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KH: Soul Crossed Chap 7 Part 2

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"Wake up, child.  This is no place to be lounging about."

Of all the possible voices Kairi could have woken up to, Braxis' was definitely on the low end of the list.  She groaned, her eyes shooting open, and she immediately wished that she hadn't.  Her head felt like someone had mistaken it for one of Wakka's blitzballs and her vision swam, making her feel nauseous.  A dark hand was extended to her and she took it, knowing somehow that standing on her own was not a good idea.  "Thanks," she muttered, her mouth feeling like it was stuffed with cotton.  She tried to back off so she didn't look like she was relying on him, but it was a mistake and Braxis caught her as she swayed.  He supported her to make sure she didn't fall.

"Hold on there, girl.  No need to go running off.  Give yourself a minute.  Your mind needs to clear before you try walking anywhere."  Kairi was inclined to agree.  She felt like she was going to vomit all over him any second now.  The world was spinning so fast and, even with her eyes shut, the ground was trying to escape from under her.  Braxis held her strong though and kept her grounded by talking to her.  "Focus on my voice.  Latch onto something real.  Let the spin happen and it'll pass sooner."  That didn't make much sense to her, but she listened to him all the same, and her mind soon cleared enough that she dared to open her eyes again.

At first, she thought her eyes weren't clearing.  Things still looked blurry.  It took a moment to realize that they were in a heavy fog.  Dark shapes loomed around, dead trees that stood guard over their small alcove.  Crickets chirped all around mixing with some of the soft croaks of frogs, and there was the peaceful sound of lapping water.  The smell hung on her like a damp dishrag, smelling just as foul.  She wrinkled her nose as she felt like she could taste the smell and wanted to gag all over again.  She took a step back, trying to get away from it, but Braxis grabbed her arm just as she stepped into something that made an audible squish.  Whatever it was clutched at her shoe, trying to suck it and her down as Braxis pulled her back to safety.  "That was close..." she said, her mind envisioning her vanishing into the ground without a trace.

"Think nothing of it," Braxis said gruffly, taking that statement as another thank you.  "After all, you're still disoriented."

"My pain's gone," she mumbled.

"The darkness lost its hold on you.  For now, anyway.  It didn't give you up without a fight, but I knew if I was strong enough to break its hold, you'd be able to as well."

A bird warbled in the distance, the mournful cry of an avian that Kairi wasn't familiar with.  "Where are we?"

"No place I've ever been before.  Just seems to be an endless bog."  He shrugged, waving in the direction she'd tried to back into.  "Everything in that direction is black quicksand as far as I can tell."  He helped Kairi turn around.  "I thought I saw a light and movement for a moment in that direction, but I didn't travel far enough to find out what it was."

Did he stick around...because of me?  He seemed so independent, so why he'd watched over her now was a mystery.  Maybe this place scared him as well.  "Sora?" she asked, a little of her worry and fear bubbling over.

"Haven't seen him.  If he's here too, it's not near us."

Kairi dug her fingernails into her palm, trying not to think the worst.  "Maybe we should wait until he finds us?"  she asked, trying to think about what she'd been told to do when lost.

"If you want to wait in this fog and damp in the middle of nowhere and hope he stumbles into you, be my guest.  I, for one, intend to find out what I saw now that you are awake."  Disdain laced his words as he let her shoulders go.

Kairi shot him a nasty look, not certain he could see it and not caring.  Deep down, she knew he was right, but he hadn't needed to put it like that.  Any time he did something she might consider decent, he followed it up with something that made her want to punch him.  She huffed as she walked past him, only a little unsteady now, and she bristled when all he did was chuckle.  Stupid, self-centered prick.  Why'd I get stuck with him anyway?  She consoled herself in planning just how to retaliate once they were safe as he fell into step alongside her.  Together, they trudged through the muck and fog.

Dark shapes of dead or fallen trees stood as sentinels during their slog through the murky water.  As they walked along, they began to notice large, gnarled, wooden poles that had glowing balls along the top that served like street lamps, though there seemed to be no set path for them to follow.   They seemed strewn about across the bog, and though they were the only markers the two could find to lead them on, occasionally they had to backtrack to find the next.  While they could hear many creatures around them, nothing came out into view, not even when Kairi sneezed.  

Nothing dangerous was around that Kairi could see or hear, especially Heartless or other minions of the darkness.  She kept her guard up, ready to summon the Oo-de-lally at the first true sign of trouble, but with Braxis not having his staff out, she would have felt silly jumping at shadows with the weapon out.  She hated the thought of comparing her own actions to his, but he was the more experienced fighter, and if he saw no need, she didn't either.  As the trek went on and on, Kairi's nerves began to fray.  She was cold, filthy and hungry, and by the time they made it out of the bog, all she wanted to do was hurt something.

Stepping out of the dead trees and murky water to an actual path, she saw that the lamps they'd been following were in a line now, leading from their position into the deep fog and barely illuminating the dark forms of a group of buildings looming in the fog.  Kairi couldn't see a light on in any of them and no sound came from them.  They just stood like silent guardians in the mist, standing watch over a small area of this god-forsaken place.  The whole scene made Kairi shiver.

"Let's go," Braxis growled, though he didn't move at first.  Kairi didn't have to ask what made him hesitate, her own body unwilling to move toward the spooky locale.  It was hard enough to keep from summoning the Keyblade.  Despite the mood, if there were inhabitants of this place, there was no sign that they were hostile.  Entering with a weapon out would do nothing but foster distrust, and Kairi knew she could call on it whenever it was needed.

Braxis tensed as they past the first abandoned buildings.  Nothing stirred and an eeriness to the whole situation settled on Kairi.  She'd never been anywhere that looked so deserted while giving the feeling like she was being scrutinized.  Her skin crawled and she kept trying to sneak glances left and right.  Despite not seeing any sign of life, she got the feeling someone was watching them tread through the dead city.

Near the center of this ghostly town was a fountain.  In the center was a statue of a woman with an urn at her feet and her arms extended skyward.  Water was pooled in its basin, but like everything in this place, it was stagnant.  She thought she saw something move near the statue in the center, but with all the fog and darkness, it might have just been her eyes playing tricks on her.  "Hello?" she called, her voice dying in the air quickly.  She thought someone was there, but it was like they were playing a game with her.  She glanced around, her irritation from before returning and she stomped her feet.    "Ok, I know someone's there.  Quit hiding or I'm coming and dragging you out myself."

"Well, it seems the little girl still has spunk," a voice said from behind her, "though I'd expect nothing less."  She froze, the man's voice so familiar it dredged up old memories that echoed through her head with a mixture of his words and hers.

'Hey, I feel like we're friends already.'

'You're not acting very friendly!'


Kairi turned, her mind reeling as the memories continued to replay in her mind.

'What took you so long, Kairi?'

'I tell ya, Kairi, you've got a lot of guts, jumping right into the darkness like that.'

'Let me go!  Let go!'


She went on the defensive from the beginning at the sight of the red-haired man, despite the fact that all he did was stand there, leaning against the statue with his left arm hanging from the woman's extended right arm.  He hadn't changed a bit since she'd seen him last.  "Axel..."

"Hey!  Looks like I made an impression too.  You remembered!"

Kairi snarled as he approached.  "Of course I remember.  You kidnapped me!"

Axel stopped short, scratching the back of his head.  "Yeah, I thought you might still be sore about that..."  He glanced down, composing himself.  "And if you hadn't run off, you wouldn't have fallen into Saix's hands..." he muttered, though Kairi could still hear him because there wasn't any other noise around.

"Friend of yours?" Braxis said, humor lacing his tone.

"Hardly," Kairi said flatly.

"Ouch," Axel said, wincing a little.  He seemed put off by their staring and tried to regain his bravado.  "I must say, I didn't expect to meet you here.  Ever.  But let me be the first, and only, to welcome you to Twixt Town."  He gestured grandly all around him and the empty shells of buildings surrounding them.  "Truly a depressing place, but it tends to grow on you."

"Twixt Town?  Never heard of it," Braxis said, his gravelly tone showing his disdain for the fiery Nobody.

"I'd be surprised if you had," Axel said, a bit bemused.  "Only people who know about it are those that have been here, and they don't usually tell anyone else.  I wonder why," he said, winking at his joke, though Kairi missed what was funny about it.

"Do tell," Kairi said, folding her arms.  He wasn't being threatening yet, and Kairi was determined to get to the bottom of where they were and then find Sora again.  

"Oh, it's not my story to tell, I'm afraid.  Besides, I doubt you'll be here long enough to appreciate the tale anyway."

"Quit dancing around the subject, boy, or I'll beat the answers out of you."  Kairi frowned, not liking Braxis' approach to settling this.  

"I very much doubt you could," Axel said, his tone playful but there was a hint of steel to it.

"I can and I will.  You seem like the jokers we had back home.  We had a saying about them.  'Jokers dance with words, but warriors let their actions do the talking.'"  Braxis stretched a little, his height getting a bit more imposing.

Axel didn't look impressed.  "Any time.  My name's Axel and I'm always good for a fight.  Got it memorized?"

"Stop messing around, Axel."  Kairi glanced behind her as a female voice cut in.  For a moment, Kairi thought it was Namine, but when she got a good look at the raven-haired lady in the Organization cloak and peered into those deep-blue eyes, Kairi felt like she was looking in a mirror instead.  "A fight won't solve anything, and you aren't so hot down here."  She scowled and folded her arms once she stopped near Kairi.

"Geez, Xion.  Ruin all my fun, why don'tcha?"

"Fun?" Xion said incredulously.  "What about this place says fun?"

"Exactly!"  Axel said, gesturing around in wide arcs.    "This place needs some livening up.  This town may be dead, but I don't intend to die with it."

Xion shook her head, a frustrated sound echoing from her, and she turned to Kairi.  "Sorry about him.  I think he's going a little stir-crazy."  She studied Kairi intensely.  Kairi shifted, feeling distinctly uncomfortable at the scrutiny.  "Kairi.  It's so nice to finally meet you.  I remember so much about you."  Kairi's confusion must have shown, because Xion answered the unspoken question immediately.  "I had some of Sora's memories...for a time anyway."  She paced around Kairi before Kairi could ask her any other questions and Kairi blushed, feeling like she was under a microscope.  She ran her hands along her skirt to try and deflect some of her embarrassment as Xion made three circuits, finally stopping in front of her again.  "You grew up about as I pictured you would."

"Uhm...thanks?"  Kairi went redder, unsure of what to say to something like that.  She glanced at Axel, finding it hard to meet the other girl's eyes.  "So..how'd you end up in a place like this anyway?"

Axel blinked, and it was his turn to look uncomfortable.  He scratched the back of his head and wouldn't meet her gaze.  Xion looked confused by his avoidance.  "The same way anyone gets here.  They die."

Kairi felt like someone punched her in the stomach.  Dead?  I can't be dead.  My life just started.  She shook her head, trying to deny it.  Braxis kept her upright, because her own legs wouldn't hold her.  Braxis was saying something to Axel or Xion, but she couldn't make it out.  All she could see was the sad look on Axel's face.  "Sora?" she asked, not sure she wanted an answer.  

Axel shrugged.  "Was he with you?  If he was, he hasn't been here.  But then, only those that can't move on come here."

Braxis paused mid-sentence.  "Can't move on?"

Xion walked over to Axel.  "Twixt Town is just a stop over for those that have died but refuse to leave the mortal world behind.  It was created as a place to help a soul reach peace so it wouldn't just fade away."

"Which is why the damn Overseer is so mad at us.  We just refuse to leave here." Axel said, grinning wide again.

"Overseer?"  Kairi asked.  Before anyone could tell her who that was, the hair on Kairi's neck stood on end and she felt a shiver race through her body.  There was a sound, almost like someone was whispering in her ear.  She saw Axel's eyes narrow and she knew someone was coming up behind her.  She turned in time to see the mist clear out of the town.  A figure floated  out of one of the buildings toward her and, as he neared, Kairi gasped.  

The thing coming toward them had deep blue skin and three eyes that if you connected the center where the pupils should have been, it would have been a perfect equilateral triangle on its face.  The eyes were glowing orange ovals on its face, surrounding three slits that had what looked like mesh covering them that passed for its nose. The mouth looked like someone had sliced it open so it could breath and resided on what Kairi took for its chin.  Its impossibly-long fingers were pressed against the ones from opposite hand in front of it.  It wore long, priest-like robes of red and gold that hung down past where his feet would have been, though the designs were like nothing Kairi had ever seen before with swirls and lettering in languages she never knew existed.  

"What lost souls have found their way to my town?"  He said.  There was a slight echo to his voice that was disconcerting, but he didn't seem to be threatening in any way.  Kairi wondered why he set Axel so on edge.

"They aren't lost," Axel said, his tone bouncing back to light-hearted.  "They're just visiting Xion and me."

Though the mouth never changed expression, Kairi got the distinct impression he was frowning.  He ignored Axel's attempt and floated to Kairi, his long fingers resting on her shoulder as he spoke to her and Braxis.  "Come children, there is no need to stay in this dreary place any longer.  On the other side, you will be well taken care of."

Kairi never considered it and backed off.  "No.  I can't.  Sora needs me!  He's still out there somewhere!"

The Overseer sighed, straightening back up and placing his fingers together, acting as though this was something he'd heard many times.  "My dear child.  I know your life was important to you, and the people you loved meant a great deal.  But that life is over now.  Lingering here..." he said, shooting a dark glance at Xion and Axel, "will serve no purpose except to have your soul fade away."

The Overseer drifted toward Kairi again and Braxis stepped in the way.  "Look, she said no," Braxis said.  The Overseer merely reached out, grabbing Braxis' arm and Braxis screamed in agony, electricity dancing along his body.  He crumpled to his knees.

"I see.  Another one of you," he said, sniffing in disapproval before looking at Kairi.  "I will be with you in a moment, my dear.  Creations of this kind have no place here."

"Creations?"  Kairi said, anger filling her.  "He's a person, not some...some machine!"  She shot out her hand to call the Keyblade, ready to attack him, but the Oo-de-lally did not appear.  Her hand tingled as though she was feeling something there that wasn't.  The anger fled just as fast as it arrived.  "Huh?  Why won't the Keyblade come?"

The Overseer chuckled.  "Your weapon only existed on the physical plane.  You have no use for it now."  He spread his arms gesturing around.  "Take the time I've given you to think on your situation.  Despite these two lingering, look around.  All other lost souls have left in one way or another.  You must decide.  Will you throw away what remains of you for naught, wasting away to nothing as these two have chosen to do?  Sooner or later, you will have to choose.  Everyone does."  He leaned down, picking the big man up as though he were an infant.  "I will deal with him first, then be back for you."

Kairi stared at Braxis.  The man had been nothing but trouble since she'd met him, but he was also only one of two people she knew here.  She thought about what Sora would do if he were here.  Probably something foolish.  Kairi hated to admit it, but she was probably going to do the same thing.  Braxis hadn't said he was moving on and she felt the need to speak for him.  "Put him down," she said, her words low and threatening.

"What?" the Overseer said, glancing over his shoulder.

"Kairi, you don't know what you're getting into..." Xion said, but Kairi shrugged her off.

The Overseer shook his head.  "This place is becoming too crowded with lingerers and other souls may get the wrong idea.  I may not be able to send you or them on without your assent, but he lost his soul some time ago and now he's going to follow it."

"He never got to choose," Kairi said stubbornly.

"Irrelevant.  Without a soul, there's no choice to make."

"But..."

"He is existing in a state not meant for your world, much less this one.  All you've known is a shell."  She tried to object but he talked over her.  "His time should have been up already, but abominations kept him around.  This is my realm, and I must say I have had enough with people disrespecting the laws I was meant to uphold."

"Wait..." Kairi said, frustration building as he kept interrupting her.

"Besides," he added, his superior tone grating on her, "without a weapon, how do you plan to stop me?"  And with that, he floated away, Braxis on his shoulder.

Kairi glowered, anger returning and rising because of his arrogance.  He didn't even bother to listen to a word she wanted to say, just talking over her.  She ran at him and leapt over him, twisting in midair so that when she landed in a crouch, she was facing him.  A light flashed as she hit the ground and there were several gasps as the Keyblade appeared, the weapon vibrating in her hand.  "I said put him down.  Now!"  

The Overseer looked stunned, glancing between Kairi and the Keyblade.  He looked like he was going to say something, then stopped and dropped Braxis to the ground.  "This is a development I have never encountered.  How...?"  He stopped, composed himself, and glanced at the Keyblade again.  "I shall respect your wishes...for now.  I must consult the Oracle.  Perhaps my predecessor told them something like this..."  He turned and floated away into one of the buildings, muttering to himself.

Axel and Xion hurried over, neither able to hide the hope brimming in their eyes.  Xion hesitantly reached for the Keyblade, a longing in her eyes that Kairi didn't understand, but she didn't touch it and just smiled at Kairi.  "How did you do that?  No one else has been able to summon any weapon here."

Kairi shrugged.  "I don't know.  It was like I felt a connection with the blade I'd never felt before.  I don't know how else to describe it.  I just..."  She paused, thinking about it.  "I just knew it wasn't right.  I thought of what Sora would have done, and when I went to stop him, it came to me."

Axel laughed.  "Well, I must say, that's the first time I've ever seen ol' blue skin at a loss for how to react.  Too bad Xion never felt the same, or we'd have busted out of here long ago."  Xion's gaze cooled and she shot Axel a look before stalking toward another one of the buildings.  Axel looked confused.  "Xion.  Where're you going?"

Xion shrugged without turning back to look at him.  "I'm just a puppet, Axel.  I thought I could just forget that here..."  She kept on going until the darkness in the building swallowed her up.

"Xion!  Hey, I didn't mean it like that...aw, hell.  Man, I was never good with words around those two.  Hey, Xion!  Wait up!"  He ran off to catch up with the raven-haired girl.  Kairi watched him go, then sighed, sat down and folded her legs under her next to Braxis.  She tucked her skirt around as best as she could and rested the Oo-de-lally across her lap, closing her eyes and centering herself in case she needed to be ready.

There was no way to mark time in this place, save for her own steady breaths.  Nothing moved on its own, not even the fog, though she was glad it now hovered just outside the city limits.  Axel and Xion hadn't returned, but neither had the Overseer.  Kairi shivered in the chill air, but never strayed from her vigil.  Only when Braxis finally stirred did Kairi move, stretching the cramps out of her legs as she tried to get the feeling back in them.

"I feel like someone sliced me up all over," Braxis said, wincing as he hauled himself up to a sitting position.  

"Serves you right," she said with more venom than she'd intended, her memory of her own encounter with it still fresh.

"Funny way of saying thanks." Braxis chuckled.  "But I suppose I deserved that.  The tactic is effective though.  Nice to know."  Kairi scoffed and turned away from him.  "So where did that come from?  And could you call my staff as well?  With it, I might be able to summon my own magic to help."

Would it have killed him to say thanks for helping him?  Instead he wants me to say thank you?  "Why don't you summon it?  You're supposed to be so powerful, after all."

Braxis ignored the sarcastic barb.  "I can't.  If we landed in the same area, your weapon should have been next to mine.  However, something special about you let you do what I could not."

"Her soul is still tied to the living world."  Kairi jumped, spinning around to see the Overseer floating behind her.  Axel and Xion peered out from a building again, hurrying to hear what was going on.  "Though it is not the only reason.  The Oracle has told me what I need to know.  Only once before has this happened.  A soul who arrived here who was not meant to.  He was a Keyblade wielder as well, and a Keyblade wielder who can use their Keyblade here is a dangerous influence on the balance here in Twixt Town.  With your soul tying you to reality, you cannot be sent on, and the threat to the natural order with such an unnatural weapon overrides the rule that no one leave back to living, then and now.  I do not know what is keeping you in that world, but you cannot stay here. You are free to leave."

Kairi felt stunned, and not all of it made sense, but something niggled at the back of her mind until it became a full-on thought.  Namine.  Was that why I could feel her?  She didn't have a full answer yet, but it seemed to make sense.  She wondered why it was only her.  Roxas was tied to Sora, but Sora claimed he couldn't feel Roxas the way she did with Namine.  It was an annoyance, but it was also a question for another time and place.  "So we both can go?" she asked, looking to Braxis.

"As much as it displeases me, yes.  Fate is playing a cruel joke on me, and I must allow this tragedy against order to flow where it will.  The will of the Oracle is absolute.  Take the soulless one and go."

"Go?  Go where?"

"The Oracle has told me that you will find your way out to the north.  There you will come to a ravine and there is where you will find your path."

Kairi nodded, but she still hesitated.  "What about them?" she asked, pointing to Axel and Xion.  She didn't want to leave either of them in such a dreary place.

The Overseer looked like he might be grimacing.  It was still hard to tell.  "Fate is not without a sense of humor and has dictated their place.  They are to remain here for now and assist me.  I can use their help in the archives."  He turned and floated away without another word, leaving the group speechless.

"Huh.  Well, isn't that a kick in the pants?" Axel mused.

"You'd prefer he was still trying to convince us to move on?" Xion retorted.

"Maybe.  It was more fun fighting him."

"Well, he did say 'for now', so you may still get your wish."

Braxis coughed.  "I hate to break up the party, but we should be going.  We don't know if we have a time limit on this."

Kairi nodded.  Xion ran to her, embracing her.  "I'm glad I met you."  She leaned in and whispered in Kairi's ear.  "Take care of Roxas for me."

Kairi nodded.  "I will.  And I'll see you again.  I can feel it."  That brought a smile to Xion's face.  She looked at them.  "Is this ravine easy to find or dangerous?"

"You can't miss it," Axel said, "and it's as dangerous as anything else in this place."

They bade their goodbyes and she and Braxis left Twixt Town.  She held onto the Keyblade as they went.  This place may not be dangerous, but it was comforting to her and, while she was loathe to admit it, she'd felt naked without it.  She didn't want to let it go again until they were back in the mortal world.

The trip was long and they said little at first.  Kairi had so many questions she wanted answered, but she didn't want to pry too much into things he didn't want to talk about.  Finally, the mind-numbing silence got to her.  "Braxis?  Why do you call yourself a warrior?  You seem to rely more on magic."

Braxis gave her a quizzical look and it made her feel silly for asking.  He was silent so long she thought he wouldn't answer, but finally he spoke.  "With my people, there are only three types of people: Jokers, Warriors, and Orators.  Orators are usually the leaders.  Jokers entertain.  Warriors fight for their world.  I am the latter."  He stopped.  "Besides, by definition, a warrior is only a person engaged in warfare.  That is what I do.  I was trained all my life to fight.  While others chose the sword or the axe, I chose to use magic because it was what I did best.  Does the weapon I chose change what I am or what I believe in my heart?"  Kairi didn't respond, just staring straight ahead.  "And what about you?  Are you any less a Princess of Heart because you grew up on the islands?  Or is that more about what you are inside?"

That's what Sora said.  She had thought he'd gotten through to her.  But it seemed like she was falling back on conventions.  Unfortunately, she didn't have time to lose herself in thought like she wanted to.  They reached the ravine faster than she'd hoped.  Kairi kept her guard up for any kind of trap, just in case.  She scanned up the cliff walls of the ravine and down around the limp plants that dotted the otherwise-barren landscape.  Then she sighed in frustration.  "Nothing.  There's nothing here."

"I wouldn't be so sure," Braxis said, his voice tensing as he pointed behind her that she turned to see.  A portal of pure darkness, similar to the one Axel had pulled her through, formed in the ravine, the energy lashing at the cliff walls.  Kairi held her weapon at the ready, wanting to take on whatever came through, but when someone did appear and stepped out of the portal, she could only stare in shock as the Oo-de-lally fell from her hands and clattered to the ravine floor.


*******


The darkness surrounded Sora, drawing him in and clawing at him as he fell.  He tried to fight it off, but unlike the Heartless, there was no form to strike at and the Keyblade passed through unhindered.  He could hear Kairi screaming in the dark, a horrible gut-wrenching sound that tore at his soul.  He was unable to see or help her, and every time he tried to call out, his voice came out weak and feeble.  Helplessness filled him as he continued to plummet away from the light.  The darkness swallowed him, filling his nose and throat so he couldn't breathe and he began clawing at his neck, his fingers running red with his own blood.  

Just when he thought his life was over, the darkness broke and his descent slowed until he landed on a soft, black surface that clung to his feet every time he moved.  He felt his throat, then checked his hands.  No blood, as if it had never happened.

"Just leave it to me and he won't bother us again."

The voice echoed all around Sora, coming from somewhere in the distance, and yet it was unmistakeable to him.  "Pete?" he called.  "What are you doing here?"  If Pete heard him, he didn't respond.  "Pete!" he yelled, cupping his hands around his mouth to try and get his attention.  All that came back was his echo.  It didn't matter that Pete had been his enemy.  In this place, Sora would take any company.  Anything not to be alone.

A chill wind whipped up and Sora wrapped his arms around his chest, rubbing them to keep warm and he searched the darkness to find somewhere to go and take shelter.   Loneliness crept in and he called out again.  "Hello?  Is anyone there?"  No response but his own voice.   "Kairi?  Braxis?  Anybody?"  Nothing.  The only sound was the wind as it picked up, howling and raging against him.  The sound grew so loud he was forced to cover his ears.

Then, just as sudden as it had started, the wind stopped again.  A single point of light shone in the darkness above like the lone star in the night sky on a stormy night on the islands.  "One who knows nothing can understand nothing."  Sora knew that voice and that line.  

The false Ansem's taunt struck a nerve with Sora.  "No!  You're dead!"  He was ready for a fight, but the Keyblade vanished and would not return.

The fake Ansem's voice droned on.  "In deepest darkness, there is always light.  Likewise, in brightest light, powerful darkness still festers.  Even in you, Sora.  Stray too close to the darkness and it will consume you like a brush fire.  Even you will not be able to stop it."

"No!   I won't let that happen!"

"But you already have.  You will become the destroyer of worlds and you will never find your way back on your own..."  The voice faded with the last and the star's light blinked out.

"Hey!  Come back here!"  Sora tried to run after it, but the murky darkness clung to his legs and made each step an effort.

"Sora..."  Kairi's mournful voice drifted to him, reminding him of when Destiny Islands had been destroyed and he'd found her at their secret place, right before she put her heart in his.

"Kairi?" He turned to his right, seeing her standing, facing away from him.  He slogged toward her, each step tiring him more than the last.  The muck was getting thicker.  As he got close, he saw that she was in an outfit similar to the one she'd worn that fateful day, and it seemed painfully stretched along her body, at least two sizes to small for her now.  "Where are we?"

"No."

"No?  Kairi, that doesn't make sense."

"No..."

"Kairi?  Are you alright?"  Why won't she look at me?  He took one more hesitant step toward her and reached for her shoulder.

Kairi spun in place, but it wasn't Kairi's face anymore.  Instead, it was a middle-aged woman with haunting yellow eyes whose face was wrinkled beyond her years.  The hair was now think, black and shoulder-length, and the tendrils lashed at Sora.  "No!" she shrieked, the sound running up his spine as her eyes glowed, beams of yellow shooting at Sora.  She snatched at him, talons that had been fingers tearing into his arm.  Sora cried out in terror and pain and fell back into the muck.  She stood over him, cackling in long black robes, and faded away before his eyes, her laugh lasting much longer than she did.

Sora took a moment to let his heart stop pounding, and winced the first time he moved, pain running up and down his right arm.  It hurt to move it and he could feel the blood trickling down it.  He tried to use his good arm to free himself, but the muck enveloped it, creeping up both arms and preventing him from rising.  The liquid ran over his legs and torso, securing him to the ground and began creeping up his chest.  Sora struggled in panic, but could not get out.

A dark flame burst in front of him and Maleficent stood there, grinning down at his plight.  "Take him to the castle," she said, her voice sounding oddly hollow.  His curiosity didn't last long and was replaced by fear as a Darkside rose up behind her, reaching down for him.  Sora could not get away as the hand pressed down on him, forcing him down into the muck.  He gasped for air before he was plunged down into the thick darkness, his eyes clamped shut.

After a moment, he could breathe again and he cracked his eyes open.  He found himself in a long carpeted hallway that he couldn't see the end of in either direction.  Lit candles sat in sconces that lined both sides of the hall and continued on as far as he could see.  Between each sconce was a door and each had a knocker of a different kind on it.  He checked his right arm, and it functioned fine now.  What kind of place did I fall into?

He strained to hear something coming from any of the doors, but the only sound, other than a soft rumble in the distance, came from the candles as the flames crackled until a loud cackle echoed around him.  "You may be the one to open the door to the light, but can you find it in time?"  The false Ansem's taunt cut deep and he laughed at Sora's dismay.  There have to be hundreds of doors here.  Maybe thousands.  He walked over to one door, knocking, but no response came.  He tried yanking on the handle, but it wouldn't budge.  He moved on down the corridor, trying one after another the same way, but all he got from it was exhaustion.  Sora kicked the last one he tried in frustration and sat down next to it, wiping the sweat from his forehead.  He couldn't just keep trying every one.  If he got to one end of this hall and none were right, he'd lose track of where he started.  The rumble in the distance was getting louder and though Sora couldn't say how he knew it, he was running out of time.

"That's not like you Sora."

"Riku?"  Sora stood, looking for any sign of his friend.  He knew he needed someone to help, now more than ever.

"Kairi's counting on you.  Are you just going to give up?"

"I...I can't do it alone!  Help me!"

"I can't do that.  Not this time.  This task is yours and yours alone.  Just remember..."  But what Sora was supposed to remember was drowned out by the maniacal laughter that ran down the halls.  The rumbling grew to deafening proportions and the hall began to close in on him.  Determination met fear as Sora began trying doors as fast as he could.  Candles fell out of the sconces, igniting the carpet in a burst of flame.  Smoke filled the hall, causing Sora to cough and gag.  Sora became desperate as the burning hall grew narrow, looking for any way out.

Finally, one of the doors swung open and it was just enough that Sora could fit between the door and its frame.  He threw himself through as soon as he could, the door crunching as the halls met, slamming together and leaving Sora in darkness once again.  He stood up, unable to see much beyond himself in this darkness, but there was something calming about it this time.  He was completely bare now, save for some black marks on his arms.  He should have been afraid, but he wasn't.  A soft female voice called out to him, telling him it was all right.  No one would judge him in the dark.  There was no need for fear ever again.  He was free now.

A soft blue light formed in front of him, and he walked toward it as it started to form into that of the woman calling him.  He reached out, wanting to embrace her, to accept what she offered him and to finally be free of his burdens and his fear.  The light started to embrace him, and it felt like arms wrapping around him as the female voice began calming him as a mother would to a frightened child.  "It's all right now.  You're safe with me."

"Traitor!"  The glow vanished in a flash and Sora looked up in time to see a young man with short black hair charging at him.  He had no time to even try to defend himself as the man buried a Keyblade in his chest.  Sora gasped, blood dripping from his lips, and he could see the hatred in the young man's hazel eyes as well as another emotion: regret.  It was the last thing Sora saw before he slipped away and his eyes closed as death came for him.

Sora bolted upright, gasping and clutching a sheet to his body.  Sweat pored down his face and he wiped it from his eyes.  He checked his chest to make sure there wasn't a hole in it and realized he wasn't wearing anything but his boxers.  He blushed, looking around and found his clothes neatly laid out and took a minute to dress himself.  As he did, he noticed that there were strange black marks on his arms like in his dream.  He touched the black, but it didn't hurt, and there weren't marks anywhere else on his body.  That's strange.

The room he was in was a stale white that held a familiarity he'd only felt once before when Kairi had recognized Hollow Bastion.  The room was bare save for the bed and a window.  He walked to it, confirming what he'd began to suspect as he stared at the neon lights of the buildings that were otherwise shrouded in darkness.  He was in the castle of the World That Never Was.  Am I still dreaming?  He pinched himself to make sure it was not a dream and yelped.  He had no idea how he'd arrived in the castle, but if that was the case... I think this room...may have been Roxas'  It was a bit sad, actually.  Sora couldn't imagine what it must have been like to live each day in such a barren room.   At least for a short time in Twilight Town, he got to have a real home.

He mentally shook himself from his thoughts, remembering that Maleficent and Pete should still be here.  They'd stayed behind to deal with the Heartless and he got the feeling she intended to stay.  He walked to the door, expecting it to be locked, but it opened with ease.  "Overconfident, isn't she?" he said to himself.  "Well, might as well take the invitation."  He grinned, summoning the Ultima Weapon.  If Maleficent was behind any of the problems so far, he intended to crash the party.

The halls had an eerie quiet to them this time, the only sound for a while were his own footsteps echoing of the walls.  No Heartless or Nobodies to fend off.  No Organization members getting in his way.  And while he was looking for Kairi, there wasn't the fear or panic he'd had before.  Sora now trusted Kairi to take care of herself.  Now he just wanted her back by his side.  So when loud clanging noises drew his attention, he decided he should find out if his hosts were making them, heading toward the sound.

The room he found had been converted to a large dining room and at the ends of a large, long, rectangular table were Pete and Maleficent.  Sora hid behind a pillar as he slipped into the room, wanting to know what they were up to before he charged in.  Maybe he could find where Kairi was.  Pete was chowing down on his meal, stuffing food in his face faster than he could swallow it and tossing plates all over when he was done, while Maleficent's way of eating was the very definition of refined.   "Must you eat like such a pig?"

Pete ignored her for a second, downing a large mug as the liquid sloshed all over his face, then wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve.  "I thought the whole point of this here table was so I's could eat my way and you could eat yours."

Maleficent took a sip of wine from her glass.  "True, but you're being rude in front of our guest."  She set the glass down, gripped her staff as she stood and turned to where Sora was.  "Won't you join us, Sora?"

"Maleficent," Sora hissed, his Keyblade at the ready.  "Where's Kairi?"

"Such manners," Maleficent said with disdain, "drawing a weapon on the person who rescued you.  Perhaps I should have left you to the Heartless instead of bringing you into my castle."

"You brought...?"  That didn't make sense.  Maleficent didn't do anything for someone unless it furthered her agenda.  He looked down, seeing the dark marks on his arms.  "What are you doing to me?  Are you trying to turn me into a Heartless again?"  Maleficent's grin widened and they both laughed at him.  "What's so funny?"

"Kid, yous got it all wrong.  Maleficent may be the strongest around, but even she can't do that to you."

"What my inarticulate minion is trying to say is that marks like that come from immersing yourself in darkness for a prolonged period of time.  I'm surprised that's all the darkness you bear after falling from the Heart's Paths.   However, as long as your heart is strong enough, you should not have such a problem again.  After all, those marks fade with time."

"And how did you know where I was?"

"It was a simple deduction given your state and how you arrived.  And your heart must be strong if it led you here instead of to oblivion."  

Maleficent walked toward him, unfazed as he tensed when she approached.  He was getting more confused by the moment.  My heart...brought me here?  The only reason he could think it would was because of Roxas.  He tried to remember what happened exactly when he fell.  He had heard Kairi scream his name, but after that, his memory of the fall was a blank.  The only thing he remembered from before he woke were small pieces of the dream, like the darkness on his arm, and even that had faded from him.  It hurt to try and recall more than that.  When he gave up trying, he realized he was walking through the halls, Maleficent by his side.  Confusion led to fear.  "Where...?"

"Relax, child.  When trying to pierce the darkness once it has clouded one's memory, one tends to wander."  She cut off his question.  "I haven't survived the darkness this long without being aware of what it can do."

Sora wasn't surprised, though he'd seen just how the darkness could destroy someone who studied it too closely or tried to embrace it.  Those memories made him shudder.  Sora decided to get another question answered instead and stopped, letting her walk a few steps in front of him.  "So why help me at all?  You don't doing anything just to be helpful."

"Sora, you wound me."

"Yeah, right."

Maleficent chuckled.  "Ah, the brashness of youth.  Let's just say that having someone like you in my debt was an opportunity I couldn't pass up."  She turned around, facing him with a smile on her face.  "And if I could convince you to join me now that you've had a taste of true darkness..."

"Not a chance!  The last time you did that, you poisoned my friendship with Riku!"  Sora swung his hand out to punctuate his words.

"So be it.  Eventually, all who oppose me come to rue that decision," she said, her grin fading.  "For now, I'll be satisfied with seeing the effects of darkness on someone so pure...for as little time as it will last."  She motioned to his arms, where the black was already fading.  "After all, you cannot leave without using the Heart's Paths again and that mark will draw the darkness to you like a moth to a flame there.  Best wait here and leave your friends to their troubles."

Kairi.  Maleficent knew something was going on with her.  He could tell.  He needed to get to her, but he didn't dare use the Heart's Paths.  Not if Maleficent was telling the truth about the darkness he bore.  "Do you know how to get to her?  Where she is?"

"What's this?  The mighty Sora, asking for my help?"  She leaned down, her face close to his.  "As you put it, my help has a price."  Sora winced, not liking her tone.  "Of course, if you reject my offer, you might not see her again."

"What do you mean?"  Sora said, angry with her taunts.  "Where is she?  Is she here?"

"Not in this world, she isn't."

Sora bit his lip, turning his head away from her.  As much as he believed Kairi could take care of herself, he got the feeling Maleficent meant what she said about him never seeing her again.  And that thought tore at his heart.  "Are you sure you can get me to her?"

"I can, if that's what you desire."

"And what would you ask in return?"

Maleficent chuckled again, standing up and holding out her hand.  A dark flame exploded in her hand and within the flame, he saw a plain necklace of silver and gold with a small ruby amulet hanging from the chain.  "I want you to find this during your journeys and return it to me.  It holds some of my lost power in it and I must have it back."

"That's it?"  Maleficent had been powerful before.  He didn't want to think about dealing with her when she was stronger.  

"That's all."

I suppose if she does get stronger, I'll just defeat her again and take it back.  And I have Kairi and Riku...maybe even Braxis to stop her if she does.  It was a weak case at best.  But Kairi was worth it and more.  "Alright, but just to find Kairi."

"Of course, dear boy.  Just remember this.  I can send you to her, but I can't bring you back.  Of course, by then, the Heart's Paths will take you where you need to go."  She gripped her staff and raised her arms, a portal of pure darkness appearing in the hall.  She moved behind him, her hand resting on his shoulder.  "Now, focus solely on her, and this portal will take you to her."

He tried to do as she asked, but she gripped his shoulder tightly, dark energy rushing through him.  She yelled at him to focus, and he thought of her when he and Riku had returned to the island and how glad she'd been to see them all right.  Maleficent shoved him in the back and he stumbled into the portal, a rush going through him.  He felt as though he was being yanked in several directions, but he kept walking forward, determined more than ever to get to Kairi again.  To be back with her.  An opening appeared in front of him and he hurried for it, barely keeping his balance.  He could see her.  Kairi was waiting.  

He stepped through the opening, expecting her to embrace him, but all she did was look at him in shock.  He was confused and scratched his head.  "Kairi?  Are you okay?"

Kairi opened her mouth, then closed it again as her Keyblade dropped from her hand.  "Sora...what happened to your face?"

Sora blinked.  "What do you mean?"  Kairi tried to say something, but no words came out.  He looked around this new misty place, trying to see if he could find something that reflected.  He finally saw a small pool and hurried over, shocked at what he saw.  He reached up to his face, running his finger from his hairline above his right eye down to his chin, seeing that everything below that line and to his neck was covered in darkness.  


*******


"Maleficent.  Why'd you keep me from pummeling the brat when we first found him?  Has that trinket really got some of your power?"

Maleficent closed her eyes.  She hadn't even had the chance to celebrate her newest triumph before this bunglar came and ruined her peace.  "The trinket, as you call it, is just that.  Nothing more."  

"Huh?  Why send him after it then?  I don't get it."

"I'm not surprised you don't.  You have no vision of the future."  She breezed past him, a smile creeping on her face.  "I sent him on that wild goose chase to make sure he'd use the Heart's Paths to go look for it."

Pete scratched his head and followed, his mismatched armor clanking as he did.  "Is this Heart's Paths something special?"

"You might say that.  You see, Sora would normally be more resistant to the darkness.  However, he is divided, his heart weakened.  Now the darkness has nested within him.  Each time he uses the Paths, his heart will grow closer to darkness and now that he's fallen in it, the darkness in his heart will resonate with it.  Soon, he'll be more in tune with the darkness than even I am."

"But...won't that make him more dangerous?  I think I shoulda just offed him right away."

"That's because you're a shortsighted thug.  That attitude is what got you locked away to begin with.  If it hadn't been for me, you'd still be languishing there, but I could see what use you could be, just like Sora will be for me soon enough."  She laughed, a hearty evil laugh that resonated throughout the castle.  "You see, if you kill a Keyblade wielder, another will just take his place, even for one like Sora.  However, when I sent him through, I marked him in such a way that when he loses himself to darkness, he will come back to find me and serve me.  With a minion that powerful at my disposal, all worlds will soon be mine and everyone will bow to me!"
And here's part 2!

This chapter was a blast to write. Twixt Town was part of my initial thought concept and I had fun using such characters as Tron, Axel, Xion and Maleficent in this chapter. Hopefully I got them right.

Sora's dream was too fun to craft. I love doing dream imagery and with the darkness Sora fell into, I wanted to convey how his mind interpreted interacting with it. Personally, Sora being bare in the end is symbolic and if anyone takes issue with it, especiallly with me not going into detail, that's their problem.

Maleficent's actions were the hardest to portray. I wanted to have her show reasons for moving Sora along while hiding the true meaning. In the end, it felt too unreasonable without the last little bit because even though I knew those were her intentions, I felt it would be so odd for the reader unless they knew as well.

All in all, I had a lot of fun with this and the next chapter will have a brand new to Kingdom Hearts world. As always, I appreciate any commentary and/or constructive crit. Til next chapter ^^

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© 2011 - 2021 Tymestalker
Comments8
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Twilight--Hope's avatar
Wow, this great! (yes I finally was able to read it XD ) Just perfect! So many plot twists and we get to see Axel and Xion too!!!! can't wait to see more when you post it up, it has been too long! I really can't wait to see what will become of Sora.. Keep it up! (:
Tymestalker's avatar
I'm glad you enjoyed. I hope my next chapter's sooner than the last one.
shinigamisparda's avatar
Good to see you back man!

Holy crap, so many developments. Riku reconciling with Namine and Roxas (somewhat), the fabled returners from the dark, Axel and Xion are back (and apparently have a role to play), and now Maleficent's return and opportunistic scheme. Also, maybe Braxis is opening up a little?

But by far my favorite developments were Sora dream sequence (I have so many guesses to what each one represents) and the Overseer, quite possibly the most grotesque and Lovecraftian thing I've yet to see any fanfic. But, the Oracle? This should be interesting. A gripping chapter to herald your return! I eagerly await more!
Tymestalker's avatar
Dream sequences are so fun to write. And Sora's was even more fun. My wife referred to the whole thing as downright creepy. As far as the Overseer, that design was made up on a car trip. ^_~

I hope I got characters right like Axel and Xion. But my favorite part of this was having the darkness show up on Sora.

As far as new chapters, I have to do a bunch of research on my next world first and summer semester does not lend itself to long research on non-school stuff lol
shinigamisparda's avatar
Ah. So you're wrapped up in summer semesters too, huh? I'm mostly trying to get my credits done so I can transfer after getting my A.A. by the fall.
Tymestalker's avatar
I'm trying to finish up my bachelors so I can graduate at the end of spring semester.
OutkastedFalcon's avatar
Yes. Just....YES! ; ; TYME THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR POSTING THIS UP. You kept me waiting TOO LONG for this.

But seriously...Tyme, your writing is amazing as always. After all, it's kept someone like me hooked for forever. ^^ Uh, let's see....With all this downwards into darkness, which is usually a big issue for other writers because the best of writers know that it will take a good amount of work to bring it back up to the surface and happy again. But reading some of your other works I just get the shivers and hope that it will be just as amazing.

I don't know what else to say. I'll remember later. C:
Tymestalker's avatar
It will be a long and fun way back to happy again. I hope the next chapter doesn't take as long once I get done with my summer semester.
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