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Kingdom Hearts: Soul Crossed




Chapter 6: Hope and Despair



Radiant Garden



The music was soft and lilting as the mass of frills and flesh danced in circles to it.  It was an excuse to forget the dangers that lingered outside and enjoy their time together.  The small group of musicians had to play loud enough to be heard over the hum of the gears as the castle made its way to Radiant Garden's central hub.  Most of the residents of Figaro castle were used to it, and took the sounds in stride, adjusting to it for their guests.  Namine had even goaded Roxas into dressing up and joining her out on the dance floor, the blond boy tripping over himself in an attempt to keep up with her.  He was wearing one of the formal outfits another soldier had to make him presentable for the impromptu ball.  It was just a bit too big, but Roxas was determined to make it work for her.  It was a hilarious sight and one Riku was glad he hadn't tried to emulate.  He had found a spot on the wall and planted himself up against it, not having any desire to make a fool of himself.  

He made sure to keep an eye on his two companions, noting that Roxas subtly kept Namine away from the handsome prince of Figaro.  Riku had seen the jealousy Roxas had shown when he had flirted with Namine before, though he doubted Roxas knew the emotion was even there.  He shouldn't have worried.  Edgar's fancies had turned to another maiden in his court and he was trying to charm her as well.  Riku smirked.  He remembered a certain God of the underworld who also thought he could talk his way into, or out of, any situation.  Despite the similarities to Hades, Riku felt like Edgar's flirtations were more of a game than the hope that they'd bloom into fruition.  Riku wondered if, like everyone else he knew, Edgar had already found a girl he'd fallen for.

He rested his head on the cold stone, closing his eyes for a moment.  He didn't need to play the hero here, even if he was still getting used to the role.  Growing up on the Islands, Sora and he had been friends.  But when it came time to choose between his friend and Kairi, he'd chosen Kairi without hesitation.  It had been Sora who'd tried to keep the friendship of all three together, despite Riku's attempts to cast him aside.  He'd never admit it to Sora, and it was hard to admit to himself, but at that time he'd been wrong and Sora had been right.  It was almost enough to make him laugh.

A soft cough brought him out of his self-deprecation and he saw a young wisp of a brunette staring up at him with deep blue eyes and giggling quite inanely.  It was the third such lady to approach him, and each had been the same.  Naive, innocent, and not a brain cell between them.  He sighed, not even acknowledging her as he pushed from the wall and exited the main hall, ignoring the angry look she shot him.  He had to get away from the ladies that wanted to throw themselves at him.  All they did was remind him of the redhead who had gone missing.  

Kairi...  It still stung that he'd let her be taken again.  Both of his friends were out there, and he had no idea where.  He couldn't know whether Sora was safe, and with Namine losing her connection with Kairi, he had no idea if she was still alive either.  If she's not...if either of them aren't...nothing will stay my wrath.  I don't care if the darkness comes back because of it.  Whoever did it will pay.

Loud clanking footsteps echoed off the walls and Riku turned to see Celes patrolling behind him, still in her armor as she scoured the halls of Castle Figaro.  She stopped by him, her face unreadable, and Riku wondered what she was thinking.  "How come you aren't at the ball with your friends?"

Riku shrugged.  "Didn't feel like being a third wheel."  He looked at her.  "I suppose I could ask you the same question."

Celes paused, then looked down at him.  "It wouldn't be as fun without someone to enjoy it with."

"There seemed to be plenty of soldiers who would have loved to dance with a general."

Celes gave a soft smile, a rare sight on her face.  "I wouldn't doubt it, but my heart belongs to another.  He taught me so many things, to care and love instead of just fight.  He saved me, and without him here, the dance would be hollow.  Though I think you know my meaning."

Riku flushed and stammered.  "I don't...I mean..."

Celes's eyes glimmered and her smile showed she didn't believe him.  She walked alongside him, silent for a moment to let him gather himself, then she spoke softly.  "You know, you and I are not that different."  Riku gawked at her in disbelief, but Celes continued on.  "We both fought on the wrong side, though we thought we were right.  We both did dark things in the name of what we thought was right.  We were both redeemed by friendship and love.  And we both still have trouble getting trusted...and trusting others."

She turned at the last, knelt down and placed her arms on his shoulders, staring straight into his light-blue eyes.  "If you want to help your friends, you must learn to accept and trust your new companions, Riku.  They are not the enemy, and you do not need to fight alone this time.  If you don't put aside your anger, you cannot hope to withstand the darkness that threatens to engulf you all."

"I trust Namine," Riku said, his voice hot, "But Roxas..."  He sighed, pulling out of Celes's grasp.   "I can't fully shake the feeling that he still wants his own life."

"And Namine doesn't?" Celes said, the frankness of her tone cutting through him.  "And why shouldn't he?  He's tasted the experience of living himself, so why shouldn't he want it to continue?"  She paused, staring straight ahead.  "The question isn't what he wants, but what he's going to do, Riku."

"He's just...I thought he'd think more like Sora."  And Sora was someone I knew how to handle.

"He was part of Sora, yes?"  Riku nodded.  "However, he was not Sora when he was living.  He had other influences and experiences.  Other people in his life."  She looked over at him.  "Don't shun him for those experiences.  Let his experience help you instead."  She saw another guard approaching.  "I must go and prepare for our arrival at Castle Town.  I hope we will get a chance to talk more."  

Riku stood alone in the corridor, watching her walk away until he lost sight of her snow-white cloak.  Trust in Namine?  In Roxas?  He wished it was that easy.  He kept them at arm's length, and he wasn't sure what was holding him back.  There was just a familiar feeling of getting close to someone else for a short time, someone who had faded from his life, and he didn't want to make the same mistake with the two Nobodies who should be returning to his friends when they reunited.  

He heard a change in the humming coming from the gears, and a slight tremor ran through the hall.  None of the guards reacted in the slightest, and Riku surmised that they must be getting close to reemerging at the castle.  He had to gather his team, and he hoped they'd have enough time for him to figure out his own feelings before it was just the three of them on their own again.


-----


Roxas fell into step next to Namine, letting her separate him from Riku.  The silver-haired boy seemed more distant than usual and Roxas really didn't want to set Riku off again, not after their trip anyway.  Nobodies weren't supposed to have feelings, but Roxas could only describe the swell inside him as one emotion: joy.  

When Namine had talked him into joining her for the ball, he'd been hesitant.  Seeing her in the gown she'd been leant sent any worry he might have running from his mind for a mintue.  For the second time, she had surprised him with her beauty.  He'd warned her that he wasn't much of a dancer, but she'd dragged him out on the floor anyway.  He'd felt awkward enough in the outfit he'd been given, and his lack of dancing ability was made even more glaring by how gracefully Namine moved.  Still, she'd never mentioned it once, and even if the Nobody could feel emotion as he was now, he doubted she'd have been frustrated or upset.  She never left his arms, and the time flew by too fast for his tastes.

Now they were in the hustle and bustle of the main castle town, the reconstruction in full swing.  There were many more people than he expected and the small group had to fight their way through the crowd, despite their escort.  Edgar had known the streets would be filled and sent a few of his guards as an escort to get them to their meeting with Leon and Aerith, who had now taken residence in the main castle when they weren't down helping rebuild with Cid.  With Kefka and his Whimsies causing havoc, the guards at the palace weren't going to let just anyone in to see them.  Riku had asked after Celes, but was told that she was unavailable.  Though Roxas was curious as to why, he knew better than to ask.

Roxas took Namine's hand, helping her through the crowd so she didn't fall behind, a bit envious of how Riku seemed to slip through the crowd untouched. She gripped his hand tight, and it thrilled him to no end.  He never wanted to be apart from her again.  They came to an intersection, and the guards held up to allow a large group to pass.  Roxas peered at the myriad of different people passing by, immersing himself in the feel of the crowd, when he thought he spied someone across the way.  He couldn't see much, but he was certain that he saw the hunter, Vic, staring at them.  The crowd in front of them thickened again, and when they passed completely, he was gone.  I think I'm seeing things...  He needed to get some more sleep.

The crowd had thinned once they neared the castle, and Roxas was glad not to be jostled around so much.  "Roxas, I think we're out of the masses now,"  Namine whispered to him.

Roxas paused, then blushed as he realized what she meant, and Namine giggled as he let her hand drop.  He kept close to her though, enjoying her company.  He reached out, intending to just brush her arm a little and give an excuse that he wanted to point something out to her, when someone running slammed into him and they nearly crashed into a heap, Roxas spinning around to keep them both balanced.

"I'm sorry, sir," the boy said hastily, gathering up a blue cloak and trying to extricate himself from Roxas's grip without knocking him over.

Roxas slipped back.  "It's alright.  Accidents happen," he said, checking the boy up and down.  Though the boy was considerably shorter than Roxas, it appeared he was a little older with dirty black hair, as though he'd been living on the streets or worse most of his life.  His brown eyes were frightened like he expected Roxas to hurt him.  Given the scars on his face and arms, some that were fresh, Roxas wasn't surprised.  "Who did this to you?"

The boy shook his head.  "No, I'm fine.  I hurt myself is all..."  He kept his voice low and passive, and when Roxas placed a hand on his arm, the boy winced.

The guards walked over, concern on their faces.  "If someone has hurt you, boy, we need to report it.  That kind of behavior won't fly here anymore."

The boy nodded, though he shook considerably.  Namine knelt down, a warm smile on her face.  "What's your name?"  

"T...Teren," he mumbled.

"Well, Teren, don't worry.  No one will hurt you again, I promise."  She took the boy's hand, walking ahead with him and the guards.  Roxas was disappointed, as he wanted to still be next to Namine, and he was shocked when Riku fell in step next to him.

"Something feel wrong to you?" he asked, glancing around the street as they walked up to the castle gates.

Roxas shrugged, but as he looked around, he noticed it too.  The streets had gone from having a few people milling about to deserted.  "Where'd they all go?" he asked, feeling like they'd walked into...  "It's a trap!" he yelled, running up to Namine, his Keyblade summoned in a flash of light.  Heartless appeared out of the air, and one of the guards barely had time to yell before he was cut down by the claws of a Soldier.  Wind whipped up and sent the Heartless flying back as Namine shoved a clutching Teren with her free hand to one of the guards.  

"Get him inside!" she yelled, summoning her staff as Riku and Roxas joined her.  "We'll deal with them!"  Lightning erupted around her and her companions, striking the Heartless and stunning them as the guards raced past.  Keyblades lashed out, destroying the Heartless as fast as they could appear.  

Alarms blared as Roxas dashed back and forth, slicing the low level Heartless to ribbons.  The attack was over in a matter of seconds and Roxas let the Keyblade vanish, following Namine up the steps with Riku close behind.  "Everyone alright?" Riku asked once they were in the castle, receiving nods from them both.

Teren rushed and clutched to Namine as soon as she came in, and she tried to calm his sobs of terror.  Roxas turned away, hints of jealousy cropping in.  Why am I getting jealous again?  It's not like I'm as helpless as he is.  I don't need her now, but that boy does.  It felt weird to think of Teren that way, but even though he was older, he acted like he was a lot younger.  

"The Heartless haven't been this far into the city in months," one of the guards said.

"How'd they get past Cid's security system?" another asked.

"We're lucky they were here," Teren said softly, looking at the boys from where he was.  "Keyblades are the best weapons against the darkness.  The trap failed."

Riku nodded, but Roxas's gaze went to the door, his thoughts racing.  This doesn't add up.  If it really was a trap, why send such low level Heartless?  And how'd they get in, anyway?  Roxas could only scratch his head.  None of this felt right.  

"...I'll find a room for him, m'lady.  Artur will get you in to see Sir Leon."  The guard then took Teren away, and Artur led them into the throne room.  

Aerith rose to greet them, a smile on her face.  "I'm glad Edgar got you here safely," she said.  "We had worried when your gummi ship crashed and feared the worst."

"I wouldn't worry," Roxas said.  "We had an excellent pilot."  He wished he dared glance at Riku to see what he thought of that.

"Lady Aerith..." the guard began.

"Artur, I've asked you just to call me Aerith.  This 'Lady' business is really too formal."

"A thousand pardons, but I must take my leave and report to Master Cid.  Heartless have appeared in town again and he'll want to know they breached his security."  He bowed and made his way out.

"This is distressing," Aerith said after he'd left.  "Leon and Yuffie will want to know as soon as they come back."  She sighed.  "I had hoped we'd managed to keep the Heartless at bay, but with Kefka lurking, I suppose it was a matter of time."

"Will Cid's equipment help keep you safe?" Riku asked.   

"It has so far, but I worry it may not be enough."

"Can we help?" Roxas knew Riku wanted to find his friends, but they couldn't just leave people in danger.  

Aerith paused and Roxas ignored the dark look Riku shot him.  Finally she turned back to them.  "I know you are anxious to find Sora and Kairi, but there is one thing you could do while we wait for Cid to get the gummi ship ready.  We've recently picked up a strange anomaly in the Great Maw.  Whimsies and Heartless have been swarming there ever since, even though we haven't found anything at all.  Would you be willing to check and see what is drawing them in?"

"We'll do it," Riku said without hesitation.  "Maybe it'll even help us find why the Heartless have returned to Radiant Garden again.  Besides, we can't find our friends until we have an idea of where to look."

"Thank you.  I will leave this in your capable hands."

Roxas nodded, turning on his heel and following his friends out.  So much for getting rest.


-----


Maris wove her way through the crowded streets, ignoring the protests of those who weren't moving fast enough to clear a path for her.  She didn't have time for these clueless peasants who were rebuilding a home that was going to be destroyed again.  She'd learned long ago that fighting the darkness was wasted effort.  Her strength and that of her brethren had not been enough to save her homeworld.  If these peasants thought they were stronger, they were sadly mistaken.

Thoughts of her home brought up thoughts of Braxis.  Restin told her that her lover had betrayed them, releasing the Keyblade wielders and allowing them to escape.  She couldn't believe it.  Braxis had been so strong and resolute, but the chosen of the Keyblade had a way of corrupting those who should have eliminated them in a heartbeat, like Axel from that group of Nobodies that thought they were conquerors.  He too had been led astray by those that used the Keyblade, first by one of his own, then by the boy Sora.  All they did was bring trouble with them.

Of course, they have their uses too.  Restin had learned that Keyblade wielders were strong in both heart and soul, strong enough to be moved from one to another, and a soul was what her kind needed.  Ever since the Heartless raided their world, they'd been living without one.  And we were so close to having one again, if not for that wretched Nobody.  

She had no idea where the blonde Nobodies had been hiding, but the boy had ruined a perfectly good soul transfer.  She could have strangled him when she saw him in Radiant Garden's town, but she chose to stick with the plan.  She let him and his friends go, knowing their was a perfectly good soul walking away with them.  Patience.  It was almost as if Restin spoke that word into her ear.

She turned, dark blue eyes glancing back and forth as she ducked into a seedier part of the Castle Town, one she knew well, and stepped into a building that had been decrepit since the world had been destroyed and taken over by Maleficent.  She made her way down the stairs and through a door before flopping down in a chair, her brunette hair falling into her eyes.  She waited in the dim, candle-lit room for her partner to return.

Several minutes later, a portal of darkness flared up and a lone boy walked through, a smile on his face.  "Did it work?" she asked in anticipation.

"Like a charm," Teren said, plopping down next to her with practiced ease.  "The attractor was planted, just as you requested, and they suspect nothing."

Maris grinned.  "And that fool Vic will soon see the Heartless showing up wherever the boy goes, yes?"  

"I'll make sure of it."  Teren lounged back, fingering a scar just above his right eye.  "I told you I could set anything in motion, didn't I?  They didn't even flinch at helping a poor, scared kid.  They even think I'm some kind of abuse victim or something.  People who want to believe something will if you let them see what they want to."

Maris nodded, though she didn't like his tone.  "Just remember to keep Riku alive until I can get to him."

Teren waved dismissively.  "It's as good as done."

"Restin chose well, then, and you will be rewarded for your service."

"I know I will," he said, confidence brimming from him.  There was something about the boy that grated Maris to the core.  Despite never putting a toe out of line around her or Restin, he always managed to say things that made her wary of him.  "Just remember my price and I'll serve the Nobodies up on a silver platter."

She sniffed.  "Just don't think you can play us for fools, boy."

"I wouldn't dream of it, Maris, so long as those three pieces are in my grasp."  He smirked.  "You can find them, right?"

Maris laughed.  "You must be joking.  Restin can find anything he likes and either we or the Soulless can retrieve it.  Just be careful, Teren, or you may find yourself on the wrong end of one of these."  She pulled out a small blade, the same one she used on Kairi.  "You may not be strong enough for a full transfer, but we can always use more Soulless minions."

If that bothered Teren at all, he didn't show it.  Cool as a fall day, that one.  He stood, giving a short bow.  "I have a role to keep up and I intend to make use of it.  After all, I managed to infiltrate the castle in a matter of minutes when you and your little band couldn't get past the gates.  Do keep that in mind."  

The portal flared up, the sound drowning out any response Maris might have made, and Teren stepped into it before it closed behind him.  She tore an arm off the chair, hurling it at the wall where Teren had been, wanting to beat the smug smile off the kid's face.  Oh, he is a slippery one.  I better warn Restin to keep an eye on him, just in case.


-----


Namine followed the boys closely as the thick crowds of the town gave way to craggy paths of the Bailey that led down to the Great Maw.  She wasn't sure what to expect down there, even as the path opened up to a wide area scarred with the signs of battle.   She didn't know what had transpired here, and she wasn't sure she wanted to.  The Heartless had been attacking all the way from the castle, and down here, surrounded by the cliff walls, it felt like a grave.

Wind whipped along the desolate landscape, the chill snapping at her and causing her to grip her arms and rub for warmth.  She clamped her jaw shut to keep from shivering as they walked along.  It's just uncomfortable.  Don't complain.  They need to know you're dependable.  She had told them she could fight, and she was not going to let them down just because of a little breeze.

Riku stopped, turning himself around.  He hadn't dismissed the Way to Dawn once since leaving the town and he'd been ready for any attack the Heartless had brought.  Roxas looked at them both, letting his own Keyblade vanish.  "There's nothing here."

Riku held up a hand.  "I wouldn't say that.  I can feel a strong light somewhere, but I can't see it."

Namine held onto her staff, which she'd named the Ink Caster, fear making her grip the wood hard.  Strong light tended to lure in strong Heartless.  She glanced back and forth, but unlike in the Bailey, the Heartless had not shown up down here.  Even so, she didn't dare relax.

It didn't help that something was niggling in the back of her mind.  She could feel the pull of something, but had no idea what it was or why she was feeling this way.  She just felt like there was something she needed to do.  

She walked away from the others, searching for the source, and a small, brief flash of light caught her attention.  It seemed to come from the cliff wall and Namine frowned, confusion filling her.  She reached out with the Ink Caster in front of her, and began tapping it on the wall.  It appeared solid, and she wondered if it had just been a trick of the light.  She sighed, resting it on the wall just as another flash happened.  It touched the Ink Caster and a large portal of blues, reds and purples leapt into view.  Namine was so surprised she fell backward, pulling the Ink Caster with her, and the portal vanished again.  

Namine frowned, getting up and setting the Ink Caster against the wall, the portal reopening before her eyes.  She could see a path beyond the opening, and in the far distance were three figures.  The familiar feeling crept back into her mind and she cried out for joy.  "Riku!  Roxas!  It's Kairi!"

The boys rushed over as Namine felt her magic flow.  The portal was unstable, and she knew what she had to do.  She focused her energies, stepping back and using her own magic to reinforce the pathway.  

Roxas watched over her shoulder, one hand resting on it, as she tried to keep from losing the entrance again.  The figures were now running towards them, and she could see Kairi and Sora with a third she didn't know.  It didn't matter.  They'd found them again.

"Roxas!" Riku yelled.  "Heartless!  Keep them from Namine!"

She heard Roxas's keyblade appear with a familiar sound and she wished she could help.  Her focus had to be the portal.  She got the feeling from Kairi that if it closed again, they might not be able to reopen it.  The sounds of battle behind her only fueled her urgency.  C'mon guys.  Hurry.

A loud clanking noise resounded around the Great Maw and a dark shadow fell over her.  Hands gripped her and pulled her back as a large creature landed right where she'd been.  She landed with a thump on top of someone, and looked to see that Riku had yanked her out of the way as Roxas moved between her and the giant.  

It was five times her height at least and the body was large and round like a Big Body, though it shone with a metallic sheen.  The arms were stiff, as though added on to the sides without much thought, and the legs only bent a little when it bounced.  The head was tiny compared to the rest of the body and had two small antennae that looked to be made of copper tubing for ears.  It didn't seem to be attached very well as it rotated at the slightest movement.  Halfway down the chest was the same symbol that had been on the creatures in the desert.  "Another Whimsy," she breathed, trying to look beyond it to see if the portal had stayed open.

It had, as far as she could tell, but it was weakening.  She didn't have time for much else as its legs bent and it bounded at them.  The three of them scattered as it crashed into the ground, the shockwave knocking them off their feet.  It growled, an eerie mechanical sound and dark energies radiated off its body.  A hatch opened and several of the Whimsies Kefka had attacked them with leapt off the larger Whimsy and raced through the portal.  The darkness grew, then focused into a small area before shooting at the portal.  It slammed into the entryway, the light and dark fighting for a moment before the light fizzled and the portal vanished.  Energy backlashed into Namine, knocking her flat.

She sat back up as Roxas leapt in front, deflecting a metal projectile with his Keyblade as he protected her.  She leapt up, her arms aching, and she readied herself for battle.  Riku was circling behind the creature, trying to keep out of its sight and Namine fired off three successive fireballs at it to keep it focused on them.  It bounced in place, little hatches opening up on the front as more sharp metal objects whirled toward her and Roxas.  He summoned a second Keyblade, playing guard for her as he whirled with both.  Metal clanged on metal and the silver discs fell all around without doing much damage.

A sound like winding clockworks rang throughout the Great Maw and the Whimsy began spinning toward them at high speed, forcing Roxas and Namine to throw themselves back out of the way.  It crunched into the cliff wall, grinding as it bounced off and Riku backflipped away, slicing at it as it raced by.  Metal screeched on metal, making an ear-piercing sound, but didn't seem to do much damage.  It rebounded off one more wall before slowing.  It shook, the head sliding around on top of the body, but never coming off.

Riku leapt from behind, Keyblade ready to swing, when a panel shot out off a spring and slammed into him, knocking him back.  Roxas drew up both Keyblades, light glowing at the tips.  He brought them in half-circles, the light holding until the points joined.  He spun in a circle once to gain momentum, then tossed the ring of light at the Whimsy.  It screeched in immense pain, then sent a shockwave at Roxas that knocked him on his ass.

It bounced on its short, stubby legs three times and the portal jumped back into view, though the edge was tinged with black now.  Namine could see the path again and saw Kairi and the dark man fighting off the Whimsies, while Sora was on his hands and knees, a shroud of black seeping onto him.  Darkness radiated from the large Whimsy and Namine cried out as it felt like something was trying to pull her apart. She thought she heard her name being yelled, but she couldn't be certain.  All she knew was that she'd dropped to her knees and was cradling her body.

She heard Roxas cry out from nearby at the same time as Kairi from beyond the portal, and she thought she heard something shatter like glass.  Something inside Namine snapped.  She screamed out loud and she felt a surge through her.  Light pushed back the darkness, and it felt like her whole body was on fire.  She stood, the fire honing into something she could control and she opened her eyes, the flames surrounding her but not touching her body.  Bits of light danced within the flames, looking beautiful to her.  She didn't know where they came from, nor did she care.  She simply wanted to destroy this monster that hurt her and her friends before it could do any more harm.

She raised her staff, fire shooting out at the Whimsy, forcing the gigantic creature back from her and Roxas.  Columns of flame rose from the ground, slamming into the giant metal body, but the Whimsy took each blow without dying.  She could feel the rush of energy fading, and she knew she had to try and eliminate the creature before it left her completely.  She drew in the flames, snarling them around the Ink Caster, and shot out one large beam of fire that hit the beast in the chest, slamming it into the cliff wall.  The attack lasted only a few seconds, and when it was done, the Whimsy fell onto its chest.  The flames died out and Namine was wheezing when it was done.  She locked her knees to keep from collapsing.  It had taken so much damage and hadn't faded away.  It's too powerful.

Riku and Roxas charged, presumably to finish it before it could get back up, but the large body popped and Namine gripped her staff, hoping she could do something to help them.  Riku....Sora...Kairi...Roxas...I let them all down.  The big metal monster didn't attack though.  It turned and rolled away, breaking through any outlying pieces of the cliff to escape, making horrendous crunching noises as it did.  Riku slowed down, staring as it fled.  Namine finally let her legs give way.   

She was sweating and panting as Roxas hurried over, her outfit hugging her body.  "Where did that come from?" Roxas asked.

"I...don't know.  It was like I was overloaded with energy, but it wasn't going to last."

"Well, whatever it was, it worked.  That thing was damaged badly."

"Namine."  Riku's no nonsense tone cut through her pain.  "Can you get the portal open again?  It doesn't seem to be coming back."

Namine blinked.  She hadn't noticed the portal had gone.  "I can try..." she said, weary and spent.  She lifted the Ink Caster, hoping it would open the portal just from contact again.  She rested it on the cliff wall, but nothing happened.  She pursed her lips, trying to put a little magic into the staff, but still the entryway refused to appear.  She looked back and forth between Roxas and Riku.  "I'm sorry...but it's gone."

"If the portal's gone," Riku said after a moment's pause, giving voice to the fear that was roiling in her stomach, "what happened to Kairi and Sora?"


-----


The Heart's Paths

They'd been walking for a long time, and Sora was showing strain.  Braxis wasn't surprised.  The boy was messing with an ability he'd never used before and the longer they were here, the worse off they'd be.  Kairi was still keeping an eye on him, and that was just fine with him, but he could see the worry she tried to hide about Sora's condition.  

He'd let his own thoughts wander on the journey, wondering why Restin had tried to remove him.  He'd been loyal and lethal, a combination the Hunters valued.  He was one of Restin's best.  It didn't make any sense to him.  His people prided themselves on their loyalty to each other and always had been.  It was part of an unwritten code among his people.  So why did Restin stab me in the back?  He supposed it didn't matter.  Once he found out the secret of Sora's strength, he intended to stay long enough to defeat them together and regain his spot among the best of the best.  Then he would find Restin and kill him.

He glanced over at Kairi and her suspicious blue eyes.  She needn't have worried.  He was not the type to fight a foe weakened like this.  There was no challenge in doing so.  No, he wanted to prove he could do so when they were at their best.  

It was maddening to him that his victory had been stolen away.  And a glorious victory it would have been too.  But even he had to admit that they had been a good combination, once they'd fought together.  Combined, they were just weaker than Restin was, and he'd been the only one of his kind to give him a good fight.  He'd walked away the victor in that fight, but it was not without scarring.  

However, Restin was leader because he knew how to do more than just fight.  Braxis was great at what he did, but he knew he wasn't capable of leading his people in anything but battle.  He lived for combat and to be with Maris.  It was supposed to be that simple.

"Sora, I think we should rest.  You look like you're going to faint," Kairi said, pulling him from his thoughts.

Sora shook his head, though Braxis doubted Kairi knew the real reason why.  He had long since deduced that the small tremors they'd been feeling some time after starting their trek were signs of how unstable this region was.  The fact that they were growing in intensity showed Braxis that they were running out of time.  With Sora refusing to stop, Braxis was certain he knew it too.

Braxis put a hand on Sora's shoulder.  "How much further?"

"Not too much.  I can feel the destination up ahead."

"Finally," Kairi breathed, relief in her voice.  Braxis could only smirk.  It seems her fascination with this place waned quickly when her boyfriend was in danger.  He didn't understand the obsession with scenic beauty.  Unless it was the beauty of a woman like Maris, he saw no point in any of the wasteful time spent on watching a sunset or picking out a bouquet of flowers.  He wondered if she'd even noticed that while it was colorful and bright up above, there was an endless darkness below the road.  Such is the way with all powerful light.

The floor shook wildly, much more severe than anything they'd experienced yet.  Braxis steadied himself, determined not to fall as his companions did.  So he was the first to see the portal flare into view as Sora and Kairi picked themselves back up and he could see someone at the other end.  Timing couldn't be better.  Even I was worried about this place.

Sora looked at Kairi and she nodded.  "Let's go before this place gets worse."

The three of them went running for the exit, only to stop short as a large shadow fell over the portal.  Something very large had landed in between the lone figure and their exit.  Several strange creatures rushed in, not at all like the Soulless he'd commanded.  They had swirls for eyes, a checkerboard body, and very sharp claws.  Braxis could see they'd be very fast, just by the way they moved.  He summoned his staff from the pocket of space he'd stored it in, ready to show these things they'd picked the wrong group to mess with.

The portal collapsed just beyond the creatures and Sora cried out, acting like he'd been stabbed.  "Sora!"  Kairi cried out, taking her eyes off the creatures to check on her friend.  "Are you okay?"

"Kairi, look out!" he cried, and she turned to see one of the creatures rush in.  Braxis moved faster than he'd thought possible, reaching out and clamping a hand on its arm before its claws could slice into the girl.  

Braxis snarled, bringing the staff down on its arm and it cried in pain, retreating.  "Now, we can't have someone damaging your pretty skin, girl.  Best keep your focus on your enemy.  Your boyfriend will be alright."

"He's not my boyfriend," she said, though her retort didn't sound truthful to his ears.

"You two going to talk or fight?" Sora asked, coming up on Braxis's right.  

"I'm always ready for a fight, boy."  Braxis glanced at the creatures, beckoning them to come at him.  They obliged, and he learned very quickly that they reacted very well, taking several small cuts even as he bashed one to death with the staff.  He had no concern for the others, except to make sure none of them died.  He had confidence in their fighting capabilities and he had more than enough of these creatures to focus on himself.  

Sora cried out and it was such a strangled call that Braxis had to turn back, if only to check on him.  The boy was on his hands and knees, and the darkness was feeding on him.  Braxis looked over, seeing the portal back and dark as well and he put two and two together, feeling the creatures were using this place to steal Sora's life as his heart was tied to the path. He did the best thing he could think of.   Lightning crackled from his staff and he cast it at the portal.  The powers clashed and then the portal shattered, leaving them stuck in this place.  I hope he can reopen that once it's safe, he thought as he watched Sora collapse.

Kairi was fighting off the creatures, but there were too many for the two of them to handle individually.  They moved too fast.  Braxis grinned, an idea forming.  Magic drew in and he cast Zero Gravity.  The creatures were floating now.  "Let's see you escape now," he growled.  Without any traction, they were easy pickings for he and Kairi, and between the two of them, they destroyed the threat.  "Are you hurt?" he asked, walking over to her.  It was a stupid question.  Her arms were covered in blood from the many cuts she'd received.

"Forget me.  Sora needs you."

Braxis shook his head.  "Don't be silly girl.  He collapsed because of the darkness.  He'll be alright soon.  You do him no good bleeding to death before he wakes."  He took her hands in his, cure magic flowing from him to her.

Kairi looked up at him, emotions warring within her, but she finally grit her teeth.  "Thank you," she said stiffly.

"I bet that hurt worse than these cuts," he smirked.  "And I won't..."

He didn't get to finish his sentence, the road heaving violently under their feet.  It was shaking nonstop and Braxis realized something was going terribly wrong.

"Sora!"  Kairi cried, trying to get to him and Braxis had to pull her back as the road between them tore apart, leading to a gaping black hole underneath.  "Let me go!  I have to help him!  Sora!"

Sora stirred, pushing himself up, waking just in time as the road beneath him collapsed and he reached out, gripping the edge.  Kairi tried to go to him, but the path was disintegrating beneath them and Braxis had to catch her as part of it shattered beneath her to keep her from vanishing into the nothing.  Sora tried to pull himself up, but the road broke in his hand and he fell into the darkness below.  Kairi screamed his name, reaching out for him in vain, but Braxis could tell he was gone.  

"Quit squirming girl, or we go too," he cried, ignoring her sobs.  He was losing his grip on her hand, but he wondered if it mattered.  This place was going and they were going to go with it.  This is not how I pictured I'd go out.   The floor gave way underneath him, and he forced himself to hold onto Kairi's hand as they fell.  He was determined not to let her die alone.
Well, after a long wait, here's chapter 6. Hopefully, my fans of Soul Crossed won't have to wait for chapter 7 too long as I'm on my fall break.

I have to admit this chapter was a lot of fun, from writing Riku and Celes's scene (And no Kiwi, it will not turn into a love pairing ;-) ) to having the interplay between two of my villains in Teren and Maris, to creating the Whimsy boss and finally to writing the collapse of the Heart's paths.

I must say though, the most fun I had and the hardest part to write, was Namine going Limit. I had to create one that was powerful, but not too powerful, and describe how short-lived such a thing would be.

All in all, this story is getting more fun the deeper I go in. And chapter 7 should prove to be very fun indeed. Not only will I get to have my created hub-town, but I get to have multiple characters from previous games showing up, including a special appearance by two that I've been dying to get to ^^ Enjoy all, and as always, constructive criticism and commentary is appreciated.

[link] <Previous / Next> [link]

EDIT: I so forgot to give credit where it was due. Namine's weapon's name was created thanks to the help I received from :iconshinigamisparda: Thank you so much for the help you gave ^^
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:iconhorsez219:
horsez219 Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
n.n I can't wait for the next chapter
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:icontymestalker:
Tymestalker Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2010
:-) I'm glad I made a chapter you liked ^^
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:iconhorsez219:
horsez219 Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
-waves hand- dude, I like ALL the chapters. It's a really good fanfic, and not some fangirly/yaoi/yuri/liekOMG!!!@1!! fanfiction. It makes sense xD
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:icontymestalker:
Tymestalker Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2010
:-) I appreciate it. At least I have SOME fans lol. I'm hoping chapter 7 will be soon. I'm working currently on another chapter for my 'dark side' (Read 'adult') Kingdom Hearts fanfiction.
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:iconhorsez219:
horsez219 Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
cooooooooool~
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:icontymestalker:
Tymestalker Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2010
*shrugs* Of course that one gets more faves. It's hentai, so what should I expect? But I won't post it to DA. Unlike some writers on DA, I won't flaunt the rules just because people don't take the time to read text to see that it's pornographic. No, I save that stuff for my hentai foundry account. ^^;
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:iconhorsez219:
horsez219 Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
-nods- sounds like a good idea.
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:icontymestalker:
Tymestalker Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2010
^_^ Hopefully I can get chapter 7 up sooner than the gap between 5 and 6
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(1 Reply)
:icontwilight--hope:
Twilight--Hope Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2010  Professional Filmographer
Awww.. I can't wait for the next chapter! And Roxas and Namine dancing together is probably the cutest thing ever! <33
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:icontymestalker:
Tymestalker Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2010
Wow, people seem to really like that scene.
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:icontwilight--hope:
Twilight--Hope Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2010  Professional Filmographer
It's just so sweet !
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:icontymestalker:
Tymestalker Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2010
lol, that's the intent. ^^

My wife's reaction when she finished reading the chapter was anger....because there wasn't more ^_^
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:icontwilight--hope:
Twilight--Hope Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2010  Professional Filmographer
haha
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:icontymestalker:
Tymestalker Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2010
Seriously, it was the cutest reaction. She was all "I was upset because I tried to scroll down more and there wasn't anymore to scroll down to."
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:icontwilight--hope:
Twilight--Hope Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2010  Professional Filmographer
awww sweet ^^
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:icontymestalker:
Tymestalker Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2010
btw, sorry to ask here, but do you use messengers? I would love to chat there ^^
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(1 Reply)
:iconshinigamisparda:
shinigamisparda Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2010
Another fine chapter! Several things here were finely done, and there are several subplots I'm very interested in here!

First of all is the Maris and Braxis love connection, that could become very complicated in the future. Moreover, why did Restin try to have him snuffed? Did he feel his power was threatened? Did Braxis' use in fights only make him too much of a dead weight? Or, maybe Restin wants a certain someone for himself and wants Braxis out of the picture?

And Vic, will he realize the truth before it's too late?

The battle scenes were great, and you made it really sound like the Whimsy boss was a particularly powerful opponent.

Honestly, I'm starting to like Braxis. I can respect anyone who prefers fair fights.
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:icontymestalker:
Tymestalker Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2010
As I said, I enjoyed the battle scene this time, and having Namine go Limit was an interesting nuance to try and write clearly. I really wanted the video game feel along with the text story. (In more ways than one, S.D. Perry's work really felt right for a video game story.)

Braxis is fun to write, but also hard, because it's kind of hard to write someone I created that seems to have...a one track mind and flesh him out. ^^; The Maris connection though. Yeah, that didn't even occur to me until writing this chapter. But it made a LOT of sense to add especially given where I've already gone.

As the above shows, there are plot points I have hashed out, and there are things that come on the fly. Things like going limit, or the Riku/Celes connection, or even Braxis joining them (which wasn't something I had planned to start). Same thing with Teren showing up. Originally, Maris was going to plant the device, but I wanted to finally make a connection with the prologue instead of being like Robert Jordan and waiting a couple of books. ^^ Besides, Teren is sneaky like that.
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:iconshinigamisparda:
shinigamisparda Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2010
BTW, I also forgot to mention: I didn't play 358/2 Days, so I don't know exactly what happened, but I detect the hint of Riku remembering Xion?
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:icontymestalker:
Tymestalker Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2010
Now, did you notice he wasn't the only one? ;-)
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:iconshinigamisparda:
shinigamisparda Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2010
No, I missed that! I'll have to reread.
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:icontymestalker:
Tymestalker Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2010
Nevermind. I thought I added that tidbit in at another chapter, but apparently I didn't...ah well.
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:icontymestalker:
Tymestalker Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2010
You got it ^^
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:iconshinigamisparda:
shinigamisparda Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2010
Sweet. I hope to have the next chapter up by the time you finish seven and eight. I think you'll like the plot development, and it'll show what I feel to be a mostly unused direction in the KH series. ^^
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:icontymestalker:
Tymestalker Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2010
Heh, cool
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:icondj-skylark:
DJ-Skylark Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2010
Huzzah more Soul Crossed.

I'll come back with a more coherent comment!
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:icontymestalker:
Tymestalker Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2010
I hope so ^^;
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:icondj-skylark:
DJ-Skylark Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2010
1) Namine's Linit is AWESOME.

2) Oh, Braxis. I'm getting to like him.

3) Oh, Riku. Oh, Celes. I know that Riku/Celes will never happen, but they'd have the most adorable friendship ever.

4) Roxas and Namine dancing = Cutest thing ever.

All in all, it was worth the wait! :3 will we have to wait as long for Chapter 7?
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:icontymestalker:
Tymestalker Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2010
:-) Thank you for your kind comments. And I hope we won't have to wait long for chapter 7. (CotD 9 is my current project)
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:icondj-skylark:
DJ-Skylark Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2010
You're welcome. You more than deserve the comments! Oh, Riku. Oh Celes. I want to hug them.
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:icontymestalker:
Tymestalker Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2010
lol, thank you. *blushes*
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:icondj-skylark:
DJ-Skylark Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2010
You're quite welcome!
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