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Kingdom Hearts: Soul Crossed




Chapter 8: The Darkwing Before the Dawn



Radiant Garden


The wind whipped up and around Maris as she sauntered up along the cliffs surrounding the Great Maw, swirling her red hair out and around her as though it was trying to hold her tight.  She could see the destruction the huge Whimsy had left behind after its fight with those three pests.  It was too bad the creature had been damaged so heavily by the brats, but at least she could use it again if needs be.  After all, the Soulless weren't the only creatures she'd learned to command.  Like Restin, all four bowed before her for now, making her feel like the queen Restin said she was.

Silver eyes scanned for Vic, and she could fathom a guess why he'd called her out here instead of following the decrepit gummi ship Cid had given them.  Even if she was wrong, Maris felt she could deal with the bounty hunter.  If not, she didn't deserve to be Restin's own.

Footsteps crunched in gravel as the big man approached her, that ridiculous sword of his strapped to his back. That's a good sign.  Vic had made no attempt to mask his approach.  She took that to mean he didn't want her head just yet.  "Did we really have to meet out where any manner of dark creature might find us?"

"Minions of the dark all fall the same," he said in a deep voice.  "Be they Heartless, Nobody, or someone trying to benefit from them."

"And is that what you think I'm doing?"  It was a rhetorical question.  His tone was unmistakable.

Vic folded his arms across his broad chest.  "You lied to me.  The only reason you aren't dead is that I mean to find out why."

So that's it.  He's definitely confident in his ability to handle me.  She saw no reason to admit any of her real role to one like him though.  "And what exactly did I lie about, bounty hunter?"

"Those three aren't part of the darkness.  They fought to stop it."

"Well, that's partially true," she said, her face a mask as it always was when she danced with words.  "They did fight the Whimsy, but if you notice, they didn't destroy it and instead allowed it to escape."  She trudged up near the edge, turning her back to him.  Vic was too honorable to stab her in the back, and she wanted to show just how unconcerned she was with him.  Her hand swept out broadly over the edge, indicating the massive damage all around.  "I mean, it was such a large target.  It's hard to believe the three of them couldn't get rid of it."

She turned to face him, a small smile on her face.  "And then there was the matter of the Heartless.  Cid's security system has kept them out of the city for months, and now they finally get in once those three arrive?  Surely the coincidence of that didn't escape you."  Her grin widened as she emphasized that part.

She walked up to him, getting close to show she did not worry.  "And now that they've gone?  The Heartless are flocking into the city in droves.  It's all Cid and the others can do to keep them at bay and away from the citizens of the Garden."  She reached up, patting his shoulder, then dropped her hand as he scowled at her.  "I see their act did fool you, but I've seen it before.  Pretending to be heroes and destroying some minions, but in truth leading the darkness in under the Garden's very nose.  It's a very elaborate scheme, but since it absolves them of blame, why not do it?"  In truth, on one world that had been her scheme, so she could attest to its effectiveness, but as long as those three remained unaware of the tracker on the blonde boy Nobody, no one could disprove her lie.

"You could be right, but I'm not convinced you are yet.  Aerith and Leon trust them."

"Trust is easily betrayed, Vic.  As I said, with them, it's hard to believe your eyes.  But I know them, and am familiar with those they destroyed.  It takes a lot of cunning and guile to create the downfall of so many by themselves."

Vic scowled, but she could see he was mulling it over.  "I told you before.  Don't take my word for it.  Follow them for as long as you like.  In the end, the truth will win out.  Those three are tied to the darkness, and in the end, any world they visit will explode in it."  She reached into her pocket, pulling out a worn parchment.  "If you need more proof, just watch.  They are seeking these items, and I guarantee they will take them from the worlds under the guise of it being important to keep the darkness from winning.  But these items are darkness attractors on their own and when combined, all worlds are in peril."

Vic snatched the parchment up, his dark eyes looking the items over.  "I'll keep this for now."

Maris waved him off.  "Be my guest.  I have no use for such accursed items."  Another partial truth.  Teren was after those pieces, for reasons Maris had yet to discover.  That her group was helping him was not something the hunter needed to know.

Vic folded it, slipping it into his pocket.  "I warn you.  Either you or these three will be ended by the time I'm done.  Pray it isn't you."

"It won't be.  I guarantee it."  Maris watched him go, not moving from the cliff edge.  She meant that part for certain.  Vic might have that blasted sword, but she'd show him the folly of drawing it against her when she'd bury it in his chest.  Vic was no Keyblade wielder, and she'd already held Riku off without much fuss.  She intended to follow him and make sure he didn't kill the silver-haired boy and just the two Nobodies.  After all, she could take Riku's soul any time while he was alive.  Even if he was mortally wounded.  And the thought of that made her start to whistle as she walked back to the castle town.


-----------

  
The waves crashed upon the white sand, the water climbing up to Namine's toes and swirling around and between them before receding back.  The noonday sun beat down from above, warming her up in her white one-piece bathing suit.  She kept her eyes closed, the sound and warmth soothing her soul.  This is the life I've been missing, she thought, her fingers making small swirls to either side of her in slow movements.  I could stay on these islands forever now.

"Are you going to lounge here all day?"

Namine cracked her eyes open, staring into the blue-eyed redhead's face.  "C'mon Kairi.  The weather's nice and I want to just enjoy it."

Kairi giggled a little.  "Lazy.  Roxas at least knows how to have fun."  She glanced over her shoulder where the gang was setting up a volleyball net.  Sora and Roxas were arguing about how best to go about it, though they were all smiles.  Tidus was trying to regale Selphie with a tale of something he found on one of the smaller islands, while Riku and Wakka were talking and laughing at Sora and Roxas.

Namine gave Kairi a wry look.  "You have a strange definition of fun."  

Kairi shrugged.  "Once it's up, it will be."

Namine laughed.  "If you leave those two in charge, it'll be dark by the time they're done.  Should we go give them some help?"  

Kairi nodded, offering a hand that Namine took.  She smiled as they walked over.  "Need us fragile little flowers to lend a hand, boys?"

"Yeah, Kairi.  Just show Roxas that I'm right," Sora said, ignoring the dirty look sent his way.

"Don't worry.  We'll fix what you ruined," Namine said, which earned laughter from some of her friends.  She was smiling wide now, and laughing along with them as she knelt to help adjust the poles. Her head started to ache for a moment, and the sand seemed to shift out around her in odd ways, as though someone was gripping a canvas she was painting on and tearing it outward.   There was a sound like static for a moment before everything shifted back as though nothing went wrong.  She sighed, wondering if she was getting too much sun. "You got it straight, Kairi?"

There was a hushed silence, and she looked up at Riku, who was now standing closer to her.   "Namine...again?"

Namine blinked, looking around at some solemn faces.  She also noticed one thing.  Kairi wasn't there anymore.  "What?" she said, confusion setting in.

"Kairi's gone, Namine.  Has been for some time."  He put his hand to her forehead.  "You're a little warm.  Have you been feeling disoriented?"

"A little..." she said, though she was starting to have trouble remembering how she'd gotten to the islands to begin with.  She opened her mouth to ask, and Riku's face froze.  The white noise sound roared in her ears as the beach and her friends glitched as though part of some computer screen.  Namine tried to call for the Ink Caster, wondering what had gone wrong, when she was lying on the beach again.  

Fear clenched in at her and she sat up, gasping and looking around.  It was sunset now and a sharp wind was rushing around. She clutched her hands to her body.  What is going on?  There was no one on the beach this time, and she stood up, hurrying down the beach.  "Hello?  Anybody?" she cried.

"Hey!" Roxas called, and she turned, falling into his arms, tears splashing against his bare chest.  "What happened?  Are you okay?"

"I don't know.  One minute I was fine, and the next, everything changed.  And I'm not sure where everyone went.  I...I'm scared, Roxas."

"Shh...it's alright, Kairi.  You're safe at home."

"Kairi?"  Namine said, backing up and out of his arms.  "No, I'm...I'm..."  It was getting hard to remember her name now, and Roxas seemed so sincere.  But she ran from him, fleeing.  The static chased her, roaring like a heavy wind and she clamped her hands over her ears.  She tripped, falling to the sand and coughing, but forcing herself back to her feet.

Her heart leapt to her throat.  Darkness had flooded the islands, the trees twisted and mangled.  Bodies lay scattered around her, vanishing into hearts faster than she could count.  She spun, hoping not to find anything, and a person Namine didn't know ran towards her, yelling for help as she was chased by Shadows and Soldiers.  Behind them, a wave of Heartless flowed along, engulfing anything they touched.  

Namine ran toward the person, determined to help, when they froze mid-run.  It was like she was watching a video, but someone kept pausing and rewinding, changing the movie each time.  "What's going on?!" she cried.

"You are seeing possibilities," a voice said.  Namine spun around, Ink Caster finally appearing in her hands.  She was only mildly surprised to see herself back in the black outfit she'd taken from Kairi's room again.  The figure was cloaked in shadows and darkness, and the only thing she could make out was that it was female by the voice, even with it echoing slightly as she spoke.  "Destiny tells us of specific things that will happen, but everything else...that is up to the decisions we make."

"What are you talking about?"  Namine said, gripping her staff and watching the dark woman carefully in case she tried something else.  "And why did Roxas think I was Kairi?"

"Destiny says that you will return to the islands, just as it says that Sora will open the door to light, but which you will return is unknown yet."

"Which me?  That doesn't make any sense.  I'm only me.  Namine."

"You are, but you are also Kairi.  Part of her soul resides within you now, so you and she are tied.  That soul cannot stay stretched forever, though."  The woman walked closer, staring at her with eyes hidden by shadow.  "The soul that is Kairi's will have to return to one of you, and the personality of the one it does will be the one people will know as Kairi from then on.  Time is running out, child.  For one or both of you.  And the longer the rift takes to repair, the closer fate comes to the scene you saw last and Kairi's demise, whichever of you Kairi is at that point."

That's why Roxas thought I was Kairi...  It wasn't a pleasant thought.  She never wanted to steal Kairi's life.  What she wanted was the first reality she'd been shown.

"There is a way to have the life you wanted, and a way for both you and Kairi to return," she said, giving voice to her own thoughts.  "All you would need is a heart to go with the part of you that has been created since you both were separated, as you have the beginnings of your own soul as well."  

"You mean steal one," Namine said flatly.  "No thanks.  I am not going to take someone else's life to have one of my own."  She turned away from the woman.

"Even if it would go to waste otherwise?"

Namine stopped, spinning back.  "I...I suppose...that's a different case."  She didn't like the temptation the woman was offering.  It was too easy to say that it would go to waste, but there was a tone in the woman's words that she didn't trust.  "I would have to see what happened and then make up my mind."

Even through the shadows, Namine felt the woman was smiling which sent shivers through her.  "Then perhaps it's time." She took a step forward and shoved Namine.  She was falling back, but instead of hitting the beach, she kept falling deep down into darkness, spinning and tumbling until she thought there might be nothing below her at all.

She spun over and finally her feet hit the ground with a clink.  She stood up, trying to peer around and find where she was and what she landed on.  Light erupted from beneath her and she had to shield her eyes as the darkness fled from it.  When she dared to look again, she was standing on a giant stained glass window.  It was done in tones of light blue and white.  There were circles going around the main portion that held different members of the Organization's faces, but there were four circles closer to the middle that were larger.  One was of Axel, one of Xemnas, one of Roxas and the last was of her.  The main picture was of a girl with short, cropped, black hair in an Organization cloak who was holding a Kingdom Key keyblade across her lap, her blue eyes tinged with sorrow.  Namine was certain she knew the girl, but a name just wouldn't come.  However, a voice came from just outside the circle of light.  A voice from her past.

Naminé, will you watch over Roxas once I'm gone? You won't be alone. I asked somebody else to look after him, too. It's just...there isn't anything else I can do for him.

"Memories.  They are such precious things."  Namine started.  The woman shrouded in darkness stood on the opposite end of the circle from her, and her tone seemed almost mocking.  "It is such a shame when the mind fails us.  But then, you should know all about that."

"Shut up!" Namine cried, the words hitting a sore spot for her.  "I did all I could to repair that!"

"And now your drawing fails you.  It is a shame that something that was such a part of you is now gone, just like the memories you stole."

Anger flushed through Namine.  "Did you bring me down here just to taunt me with a face I don't remember and crimes I worked so hard to fix?"

"I brought you here to show you what you need to remember," she said, arm sweeping wide.  "This realm is the best way for me to show it."

Need to remember?  Namine was getting tired of the games.  "Why is it so important?"

"You will know in time.  As you will get to know me."

"And what do you mean by that?"

The woman smiled behind the darkness.  "When you are ready, you will seek me out.  I have much to teach you, and in such a short time, I'm afraid."  She walked across to Namine, though she still kept her distance.

Namine glowered.  "Who are you?  And why should I trust someone who hides in shadows?"

The woman giggled.  "You will know my name when you are ready, not divided as you are now.  And I am only a shadow because I cannot reach your heart completely in such a blossoming stage."  She spread her arms wide, keeping herself as non-threatening as possible. "For now, help your friends, and try to remember."

Namine frowned, staring down at the girl in the window.  She wished she had her sketch pad with her, but she was trying to trace points of the girl's face in her mind.  So it was startling when the woman cried "Namine!  Look out!"

Namine looked up in time to see a staff slicing straight down and she fell back to avoid it.  She rolled away, coming up in a crouch, her own staff brought up to block the second attack.  She gaped at her attacker, a heartless that looked exactly like her.  The dark version of herself held a staff identical to the Ink Caster and was trying to force her to the ground.  She had to shove hard to get the girl to back off.  "What the...?"
  
The other woman had vanished, leaving the battle just to her and she was hard pressed to keep away from the Heartless girl.  She cast a fireball at the girl, who leapt back to avoid it and grinned.  She called lightning down on Namine, which pelted all around as Namine dodged.  Every blow Namine tried, the Heartless countered, and Namine was hard-pressed to do the same.  Suddenly, the Heartless girl grinned, a knowing look on her face, and slammed her staff to the ground.  There was a sound of glass shattering and suddenly Namine was falling again, down, down....

Namine woke in her bed, staring around wildly as she gasped for air.  It took a moment for her to realize she was aboard the Highwind, Cid's gummi ship, and that there were no Heartless in the room.  "Just a dream..." she whispered.  She tossed the covers to the side, anger and fear driving her to wash her face and get herself dressed.  She needed to be up and about before she dwelled too long on nightmares, though it was very hard to recall very much about it.  She remembered a woman and Destiny Islands, and a voice that she knew but didn't.  It was fading too fast, slipping through her hands like sands in the hourglass.  "Running out of time," she said aloud, and though it sounded right, she couldn't figure out why time was so short.

Since no one had paged her, it meant the auto-pilot was still engaged.  The Heartless had not harassed them much on this flight, which they had been very grateful for.  She did not want to crash into the next world.  But it also meant they had not arrived yet, and Namine did not want to dwell on a half-remembered dream and mysterious voices right now.

Thankfully, the Highwind was a large enough gummi ship to accommodate a small kitchen.  Namine was feeling a bit hungry, and some food might calm her fears.  When she reached it, she was surprised to find Riku already there, sitting at the table, his head laid back so he was staring at the ceiling.  He glanced at her as she walked in.  "Couldn't sleep?"  Namine shook her head.  Riku sighed.  "Yeah, me neither.  Kept having bad dreams."  

A loud yawn came from behind Namine and she turned to see Roxas trudging sleepily in.  "Make that three..."  He yawned again.  "...three of us.  I kept having funky dreams about a girl."

"Thinking about our dance?"  Namine tried to tease, though something odd was tingling in the back of her mind.

Roxas shook his head.  "No, not like that.  I was back in the Castle That Never Was.  And there was this girl in the Organization.  Another member, though it wasn't Larxene, which doesn't make any sense.  Other than Larxene, there weren't any other female members. I don't even know if she had a name, but she had short, black hair that reminds me of yours."  He looked embarrassed.   "Wishful thinking, right?"

Namine felt like she'd been kicked in the gut.  Something else was coming back.  "No.  There was someone like that in my dreams too."  

"No way.  You aren't joking with me?"

Namine shook her head.  She was trying to recall more and couldn't, but it seemed very odd that they were both dreaming about the same girl.  "I know she was there, but that's about all I can remember."

"Make it three of us," Riku said, his brow furrowed.  "I was on the Islands again, and I was speaking to her.  I don't remember what about.  But I'm certain I've never met her before."

"All I heard...was her voice," Namine said with a bit of hesitation, "but there was some sort of picture of her."  She shook her head.

Roxas looked pale.  "How could we all be dreaming of the same girl, one who doesn't exist?"

Riku looked concerned.  "Could someone be messing with our memories, like you did to Sora?"  he asked Namine.

Namine shrugged her shoulders.  "It's possible.  But what if someone did before, and the real memories are coming back?  We can't tell right now.  All we can do is keep going and find the truth out together."

Riku nodded, though he seemed truly shaken for only the second time she'd known him.  "Let's try and get some more sleep then.  We'll be at the world before we know it and we'll need to be alert and ready for whatever comes."

Namine nodded, but as she headed back to her room, she wondered if she'd be able to get back to sleep at all after what they'd learned.  She soon learned that exhaustion could overcome any mixed emotion she had as she laid back down and was soon deep in a dreamless sleep.


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St. Kanard


Roxas wanted to know why he had to be the plain old duck.

The world of St. Kanard was one of humanized animals with most of them being birds.  Despite the need to hurry and stop Restin, Riku had insisted on preserving the world order.  Namine was able to use her magic to provide disguises for them, and she'd chosen a bird form for each of them.  Roxas just wondered why his was the only one that was so ordinary.

Riku was in the form of a peregrine falcon, grey feathers and a piercing beak.  The Way to Dawn hung at his side, ready to be used at a moment's notice.  He wasn't taking any chances this time.  Namine had chosen a dove's form, her white feathers pristine and sleek and a sharp contrast to her black dress.  She had put the Ink Caster away after creating their disguises, not wanting to alarm anyone and had unsuccessfully tried to convince Riku to do the same.  It had soured her mood some, and that was the only reason Roxas hadn't complained to her.

In truth, he didn't think a duck was a bad form.  Donald was the same and one of the most powerful magicians he'd ever seen.  It just paled compared to the cooler forms Namine had chosen for herself and Riku.  If he didn't know that he shouldn't have emotions, he'd have guessed he was jealous.

"Now remember Roxas.  For now, just keep an eye out for anything suspicious or clues to what Restin is looking for.  Don't do anything until we meet up again.  Just see if you can find out if a piece like this is here."  Riku said, as though Roxas hadn't heard the instructions the first three times.

"I've got that," he retorted, annoyed, as he ran fingers through the feathers on his head.  "Did we decide on a meeting place?"

"I think so," Namine spoke up.  "There's a small park downtown.  By the time we are done, we should be able to meet relatively alone."

Riku handed him a copy of the photo they had of the piece that was stolen.  "One last thing.  Be careful.  Last thing we need is Restin catching any of us off guard.  I don't want any of us to go missing."  He gave one to Namine as well.  

Roxas nodded.  "I will.  You two do the same."

He watched them both go, taking separate directions until they were out of sight.  Then he tucked the photo in his breast pocket and trudged down toward the residential part of town.  He let his mind wander for a bit as he walked, taking in the environment.  How can I know if anything is suspicious for this world unless I get to know it better?  It was about as good a strategy as any other in this circumstance.  It also gave him time to consider what he was feeling.

        When they'd landed, he'd wanted to go with Namine.  He'd given the excuse that Riku could handle any danger all by himself, but the truth was that he was wanting more and more to be as close to Namine as possible.  He wondered if she felt the same about him.  

The trouble was that he couldn't tell what she was feeling.  Even being part of Kairi, and knowing Kairi's feelings for Sora, didn't help.  Namine acted just differently enough from Kairi to make Roxas wonder, and traveling with her had made it even more confusing.  Does she like me in that way, or is it just a friend she sees in me?  It was the not knowing that was driving him slowly crazy.

It was midday by the time he was walking through the residential area.  Several different types of people were out, chatting up their neighbors or getting in some yardwork in warm weather.  He looked back and forth as he walked.  Who should I ask?

"Binkie!" A loud bellowing voice caught Roxas's attention as a canary woman poked her head up from behind a hedge, trowel in hand and dressed in a shirt and overalls that had mud splattered in some places.  "Have you seen my Quackerware case?"

"Did you check in the kitchen?" she called back, adjusting the bonnet she wore while she waited for an answer.

"I think so.  Maybe it got knocked under the table."  Binkie gave a rueful smile as she turned back, then she noticed Roxas standing in the street.  "Oh, hello dear.  You look lost.  Can I give you directions?"

Roxas shrugged, walking over.  "Actually, I'm looking for something, not somewhere."  He pulled out the photo to show her.  "I'm looking for a companion piece to this.  You wouldn't happen to have seen anything like it around here, would you?"  

Binkie took a long look at it, then shook her head.  "I'm afraid not.  Sorry."

Roxas was about to pocket the photo and leave when the door to the house next door slammed open and out ran a young girl in a light-purple shit with a number 1 in white on the front who looked about nine years old just ahead of a loud shout.  "Gosalyn Mallard!  You get back here this instant!"

Gosalyn spun on her heels, the redhead's pigtails whipping around violently.  "I am going and you can't stop me!"  

She stomped off in a huff as a middle-aged duck wearing a sleeveless sweater in two shades of green with a pink shirt underneath raced out, though too slow to stop the hot-headed child.  "If I have to catch you, you're grounded for a year, young lady!"  He was going to yell more, then paused when he saw that had an audience, and that Gosalyn was already out of sight, and he walked back to the door, grumbling the whole way as he slammed it shut.

"Oh my," Binkie said softly, seeming to forget Roxas was there, "I wonder what that was all about."

The door to Binkie's house opened and a tall, fat duck in a green shirt with watermelon slices and bananas on it waddled out.  "I can't find it, Binkums.  I hope Tank's not done something with it..."  He looked over at Roxas.  "Howdy.  Are you one of our new neighbors?"

"No," Binkie said, smiling.  "This nice young man was just looking for something."

"Really?  Let me see."  He grabbed the photo Roxas pulled out, turning it one way, then another as he scratched his head.  "It looks familiar.  I think Honker was going on about something like this."  He looked up just as the middle-aged duck from next door had stormed back out, car keys in hand.  "Hey Drake!"

The middle-aged duck paused.  "Yes Herb?" he said, in a tone that Roxas was certain said that he'd rather not have asked but was being polite.

Herb took no notice.  "You took the kids to the museum last week, right?"  Drake nodded wearily.  Herb handed him the photo.  "Doesn't this look like that Eye of someone-or-other that they just found?  The one Honker was so interested in?"  

Drake snatched the photo and Roxas hoped he wouldn't tear it, but after just glancing once, he brought it closer, his voice taking on a different tone.  "Yeah..." he said, stroking his chin, "this does look similar to the Eye of Quacktzlcoatl that they unearthed on the dig."  His interest was definitely piqued, and he glanced sideways at Roxas.  "Where'd you find this piece, hm?"

Roxas's eyes narrowed.  "Uhm...I didn't.  It belonged to my great grandfather," he said, going with the cover story they'd set up for why they were looking for it after stumbling for a moment.  "My dad heard a rumor something similar had arrived here and asked me to see if it was true."

Drake shrugged and handed back the photo.  "Well, if you are looking, the St. Kanard Museum has the Eye on display right now."

Roxas nodded.  "Thanks.  I'll have to chat with the museum curator and see if he thinks they might match."  Deep down, he was wondering what they'd be able to do to get it before Restin did if it was the same as the stolen piece.  He knew Restin would stop at nothing to get it.  "Could you tell me how to get there?"

"Sure!  I pass it on my sales route every day," Herb said, smiling.  He gave Roxas detailed directions and Roxas thanked all three of them.  He hurried off, wanting to get to the museum and check on it before he was supposed to meet with Riku and Namine.  However, he couldn't shake the feeling that Drake was burning his gaze into Roxas' back the whole way until he was out of sight.     

The St. Kanard museum was a humongous building of stone columns and broad archways that allowed in the masses that filled its halls during the late afternoon.  The Eye of Quacktzcoatl was apparently a major find that had attracted the curious denizens of the city to see the splendor.  Unfortunately for Roxas, this meant that the museum was charging for admittance and Roxas did not have any munny to pay for a ticket and no amount of begging was going to change the guard's mind.  "Come back when your parents can afford to pay your way," he said snidely and shooed him away so he could admit the next paying customer.  

Roxas stormed off around the side, shoving his hands in his pockets.  He really felt he could have made a breakthrough, if only he could get a look to confirm it was right.  Instead, he'd have to wait until Namine and Riku met him at the park before they could think up a way to check it out.  After all, he didn't know the museum well enough to sneak in.

"Hurry up, will ya?" hissed a voice just as Roxas was about to turn a corner.  Something in the tone caused Roxas to duck back instinctively, and he peered around to see what was going on.  Two men were over by what Roxas assumed was an employee entrance.  One was staring around, hands in the pockets of a large trenchcoat as he peered out from under a large hat that covered most of his face, though the blue and red jester's hat that peeked out from underneath the lookout's hat did little to keep him as inconspicuous as he wanted to be.  The second was on his knees, fiddling with the lock, though the angle kept Roxas from getting a good look at him.

"Do you want me to do this without setting off the alarm?" the second sneered.

"What I want is to blow the door wide open," the first said, giggling maniacally before coughing and composing himself.

"Yes, well Negaduck said the point was not to draw attention until after we were inside," the second replied, then muttered something under his breath that Roxas didn't catch.

"Well, that wasn't very nice."  The first lounged back.  "You should really learn to be more relaxed.  Have some fun with things.  I made a little device that could do just the thing."

"You should close that big beak of yours before I staple it shut."  That caused the first to shut up, though he folded his arms in a huff.  "That's better.  Last thing we need is you getting us caught before we're inside.  Ah ha!" The second pushed the door open and the two hurried inside.

This can't be good.  Roxas thought as he hurried after them, reaching the door to see that it was still ajar.  He followed inside, pulling the door shut softly and looked around.  It was definitely the employee entrance and he could see the two working on something small that they proceeded to roll through another door.  There was a muffled 'Whumph' on the other side and the sounds of cries and coughing that was accompanied by what sounded like laughter, though Roxas didn't believe that could be right.  The two waited, then opened the door, walking in as Roxas followed.

The section of the museum had been cleared out, leaving the artifacts in it unguarded for the thieves to pilfer, though they were focused on a large display in the middle of the room that could only have been the Eye of Quacktzlcoatl.  It was a large emerald set in the middle of a stone rectangle with the same arcane markings as the item that had been stolen from the vault.  If Roxas had to guess, it looked like it would fit perfectly with one of the sides.   

"The gas worked like a charm," the second man said, sounding impressed.
  
      "Laughing gas always does.  Nothing like putting a large smile on people's faces, especially when you're laughing so hard you can't breathe," the first said, giggling maniacally again while bounding up to the case.  He pulled out a tiny toy hammer that looked like it wouldn't do much of anything but stopped when a booming voice echoed through the room.

"I am the terror that flaps in the night!  I am the rain that ruins your picnic!"  A plume of blue smoke burst out on the other side of the display case.  "I am Darkwing Duck!"  As the smoke cleared, there stood a duck in a hat, mask, cape and vest, all in purple.

While the first one stumbled back, shocked, the second looked unfazed.  "Who's the bozo in the funny pajamas?"

"Bozo?" Darkwing Duck said, glaring.

The first one stood up, whipping off his trenchcoat.  The duck underneath was dressed all in motley, an amalgamation of red and blue that had the duck looking every bit the court jester of old, even down to the bells hanging from his headwear.  To Roxas, it was the opposite look of Kefka, but lost none of the malice.  "Oh look, Darkwing Dip.  Well, you aren't going to ruin my fun this time.  It's PLAYTIME!"  He pulled out what appeared to be a banana wearing a pair of oversized  glasses and an equally large moustache that seemed to be ticking and launched it at Darkwing, who gave a quick yipe and dove away just as the banana exploded.

Darkwing rolled, pulling a strange-looking gun from under his cape as he came up.  "Suck gas evil-doer."  A canister shot from the gun and landed near the clown duck's feet, blue smoke hissing out.  Roxas covered his mouth, trying not to breathe any in as the two villains began coughing.  "I don't know what you want with the Eye, Quackerjack, but no matter how many allies you have, you demented toy-maker, I'll take all three of you down."

The first looked up, breaking off his coughing fit.  "Three?"  He whirled around as Roxas hurried out.  "Looks like we have more than one problem."

Quackerjack gave Roxas a look.  "He's just a kid.  Darkwing Duck's the threat."

The first shook his head, throwing off his cloak to reveal a hawk in very familiar armor similar to Restin's, this time tinged with green.  "I wouldn't bet on it.  That's a Keyblade wielder."

"Oh really?" Quackerjack said, drawing out the last word.  "Sounds like fun."  He pulled out a doll that looked like a banana with eyes and a bucktooth grin.  It wore a green shirt and pants and had the peel pulled down.  "What do you think Mr. Banana Brain?"  Roxas watched as the jester talked out of the side of his beak.  "Time to play, Ray," he said in a higher pitched voice and then, back in his normal voice.  "I knew you'd say that.  You always know how to have a good time."

He's talking to the doll? Roxas's opinion of Quackerjack went from fear to confusion.  His lack of attention was almost costly as Quackerjack reached into his pocket and pulled out some jacks, tossing them at Roxas.  The ends grew into sharp blades and Roxas had to duck as they embedded in the wall behind him.  Quackerjack giggled in the goofiest manner, prancing and bounding around.  Alright, time to get serious.  "Let me show you my tricks," Roxas said, both Keyblades appearing as he stared down the clown.

Roxas caused lightning to dance up and down the Keyblade in his right hand, launching it end over end as the blade flashed toward the jester.  Quackerjack giggled as he bounded backward, flipping back onto his hands as the blade sliced by, slamming against the wall and rebounding to Roxas.  "My, my, such a temper," Quackerjack said as he landed back on his feet, "and such interesting toys.  But they're nothing compared to my special brand."  

Roxas glowered, taking a step forward, then had to jump back as Darkwing flew back in a blur, slamming against the wall with a sickening crunch.  The man in the armor was bouncing on one foot, smirking.  "I'm beaten, but not broken," Darkwing said in a dazed tone, getting back to his feet unsteadily.

"Oh, we'll see about that," the man said, bouncing on one foot, then another, and pushed off.  One moment he was there, the next he was a blur as he shot past Roxas to slam into Darkwing with high enough speed Roxas was worried Darkwing might have been seriously hurt.  The caped crime fighter slumped to the ground.

"Darkwing!" Roxas cried, moving to help.

Quackerjack bounded over, landing between Roxas and the others.  "I wasn't done having fun with you yet.  There's so many games to play."  He pulled out some twine, putting it between his hands as though to play Cat's Cradle.  Roxas charged, not sure what the jester was up to and not wanting to be caught off guard again.  Quackerjack beat him by a half-step, though, the string flying out and wrapping around Roxas tight.  Roxas tried to snap it, but the strings were stronger than he could have imagined and he couldn't break them.  Quackerjack cackled as he yanked, pulling Roxas off his feet.  "Looks like I have a new toy to work with too."

"We don't have time, Quackerjack.  Get the Eye and let's go."

"Oh, you're no fun, Arian," Quackerjack said, folding his arms and sulking.  When the other didn't back down, Quackerjack sighed, pulling the tiny hammer back out and approaching the case.  Roxas struggled against the binding, but he couldn't move.  Quackerjack leaned down, examining the glass as though looking for the weak point, then reared back and slammed it into the case top.  The whole room shook and every pane of glass in the room shattered at once.  Quackerjack bowed as Arian walked up, but if he expected applause or congratulations, he got neither.  He glowered and humphed, stalking to the side as Arian reached in, pulling out the Eye reverently.  "So much work for such an antique."

"Oh, it's so much more than that.  Let's go.  Think you can keep them from following us?"

"Oh, I'm sure my troops will do that and more," Quackerjack said as Arian walked out with the Eye.  Quackerjack was setting down little toy soldiers and winding them up.  "So long, heroes," he said snidely as he pranced to the exit.  "Enjoy the last few seconds of your lives."

Roxas struggled with the bindings as the toy troops walked toward him, but he couldn't get either hand free to use his Keyblade.  As the soldiers lowered their muskets, pointing them at his face, Roxas stared up at his doom, unable to get away.


--------


The twang of the bow string echoed through the section of the park as the arrow buried in the center of the target clustered around three more in the red.  Usually, Gosalyn was proud of how good she was with her archery, especially in the fading light of dusk that cast shadows across her vision.  Now, it was just a reminder of the argument she'd had with her father earlier today.  

"Nice grouping, Gosalyn," her friend Honker said, adjusting his large glasses and appearing distinctly uncomfortable, "but shouldn't we be heading home?  It's getting dark and I still have homework."

Gosalyn stuck out her tongue.  "Honker, homework's such a waste of time."  She said with disgust, trying to find any excuse not to go home that Honker would accept.  She knew she was in deep trouble, and even though it would only get worse, she was reluctant to face it.  Villains she could handle with the best of them, but her dad's wrath was something she'd rather avoid.  "Let me at least try that trick shot first."

Honker sighed, but he seemed reluctant to say no to her.  Gosalyn felt a little chagrined.  She knew Honker didn't have many friends besides her and that he caved in to her some times because of that.  However, she didn't give in as he set up the pieces.  Gosalyn reached back to grab another arrow from her quiver when a shadow fell over her. "Excuse me," said a soft female voice, and Gosalyn turned to see a timid dove in a black dress.  "I'm sorry to bother you, but I'm looking for a friend of mine.  He was supposed to meet us here." Gosalyn looked behind her to see a very intimidating teenage falcon.

"I'm sorry, but we haven't seen anyone since we've gotten here," Honker said, adjusting his glasses. "We've been practicing."

"Practicing what?"  The falcon asked, looking over at them.  "Just target practice?"

"Not exactly," Gosalyn said with a sly smile.  "Honker, are they all set up?"  Honker nodded.  "Do you want to see?"

"Why not?"  the falcon said, shrugging.  "We can give him a little longer."

Gosalyn grinned, nocking the arrow.  She sighted along the shaft, aiming for the first metal target.  When she felt she had the angle and everything just right, she released.  The arrow hit the first target, ricocheting to the second and third on the other side of the target, before bouncing off a fourth on the ground and imbedding itself in the straw target in the second circle.

The girl gave a soft whistle.  "Not bad."

Gosalyn grimaced.  "But not good enough.  I need to get it closer to the bulls-eye...er...for a competition..." she added when she saw the falcon give her a look.  The last thing she needed was for someone to guess who she was.  Honker, her dad and Launchpad all knew, but as far as she knew that was it.

The dove and falcon exchanged a look, but said nothing.  "Well, if you see our friend before you leave, would you let him know we're looking for him?  He's a duck with blond hair wearing a dark shirt with a zipper under a white jacket."

"We will, but we have to get home soon," Honker said, ignoring Gosalyn scoffing at him.  "I hope you find him."

"Me too," the dove said, looking a lot more worried than she was trying to let on.  The two bade their goodbye and Gosalyn watched them go.  

"Let's go, Honker.  I want to find out what's going on.  Their friend might need help."

"Gosalyn, your dad might not like that!  You know how he feels about strangers."

"Honker!" Gosalyn yelled, causing Honker to shrink back.  "What if he's hurt or something?  I can't just do nothing."  And as she turned away, she muttered under her breath, "And I am so sick of what my dad may or may not like."

Once they were packed up with all their arrows, they set out to try and find the two strangers.  Gosalyn took the lead, letting Honker haul their gear.  Unfortunately, the two seemed to have vanished into the fading light.  "Rats," Gosalyn said, kicking at the dirt.  "We lost them."

"Good," Honker said, panting.  "This stuff is too heavy to be moving fast with."

Gosalyn shot him a look, but any snarky response she gave was lost when she heard maniacal laughter coming from her left.  She put a finger to her bill and snuck over, ignoring Honker's worried whisper of her name as she peeked through the bushes.

"I've done it, Spike!  I've done it!  Oh, this will work out so much better than I planned."  Gosalyn stifled a gasp.  Bushroot was in the park with his pet, and odds were that the half-duck, half-plant villain was up to no good.  Gosalyn peered down, trying to see what Bushroot was up to.  This was the perfect chance to show her dad that she could take care of herself as Quiverwing Quack.  

Spike shook his head, the mutated Venus fly trap with the personality of a puppy expressing his displeasure.

Bushroot frowned, pulling out a beaker that seemed to glow with a dark energy.  "What do you mean?  This formula is perfect.  Once I use it to infuse my beloved plants with the same aura as those Red Nocturnes, they won't have to worry about fire anymore.   Fire will actually strengthen them rather than scare them off.  Wouldn't that be wonderful Spike?  Then they won't have to fear a forest fire or some careless person with a cigarette.  And I won't have to lose them to that carelessness.  Watch."  Spike shook his head again, trying to leap and snatch the beaker from Bushroot with his jaws, but Bushroot lifted it up out of Spike's reach.  "Dangerous?" he said.  "You're just jealous I'll have more friends."  Spike didn't seem to like that, trying harder to take it from Bushroot.

Gosalyn wasn't sure what a Red Nocturne was, but she figured whatever was in that beaker would not be good for St. Kanard.  Thankfully, their argument would give her a chance to change.  "Honker," she whispered.  "Is my costume still in the bag?"

"Yeah, but Gosalyn, remember what your dad said about fighting crime on your own."

"Honker, do you want to be my sidekick or not?"  Honker nodded reluctantly.  "Good, then get into costume.  We have a villain to stop."  She had at least some sense to make sure no one could see her change in the fading light.  Once she felt assured, she dug into the pack, pulling out the green cape and matching floppy green hat with the plume of feather sticking out of the top, along with the purple mask and gloves and the shirt marked with a big white Q on the front.   She slipped into the costume while Honker struggled with his as usual, which shouldn't have surprised her given the arrow hat and the heavy quiver with all the specialty arrows.

"C'mon Arrow Kid." she said, grabbing an arrow and loosing it just as Bushroot was ready to open the beaker.  The head sliced just along his outstretched arm, causing him to yipe and drop the formula to the ground.  Thankfully, it didn't break.  "Quick, the net arrow," she hissed, taking it from Honker.  She tied a rope to the arrow and fired.  A net exploded from the tip, snatching up the beaker, and between the two of them, they yanked it back out of Bushroot's reach.

"Hey, no fair!"  Bushroot cried as she leapt through the bushes, snatching up the net and beaker all at once.  "That's mine!"

"Finders keepers," she said, smiling.

"Quiverwing Quack?  Phew.  For a second, I thought you might be Darkwing Duck."

Gosalyn tried very hard not to scream in frustration.  "He's not the only hero in town, ya know!  And I happen to have stopped your plot, melon head."  She held up the net, then gasped as she saw that the bottom of the net had been torn to shreds.

"Did you?  I think a little girl got a bit overconfident," he said, laughing as he took the beaker from Spike.  "Good boy, Spike.  Now my friends, crush the twerp!"  

Gosalyn heard Honker's warning just in time, leaping back as a tree branch slammed the ground where she'd been standing.  She grabbed the buzz saw arrow from Honker and fired, slicing off the limb.  The tree hopped around in pain, but more of the trees uprooted, stomping toward the two and closing in.  "Hoo boy." Gosalyn said, looking around.  They were boxed in and she couldn't take them all at once.  She grabbed a fire arrow, igniting it as she nocked it, but she knew by the time she fired it, she wouldn't have time to shoot a second.  So she moved it back and forth, trying to get each tree to back off.   Just as the flame was about to burn out, gouts of fire sprung up around her and the trees backed up, holding up their branches to keep away from the flames.  She glanced back at Honker.  "Did you do that?" she whispered.  Honker shook his head no, trying to keep his Arrow Kid helmet from falling off.

The fire died down, and the two teens from earlier swooped in.  The dove was holding a giant brush and for a moment Gosalyn thought of Splatter Phoenix.  She wondered if this brush had the same properties.  However, it was the blade in the falcon's hand that Gosalyn focused on. The gleam from the firelight danced along the dark metal of the curved blade.  "Keen gear..." she whispered.

The falcon sneered.  "It takes a strong man to beat up on a little girl."

"Hey, she interrupted me!  I was just trying to make my plant friends stronger!"  Bushroot held up the beaker, causing both the newcomers to tense.

"No!  Messing with the Heartless will only bring destruction!" the dove cried.

"You're trying to trick me.  Arian said using the Heartless would be the best for them."  And Bushroot popped the cork on the beaker, tossing the darkness onto the trees.  The trees swelled, pulsing with a blackness that sent chills down Gosalyn's spine.

"Stay behind us," the falcon warned.  

"Hey, I can help too!"  She took another arrow.

"Alright, but watch your back," he said.  

The dove raised the brush and fire swirled along the shaft.  Gosalyn remembered what Bushroot said and cried out for her to stop, but whatever magic she was using fired, the flames slamming into the tree.  It growled, then grew out several new branches.  The falcon leapt and knocked the dove out of the way, catching a tree branch to the face for his trouble.  "Riku!" the dove cried.  Gosalyn fired her arrow as another branch descended, the buzz saw slicing it off, then had to jump over another as it rushed low.  The dove raised her brush.  "If I can't burn you out, how about I freeze you instead?"

Vines shot up from the ground, wrapping around the dove's arms before her spell could get off, pulling close against her body as more wrapped up her body.  Stems wrapped around her head, covering her mouth so she couldn't call out.  Smaller vines crept around her throat, tightening.  

"Namine!" Riku cried, picking himself up and charging to try and free her.  A root popped up, tripping him and he fell, the blade spilling out of his hand.  Ivy burst from the ground, engulfing the falcon quickly before he could rise.  Namine's face was turning blue as she struggled to breathe and Gosalyn knew it was up to her.  

Gosalyn dug into her bag, going for her weed trimmer arrow.  "Quiverwing, look out!" Honker cried.  Gosalyn looked up just as the branch swung in.  The pain was excruciating and suddenly she felt the sensation of flying through the air.  She cracked her head against something hard as she landed and the world went dark.
Finally chapter 8 arrives with a new world for our intrepid band of Riku's, and one that I had a lot of fun re-looking up. (I will fully admit one of my favorite Disney cartoons growing up) And yes, this is part of a trend with Soul Crossed. Several of the worlds will be Disney TV cartoons, since I feel those worlds deserve a shot in the Kingdom Hearts verse too ^^

Anyone notice I have fun with jester villains? Quackerjack was a lot of fun to write. The demented toy-maker was one of my favorite villains to see (though I thought the under-used Taurus Bulba from the first episode was a much more sinister villain than the tone of the show would allow, and therefore was probably my fave overall.) Not sure I got Bushroot completely right, but I'm told I do a good Spike ^^ And yes, we will be seeing Negaduck in the next chapter. Can't go through a world and leave out the 'boss', now can I?

As far as Namine's dream goes, if you think of it like some of the way things looked in .hack when The World started to glitch, it helps picture what I was thinking as things went weird. I did want to show a world though where Namine and Kairi both live on, and it would make sense then that Roxas would live on outside of Sora.

As always, comments, constructive critiques and speculation is always welcome. (And let the guesses to who Namine's mysterious guide is begin ^^)

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:icondj-skylark:
DJ-Skylark Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2013
I said it before, and I'll say it again:

OMG DARKWING DUCK. :D
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:icontymestalker:
Tymestalker Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2013
^_^
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:icontwilight--hope:
Twilight--Hope Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2012  Professional Filmographer
I liked the part at the beginning with the dreams, that must've took ages to write and get right. It made even me confused for a second, but that was probably my favourite scene here :]
And the animal world with all the ducks was.. interesting XD Great name of them all. Poor Roxas being put in the duck form XD

Overall, keep it up! :D
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:icontymestalker:
Tymestalker Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2012
The dream took ages to come up with, then ages to write and get right, and I still wasn't fully happy with it until the final edit.

As for the world, it's taken from the Disney TV series "Darkwing Duck" from the 90s. :-)
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:icontwilight--hope:
Twilight--Hope Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2012  Professional Filmographer
Cool and ohhh right! Makes sense :]
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