of my own eyes. Now I don't know who those guys were or where they came from, but I think it's best that you keep an eye on them, in case they're planning to do something."

"All right, all right, I'll take your word," Hogan said, still unsure what to make of the story. "I'll keep an eye on 'em."

After he finished the last of his root beer, he took out a few dollars and placed them onto the counter.

"Thanks a lot, Marvin. Guess I'll be headin' out now."

With a nod, Hogan left and went outside. He whistled for Duck and Duck Hunt, who followed him from their waiting spot by the tavern's door toward a quiet well-lit street.

Upon arriving at his house minutes later, Hogan turned the knob of his front door, then sighed. First that strange dream, and now someone was possibly after him for a tournament or something? Was he in danger? How were Duck and Duck Hunt involved in this? He shook his head; today just didn't seem to make any sense.

As they entered the house, Hogan looked behind him. The street lights revealed nothing but a neighborhood devoid of any other people walking around that night.

 


 

Hogan went to the tavern again, hoping that someone had seen the two strange men Marvin had mentioned to him a few nights before. According to the neighborhood watch, the men had a tendency to ask everyone they met if they had any knowledge of Hogan, Duck, and Duck Hunt. One of them was known to carry around a black briefcase with a circular symbol and an envelope, though no one has succeeded in getting any information as to what they contained. "What we are doing is done for our business alone," or so the reports went. It made his blood run cold: what do these people want with him and his pets?

He stepped inside. Once again, there were a few people in the establishment; aside from him and Marvin, the only others that were present were a few disinterested card players and a snoring man sitting in a corner with his head down and an empty beer mug on his table. Duck and Duck Hunt were at Hogan's heels, though no one seemed to care that two animals were inside the place at that moment. He sat in his usual spot at the counter.

"Well, Marvin, I've got some—"

"Bob, they're here," Marvin whispered.

"What?"

Hogan looked over his shoulder, and Duck and Duck Hunt did the same. Seated at a table behind them were two white-haired men in clean white business suits and black dress shoes. Just as Marvin had told him, both wore black ties with a single gray circle split into four unequal parts by two intersecting lines. The similarities ended there, however: one man looked to be in his fifties, had neat hair, and a white glove on his right hand, while the other man looked to be in his twenties, had slightly unkempt hair, and a white glove on his left hand. While the older man drummed his gloved fingers on a white envelope, the younger man yawned, most likely out of boredom.

With a deep breath, Hogan walked toward the men with Duck and Duck Hunt in tow and grabbed a nearby chair. As he sat down, the older man stopped tapping his fingers on the envelope and looked at him.

"You must be Officer Robert Hogan," the man said in a smooth and somewhat deep voice.

Hogan remained silent as he took more mental notes on the strange men. Now that he sat closer to them, he noticed that the older man had gray eyes that seemed to gleam with a strange mixture of seriousness and faint amusement. He also had a slight smile—a contrast to the younger man sitting across from him, who had gray eyes that instead shone with mischief and a sly grin.

"All right, gentlemen," Hogan said. "Now from what I've heard, ya were askin' everybody 'round here about me and my friends. Would ya care explainin' that to me?"

"Our apologies in arousing suspicion, Officer," said the older man. "We should've looked—"

"Come on, bro! Just hurry up and get to the point already!"

"Mind your manners at the moment, Crazy."

"Crazy?" Hogan repeated, raising an eyebrow.

"I'm sorry. Let me introduce ourselves. My name is Master Hand, and this is my brother Crazy Hand."

Hogan stared at them. These were certainly not the sort of people he had expected to be looking for him and his pets. They didn't look like the criminals he occasionally apprehended, and they seemed somewhat friendly to him right now, save for maybe Crazy Hand. And speaking of Master Hand and Crazy Hand, what kind of names were they? Were they some sort of nicknames or titles he never heard of before?

Noticing Hogan's confused look, Master Hand continued to speak. "We've traveled to many places, Officer, and offered a certain few a chance of a lifetime. That is unless they declined or circumstances barred them from accepting it."

"Yep, that's how our business is like," Crazy Hand said. "You get to meet all sorts of people and live in our mansion, for starters."

"But what's more important are the fighting tournaments that are held every so often from where we live," Master Hand said. "There are also, of course, prizes to be won. Do well, and you may become famous and earn the respect of many people."

"Now is this tournament of yours legal, gentlemen?" Hogan asked, his eyes narrowing a bit.

Crazy Hand looked at his brother, his grin widening. Master Hand chuckled.

"Legal? Well… perhaps, in a way. My brother and I are its hosts, and I'm also specifically the announcer for the matches that take place during these tournaments. Both of us take to fighting as well if any challengers felt they were strong enough to take on us."

"So 'ow come I've never heard any of these tournaments before then?" Hogan asked.

"Have you ever considered the possibility of other worlds unlike yours, Officer? Ones that exist in independent universes that do not obey the same laws, including the laws of physics as you know them?"

Hogan was dumbfounded. Possibilities of other worlds? Independent universes that do not obey the laws of physics? It was as if he was hearing something straight out of The Dark Tower, or at least someone with a wild imagination.

He thought about his dream, and his eyes widened at the thought of it somehow coming true. Was he going to live out a life like Roland? What would become of Duck and Duck Hunt? And what's with this so-called "chance of a lifetime" anyway? He was happy with the way things are, and he didn't need a game show or tournament to prove that he was the strongest man in the world or anything like that—not when he was able to live a content life with his friends in this quiet town.

A woof from Duck Hunt reminded Hogan that he was still in the tavern.

"Is this your dog, Officer?" Master Hand asked, holding out a gloved hand toward Duck Hunt.

"Yep, but whatever ya want with 'im, don't hurt 'im!"

Master Hand looked at him in confusion, then smiled as Duck Hunt walked over to sniff his hand. "It seems that you care for Duck Hunt very much. I assume the same with your treatment of Duck."

"All right, bro," Crazy Hand grumbled. "You can quit being all nice and sentimental now."

Master Hand ignored him. "Did you know that you, Duck, and Duck Hunt have potential, Officer? Because that is why my brother and I have come here—to discuss an opportunity a select few only have."

With his gloved hand, he pushed the envelope toward Hogan, who picked it up and examined it. It was mostly plain and white, which would have made it look like any other envelope had it not been for an intriguing feature placed in the middle of one side of it: a circular red wax seal resembling the symbols on the Hands' ties. Hogan rubbed his thumb on it, then opened the envelope to find a letter inside. He took it out and read it to himself:

 

To Officer Robert "Bob" Hogan,

You, or rather your dog and duck, respectively named Duck Hunt and Duck, have been invited because of your potential to become something more… to be members of the Super Smash Bros., a competitive fighting organization that we have established to promote solidarity and friendship between universes. If all of you wish to accept this offer of a lifetime, you will not regret the benefits that will come out of it, especially if you show exceptional skill and do well in the challenges that you will face alongside your fellow competitors. If for any reason you wish to decline or if you are otherwise somehow unable to accept the offer, there is—most likely—another time. But then again, there is no guarantee that you will be accepted into the final roster of what is now known as the Fourth Tournament, for your complete inclusion depends on certain circumstances and the wishes of the developers and fans. Whatever your decision may be, we will respect it.

—M.H. and C.H.

 

After reading the letter over several times, Hogan was left even more confused. Super Smash Bros.? What kind of organization was that? And wait, did it say something about a Fourth Tournament? How long has this organization existed? What exactly is going on here?

"You're lyin', gentlemen. You're just tryin' to set me up to scam me or somethin', aren't ya?"

Crazy Hand laughed. Hogan flinched, as it was a grating high-pitched sound that caused everyone else in the tavern to stare at the group in alarm and annoyance. At the counter behind him, Marvin almost dropped a glass. Even Duck Hunt began to growl, while Duck hissed. The only one unperturbed by Crazy Hand's behavior was Master Hand, who folded his arms and shot him an admonishing look. Crazy Hand composed himself, though his voice was still a bit shaky from his bout of laughter.

"Sorry, bro. That was just… that was just the dumbest and funniest thing I've ever heard. These guys—haha—should've been comedians instead of fighters."

"Yes, Crazy," Master Hand replied. He turned to Hogan and gave him a small smile. "I'm sorry about my brother. I assure you that we aren't trying to deceive you in any way."

"What makes ya so sure 'bout that? And who are ya, really? What do ya really want from me and my friends?"

Master Hand chuckled. "If you're still skeptical about everything that has happened for the past few days and tonight, I assure you that some things will be cleared up by tomorrow."

"Whatcha mean?"

"Have you been to the forest near this town before, Officer?"

"Yessir. That's where Duck Hunt and I used to go when we were out huntin' ducks. But what's that got to do with anythin'?"

"If you wish to have your questions answered, I recommend that you go to a particular clearing there with Duck and Duck Hunt in the morning. No one else should accompany you three. If you find a gray and orange gun called a NES Zapper somewhere on the ground as well as a simulator, then you're in the right place. Above all, remember your skills and do not try to run or alert anyone in this town or anywhere else. We will be notified if you do so."

"Yep, 'cause if you do, then we'll get everyone else on our hands and everything's gonna go to the Underwhere," Crazy Hand added, getting out of his seat.

While he went to wait by the tavern's entrance, Master Hand stayed behind to pick up something from the floor, then headed outside carrying a black briefcase with a gray circle with two intersecting lines. The tavern's occupants stared in dumbstruck silence as the two men left the building, then began talking about what they had just witnessed as soon as they were out of sight.

"Crazy old man…" one of the patrons murmured.

"Yeah. What the heck was he and the other guy ramblin' 'bout, you reckon?"

"Dunno. Maybe they just had a bit too much or something."

"Now that was just the weirdest thing I've ever seen," Marvin said as he left his spot at the bar counter and walked up to Hogan. "What did you think about it, Bob?"

Hogan shook his head. "I dunno, Marvin. I swear that what just happened was some sorta real deal with the devil or somethin'. That says a lot, y'know, 'cause I don't really believe in that sort of stuff."

Marvin shrugged. "Well, I can say that I don't believe in that sort of thing either, Bob, but do you think you're gonna do something about it?"

"I guess. I mean, I like findin' 'bout the truth and all. This just happens to be a case where things keep gettin' stranger by the minute. Whatever it is, I know I'll get to the bottom of it, Marvin. I know I will, no matter what."

After picking up the letter and the envelope it came in, Hogan left Alley's Tavern along with Duck and Duck Hunt without another word. Upon arriving at his house, he went to his computer in his bedroom and began to look for any individuals that went by the names of Master Hand and Crazy Hand, as well as any organizations or groups called the Super Smash Bros.

But after hours of fruitless searching and nonsense about hands and fighters from other worlds, Hogan rested his head on his desk and slept.

Chapter Text

It wasn't Duck that woke him up this time.

Somewhere in his room, Hogan heard a piercing repetitive beep. While he rubbed his eyes awake, he noticed that his bedside alarm clock displayed 8 a.m., and he gasped.

"Aw, shoot! We've better get goin' if we're to find out what's with those two!"

After changing into his old hunting clothes and putting on his camo ball cap and boots, Hogan went downstairs and opened the front door without a moment's hesitation. When they saw their owner looking at them and holding the door open, Duck and Duck Hunt ran outside, then waited as Hogan locked it. With a tip of his cap, the three of them set out toward the edge of town.

As the trio approached the forest, Hogan noticed that besides a passing breeze rustling the leaves, silence pervaded the area. He looked around; no one seemed to be following him and his pets. With a sigh, he walked toward a dirt trail that led inside while Duck and Duck Hunt walked alongside him.

"Sure looks to be fine 'round here," Hogan muttered. "But I hope this isn't some sorta trap or con or somethin'. Too many people fall for those only to get into big trouble."

He looked over his shoulder, and once again found nobody lurking behind him. The walk otherwise remained uneventful, with the occasional crunching of rocks and fallen leaves under Hogan's boots breaking the still morning air.

It was only near the end of the trail that something very unusual happened. After stopping to sniff the air, Duck Hunt froze, his eyes transfixed on something far away.

"What is it, boy?" asked Hogan.

A bark, and Duck Hunt bolted toward the trees. Startled by this sudden burst of energy, Hogan ran after him with Duck.

"Hold up, Duck Hunt! Where ya goin'?"

Duck Hunt ran amid the trees and foliage, barking all the while. With limited sunlight and thick undergrowth, Hogan found it difficult to follow him. Duck Hunt darted this way and that across the forest floor, his mind and nose focused on something Hogan and Duck couldn't see. This kept on for several minutes, and Hogan was about to give up and turn back toward the trail until he saw where Duck Hunt had led him.

Panting, and with his hands on his knees, Hogan found himself and Duck facing a grassy clearing.

"What the? Is this… the Glade? Huh. It's been years since I've been to this place."

The Glade was what the forest gave way to somewhere within its thickest parts. Since he had last been here, the grass had grown bigger and taller, with some of the tallest blades towering above his head. Few trees dotted the area, and a stream ran through it, its murmuring waters providing a sense of tranquility.

As Duck wandered toward the grass to look for Duck Hunt, Hogan heard a rustle behind him and turned around. There was nothing but leaves moving in the wind.

"Musta been my imagination."

He walked backward with wary eyes fixed on the trees and undergrowth, then felt something shift underneath his boots. He looked down and saw that it was a gray and orange light gun, then picked it up. It reminded him of the ones he saw in the local arcade.

Was this the NES Zapper Master Hand told him about? Why would something like it be lying in a field of all places?

As Hogan pondered at the absurdity of finding a toy gun in the middle of nowhere, he walked around the field and saw Duck Hunt with his nose on the ground and his tail in the air.

"Whatcha got there, Duck Hunt?"

As if in response to his question, Duck Hunt stopped sniffing, his eyes growing wide with a strange excitement Hogan hadn't seen since his last duck hunt. He barked a few times, then leaped into the tall grass. A moment later, Hogan heard a loud rustling. Startled, he closed his eyes and reflexively pulled the Zapper's trigger.

A bang resonated throughout the Glade. It was a sound he didn't expect to hear after many years, let alone from a light gun.

"Shoot," Hogan muttered.

When he opened his eyes again, Hogan saw Duck Hunt on his hind legs, holding a green-headed duck in his paw. As he stared at Duck Hunt and the duck, he cocked his head. Why wasn't the duck hurt?

A moment later, the duck faded away into a puff of smoke from Duck Hunt's paw, and both Hogan and Duck Hunt stared as the duck disappeared into thin air. Hogan gasped.

"The heck? That a ghost duck or somethin'?”

Duck Hunt disappeared into the grass again, this time flushing out a duck with a pink head.

"Not foolin' me this time!" Hogan yelled, shooting three times at the duck. Despite his aim, the duck flew away unscathed. As it flew to another part of the Glade, Duck Hunt emerged from the grass and began to laugh. Hogan glared at him.

"Aw, shut up, Duck Hunt."

At his remark, Duck Hunt stopped laughing. He blinked and looked to his left, then ducked into the grass. Hogan looked to his right, wondering what Duck Hunt had seen. He looked up, gasped, then ducked into his own patch of tall grass.

Hovering several feet above the Glade was a large circle of light. To Hogan, it looked as if a second sun decided to come closer without burning up the sky and blinding him.

But what happened next was even stranger.

Six figures came out of the portal, then landed on a grassless area nearby. Hogan stared, having never seen anybody like them before. The first one that landed was a mustached man in a red shirt and blue overalls with a cap with the letter "M" on it. Behind him was someone or something in a futuristic-looking orange suit equipped with a cannon on one hand. The next was a sword-wielding blond boy with pointed ears in a green tunic and pointed hat, followed by a brown-haired angelic boy wielding two blades and wearing a white chiton and sandals. The last two didn't even look like humans: one was a brown gorilla with a tie, while the other looked like a giant turtle with red hair and a spiky shell. Above them, the portal disappeared in a flash.

"Uh, are we in the right place, Mario?" the angel asked, scratching his head.

"Yes, Pit. Master Hand-a said so," the man in red replied, adjusting his cap.

"Grr… what the heck's taking those Hands so long then?" the turtle grumbled.

"Yeah," the gorilla said. "I wanna get to smashing the newbie's face in!"

"Hold off your complaints for now, Bowser. They'll be here soon," the figure in the suit said. Hogan swore the voice was that of a woman's, but he couldn't be sure.

"Look! Something's over there!" the boy in green said, pointing with his sword.

As if on cue, everyone looked toward a patch of grass. Its blades rustled, then stopped. Duck Hunt leaped out and sat on the ground, his back turned toward them. A moment later, Hogan and the group saw Duck landing on Duck Hunt's back. They turned around, with Duck punctuating their display with a quack. Everyone stared at them.

"Really? A dumb dog and a duck? What were those Hands thinking?" Bowser asked.

"Don't call 'em that!" Hogan yelled.

Startled by his voice, the group looked around them. Seeing that hiding wouldn't be of any use, Hogan stepped out of the grass with one of his hands balled into a fist. He glared at Bowser.

"Ya disrespect my pets again, and I'll see that you'll have to make up for it," he said.

Bowser laughed, while Hogan grit his teeth and tightly gripped the Zapper.

"Oho! So the dog and the duck do have an owner! Look at you. What're you gonna do with that gun of yours, mister? It looks too small to get a good hit on me!"

"Why—ya oughta be taught a lesson!"

"Well, try me! I've got all day to sit in your class and learn something from you."

"Come on, Bowser! We don't have the time to start fighting right-a now!" Mario pleaded.

"Shut it, Mario. This might be a good time for this guy to know what we Smashers do!"

Bowser stomped toward Hogan, cracking his knuckles while Hogan held out the Zapper in front of him with a finger on the trigger. Duck and Duck Hunt joined Hogan at his side, hissing and growling at their oncoming opponent. Mario ran in front of Bowser and put out his gloved hands in an effort to stop him.

"Please, Bowser! You can do this once we-a get back to the Smash 'verse!"

Bowser ignored him, pushing him away. He was only a few feet away from Hogan now—

"You've heard Mario, Bowser. That's quite enough."

Bowser stopped, looking around to see where the voice came from. Behind him, he saw the rest of the group parting to reveal two men in white.

"Oh! Uh, I wasn't gonna harm this guy, Master Hand. I didn't even know he was with the dog and the duck," he said, managing a sheepish smile and backing away from Hogan.

Master Hand said nothing and instead walked with Crazy Hand toward Hogan, Duck, and Duck Hunt.

"Hmm… no, that won't do."

"Whatcha mean, Mr. Hand?"

"You see, Officer, your dog and duck are actually the ones that are going to be fighters, with you helping them in a way that no one else has ever seen before."

"Huh?"

"What my bro means is that you're not actually fighting out there,” Crazy Hand explained.

"Oh. Then what am I s'posed to do then? Cheer 'em on?"

"Have you ever wondered why you found the NES Zapper in this field?" asked Master Hand.

"Yeah. I mean, what's it got to do with anythin'?"

"What's important for you to know is that the NES Zapper will be your weapon that will help Duck and Duck Hunt as they fight."

"Really?"

"Yes."

"Huh. I mean, I used to be a pretty good shot. That all?"

"Well, remember that you haven't decided whether or not you're going to the Tournament yet. After all, the roster still has some slots remaining, and we're trying to make sure they are filled in quickly to prepare for the upcoming Fourth Tournament. If you're still wondering what this Tournament is like, then perhaps you, Duck, and Duck Hunt should follow all of us back to the Smash 'verse and decide from there."

"Unless you don't want to," Crazy Hand added.

Hogan looked at Duck and Duck Hunt. From their big eyes and enthusiastic looks on their faces, they seemed eager to go. To him, this was strange: since when did dogs and ducks have a strong desire to see the world and fight in a tournament, especially one that was in another universe? Though as much as his suspicions told him to back out of the deal, a part of him wanted to ensure that they were happy with what they wanted. If they’re happy, then he's happy.

"All right. Looks like my partners over here want to go there so badly, so I guess I'm goin' too then."

Master Hand nodded, then walked away with Crazy Hand. He held up his gloved hand, then made a sweeping, circular motion with his arm. Upon completing the circle, a large portal appeared. Hogan's jaw dropped; were any of these people human?

Five of the Smashers went through it without a moment's hesitation, leaving the Hands, Mario, Hogan, Duck, and Duck Hunt behind. Noticing Hogan’s uncertain look, Mario went up and smiled at him.

"Don't-a-worry, Mr. Hogan. I know that it might be scary for the first time, but let me tell you-a something—there's-a nothing to be afraid of. Even though you might-a see new and weird things, I'm sure that you, Duck, and Duck Hunt will find friends in Smash."

"Ya mean it, Mr. Mario?"

"Oh, yeah. That's what happened to me when I first got there. You'll be fine. You know, maybe I can be one of your first friends with you and your dog and duck. I-a always like to meet new people."

Hogan looked at Mario, then at Duck and Duck Hunt. He knew the latter duo have accompanied him through the years in this world, but to go into an unfamiliar one? Especially if there might be weird things he's never seen before?

… No. He wasn't going to be afraid. If he was going to end up in a new world, then he'll need friends and companions, including Duck and Duck Hunt. After all, Roland had his ka-tet with him along the way, and look how much they've accomplished.

"I think you're right, Mr. Mario. I oughta give ya my thanks for savin' me and my friends from that Bowser back there."

With a deep breath, Hogan, Duck, and Duck Hunt walked to the portal. Bracing himself, he stepped into it with Duck and Duck Hunt, only remembering three blurred faces as he felt his body get sucked through a passage through time and space.

 


 

Hogan saw that he was in a very large room. There was little light, though from what he could discern, he was in some sort of office since there was a large and very important-looking desk covered with papers. Or to be more specific, it was a desk that had a giant white-gloved hand hovering behind it. Hogan stared, then screamed and stumbled backward at the sight. 

A sigh. Where did it come from?

"I'm sorry that you weren't informed sooner, Officer. You are in the Smash 'verse, specifically the Smash Mansion."

Wait, was that—

"Uh, Mr. Hand? Where are ya?"

"You're lookin' right at him, Mr. Hogan," someone said in a rather gruff voice. Hogan looked around and saw that Duck and Duck Hunt were sitting on the floor near the floating hand.

"Duck! Duck Hunt! You're all right!"

"Indeed they are."

"Oh, uh… so you're Master Hand?" Hogan asked, looking at the strange being before him.

"Yes. In my true form."

"You're… you're not human."

"That's self-evident."

"Huh?"

"What you've seen in your world were forms my brother and I take to ensure that others will feel… more comfortable in our presence. We are—in almost every sense of the word—gods, though we prefer to be called spirits. I'm the manifestation of the creative spirit whereas Crazy Hand is the manifestation of the destructive spirit."

"Uh, sure. I'll go with that," Hogan said, his head still spinning at the barrage of information. Duck and Duck Hunt walked toward him.

"Yeah, Mr. Hogan. From what he told us, he also owns this place," Duck Hunt said in a gruff voice.

"Made it with his brother too," Duck added in a nasal voice.

Hogan's jaw dropped. Now his pets learned how to talk too?

"Wha—h-how?"

"There is a rule in this universe that states that there is no language barrier, which means that almost everyone that's been here is granted the ability to talk and communicate with each other without any problems," Master Hand explained.

"Yeah, Mr. Hogan," Duck said. "That means ya know what we're sayin'."

"Anyway, me and Duck were thinkin' about this tournament thing all over, and we thought about joinin' after talkin' with Master Hand about it," Duck Hunt said.

"Really?"

"Yeah, Mr. Hogan. 'Cause ya see, I always wanted to prove myself that I can do anythin' and not just be some dog with an annoyin' laugh like before. 'Member when ya told me to shut up just before we met those guys? Well, I didn't forget that you've said stuff like that before Duck, back when we were huntin' buddies. This might be the time I can get away from that."

"But you've been laughin' at me and the others whenever we missed a duck or two. 'Course that would've been annoyin' to the point where we wanted to shut ya up."

"And that's why I didn't feel like huntin' anymore, Mr. Hogan, 'cause then y'all would get mad at me. I remember when y'all said ya wanted to shoot me up. Sure, ya didn't really mean it, but it still hurt. Then when Duck came along, I changed and wanted to stay at home 'stead of followin' ya to the Glade."

"I… I didn't know ya took it like that, Duck Hunt. I didn't know ya hated me and the rest of the huntin' crew for kinda casually sayin' that we wanted to shut ya up by shootin' at ya. It was more like a joke, to be honest. We just wanted ya to stop laughin' whenever we missed."

"I don't hate ya, Mr. Hogan, but sayin' that stuff to a friend like me?"

"Well… that I'm sorry 'bout, Duck Hunt. Just… promise that ya won't laugh at me when I do somethin' dumb like missin' a shot."

"Um, yeah. I promise, Mr. Hogan."

Duck Hunt then turned to face Master Hand, who was still floating behind the desk. "I think I made my own choice then. I wanna join this tournament, Master Hand."

Master Hand made a gesture similar to a person scratching their chin. "Are you sure that you are fully committed to this?"

Duck Hunt looked at Duck, then Hogan. Duck nodded, while Hogan just stared at him.

"Ya sure ya really want this, Duck Hunt?"

"Yeah! Let's do it, Mr. Hogan," We'll show 'em what we can do! What I can do!" Duck Hunt barked, wagging his tail.

Hogan smiled, then chuckled. "If you're happy, Duck Hunt, then I'm happy," he said, then looked at Master Hand. "It seems that we're in then."

"Hm. And now that you have made your decision, I declare you… to be Smashers, Duck Hunt Duo!" Master Hand announced, pointing his finger at them with a flourish.

Hogan and the Duo whooped with joy.

Chapter Text

 Hand-Delivered-Letters-Cover-Art

Between Pewter City and Viridian City is Route 2, a straightforward path guiding travelers toward a vast forest. Named the Viridian Forest after the city near its southern end, it is a place filled with dense foliage and little light. Many Pokémon call it home, and some Trainers consider it a challenge due to its near-labyrinthian layout.

Somewhere on a particular morning in the forest, a yellow Mouse Pokémon yawned. He opened his eyes, stretched on the tree branch he had slept on, and looked around him. Seeing nothing but the leaves and grass rustling in the wind, Pikachu jumped and landed on the soft grass below. He looked around again, then walked until he found a tree with red Berries dangling from its branches.

"Razz Berries! My favorite!" Pikachu said, his mouth watering a bit.

Feeling his cheeks grow warmer, he discharged a jolt of electricity toward one of the Razz Berries, charring it and causing it to fall off the branch. Catching the Berry with his paws, Pikachu smiled, then nibbled on its now-tender granules. It had a mild tinge of spiciness.

Before he could take another bite, he heard the faint rustling of grass nearby.

His eyes darted around, trying to catch a glimpse of anything that could be making the sound. Stuffing the rest of the Berry into his mouth, he ran into a patch of tall grass and crouched. He held his breath.

They stopped.

Pikachu sniffed the air. It was a familiar smell, yet something about it was… odd.

He crept toward the edge of the grass patch, then froze as he peered through the blades of grass. Standing a few meters away was a man in white, holding something by his side. Pikachu tilted his head; what could a human like the one before him be doing in Viridian Forest?

From what he remembered, humans in white were called scientists, or sometimes professors. He had watched them from afar, and he had always seen them looking around and writing things down in small books. Like some of the Pokémon that lived in the forest, he regarded them with fear and suspicion, and he seldom showed himself before them, running away before they could do anything to him. He had heard stories of other Pokémon being taken away and used to do bad things for the humans, particularly from the Pidgey and Pidgeotto that live in the forest.

Poking his head out of the grass, Pikachu had a better look at the human. He was rather tall, and he wore a white suit that made him stand out in the dimness of the forest. He also had black shoes and a black tie, which had a gray circle split into four parts. Like his suit, his hair was white, and his face looked a bit old. But what intrigued and uneased Pikachu the most was the black briefcase, which the man held with his gloved right hand.

Instinctively, Pikachu squeaked. He crawled backward, his body shuddering and rustling the grass. Any moment now, and the man will follow him, or worse, send out a Pokémon to battle and catch him. He could only hope the man would leave.

"I'm not going to harm you," the man said in a deep voice.

Pikachu stopped shaking.

"There's no need to be afraid. You can come out of the grass."

Pikachu felt his cheeks crackling with electricity. This must be a trick, yet—

"I'm not going to catch you in a Poké Ball. I promise."

What? What kind of human doesn't want to catch a Pokémon? After all, even the scientists would sometimes capture Pokémon for reasons he didn't know. He inched closer toward the edge of the grass.

The man was kneeling on one leg, his case sitting nearby. Pikachu gulped as he saw the man watching him with a steady gaze. What was he going to do to him?

"Y-you're one of those bad humans, right? G-go away! Leave me alone!" he squeaked.

"I assure you that I'm not, Pikachu."

Pikachu gasped. Did the man just—

"Wait. Y-you know what I'm saying?"

"Of course, Pikachu."

"Like, really really know? But—"

The man chuckled. "We wouldn't be having this conversation if I didn't."

Pikachu stepped out of the grass and stood on his hind legs. He tilted his head and looked at the man in confusion. "Um, you're kind of weird for a human."

The man sighed. Pikachu gasped. "I-I'm sorry! I mean—I never heard of humans—"

"It's fine. There aren't many that are like me, Pikachu. I'm… someone with many powers and talents, and being able to understand and communicate with almost everything is one of them."

"Oh. So you know what humans and Pokémon are saying?"

The man nodded, grabbing his briefcase and standing up. "Indeed. But that doesn't matter now, Pikachu."

"Huh? Y-you're not gonna fight or catch me?"

"I've been looking for a few individuals for a while now, Pikachu. Individuals with potential in them."

"But—but—I'm just a Pikachu. I mean, I kind of know how to fight, look for food and take care of myself and stuff, but I'm just a Pikachu."

"Hmph. Then perhaps I'll have to look elsewhere," the man said, already walking past Pikachu, who watched him disappear into the rest of the forest. Pikachu tried following him for a while until he stepped on something he had never seen before. It was a small, rectangular white thing, with a reddish circle similar to the mark on the man's tie in the middle of it. He pawed its smooth surface, which crinkled at his touch. At least it didn't seem dangerous.

Did the man drop it by accident?

Carrying it in his mouth, Pikachu scampered along the forest floor, his ears perked up and his eyes focused on searching for the man. He ran through several patches of grass, startling and shoving a few Pokémon along the way, including a Pidgeotto and her Pidgey chick.

"Mama!" cried the Pidgey.

"Sorry!" Pikachu yelled.

"How dare you, you little—!"

Pikachu ignored her as he ran. Pidgeotto were relentless not just in pursuing their prey, but also in protecting their territory, with the one behind him being no exception and most likely intending to peck or punish him with her talons. He raced through the dense forest and veered around corners, the Pidgeotto all the while flying just above the canopy and repeatedly screeching insults and his supposed transgression.

It wasn't until the end of the path that he found the man again, strolling toward the open well-lit exit.

"Hey!" Pikachu yelled through a mouthful of paper.

The man turned around just in time for Pikachu to crash into him, knocking the briefcase out of his hands. Amid the confusion, Pikachu dropped his small package.

"What—"

"Help!"

Above the trees was the Pidgeotto, her eyes gleaming in anger. Pikachu closed his eyes and curled himself into a ball in the man’s arms as the Pidgeotto began to dive, her talons extended in front of her.

"Don't you ever touch my son again, you—ARRGHK!"

A searing pain shot through the Pidgeotto's left wing. She looked at it, her beak dropping in horror at the sight of some of her flight feathers being singed off. She flapped frantically with her good wing, her priorities shifting toward keeping herself from plummeting. With her keen eyes, she saw below her five thin beams of blue light, seemingly coming from the man's gloved fingertips.

"I've distracted her, Pikachu! Now is your chance!"

"What?"

"Use an Electric-type attack!"

Pikachu opened his eyes. He hesitated, then with a burst of energy he leaped out of the man's arms. He ran toward his back, leaping off the ground onto his shoulders. A second later, he kicked off from the man's head, propelling himself to the height of the Pidgeotto, his cheeks glowing with electricity.

"THUNDER!"

A massive beam of electricity surged from Pikachu's body, shocking the Pidgeotto. As the massive number of volts coursed through her, she uttered a terrifying cry.

They fell into the trees, the leaves and branches slowing them down. The Pidgeotto continued tumbling to the ground, her body faint and limp from the attack. Pikachu steadied himself on one of the boughs, dazed and panting but otherwise unharmed. A few minutes later, he saw the Pidgeotto get up and shake herself. She glared at him, then staggered away.

"Whew… that was… close," Pikachu said.

He took a deep breath, made his way down the tree, and walked toward the man, who was standing by the exit with his briefcase in his hand. He had a broad smile.

"Um, I guess I won, right?" Pikachu asked.

"Indeed. And you have shown potential as well."

"Really?"

"Yes. And I should also thank you for finding this," the man said, holding up what Pikachu recognized was the rectangular package he dropped.

"What is that?" Pikachu asked, tilting his head.

"A letter. I've traveled to many places to give these to certain individuals. Individuals like you."

"But what's up with me? You know that I said I'm just a Pikachu."

"Who made the choice to stand up for himself even when he was afraid."

"But you told me to use an Electric attack."

"And you chose to use one. You could've ignored me and ran away instead."

"Well, I thought that Pidgeotto was gonna hurt you too! Even when she was really after me!"

A silence fell between them. The man sighed, turning away to walk out of the forest. A few steps later, he stopped.

"Perhaps we should thank each other. It's the least both of us can do," the man said, still facing away from Pikachu.

"Why?" Pikachu asked.

"Though I've imposed a limit on myself on using my powers, I might have… helped you a little by attacking and weakening the Pidgeotto with lasers," the man replied, indicating his gloved hand.

Pikachu stared at it. "Oh. Um, thanks," he mumbled.

"Hmph. I'll be on my way then," the man said, resuming to walk on the path outside the forest while Pikachu watched him in the shade of the trees. He pondered about the strange things that had happened to him.

A human who can talk to Pokémon was a rarity, but a human who had the power to fire lasers from one of his hands? Impossible. And what was this so-called potential he kept mentioning? Pikachu wanted answers.

"W-wait up!" he yelled, running after the man. "Where are you going?"

The man stopped again and looked at Pikachu as the latter caught up with him.

"To Route 3. Why did you ask?"

"Um… I was thinking… if I can…"

"Travel with me?"

Pikachu's jaw dropped. "H-how'd you know?"

For a minute, the man didn't answer as he walked away from Pikachu. And then he said, "If you travel with me, I can tell you everything you want to know."

Pikachu followed him, then jumped onto his left shoulder. "Yeah, yeah, yeah!" he squeaked excitedly. "Please! I wanna know everything that's been going on."

The man sighed. "What is it?"

"Um, let's see…" Pikachu said, tilting his head and holding up a paw to his mouth. "Who are you really? Do you have a name? Humans have names, right?"

The man had a small smile. "I was wondering when you were going to ask me that. I…  am Master Hand."

"Really? That's an interesting name."

As the two of them continued through Route 2 to Pewter City, Pikachu continued to ask questions while riding on Master Hand's shoulder, earning them a few confused looks from passersby.

Chapter Text

"Whoa! So is this Route 3?"

"Hm?"

"I said, IS THIS ROUTE 3?!"

"Yes, Pikachu," Master Hand said, removing the headset he was using to listen to music. The road they were on led north to a mountain and was dotted with a few trees. Master Hand, however, was more interested in the patch of tall grass before him and Pikachu.

"What're we doing here anyway, Master Hand?" Pikachu asked, jumping to the ground and walking toward the grass.

"According to my list of invitees, certain Pokémon called Jigglypuff live in this area. One of these is invited to the Tournament, though I don't exactly understand why anyone would want to request one as a fighter."

"Yeah, yeah," Pikachu said. "It should be easy to find one in this grass, right? Maybe I'll just go ahead and look for this Jigglypuff by myself."

"Hmph. If you say so, feel free to do some searching on your own, then. I will be right here if you need me," Master Hand said as he watched the grass rustle from Pikachu's movements. After a while, he went to sit on a nearby boulder, took out a book from his briefcase, and put on his headset again, drowning out the ambient noises around him with rock music he could only hear.

For several minutes, he read through the book, which detailed information about the Kanto region's Pokémon. When he turned to a page titled "Pokémon of the Kanto Region: #39," he saw below the words a picture of a pinkish ball with big eyes, pointed ears, and stubby arms and feet. It was followed by a short entry.

 

Jigglypuff. Normal/Fairy type. The Balloon Pokémon. This Pokémon is well-known for its enchanting lullaby. It is also filled with air, which helps it with its singing powers and allows it to float.

 

"I should've warned him about this," Master Hand muttered, closing and returning the book into his briefcase. "But it seems I have to clean up someone else's mess yet again."

He stood up, clenched his gloved fist behind his back, and walked toward the grass. Moving slowly, he found Pikachu lying on the ground with his eyes closed.

Near them was a small round pink creature. She had huge eyes, and her mouth was open in her impassioned singing. But as she continued to belt out her lullaby, the Jigglypuff's eyes widened as Master Hand looked away, held out something small and conical from behind his back—

BANG!

"Ah!" Pikachu squeaked, bolting upright.

"Hey! You ruined my song!" Jigglypuff complained.

"Well, it seems that I've done my part," Master Hand said, taking off his headset.

"What, waking me up? And what's that, Master Hand?" Pikachu asked, rubbing his ears and looking at the small conical object Master Hand was holding.

"Wait. You know this human?" Jigglypuff asked Pikachu.

"Yeah, but he's kind of nice and knows what we're saying," Pikachu replied.

Jigglypuff gasped. "Really?"

"Usually, one would be thankful to be woken up from an uncalled-for lullaby, Pikachu, but… never mind that," Master Hand said. "I woke you up using a firework cone I've opened. It's a very good thing to have."

Before Pikachu and Jigglypuff could ask Master Hand why he had a firework cone with him, a boy and a girl ran to the trio. The boy wore a red sweater with black short sleeves, blue jeans, black-and-red running shoes, a red-and-white Poké Ball cap, and had a yellow backpack; the girl wore a blue-and-black tank top, red skirt, blue long socks, white-and-red running shoes, a white brimmed hat with red Poké Ball lines, and a yellow satchel. Both of them looked concerned.

"Hey, is everything all right there? We were just passing by and thought we heard a loud noise coming from somewhere," the boy said.

"Yeah! I almost thought Team Rocket was behind it, but luckily that's not the case!" the girl said.

Master Hand chuckled and smiled at them. "There's no need to worry about me. That noise was just me trying to wake this Pikachu up after it fell asleep from listening to this Jigglypuff's song."

"Really? That's interesting. Anyway, my name's Red, Mr. …"

"Call me Master Hand. Just Master Hand."

Red looked at Master Hand with a slight quizzical tilt of his head, but said nothing.

"And I'm Leaf," the girl said. She looked at Pikachu and Jigglypuff and smiled. "Aw, hey there! Both of you look really cute!"

Pikachu shrank away when Leaf reached out to pet him. "Can someone make me faint, please?" he muttered.

As Leaf helped herself to play with Pikachu and Jigglypuff, Red went to Master Hand.

"Mr.—I mean, Master Hand, do you know if your Pokémon can have a quick battle with me and Leaf?"

"My Pokémon? Oh, these two aren't literally mine, Red."

"What do you mean?"

"I haven't captured them with Poké Balls myself. Think of them more as companions that I have befriended along the way."

"Really?"

"Yes."

"You must really know a lot about Pokémon, then," Red said.

"Not necessarily. But I happen to have my ways with many things, Red, not just Pokémon," Master Hand said. Red backed away from him and crossed his arms.

"Who are you really?"

Master Hand had a tight-lipped smile. "Why don't we have that battle that you have mentioned? I can tell you and Leaf more about me, whether or not you win."

Red nodded. "There's a gym in Pewter City. I've heard that the Gym Leader is out on a journey to train with his Pokémon for a while, so it's available to pretty much anyone who wants to use it."

"Fair enough."

Red turned to Leaf, who had Pikachu and Jigglypuff in her arms. "Hey, Leaf! What do you think of a quick battle with Master Hand? Maybe it would be good for us to train for a while."

"Sure!" Leaf said. She looked at Pikachu and Jigglypuff and laughed. "Well, I guess you guys better get ready for me and Red."

Jigglypuff gulped. "A b-b-battle? But—"

"MASTER HAND, WHY?" Pikachu yelled.

Unfortunately for him, the question fell on deaf ears.

Chapter Text

The Pewter City Gym was a big gym. Like the Leader that usually resided there, it had a specialty for the Rock-type, with gray boulders making up the walls surrounding a rectangular battlefield covered with dirt and jagged rocks. It was also where a certain Pokémon battle took place.

Pikachu ran on all fours toward one side of the battlefield as Charizard flew behind him. "Huff—huff—stop—follow—ing—me!"

The dragon-like Flame Pokémon laughed menacingly. "Just try to run, Pikachu!"

"Charizard, use Flamethrower!" Red yelled. Charizard opened his mouth and released a stream of red-hot flames, leaving Pikachu weary and breathing heavily under the intense heat.

"Huff—huff—MASTER HAND!"

At the opposite end of the battlefield away from the two Pokémon, Master Hand watched on. "Jump over Charizard, Pikachu!"

Pikachu ran toward the rocks, then jumped onto one of them. He jumped again, leaping over the low-flying Charizard, who stopped spewing fire when he saw Pikachu's cheeks glow.

"THUNDER!"

He unleashed a bolt of electricity, shocking and sending Charizard crashing toward the rocks. Amid the debris, Pikachu landed on the rocky floor, staggering a bit until something round and pink ran into him.

"Hey!"

"Sorry, Pikachu!"

Behind Jigglypuff was an Ivysaur, running toward her with his short legs.

"Ivysaur, use Vine Whip!" Leaf yelled, and a long vine extended from Ivysaur and homed in on Pikachu and Jigglypuff, who split into two different directions. Pikachu ran toward Ivysaur, his body glowing as he prepared to attack.

"SKULL BASH!"

He slammed headfirst into Ivysaur, sending him flying into a rock.

"Ivysaur, no! Quick, use Razor Leaf!"

"HA!"

A leaf flew from Ivysaur's bud toward Pikachu, who sidestepped just in time. However, it continued its trajectory toward Jigglypuff.

"Ow!"

As she reeled from the blow, she stumbled into Charizard, who stood tall behind her.

"Charizard, use Rock Smash!"

With a glint in his eyes, Charizard wrenched a nearby rock from the floor, raised it above Jigglypuff’s head—

"Jig… gly… puff…"

As he succumbed to Jigglypuff's song, Charizard's eyes closed. His grip relaxed, and he let go of the rock, letting it fall. He fell face forward, then curled up in a doze.

"Charizard, no! Wake up!"

"Excellent thinking, Jigglypuff!"

"Ivysaur, use Bullet Seed on Pikachu!"

"Huff—huff—out of—the way!" Pikachu yelled. Ivysaur was behind him, firing a rain of seeds from his bulb. Pikachu leaped into the air, his movements a blur to everyone's eyes. The seeds continued toward Jigglypuff, who rolled out of the way just in time; they instead hit Charizard's face.

His eyes shot open into a glare, and he growled. "YOU!" Standing up, he let loose a brief fiery breath.

"I-uh, didn't mean that…" Ivysaur said, shrinking from Charizard's gaze. Red and Leaf gasped.

"Charizard, that's enough!"

"Ivysaur, look out!"

Charizard ignored them and flapped his wings, then flew high above the battlefield. He dove toward Ivysaur, grimacing as his body was surrounded by fire.

Red and Leaf watched him in awe and terror. "What the—" Red mouthed.

"He's now a danger to himself and potentially everyone else," Master Hand said. "Pikachu! Jigglypuff! Stop him!"

They went after Charizard, dashing and rolling across the battlefield. Pikachu leaped, and—

"THUNDER!"

The bolt struck Charizard, turning him into a mass of fire and electricity that hurtled toward the ground. Charizard roared in pain, and Ivysaur ran out of the way. "Nonononono—"

"Charizard!" Red cried.

There was a large cloud of dust surrounding much of the battlefield. For a while, no one moved or spoke.

When it finally cleared, Charizard was lying on the floor, motionless. His body was bruised and dirtied, and his eyes were closed.

"Charizard is down aaaand OUT!"

Red held out a Poké Ball, converting Charizard into energy that flew toward him before returning into the Ball. He looked at Leaf as he walked off their side of the battlefield. She nodded at him, a determined smile forming on her face.

"All right, Ivysaur! Let's begin finishing them off with Bullet Seed!"

A hail of seeds flew toward Pikachu and Jigglypuff, sending them scattering across the battlefield.

"Ow! That hurt!" Jigglypuff cried.

"Just try to keep up with me, Jigglypuff!" Pikachu ran toward Ivysaur, jumping and dodging the seeds as they kept following him.

At the height of one of his leaps, Pikachu's cheeks began to glow—

"Outta the way everyone! Rollout!"

—only to stop when he saw a pink ball rolling below him at high speed, kicking up dust as it traveled toward Ivysaur. Pikachu landed on the floor and watched as Jigglypuff went by him.

"Here I come!"

"Wha—"

Jigglypuff crashed into Ivysaur, sending him flying into a rock. He collapsed onto the floor.

"Don't give up, Ivysaur! Vine Whip!"

As Jigglypuff began rolling toward Ivysaur, a vine shot out toward her, smacking her into the air.

"I got him, Jigglypuff!"

Before Pikachu could headbutt Ivysaur, another vine slapped him away. Jigglypuff rolled toward Ivysaur again, then—

"POUND!"

With a loud smack, she punched Ivysaur's face, knocking him off his feet and into a rock again. He collapsed to the floor, his tongue lolling out of his mouth. He closed his eyes.

"Ivysaur is DOWN!"

Chapter Text

Without a word, Leaf returned Ivysaur into his Poké Ball. She sighed, then walked with Red toward Master Hand, who was standing near the entrance of the gym. Pikachu and Jigglypuff ran off the battlefield to join them, relieved to have won and take a break. They went outside, following Master Hand past the Pewter Museum of Science to a field surrounded by a few trees. He briefly looked around, then turned to Red and Leaf with a smile.

"That was an impressive battle. Though you've lost, I congratulate you for trying."

"Thanks, Master Hand," Red said.

"Yeah, but one thing kinda bugs me," Leaf said. "How did your Pokémon learn how to fight without you telling them?"

Master Hand shook his head. "These aren't exactly my Pokémon, Leaf. They are more companions that have decided to travel with me. As for how they've managed to fight like that, I've mostly left them on their own to make their own decisions. In a way, consider me more of a mentor than a Pokémon Trainer."

"Wow! You've gotta teach us how you do it, Master Hand."

"Well, I'm not an expert on Pokémon battling, but I've let Pikachu and Jigglypuff choose their own moves and allowed them to be a bit independent. I trust their own judgment and mostly just gave them some guidance. After all, I'm an announcer, not a teacher."

Master Hand then reached for his briefcase and handed Red and Leaf two envelopes.

"But more importantly, I was going to give you these. They are invitations to a tournament I am hosting."

Red and Leaf read their letters. For a while, everything was quiet, save for the occasional sound of paper being flipped around by curious hands and distant commuters. After he finished reading his letter, Red walked toward Master Hand.

"As much as I'm interested in it, I'll probably wait a little bit more and train. If there's gonna be a next Tournament, maybe I'll go."

Master Hand nodded, then looked at Leaf.

"Same thing! I mean, after that battle, I think I'll just keep on training and catching more Pokémon because I wanna get stronger and more ready too."

Master Hand nodded again. "So, you've made your decision to stay and become stronger Trainers."

"Yeah," Red and Leaf said. Pikachu and Jigglypuff walked up to Master Hand.

"Um, is it okay if me and Jigglypuff—um, y'know—"

"Yes, Pikachu. If that's your decision, then you're free to do so."

Leaf opened her mouth in surprise. "You can understand Pokémon?"

Master Hand looked up from Pikachu. "I almost forgot to tell you two about myself. I promised to do so after the battle."

"Yeah, you did," Red said.

Master Hand walked over to his briefcase and held it up with his left hand. He snapped his gloved fingers, and it vanished. Everyone else gasped.

"I'm not exactly what you think I am, but don't be afraid as to what I'm about to do next. Understand?"

Red, Leaf, Pikachu, and Jigglypuff made little nods, then backed away from Master Hand, their eyes slowly widening in fear. He snapped his gloved fingers again.

A white flash of light, and where Master Hand stood was a giant gloved hand that floated above the group. They all froze and struggled to repress the urge to run and scream.

"Y-you're not the white hand from Lavender Town, are you?" Leaf asked.

"I… don't think he is, Leaf," Red said, slowly stepping forward to the strange hand-like being. "You're not a Pokémon either, right?"

"Correct," Master Hand said. "I'm actually from another universe unlike yours, and I've traveled to many others to invite them for a tournament. The very first one that I've decided to host, in fact, so it may be more of an experiment for now. I'm sometimes considered a god, though I've also been called the manifestation of the creative spirit."

Pikachu spoke up. "So you're not a Legendary Pokémon? W-what's gonna happen with me and Jigglypuff when we're in there?"

"I'll have you know that you'll be—ahem—in good hands. After all, I intend this tournament to be competitive, yet fun and catering to fighters. If you have any doubts or further questions, follow me."

Master Hand floated closer to the trees, then drew a circle in the air, creating a large portal. As it formed, there was a collective "Whoa," and Pikachu and Jigglypuff approached it slowly, the former barely reaching toward the portal with a shaky paw.

"So this'll go to where you're from?" Pikachu asked.

"Yes, Pikachu," Master Hand replied. "To what is called the Smash 'verse, to be exact."

"Y-you're sure we're gonna be fine? Is it gonna be scary there?" Jigglypuff asked.

"You'll be fine. I assure you that you may even find some new friends there."

"Um, okay."

"Wait, so is this really… " Pikachu leaned forward, his paw grazing the portal. He let out a surprised squeak, and his other paw instinctively grabbed for Jigglypuff's hand.

"No, Pikachuuuu!"

As Pikachu disappeared through the portal, so too did Jigglypuff vanish from the others' view with a flash. After a long awkward pause, Master Hand turned to Red and Leaf.

"That went well," he said, laughing a little. "It seems that it's time for me to leave, however. Just remember that you have your invitations if you ever decide to enter the Tournament in the future."

He waved at them, then floated a little higher before forming into a fist that zoomed toward the portal and disappearing in the same manner as Pikachu and Jigglypuff. Red and Leaf watched with their mouths agape until the portal emitted a bright flash, at which point they raised their arms to their faces to cover their eyes.

When they opened them again, there was no portal, leaving them alone in the field. 

 


 

In Pallet Town, Professor Samuel Oak was in his lab reading the latest issue of a scientific journal when—

"Gramps! Guess what?"

Oak looked up to see his grandson by the door with his Squirtle. He was waving an envelope in the air enthusiastically. "What is it, Blue?"

"I gotta show ya something, Gramps. Something real interesting."

Blue ran up to his grandfather and handed him the envelope. Oak noticed it had a circular seal, though it was unlike any symbol he had ever seen. It was certainly not a Poké Ball, for starters, for it had two lines intersecting each other near the bottom-left side.

"Where did you get this, Blue?" he asked.

"Long story short, Gramps, but I remember getting it from this one old guy when I was heading out to Cerulean City. Kinda weird, though. Kept saying Squirtle had potential and something about a tournament, and Squirtle was acting all excited over it."

"Hmm." Oak opened the envelope and took out a letter. "'To Blue Oak,'" he muttered. "Hmm… 'invited to the First Tournament' … I see… 'other fighters from other universes' … interesting… signed 'M.H.'"

"Yeah, said that's his name too, Gramps. I've been thinking about it, but… um…"

"You don't want to lose your position as the Viridian Gym's Leader, right, Blue?"

"Yeah, well—"

Oak shook his head. "Whatever you choose to do in your journeys, Blue, I'll support you. Just remember to do your best and train your Pokémon well, as I've told you before."

"Yeah, yeah, Gramps. Anyway, I've gotta go. Just wanted to drop by and show ya that. Smell ya later!"

Blue ran out of the lab, his Squirtle running after him on all fours. Oak sighed, wondering where Blue ever got that phrase, then looked at the letter again.

Other universes? What could that possibly mean? As a Pokémon researcher, it was a bit out of his expertise, but perhaps it is something worthy of study…?

He sat on a chair and read it again, but at the end of the day, he couldn't make much sense out of it. Maybe another time, then.

 


 

In the deepest part of a cave, far from prying adventurers' eyes, was a lone Pokémon. His eyes were closed, as he was in deep meditation. There was nothing that could break his concentration, not even…

Not even an envelope that has found its way by his feet.

Using telekinesis, he levitated the envelope up to his chest and opened it. The letter unfolded itself before Mewtwo, who opened his eyes as he read through it. Folding his free arms, he smirked.

Sometime in the future, he will have the chance to show off his power, no matter what it takes.

Chapter Text

 Hand-Delivered-Letters-Cover-Art

Ah, New Donk City. The heart of the Metro Kingdom. The city that never leaps. The Big Banana. With its skyline dotted with skyscrapers, it is a place where many can visit the tops of buildings and have a wonderful view of the crowded streets below. Every day, its locals, or New Donkers, go about their business working in offices or visiting the myriad of shops and cafés here and there along the streets.

However, this was not one of those typical days.

Outside the front doors of New Donk City Hall was a crowd made up of paparazzi and reporters surrounding a woman in red, her eyes narrowed into a squint as cameras flashed around her.

"Mayor Pauline! Is it true that a replica of New Donk City Hall will be featured in the next Super Smash Bros. Tournament?"

"Mayor Pauline! What are your thoughts on this?"

"Yes, yes! For The New Donk Times!"

More flashes and more chattering. Pauline raised her hand, only lowering it when the crowd quieted down.

"Yes, it's true. Mario said so himself. After all, he said this place made up one of his best memories, especially after we threw the New Donk City Festival."

All around her was the furious scribbling of pens on paper. They looked at her again, expecting more answers. She inched backward toward the doors.

"However, as much as I would like to give more news about the upcoming Smash Tournament, I'm afraid I have other things to do—such as preparing for an upcoming meeting tomorrow."

With a hand behind her, Pauline pushed a bar handle and slipped inside, locking the doors before anyone in the crowd could get in, their yells and demands muffled by the glass. She sighed with relief and rubbed a hand on her temple. Today and yesterday were hectic for her: why, yesterday, Mario and Luigi showed up in the city hall and told her that she and the rest of New Donk City were going to be involved in the next Smash Tournament! On the other hand, it seemed that everyone in the city today wanted to know her thoughts on the matter—perhaps after overhearing her conversation with the Mario Bros. Now if only she could discourage them from being nosey about these sorts of things…

Pauline stared upwards at the atrium's looming ceiling. It was after many years that she became the mayor of New Donk City, and it was also during those years that she learned how to be more assertive and leave her past behind, specifically the time when she was first kidnapped by Donkey Kong. Even with the recent incident with Bowser, she managed to keep her cool and threw a festival everyone in the city, including Mario, celebrated together.

And now she and her beloved city will be featured in the newest Smash Tournament? Sure, she remembered Mario, Luigi, and Peach telling her their times in what they called the Smash 'verse, what with the new friends they've met and the adventures they've undertaken, but what did that mean? After all, she had never set foot on the Smash 'verse, and her limited knowledge of it came mostly from her friends.

She sighed, then began walking across the atrium to her office. She will have to wait for tomorrow to see if it was all true.

 


 

Similar to the previous two days, Pauline witnessed yet another Super Smash Bros.-related event, which truly began when she was taking a coffee break.

"Hi, I'm Daisy!"

Pauline almost dropped her mug, lucky to not have spilled her drink on her red suit and the floor. She put the mug on her desk, then saw three familiar faces, in addition to a fourth that she had not seen before. She had auburn hair and wore a yellow and orange gown, and she was waving around a white envelope.

"Mario! Luigi! Peach! And… Daisy, I assume?"

"That's right! Oh, you have no idea how great today is gonna be, Mayor! I even got a letter saying I'm finally in!" Daisy proudly held her envelope, and Pauline noticed it had a red wax seal in the middle. Could it be—

"Yes! Yes! Pauline, you should-a come with us outside," Mario said. "Everyone is-a waiting for you."

"Waiting for me?"

Peach was smiling. "Oh, yes! It's a celebration for the Mario 'verse being featured for the fifth time in the Smash 'verse!"

"Really?"

"Yes! Now come with us!"

They led her out of the office, into the atrium, and suddenly stopped at the front door. They looked at her with smiles on their faces, then Mario pulled open a bar handle…

And Pauline gasped. Before her and her friends were hundreds of New Donkers and other denizens from other kingdoms: everywhere she looked there were also Toads, Koopas, Goombas, Bonneters, Tostarenans, Lochladies, Steam Gardeners, Shiverians, Bubblainians, Volbonans, and others she didn't recognize. Even her bandmates were there, waving to her and the group from a stage. Amid the noisy crowd, she could hear her band's guitarist yelling for her.

"Pauline! You're just in time!"

"Chuck!" She ran onto the red carpet that rolled all the way to the stage, then went up a ramp to meet him.

"Good to see you, Pauline!" Chuck said. Behind them, Frank was holding up his trumpet with pride.

"Yeah, good to see you! We were waiting so we can get to play our opening song for today."

"Opening song? But I—"

"We've been thinking about 'Jump Up, Super Star!' again. Y'know, just like at the festival!"

A moment later, the bass guitarist joined them, a wide grin on his face. "Yeah! Let's do it for the memories, Pauline!"

She smiled. "Thank you, Huey." She turned around to face the crowd, which erupted into even more cheers. They were waiting for them; directly in front of the stage were Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Daisy, who clapped and cheered the loudest of them all. She took a deep breath, and behind her, she heard the sound of Gene hitting his drumsticks.

"One! Two! A one, two, three, four!"

And so Pauline sang into the microphone, carrying her voice through the air and into the hearts of the crowd.

Chapter Text

"… Put a smile on that face

There's no time to waste

So, let's do the odyssey!"

As the Super Mario Players concluded their song, the crowd once again exploded into cheers and applause. Mario and Luigi jumped into the air, yelling very enthusiastic "Yahoo!"s, while Peach and Daisy clapped and cheered along with the crowd, with Daisy even demanding for an encore. For Pauline, it was as if she and her band were performing at the Festival again.

Well, if the Festival had a few more surprise guests.

Forming across the stage and in front of an office building was a large circle of light. Reporters and camera crews turned their attention toward it, and those that were in the immediate vicinity began backing off in a hurry. What remained of the cheers and applause for the Super Mario Players' performance died down as many in the crowd turned and gasped at the sight.

What could this be about?

Like most of her audience, Pauline didn't expect to see two white-haired men in identical white suits walking out of the portal into the middle of the street.

"We're here, Crazy, though I applaud you for delaying our visit."

"It wasn't my fault this time! I swear!"

"Hmph. Never mind about that, though. It seems we merely missed the opening."

As the portal disappeared, the two men broke off from their conversation to find a mostly bewildered audience staring at them.

"What?" the young man snapped. "Never seen a portal before?"

The other man, seemingly a few decades older than the first, elbowed him. "Ahem. GREETINGS EVERYONE!"

At first, no one moved or spoke, save for the more curious audience members that moved closer to the steel barricades lining the streets to get a better look. From the stage, Pauline watched the strangers and wondered if they were a set of villains that were about to proclaim an elaborate scheme.

That was until Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Daisy left their spots in the crowd to meet the two strange men in the street.

Mario waved at them. "Hello, Master Hand and Crazy Hand!"

Pauline was puzzled; according to the stories Mario, Luigi, and Peach told her, the ones heavily in charge of the Smash Tournaments were named Master Hand and Crazy Hand, two beings said to usually take the form of giant floating gloved hands. The two strangers, however, looked nothing like what Mario described, unless they just happened to share the same names. She began walking off the stage to join Mario and the rest of the group.

"Wait up, Pauline! Where are you going?" Frank asked.

"Down there with Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Daisy. I want to see what's going on." She continued her way toward the red carpet and into the street. Similar to yesterday, there were cameras rolling around her, although this time most of them were directed at the group and the two strangers.

"Now, do all of you have your invitations for the upcoming Tournament?"

Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Daisy all held up white envelopes, and the older man in white nodded in approval.

"Excellent! Though it was certain that Mario, Luigi, and Peach will be present in the Ultimate Tournament, I'm proud to announce that there is a new addition to the roster! PLEASE WELCOME… PRINCESS DAISY OF SARASALAND!" He clapped his hands, and soon many followed suit, cheering for the newly accepted fighter. He also snapped his fingers, and confetti suddenly rained down upon the crowd.

"WOOHOO! YEAH, THAT'S RIGHT EVERYONE! DAISY'S IN IT TO WIN IT!" She showed off her letter and jumped into the air, shook the older man's hand, then hugged Luigi. "Can you believe it, Luigi? That means I get to fight against—I-I mean, with you!"

"Yes, yes…" Luigi said weakly. "I'm glad too, Daisy."

She let go of him, then turned to see Pauline and the rest of the Super Mario Players.

"What's up, guys?"

While her band stood back, Pauline walked toward the group.

"Excuse me, but I would like to know what's going on here."

The rest of the group turned to her. The two strange men gave her brief annoyed looks, though they turned into pleasant smiles.

"Yes, you must be Mayor Pauline," the older man said in a deep voice. "I am Master Hand, one of the hosts, bosses, and of course, the announcer for the Super Smash Bros. Tournaments."

"Oh, yeah. And I'm Crazy Hand," the younger man said in a voice that was not as deep as the older man's. "The… other host and boss and assistant to my bro over here." He folded his arms and looked away. Pauline noticed he had a white glove on his left hand, while the one he called his brother had a white glove on his right hand.

Wait, they only have one glove on one of their hands?

"Mayor Pauline, you must be wondering what has been happening for the past few days," Master Hand said. "It all relates to the newest Smash Tournament, now officially called the Ultimate Tournament."

"But if you're who they call Master Hand and Crazy Hand… well, you two don't look like hands. And why are you here? And why have Princess Daisy and the others received letters while I haven't?"

"Oh, that? That's 'cause we wanted to tell everyone that New Donk City Hall is gonna be a stage in the Ultimate Tournament, and that Daisy got in since people kept wanting to request her as a fighter," Crazy Hand explained. "Oh, and two, we're actually just in our human forms right now. Don't want to scare everyone right off the Home-Run Bat."

"'Scare everyone off?'" What did that mean? Meanwhile, Daisy walked up by her side.

"Aw, come on! It's fine, Master Hand and Crazy Hand! I mean, this is coming from the princess that saw a weird space alien before!"

The others joined Daisy. "Yeah!" Mario said. "After all, we've seen what you're-a really like many times before."

Master Hand and Crazy Hand gave them sly smiles before snapping their gloved fingers. Two white lights surrounded them, forcing many to look away or shut their eyes. After the lights faded, there were two giant gloved hands that floated above the crowd.

All around were gasps and flashing cameras. A few spectators screamed, though they were somewhat calmed down by the security guards and police officers that helped oversee the event, along with some of their braver fellow audience members. The two giant hands floated closer to the street, looming and casting large shadows over Pauline and the group.

Yes, Pauline had heard of the Hands as beings truly taking the form of giant gloved hands, but that was a fact she only knew because of the stories she heard from Mario. But now that they were before her eyes, she could only cover her mouth at the sight. One of them was a gloved right hand that floated calmly despite his imposing size, while the other looked similar to the first, albeit as a left hand with occasionally twitching fingers. She guessed them to be the size of a two-story building—about five times the size of their human forms, at least.

"Oh, wow! So THAT'S what you guys really look like!" Daisy squealed.

Pauline stared at her, then at Mario, Luigi, and Peach. Like Daisy, they didn't panic or cower before the Hands' true forms. In fact, it seemed that they were used to them, as if they were like old friends. That is, if said old friends were otherworldly hand beings.

"CORRECT!"

"Yeah, yeah. Now tell them what's up with the new Tournament, bro."

Master Hand pointed at the group. "So, you may have heard that the Ultimate Tournament is just around the corner, yes?"

The group nodded.

"As we have pointed out, Princess Daisy is finally invited to be one of the fighters featured in the Ultimate Tournament, as well as New Donk City Hall being one of the newest stages to fight on. However, there is one thing… "

They leaned forward, eager to hear more.

"According to the developers, it has been decided that Daisy will be known as an Echo Fighter."

"A what, Master Hand?" Daisy asked.

"Means that your fighting style's going to be the same as Peach. With some little differences here and there, of course," Crazy Hand explained, his fingers enclosed save for his thumb and index finger.

"Oh. So like, what they call a clone, right?"

"Well… yes," Master Hand said. "Though it's yet to be fully confirmed, it seems that your moveset in the Ultimate Tournament will be similar to Peach's in every way save for aesthetics and other minor things."

"Aw, come on Master Hand! Can't you talk to the developers or something and make them change their minds?"

"As much as I would like to do that, Princess, their word most of the time precedes mine and my brother's. If there's anything that we could do, it would be to change some of the rules within the List, yet we would run the risk of being reprimanded by the developers… or something even worse."

"Well, that's a bummer, Master Hand."

While Daisy hung her head in disappointment, Mario, Luigi, and Peach tried to comfort her. As they were doing so, Pauline spoke. "But why New Donk City Hall, Master Hand? Why should it become a setting in which to fight? I've heard it's because Mario said it was one of the most memorable locations he visited during his recent adventure."

"And that's just one of the reasons, Mayor Pauline. Furthermore—"

Crazy Hand poked Master Hand, then pointed to something—or rather, several thingsin the sky. "Hey, bro! Up there!"

Hovering near the top of the city hall were eight airships, each bearing a monstrous visage. Staring down from the largest airship's deck was an all-too-familiar face with red eyes and a smug grin.

"Bwah ha ha! Guess who just came in to say hello everyone!"

Pauline sighed.

Here they go again.

 


 

When confronted with a threat like Bowser and his army, a person exhibits one or a variant of the following reactions: the first is to scream and panic, which was what most of the crowd did; in other words, those who haven't put on a brave face and weren't busy filming or taking pictures of the scene. The second is to stand one's ground and then take action.

"Well, Bowser! What exactly are you doing here?" Master Hand asked.

"Gwah ha ha ha! Why, joining in the party, of course! My boy Junior and the gang are all here!"

"Yeah! Guess what, losers!" Junior taunted. "Dad and I are here to have some fun too, ya know!"

Aboard the seven other airships were the Koopalings, who shouted "Yeah! Us too!"

Pauline rolled her eyes. Who else would want to ruin an event like this but Bowser and his minions?

"Uh, Master Hand? Can't we-a just leave it up to you and Crazy Hand to fight Bowser? I mean, you guys are already here."

Master Hand chuckled. "As wonderful as it is to immediately defeat them, Luigi, my brother and I prefer to have a bit of fun and experience a great battle."

"But Master Hand—"

"Okey dokey! What should we-a do, Master Hand?" Mario asked.

"Why, make your way to the top of New Donk City Hall, of course!"

Daisy pointed to its spire. "But it's gonna take forever to get all the way up there! What're we gonna do?"

Crazy Hand waved himself around excitedly. "Bro! Why don't we just throw them all up there? It's quicker that way!"

Everyone that had eyes stared at him, while Master Hand gave him a light slap. "Crazy, do you realize how risky that is?"

"Hey! It was a suggestion!"

Mario raised his hand. "Master Hand! Maybe we can take a ride on you and-a Crazy Hand up there!"

"A ride on us? As for that, Mario, I would have to say no, especially if someone here has a tendency to move around more than what is necessary."

"Are you saying something about my fingers, bro?"

Master Hand ignored him, as he was in the process of creating something that almost spanned the width of the city hall, with many watching in awe as a thin rectangular object materialized in front of the door. Pauline looked at the group, who were more intrigued than outright surprised. They must have seen something like this before; instead of staring slack-jawed at the sight of a platform magically forming from nothing, they ran and boarded it—even Daisy.

"Uh, Master Hand? This-a platform doesn't look like it—"

Before Luigi could finish, the platform whisked the group up the city hall, leaving behind the Hands, Pauline, and the rest of the crowd.

"Now then, brother. What should we do?"

"Um, stay down and let them do everything?"

"Hm. That's one way to deal with this situation, Crazy. But I figure no one should follow a common plotline this time."

"What do you mean?"

Master Hand turned to Pauline, who had the rest of her band behind her, their faces pale. "Well, then! This is perfect timing, Mayor! Just absolutely perfect for an idea my brother and I had for the New Donk City Hall stage!"

Pauline looked at him warily. "What is it, Master Hand?"

Like a card dealer, Master Hand dealt five platforms toward the street. Pauline and the rest of her band jumped back a little, then calmed down when the platforms slowed and came to a stop on the gray asphalt. On one of the platforms was a drumset, while another had a microphone.

Gene gasped. "Whoa! H-how did those get there? They were on the stage, and then—"

"There's no time for many questions! Just board the platforms!"

They stared at Master Hand, wondering what had gotten into him, though they nevertheless walked onto the platforms.

"Uh, what're we supposed to do, then?" Chuck asked.

"Play music, of course!" Master Hand said.

"On top of these things? How—whoa!"

All five platforms began ascending. Pauline crossed her arms, displeased at the situation she and her bandmates were in. "And what exactly will you be doing in the meantime?" she asked Master Hand and Crazy Hand.

"My brother and I will go after the other airships while Mario and the others take on Bowser and Bowser Junior. Are there any other questions?"

"Um, is there anything to h-h-help me deal with this?" Frank asked, trembling on his platform. "I-I really don't like heights."

Before anyone could suggest anything, he felt a strong wind rush past him, though he miraculously stayed on. Several feet above Frank and the rest of his bandmates were the Hands, zooming through the air to reach the spire and the airships.

The Super Mario Players played "Jump Up, Super Star!" again.

Chapter Text

Mario's group was on the deck of the largest airship, ready to confront Bowser and Junior.

"Haha! Look who it is, son!"

"Yeah, Dad! Let's get 'em!"

Bowser and Junior began charging toward Mario and the others, who stayed in place as Mario held out an open palm behind him.

"Luigi! Daisy! Get-a Bowser Junior! Me and Peach will get-a Bowser!"

"Bro, do you think—"

"No time, Luigi!" Daisy said. "Let's go, everyone!"

She ran toward Junior, arms extended in front of her as she struck him with magical sparks, sending him flying along with his Junior Clown Car. Luigi went after him, delivering a blow from a knifehand strike. As Junior flew through the air, he saw Mario and Peach against his father.

"And-a one for you too, Bowser!" Mario said, thrusting a palm out that produced a fiery explosion that sent Bowser flying.

"LOOK OUT, SON!"

Junior maneuvered out of the way, landing back on the airship. He rode toward Mario, his eyes burning in anger.

"Hey! Why'd ya do that to my dad?"

Mario didn't say anything, sidestepping Junior as his Clown Car turned into a go-kart that plowed through the deck. Junior narrowly missed Peach and Daisy, only to skid to a halt in front of Luigi, who gulped.

"Haha! Got ya now, loser Luigi!"

Before anything could happen to Luigi, Junior suddenly collapsed, his arms hanging out of his Clown Car.

Behind Junior was Daisy, holding up a frying pan.

"Thank you so much, Daisy!" Luigi said.

"You're welcome! But now we gotta help your brother and Peach!"

With a brief moment of hesitation on Luigi's part, they ran toward Bowser, Mario, and Peach, who were fighting near the opposite end of the airship's deck.

"Oh no, you don't!"

A green claw grabbed Luigi by the shoulder, slowly pulling him back toward Junior. Daisy grabbed Luigi and began pulling on him as well, while he struggled to pry himself out of the claw's grip.

"Ugh! You've… got to be… kidding me!"

"Give it up, loser plumber and Princess! Dad and I'll get you good this—"

Whatever else Junior was going to say was drowned out by a loud boom, followed by another, with the airship briefly lurching to one side. Amid the confusion, he hit a button on his Clown Car that released and retracted the claw. Luigi ran to Daisy with Junior behind him, and the three of them went to the middle of the airship, where Mario and Peach were standing alongside Bowser. They looked confused.

"W-what's-a going on?" Luigi asked.

"I don't-a-know, bro. I was-a wondering the same thing after the ship moved."

Peach held a hand near her ear. "Shh! Do you hear that?"

"What?" everyone else asked.

"That song!"

They strained their ears; nearly buried under the sound of the explosions surrounding them were the faint words of "Jump Up, Super Star!" accompanied with guitars, drums, and a trumpet.

"I think I know who that could-a be!"

Mario ran to the railings running along the perimeter of the airship, looked around for a bit, then spotted Pauline and the Super Mario Players performing near the city hall's spire. She waved at him, and he waved back.

"Pauline! How did you-a get up there?"

There was another loud boom, rocking the airship. Mario stumbled back toward the group, who were trying to keep themselves on their feet. A moment later, and the ship was stable again.

"All right, Mario!" Bowser growled. "I'll let you off the hook, but only because I'm not letting this thing go down this time!"

"Oh, man! Look what's going on, everyone!"

They ran toward Daisy, who was by the railings, and together they watched the scene unfold before them. Cannonballs were whizzing about and exploding in the air, accompanied by the Koopalings' shouts of "FIRE!" Their attacks were focused on two targets: one of them flew against the side of one of the smaller airships, leaving behind a large gash, while the other randomly fired blue lasers that left irregular patterns of holes on the sides of each airship.

"DARN THOSE HANDS!" Bowser roared, shaking his fists at Master Hand and Crazy Hand.

"Hah-hah-hah! It's been a while since I could do something like this!"

"Same, bro!"

Forming into fists, they flew through two airships, which in a matter of seconds were engulfed with flames as their engine rooms exploded. On the decks, Larry and Lemmy jumped onto their Koopa Clown Cars, then raced into the open air where they ejected themselves.

"ABANDON SHIP!"

Lemmy crashed onto the middle of the deck behind the group, then stood with a dazed look on his face. Before he could turn around, Larry crashed into him.

"OW! Ugh… sorry, Lemmy!"

As more Koopalings flew toward Bowser's airship, Mario and the others scrambled around trying to catch them as they fell onto the deck. When the last Koopaling airship was destroyed, everyone gathered in the middle.

"Is everyone here?" Luigi asked.

"Well, yeah, Greenie!" Larry jeered. "Can't you count?"

Luigi gave him an angry stare. "Sorry for trying to-a help! I—"

Bowser stomped on the deck. "SHUT UP, EVERYONE! I'm gonna talk to the Hands after what they did, so STAY PUT!" He walked to the railings, then cupped his clawed hands near his mouth.

"HEY! WHAT WAS THAT FOR, DESTROYING ALL OF THOSE AIRSHIPS?"

The Hands turned around, then floated toward the airship.

"Unbelievable," Master Hand muttered.

"Huh? What's that supposed to mean?"

Master Hand pointed at Bowser and the rest of the group, who gathered behind him. "What I meant to say is that you and Bowser Junior were supposed to have a fight with Mario, Luigi, and the Princesses, yet none of you took advantage of our distraction."

Everyone's jaw dropped. "WHAT? THAT WAS THE PLAN?"

Crazy Hand wagged a finger. "Tsk tsk tsk. Seriously? You guys really can be disappointing sometimes. We were kinda expecting you to put up a fight against each other, not get distracted by us."

"Distracted? How could we be anything but distracted when you guys were so loud out there blowing up the other airships and making this one rock back and forth?" Daisy asked.

Master Hand sighed. "We were taking out the other airships so you will have an easier time fighting, but I assume that no one has—what was it?—gotten the memo."

"You could've told us that's what you're doing!"

"Yeah!"

As the group complained about the botched battle and Crazy Hand began firing a few lasers and bullets in an attempt to intimidate it into silence, Master Hand floated away to the city hall's spire, where Pauline and the Super Mario Players were standing with their arms folded as he approached them. All of them looked rather cross, especially Pauline.

"Now, what was that all about, Master Hand?" she asked.

"It appears that instead of a great fight my brother and I expected, there has been quite a bit of confusion on both sides. It's a pity, really."

"A pity? There are airship pieces falling down onto the streets and buildings, and you say that a fight that didn't go as you and your brother have planned was a pity? And here I thought that you were a sort of leader to the Smashers, or so I've heard!"

Master Hand rose a little higher in the air, and Pauline stepped back along with her bandmates, who were right behind her.

He chuckled. "Well, Mayor! It seems that you do care for your citizens, after all."

"What?"

"You're right for caring about others besides yourself. It's no wonder that you've become the mayor of this city. I bet that many here look up to you."

Praise was not what she had expected, though it was true.

"Thank you," Pauline said simply.

"However, now that you've mentioned it, I believe there's a more important thing to be dealt with right now." He turned to the airship and Crazy Hand. Both were hovering closer to the spire. "Brother!"

"Yeah?"

"Tell the Smashers that we—and they—have to do a bit of damage control before we leave for the Smash 'verse."

"Aw, come on, bro! We were here to deal with invitations for the Ultimate Tournament and fight for a bit, not become a cleanup crew!"

"My orders, Crazy, unless you want the Mario 'verse to be thrown out of whack to the point the developers will find out, immediately remove those who took part in that little battle, and reprimand us for messing with a 'verse that's not ours more than what is necessary… or worse."

"Ugh… fine!"

When Crazy Hand repeated the news to everyone aboard the airship, there was a chorus of groans.

Later that day, after gathering and vanishing away the debris, there was a panel with the Hands and the Smashers and a closing ceremony in which Pauline and the Super Mario Players played "Jump Up, Super Star!" and "Ground Theme." After everyone said their goodbyes-for-now, the group climbed aboard the airship again and flew through a portal along with the Hands.

Chapter Text

 Hand-Delivered-Letters-Cover-Art

After they left the Match Room, Mario, Sonic, Donkey Kong, and Mr. Game & Watch headed up the grand staircase in the Smash Mansion's foyer, asking among themselves what the Hands could possibly need from them at this time. Granted, it was after they volunteered and completed a series of matches the Hands dubbed "Classic Mode runs," but still: the Hands almost always gave the Smashers a break after putting them through many consecutive fights, so what was so important that required the four of them to attend an urgent meeting?

They reached the top of the staircase, then walked through a hallway before stopping in front of a massive door with a sign above it that simply said "OFFICE." Mario gave it a few knocks, then stepped back as he heard a deep voice coming from the other side.

"COME IN!"

He turned the knob and opened the door, and the others followed him into a large rectangular room that was dimly lit save for a light hanging on the high ceiling and curtain-covered windows on one side, which were slightly parted to allow in some sunlight. Before them was a wooden office desk that nearly spanned the width of the room and Master Hand.

"Now, all of you must be wondering why you're here. Well, it's because—"

"WE'RE SENDING YOU TO SEATTLE, LOSERS!"

The four Smashers jumped, as Crazy Hand had suddenly teleported into the room. Master Hand lightly slapped him.

"Crazy," he said seriously. "You need to stop doing that."

"But what if I like doing that?"

Master Hand sighed. "Now's not the time to be funny, brother." He turned to the Smashers and rapped his knuckles on the desk, snapping them out of their bewilderment. "As I was saying, you must be wondering why you were summoned here. It's because we wanted to tell you about someone the developers have had an interest in since the Brawl Era, but thought it was too outlandish, too far-fetched at the time."

"Like the Pokémon, bro?"

Everybody groaned, for it was indeed a horrible pun that shouldn't be brought up again. Master Hand gave Crazy Hand another light slap.

"The newcomer in question is… PAC-MAN!"

There was a silence that prevailed over the room as the Smashers looked at each other and gasped.

"W-w-w-w-wait," Sonic said, then pointed at the Hands. "You guys… invited Pac-Man?"

"Correction, Sonic: technically the developers and some of the fans wanted him in, and my brother and I complied with their wishes."

"But why do you-a need us?" Mario asked.

Crazy Hand floated in front of the desk and pointed at him and the rest of the group. "The reason why is because me and my bro are still going over Classic Mode runs for the other Smashers that haven't done them yet, so we're putting you guys to do just that instead of us. And besides, you've obviously met Pac-Man before! You guys should know exactly what to do!"

Mario looked at the others. Despite what Crazy Hand had said, he couldn't quite remember the last time he met Pac-Man. And even if he could, it had been a long time since he had heard much from the most famous Pac-Person of all time. As for Sonic, Donkey Kong, and Game & Watch, who knew if they've even met him as well?

Donkey Kong shrugged his massive shoulders. "Uh, I don't really know about that. I mean, where're we supposed to go? How're we gonna find Pac-Man?"

Master Hand raised his index finger. "Ah, I was just getting to that. It's simple, really: all you have to do is visit Pac-Land, find Pac-Man, explain the invitation, and inform me and my brother when you're ready to return here. If he doesn't accept it, just let us know."

He waved for the group to step aside, then floated over his desk. He drew a circle on the floor, creating a portal.

"You sure that'll go to Pac-Land?" Sonic asked.

"Yes, Sonic. Why do you say that?"

"Oh, beep. I think he was talking about that one time one of us got dumped into the wrong place somewhere out in the multiverse, Master Hand," Game & Watch said.

Whether or not Master Hand acknowledged his statement was something that was left unanswered. Before anyone could step into the portal, Master Hand held up four green devices, which then floated toward each member of the group. They resembled simplistic phones with a button, a pointing stick, and a rectangular screen.

Sonic frowned as he examined one in his hand. "Wha—Holo Casters? Really, Master Hand?"

"After receiving complaints about our use of telepathy, especially across great distances, my brother and I have decided to use an alternative way of communicating with you; in other words, no need to hear our voices speaking directly into your minds, at least for now. To add to that, this is also an opportunity to test the technology that came from Greninja's 'verse, though admittedly we've also modified them to include functions that are otherwise not available in regular Holo Casters."

Out of curiosity, Mario selected one of the options on his Holo Caster. It projected a blue miniature version of Master Hand, whose real self was waving in front of a huge blue screen on one of the walls in the room, while the one from the Holo Caster simultaneously waved back at Mario. He went back to the main menu and the hologram disappeared; this time the screen on the Holo Caster lit up with the same blue tint, showing a compass direction indicating north and four options labeled "Map," "Inv.," "Comm.," and "Van." His eyes widened in amazement as he rubbed the screen with a gloved thumb.

"Thank you so much, Master Hand."

"Hold up. So what exactly do these options do?" Sonic asked.

"Well, 'Map' and 'Communications' are quite self-explanatory, Sonic, whereas 'Inventory' and 'Vanish' can be explained as a sort of shared personal inventory and a means to make your Holo Casters disappear when you don't need them. Now, to bring them back, just say the password 'Menu' out loud and they will reappear."

"Ook! What does this do?" Donkey Kong pressed an oversized finger on his Holo Caster, almost dropping it when a sword with a glowing blade appeared and fell onto his head and then to the floor. As he staggered, Game & Watch picked the sword up.

"This is very neat, beep," he said, handing the Beam Sword to Donkey Kong, who was rubbing his head from the pain. "But how did that happen?"

"Ook… Game & Watch, make sure you grab the stuff quickly after you hit 'Equip' in the Inventory, or else you're in for a world of hurt," Donkey Kong said, pressing "Unequip" in the Inventory Menu of his Holo Caster and making the Beam Sword disappear.

Sonic rolled his eyes at the mishap. "Okay, these things are cool and all, but let's get on with it everyone! We've got a mission to do, y'know!"

And with that Sonic vanished away his Holo Caster and jumped into the portal, followed by Mario doing the same. Game & Watch looked at Master Hand and Crazy Hand, who had formed themselves into two thumbs up. He nodded at them, then looked back at Donkey Kong—at least he looked fine. He stepped into the portal, a feeling of being stretched like spaghetti taking over his paper-thin body.

Before he knew it, he was lying face-first on unfamiliar ground.

 


 

"Hey, Game & Watch, we're here already," Sonic said, lending the former a hand. When he was pulled onto his feet, he knew that from the looks of the grassy field around them that they weren't in the Smash 'verse anymore.

"All right, everyone! Let's move out!"

But before Sonic could run off, Donkey Kong grabbed him. "Not so fast, little guy! We don't even know what this whole place looks like," he said, letting Sonic go after he gave him an annoyed look.

"Don't-a worry, Donkey Kong, I-a got it! Menu!"

Almost immediately after he said it, a Holo Caster appeared in Mario's hand. He checked the map, whose glowing blue letters at the top of the screen indicated that he and the rest of the group were in Pac-Land. He continued navigating through the map, and it didn't take long for him to find what he and the others were looking for.

"Pac-Village! I think that's where he's supposed to-a live with the rest of his family!"

"Then let's get going then! I'm tired of waiting around!" Sonic complained, speed walking ahead of the others, who shook their heads in exasperation behind his back.

They walked through the field and onto a dirt path, which went rather uneventful until Mario waved and yelled for help at something flying overhead. Before the others could call him out for potentially causing a scene, the thing turned around and landed on the ground near them. It was a white-feathered bird with a long yellow beak and legs, and it wore a white shirt and a red tie, along with red shoes and a red hat with a black brim. Above the brim were the words "Special Delivery."

"Hi! You don't look like you're from around here. What're your names?"

Each of them gave their names, then the bird tipped its hat generously.

"My name's Boyce, and I'm a stork! Usually, me and the others are supposed to be delivering the Pac-People's new kids to them, but right now I'm off-duty because today's supposed to be a big day. So, what're you up to here?"

"We're here to see Pac-Man for the newest Smash Tournament," Sonic said.

"Oh!" Boyce exclaimed. "Oh my gosh! A-and you must be the fighters or Smashers that're supposed to show up and meet with Pac-Man! Everyone's heard about you!"

"Yep. Getting straight to the point, we were headed to Pac-Village and my friend Mario just wanted to know if the path we're on will lead us there."

"Well, you're in luck, Sonic, because I'm also on my way there to see Pac-Man for his big day today. In fact, I can fly above and guide all of you there."

Boyce flapped his wings, taking to the air. He flew toward a cluster of trees, the Smashers following him on the dirt path. A few minutes later, they found the entrance to a forest and continued following him as he flew and occasionally circled above the towering trees and winding path.

"This must-a be the right way, Sonic," Mario said, looking at his Holo Caster to track their movements before making it vanish. "At least we-a know the Holo Casters' maps really work."

"Yeah, I guess so, Mario," Sonic replied, shrugging his shoulders. "But you know what I find a bit weird about the Holo Casters the old Hand gave us? The way they're set up. I mean, why would they have all of these options for something that's just supposed to be like a super advanced phone?"

"Beep, maybe Master Hand and Crazy Hand just want us to be safe, Sonic," Game & Watch said. "After all, we're in an unfamiliar place and we don't really know that much about it."

"Yeah, little guy. I mean, I live in the jungle, but this forest ain't anything like home," Donkey Kong pointed out, noting the tall redwood trees around them. Meanwhile, he saw Boyce flapping in place in the air. "What's up with him?"

"Pac-Village is right ahead, everyone!"

The group followed Boyce as he swooped down, and eventually found themselves in a village filled with yellow spherical inhabitants, with many stopping to watch them with curiosity in their eyes. They also overheard them talking with each other, their conversations being mostly about them and their sudden arrival, and even the children stopped what they were doing and asked their parents who they were. As they continued attracting more attention from the Pac-People, Boyce landed in front of one of the tree-like houses and knocked on the door.

"Mr. Pac-Man! It's me, Boyce! You have visitors!"

No answer. Boyce knocked again, but no one opened the door. After several minutes, a crowd slowly formed around Boyce and the Smashers, who began to look anxious.

"Uh, is Pac-Man all right?" Sonic asked.

Boyce shook his head. "I don't know, really. I don't remember the last time he's been sick or anything like that."

As everyone began speculating why Pac-Man hasn't come out of his home, one of the onlookers stepped forward. She had a pink bow on her head and a sad look on her face.

"Um, I'm Ms. Pac-Man, and I'm sorry to say this, but… he isn't at home."

Boyce and the Smashers looked at her with disbelief, with Sonic blurting out "Wait, what?"

Ms. Pac-Man sighed. "I only knew it early this morning, when I saw that my husband wasn't with me in bed. Last night, he said that he was going to be out to meet Professor Pac-Man about something related to science."

"That's right, my dear!" another Pac-Person said, stepping out of the crowd. True to his name, he looked like a professor, with a mortarboard on his head and glasses perched on top of his nose and white mustache. "I saw him leave the schoolhouse after I demonstrated to him my work-in-progress, the Pac-Portalizer. But then all of a sudden, right outside the window, something dark or wearing black appeared, yelled out something, and both of them disappeared right in front of my own eyes." Professor Pac-Man's eyes fell, and he shook his head. "Oh! Now I regret testing it, for I fear that I might have done something terribly wrong by accident!"

"Do you-a remember anything else?" Mario asked. He was trying not to sound worried, though his voice slightly faltered.

Professor Pac-Man nodded. "Before it left and took Pac-Man, the shadowy thing mentioned something like 'arcade' or 'Arcadia', whatever that means. I'm so sorry I can't tell you more, but that's all I can give you."

"Okey-dokey, thank you so much, Professor," Mario said, turning to Ms. Pac-Man. "Don't-a worry, we'll help you."

Ms. Pac-Man nodded, then rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "Maybe Mother Fairy can help," she suggested. "She's one of our good friends, especially after my husband helped return one of the Fairies to Fairy Land a long time ago. But, please…"

She trailed off, looking away in time to hide a hint of a tear. Professor Pac-Man offered her a handkerchief, then said, "Save Pac-Man. For her… and for the rest of us."

Mario nodded in understanding. He turned to his fellow Smashers and Boyce, who nodded once at him and took off into the air, eager to help and guide the way again.

"Let's-a-go then! To Fairy Land!"

Chapter Text

In the Smash Mansion, there is a screening room, which serves not only as a movie theater-esque space where one can watch private or local matches (in other words, matches that aren't official Tournament matches or any other match that is broadcasted throughout the Smash 'verse and other Game 'verses that have access to the Internet or a similar equivalent) but also as a place where one can watch the Smashers demonstrate their skills in trials such as Classic Mode and All-Star Mode. However, unlike a typical screening room or movie theater, where there's normally a projection room for films there's instead what is usually called the Other Announcing Box—so-called to avoid confusion with the official Announcing Box in the Stadium not far from the Mansion—or, more commonly, the Compartment. Though smaller than the overall screening room itself, it is still an unusually large room, especially for its purpose. On the Compartment's side closest to the projector screen is a machine with buttons and small screens, which detail damage percentages, stocks, the number of coins, and other vital pieces of information depending on the kind of battle that was taking place on the projector screen. It is also here that the Hands sometimes served as announcer and assistant announcer when they didn't let their automatically generated voice recordings do their jobs.

As Fox was battling a simulated version of Samus on the Norfair stage, Master Hand and Crazy Hand were in the Compartment observing his progress in his Classic Mode run. They were in their human forms, as Master Hand was rubbing his tie with his gloved fingers, his patience wearing thin as the match seemed to go on forever. Crazy Hand was sitting in another seat beside him, yawning and close to nodding off.

"Unbelievable, Fox," Master Hand thought to himself.

"Bro, can I just take a nap or teleport out of here?" Crazy Hand asked telepathically; he sounded bored.

Master Hand took his eyes off the projector screen and looked at his brother. "Of course, Crazy. Admittedly, I don't care too much about this specific match anyway. But I still need to oversee it in case Fox successfully defeats Samus and moves one step closer to fighting us."

"I don't know about that. He's already taken some serious damage, y'know."

It was true—one of the machine's screens displayed Fox's damage percentage to be at 138%, enough for Samus to launch him out of the stage with a well-aimed smash attack and make him lose one stock. Though Fox has built himself a reputation of being one of the best fighters, he wasn't infallible. Many knew that despite the persistence of boasts that make him out as such.

Master Hand was about to continue watching the ongoing match when another screen displayed "INCOMING TRANSMISSION FROM HC-01." He tapped on the screen, replacing the notification by a bluish-tinted hologram of Mario, who surprisingly looked very worried.

"Master Hand! Crazy Hand! I think we-a need your help!"

"What is it now, Mario? We're in the middle of a Classic Mode run here."

"Yeah, give us a good reason!"

"I'm-a very sorry, but something really bad happened."

"Like what?"

Another voice entered the chat, despite its owner not appearing on the screen.

"Sonic here. Pac-Man's gone missing, that's what happened."

Master Hand pressed a button on the machine labeled "Start/Pause," freezing the entire stage in place, including Fox and Samus as they were firing their weapons at each other while a giant wave of magma was about to crash down on them from the background. Fox could only scowl and barely move his muzzle as he yelled "Really?" behind clenched teeth.

"What?" Master Hand said angrily, removing and vanishing away his headset with a snap.

A Smasher that had a chance of being added to the roster despite being a bit late was nothing to worry about, but a Smasher that hasn't even decided to join the roster and has been declared missing the day they were supposed to receive their invitation to the Smash 'verse? That was a new one.

Sonic explained to him the details about Pac-Man's disappearance, from Professor Pac-Man's account of a shadowy being to the word "Arcadia." Normally, receiving this kind of news would mean serious trouble, but with the Hands being the Hands and the Smashers being the Smashers, it was simply another problem waiting to be solved. Or was it?

"Did you say something about the Mother Fairy not knowing or seeing where Pac-Man was recently in that 'verse, Sonic?"

"Yeah, Master Hand. She said she hadn't seen him in Fairy Land for a while, so Pac-Man probably didn't come here and pay her a visit. And when we asked her about Arcadia, she didn't even know who or what or where that is. I mean, heck, even WE don't know who or what or where Arcadia is!"

"Hm… well, then. My brother and I will provide you and the rest with some help, but only a little bit. Don't hang up just yet."

Master Hand turned to Crazy Hand again, who was wide awake and looked just as concerned as he was.

"They're really being serious, aren't they, bro?"

Master Hand nodded, turning toward the projector screen. He summoned his headset and spoke to Fox.

"I'm sorry for pausing your match, Fox, but understand that my brother and I have urgent business to attend to, so we'll have to reschedule your Classic Mode run. If anyone else asks you, tell them not to panic while we're gone and be prepared for anything in case we don't get back in time."

He held four buttons simultaneously—two with his gloved hand, two with his ungloved one—and teleported Fox out of the stage, earning him a brief angry look from the Smasher before the screen went dark. After switching the screening room and the Compartment's lights off, the Hands then snapped their gloved fingers and teleported themselves into their office.

When they arrived a few seconds later, they consulted the large blue screen on the wall Master Hand used earlier. But instead of the screen displaying only Mario, the rest of his group were there with him.

"So, you're having trouble finding this… Arcadia, hm?"

"Yeah, Master Hand," Sonic said.

"Beep, we've been thinking about it ever since we traveled all the way to Fairy Land," Game & Watch said. "But no one's got any idea as to what it could really be."

"Ook! I think it's gonna be a place where we can all get together and play some games!" Donkey Kong remarked, popping a banana into his mouth. "Er mearn, jurst thirnk aburt ert," he said through a mouthful, which he then swallowed.

Master Hand looked at Donkey Kong. "Repeat what you just said."

Donkey Kong pointed at himself. "Who? Me?"

"Yes."

"Said I think it's a place where we can all get together and play some games. Y'know, with the big old game boxes people used to put their money in and stuff. I mean, the Prof said he heard 'arcade' or 'Arcadia,' and I kept thinkin' about how weird it was for him to get 'arcade' from whatever the thing said before it went and took Pac-Man."

Master Hand slowly opened his mouth, which then turned into a smile as he looked at Crazy Hand. "Crazy, what do you make of this? I can already think of a few things."

"That's kind of obvious, bro. You're always thinking of something stupidly creative."

"The fact is, that's not exactly what I meant. What I really meant was, what sort of help should we provide them?"

"Oh. Uh, maybe look up stuff about Arcadia?"

"That's one part of it. What else?"

"There's more?"

"I'll do the 'looking stuff up' part, and you could be the one to enable the Holo Casters to collectively open a portal to Arcadia," Master Hand said. He turned to his hand form, then resized and moved the window displaying the Smashers. He tapped on a folder icon labeled "Universe Information," then selected a file that was simply labeled "A." A large list appeared, containing the names of people, worlds, and other miscellaneous items. For a few seconds, he scrolled down the list until he found—

"Arcadia," he muttered, tapping on it to bring up its entry.

 

"The Arcade 'verse, also known as Arcadia. Once a thriving amalgamation of 'verses filled with video game characters of all shapes and sizes. Nicknamed 'The Origin Point' because it is said to be where some of the current 'verses were before the event known as the Upgrading, it has fallen into hard times and has since been reduced to one world with a small capital city, which shares the 'verse's name. This city has few major landmarks, with the most notable one being the arcade building located in its center, which has been rumored to contain dark secrets behind one of its doors. Surrounding Arcadia (the city) is a large expanse of desert, which has been called Trinity Desert, Dog Days Desert, and the Pale Sands; similarly to the arcade, the desert has also been subject to rumors, with the most notable one claiming that an alleged burial site is located somewhere in its shifting sands, though as to what exactly is buried underneath varies from each account."

 

As Master Hand finished reading, a sudden ding echoed throughout the office. Below him, Crazy Hand was grinning and giving him a thumbs-up.

"All done, bro!" he said, pointing at a notification on the screen proclaiming the "Portal Creators are ready!" Master Hand minimized the entry and enlarged the Smashers' window. They looked mostly grateful, save for Sonic, who had his hands on his hips and was tapping his foot impatiently.

"Thank you so much, Master Hand and Crazy Hand," Mario said.

"Have you received the instructions for using the Portal Creators?” Master Hand asked.

"Beep, yep. It looks easy to use, even though it's good for one time before we have to contact you and Crazy Hand again to enable them for us."

"Tch! Big deal!" Sonic said, rolling his eyes. "It's not like we have to make another portal right after we make one to Arcadia, Game & Watch. Now let's get on with it and cross the beams so we can get Pac-Man back!"

The group turned their backs to the Hands and held up their Holo Casters, each firing a beam of light that coalesced into a single point, which expanded into a glowing portal that hovered a few inches from the flower-covered ground.

"Now, be careful out there, you four," Master Hand said, pointing at them. "It's not exactly—"

"Don't worry about it. We can totally do this! I mean, we're Smashers, right?"

Sonic looked at the rest of the group, who each gave him small smiles and nods. He walked into the portal and disappeared, followed by Mario, Game & Watch, and Donkey Kong.

 


 

Stepping out of a portal and going on one's merry way is one thing, but being hurled out of one and landing in an undignified heap was another. The idea of lying dazed for a long while after that, however, can be refuted if the ground was made out of hot sand.

"OW! Hot hot hot!" Mario yelped, jumping up almost immediately and wiping away the fine white grains off his face. Near him, Sonic did the same.

"Ugh! I think some of it got in my eyes!" he complained. "Also, remind me to never go through a portal like that one ever again."

Donkey Kong was slower to stand up, though he shook the stuff off of his fur and tie, while Game & Watch simply stood up and let the sand easily slide off his body. The four of them looked at their surroundings.

"Where the heck are we?" Donkey Kong asked.

"This must be the desert that was mentioned back there, beep," Game & Watch said. "Trinity Desert."

For what seemed like miles there was nothing but white sand, with a dune here and there to break up the monotony. It was nothing like the deserts they have seen before—as far as they can see, there weren't any obvious indicators of life besides themselves, while the sun beating down on them didn't help much to provide them comfort.

"Menu!" they wearily said altogether, summoning their Holo Casters into their hands and immediately choosing Inventory. When they were finished downing their own bottles of Fresh Water, they let out a relieved sigh. Mario looked at the Map option to scout out the area.

Several seconds passed, then Mario's eyes lit up with excitement. "I got it! We have to-a go north."

"And how long's that gonna take us?" Sonic asked.

"Not very long. There's a road called Route 78 that will-a help us get there."

"So all we have to do is find this Route 78?"

"Yep!"

Following Mario's lead, the group headed north, trudging along on the loose sand under the heat—even Sonic wasn't trying to run ahead this time. Minutes passed, but to them, it seemed like hours. And so they walked.

And walked.

And walked.

"Shouldn't've… snacked on… that… banan—ugh… "

Donkey Kong slumped forward, his head hitting on something hard and gray. As his eyes traced over the faded asphalt surface near him into the distance, he noticed something else as well.

"Is… that… it?"

At once, the others raised their weary heads and looked in the direction Donkey Kong was pointing. There was a sign that read "Route 78," and beyond that were a few buildings, including a lone skyscraper resembling a giant needle piercing the sky. What caught their attention the most, however, was a squarish building that had the word "ARCADE" in marquee lettering displayed above what looked to be its front doors.

As if the mere sight of the city invigorated them, they wasted no time getting there.

 


 

When the group entered the arcade building—which included a little trouble with the door due to Donkey Kong's size—the first thing they noticed was a huge room with many people either wandering around or being engrossed in a wide variety of games that were available there, with names such as Galaga and Tempest displayed on the sides of some of the arcade cabinets, along with more obscure ones they didn't recognize. The second was the sounds: all around them were rows of machines emitting classic beeps and pings mixed with a faint Dance Dance Revolution tune coming from somewhere, which suspiciously sounded similar to a certain song dedicated to Pikachu and Generation 1 Pokémon. Blaring above it all was an 80s rock song that got Mario to briefly tap to the beat.

"Hey, I think I-a heard this before. I think this is called 'Danger Zone,' but I could-a be wrong."

"Really? Huh, never heard of that kind of Zone before," Sonic commented. "I must've missed it."

"Okay, but what're we doin' here, guys? It looks like any old arcade to me," Donkey Kong said, looking all over the place while also trying to avoid the onlookers' stares. 

"Maybe, beep, we should ask some of the people around here," Game & Watch suggested. "They look sort of friendly."

The others nodded, then followed Mario's lead as they walked throughout the floor of the arcade. Some of the patrons there ignored them, being too busy to stop and talk while they were playing, while others stared at them out of curiosity and confusion. The group wandered around for minutes, asking if any of them have seen anything suspicious in the arcade or the city in general, though most of their questions were answered by a simple "No" or a shrug of the shoulders.

Despite their efforts, their investigation turned up nothing, and they decided to leave. That was until something very unexpected happened.

As they turned to head back to the front door, a man with glasses ran toward them and blocked their path. He was flailing his arms around as if to stop them, and from the look of his wide eyes darting around the room and his trembling lip, he seemed to be afraid of something as well.

"Hey… You're looking… for… Pac-Man, right?" he said, breathing rapidly as if he just ran a mile. "Look, listen… forget about it. Whatever you do, don't go to the back door, or else you guys… we're all—"

Before the man could say more, the entire room instantly darkened, and all the sounds and music stopped, save for terrified screams. Even the Smashers screamed and wildly tried to find each other in the pitch-dark arcade.

But as quickly as the room went dark, the lights and the usual arcade sounds came back, and they found each other again, heaving heavy sighs of relief.

"Mamma mia… what happened?"

"I don't know, Mario," Sonic said, looking around the room. "But I think it's just the four of us here."

Donkey Kong looked around the room as well, then scratched his head. "Huh? What do you mean, Sonic?"

"Oh beep, it's like everyone else just vanished into thin air. Like something almost straight out of a whodunnit!"

"Well, we shouldn't just stand here or leave this place," Sonic said. "And as much as I don't wanna get into another mystery, maybe we can start by trying to find everyone."

Donkey Kong snorted. "Good luck on that, little guy. I mean, we don't even know how the heck someone or somethin' can turn off everything and make everybody 'cept us disappear that quick."

"Donkey Kong is-a bit right, Sonic," Mario said, resting a gloved hand on his chin thoughtfully. "Hm… you know, what do you-a think about the guy that tried to stop us?"

"The one with glasses? Really weird, and maybe a bit insane."

"Yeah, but what I really meant was, what do you-a think about what he said?"

"What he said?"

"You know… 'the back door.'"

Sonic shrugged his shoulders. "Not sure if that's gonna help us a whole lot, but I guess we can look at that. Race you guys there!"

Not wanting to be outdone, the other Smashers ran after him, despite the futility of it. When they reached the back of the room, they stopped to catch their breath. In contrast to the front and middle, the back area of the arcade had few lights and many dim and dusty arcade cabinets whose screens flickered weakly, giving them a glitchy appearance. On the black wall before them was a similarly colored door, which had a faded sign that read "Restricted Area: Do Not Enter." Mario checked on the map of his Holo Caster.

"That's funny. The only door this map is showing is the one at the front. I don't-a understand it."

"Who cares about that? Besides, maybe that guy was being scared about nothing. I mean, watch." Sonic pulled the handle, then pushed it open. Beyond the door was a square room with a single bright light bulb and an elevator. "See? We'll be fine. I'm betting this is just going into a storage room or something."

He walked through the door, then motioned the others to go through. Mario, Donkey Kong, and Game & Watch looked at each other, then went through the door. Behind them, it slammed with a mighty clang, making them jump; shortly after that, they heard a click, and all of them gulped. Game & Watch walked to the door and tried to turn the handle, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't pull it open; similarly, Mario and Donkey Kong tried to set it on fire and punch through it, but to no avail.

"Ook… Guess we're not going back that way anytime soon," Donkey Kong said. "But who'd make that kind of door? It's stupid!"

"Or maybe it's smart," Game & Watch said. "If anyone was keeping something from coming into the arcade, I guess, but then again, beep, you're pretty right. That is a bit odd."

They turned their attention away from the locked door to the pristine gray elevator in front of them. Mario pressed a button on the side of the elevator, and after the sliding doors opened for them, they stepped inside. When Mario pressed the "Basement" button, the doors closed.

And the elevator began to descend.

Chapter Text

The elevator slowed to a stop, and then a tinny ding.

"Basement," a chipper robotic voice said over the speaker. When the doors slid open, the group stepped outside. After Donkey Kong exited, the doors quietly slid shut again.

Almost too quietly.

They took in their surroundings and saw that they were in a very large room—a warehouse. There was a dark gray ceiling looming above them—fifty feet from the similarly colored floor at least—that must have been a hundred feet long, which also seemed to be the length of the room. What lights were there were few and dim, flickering faintly like white eyes. All around them and lined up in several towering rows were inoperable arcade cabinets, shelves, and pallet racks filled with boxes of broken parts such as joysticks, buttons, and wires, along with an assortment of arcade paraphernalia, with dust and rust covering almost everything.

Mario walked within the perimeter of the squarish area the group occupied, occasionally glancing down the narrow paths that jutted out into the distance. But wherever he looked, many of them seemed to stretch out forever, with only a few continuing after a few feet before being obstructed by another row of machines and racks.

"Menu," he said, summoning his Holo Caster. He stared at it for a while, then motioned the others to come over. He pointed at the main screen, which displayed the compass icon changing directions rapidly.

"Man, what's up with that?" Sonic asked.

"I don't-a know. Maybe you guys should-a check your Holo Casters too," Mario replied, still staring at his Holo Caster screen. The others summoned their Holo Casters, then did as Mario suggested. Like Mario's, their Holo Casters' main screens displayed their compasses wildly changing directions, despite standing still and not turning every which way.

"Beep, I don't get it either," said Game & Watch. "In any case, this won't help us get through this place, which means we'll have to rely on having a good sense of direction."

Donkey Kong looked down the paths. "Ook… That doesn't sound fun, Game & Watch. Anyway, what's up with this place? It doesn't look like you'd keep someone who's been kidnapped or somethin' here."

"Yeah, but you'll never know unless you look, D.K. From the look of it, we might want to be careful here, beep. I really don't like the look of this place, and not just because it's kind of dark."

"Yeah, yeah, and now that you pointed that out, Game & Watch, how about we go and pick one of these?" Sonic said, pointing to each of the paths before them. "What do you think, Mario?"

"Hm… Well, many of them all look the same to me, Sonic. It's kinda hard to pick which one to go through."

"So we really don't have any idea where to go, huh?"

"Sorry to say this, but yeah," Mario admitted, then smiled confidently. "But if we-a stick together, we can do it! Right?"

"For the most part, yeah. All right, lead the way, Mario."

All of them vanished their Holo Casters, then took the path directly across the elevator. Mario created and held a fireball in his hand, brightly illuminating their rather dim surroundings. They walked single file, taking care not to bump into each other or anything, especially Donkey Kong, who barely had enough space to accommodate his size. Above them, the lights flashed in sporadic intervals, and the only sounds they heard were their breaths and echoing footsteps.

After taking many steps and turns into the maze, they found two paths that diverged to their left and right. One of them was more brightly lit and cleaner, while the other was dimmer and far more cluttered with junk and old arcade cabinets.

"Hm… where should we-a go," Mario mumbled, putting his free hand on his chin. "Maybe we shoulda take this one because it's brighter," he said, pointing to the left.

"Uh, I-I agree," Donkey Kong said, nodding. "Somethin' tells me that the one on the right's got somethin' really bad in it."

"I agree with you, beep," Game & Watch said. "But I feel like we're supposed to go that way too for some reason. Maybe because… I-I have a feeling Pac-Man's kept over there."

Sonic stared down the path on the right. "That kind of makes sense, Game & Watch," he said.

He made a tiny gulp, and though he didn't say it out loud, he swore that he saw—no, felt—something in the darkness. Something with an overwhelming presence that was reaching out toward him and the rest of the group; whatever it was, it wasn't friendly at all, and he shook his head as if to get rid of the unpleasant feeling.

"But I'm not scared! No way! I'm picking the right one 'cause of what Game & Watch said: Pac-Man might be down there and he needs our help. I'm going in."

"Beep, wait, Sonic. It was just a—"

But before he could finish his sentence, Sonic rushed into the right path, kicking up a cloud of dust that left the rest of the group temporarily blinded and coughing.

"Mamma mia! Wait!"

"NO, LIL' GUY!"

"We have to go after him, beep!"

They gave chase, with Mario going into the path first, followed by Game & Watch and Donkey Kong. Unfortunately, along the way, they stumbled and bumped into arcade machines and shelves, knocking a few of them over and further hindering their progress.

As they picked themselves up and listened to Sonic's footsteps fade in the distance, Mario lit another fireball. Donkey Kong and Game & Watch prepared themselves to run again, but Mario stopped them.

"Shh! Quiet!" he whispered. "I hear something."

"Like what?" Donkey Kong grumbled.

"Listen."

It wasn't Sonic. Rather, it was a low humming sound, so low that if they didn't hold their breath and took another step, they wouldn't have heard it at all. It made their heads feel heavy, and they closed their eyes and massaged their temples in an attempt to alleviate the dull pain. But as quickly as they heard the noise and felt their headaches, they were gone.

"I don't-a know what just happened, but I know that it wasn't very good."

"Beep, should we split up, then? To cover more ground and try to find what caused that?"

"No. We-a stick together, find Sonic, then find Pac-Man. Maybe along the way we can find where the noise came from too. I don't-a like this place either, but I don't-a want us to get lost and hurt too."

Donkey Kong and Game & Watch nodded, though they were somewhat unsure about Mario's decision. They followed him anyway into the depths of the maze, occasionally calling out to Sonic with worried voices.

 


 

Sonic panted. After running around to cover more ground and get ahead, he was already tired. In a few seconds, he had traversed much of the entirety of the maze, but to his annoyance, he hadn't seen anything noteworthy, just more junk and clutter.

He stopped panting, his ears perking up as he heard his name being called from somewhere. Were the others right behind?

"Hey guys?" he yelled. "I'm over here! I think I found something!"

"What?" the voices seemed to ask.

"I said I found something!"

There was silence.

"Guys?"

No answer. Sonic shrugged, then turned his attention to the arcade cabinet near him. It was mostly colored bright yellow, allowing it to stand out among the pieces of junk surrounding it. What caught his eye the most, however, was not the color scheme, but the name on the cabinet's marquee.

Pac-Man.

He heard a familiar music theme as well, drawing him toward the arcade cabinet. On the screen was a maze with blue walls and paths filled with yellow dots. Below the center of the maze, which contained four 8-bit ghosts individually colored red, cyan, pink, and orange, was an 8-bit yellow circular figure. It wasn't moving, however, and instead turned to face Sonic, frantically waving two orange-gloved hands at him.

"Help!"

Sonic jumped back, startled as to who just spoke to him. Could it really be—

"Listen! Whoever you are, just listen to me!"

"Okay, okay! My name's Sonic, by the way."

"Okay, um, Sonic. I'm Pac-Man, but never mind about me now. You have to find your way outta here, and quick."

Sonic looked at him warily. "What do you mean?"

"Shh! You need to keep things at a whisper here," Pac-Man warned.

"Why?"

"I was taken here by something—don't know what exactly—but it took me from my home, knocked me out, and somehow I got stuck in this machine."

"Yeah, I know that."

"Good, good. But before you go, I have to tell you something reeeeally important."

"Like?"

"Shh! The thing that took me… I think it said it's called Polybius or something like that."

"Polybius? I thought that was just a myth. The arcade thing that doesn't really exist."

"Apparently it's for real when it comes to this place, but I don't really know. From what I can make out during my stay here, this whole warehouse isn't just a place to store old stuff. It's kind of like—"

"A labyrinth," Sonic said. "So it's also a place to hold something in."

"Yep. But before you go, be careful about seeing someone in a black suit around here."

"Why?" Sonic asked. When he and the other Smashers were wandering in the maze, they saw nothing too out of the ordinary, save for the flickering lights and the dark path.

"Don't listen too much or look at him—it—directly, or else you'll get put into a cabinet like me! Now go! It might be close by!"

Sonic looked away from the screen, then looked around. Something was nearby, no doubt about it. Something that made his fur stand up on end.

His eyes fell on an old Centipede cabinet, which lacked the sideart of the iconic green centipede and mushrooms on the white surface. What he saw instead was a small reflection of a man standing very still, perhaps a few meters behind him. The figure didn't resemble anyone he saw in the arcade room, nor was it one of the Smashers. It was rather tall and thin, and he briefly thought it was one of the Hands, but as he squinted to get a better look, he saw that it was wearing a suit that was mostly black and sinister-looking shades on a blurry face.

When they were in their human forms, the Hands did not wear black, except for their ties and dress shoes, or shades, nor was their presence ever accompanied by a droning noise that nearly gave him a headache.

And so Sonic ran away from where he saw the reflection. He needed to find the othersfast.

He zipped around corners and zoomed through straight paths, not caring whether or not he was lost or that he knocked a few things over, all the while calling out the names of his teammates, his voice reverberating around the warehouse. No one responded.

He wished he hadn't been so rash on them.

When he came to a sudden stop at a well-lit dead-end, he slipped behind a small row of arcade machines and crouched.

"Menu!"

When his Holo Caster appeared in his hands, he frantically tapped on "Comm.," bringing up a contact list.

 

  1. MASTER HAND
  2. CRAZY HAND
  3. MARIO
  4. DONKEY KONG
  5. MR. GAME & WATCH

 

"Okay, okay," he breathed. "I'm safe in the light. I'm totally safe in the light."

He checked off Mario, Donkey Kong, and Game & Watch's names on the list, then waited for them to answer. But no one did.

"Come on… where are you guys?" he whispered to himself. He could feel his fur standing up again. Still, no one answered.

He poked a bit of his head from his hiding spot and looked to his right. There was nothing there.

He retreated back and gave a deep sigh. He stopped trying to call the other three, then checked off the remaining two names on the list. He waited yet again and recited what he's going to say.

"Master Hand, Crazy Hand—no, no, that's not it. I REALLY need your help, guys…"

Chapter Text

"Ugh! I hate that no one's in here but us! It's just so… not like an arcade! Not without anyone playing any of these things!"

"I agree."

"Oh, and why are we wearing headsets again?"

"From what Sonic told us about the so-called Polybius… thing, besides doing something supposedly 'bad' if one looks at it directly, it can emit some sort of noise that has negative effects on the listener, though with these headsets we can simply turn them on and we wouldn't have anything negatively affecting our minds while we're focused on the task at… you know."

"So that's why you're so into what you're doing when you're announcing and stuff. You really can't hear much when you have these on! Not a lot of outside interference except when you need to talk to someone."

"I thought I told you that before."

"Anyway, why aren't we hands right now? It's not like we have literal human-ish ears there!"

"Have you heard about being taken by surprise, Crazy?"

The Hands are not necessarily ones for saving or ruining the day, which is held to be true by many who have ever been to the Smash 'verse—even Crazy Hand was more likely to merely annoy or play pranks on others rather than outright destroying things unless he really felt like doing so, despite his formal title. After Sonic contacted them via Holo Caster, they begrudgingly traveled all the way to Arcadia, but as they were walking through the deserted arcade, it was clear that they had to keep their complaints to themselves, if only for the current situation.

"Yeah, yeah. And then can we—"

"Soon, Crazy."

They approached the back end of the arcade and saw a black door on a black wall. On the door was a faded sign that said "Restricted Area: Do Not Enter."

"Okay, now that's just asking for it."

"I agree, Crazy. But we still have to act as if we're two mostly normal and curious—and admittedly, rather stupid—individuals going into the warehouse. I wouldn't use any of our powers that would easily give us away now, in case this being is somehow watching us."

Master Hand opened the door, and he and Crazy Hand went into the elevator room. The door behind them slammed shut, though they didn't look back or flinch at the sudden heavy clang and subsequent click. Master Hand pressed a button on the side of the elevator, and he waited along with Crazy Hand for about a minute. When the elevator doors slid open, they went inside, and Master Hand pressed the Basement button. The doors closed quietly and the elevator began to descend.

"Remember the plan, Crazy. Once we find Sonic, you'll go with him to find the others, including Pac-Man. While you do that, I'll deal with the Polybius being."

"Aw, why do I have to do something boring like that?"

Master Hand smirked. "That's because you'll be doing what you do best instead."

"Wait, you actually want me to—"

"Yes."

"That's… uh, thanks, bro."

"Uh-huh. Just remember what you're supposed to do once we get there, and don't forget to look indirectly, look away, or close your eyes if you need to. It's not just the noise that you need to be careful about, you know."

After that, their ride was silent, with only a low hum accompanying their descent, until the elevator came to a gentle stop.

Ding.

A crackle of static, and from the speaker came a deep demonic voice.

"Basement," it growled.

The doors opened, then closed once the Hands stepped outside. They briefly looked around their immediate surroundings, then looked down the paths jutting off from the square.

"Sonic said he's hiding behind a row of arcade cabinets at a dead-end somewhere within this maze. That should narrow down our options by a little bit."

"Is this gonna take long?"

"Hopefully not. Just stick with me for now, though."

"And then—"

Master Hand looked at him with exasperation. "YES."

"Okay."

They headed down one of the paths together, with Crazy Hand occasionally grumbling and whining as they walked past derelict machines and junk, only to be met with a steely glare every time he complained. Around them, a few machines flickered to life and made strange noises, but they pressed on, ignoring them as they ventured deep into the maze. After more turns and empty dead-ends, Crazy Hand had had enough and yanked off his headset.

"HEY, SONIC!"

Master Hand grabbed Crazy Hand by the shoulder and briefly shook him. "What are you doing? You'll—"

Somewhere in the distance was a faint "Right here, guys!"

"Finally, some action instead of slowly going through everything in this stupid maze," Crazy Hand muttered.

"Your headset, Crazy."

"Yeah, yeah. I got it."

He put his headset back on and ran off, yelling Sonic's name.

"And this is the kind of thing that gets anyone into trouble."

Master Hand followed after him, trailing not far behind. Above him, some of the lights burned out one by one, further darkening the already dim warehouse. Of course, he couldn't care less about his surroundings; his and Crazy Hand's main concern was to find the Smashers and get them out of there.

When he found Crazy Hand standing at a dead-end with Sonic, he sighed with relief.

"Crazy, don't do that again," he said, almost whispering.

"Hey, at least I found Sonic, bro."

"All right, all right. Now that you guys found me, how are we gonna find everyone else?” Sonic asked.

"Well, I'd like to tell you our plan, though if you want to hear it, it's best that you simply listen and whisper if you need to. I think that something is not that far behind."

Master Hand stooped down and told Sonic about the plan as quietly and as quickly as he could. As he did so, Sonic became confused, and by the end of it, Sonic was left staring at him and Crazy Hand in disbelief.

"Okay, I didn't get everything you said, but is this crazy plan really gonna work?"

"Probably," Crazy Hand said. "It's what my bro likes to call 'thinking outside the box,' which he says he's really good at, but I don't know. I mean, I like it, but…"

He rambled on, but Master Hand wasn't paying attention to him—instead, he was more focused on a low drone coming from somewhere. He looked down the path ahead into the darkness, which appeared to pulsate toward him and the other two.

"Crazy," he muttered. "Is your headset on?"

"It's been on."

"You two need to go and find the others. Now."

Sonic nodded, then sped away along with Crazy Hand from Master Hand and the encroaching darkness. A man in black walked—or rather, hovered—toward Master Hand, who closed his eyes and smiled to himself.

"SUPER… SMASH BROTHERS… FOOOUURRR!"

A few seconds of silence, and then came a horrible and distorted deep voice, accompanied by what sounded like static from an old TV or radio. "̶̝̈́W̶̯̐h̴̨͗A̴͔͐ṭ̷́ ̷̦̈́ȧ̵̯ä̸͓R̸̹̉Ẻ̷̼ ̶̯̎y̷͔͑O̸̱̔u̶͇̍ ̸̟̈́d̷̪̓ő̵ͅi̷̬͝ń̵̠g̷̔͜?̸̙̃"̵͎̎

"PLEASE WELCOME THE NEWCOMER… POLYBIUS!"

"̸̟̤̬͊H̸͔̍Ö̷̗̦́̈́̒w̵̯͔͛̂ ̷̦̘̅̓d̵̲͈̂͌͠͝ơ̸̧̲̋ ̷̼̲̳͝ỵ̴̛̬̟̚O̸̺̚͝u̴̖̫͌̓͜ ̷̰̮͎̳̌̋k̴͚̻̎͐n̵̝͉̋͑̔̈Ŏ̵̜̩̩̈́̎͐͜ő̴̼ẁ̷̩̠ ̵̰̰̤̾̒w̴̡͓͈̌h̸̭̪̓͗͊ͅo̴̡͔̗̊̀̇͠ ̸̱̃̽I̴̳͗ ̷͈͛̽͝A̷̘̣͗m̷͎̪̞̟̂͛,̵̢͚͍̓̈́̄̽ ̵͍̲̐̽̔̐h̵͉͚̱͍̿u̵͔̖̗̇͘͝m̸̨̹̭͍̂Ă̵̡̲̫͉̓͝n̷͚̜̉͑̂̋?̵͉͍̽͝ ̵̤̮̥̾Ī̸̗̦̞̎̓͜'̵̞̹͐͜v̴̱̑̓͊ͅe̷̳͓̾͆̚ ̴͔̅͂͠Ä̸͓̟̦́͜L̴̙̏̉̋r̶̨̛̗͉̪͂̌͠e̸̤̳̝̣̎̀͝ȃ̷̫̟͖͙̇d̸̢̏͒y̷̞̜̅͘ ̶̨͑̆͗͠ḑ̶̯̰̗͌̈́̾r̸͑̑̇̓ͅo̷̜̱͋̋̄v̵͆͜e̴̹̘͈͖̎͌͗͆ ̶̭͎̊Ǫ̸͕͛̑̕N̴̙̥̩̘E̶̪̥͚͆̍͜ ̶̛̲̣̪̑ȍ̷̳̤̩̐̍͝f̶̳̟̔͒ ̶̨̽̾̓̈ẏ̶̥͙̣o̷̯͖͍̪̎̉̚ū̸̞̉̉͘r̸̭̝̜̒̋̃ ̶̲͕͛̑̈́͝ǩ̷͖̝̬i̴͎̰̜͐̑n̸̮͈̂͛̉d̴̨̨̢̤̀ ̷̛̮̀͂į̸̳̍̏ņ̷̃̂̉͝t̴̲̟̤̟͒͗ó̵̧͙̳̤̕ ̵̢̄̂i̷̫͉͓͗͊͒̂͜n̶̩̘̫͊͂̚s̷̡͇͌ą̴̎̏̇͑ṋ̶͛̈́̂͝i̸̲̙̐t̴̠̄ŷ̴̼̪!̶̲̌̎"̵͎̩͂͆̆

Despite a sudden chill washing over him, Master Hand just laughed. "But first, you must demonstrate your skills in order to show everyone that you're ready to join the formidable and legendary Smash Brothers roster. So, what exactly can you do?"

"̵̗̃̔S̸̠̦͐͑h̴̟̑̏U̸̖̓T̴̖̱̉ ̷̨̄Ủ̷̦͈P̵̮͘͝!̸̱̩̌ ̷͚̿̓H̷̲͈̍̇O̶̟͆̂͜w̵̹̌ ̴̪̔c̴͓̈́Ả̷̢͒n̸̢̞̎̿ ̴̠́͘y̷͉̾͝ỏ̵̖̖̐O̵̻̭͊̚u̴̠͛ ̷̤̑h̶̫̮͝Ë̶͙͎A̸͖̭̓ṙ̶̰ ̶̬̠̍͘ẁ̷̞͎̃h̷͖̎̋ȧ̷͍͍͐t̷̬͑ ̶͈̤͂Ǐ̴̪̠̓'̴̰̽̈́͜m̷̙̪͝ ̵̙͖̿͝s̶̞̓̓ͅÅ̶̺͊y̴̮̑i̶̡̦͌͂n̴̢̓͑g̷̥͐͜ ̸̞̿ẅ̶̭̉i̷̞̐T̸̞̫͝h̶͚́̓ͅh̴̙̜̐Ǫ̷̥͘ṷ̵̃͌t̷̤͠ ̸͇͛b̶̝͘͝ę̸̙̔͌I̷̤͖͛ñ̶̹g̷̛̲̗ ̵̘̩͒a̷̻̹͋̕f̸̼̊̈f̸͔̹͠e̵̹̜̊̈́ĉ̴͉́t̵̝̝͛ȇ̸̜̤̚d̷̳͒?̶͓̜͋ ̵̜̔͜I̷̢̗͗ ̴̠̘̊̅s̷̱̼̍͠ẖ̷̏O̷̟̚ų̶͙̎̇l̶͖̭̋d̴̝̙͋͝ ̶̜̔h̴̩̥͆a̴̘̓v̵̝e̸̙̯̊̕ ̷̱̓̚͜h̸̤͒̃Ä̷̼̜d̴̙͌ ̴̰̔̓y̶͈̭̏̉O̶̞̬̿Ụ̷͉̐͘ ̵̨̦̂͠s̷̨͠ẗ̵̨́U̷͌͛ͅf̵͙̊f̸̮͐ͅḛ̸͠d̷͔̊̉ ̶̻͂̈́I̷̲̿͝ṅ̸̡̠̍ẗ̶̗͘O̵̟͇͊ ̸̨͗̍Å̸̰ ̵̻̳̾ṁ̶̻͈A̷͎͝c̶̼͛̈́͜h̵̤̜͆̄I̴̳̼̾N̶̲͇͐Ȇ̷̛̦ ̷͍͎̏b̶̟̓y̷̟̤̓̏ ̶͚̾n̴̛̦͖O̶̧͛w̷̗̄ ̴̨͐s̶̡̤̕o̶̞͝ ̵͕̠y̸̧̱̓O̶͔̓̅Ù̴͉'̷̖̭͊ḽ̸̳̉l̶̺̈́ ̵̛̗b̵̛̮̈e̷̝̒ ̷̦̝̃t̵͖̑͗r̷̹̘̈A̵̼͛p̵͕͘͝ṗ̶͚́ͅę̶͗ḏ̵͕̏ ̸̯͋ḫ̶̪͊E̸͍̠̿͌r̵̛̲̝ë̵̪̼ ̸̝̱͐̉f̵̟̹̀O̶̺͑̽r̶̦̉e̴̯̿͝V̵̝̹̌̈́E̸̚ͅr̷̩̯̔̏~̸̟̎`̶̙͖̇̆!̸͕͗"̴̹͈̆̄

"Oh, so you can put someone into an arcade machine? Why, that's a WONDERFUL FINISHING MOVE! I THINK THAT SHOULD BE YOUR FINAL SMASH!"

"̸̢̦͗̀Y̴͕̏̎͜O̷̼̓U̵̡͋̈́'̸̪̏r̸͖̠̃e̸̱̥͠ ̵̠̻̇̑ṅ̷͈̪Ō̴̻t̶̩͖́ ̷͇̝͆͝L̶͔̲̑i̸͖̳͌s̶̞̾͘t̶̯̲̋̕e̴͜͠ñ̷̤̲̕ị̵̠͠ṉ̵̳̀g̸̖̚ ̸̱͂t̷͖̰̓͂o̵̦͐ ̴̦͖̓̆Ṃ̸̻̓̕Ȇ̷͚!̴͍̎ ̶̟̥̌I̵͎̒̿f̷̈́͜͝ ̶̡̻̓y̶̯͛͜O̶͎͗͒U̵̯͉̔̐'̴̡̬͂̕r̷̮̾ḙ̸͛ ̸̙̂͜n̴̨͔̒̃O̸̗̙̓̈t̴͖̜̃̍ ̸͓͆͘h̷̆͌͜ü̶͍̥m̸̛̰̙͐a̸͓͆͑n̴̮̅,̶̰̤͒͘ ̶̧̦͝h̴̜̰̓Ö̸̞w̵̮̎ ̸̹͇̚c̵̢̲͠a̶̲͈͊n̴̨̻̋ ̷͓͓̀y̵̧̿̎Ọ̴́ö̶̥̹́u̵̯͕͗ ̶̹̈́͝ų̸̒n̵̲̋̕d̷̢͉̈ę̷͓̅r̸͈͌̑S̶̠̊̒T̷͇̎͌Á̴̛̪N̵̡͎̐͛D̸̜͔͑̍ ̸̹̌w̵̮͈̔ĥ̵̗̫͝A̸̮̼̒ţ̷̓ ̴̙̦̍Ḯ̴̯͚'̶̳̊̐m̸̳͈̉ ̸̝̗͌ṣ̴̻̄a̸̧̻͛Ỷ̴̮̖ï̷ͅṉ̵̍g̵͇̏?̷̱ ̶̹̮̚W̴̪̍͒Ḧ̷̩́ͅĘ̵͛Ṛ̶̭̀E̷̺̎͛ ̵͕̜͝ȧ̶̼̩́r̵̞̞̒͋e̵̞͝ ̸̩͓͒ţ̸͓͌h̴̲͑e̸̛͇͖͝ ̸̜̈Ŏ̵̭̀t̸͔͑h̸̝̐e̵͍̝͐̆ṛ̴̈́̎ś̶̻̾?̷̥͋̈́!̸̪̈́̃ ̶͉́I̶̼̘͘ ̶̜̊k̶̺̺͌̀n̴̼̙̎Ȍ̴͇̍w̷͇̒ ̴̫́t̷̰̓̇h̴̡̤̃a̴̬̜͗̄t̴̟͚̓ ̷͉̄̀ŷ̴̖̦́O̵͚̾̄U̵̙̿́'̸͍͐ȑ̸͙̪͆e̵̛͖̾ ̵͕̱̂ṇ̵̆Ȍ̷͕͇͛ț̶̔̾ ̸͇̺̽͘t̶̜͐̌h̷͕̫͆e̸̹̰̋ ̷̛̩͈̓Ǒ̴̲͝n̸͇̒l̷͕̦̚y̶̰̩̾ ̵͔̘͆̈́ǒ̴̢̰n̵͉̂ḛ̵́͐ͅ ̸͚̈́́H̶̳͕͛E̶̺͑͝R̷̠͙͌̔E̸͚̘̓̚!̸̙̫̈́̓"̵̫͝

"I can understand almost everything, along with my brother. It's an inherent skill that's very important in our line of work. And no, I can't tell you where everyone else is because that's… confidential."

An inhuman growl; clearly it was losing its patience. "̴̠̖̈́I̴͍͍̓̅t̵̢'̷̧̋͠ş̷̮̾ ̶͖͍́̉ṭ̶̺͝h̶̨̼̐A̸̩̝͗T̴͖̝̄͆ ̶̞̘̊̐\̸͉̀]̴͕́̄[̶̲͛̀ ̴̢̫̌̕H̸̡̍̐Ę̸̡͒Ạ̸͉̈́D̶̗͌S̸̥͝E̴̓͝ͅT̵͉͇̈́̿ ̶͕͍͒y̶̜̑̈O̴̢̲͐̋u̸̳͐'̴̩̿r̴̆̾͜e̴̻̠͗ ̷̺̖̓W̴͇̆́Ê̸̩A̸͇̯͝R̴͋ͅi̶̢̐̉n̷̻͌̌g̷̩̅͆ͅ,̶͍̤̂̓ ̷̪̚ĭ̶͓̳͘s̷̲̊n̷̲̱̐'̷̫̏̕t̷̗̐̿ ̷̢̇͠i̸̫͎̓t̵̢͕̏?̵̫̯̈ ̵̛̱͗Ṫ̴͖̲̆Å̵̯K̵͕͑E̵̬͈͒͊ ̶̻͇͂̑Ĭ̵͈T̶̮̆ ̷̻̎O̷͔͠F̸̨͐͠F̵̙̔̽͜!̸͓̀ ̸̜̐Ẅ̵̭̊h̴͎̑̕͜e̵͍̱͘r̸̠̎͆ë̴̜̜́̃ ̷͕̓͊a̶̭̘͝!̶̛̥̣̈́[̵̭̯̾`̶̧̑ ̴̠̾̎r̸͇̉͝ẽ̵̦ ̷̧̞͊t̷̨̫̽h̶̼̊̇ȩ̴̾ ̸̨̖̿̉O̶̺̒͜T̷̰̽͂H̸̞E̶͉̩̒R̵̤̃S̶̡̛͙͑?̶̜̹̔"̶̻̙͑

"Why should I? It's an important part of being an announcer, and I WON'T give it up just because someone told me to."

"̴̺̹̑̊T̴̻́̕A̷̛̼͇K̸̢̳͑E̷̙̍ ̶̹̺̔Ȉ̴͇̃T̵̠̝͋̐ ̷̪͙̕~̴̞̰̊ ̶̝͐̒Ö̶̧̻́̓F̵̧̙̈̍F̸̙̱̈!̴̡͙̔ ̵̖̤̕T̵̪̿A̸̧̭̔K̷̨̛̖E̷̠͓͆̏ ̶̢̓̔I̴̙̭̕T̶̖͆ ̷̢̭̉͂O̶̫͠F̶̉͜͜F̵̖̣͆̀ ̶̙̊͋a̶̖͚͋̅f̵̟͂͆s̴͓͊ ̵̡͍̍̊d̴̬̄ ̵̟͙̓͒a̸͇̬͐͝ñ̸̯̗d̶̞̥͐́ ̴̲͋͠O̷̠̰͑p̴͇̒̓è̵̮͊n̸̝͠ ̴̦̾̊Ȳ̶͚̝O̵̦̩͛̓Ų̵̃R̸̨͗̽ ̴̜͛͝é̷͚̒y̸̓͜͝e̷̬̓s̸̜͖̕!̸̗̞̄͘"̷̢̩͘

"No."

"̶̱͛Ḏ̵̳͌̈́ȯ̷͋ͅ ̷̛̦̄I̶͇͑ţ̶̢̅̕.̶̢͇͝"̶̙̺͋

"NO!"

"̴̩̹̋̐H̸̢̳͑R̸̡̮͂̂m̷͙͎̍̚p̸̬͐͝h̶̖̜̄.̷̳͠ ̸̪̆'̷͈͗͜/̷̼͛ ̵̥̩̎H̶̩͈͌u̸͔̾m̵̧̓a̴͎̎̏n̶̢̤̓̈ ̷͚̻͘͝o̷̮̜͂̊r̴͕̝͝ ̶̗̮͝n̴̲̓͗Ǫ̴̜͒t̴̖͐̍,̷̝͕̏ ̷̺Ẏ̸͇O̵̼̔͆U̴̫̙͠ ̴̞̾Ẁ̸̰͎Ī̸͙L̶̟̱͝L̴̙̹̏ ̶̪̤̌͠b̵͕e̷̢͊͜͠ ̶̫͔̌̀p̵̢͙̍͊u̶̼̓t̴̖̩͐̃ ̸͛͜͜ĩ̸͚n̶̞̥̒͊ț̸͚̉͛o̶̙̩͋̽ ̷̭̺̓Ǎ̵̧͝ ̷͕̂m̸̮̔͘ą̶̉ç̴͓͋Ḧ̷̱̤́͠I̷̓ͅn̵̨̕ẻ̶͕̔ ̸̠̑̆~̴͈̂̂ ̶͖͛L̶̛̹͉I̵͍̩͌K̷̡̻̊E̷̗̩̎̈́ ̴̹̰̌t̷̖͑ḫ̵̱̈́̕ȩ̵͈̔ ̶̢̩̒̃F̸͇̌Ŏ̸̪͌Ǘ̷̜R̵͖̞͆̎.̴̮͒.̸̹̣̊͘.̸̻̌̆ ̸̥̐͜Ļ̷͗͑I̶̤͛͘Ķ̷͛́Ë̶͕́͠ͅ ̶͉̙̉͂T̸̳̳̈̚H̸͉̃E̶͇͗͑ ̵̡̆͛R̵͚̀͊E̵̜̓͐S̵͉̃͗ͅT̷͓̥̃͗ ̸̰̠͛̊O̷̺̽͘F̷̖͓͛ ̸͇̱̂t̴̯̒ḧ̷͓̥́O̷̭͑s̶̥͝e̸̼̩̐̑ ̴̬̌f̸͖̹͑r̴̳̫̍̈Ŏ̸̰͒M̵̡͍̒̀ ̸͚̓A̷̮̔B̸͕̉̌Ō̶̗̻͠V̶̹̮̑E̵̮̔!̷̧͛͘"̴͓̬̈́

"I said NO! OR ELSE!"

Master Hand raised his gloved hand, then began counting down. "FIVE! FOUR!"

There was a snarl, and it grew louder—

"THREE!"

And louder—

"TWO!"

And louder, until the white noise overpowered the increasingly erratic glitchy voice.

"̸͎͛͠I̵̭ ̸̠̐͘S̵̡̈́͋/̸̡̼̓̓.̴̨͙̉͋~̸̡̉o̶̫̩͋̒u̶̖̳͠l̷̩͊d̶̲̿͑ ̷̤̺ḧ̸̳̤́!̷̛̘͐!̴̳͓̂!̸͇̮̏ ̶͚͛e̶͚͓͗̉d̴̲̐̔ ̶̙͗̓ḵ̸͍̋i̴͈̅͝~̸̧͉̚^̵̙̽-̶̝̫̅͝-̷̫̠͘ ̵̬̈́y̶͈̲̓̕o̶͙͒͝ǘ̷͔̮̕ ̷̟̩̿ḭ̷͂n̵̦̊̒~̵̩̞̅͑!̶̊͐ͅ^̵̺͑!̵͍͓̈́!̷̠̳̕`̸̘͑͜~̴̻̍͠d̸̲͌͝!̶̧̞̍?̶͓̥͑!̸̹͘̚"̸̻̬̽͝

"ONE!"

"SAY HELLO TO US, CREEPYPASTA REJECT!"

At that moment, Master Hand's eyes shot open to find a giant white fist in the distance zooming toward him and the man in black. Almost instinctively, he created a Smoke Ball and flung it to the floor. All around them, white smoke billowed out of the Ball, obscuring the immediate area; taking advantage of the distraction, he snapped his gloved fingers, simultaneously making his headset disappear and begin turning into his hand form. Within a few seconds, he flew out of the smoke and toward the ceiling, stopping just shy of a massive support beam.

Below him, much of the warehouse was engulfed in flames, with beams of light shooting toward the ceiling, strangely avoiding him as they faded from the floor up. Meanwhile, Crazy Hand smashed past arcade machines and junk parts with the four Smashers and Pac-Man on the floor right behind him, causing some of their own destruction as well.

"HEY BRO!" Crazy Hand yelled happily. He paused in his rampage to wave at Master Hand, who descended from the ceiling and waved back.

"How is everyone?"

"We're-a doing very well!" Mario replied.

"Yeah!" Sonic piped up. "All we gotta do now is deal with this guy!"

Without hesitating, Crazy Hand formed into a fist again and swooped down to attack the man in black.

But instead of being sent flying into the air like a ragdoll, upon impact the man in black dispersed into a mass of black pixel-like particles that hovered above the debris.

Crazy Hand turned around, then fired five blue lasers from his fingertips at the mass, separating it briefly before it reformed into its original cloudlike shape. Everyone gasped, and those that had visible ears covered them as a deep distorted laugh echoed through the warehouse.

"̶͚̘͒̈́̇H̵̢̖͊̚͜͜͠Õ̷̡̩͗̕W̷̜͕̩̓͂ ̵̧̥̿̈́̒̈͝S̵͎̳̓͌̈́́͝T̵̞̰̟̾̌̀̋̍U̵͈͉͇͗~̸̧̳̭͕̠̎̓!̸̨̗̩̅̓̈́ ̸̱̝̱̈́i̶͖͛̆͝d̴̨̳̿͜!̸̡̎͛̍͝ ̴̨̧̜̙͓̇̄͝Ţ̴̹͓͖̲͐Ȟ̵͗̏͜E̵̱͐̓̾͆R̶̡͓̯̣͒̇Ē̸̛̗̙͉̳͗ͅ ̶̫̅͘I̵̪͙̤̩͎̐̄͒S̶̯͇̬̿͊'̶͓̥͒̈́͌~̶̧̢̰̺̃̽̓̐͜N̶͍̤̫͔̼͑̈O̶̫̗͒̽͑̕ ̴̢̛̯̙͂͑̃̕W̴̧̞̝͍̑͛͜E̸̮̊́A̵̝̹͊̍K̵̢͕̹̩͆̑͜@̵̡̈́̓̕^̸̺̙̪̟̽̊̆Ṉ̸̦̤͈̪͐̋̕ȇ̸̖͔̠͇̳̄̓͑̽ṡ̴̲̻͈̄͂̒͠s̵̙̄̈́̎ ̵̦̙̪̝̖͗̃͘^̴̻̫͑̌$̴̖͑̾͑̑#̷̧̱̺͊͂́͆̾ ̷͖̮͈̾͂T̴̨͓͛͌͌̚͠Ȍ̷̤̞̫͒̃͒͝ ̴͓̩̙̞̭̀̂̀̕͝B̶͙̉͋̿͝Ê̴̪̩͑͒ ̸̢̜͒F̶̡̬͕͙͋̈́͜O̴̩̞͕̠̔̋Ü̴̜͚̕͘N̸̝̖̿ͅD̸̛̥͕͊̒ ̴̛̫̯̌̈́͛̽͜*̸̧̗̳̘̩͋̈̏͝^̷͓̦̪̟̾&̷̪̓̑͛o̵̧̦̾̈́̾͐̉n̶̙̦̒͌ ̵͈͙̺͕̺̋͒̃M̴͖̈̒̅̾Ė̸͍̑̂̍̄!̵̱̲̣̗͑̚͜"̵͇͒̎̉̈͆

"What's it saying?" Pac-Man asked.

"It said that it has no weakness to be found on it," Master Hand translated.

"Aw, c'mon!" Sonic exclaimed. "If we can't destroy this thing head-on, what else can we do?"

"I need some help over here, bro! This black cloud thing just hates giving up!"

Master Hand joined Crazy Hand and assisted him with a punch, but like before, the mass separated then quickly reformed into its original shape. Even with the Smashers and Pac-Man pitching in with their attacks, they only served to further irritate the being, who retaliated by firing projectiles that resembled red, blue, or yellow lights.

But as their assault dragged on, the Smashers and Pac-Man became weary.

"Mamma mia! Nothing we do seems to-a work!"

Game & Watch nodded. "I agree, beep!"

"Hey, Master Hand, Crazy Hand! Got any ideas?"

While Crazy Hand ignored Sonic and relentlessly continued attacking the mass, Master Hand ceased to fight.

"Crazy, did you and the others destroy everything in this warehouse?"

"I don't know! It's not like we stopped to check off a list after we destroyed stuff, y'know!"

"Well, because on the off chance the weak spot of the being is not on the being itself—"

"̷͈̝̐͊!̷̡̀̕@̷̮̔̂#̴̤̝̽^̶͙̎Ḯ̸̞̲͘ ̷̛̘͇͝#̵̭̕^̷̬̞̃o̴̖͛n̴̝̱̾`̷̜̺͋͝t̵̮̼̑ ̵̲͓͐͐Ḣ̷̫̘A̸̪͝Ṿ̷͘͝E̷̤͆ ̸̨̌̐A̷̝̋ ̶͈̀W̷̭͚̊E̵̤͂A̸̞̚K̶̼̈̆Ń̴͕̼Ȅ̵͕̕S̵̛͈S̴̥̞̚͝!̵͕̙̑ ̴̟̍I̶̲̞̒ ̴̬̔D̴͓̯̓̽Ỏ̵̹ͅN̷͕͉͠~̷̟̣̊͐`̶̝̘ ̸͙͂̉Ḣ̶̳A̴̼̍V̷̯̿̈́E̴̼̊`̴̣̽`̴̜̽͐^̶͂͜&̸̙̩̄̄"̸̡̰̓

"Wait!" Pac-Man yelled. "I think I know what you mean!"

"̴͓̅̑S̵̙̤͛͝h̶̰̅͝U̵̲͕̿͑Ť̶̠ ̵͇͔̒Ű̴̺͙P̵͕͑,̴̛̟̔ ̶̲̣̃A̷̜̺̿Ṉ̶̖̿N̶͉̾Ö̴̡ͅY̵̻̏Į̴͚̓͝Ṋ̷̭͐̌G̶̱͝@̴̬͘ ̶̩͖̾^̵̩̆͠@̴̞̮͑&̷̉͜ ̸̞͈̿͝*̵̨̟̽(̸͖͕́̆ ̶͔͘͝'̶̳̈?̵̝̕!̷̘̈́̐ͅ ̶̥͓͘^̴̻͂͘#̸̜̜̓@̴̦͌$̶̜͌͝)̴̛̲͘ ̸͕̚(̸̗̘̌̓Ḯ̵̱̺͠N̸͕͈̿̎Ș̴͘Ủ̵̲L̸̰͆T̵̺͐ ̵̩͠N̴͋͜͝O̷̰̺̾̓T̴͔͌ ̸̭̈́ͅF̵̗̈ͅO̵͖̳̒Ū̴͍̄N̴̘͊D̶̙̎͜)̶̯͠"̶͓͌

The black mass fired a stream of projectiles at Pac-Man and the Smashers, barely missing them. After the barrage stopped and the black mass focused its attention again on the Hands, Pac-Man seized the chance to speak with Sonic.

"Hey, Sonic. I've got an idea."

"What is it?"

"Run around the warehouse to see if there's anything suspicious, like an arcade machine or something that's not destroyed yet."

"You know what it looks like?"

"I've never seen a Polybius cabinet myself, but if you find one, you gotta destroy it. Sorry if I'm just guessing there and that it's not a lot, but you gotta try and be fast. Hurry!"

Sonic smiled confidently. "Don't worry, Pac-Man. It's what I do best."

And with that, he raced away, leaving the others to keep the black mass occupied.

 


 

In the midst of the raging fire and burning debris around him, Sonic was sweating like crazy.

"C'mon, c'mon… what the heck would a Polybius cabinet even look like?"

He was racing through the warehouse, seldom stopping every time he saw a preserved arcade machine, though none of them bore the name. But when he arrived at a relatively undamaged corner, he heard a drone, only it was much louder and more irritating than before, forcing him to clutch his head at the sudden headache.

Before Sonic was a plain black cabinet with no sideart and the name POLYBIUS in glowing letters on its marquee.

Gasping, he looked away briefly, only to feel his legs wanting to approach the cabinet. He gritted his teeth and fought the urge to walk up to it.

"Nonono—mustn't—argh!"

The noise grew louder and louder, and he swore that he heard a voice telling him to come closer to the machine.

"Y-you can't—control—No!"

Come closer… and you can stay here forever… in the eternal bliss of forgetting your troubles…

"I—have—friends!"

Pitiful excuses—

"No—they're—NOT!"

With a strained yell, Sonic curled up into a spinning ball and repeatedly rammed into the machine. As he was reducing it into a pile of broken machine parts, he heard what sounded like a warped drawn-out scream and cheerful yells.

Distracted by the hubbub, he raced back and found the others, who were watching the black mass writhe and scream unintelligibly. In its death throes, it kept the Hands at bay with a barrage of projectiles and extended a part of itself to the ceiling, destroying and bringing down the support beams.

"̸̦̋̊Y̷̺̑Ǫ̷̢̏U̸͔͚̽̂.̶͖͒̊ ̵̰͚̇̇C̷͕̤̽̂A̸̤̋̓N̵̢̖͛̋N̴͉͙̾O̴͎̘͊T̴̰̓.̴̦̩̓͠ ̷̮͚̆͆K̵̪̾́I̶̦̠͝`̸̥̓͛~̶̢̪͗{̴̰̙́ ̷̗̄͒M̴̘̔̈́Ȇ̷͕͎!̴̹̜̆ ̵͈̒͘Ä̵͉̖͋R̴̪͒͜R̵̙̈́̎G̶̢̞̅G̸̬͑͝H̵̭̐̾Ĥ̸̠}̴̛̘̮̄|̵͉̋͛{̴̳͔̈͘|̴̦̮̃}̶̧̺̾̓<̵̡͆͝>̴̥̄?̶̼͗̑@̶̝̀̏$̵̮̋͛^̸̱̿͘ͅ*̶̭̝͆̈́+̶̛̖͌_̷̱̞̕_̸̹͉̌͝)̷̖̭̈(̶̖͊)̶͚̑!̸̘͍͋̋"̶̞̎

The black mass made a final attempt to reach out toward the Hands and the Smashers, only to fail as it began to implode on itself, further collapsing the ceiling.

"We have to get out of here!" Master Hand yelled, creating a portal close to the floor.

Without wasting their time, everyone raced toward the portal and disappeared before the warehouse collapsed.

 


 

Back in the Pac-Man 'verse, there was a celebration for Pac-Man's return.

"Thank you, everyone," Ms. Pac-Man said to the Smashers and the Hands.

"Thank you, thank you," Professor Pac-Man added. Boyce flew down from a tree and landed near him, taking off his hat and giving a small bow.

"Yeah! Thanks a lot, guys!"

"You're-a welcome," Mario said, smiling.

"Ahem. As wonderful as it is to stay for the festivities, I think it's time for us to go unless Pac-Man declined his invitation and opted to stay," Master Hand said.

"Oh, no, please! I'd like to go!"

"Oh?"

Pac-Man shuffled his feet nervously. "After everything that happened in that warehouse, I wanna do better at protecting others. I mean, I think I owe you guys something."

"Well, regardless of your reasons, you're welcome to join. If not…"

"O-of course! I read the letter and accepted the invitation and all. But first, I want to say goodbye to everyone. If that's okay."

He turned to the crowd of Pac-People, who looked at him expectantly. "Well, I'll be off to the Smash 'verse, everyone. Wish me luck!"

They all clapped, and some of them cheered and wished him good luck back. Ms. Pac-Man hugged him, then said, "I hope you get to tell us how it is there."

"Sure I will. After all, they said they've got interuniversal communication or something like that."

Pac-Man looked behind him, and he saw Master Hand form a portal, while the Smashers stepped closer to it, looking ready to go. Ms. Pac-Man let him go from her hug, and he walked over to the portal while waving back at her and the rest of the crowd.

"I'll tell you all about it, everyone, and I hope it'll be fun and great. Again, good luck to me!"

As the crowd cheered again and bade him farewell, he walked into the portal and disappeared, followed by the Smashers, then the Hands.

 


 

On the surface of Arcadia's famous arcade, things have returned to the way they were: after being trapped in arcade machines and released—by coincidence, courtesy of a certain giant gloved hand or two and five others—during the destruction of the warehouse, the people who frequented the arcade room were back to playing and spending their hard-earned tickets for prizes. Few of them remembered the event, and fewer still remembered seeing a strange man with glasses that ran toward the front door to warn four individuals that looked almost nothing like them.

None of them have been seen by anyone in Arcadia since that day.

In the dark ruins of the underground warehouse beneath the arcade, a lone figure walked among the burnt remains of arcade machines and miscellaneous junk with a flashlight in one hand and a tool bag in the other. Occasionally he stopped to search through the piles that covered the floor.

From one of them, he uncovered a marquee with the name POLYBIUS in glowing letters, then held it up in front of him as if it were a trophy.

"Who… are… you?" It was an unfathomably deep voice, almost demonic, though he wasn't afraid of it. He lowered the cabinet marquee and spoke into the darkness.

"You know me. Like you, I technically don't exist, and neither does the company that I work for. But for now, think of me as your savior, almost… like your creator. Polybius, I will help you rise again—become relevant like the others again—because as long as there are people that believe you exist, you will never truly die or fade from their minds, even if you don't physically exist. So… let me do you a favor, Great Corrupted Tempest."

And with only his flashlight to illuminate the pitch-dark corner of the warehouse, he began reassembling the broken arcade machine.

"Thank you… Ed Rottberg."

Chapter Text

 Hand-Delivered-Letters-Cover-Art

Inside a crowded airport terminal, Rodger Kenneth Parsons adjusted his glasses as he paused to see people rushing by or spending time in shops and restaurants. For almost thirty minutes he had been sitting on a bench with his luggage and Greninja and reading news articles from his phone; to help alleviate his boredom, he also listened in on a few conversations within earshot, with some people enthusiastically discussing what they were going to do once they reached their destinations. One of the things he overheard from them were Pokémon battles.

Pokémon battles. The mere mention of them made him roll his eyes.

For him, the idea of going back to what he once enjoyed was something he would very much like to put behind: not because he had any bad blood with a rival or anything silly like that, but simply because he had had enough of it and wanted to live a quiet and less hectic life. Achieving this goal, however, was hard to accomplish when almost everybody in the Pokémon World was actively into Pokémon battles. Another thing that he knew was that others his age—he's fifty-three—or older were still competing and challenging younger trainers.

Sure, he didn't mind watching anyone battle, but the idea of participating in one? That was history. After he quit battling, he turned to announcing and providing color commentary for Pokémon battles instead, but he got tired of that as well: admittedly, yelling out almost every move made by trainers and their Pokémon became repetitive and somewhat annoying.

Even boring.

 


 

When Parsons stayed at his son and daughter-in-law's home in Vaniville Town last week, they invited him one day to participate in an impromptu battle on a nearby field. He refused.

"I'm getting too old for that," he remembered saying to Michael and Emilie. "I'll just watch from here, thanks."

"But—"

"No, you go on. I'll watch."

He had remembered Michael giving him a look of confusion before the latter sent out his Swanna against his wife Emilie's Delphox; once they were released from their Poké Balls, the White Bird Pokémon and Fox Pokémon stared each other down, awaiting their trainers’ orders. And then it began.

Water clashed against fire, and a rather heated battle took place.

He had quietly watched them from a safe distance. He had taught Michael well, that's for sure. Of course, Emilie was also a great trainer, as he watched her Delphox easily dodging and Protecting itself against Swanna's Water Pulse and Hurricane attacks.

In the end, however, Michael easily won the battle due to his Swanna having a type advantage. Nevertheless, they enjoyed the experience; Parsons knew it from the look of their smiles that they gave each other after the battle. He, on the other hand, thought otherwise, although he kept his opinions to himself.

At the end of the week, in the late afternoon, Parsons packed his belongings, said goodbye to them, and left Vaniville Town in a taxi for the airport.


 

As he brought himself back from his recollection, he looked at his Greninja, who was given to him by Michael during his recent visit to Kalos. He was a quiet Pokémon that preferred to be out of his Poké Ball, which Parsons attributed to his ninja-like nature, wary and willing to strike at an enemy at a moment's notice. Although it was nice for Michael to gift him with one of his favorite Pokémon, Parsons couldn't help but be slightly amused at the fact that his son's reasoning for giving away his Greninja was to provide him some company when he wasn't in Kalos. Surely there were other Pokémon that could do the job without having to act like a hypercompetent security guard.

He heard a nearby speaker notifying everyone in his terminal that they were about to board in a few minutes. He urged Greninja to go back into his Poké Ball, only to earn an annoyed glare. He sighed and responded by holding up Greninja's Poké Ball.

"I'm sorry, but they don't exactly allow Pokémon to be outside while we're on a plane. I'll let you out when we get there, okay?"

There was a grunt of protest, but Greninja relented and allowed Parsons to return him into his Poké Ball. After Parsons hastily placed the Poké Ball inside a pocket within his black suitcase, he joined the line of people heading toward the bridge leading to the plane.

Once inside, he quickly found his seat and placed his suitcase underneath it, then sat down and absentmindedly put his seatbelt on. When he looked outside his window, the plane's right wing was next to him; far beyond that, in the background, he saw the sunset behind buildings and a few trees, with the surrounding sky colored in an intense mixture of red and orange, which gave away to a cool blue. He smiled a bittersweet smile at the sight, then closed his eyes.

When he groggily woke up a few hours later, he looked out of his window again to find a brilliant night city skyline. Above him, a cheerful feminine voice sounded from the intercom speaker.

"Thank you for choosing to fly with Pokétopia Airlines today. We will be arriving in Pokétopia in just a few minutes."

He was home.

 


 

The plane had touched down without a hitch, and in a matter of what felt like a few seconds, he was already outside of the Pokétopia Airport entrance. Nearby, he saw a number of people—parents, grandparents, children, lovers, all the rest—reuniting and giving each other hugs and kisses, while others were saying their goodbyes as they went inside. He looked away, turning his attention toward the lights—not only to the ones in the airport but also to the nearby towering buildings and rooftop spotlights.

If he didn't know any better, he would've thought that he was in the world's largest amusement park. After all, Pokétopia was known as the Battle Theme Park City, and with many of its residents and visitors being avid trainers hailing from all parts of the world, especially from the Sinnoh region, one could also call it a melting pot of sorts.

A cab passed by him, and he jogged after it, waving for it to stop.

When it did, he saw one of its windows lower down, revealing a weary middle-aged driver slouched in his seat.

"Where to?" the driver yawned.

"Pokétopia Heights."

He opened the door and sat on the hard leather seats, then slammed it shut. Without another word, the cab drove away smoothly, leaving the airport behind. After a few minutes, they were already on the main road.

He decided to pass the time by looking outside his window. Similar to the sights at the airport, there were high-rise buildings with brightly-lit windows and spotlights everywhere, bathing the city in a beautiful glow.

At one point, they drove by an area with tall buildings surrounding a raised orange-and-white platform in the center. It was Main Street Colosseum, one of the ten officially recognized Colosseums of Pokétopia, and one of the most popular ones too. Normally during the day, it would be packed with tourists and residents watching the daily matches, but now that it was nighttime, the place was dark, quiet, and devoid of any sign of liveliness that was inherent to Colosseums.

As he gazed at it, he suddenly felt a twinge of… something. Was it longing? Sadness? No, that can't be it—he had already put all of that behind him.

He blinked. Clearly he needed more sleep, and perhaps something to eat or drink as well.

He also must have made his staring outside of his window a bit obvious, because he noticed—out of the corner of his eye—the driver looking at the rear-view mirror with raised eyebrows.

"Y'know, I remember the good old days when everyone held tournaments every so often. Kind of a shame they don't do a lot of those anymore."

"Mm-hm," he replied, nodding absentmindedly.

"Anyway, we're here at Pokétopia Heights. That'll be 710 Pokémon Dollars."

After paying for his fare, he opened the door and stepped onto the sidewalk with his suitcase. Not long after he closed it, the driver gave him a thankful nod and drove away. When the cab was finally out of sight, he looked at the apartment building standing a few feet away from him.

As its name suggested, Pokétopia Heights was twelve stories high, not counting the dome at the very top, which also served as a lounge where its residents can relax and socialize. On the tenth floor was a walkway in the form of a giant Toxicroak's left hand that led into the inside of a nearby giant Toxicroak statue.

When he went through a revolving door, he was greeted by an empty yet very pristine lobby. In the center were a few linen chairs and couches on top of a rectangular carpet rug, while a small chandelier hung above. On the left wall were two stylized paintings depicting a bird's-eye view of Pokétopia during the day and a large Poké Ball surrounded with colorful lines and shapes; on the right side was the receptionist's desk, with a clock above it that said it was currently 1 a.m.

He walked past these sights, almost automatically, into a corner with two elevator doors, then pressed the up button. He waited, shuffling his feet every now and then.

Ding.

The elevator door opened, and he stepped inside. Another press of a button, this time labeled 12. The door slowly closed, and the elevator began to ascend. He looked at a panel displaying the current floor.

2. 3. 4. 5. 6…

He closed his eyes, only hearing the periodic beeps that indicated a new floor. When did it take so long to move up and down? It hadn't been that way before. Maybe it was just his tiredness. Yes, that was it—he was tired from the flight, tired from the past few days… just tired of a lot of things, really.

"12th floor," a cheerful robotic voice announced.

The door opened again, and he stepped out into his penthouse apartment. For him, it was home, though to an ordinary visitor, it resembled more of a high-end hotel suite: it was quite open and spacious, with a lot of room to move around in, and its walls and the carpeted floor had a rich cream color.

He walked into the living room, placed his suitcase down, then sank into one of the armchairs. He sighed deeply, then closed his eyes.

But no matter how much he forced himself to relax, he just couldn't seem to fall asleep—even shifting around in his seat to make himself more comfortable did nothing to alleviate that feeling. Well, if he couldn't force himself to sleep, then he might as well tire himself out or at least make good use of his restless state.

He stood up and walked over to the glass window that spanned the entirety of one of the walls. Looking outside, he saw a building with a large and open spherical structure on a balcony that was laced with colorful neon lights that pulsated faintly.

Despite the display, Neon Colosseum was empty and without anyone battling or cheering from the stands. It was almost a sorry sight, what with its emptiness and lights. It appeared as if they were desperately trying to catch the attention of someone. Anyone.

Him.

He shook his head—it was clear that he was beginning to go crazy. Or maybe it was just his tired eyes seeing things again. Now he needed a drink, and probably one that enabled him to completely get rid of that feeling, whatever it was. Perhaps he could find something from the refrigerator to do just that.

He walked away from the window, then out of the living room and into a small darkened hallway. Along the way, he noticed a small glowing pinkish light at eye level. He jumped a little, stared at the light, then mentally slapped himself. How could he have forgotten to check his mail after being away from his apartment for some time?

After turning on the overhead light, he proceeded to hit the up button on the dumbwaiter, then waited. He heard a faint hum, and soon the little steel door on the wall opened to reveal a steel cubic frame containing a few envelopes. He took them out, pressed another button to close the little door, and laid them on a nearby table.

He inspected the envelopes one by one, though none of them were very noteworthy: most of them were either bills or junk mail. How typical.

Save for one.

Having sifted through the little pile of mail, he found an envelope that had a circular red wax seal. He had never seen anything quite like it before; its design didn't resemble a Poké Ball, as it had two intersecting lines near the bottom-left quadrant instead, dividing it into four unequal parts. It was an interesting find, and the sender must have been a bit old-fashioned. Oh well, it couldn't hurt to open this one, right?

So he did. There was a letter inside.

 

To whoever receives this, please go to Sunny Park in the afternoon as soon as possible. If you find a group of five individuals loitering around one part of the park, you are in the right place. There's no need to be alarmed, for we will try to answer your questions to the best of our abilities. We don't ask that you need to bring anything specific, save for perhaps your Pokémon (if you have any) and an open mind. This is in regard to a special opportunity few will ever have in their lifetimes, so don't miss it.

Thank you, and we hope things will get cleared up upon the meeting.

—M.H. and C.H.

P.S. This letter will harmlessly self-destruct in a few seconds after you've finished reading it. Don't worry about that either.

 

Wait, what?

Startled by the postscript's text, he dropped the envelope and the letter onto the floor and ran into the kitchen, slamming the door behind him and covering his ears. He waited for a noise, an explosion—anything that would indicate a letter (of all things, a letter?) that's in the process of being destroyed.

Strangely, nothing of the sort happened; there was only silence.

He opened the door and walked into the hallway, but wherever he looked, it was clean, without any burn marks or destroyed bits of wall or floor. He went through the pile of mail on the table again, but the mysterious letter with the red seal wasn't there either, as if it had simply vanished.

With a sigh and a hand to his forehead, he walked into the living room and sat back in his armchair. First the stress from traveling, then the weird feelings he felt whenever he looked at the Colosseums, and now a letter that had the ability to disappear into thin air telling him to go to Sunny Park to find a group of five people? And who were the senders of that letter, anyway, who apparently went by the initials of M.H. and C.H.? It was just too much.

He closed his eyes, and this time, he easily fell into a dreamless sleep.

As if he wasn't living in the Distortion World already.

Chapter Text

"Allegedly new species of small aquatic Pokémon captured on camera offshore by amateur photographer: a relation to Wailmer and Wailord?"

"Rumors of a new teleporting technology allowing instant access to Sinnoh? Impossible for now, top scientists say: 'There are concerns about becoming 'pixelated' while traveling.'"

"It's no lie! Camp Café's curry dishes are outselling everything else! One curry dish for 50% off or more! Limited time only!"

 

"Wow. To think things have changed since then. It's ridiculous," Parsons muttered as he looked at his phone's screen. For minutes, he had been skimming over article titles on the PokéBuzz app on his phone, though none of them caught his interest. He sighed, closed the app, uninstalled it, then turned his attention instead to the sights outside of the cab he was riding in.

"Oh, yeah? I agree with you there." It was the taxi cab driver overhearing him, the same one from last night.

"Really?"

"Yeah. I mean, look at the kids these days. They think they've got all they have in this world right now, but they haven't seen what the past's got too."

"Mm-hm."

"Y'know, you kinda look familiar, but I didn't even get a chance to catch your name. What is it, by the way?"

"It's Parsons—"

There was a loud screech, and the cab jerked violently. Luckily the traffic light was red, because the driver suddenly turned around in his seat and stared at Parsons, his jaw slack with surprise.

"Wait a minute… you're the Rodger Kenneth Parsons? The one that's also called Mr. Narrator?"

Parsons nodded simply. "Yes."

"Why didn't you say so?"

Parsons sighed. "I don't like to draw attention to myself these days, so, please… "

The driver's face fell, and then he looked away. "Oh, oh right. You're retired. And after that whole thing with GS, too." He turned to face forward in his seat, and the cab began to move again.

Just hearing the name GS, or Go Stadiums as it was also called, was painful for Parsons, for he had bad memories of it, especially during his last days on the job. Years ago, he and the other members of the small tournament organizing company had been laid off when it was declared that they were soon going out of business. However, that wasn't completely true: in reality, GS had a few so-called "disputes and disagreements" with another, larger company, and at some point, they lost against them and were essentially kicked out. Almost everyone in GS didn't know about it then, but even when the real reason behind the mass layoff was revealed a few days after it had actually happened, there was a general sense of disappointment.

A disappointment that had continued to haunt him since.

 


 

He was sitting in a chair in his room, resting his head on his desk when his young son opened the door.

"What's wrong, Dad?" asked Michael.

Parsons sighed heavily. "I got laid off."

"Laid off?"

"It means… that I'm not going to work at GS for a while."

"Is it going to be forever?"

"I hope not."

The truth was, he didn't know when he and the others were going to be brought back into the company, as the CEO refused to tell anyone anything else except that GS was "going out of business," but promised everyone that things will turn out okay, maybe even for the better. But why? It's not like they were bankrupt, right? And to think that things were going so well: occasionally he participated in a few battles (mostly to demonstrate for new tournament participants; he wasn't that great) and had a stable position as one of the announcers, so the idea of GS suddenly going bankrupt was crazy.

He laughed quietly to himself. It was just a bad dream, something not worth worrying about, which meant that he could just go to sleep and wake up to find that he still had his job. Still had what was considered a part of his family's livelihood.

What he didn't know at that time was that in the following few days, he will be proven wrong, and that he and everyone else will be left to find work elsewhere in even smaller and virtually unknown settings.

 


 

"… All right, Sunny Park."

What did the driver say?

"Hey, are you okay? You seemed to have blanked out a bit over there."

Parsons blinked, and then nodded at the driver, who was looking at him with concern. Of course, he was okay—he wasn't hurt or anything.

"Anyway, we're here at Sunny Park, so that's… hm, 1000 Poké Dollars, please."

After paying for his fare, Parsons opened his door and stepped onto the sidewalk with a small, black duffle bag in his hand. He closed the door behind him, but before he could head off, he saw the driver rolling down his window.

"Well, it was nice meeting you, Mr. Parsons. I hope you get to find what you're looking for here, even though it seems a bit fishy, based on what you told me earlier. Good luck, though."

He nodded at the driver. "Yeah."

The driver nodded back and rolled up the window, followed by the cab driving off into the busy afternoon streets of Pokétopia. Parsons faced the park again and walked on the dirt path.

He looked all around Sunny Park. Surrounding the dirt path he was walking on was a great expanse of neatly cut grass and trees that seemed to extend for what looked like half a mile, with people and Pokémon walking and playing side-by-side. A few, towering Ferris wheels also populated the area, while gondolas glided smoothly on guided cables that went past a tall building colored blue, white, and pink—the so-called match-viewing building. There were also a few fountains topped with large replicas of Poké Balls and bushes that dotted a particular part of one side of the path, right in front of the building. There was no doubt about it: he was standing before Sunny Park Colosseum, where people, especially families, gathered to watch matches from the sidelines and treehouses nearby. Or at least, that's what it was like years ago; the Park and the Colosseum were more like popular hangout spots and tourist attractions these days, with the few battles that occurred here being brief sideshows rather than tournament events.

He shook his head. Never mind about the Colosseum, he had to find the sender, or rather, the senders of that letter. But where would he begin looking? Sunny Park was a large open area, and there were quite a few people going about here too. Not helping matters further were the letter's vague instructions, which told him to find a group of five people somewhere within the Park. Maybe he could start by asking the park goers if they saw anything unusual.

But then again, who was he kidding? He was, after all, trying to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to himself. Of course, only those who remembered the peak tournament days and were very knowledgeable about the GS tournaments would most likely recognize him and the others who worked on organizing the tournaments. Well, it's best to keep quiet then.

He started toward the match-viewing building by walking across the circular battlefield, looking away a few times whenever someone looked in his direction. At least no one tried to follow him or get his autograph or whatever fans typically do whenever they see their favorite celebrity. He smiled to himself: truly wonderful were the benefits of being virtually washed-up and unrecognizable by the majority of the public these days.

When he approached the doors of the match-viewing building, they automatically opened inward, allowing him to easily walk into a large space filled with people and Pokémon sitting in tables, eating to their hearts' content and enjoying themselves. So it was also renovated as a food court and hangout area… huh. Clearly a lot has changed since the last time he was here.

And now to find the senders of that letter. A group of five individuals… just who could they be? He looked at the people and Pokémon at the tables, as well as those waiting in lines leading to the few food vendors located at the opposite end from where he stood. But no matter how thoroughly he looked, he couldn't pick out anyone that would fit the vague description. Five individuals could mean many things, after all.

Maybe he can put off the search for a bit. It was around noon, and he could make do with a quick lunch. He made his way past the tables toward a line leading up to a counter selling ramen noodles, then waited, looking at the menu posted on the back wall. Which to pick…

"Excuse me, but do you happen to know someone who goes by the name Parsons?"

It was a low voice that sounded a bit like a growl. Who was that, and where did it come from?

"I'm sorry. Look behind you."

He turned around. It was a somewhat small and predominantly blue-furred creature, save for its cream-colored torso, which had a short spike jutting out of the chest. Red eyes from a canine-like face stared back at him.

A Lucario. Wait—was a Lucario—

"Were you—Did you… just talk?"

A shrug of the shoulders, then Parsons heard the same voice again: "Telepathy, but that doesn't matter now. I will ask you again: do you know someone named Parsons?"

"Yes," he answered. Why would a Lucario want to know about him anyway? This was getting to be suspicious, but the Lucario didn't ask any more questions and just nodded.

"Then follow me."

There's no way that he was going to follow a random Pokémon. For all he knew, this Lucario probably had ulterior motives. Or maybe someone else did. As Parsons stayed in line and watched the Lucario walk into the dining space, he saw him stop in his tracks. Some of the diners looked up from their meals, curious about what was happening between him and the Lucario.

"What are you waiting for? I insist that you follow me."

He sighed, then left the queue to follow the Lucario, who appeared to be leading him back toward the entrance.

"All right, what is this about?"

"Do you know if anyone in this city received a letter recently?"

"What letter?"

"You said that you know the human known as Parsons. If so, you should know which letter I'm referring to.”

Wait. Was the Lucario referring to that letter? The one that told him to come to Sunny Park and vanished into thin air? Did he send it to him? No, that would be silly; as far as he knew, Pokémon can't write… can they?

"Well… yes? Yes, I do know about the letter. I think."

The Lucario looked over his shoulder and closed his eyes. When he did so, the four aura sensors at the back of his head rose slightly. "You seem to be confused and skeptical. I wouldn't worry, though. You'll have your questions answered soon."

Parsons sighed. It already looked ridiculous for a human to be conversing with a Pokémon that communicated through telepathy while walking through a food court, judging by the way people stopped eating and stared at them.

"Can we continue this later? You're making a scene."

There was a sound like an annoyed "Hmph," but at least they stopped talking. For now.

 


 

They were almost near the entrance of the building when Lucario led him into one of the elevators. Once they were inside, Lucario pressed a button to the fourth floor, and the elevator closed and began to ascend. For a while, there was an awkward silence between them.

"You know, this is all just a mistake," Parsons said. "Why did I get that letter? Was it meant for someone else?"

"Hm. I cannot tell if you're the right recipient. That is a question only the Hands can fully answer."

"The… Hands?"

"I'm one of their… associates, along with many others. The Smashers, as we're often called."

The Smashers? Sounded like a superhero team from one of those movies or TV shows everyone seemed to be watching nowadays. This was getting crazier by the minute, but from the look of Lucario's steady gaze, this was a rather serious situation.

The elevator door opened, and they stepped out onto the fourth floor. Unlike the first floor, it was a mostly empty circular space with a large and clear dome ceiling. Aligning the circumference of the space were potted plants, while a few tables and chairs were arranged in clusters in the middle. They walked toward the only occupied table, which had four people sitting in chairs before a small pile of take-out boxes and containers.

"I've never had this… ramen before, admittedly."

"Yeah, it's very different from Ylisse, but it's great!"

Ylisse? What in the Distortion World was that?

One of them, a young woman, looked up from her meal. "Oh? I think Lucario's brought the recipient of the letter both of you have sent, Master Hand and Crazy Hand."

Lucario nodded at her, then looked at Parsons. "These are Master Hand, Crazy Hand, and the Robins, although the young man over there also goes by the name Reflet to avoid confusion."

The group was made up of some of the most unusually dressed people Parsons had ever seen. Both the Robins—or rather, Robin and Reflet—were a young woman and a young man respectively who wore dark hooded long coats with gold accents and strange symbols of eyes adorning the sleeves. The other two, Master Hand and Crazy Hand (who goes by those names?), wore pristine white suits with black ties that had the same circular symbol as the wax seal on the letter he had found, albeit gray with black intersecting lines. But one of the weirdest things about them, or maybe it was just a coincidence, was that all of them had white hair. Did they recently just come from one of those fan conventions?

Master Hand, the oldest-looking man in the group, stood up from his seat. "So, you're the one who received one of our letters, correct?"

"Well, yes?"

Master Hand frowned, then rested his chin on his gloved right hand. Strangely, he didn't have one on his left hand. "Lucario, this isn't the correct recipient of the letter Crazy Hand and I sent a few days ago."

"Sir, this man knows Parsons."

"Actually, I am Parsons. Rodger Kenneth Parsons, though I have no idea what's going on, why I'm brought here, and who ANY of you are. If this is all just a mistake or mix-up or publicity stunt, I'd like to know right now, because I'd hate to waste my time getting into a more ridiculous situation than the one I got myself into recently."

"Give it up, bro," the man named Crazy Hand groaned. "So we've got the wrong one. Let's just go and pick someone else."

Crazy Hand was his brother? Now he had seen everything. But what did Crazy Hand mean, "the wrong one?" The wrong one for what?

"I'd hold off on following your suggestion for now, Crazy," Master Hand said. "It seems that there's more to this situation than I first thought."

"Master Hand, what are you thinking?" Reflet asked.

Master Hand didn't answer. Instead, he sat back down and motioned Parsons and Lucario toward the table. Parsons sat on the chair opposite of him and Crazy Hand, while Lucario remained standing by his side.

"Before we go any further, did you bring any Pokémon with you, Parsons?"

"Why?"

"Though I am somewhat disappointed at how things have turned out so far, I think it's also… salvageable."

Salvageable? What did that mean? The idea of the situation being salvageable must have been on everyone else's minds, because everyone then gave Master Hand a look of confusion.

"I'm just asking a simple question. Now, let me say this again: do you have any Pokémon with you?"

Hesitating, Parsons reached for his bag and removed a Poké Ball, then opened it to release Greninja, who materialized on the floor and looked around in confusion. Master Hand nodded once in what seemed to be approval.

"Hm… this was a surprise. But never mind that. The more important matter at—you know—is that you were instructed to come here by that letter. We're also sure that you're confused as to what's going on, so feel free to ask any of us away."

For a while, Parsons remained silent. There were a few things that he could do: one, he could simply stand up, walk away, and forget that any of this ever happened. The second option would be to stay and ask. Although the first was more sensible, the second also seemed to be the better choice, because he needed to know what was behind that letter and why it was delivered to his home.

But after asking Master Hand who he, Crazy Hand, and the Smashers were, leaving the group seemed to be the better (and perhaps saner) option.

Chapter Text

If there was one thing that Parsons was certainly thankful for when he was an announcer back in the day, it would be the exposure to all sorts of weirdness. Unexpected events happening in the middle of a match? Seen it. A trainer using unconventional tactics to defeat their opponent? Not unusual, and actually a very good way to impress him and the crowds. Legendary Pokémon? Many trainers had them, to the point where he thought they relied on them a bit too much (how it was possible for them to have Legendary and Mythical Pokémon in their possession in the first place was something he never fully understood). Based on his experiences on watching and commenting on matches between Pokémon trainers, it would be fair for someone to assume that he had grown accustomed to the unexpected. Or so he had thought.

What Master Hand and the others had explained to him was completely out of left field. It was all too wild and ridiculous, as if he had just listened to one of those outrageous stories that sometimes appeared on certain news channels. But no, apparently every word that came out of their mouths was true. For the duration of their discussion, he mostly just nodded as he listened and tried his best to comprehend everything, no matter how seemingly nonsensical.

One of the things they have told him was that they were from different worlds, or universes as they liked to call them, and that the Pokémon World, where he lived, was a part of what they called the Pokémon 'verse, or Poké 'verse for short. The Hands were from what they called the Smash 'verse, while Robin and Reflet were from two different worlds—or more accurately, timelines, according to Reflet—within a universe called the Fire Emblem or F.E. 'verse. Even the descriptions of their home universes varied wildly from each other: for instance, the Smash 'verse was known for the Smash Mansion, which was created—not built, created—by the Hands themselves and also served as a place for Smash Tournament participants to stay in, while the other was slightly similar to what the past few thousand years were like, with kings, armies, castles, and long-lasting wars, albeit with less Pokémon.

When Parsons asked what the Super Smash Bros. Tournaments were like, they explained to him that they took place in the Smash 'verse and that people—not just Pokémon—and other bizarre beings fought in battles that had them pitted against each other or in teams on a variety of stages. The battles were also hosted by the Hands, with Master Hand being the primary host and announcer while Crazy Hand was essentially his assistant.

At first, he doubted them and thought they didn't look the part, that they were either lying or out of their minds, but he quickly learned that saying that was a mistake, because when he did so Master Hand had grown quiet and given him a steely glare before restraining Crazy Hand, who had slammed his gloved fist on the table, spilling some of the contents from the food containers. Thankfully, neither of them harmed anyone to the point where he needed Greninja's help to defend himself and the others, but it was still a close call, and he did flinch from their sudden loss of temper.

But was it really something he had said? The Hands' reactions were a bit extreme, and he swore to Arceus that one of them even had their eyes briefly turn red. Or maybe it was just his imagination, because as quickly as the quarrel began, it abruptly ended when Master Hand got his brother to settle back down into his chair. When everything was back to normal again, Parsons saw that no one in the group had red eyes except Greninja and Lucario. Maybe it really was nothing after all, and that he was simply seeing things because he was afraid at that moment.

Most importantly, however, was that letter. Oh, was that letter so important, at least to the Hands. They explained that it was meant for his son, but because no one was at the apartment at the time it was delivered, it has instead lingered in the dumbwaiter for days until Parsons returned from his trip to Kalos, took out the envelope, and opened it. It also happened to be a sort of invitation to the so-called Fourth Tournament, and that it was intended to lead its recipient to meet with the Hands.

"I still don't understand one thing: what does my kid have to do with being invited?"

"Have you ever acknowledged his achievements, Parsons?" Master Hand asked.

"Well… I know that he's challenged the Sinnoh and Kalos Pokémon League, as well as a few other, smaller competitions—"

"How did he fare?"

"He was great, and he knew what to do even when he's standing with his back against the wall. Greninja was his favorite, and he always used him ever since Kalos. But now… he's given him to me and said that he wants me to have some company."

"Ja? Greninja!"

"Oh? Greninja has something important to tell you."

"Like what? Wait, did you—you can—"

"Every one of us in this room except you can understand what Greninja is saying, Parsons, because of the Hands' influence upon us,"  Lucario explained.

"Influence?"

"It's a sort of condition that only lasts until a Tournament is over and we officially return to our home 'verses, and one can only acquire it if they have gone to the Smash 'verse," Robin added. "Essentially, the Tournament participants obtain a minute fraction of their power once they arrive there, but it's temporary and the effects are weaker when outside of the Smash 'verse."

"Their—their power?" What did that mean? Robin wasn't saying that the Hands weren't human, right? Then again, considering everything so far—

"Yep, we're pretty much just like the Legendary Pokémon," Crazy Hand said. "'Cept that we're obviously not since they don't ever do this sort of thing that we're doing. And that me and my bro are probably a lot more powerful than they are, even though we don't look or act like it now. It's all true."

"Ja!"

"See? Even Greninja says that it's obvious we're not human or Legendary Pokémon!"

Greninja shook his head, then exclaimed "Ja! Ja! Greninja!" before pointing a webbed hand at Lucario, who tilted his head in confusion before nodding and looking at Parsons.

"He says that he wants to challenge us to a battle and that he wants you to help set up the battle conditions and fight alongside him. He wants to prove a point to all of us, especially you, Parsons."

What?

"No, no, no, we weren't here to get into that sort of mess. Now I do appreciate all that you've told me, but this has all been a misunderstanding and we really have to leave—"

"Ja, ja, ja! Greninjaaaa!"

Parsons could only stare at Greninja as the latter crossed his arms and stomped a webbed foot on the floor, his eyes filled with a mix of determination and defiance. What's going on here?

"Don't you get it?" Crazy Hand said. "He reeeeally wants to fight."

"But why?"

"He wants to fight because it's a matter of pride and interest in participating in the upcoming Smash Tournament, Parsons. I don't think any of us would want to turn this opportunity down, especially the Hands. As for myself, I gladly accept the challenge to further improve my experience in battle."

"That's right, Lucario," Master Hand agreed. "What is your decision, Parsons? You can choose the Colosseum, the type of battle… we are on someone else's turf, after all, so at least we're giving you the chance to decide."

Parsons grit his teeth. He didn't want any of this, not since the events from the past years, nor when he vowed to himself that he wouldn't get involved in battling again. He just wanted to deal with that letter, which he now regretted ever opening, even if it was an "accident" and was meant for his son. That's why he came here, right?

And now he had to deal with a challenge and Greninja's willingness (or was it stubbornness?) to prove a point? It was all getting to be confusing and frankly, he just wanted to leave and go home without ever remembering anything these five crazy strangers have told him.

"Have you decided on the battle conditions yet, Parsons?"

He blinked; he must have looked a bit like an idiot before the group for not having said anything for a while. Oh well, it's better if he made up something now.

"Gateway Colosseum, Free Double Battle, four Pokémon in each party, no duplicate items, and no duplicate Pokémon. Anything else?"

Master Hand nodded. "Fair enough. As for your opponent…"

Robin stood from her seat. "I'll do it," she said with a determined look on her face. "Like what Lucario said, I want to improve on my battling skills too, even if it's just giving out orders from one side of the battlefield instead of also being directly in the fight along with others in an entire army."

Parsons raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Is this your first Pokémon battle?"

Robin sat back down. "Yes," she answered, "but it doesn't seem to be difficult. At least on the surface of things, that is."

"And did you just say 'entire army'? What exactly do you do?"

"As for that, Parsons, Reflet and I are tacticians. People who create strategies and use tactics to ensure that the army doesn't immediately fall into enemy hands—if anyone would pardon the unintentional pun."

"We've read up on Pokémon battles when we were in the Smash Mansion before the Hands decided to give us a chance to visit this place," Reflet added. "To think that Pokémon and humans have lived together in this world for centuries, working together, battling together… it's truly fascinating how your world is like, Parsons. It's very different from where we came."

Those words weren't what he had expected from any of them, but to call it truly fascinating? Surely that was a bit of an exaggeration. But then again, Robin and Reflet came from a world that was completely different from this one; he'll give them that excuse a pass at least.

"Thank you Robin and Reflet, but I believe there are a few more important things about the upcoming battle that we still need to talk about," Master Hand said. "Now, when should the battle be held… Hm, what does anyone think of two days from now, sometime during the night? I think that's reasonable enough."

"You really think that's enough time to set up the battle, bro?"

"Yes, Crazy, and I know exactly what we should do to get everything right. In fact, I have a plan."

Master Hand didn't say anything else after that and instead gave Crazy Hand a brief glance before looking away. For a few minutes, the entire room was quiet, save for the faint humming of a distant air conditioner. It was weird and a little bit eerie, but then Crazy Hand grinned and he and Master Hand turned to look at Parsons. Strangely, the other three didn't seem to be bothered by the silence. Were they used to it?

"Sorry about that," Master Hand said, "but we can't exactly divulge everything we were discussing, although it does have something to do with the battle."

"Wait, what… what just happened between you and your brother?"

"It's something I like to call quiet telepathy. But never mind that, what's important for you to know is that the battle is going to be held two days from now at 9 p.m. in Gateway Colosseum. Remember that, as well as the battle conditions that you have chosen."

Parsons wanted to ask where all of them will be, but at this point he seriously wanted this whole business to be over with.

"All right, I will remember that."

He stood from his chair, thanked them, picked up his duffle bag, and walked to the elevator with Greninja following behind. When he and Greninja got inside after waiting for a few seconds and the elevator door closed, he looked at him.

Oh, if only he could understand what Greninja was saying behind the low rumble that he was currently making. Was he saying something about the battle?

"Is everything all right, Greninja?"

No answer. Parsons sighed.

"I understand that you want to challenge Lucario and who knows what other Pokémon they have, but I'm not going. It's asking for too much from me."

Greninja hissed, seemingly out of annoyance, before folding his arms and looking away to stare at the gray elevator door. What was it with that Pokémon, and why did he make such a big deal out of the challenge? Maybe it was because of all the talk about fighting, but then again, Parsons was no Pokémon researcher, so who knew what was running through Greninja's head?

"I'm not getting into any more battles, Greninja. Not anymore."

Moments passed, then— 

Ding.

The door opened for them, but they didn't leave. Not yet.

"I know that this might seem stupid for me for not telling you my reason for not wanting to go, but… it's partly because of what happened years ago."

That must have gotten Greninja's attention, for he had turned to look at him again, but not with a glare. The look in his red eyes was somewhat hard to read; it didn't seem to give away annoyance or anger, but at the same time, it wasn't exactly soft and friendly. Despite that, it was clear that Greninja was willing to listen.

"If there's something that I learned from the day I found out the truth about why I was laid off of my job along with the others, it would be that I hate being lied to. It hurts, and it makes me want to distrust them and not associate myself with them anymore. What one of my bosses did wasn't very good, having told everyone that we don't have enough funds or something like that, and in the end, it turned out they were lies meant to cover up the fact that we actually lost against someone who wanted to take our place and kick all of us out, essentially saying that we should get lost because we're not worth anything and that they can do such a good job that they don't need us anymore."

He paused. Greninja said nothing, though he tilted his head in confusion.

"I don't know if you got everything that I just said, but I gave my reason, and now you know why I feel that way about… well."

Greninja moved closer. For a while, he didn't say anything and just gave him a look of what seemed to be understanding. And then he nodded.

"Okay, I don't know if you really meant a yes, no, or something else entirely, but thank you, Greninja. For at least hearing me out."

They stepped out of the elevator and walked out of the building, with neither of them saying another word. After they headed out of Sunny Park, they sat quietly on a bench near the street, watching the cars go by as they waited for a cab.

As much as he hated to admit it, he had his work cut out for him.

Chapter Text

Five minutes was all it would take before Parsons had to walk outside.

He was in the waiting room of Gateway Colosseum, which floated in Pokétopia Bay, having arrived by boat about an hour ago with a small duffle bag carrying four Poké Balls that contained his battle party.

It was also clear that at this point, it would be stupid to turn back on the five strangers' agreement. It didn't help that he saw advertisements about the event yesterday, which was even covered by various news channels; one, in particular, showed a Lucario and a young man with white hair—was it Crazy Hand?—going around one of the busiest streets of Pokétopia and handing out flyers to people and putting up posters everywhere. What was even more surprising was the fact that many people were more-or-less enthusiastic about the event; who would've thought that they would be interested in seeing someone like him participating in a match? Did they even know or remember who he was or who he was going to face on the battlefield?

Then again, did it really matter at all? Battles were just that, battles; it didn't really matter if he was a newcomer or a veteran, people just wanted a good show. He looked up again; two minutes until 9 p.m. He approached a large, circular doorway that automatically opened up before him, then went outside of the waiting room.

When he entered a neon-lit arena, he was greeted by the sound of a trumpet blaring a brief tune, as well as a cheering crowd, which he waved at in return. Meanwhile, there was a familiar deep voice that boomed above the din.

"STEPPING INTO THE RING AND ONTO THE BLUE CORNER, IS THE ONE ALSO CALLED MR. NARRATOR… RODGER KENNETH PARSOOOOONS!"

Was that… Master Hand? Was he announcing the match?

"AND FROM THE RED CORNER, ACCOMPANIED BY HER PARTNER REFLET, IS TEAM SMASH'S MYSTERIOUS CHALLENGER… RRRRRRRRROBIN!"

Sure enough, he saw Robin, Reflet, and Lucario standing in the center of the battlefield. Robin had what looked to be a nervous smile on her face, although she was genuinely enjoying herself as she waved at the cheering crowd. Reflet seemed to like the attention as well, but he was somewhat more reserved and didn't wave as much as Robin. Lastly, in sharp contrast to the tacticians, Lucario didn't even look at the crowd and simply stared at Parsons with intense red eyes, his body briefly surrounded by a blue field of aura that dissipated shortly afterward.

The four of them briefly shook hands before they walked to their respective corners, with Parsons heading toward the Blue Corner and the trio over to the Red Corner. He set down and opened his duffle bag and took out a regular Poké Ball and a Great Ball, then watched Robin retrieve two Poké Balls from a small bag attached to her belt.

"Whenever you're ready," he said.

"Let's do it."

When they threw their Poké Balls, he heard Robin yell "Here's how it's done!", and once the four of them landed on the Colosseum floor, they instantly released a Torterra and a Pachirisu, as well as a Charizard and a Jigglypuff.

As the Pokémon stared each other down, familiar music from the Colosseum's speakers flowed throughout the air, bolstering the crowd's already enthusiastic mood. It was Tawada's theme for Gateway Colosseum battles, and it was filled to the brim with vigor, with a synthesizer and an electric guitar providing the music's main drive. For a long time, it mostly lingered in the back of Parsons' mind as a part of nearly forgotten memories of overseeing battles between Pokémon trainers that occurred here.

Until now.

"THIS IS AN IMPORTANT MATCH BETWEEN A FORMER POKÉMON BATTLE ANNOUNCER AND A NEW, MYSTERIOUS CHALLENGER! WHO WILL BECOME THE VICTOR... TONIGHT?"

 


 

Although it has been a while since his last battle, that didn't necessarily mean that Parsons forgot everything there was to them.

"Pachirisu, use Light Screen!"

At once, the blue and white EleSquirrel Pokémon's cheeks glowed yellow, creating sparks of electricity that formed into two force fields made of clear, yellow hexagons that appeared and surrounded him and Torterra.

"Charizard, go ahead and use Flamethrower on Torterra!"

The opposing Charizard flew up, then breathed a harsh stream of flames toward Torterra, who only flinched slightly from the heat. After a while, Charizard stopped using Flamethrower when it became obvious that the attack wasn't doing as much damage as expected.

Robin gasped. "Wait, isn't that supposed to be super effective?"

"THAT WAS AN EXCELLENT START-UP MOVE FROM THE BLUE CORNER!"

"Special attacks like Flamethrower won't faze them," Reflet observed, "so switch to physical ones instead, Robin!"

"Right! Jigglypuff, use Rollout on Pachirisu!"

Jigglypuff curled up into a ball, spinning rapidly in place before charging toward Pachirisu, who leaped into the air to dodge the attack.

"Use Crunch on Jigglypuff, Torterra!"

As Jigglypuff missed Pachirisu and rolled straight toward Torterra, the latter then caught Jigglypuff in his jaws, threatening to crush its flailing, round body before flinging it back to the Red Corner's half, where it slowly fell like a balloon back to the floor of the battlefield.

"Discharge!"

Pachirisu's cheeks glowed bright yellow, and his body fired bolts of electricity toward Jigglypuff and Charizard, shocking them both. Charizard roared in pain, eliciting a surprised "Whoa!" from the crowd. And, as if that wasn't enough, Charizard's body continued being surrounded by yellow sparks—it was paralyzed!

"THE RED CORNER IS AT A DISADVANTAGE! IS IT POSSIBLE FOR THEM TO TURN THE TIDE OF BATTLE IN THEIR FAVOR?"

As Charizard couldn't move, it was Jigglypuff's turn. Robin commanded it to use Sing, but before anyone could succumb to sleepiness, Torterra knocked it away again as he stormed toward the immobile Charizard.

"Take Charizard down with Crunch!"

With surprising speed, Torterra seized Charizard by the neck with his powerful jaws, lifted it up into the air, then slammed it onto the floor with such force that the entire Colosseum shook a little.

"THAT'S GOT TO HURT!"

When Torterra finally let go of Charizard, the latter was left with a sizable neck wound, which had the crowd gasping in shock. Badly injured, Charizard huffed and heaved heavy breaths as it slowly stood back up with great effort.

"Use Discharge one more time!"

Pachirisu's cheeks glowed again, followed by his body releasing a massive surge of electricity, creating an impressive display that lit up the entire Colosseum. But while Jigglypuff was surprisingly able to narrowly dodge the bolts, the exhausted Charizard wasn't so lucky; a few moments after Pachirisu ceased discharging, Charizard keeled over and collapsed onto the Colosseum floor.

"CHARIZARD… HAS BEEN DEFEATED! AND RIGHT FROM THE START!"

For Parsons, it has been a long while since he saw one of his opponent's Pokémon defeated before his eyes. He should be satisfied, like any other trainer, yet he wasn't; it was still too early on in the battle. Meanwhile, he saw Robin smile and return Charizard into its Poké Ball. Behind her, he could see Reflet and Lucario nodding in what seemed to be approval as well. Despite the setback, he could tell that they were still determined to battle.

"Jigglypuff, roll up to Pachirisu and then use Pound!"

Jigglypuff curled into a ball that rolled toward Pachirisu, then extended one of its stubby arms to punch him in the stomach. When the attack connected, Pachirisu briefly flinched from the light blow, but otherwise, it was a light hit. While Pachirisu was recovering from the blow, Parsons ordered Torterra to use Leech Seed on Jigglypuff; after Torterra launched a few strange glowing seeds toward Jigglypuff, vines immediately grew out of them and wrapped around Jigglypuff's body, siphoning its health away.

"What a nice set-up, Parsons," Robin remarked, throwing another Poké Ball, "but you only defeated one so far. Let's go, Pikachu!"

A yellow Mouse Pokémon leaped out of the Poké Ball and landed on the floor, its red cheeks sparking. Another Electric-type on the battlefield? They must be taking a risk then.

"THE RED CORNER MAY BE DOWN BY ONE POKÉMON, BUT IT'S STILL TOO EARLY TO SAY!"

"All right, Pikachu, you've got this! Get Pachirisu with a Quick Attack!"

Pikachu zipped across the floor with astonishing speed, so much that it appeared to be a blur.

"Super Fang!"

At first, Pachirisu's two front teeth glowed white, then grew longer and sharper, but before he could bite Pikachu, the latter headbutted and sent him flying over Parsons. After slowly standing up, Pachirisu chirped, and Parsons sighed in relief—despite the pain, Pachirisu was eager to continue fighting, and he ran back to the center of the battlefield.

"Jigglypuff, Rollout on Pachirisu!"

The pink puffball curled up and homed in on Pachirisu, who dodged by jumping onto Torterra's massive continent-like shell. He scurried to the shell's tree, peeking out from within its leaves to watch Jigglypuff roll away and miss.

"Earthquake!"

Torterra lifted his two front legs, then slammed them onto the floor, causing it to rumble violently and nearly tear open. As the whole place shook, many things seemed to happen simultaneously: Parsons, Robin, Reflet, and Lucario stumbled and lost their balance; Pachirisu held tightly onto a bough for dear life; Jigglypuff jumped several times and floated above the destruction; and Pikachu was sent flying high by the force of the quake, only to CRASH behind Robin, Reflet, and Lucario. When the earthquake finally subsided, Pikachu slowly stood up and grimaced in pain, barely holding on. Meanwhile, Jigglypuff continued to have its health sapped away, no matter how hard it tried to shake the vines off of it.

"THIS DOESN'T SEEM TO BODE WELL FOR THE RED CORNER!"

Despite Master Hand's commentary and the injuries, Pikachu shook itself off and began glowing in a white-blue aura.

"Charge up your Skull Bash, Pikachu, and let Jigglypuff protect you!"

As Pikachu continued glowing and raising its defenses, Jigglypuff stepped in front of it and slightly puffed itself up in an attempt to cover Pikachu.

"Pachirisu, use U-turn on Jigglypuff!"

Pachirisu ran up to Jigglypuff, harshly slapping it on the face with his spiked tail before leaping backward and seamlessly returning back into his Poké Ball, which Parsons had been holding. Parsons hastily placed Pachirisu's Ball back into his bag, took out another, and threw it, releasing—

"Honchkrow!"

The large raven-like Pokémon burst out of his Poké Ball and landed on the arena floor, glaring menacingly at his opponents with his red eyes. At least Pachirisu's Light Screen was still in effect, because Honchkrow was surrounded by a yellow barrier just like Torterra.

"Jigglypuff, use Sing on Honchkrow!"

At once, Jigglypuff opened its mouth and began singing colorful music notes flowing and swirling toward Honchkrow. But despite the notes hitting him at full force, Honchkrow didn't fall asleep.

"JIGGLYPUFF SINGS, BUT THE TARGET POKÉMON STAYED AWAKE DUE TO INSOMNIA! THE MOVE FAILED!"

"You've got to be kidding me," Robin said.

Parsons didn't say anything, though he had to smirk at the blunder. Guess it was good to have chosen the one with Insomnia instead of Super Luck, even though he couldn't foresee Team Smash's line-up. Of course, that was just one of the advantages he had now.

"Torterra, finish Pikachu with Giga Drain!"

Torterra opened his mouth and fired a glowing, green beam that fully covered Pikachu's body, absorbing what little life it had left. Throughout this, Pikachu squeaked in agony, and only after what seemed to be a while, Torterra finally released his attack's grip, causing the beam, now filled with life energy, to spiral back toward his mouth and coalesce into a ball. Once Torterra swallowed it, Pikachu collapsed onto the floor and laid there motionlessly, having been drained of its energy.

"PIKACHU… HAS BEEN DEFEATED!"

As Robin returned Pikachu and the Light Screen barriers disappeared from Torterra and Honchkrow, more cheers erupted from the crowd, and Parsons could hear that they were also saying his name. Some of the onlookers, however, were also cheering for Team Smash, wanting them to win despite having lost two Pokémon already.

What stuck out the most, to his surprise, was his son's voice calling out "Hey, Dad!"

He looked around and spotted Michael and Emilie not far from where he stood. Unlike the rest of the audience, they were not in the stands; instead, they were behind the fences that directly encircled the battlefield, waving to get his attention.

"You've got this, Dad, you've got two more. I believe in you!"

"I believe in you too! Now go on and win this!"

He turned his attention to Team Smash; from the Red Corner, he could see Robin smiling at him.

"Is your family here to watch us battle, Parsons?" she asked.

"Yes, it seems."

"Very nice. You know, I think they're proud of you. For being out here."

Parsons looked back at them. Was it really true that they were proud of him? Even after he had expressed little enthusiasm during their battle outside of their Kalosian home? It was funny that they would think that—surely they noticed his indifference before. But whatever the reason, he was currently in a position that was outside of his comfort zone. And yet…

"Let's keep this going, shall we? Lucario, go on and help Jigglypuff!"

Parsons saw that, rather than being sent out of a Poké Ball, Lucario simply walked to where Pikachu once fainted. And judging from Lucario's intense eyes and folded arms, he—no, Team Smash—was ready for what appeared to be the next phase of the battle.

"THE LAST TWO POKÉMON FROM THE RED CORNER ARE TAKING THE FIELD. WHO WILL SEIZE VICTORY NOW?"

 


 

It was down to two Pokémon, at least for the Red Corner.

"You've come pretty far, we'll give you that," Robin said. She was right; Parsons had already defeated two of Team Smash's Pokémon, with only two remaining to be defeated. That much was obvious. But what she didn't know was that she was also right in another way, one that was a bit more personal even though she, let alone the rest of Team Smash, didn't know everything there was about him. It was strange, really, that he chose to battle, to return to the scene that he tried to avoid in the past.

So why didn't he stop himself from accepting their offer?

"What is your next move, Parsons?"

His next move? Well…

"Hmph. It does not matter. Perhaps it's my turn to make things more interesting."

And with that, Lucario held his paws up and lifted his leg in a martial arts stance, never taking his eyes off Parsons and his Pokémon. As he held his pose, two copies of himself appeared to his left and right sides.

"Honchkrow, use Dark Pulse on Lucario!"

Honchkrow flew up and put his wings in front of him, then released a shock of dark aura toward Lucario. However, the attack only struck Lucario's stationary clones, which flickered while the real Lucario gracefully leaped out of the way just in time, making Honchkrow croak in surprise.

"WHAT AN EVASIVE MANEUVER! I WONDER HOW THE BLUE CORNER WILL FARE WITH THIS!"

"Jigglypuff, use Sing on Torterra!"

Notes swirled toward Torterra, hitting him in the face. His eyes grew heavier and heavier as Jigglypuff continued singing, then his body collapsed on the floor. When Parsons yelled for him to get up, he didn't budge from his lullaby-induced slumber.

Now it was Lucario's turn again, and he made even more illusory copies of himself, which lined up along the Red Corner's half of the battlefield. Honchkrow eyed each of them, but like before, no matter how hard he looked, all of them looked exactly the same.

"Pluck!"

Honchkrow rushed at the copies of Lucario, piercing through all of them until he suddenly hit the real one, who grunted in pain from the impact.

"Jigglypuff, Rollout on Honchkrow!"

The attack was sudden, hitting Honchkrow at the back of his fedora-like crested head. It knocked him to the floor, leaving him dazed and worse for wear. He wanted to get up, but he was too weak from the harsh blow.

"Hang in there, Honchkrow!"

Despite Parsons' loud voice, neither Honchkrow or Torterra stirred, the former due to his injuries (and to the back of the head, no less) and the latter still being in a deep sleep.

"THE BLUE CORNER IS IN A REALLY TOUGH SITUATION NOW! IS THIS WHERE THE TIDE OF THE BATTLE TURNS IN FAVOR OF THE RED CORNER?"

Breaking away from his Double Team formation, Lucario leaped toward Torterra and landed near his face, his paws glowing and forming a bright blue ball of aura. After a few seconds of charging up the ball, which had grown to be his size, he unleashed it right on Torterra's sleeping face.

Torterra didn't even have time to react to the direct shot to the head before he collapsed once again.

"TORTERRA… HAS BEEN DEFEATED!"

Parsons couldn't believe it. It was almost too fitting, really, that the first of his party to go down was Torterra. The Continent Pokémon had been a longtime friend ever since he was a little Turtwig, so when Parsons had to return Torterra into his Poké Ball, a frown crossed his face. It was the same feeling he had when he returned from Kalos, when he was riding home in a cab from the airport, as well as when he looked out to Neon Colosseum from his apartment windows. But what did it all mean?

He'll deal with the feeling later, however. If anything provided him a bit of reassurance now, it would be the fact that he still had more Pokémon than his opponents.

"Honchkrow, try to get Jigglypuff with Pluck again!"

Using his remaining strength, Honchkrow flapped his wings and took to the air, then dove toward Jigglypuff beak first, landing a blow that sent Jigglypuff flying, only for it to deflate and float back down to the floor like a used-up balloon.

"JIGGLYPUFF… HAS BEEN DEFEATED!"

Parsons breathed a sigh of relief when he heard those words, unlike the tacticians in the Red Corner, who seemed to be more worried now that they were down to one Pokémon. He saw Robin return Jigglypuff, while behind her, Reflet put a hand on his chin. "This is a check for us," he heard him say. "But we can trust Lucario on this, Robin. Allow him to do the rest."

She nodded at him, then said to Lucario, "You can do this, right? We know that you're an experienced fighter, and we trust your skills so that you can continue on your own. We'll just be here for your support."

Lucario nodded back at her, then looked at Parsons with eyes that glinted with fierce determination yet had a sense of calmness behind them. It was a look Parsons was familiar with, having seen it many times before—a look that was often made when one, as he used to always say, was standing with their backs against the wall, with the rest being up to the remaining Pokémon.

In the next two turns, Lucario easily swept Honchkrow and Pachirisu with Extreme Speed and Aura Sphere, only getting into minor trouble when Pachirisu bit him with Super Fang and reduced his health by half. All the while though, he wasn't deterred or slowed down by his injuries. Truly, he had experience in fighting, despite not seeming to have an actual human trainer and was instead making his own moves without direct input from the tacticians.

After Pachirisu was knocked out by an Aura Sphere, Parsons realized that he only had one more Pokémon left.

The last Pokémon from each team will take the field.

Chapter Text

The battle has reached its final stage, and the tension is peaking.

In a brilliant flash of light, Greninja burst out of his Poké Ball, his red eyes glinting with confidence. The Colosseum became as quiet as a Rattata, save for a few gasps and murmurs. Even Parsons gazed in silence across the battlefield for what seemed to be a while.

It was a situation that he was familiar with, one that he had observed whenever trainers were down to their last Pokémon; it was the part where everyone held their breath in anticipation, the part where time appeared to be slowed by Dialga itself.

And most importantly, it was the part where things got the most exciting.

"Shadow Sneak!"

After Greninja gave a quick glance to Parsons, a shadow formed underneath the frog ninja Pokémon, then moved on its own across the battlefield toward Lucario and his Double Team-copies, who were standing in the same line formation along the Red Corner's half. Greninja then disappeared, moving so fast one could easily mistake him to have teleported and ended up behind the formation to deliver a swift kick to the back of Lucario's head—

Only for the Lucario to flicker. Overhead, the crowd gasped as the real Lucario moved swiftly behind Greninja with a bright blue ball of aura forming between his paws.

"Substitute!"

It was at that moment that Greninja struck a pose right before the Aura Sphere made contact, then disappeared in a big puff of smoke that lingered on the battlefield as a Substitute Doll suddenly appeared in his place. The crowd gasped again.

"Hydro Pump!"

High above the smoke cloud, Greninja fired two high-pressured jets of water toward Lucario, sending the latter back several feet toward the tacticians, who scrambled to get away just in time. Lucario then slammed against one of the columns of the encircling fences, and when Greninja finally ceased attacking, Lucario's body slumped onto the floor, wet and cold from the torrents that hit him.

"LOOKS LIKE LUCARIO APPEARS TO BE STRUGGLING! DOES THIS MEAN THE END FOR THE RED CORNER?"

Even from a distance, Parsons could tell that Lucario was desperately holding on: he rose slowly to his feet, only to briefly stumble like a newborn Ponyta as he trudged back toward the Red Corner's side of the battlefield, his teeth bared in a grimace.

"HOW MUCH MORE CAN LUCARIO TAKE?"

Lucario walked past Robin and Reflet, who started for him. "Take it easy now, Lucario," Robin said. "You're only pushing yourself to your limits."

"She's right," Reflet said. "Don't strain yourself. You're badly hurt from your injuries."

But Lucario only raised a paw toward them. "No. Let this be."

"What do you mean?" asked Robin.

In the stands, the crowd murmured, wondering why the match had come to a halt.

Lucario didn't reply to her, turning his attention instead to Parsons and Greninja. "Both of you… have fought well… against… Team Smash. I… no, we will congratulate you for your efforts, despite your initial hesitancy for battle."

Parsons gasped a little. What was Lucario doing? Was he accepting his defeat? It was yet another scenario similar to what he had seen during his time as a Pokémon battle announcer: many trainers made such declarations whenever they felt that they were done for the count, whenever they had everything stacked against them.

"I… we… admit defeat, Parsons. My strength… is failing me."

"What are you saying?" Parsons asked. "You've already defeated several of my Pokémon, Lucario, and you've already taken Greninja down a bit, so why are you stopping now?"

There was a low chuckle. "You… are an amusing human, Parsons."

"What do you mean? What's so funny?"

"You speak about me, that I shouldn't give up at this moment, and yet…" Lucario sighed, then dropped to one knee. "I wonder about something: why didn't you stop yourself from choosing to battle against us? Why did you continue and accept our offer? Did you do it only for yourself, or was it for someone else? Weren't you opposed to returning to the Pokémon battling scene?"

Parsons didn't answer him. What Lucario said was right, that he chose to continue through with the invitation and challenge that was given to him despite his initial hesitancy and opposition. But only for his own sake?

No, that wasn't the reason. Not at all, not since the past few days that is. It was all thanks to Greninja, ever since he had received him from his son as a gift; it was because of Greninja that he was in this colosseum, in the strange but extraordinary position of a Pokémon trainer that was in the midst of a battle in front of hundreds that have gathered for tonight's match. Just like what he oversaw as an announcer years ago before that infamous day.

Maybe—just maybe —a part of him, the somewhat stubborn and prideful part of him that he had kept buried for a long time, wanted to relive those days again. It was, after all, a time when things were better.

However, that was the past and there was no point in going back to it now, and he wouldn't even dare pray for Celebi or Dialga to turn back time. No, this was now, and he had already come so far to reclaim some of that former glory.

"It was for Greninja," Parsons said. "I wanted him to be happy, so I accepted this challenge. I didn't want to let him down, even though I was against the battle at first. But now I realize that I also wanted to do it for myself." He looked at his son and daughter-in-law. "And for them."

The slightest of smiles then appeared on Lucario's face. "Then you know what you must do, Parsons. You must make them proud for having you."

"But—"

"I'm able to take one more blow, Parsons. Make it so that this will be a spectacular ending for this battle. That you and Greninja are worthy."

"Worthy?"

Lucario closed his eyes, and Parsons understood what that meant: if Lucario wanted the battle to end this way, so be it.

"Lucario!" Robin cried.

"Water Shuriken!"

A glob of water formed in Greninja's hands, then after several seconds of charging up, he flung several watery ninja stars toward Lucario; after all five of them made direct hits, Lucario fainted and collapsed to the floor.

"LUCARIO… HAS BEEN DEFEATED! VICTORY GOES TO THE BLUE CORNER… TOOOONIGHT!"

The crowd then erupted into final wild applause.

 


 

It was past midnight when Parsons found himself near the edge of a forest that bordered the northeast corner of Sunny Park, which was quiet and empty; it was a relief from talking with the reporters, journalists, and audience members about his thoughts about the battle. There was no one else around here except for the occasional flitting shadows of Zubat and other nocturnal Pokémon, and even though he found it a strange sight (as he never visited the park at night even during his announcer days), he was somewhat comforted.

"Hey, Dad, why are you here? Is there anything going on?"

Parsons sighed; he should've known Michael and Emilie were going to follow him here. "I have to talk with Team Smash about something very important, but it's nothing that you need to worry about."

"Mr. Parsons—"

"Just call me Rodger."

"What exactly is going on here? We've seen you talking with some of them earlier after that fight."

"Yeah, we're not going anywhere unless you tell us," Michael said. "Y'know we're with you, Dad."

Parsons sighed again. "Fine. But I'm going into the forest because I've been told by the Hands to go there—"

"The Hands?"

It was then that a glowing white light appeared from somewhere within the forest. Parsons walked toward it, with Michael and Emilie following him. After the glare of the mysterious light died down, they approached five figures standing before a white portal.

"Congratulations on winning, Parsons," said Master Hand.

"Thank you," he replied.

"I thought you did great out there, Parsons," Robin said as she shook his hand. "Perhaps I can say that you had better tactics than me." She looked at Michael and Emilie. "You are lucky to have him, you know."

"Right," said Reflet, who nodded in agreement, "but I think all of us did great, Robin, especially Lucario during that final stretch. You had to admire his mettle despite being weakened prior to fighting against Greninja."

Lucario looked at Parsons with a faint smile. "Reflet, I admire your sentiments, but I believe that there's something about Parsons and Greninja that is worth mentioning too."

"What do you mean?" Parsons asked.

"I'm referring to your renewed enthusiasm for Pokémon battles, Parsons, as well as Greninja's general enthusiasm. It's a quality that is respected in many things, and now you've realized it along with your determination and wanting to make someone happy, from Greninja,"  Lucario then looked at Michael and Emilie, "to your family."

Though it was strange to hear such a statement from a Pokémon, Parsons had to agree. He looked at Michael, who was beaming at him; did he know that his father had changed? That something about the battle made such an impression on him? Parsons wanted to ask Michael so many questions, but that will have to wait until later.

"Is it also possible for me to speak with Greninja, Parsons? I have something that I wish to tell him."

"All right." Parsons opened his duffle bag and took out a Poké Ball, releasing Greninja. The frog Pokémon looked confused upon seeing his surroundings.

"Ninja?"

"After the battle, we deemed you to be worthy of joining the Super Smash Bros. What do you say?"

There was a low muttering, and then Greninja fell silent. Parsons was worried: what was going on here?

Then Greninja nodded and shook Lucario's paw.

"I see that you want to better yourself. But what about Parsons and his family? Are you sure about going on your own?"

Greninja nodded again.

"Dad, did that… Lucario just talk? What's all this got to do about Greninja? He can't—"

Before Parsons could answer, Lucario said, "It means that he intends to join and live with us in the Smash 'verse for a while."

Parsons was at a loss for words. Greninja leaving? Tonight? And to think that it was only after a few days of being together, as well as having got back to the battle scene after so many years of trying to avoid it… It was, in short, a surreal scene to witness, let alone be a part of. A part of him wanted to protest, but his mind was already heavy with sadness.

"I just want to say something," he said weakly. "I'm… I'm sorry, Greninja. For pushing away what you and Michael love. For what I once loved."

For what seemed like a long time, there was only silence in the forest. It was a silence not unlike the silence held over the end of a Colosseum battle, the kind that permeated the air with a sort of relief mixed with expectation as trainers awaited the announcement of their win or loss.

Greninja held onto Parsons' hand, then tugged on it gently.

"What is it, Greninja?"

It was after a few more tugs that Parsons noticed that Greninja had his arms wide open.

"Hm?"

Without warning, Greninja embraced Parsons, who gasped at the sudden affectionate gesture, though he eventually reciprocated it. It was funny, really, for him to be hugged by his son's—no, his —Pokémon, as he never expected Greninja to leave him so soon.

"Are they serious, Dad?" Michael asked. "Wh-what's really going here? Are they taking Greninja away?"

Parsons broke up from the hug. "He's not, son. Greninja decided to go on his own with Team Smash, that's all."

"And you're just letting him go now? W-why Dad?"

"Rodger, wasn't Greninja given to you as a gift? Why would you give him away so quickly after Michael gave him to you?"

Before Parsons could reply to Emilie, Lucario answered, "Greninja's decision to go to Smash was also partly due to my own actions. Near the end of that battle, I judged him to be a great addition to the Smash roster, as did the Hands."

"Lucario is right," said Master Hand. "Crazy Hand and I decided that, based on your Greninja's performance, he is a perfect Pokémon representative along with Lucario and a few others. And while his species' popularity is a given, he, in particular, showed such determination and skill that everyone was impressed. Especially my brother and I."

"Yeah, yeah, this is nice and sad and all, but can we just get this 'saying-goodbye' thing over already, bro? Y'know we still have a bunch of letters to give out!"

Everyone stared at Crazy Hand, who was pointing at the portal behind him.

"You really need to stop being rude like that, Crazy," Master Hand said, clearly annoyed at the interruption. He looked back at everyone else. "He's right, though, we do have a lot more to go through. But first, some parting gifts."

As if seemingly out of nowhere, Master Hand held up four Holo Casters and gave them to each of Parsons' family, including Greninja. They looked like any other Holo Casters, save for their color, which was a rare white.

"What are these Holo Casters for, Master Hand?" asked Parsons.

"They might look ordinary, but these are actually modified by myself and my brother. You may think of them as inter-universal communicators that grant their users the means to talk to each other despite literally being universes apart. In other words, all three of you can chat with Greninja whenever you'd like, no matter how far you are."

There was a sound like a sob, and Parsons saw Greninja embracing Michael. "I-I… I don't know what to say," Michael said, all choked up as he released Greninja from the hug. "I still can't believe that I'm kind of letting Greninja go. He's been my partner since I traveled through Kalos, and now, we can't be with him." He paused and sniffed. "But at least my dad, my wife, and I can keep in touch. That way we're still kind of together."

Greninja looked at Michael with his eyes also close to tears. But then Greninja turned away and walked toward Lucario, who nodded and said, "Do not worry, Greninja. You will be fine with us in Smash."

With a nod, Greninja waved at Parsons, Michael, and Emilie, who waved back at him and the rest of Team Smash as they walked toward the portal and disappeared one after the other.

Michael raised a hand to his face. "Goodbye, Greninja!" he said as he wiped away a tear. "I won't forget you!"

After Master Hand went through the portal last, there was another flash of light, leaving Parsons and his family in the forest with only the sound of hooting Noctowl and the distant city sounds to accompany them.

 


 

Epilogue

"Hey, are both of you all right?" Emilie asked. "Your food's going to be cold."

One night after Parsons' battle against Team Smash, he and his family found themselves sitting on a table in a nearly empty ramen-ya restaurant not far from Main Street Colosseum, as per Emilie's suggestion. Emilie had been eagerly slurping her noodles, while Parsons ate slowly, pausing every so often to look at Michael, who sat on the opposite side and was staring at his barely-touched bowl.

"I'm fine," Michael muttered. "Yesterday's just been a lot to take in."

Parsons nodded. "I know, Michael. I feel the same way."

"Dad, you don't understand."

"I do, Michael," Parsons said firmly.

"What do you know about losing someone or something you love, Dad?"

Parsons sighed. "Listen to me. Remember back then, when I lost my job as an announcer for Go Stadiums? And then I had to take up smaller ones to help us get by?"

Michael nodded slowly. After taking a few strands of noodles, Parsons continued, "It broke my heart when I heard that my coworkers and I were being laid off; I absolutely hated it. Hated it, hated it when it happened. You have no idea how much I wanted to go to the CEO of GS and challenge him, to say that everything he told us was a lie and that it was all just a mean prank that he tried to pull on us.

"Of course, it didn't happen that way, and then things went south for everyone. But I loved being an announcer, Michael, and I loved being there to watch the battles, to see the trainers do their best. After that battle and having Greninja leave for the Smash 'verse, it looked like history was just going to repeat itself, but then I realized something."

"Like what?" Michael asked, absentmindedly poking at his noodles with his chopsticks.

"As much as I wished to go back in time to fix things, I now think it's best to just stick with the present and make the best of it. I didn't want Greninja to go either, but it was his decision, and I allowed it because it seemed to make him happy."

"Still doesn't change the fact that he's gone, Dad. I miss him."

"I know, Michael, I do too. But he's not really gone forever. We have the Holo Casters Master Hand gave us."

"That's right!" Emilie said. "We can get in touch with Greninja after dinner, that way we can check up on him and maybe even meet some people in the Smash 'verse. What do you say?"

Michael sighed. "I guess we can, Em. Sure."

"Okay," she said, placing a comforting hand on Michael's shoulder. "We'll do just that. And for Rodger too."

With a still-heavy heart, Parsons could only muster a small smile in agreement.

Chapter Text

 Hand-Delivered-Letters-Cover-Art

For Sojiro Sakura, business in Café Leblanc was the same as always. Well, for the most part: there were the usual customers, like people such as Sae Niijima (who has since transitioned from being a prosecutor to a defense attorney), coming over and ordering the café's specialties of curry and coffee. Sure, it wasn't exactly the hottest spot in Yongen-Jaya, but it still brought enough business, and that was what mattered.

Not the most, however, because Sojiro had Futaba. Ever since several strange events that happened a while back, he made sure to take better care of her, all thanks to a young man who was once on probation that turned out to be much more than what he first expected. He didn't understand much of the kid's and his friends' business of stealing hearts and going into something called the Metaverse; still, it was from what they did that made him rethink some of the things he did, especially when it came to Futaba. Indeed, it was because of them that she had a change of heart; Futaba was even a part of their group, having been their navigator, whatever that meant.

But that was in the past when the Phantom Thieves existed to thwart crimes and were the talk of the town — no, of the world. These days, there isn't much to say about weird things like mental shutdowns or psychotic breakdowns. In short, life was normal, albeit with more competent adults who have taken action for the better, like the politician Toranosuke Yoshida.

As Sojiro prepared a second helping of curry for Futaba, who was sitting at the otherwise empty bar counter with her laptop, the front door opened to two men he had never seen before. He stopped and stared at them, if only because of how unusual they looked: one appeared older and the other younger. However, both shared the characteristics of having white hair and wore white business suits with black ties, with the older man carrying a black suitcase with a strange circular symbol on it. Futaba and some of the other café patrons must have thought the same thing, never taking their eyes off the two even as they took their seats at the bar counter.

"Can I get you anything?" asked Sojiro.

In a rather deep voice, the older man in white replied, "Are you Sojiro Sakura, the café manager?"

Sojiro started; how did they know his name? If his memory served him correctly, he never met them before, not even when he was still a government official working in contact with the research center Futaba's mother, Wakaba, was a part of. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Futaba slightly pull down the top panel of her laptop before he gave the man a wary look.

"I am," Sojiro answered, trying not to sound annoyed. "Now, is there something that I can get you?"

"I'm sorry. Two katsu curries and two cups of Jamaican Blue Mountain," said the older man in white, indicating two gloved fingers for each of the food and drink. Sojiro went to the shelves and picked out the jar filled with the aforementioned ground coffee beans, then set to work on brewing the coffee, as well as making the curries.

Once Sojiro was done serving them to the two men in white, the older one asked, "Do you know where Ren Amamiya is? My brother and I are looking for him."

Now that caught Sojiro's attention. "What do you want with the kid? If you guys are telling me that he got into trouble again—"

"It's just an invitation we wanna give him," interrupted the younger man.

An invitation? "For what?" Sojiro asked.

It was then that Futaba piped up. "Hey, were you the ones behind the mysterious portal by the Rainbow Bridge in Odaiba last night?"

"Futaba!" Sojiro chided, though he was also concerned at how she thought the men had anything to do with what was shown on the news this morning. He could only guess that she either hacked into surveillance cameras in the area or was simply very observant from what the news reports were showing earlier. However, he wasn't too sure: neither of the two scenarios was out of the question regarding Futaba's skillset.

Instead of the men reprimanding or otherwise harshly reacting toward her, the older man only nudged the younger man with his shoulder. Sojiro saw the former glare at the latter, who responded with something that sounded like a mumbled "Sorry, bro." He could hardly believe that the two men were brothers, given that one looked to be in his fifties while the other looked to be in his twenties. Then again, he couldn't care less: perhaps he was just dealing with a bunch of strangers who were a little bit out of their minds.

"Maybe," said the older man, his voice hesitant. He turned to look at Futaba. "And you must be Futaba Sakura, his daughter."

She also started, taken aback. "Um… Are you going to do anything with Ren-kun? If so, he's not here. Not anymore."

Now it was the older man's turn to be surprised. "Oh, how disappointing. If he were here, it would've made our job easier."

Best to get straight to the point, Sojiro thought. "What business do you have with him that's so important?" he asked.

The older man didn't answer immediately and instead placed the black briefcase on the counter. He unlatched the lock, then took and held up a white envelope with a red wax seal, a circular symbol similar to the gray one on the briefcase and the men's ties.

"This is what's so important," the older man said.

"There's a catch, though," the younger man added, "in that we're not just gonna give it to him on a platter. That's why we're looking for all the Phantom Thieves, 'specially their leader."

Sojiro sighed. Why would these people go out of their way to find the Phantom Thieves? They were called that name for more reasons than one, and being elusive was one of them. "There hasn't been anything about the Phantom Thieves for a while," he said. "And even if they're still around, it'd be hard to find them."

"But if you really wanna look for them or their leader, you may want to start looking in Nikko," Futaba suggested. "It's not too far from here, but Ren-kun told me that's where he lives."

"Thank you," said the older man. "That's all we need to know."

"Futaba, are you sure that you can just give that away?" Sojiro asked. "Do you know these people?"

Futaba shook her head, then whispered, "No, but I have an idea, Soji — I mean, Dad."

Sojiro blinked, as she never failed to get that reaction from him whenever she called him "Dad," even though she had been calling him that more often these days. He relented from reprimanding her further: he trusted Futaba for what she did, just as she trusted him for what he did.

When the men in white finished their curry and coffee, they thanked Sojiro and left, leaving him and the others in the café to stare and wonder who they were. For Sojiro, it was also a relief from dealing with two inconvenient customers who were prying into certain matters a little too deeply.

But when he turned to look at Futaba's spot on the counter, the only thing there was an empty plate, though given that he could hear footsteps in the attic, at least he knew that Futaba was off doing something by herself upstairs.

Exactly what she was doing was what he didn't know.

 


 

As Futaba sat on the couch with her laptop on the dusty table, she typed a question in the Anonymous Request page of the Phan-site. It was a simple question, and after uploading two pictures along with it, she hit the "Send" button.

She smiled, then muttered, "I hope you see this, Ren-kun. Who knows why they're coming for you or the rest of us."

Chapter Text

As the admin, it was Yuuki Mishima's job to maintain the Phan-site, despite it not having much activity in a long while, which meant that it came as a complete surprise when he checked on his phone and saw a question he didn't post during his train ride to Akihabara.

"Wait a sec…" Mishima muttered as he looked at the images carefully, which depicted two men in white suits and black ties. "Something funny is going on here… " First the weird thing that happened in Odaiba last night, and now a strange "request"/poll question that showed up in the Phan-site?

What's more, there were the comments underneath the images and the question "Do you think they have a connection to the Phantom Thieves?".

 

|Wtf are these ppl

|Seems sus

|R they new members?

|New targets?

|Why dey look like dat??

|Finally, smth new

|Lmao didn't know a grandpa was one of them

|lol no

|Rando old guy and young guy? Oh pls

|Where r they from?

 

As soon as Mishima finished reading the latest comment, more appeared, each coming in mere seconds from the last. What was common between all of them was the sense of confusion and wonder at who the two men could be. He frantically scrolled down the comments list, but it seemed that no matter how quickly he read them, several more were posted. Eventually, he stopped reading the overwhelming influx of comments and dialed Ren's phone number.

After waiting for a while, a voice came from the other end. "Hello?"

"Hey, Amamiya?"

"Is this — is that you, Mishima? What's up?"

"Have you seen what's going on in the Phan-site?"

"Huh?"

"C'mon, just look at it right now. Things're going crazy here!"

For several seconds, there was no response, which Mishima presumed to be because Ren was searching and reading the Phan-site question and comments. Mishima decided to break the silence. "I can't figure this out, man. You think someone's hacked the site?"

"I dunno… But if you say so, I think that Futaba would be the one behind it."

"Futaba?" repeated Mishima a little too loudly, earning him annoyed looks from the other passengers. He shrank into his seat, then spoke to his phone again in a lowered voice. "But why? Why would she bring up those two guys? They don't look familiar to me at all, and you and the others don't seem to have a history with them, as far as I know. Right?"

"Yeah, they don't look familiar to me either."

"And don't you think it's funny that this Phan-site thing happened today, after the Odaiba Occurrence?"

"The Odaiba Occurrence?"

"That's what everyone's calling the portal that showed up by the Rainbow Bridge last night. It's been all over the news lately, and a lot of people have been thinking it might be a sign of the end times or the arrival of aliens or gods, that sorta stuff. Weird, huh?"

"Yeah."

"So… are you gonna do anything about it?"

Another bout of silence. Ever since Mishima met Ren and the rest of the Phantom Thieves, he had grown to trust and support them, with a firm belief that they could right the wrongs of society by stealing evildoers' hearts. Of course, it didn't last, but Mishima still believed that they could do great things and help those in need, having been taught that after he had his own change of heart. And now, with a new matter that seemed borderline supernatural, Mishima felt that Ren and the others could look into it, if only because he knew that they had dealt with something like it before.

"Of course," replied Ren. "I can probably even get in touch with everyone else to see if they can help to figure it out. I just hope that they have the time."

"Thanks, man," Mishima said with a sigh of relief. "Hopefully it's nothing to worry about. See ya later!"

He hung up just in time to hear a voice from an overhead speaker say that the train had arrived in Akihabara, then stepped out onto the platform along with some of the other passengers. As he walked through the bustling station, his mind was occupied not with checking out a new video game in one of the stores there as he promised himself earlier, but with the Phan-site and how exactly the former Phantom Thieves were getting to the bottom of a new mystery this time around.

 


 

At around 7 p.m, Ren walked back toward his house in downtown Nikko with Morgana in his bag, having already crossed a few streets. He had been in the local library reading books to pass the time, from a few volumes of a manga series Ryuji recommended to him to a book about politics (or to be more accurate, a biography of Yoshida; he had been inspired to take an interest after meeting the man). Overall, it was a normal day, save for his phone call with Mishima, and now all he needed to do was to head toward a gate that led to his house.

But what was different this time, and what made Ren stop in his tracks a few meters away from the gate, were two men in white, from their hair to their suits. Just like in the pictures shown in the Phan-site.

"Ren, there's something suspicious about those two," Morgana whispered, peeking from inside of the bag. "Got any ideas on what to do with them?"

Before Ren could respond, the older man turned his head toward his direction and uttered a curious-sounding "Hm?", while the younger man smirked and began walking toward him. Ren suddenly felt his blood run cold, his grip on his bag immediately tightening as he began to step backward. He knew that he ought to run away, yet something about their presence kept him from turning around.

The younger man in white cleared his throat, then said, in a baritone voice eerily similar to Ren's own, "Look who we have here. A boy and his talking cat. Heh, you don't see that every day. You're Ren Amamiya and Morgana, aren't you?"

What the hell?

As bewildering as it was to hear someone speak in a voice similar to his, Ren's fears were assuaged when he saw the older man facepalming with a gloved hand. "Very subtle, Crazy. Very subtle," the older man said with a sigh.

Well, that took an unexpected turn.

Ren stopped walking, and though he was still a bit unnerved, he also had to keep himself from laughing after hearing what the younger man was just called. It was fitting to say the least, though he wondered if he had heard the older man correctly.

"Don't mind my brother," the older man said, looking at Ren. "Part of what he is is that he doesn't know subtlety at all, especially when it comes to first impressions."

The younger man crossed his arms, and Ren noticed that he had a white glove on one of his hands, specifically the left one. The younger man spoke again, this time without the imitative voice. "Tch, says the one who's into being the loud and dramatic announcer guy."

"Well, at least I try to do it during fights instead of out of them."

"Yeah, right."

"I know that, left."

The two men in white continued their banter, with the older man giving calm and dry replies to the younger man's increasingly lame comebacks. As they kept trading quips, Morgana interjected and said, "Hey, I know you probably can't understand me, but can you at least quit the snarking and tell us who you are? Otherwise, you better just leave us alone."

What surprised Ren and Morgana was that the men stopped after the latter interrupted them. In fact, the younger man stopped first to glare at Morgana. Did that mean —

"Don't be a stupid cat," the younger man sneered. "Me and my bro can understand you just fine."

Ren gasped, as well as Morgana. "Hey, I take offense to being called stupid!" Morgana complained. "Wait, you guys… you can understand me too? Have you also been to the Metaverse and heard me talk at some point?"

The older man shook his head. "Crazy Hand and I have never been to the Metaverse, though we've learned quite a bit about it." He sighed again and straightened his black tie. "But where are our manners? My name is Master Hand, and this is my brother Crazy Hand."

Ren blinked. Ever since his first encounter with Shido, and especially when he was in Shujin Academy, he had attracted all sorts of attention along with the other Phantom Thieves, for better or worse. This time, however, he couldn't easily make heads or tails of the encounter, especially when it came to the men's weird names. Were these really the guys Futaba tried to warn him about?

"Uh, thanks, that's nice and all, but I really need to get going," Ren said. "My parents are going to kill me if I'm not home on time." He moved past the Hands and stopped at the gate.

But before he could take out a key to unlock it, he heard a loud snap. The lock then emitted a brief spark of white light, and the front gate swung open.

"We're actually here because we have something important to tell you, if you don't mind and have the time," Master Hand said.

But Ren wasn't listening, as he had been caught off guard from how the gate opened on its own. "W-what just happened?" he asked, turning to look at the Hands. "Did you do that?"

Master Hand nodded. "Yes. And that was just a demonstration of one of our many powers."

"Unlocking gates and doors without using items being one of them? You'd be assets to the Phantom Thieves, that's for sure," Morgana remarked.

Master Hand chuckled; it was a deep but friendly chuckle, unlike the one made by a certain villainous person Ren met a long while ago.

Yet there was something about Master Hand and Crazy Hand that bothered him. It wasn't just their appearances, seemingly magical powers, or ability to understand Morgana; no, Ren was more concerned at how they managed to find where he lived.

"You're not from around here, are you?" asked Ren.

"We aren't," Master Hand replied, impressed by Ren's insight. "We're actually — " he glanced around, as if to ensure no one else was within earshot, then whispered, "That's because we aren't from your world to begin with, nor your 'verse."

Ren blinked in surprise: just what the hell was Master Hand talking about? He could understand if they weren't from this world, but what did Master Hand mean by "'verse?" Did he mean something like the Metaverse? Ren had so many questions he wanted to ask him and Crazy Hand, he didn't know where to start.

"I don't get what you're saying," said Ren. "Why are you telling me this?"

Master Hand didn't answer him and instead gestured toward Crazy Hand, who turned to face his older brother. For a moment, Ren thought that their gray eyes had a strange glint to them as they made eye contact, but he quickly dismissed it as a trick of the light. They then looked away, and for a while, they were silent as they leaned with their backs against the concrete fence surrounding Ren's home.

"What's going on here?" asked Morgana.

No response: it was as if they were busy thinking about something. Or concentrating. Ren couldn't tell which it was. "Uh, are you okay?" he asked them.

Master Hand nodded, though he didn't appear to do it in response to Ren's question. A few more moments, and after another nod and a voluntary blink, he finally looked at Ren. "Crazy Hand and I were just thinking about an invitation you were supposed to receive from us, as well as if it's all right to spare a moment to hear something that's a chance of a lifetime. Oh, but only if it's okay with your parents. If not, we can speak with you another time, though it is rather important."

"Hold on a second," Morgana said, narrowing his eyes. "What're you up to now? And why were you being quiet for about five minutes? You got something to hide?"

"It's nothing like that, cat," Crazy Hand answered drily.

"It's Morgana!"

"Yeah, whatever. Anyway — " Crazy Hand raised a gloved finger — "one, it's an invite to what me and my bro call the Ultimate Tournament, and two — " he raised another one — "we were using telepathy to talk about a plan, which is supposed to be a surprise. That's why we shut up for a little bit."

Now Ren was really taken aback: first being able to understand Morgana and the gate opening by itself, and now telepathy? And here he thought Chihaya was the only person he knew with real psychic powers.

"For real?" he exclaimed. "Just who or what exactly are you and Master Hand? And what's this about a tournament?"

Master Hand chuckled, then shook his head. "You'll find out soon enough, but I think it's best if you go ahead first." He gestured toward the open gate, which Ren went through.

When he was at the front door, he looked back at the Hands, who were outside of the fence. He turned his gaze back at the door, expecting it to be magically opened by a white spark.

When it didn't, he took out a key, turned it within the lock, and opened the door to a short hallway. He saw his mother slowly pace on the carpeted floor, currently occupied on the phone.

" … Okay. Thanks for letting me know. Sorry to hear that your train is delayed again. Hope that you'll be able to come home from work soon, but at least you're okay. … Mhm, bye."

When she hung up, she turned around to face Ren. "Your dad's not going to be home on time again," she said with a sigh.

"Really? What happened?"

"There was an accident, though thankfully it wasn't because of those so-called mental shutdowns. A rookie train operator made a mistake, they say. Seriously, you'd think they would get better people to run those things, but no, they have to get the ones who don't know what they're doing even though they passed their qualification tests and all.

"Anyway, where were you, Ren? I thought you were coming home ten minutes ago. Don't tell me something happened on your way again."

Ren shook his head. His mother, Haruka, had changed since then, as well as his father, Akira. Before, they were rather compliant with the law, having quickly made up their minds on what to do with Ren after he had been falsely accused by Shido of assault, all to save face. To a majority of people, it was sort of a necessary evil, and the aftermath of the events stung, but there were things that Ren noticed to have changed for the better.

Even though his relationship with his parents had been improving, he kept a certain distance from them, if only because he was still feeling the effects.

"No, nothing like that happened, Mom," said Ren. "I just stayed a little bit longer in the library, that's all."

Haruka nodded, having accepted his answer. She then looked over his shoulder toward the outside of the door.

"Who are those people, Ren?" she asked, narrowing her eyes. "I haven't seen them before."

Ren turned around to see that the Hands were still by the gate, with Crazy Hand waving like mad. Master Hand elbowed him, and they glared at each other before each taking slight bows. "Please excuse us," Master Hand said. "We're just school administrators who were merely speaking to this young man about a very good opportunity. It's related to… his academic capabilities."

"Academic capabilities?"

"After viewing his academic records at Shujin Academy, I've contacted your son for his grades. They were, I should say, outstanding, considering how Shujin's average is."

"Oh? And are you from Shujin? How well did Ren do in his classes?" Haruka asked.

"Like I said, outstanding to where he passed all of his classes with flying colors. May we come in to further discuss his achievements?"

Haruka looked at Ren, then back at Master Hand. "Maybe another time, sir. It's getting a little late."

"But it is a rather important matter, so I insist that we talk about it now."

Haruka edged closer to the door and placed her hand on it as Ren moved into the hallway behind her. "Well," she said, "I insist that we talk about it tomorrow. Good night."

And with that, she closed and locked the door.

Chapter Text

Section 1: Volume-specific Notes.

These explain references to video games and other things, as well as non-Hand-related headcanons.

  • Volume 1: All Dogs, Ducks, and Hunters Go to… Smash?
    • Part 1
      • The title of the volume is a play on the movie title All Dogs Go to Heaven.
      • I imagined Robert "Bob" Hogan to look like one of the Wild West gunmen that appear when Duck Hunt uses his down special move, though he's actually not one of the gunmen to appear to assist Duck Hunt and instead acts as the person using the NES Zapper for Duck Hunt's other special moves. This is why Hogan speaks like someone from the South of the U.S. or the Wild West. (Fun fact: I didn't know there was a character named Robert Hogan in a show called "Hogan's Heroes." Nevertheless, Hogan in this fic is not related to that character. It was purely by coincidence that they have similar names. No relation to Hulk Hogan either.)
      • The name Marvin Tapper and the location Alley's Tavern came from a few things: the game Tapper, in which you play as a bartender filling up and serving drinks to customers by sliding mugs down long bar counters, with the first level having you as a bartender in a western saloon; Marvin Glass and Associates, who developed Tapper; and the game Hogan's Alley. Hogan ordering a root beer references a version of Tapper called Root Beer Tapper, because in the original game, you served beer. (Also, as a police officer, being drunk, especially on the job, isn't a good idea.)
      • The Underwhere is a place in the game Super Paper Mario, except it's not hellish and more boring and dull. So whether Crazy Hand was being inaccurate or actually saying that without the Duck Hunt Duo and Hogan, things will be more "boring" in the Smash 'verse due to their unusual fighting style, is open for interpretation. (I could explain what the "real world" equivalent is and what Crazy Hand probably meant, but that would ruin the joke.)
    • Part 2
      • This part is actually meant to be an expanded version of Duck Hunt's SSB4 trailer. Proof of this can be seen with the other Smashers that appear in this part (Mario, Link, Samus, Pit, Bowser, and Donkey Kong), who in the trailer are all characters that appear along with Duck Hunt in a grassy clearing, which is referred in this story as the Glade.
      • Overall, the Duck Hunt Duo and Hogan, as well as the 'verse they came from, take inspiration from games that use the NES Zapper, such as Duck Hunt (obviously), Hogan's Alley, and Wild Gunman.

 

  • Volume 2: A Spark of an Idea
    • Part 1
      • The first part of this volume is partially based on the very first episode of the Pokémon anime, especially the part near the end, except replace the flock of hyper-aggressive Spearow with a single angry Pidgeotto mom. Oh, and Ash with Master Hand.
    • Part 2
      • In the first Pokémon generation, wild Jigglypuff are found in Route 3.
      • Jigglypuff is #39 in the Kanto and National Pokédex.
      • In some of the Kirby games, when you get a Game Over and choose to continue, the hand-like cursor will remove the sleeping cap off Kirby's head and turn it into a "firework cone" that makes a noise like an explosion that wakes Kirby up so he can continue his adventure. (Technically, it's a left hand, but I headcanon that both of the Hands have the ability to conjure up firework cones, mostly for the purpose of waking people up or stunning them in battle due to the sudden loud noise. That last part isn't an official attack they do in the actual games though.)
    • Part 3
      • Technically, Red and Leaf's Pokémon used all of their special moves in this battle (from the Smash games — yes, that includes Charizard "using" Flare Blitz), excluding their down special since that one is simply switching out the active Pokémon. Unless we're talking about Charizard's down special in SSB4, in which case that would be Rock Smash instead.
    • Part 4
      • Red either received Ivysaur and Squirtle through a trade with Blue and Leaf sometime after, or he received a Venusaur and a Blastoise later on, and the Pokémon he uses in Brawl and Ultimate (that is, Ivysaur and Squirtle) are bred from said Venusaur and Blastoise. (After all, in the games, he's shown with a Charizard, Venusaur, and a Blastoise, as well as other Pokémon.) Same situation with Leaf.
      • Since Blue is not one of the Pokémon Trainer's alternate costumes in Brawl or Ultimate, it's implied that he chose not to go to the Smash 'verse.
      • Blue was a Gym Leader of the Viridian City Gym. (At least in the Gen 2 games, their remakes, and Let's Go Eevee/Let's Go Pikachu.)
      • Crazy Hand doesn't appear in Volume 2, and presumably in future volumes taking place around Smash 64, because… (see one of the Hand headcanons in Section 2)

 

  • Volume 3: New Donk, New Donk
    • Part 1
      • In the volume title and summary, I referenced some of the lyrics to the songs "The Heart of Rock & Roll" and "New York, New York."
      • I made up the names of the Super Mario Players, based on famous musicians. Chuck is named after Chuck Berry, Huey after Huey Lewis, Frank after Frank Sinatra, and Gene after Gene Krupa.
    • Part 2
      • Daisy mentions having seen a "weird space alien" before, which is most likely referring to Tatanga, who appeared in Super Mario Land to kidnap her (coincidentally, that was the first game Daisy appeared in).
      • In SSBU, when fighting on the New Donk City Hall stage, Pauline and the Super Mario Players will appear and play one of the following two pieces of music, namely "Jump Up, Super Star!" and "Ground Theme (Band Performance)." Only if you selected those two, however.
      • Master Hand references the "Board the Platforms" mini-game in Smash 64, where you have to... well, board ten platforms as quickly as possible.
    • Part 3
      • *In Bill Nye's voice* "Did you know that…" Luigi's Death Stare was first featured in Mario Strikers Charged, so way before Mario Kart 8 made it into a meme. (It was also most likely unintentional for me to include it in this fic.) *Also in Bill Nye's voice* "Now you know!"
      • Abandon Ship! is the name of Bowser Jr.'s/the Koopalings' up special move.

 

  • Volume 4: Pac-Man is Missing!
    • Part 1
      • This volume has almost nothing to do with the edutainment game Mario is Missing!, save for the fact that Mario is somehow involved in the plot.
      • For those that aren't from or haven't been there (which includes me, funnily enough), the mention of Seattle and the "You need to stop doing that"/"But what if I like doing that" lines were some things I got from watching a bit of Almost Live!, which was a local sketch comedy show from Seattle from the 80s/90s. (I'd also like to mention that Pat Cashman and Bill Nye were in that show.)
      • "You guys... invited Pac-Man?" Sonic wasn't the only one that was in disbelief at Pac-Man getting invited to an event; in Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph also almost said the same phrase. It's also not a coincidence that Sonic said this, because he made a cameo or two in that movie.
      • Holo Casters were key items in the Gen 6 Pokémon games, although the ones in this fic were modified into functioning like an average video game menu you pull up when you press the X/Start/equivalent button.
      • According to Pac-Man World 2, Pac-Village is where Pac-Man and his relatives live.
      • I based the OC Boyce on the stork shown on the Baby Pac-Man arcade machine, although a stork has also been shown in-game to drop off Jr. Pac-Man/Pac Jr. in Ms. Pac-Man.
      • Boyce has a fitting name. There's a species of stork found in Japan called the Oriental stork, whose scientific name is Ciconia boyciana. According to Behind the Name, the name "Boyce" comes "from a surname that was derived from Old French 'bois,'" which means "wood". Boyce first leads the Smashers through a forest, which is sometimes called... a wood. For bonus points, there's a species of stork called the wood stork.
      • The Pac-Portalizer mentioned in this part was partially based on Professor Pac-Man's Pactrometer, which was a device he invented and gave to Ms. Pac-Man in Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness. No word on the Pactrometer opening a portal that accidentally let in a monster or demon from somewhere, however.
    • Part 2
      • Goodness, the Compartment pun. (As in... a glove compartment?)
      • L+R+A+Start/Pause to exit a match.
      • Important words for the desert in Arcadia: "Alamogordo, New Mexico," "Trinity nuclear test," "Chihuahuan Desert," "White Sands National Monument," and "Atari video game burial."
      • Route 78 is called that because Space Invaders was released in 1978, which is usually considered the start of the golden age of arcade games.
      • A wild reference to "The Pikachu Song" appeared! (Based on a DDR song called "Butterfly.")
      • Mario probably knew the song "Danger Zone" because of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show!. (The episode "Brooklyn Bound" of all things had this song.)
    • Part 3
      • There's a reference to a strange occurrence in Fallout 3's Dunwich Building (the compass acting oddly when you enter the building) and another one in Fallout 4's Dunwich Borers (the saying "I'm safe in the light").
    • Part 4
      • Why did I describe Polybius' humanoid form to resemble a creepy man in black (as in the people who work for secret government agencies)? Because supposedly they observed people playing the game and took data after the arcade the game was in closed up for the day.
      • The projectiles Polybius fired were meant to be a reference to the actual projectiles you fired in the actual Tempest game. Speaking of Tempest...
      • The reason Polybius was called the "Great Corrupted Tempest" by Ed Rottberg at the end was because the game was allegedly a defective version of Tempest that caused health problems, most notably causing players to become addicted to playing it.
      • The guy with glasses is not the same guy as Ed Rottberg, but was actually meant to be like the Angry Video Game Nerd, who did a video that covered Polybius (and apparently he went kind of insane at the end of that video).
      • That Mario, Mr. Game & Watch, and Donkey Kong were some of the main characters in this volume was due to them being in Pac-Man's SSB4 trailer (as some of the oldest video game characters according to real-world time). Sonic was kind of the odd one out because although he wasn't given the same level of prominence as the other four in that trailer, he was still shown there (along with Mega Man, though I currently don't have as much knowledge of him, hence the reason why he wasn't here).

 

  • Volume 5: The Pokémon Battle Revelation
    • Part 1
      • Rodger Kenneth Parsons' name was based on the real-life Rodger Parsons, who was the narrator for the earliest seasons of the Pokémon anime series and movies (as well as anything from Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea and season 9 onward) and the announcer/commentator for Pokémon Battle Revolution. (He was also credited as Ken Gates in the anime series.)
      • The "Thank you for choosing to fly with Pokétopia Airlines today" announcement over the intercom uses the exact same wording as the message you see after you first create a save file in PBR.
      • Many of the sights mentioned in this part are based on places you can see in Pokétopia. The luxury apartment building with the Toxicroak statue nearby? That one's based on a building that you can see in the intro and when you boot up a save file.
    • Part 2
      • The articles at the beginning reference... some of the problems in SwSh and the Diamond/Pearl/Platinum remakes.
      • Go Stadiums is a reference to Genius Sonority, who developed Colosseum, XD: Gale of Darkness, and Battle Revolution. Some things, such as the small number of employees, are based on the fact that Genius Sonority didn't have many people who worked on the aforementioned games and a few other things, while others, such as the lay-off and the lies, are partly fictional and partly based on some real-life problems of a certain other company.
      • Sunny Park Colosseum was a Colosseum in PBR where you can participate in Little Battles ('mons must be level 5 or below) after beating it once. The descriptions of the building's interior, on the other hand, are made up by me.
      • As far as I know, ramen isn't a part of Ylissean cuisine, but I think that it could be a part of Chon'sin cuisine since in some of Say'ri's support conversations she mentions tea, rice, and (implicitly) sushi.
    • Part 3
      • In past centuries, the Pokémon world seemed to be medieval-esque (see Pokémon X and Y lore and Lucario and the Mystery of Mew), hence the comparison to Fire Emblem.
      • As for the brief red eyes thing during the Hands' "flip out moment," I'll just say that it may have something to do with what happened in the Subspace Emissary Incident and in Smash 4... Or not.
    • Part 4
      • Like Master Hand in this story, the PBR announcer provides color commentary during matches, with some lines ranging from cheesy to really hammy, as announcers are wont to be. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HBB47Ny4Ps
      • Some of Parsons' thoughts are close to what the real-life PBR announcer says in battles ("stands with their backs against the wall", "the last Pokémon from each team will take the field").
      • Some of what Robin says are actually quotes originating from Fire Emblem Awakening.
      • Light Screen halves special attack damage (hence the Red Corner relied on physical and status moves) and lasts for 5 turns.
      • The descriptions of the moves are a mix of how they are depicted from many sources, such as the Pokémon Adventures manga, the actual games (both main series and PBR), the anime, and the Super Smash Bros. series.
      • In PBR, when Honchkrow faints, it tips its fedora-like crest in a rather gentlemanly way before being returned to its Poké Ball.
    • Part 5 + Epilogue
      • Michael is Wes' name in the French dub of Pokémon Colosseum (alternatively, Michael in "The PBR" is named after the protagonist of XD: Gale of Darkness), while Emilie is Rui's name in the French dub of the same game.
      • In a way, Rodger, Michael, and Emilie are somehow associated with three of Genius Sonority's games.

 

  • Volume 6: One More
    • Part 1
      • The Hands first appearing in the Persona 'verse via portal near the Rainbow Bridge in Odaiba is a reference to Bifröst, the rainbow bridge that connected Midgard and Asgard. Considering that the Hands are godly beings and that the Smash 'verse is a faraway world from this particular one Ren and the rest of the Persona characters live in...
    • Part 2
      • One dialogue choice makes it seem that Joker is interested in politics, hence the Yoshida biography.
      • Haruka's name is meaningful in a few ways: written one way (遥), it can mean "distant", referencing the literal and metaphorical distance between her and Akira to Ren during the events of P5. Written in another way (春花), it can mean "spring, flower", signifying the season the events of P5 began while also tying into Ren's name, which means "lotus", a plant that symbolizes purity (as Zhou Dunyi, a Confucian scholar puts it: "I love the lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained" = Ren retaining his innocence/purity despite all of the crap heaped upon him in P5).
      • For Akira, it's simply a reference to the P5 protagonist's name in the manga. Nothing too deep there.

Section 2: Hand Headcanons

These are headcanons that I have for my particular interpretations of Master Hand and Crazy Hand.

  • Master Hand and Crazy Hand have human forms that resemble two of their English VAs, respectively Pat Cashman and Xander Mobus. In fact, they look similar to them with some key differences.
    • They always wear white suits with white collared dress shirts, black neckties with a gray Smash Ball design, and black dress shoes;
    • have white hair;
    • their hand forms being hinted at with one white glove on the right or left hands;
    • and a physical appearance like the two real-life announcers when they first voiced their lines, meaning MH looks like PC in his 50s, while CH looks like XM in his 20s.
  • Some of the "rules" in the Smash 'verse's List, a mostly-inaccessible rulebook that lays down the "rules"/"laws" of the Smash 'verse. (Actual designations unknown; found entries are incomplete.)
    • #06 Those visiting or living in the Smash 'verse will be granted the ability to communicate/speak with each other, even beings that are not usually capable of doing so in their home 'verse. There are a few exceptions:
      • #06a. Most species of plants (especially those that did not exhibit any signs of sapience in the Smash 'verse or their home 'verse)
      • #06b. Horses (The Hands don't like them for some reason. A bad experience perhaps?)
  • If a Smasher happens to sleep in until near the afternoon, there is a chance they will be visited by Master Hand or Crazy Hand, who will appear in their rooms to wake them up with a firework cone.
    • "99.99% guaranteed to wake someone up!" — CH (maybe)
  • (From one of the notes of Vol. 2, Part 4) The reason why Crazy Hand didn't appear in the first Smash game was because he was temporarily "banned" from the Smash Mansion (read: to a faraway dimension that took him about two years (in "real-world time") to get back in time for Melee) after destroying Smash Ball prototypes just before the very first Smash Tournament.
  • Automatically generated voice recordings, or how I attempted to solve the problem of why you can hear the announcer saying Master Hand's and Crazy Hand's names in Smash 4 and Ultimate, even though in my fics (and I'm guessing a few others), Master Hand IS the announcer. (Because when playing Classic Mode in games prior to those two, you never hear the announcer mention that you're going to fight the Hands after the second-to-last fight. It immediately cuts to your chosen fighter appearing on Final Destination and the Hands suddenly appearing.)
  • The Hands can speak telepathically, and there are two ways they can do this:
    • "Loud" telepathy: Used when they are in their hand forms. Listeners can hear their voices easily (i.e. how a being with a mouth usually speaks, though being in hand form while doing this makes it seem like listeners are hearing disembodied voices) and don't hear voices within their heads.
    • "Loud" telepathy when in human form... is just them using their mouths to speak. (In other words, they're not using some form of telepathy at all.)
    • "Quiet" telepathy: Used when they are in hand and human forms. Allows for private communications. However, those who don't have telepathic abilities have to be "given permission" by them in order to participate. For those that have telepathic abilities, the Hands can simply block them from joining the conversation. … Which can lead to scenarios where it looks like they're being eerily quiet and making gestures and expressions for no reason, especially if the message or conversation is long.
  • The Hands actually do NOT need to consume any food or drink in order to live, even while in human form.
  • Crazy Hand is a master impressionist. One of his favorite impressions is Master Hand, who he considers the easiest to imitate. He sometimes does this in an attempt to mock him.
    • Xander Mobus is a highly versatile voice actor, and judging from what he sounds like as the announcer for Smash 4 and Ultimate, he sounds similar to Cashman.