Kingdom Hearts: The Keyblade War Part 2



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Smoofy

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Current Location: Traverse Town

Neku stepped out of the dark portal, temporarily blinded by the fluorescent lights of Traverse Town.
Neku had read about Traverse Town in various books, the Town itself was actually rather expansive with multiple districts, each with it's own separate yet familiar design. Apparently, this was a place where great things could be born; friendships and adventures, hopes and dreams. The calm, tranquil serenity of Traverse Town could have actually lulled Neku to sleep if it wasn't for the bright, overbearing lights next to him on either side. After recovering, Neku took a quick scan around him, he remembered this area in one of the many geographical books he had read. It already had looked lovely in books, but it looked so much nicer in person. To his left was a cafe with an outdoor seating area where couples sat drinking an assortment of beverages while they admired the scenery.

Next to the cafe was a shop with a clear, bold sign which read "Item." To it's right was an oddly shaped box but somehow, it's odd structure made it fit perfectly into the overall look of the town. In front of Neku was a small flight of stairs. People meandered up and down these flights of stairs. They were in no rush to arrive at their destination. To the right of of the staircase Neku spotted a strange postbox sporting a large top hat with it's... tongue... hanging out of it's... mouth.

He'd never seen a post box like that before! This place was so strange yet so... comfortable. There was no feeling of contempt, or loss, or rage, or fear within this district. If Neku had never lived here and never left, he never would have guessed there was a war being raged across worlds.

From where he stood, he saw no resemblance of any military institution, so he guessed it must either be behind the accessory shop or in another district. Neku wondered what Jayden's superiors were like. Were they super strict? Or were they at least a little lax? He had heard different stories from those who ventured outside of the academy and Neku didn't quite know who to believe. Neku continued to stare wide-eyed at his surroundings as his friends appeared through the portal.

"This place is awwwwweeeeeessssooooooome!" He exclaimed in a somewhat hushed tone, fearful of disrupting the peace. The ambiance, the atmosphere and overall mood of this place just put Neku in a good place. After absorbing and cataloging the area in his mind for future reference, Neku turned to his friends with a wide grin on his face.

"This place is awwwwwwweeeeessssooooooome!" He proclaimed once more. "I've read a lot about this world, and I've always wanted to visit! I'm glad I finally have the opportunity to!" As if remembering something important, he stood up straight, an almost shocked look on his face. "Oh, Jayden." He began, addressing the soldier. "There's a synthesis shop in Traverse Town, right? Do you think you could show me where it is or at least point me in the general direction or... something?" He said, removing the empty leather holster from his hip. The holster itself was rather barebones, barely more than a few straps and the holster itself would only really hold the blade up just before the blade, being supported by the guard. A few more straps would wrap around the grip, securing it in place but still leaving the weapon itself immediately available. With a simple tug the straps would fall out of place, allowing him to strike quick and accurate.

"I've gone too long without my gunblade, I kinda miss it." He said rather sheepishly. When he didn't have anyone to talk to, Neku focused on his weapons and tools, arranging them, cleaning them, working them, and because of this, he had become rather adept at DIY construction and some forms of weapons smithing.

For now, Neku felt happy, until he had to depart again to fight a war, not only on a universal scale, but personal, too.

--

Current Location: Moonlit Bayou

Kataki returned to the hut of earth he made with the girls inside with a few more sticks of fire wood. He tossed them into a pile that was already currently amassed on the floor. Unfortunately it had begun raining outside and the sticks were slightly damp, but he had a cure for that. He crouched next to the sticks and made a couple hand signs. A small ball of fire was conjured in his hands and he applied it to the wood. This fire was made through forcing his chakra into the physical manifestation of a fireball and as of such, by pouring more of his energy into into it, the flame grew hotter, drying the sticks at an incredible rate.

With this, he dimmed the power of the fireball and applied it directly to the sticks. It took a moment, but the sticks caught and soon a small campfire was available for the three of them. As he stood up, he carefully applied one of his palms to the ground. By surging more chakra through his system, Kataki creating a small opening at the top of the dome to let the smoke out. Of course, this would let water into the hut, and Kataki prepared for this. A sort of bucket made of dirt hung from the ceiling, catching any of the light raindrops that found their way inside. On the side of this dirt bucket was another little hole that led to a slide for the water that channeled out the side of the hut. Now they were warm and dry.

They probably would have begun moving earlier but Kataki was still in pain from earlier (though not in enough pain to prevent him from stepping outside and gathering a few sticks) and in addition to that, none of them were familiar with the area, and if the rain potentially got worse, and with night creeping up on them, who knows what might happen to them.

"Sorry we're stuck here for a while, I didn't really have enough time to pick a destination." He said somberly. Water dripped from his hair, and his clothes were damp. He was cold too, shivering on occasion. He never got to retrieve his cloak so he's stuck in a shirt and long shorts for now.

Still, all Kataki could think about was Neku. Kataki hated what he had to do to the poor kid but if he didn't, Neku probably wouldn't have toughened up like he has now. And somehow he still manages a cheery, almost naive disposition. Sometimes Kataki wondered if Neku would have responded as well with positive reinforcement than negative, but by the way he acted when they were younger- arrogant, cocky, self-entitled -that probably wouldn't have happened.

But it would work now, right?

"We'll just stay here til morning, take a quick look around and make sure this world is still safe. Then we can go to where ever you two need to be." He paused momentarily. "If you don't mind, that is. I'd like to at least make sure this world isn't infested with Heartless like others are, once I can start moving again properly."

In the heat of the moment in Olympus, Kataki had forgotten all about his pain, but as soon as the adrenaline wore off, the aches came back in droves. He was capable of moving short distances and careful movement, but prolonged travel, even through portals would cause too much of a strain on his body.

"I hope you're ready for what's to come."

"There you are. I missed you."

"Oh cut the crap. Just heed my warning, you're not as safe as you think you are."

Kataki listened to the soft pitter-patter of the rain drops hitting their little shelter as Voideus spoke to him. Still, he had been silent for a while, maybe it would be best to heed his warnings.

Kataki stepped near the entrance of the dome and placed his gunblades and pouches by the door. With another hand sign, the earth rose up, sealing off the entrance. At least now there wouldn't be a draft.

Thankfully, the spot they chose was actually rather well vegetated for this swampy area, and the grass was smooth and full. At least they wouldn't be sleeping in mud tonight. Kataki removed his large scroll from behind his back and then took a liquid-ink pen from one of his pouches. He sat near the fire again and unrolled the scroll. He continued to draw various intricate symbols and images. Soon it'd be finished.

"You two can rest if you want, I'll keep an eye and an ear out for you two, just in case." And as if preemptively, he added, "Don't worry, I'll be fine. I need to finish this scroll anyway." He looked up at the two of them and smiled. Their faces were illuminated by the fire, and it only prolonged his smile. Looking back down at his scroll, still with that pleasant look on his face, Kataki continued to work on his scroll.

As his hair sagged over his eyes, his smile turned to a frown and his heart grew heavy. He didn't want to leave them. They were both very sweet girls, and they had helped him tremendously back at Olympus, not only by helping him after his fight, but they helped him see himself for what he really is. Although they judged him to begin with and were very wary of his presence, he won them over. But he didn't tell them the truth to do so. They didn't know what he had done before meeting them, they didn't know what he was really like. Or was this the real him? Was the Kataki who put himself before others the real him, or was the bitter killer the real him? Kataki didn't know anymore. He had been the stone-cold assassin for so long he had forgotten which personality was the real Kataki.

Still, if ever decided to accompany them further, he'd have to tell them, he wouldn't be able to live with himself if he didn't tell them. They'd probably start questioning him too; about Darien, about Voideus, about how he met Darien. Would he be able to tell them the truth or would he just continue to dig an even deeper hole? On top of that, would Neku be able to believe him? Would Neku believe that Kataki was only pushing him to grow and adapt as a person, or would he see past a ruse that wasn't even there?

That's a problem for another day. Right now, Kataki just wants to heal, and he just wants to make sure these girls get to where they need to go to. He didn't know why he felt such a strong urge to help them. He was, admittedly, rather worried about Lumie after her episode in Olympus. He glanced back up at the girl at this thought to check for any indication it might happen again. What happened to her? He'd have to ask when he got the chance. But then again, they're Keybladers! They're supposed to be strong and their hearts' must be far superior to his in strength and purity, because he's never been contacted by a Keyblade once despite how confident in was in his skills, and it's not like Keyblades are a rarity in this day and age either. So why did he feel like he needed to be with them? And why did they choose to stay with him and even invite him along to where they were going? What had he done to garner such blinding trust? Or were they just playing a ruse, luring him into a Light Wielder trap where they would try to extort for information he was willing to give up because he's really on their side. Or was he?

Kataki's mind and heart was horrific, jumbled mess, continually toying with his emotions. He didn't know why he suddenly felt a strong flux of emotion, all he knew was that he hated it. All this confusion and doubt wrought within his mind, all because he had been living a double... no triple... quadruple life? No, he was just a fake. He wasn't even really a person. He was a mold that fit into whatever position would make things easiest for him.

God. What was the matter with him? At this point, Kataki was ready to simply breakdown and cry, but his will managed to remain steadfast. Now was not the time nor the place to act in such a way. He needed to keep his cool.

Just get through the night, and face your problems come morning.
 
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Xblade13

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-Current location: the Pride Lands-

The savannah was dry, the yellow windswept grass swaying in the breeze as the sun beat down on Ximálech. It was a hot day, and not a cloud was in sight. The wind blew gently, but even it was not enough to relieve him of the heat. Sweat covered his brow, and his breathing was labored.

-I need to find shade,- Ximálech said to himself, slowly walking in a random direction he had chosen. He had shed his coat, which he now carried in a makeshift bag of leaves he had made at his last sleeping place, but still, he was hot. If he didn't find shade soon... he didn't like to think about it. He had to find an escape from this heat.

-No, I need to escape from this world!-

That was his true problem: he had arrived in this world by accident, carried by fate through darkness. He had no knowledge of how to travel between worlds. He had never left Radiant Garden before the darkness took it. Before it took her.

Fresh tears stung his eyes as he remembered that day. Siriné running toward him, then swallowed in darkness. A Heartless and Nobody had taken her place. He had felt broken ever since. In his despair, a Keyblade appeared in his hands. He had heard of such weapons before, but had never actually seen one. To be chosen was a mystery to him. Perhaps Kingdom Hearts itself gifted him with this blade. Maybe it wanted him to save Siriné.

That had been many days ago. He didn't even truly know how much time had passed. Perhaps other worlds had fallen to the darkness as well. He didn't really care. All he wanted was to see Siriné again.

Since he had gained the Keyblade, he had made it a task to train himself in it's use. But no matter how hard he tried, he didn't feel any better. On one such occasion, he threw his keyblade, screaming, at a tree. It spun through the air, screaming much like him, cutting through the tree and returning to him a moment later. Surprised he had learned such a skill, he kept practicing, getting better at it each time. But the Keyblade always took at least three seconds to return to him. Never faster. So, he had decided to use it only on occasion.

Then the heat had arrived, and this was where he now found himself.

Moments later, though, he looked to the horizon, and behold! There was a tree, most enormous, with plenty of shade. A small pool lay next to it, full of cool, clear water.

Excited, Ximálech ran toward this oasis. Perhaps his luck was about to change. Little did he know how true this was.
 

Key Wielder

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I wasn't always like this. Hell, who could possibly be born this way? Whatever we become, we do so because of the people around us, those who influence us so greatly that they mold us into who we are. We are merely a product of our surroundings. I guess that says a lot about mine...

I'll never forget the old days, though--the good ones. Light and darkness existed together without realms and gates separating the two; people didn't fear either side so much as they do now. And I was a king. Oh, yes, I'd almost forgotten it... Small, pitiful, nigh powerless, but a king nonetheless. I did nothing wrong. I did what was right for my people, if they could be called that. I gave them existence, balance, protection--everything.

How long ago was it now? More than decades or centuries, even millennia before the dawn of the World as it is now, in days before memory and history.

I never knew what happened, what changed about our situation. Perhaps it was that we came too close to others different from ourselves; perhaps it was some mundane injury against one of them committed by one of mine. Whatever it was, it's not important. Those days were too long ago now to even bother asking why it all happened. All I know now is that it happened quickly and in organized chaos: their arrival, the attack, the punishment. I was unprepared for all of it. Tell me, what sort of leader was I?

Pitiful. Weak.

They came, touting their higher morality as the only true way to live--creating the first distinction between light and darkness. They said that one such as I had no business being in their world.
Their world, as though it had always been separate. I was more than a shadow then, with a body and heart of my own. How, then, could I be the monster they saw? We looked nearly identical but for the color of our eyes, mine the delicate gold of my now dark brethren. Long had that been a cause for ridicule, but it had never gone so far as indicating that we were somehow inferior. Dangerous. A threat to all mankind, or so they said.

And thus I was banished. Forbidden to return to my kingdom, forced to scrounge a living in the wilderness with nothing but the clothes on my back for warmth and my bare hands as tools. It wasn't life, but living death. It wasn't freedom, but constant imprisonment of my own making. The anger, hatred, despair, pain--all negative emotions flowed through my heart, and in that instant I knew my life was over. My heart, whose alleged absence was what they had banished me for, broke. There was no stopping it, no stopping the emotions that caused it to happen. I became less than nothing, a literal shadow of myself.

Contrary to my belief, however, it was not the end. It was a beginning.


. . .

Current Location: Pride Lands

Darien strode through the barren waste, kicking the dried yellow grass as he went along. He hadn't been able to remain at Pride Rock for long; it was unwise to be found with a lion cub when the lionesses awoke. It had been the one landmark he thought would be obvious to the cretins he called followers. They hadn't joined him, however, and he had begun to wonder whether his Heartless had even made it to Kataki and the others. It was no concern if it didn't; they would find their way back eventually, as they always did. It was simply inconvenient, like so many other things, to have to wonder where the hell the idiots had gone.

Since when did I take up babysitting?

In any case, he hadn't come here to take in the sights. There was work to be done, and he didn't need the others to do it. Their questions would come when they arrived, as well as their adoring gazes of admiration and jealousy when he told them what had truly happened in Olympus Coliseum, but they were of little use otherwise. It was other dark wielders who had fashioned themselves as leaders who would be of greatest consequence to his plans.

He had left Pride Rock and wandered into the desert, sensing that the keyhole would not be in such an obvious location. After all, he never would have expected it to have been in the Underworld entrance. No, it was somewhere remote where few people--or animals--would be likely to tread. All he had to do was find it, although he wouldn't unseal it until his followers and Kataki's ninjas arrived. It would be stupid to destroy their one way of finding him and move on by himself no matter how tempting it was. Perhaps he would find his way to whatever world that stupid girl was on and see how she fared in such a situation...

Not yet, not yet, he told himself with a smirk at his own eagerness. There's plenty of time for that.

Indeed there was, yet he hoped that it wasn't taken completely with his wandering through this accursed desert. Honestly, it made complete sense that his quarry was on the other side of it, but he was beginning to tire already from the heat and his throat was parched. He had pulled off his leather jacket and slung it over his shoulder, and had unbuttoned the top of his shirt, but there was no helping the heat with such a lack of shade.

Oho. Or maybe there is some.

There was a small oasis in the distance, and for a moment Darien thought his eyes must be deceiving him. Yet if it was nothing more than a hallucination, there wouldn't have been someone else already on their way to have some of his precious water. Figures. Some things are never easy.

The stranger was not enough to deter him from heading in the same direction, though--he was thirsty. Darien followed behind them, making as little noise as possible to avoid being noticed, which wasn't difficult considering the fact that they broke out into a sprint to the water. He did not quicken his pace, allowing himself time to think about how exactly he would approach this one.

"This is a strange place to hang out," was what he settled on, putting one hand in his pocket as the other still held his jacket, and he stopped by the water without drinking. It was rather difficult.

. . .

Current Location: Traverse Town

Neku's awe was not exactly what Jayden or Llyndellia felt as they exited the portal and observed their surroundings. For the former, it was a bittersweet homecoming: he would never see the men he had led to New World here again, and his punishment was still looming before him. Llyndellia, however, had seen this world before and was no more surprised by it than she was by the Land of Departure. They had traveled to many worlds where Keyblade wielders lived en masse for the purposes of furthering their training, although they had never stayed for any significant length of time. Traverse Town had been no different, and she was particularly uneasy to have come here when there would be scores of light wielders present.

Just don't say anything stupid and there won't be any problems.

"Oh, Jayden, there's a synthesis shop in Traverse Town, right? Do you think you could show me where it is or at least point me in the general direction or... something?" Neku said once the initial shock had worn off. "I've gone too long without my gunblade, I kinda miss it."

"Sure," Jayden replied, pointing over his shoulder at the Accessory Shop. "It's on the top floor. Just ask the clerk at the front counter and tell him I sent you; he'll make sure anything you need is affordable."

He stopped for a moment, torn between accompanying him or asking Llyndellia to do so. While he would rather have made sure Neku got everything he needed (with the added bonus of putting off his return for a bit longer, of course), he did need to see Chief Odai as soon as possible. There was no hiding the fact that he was back now; he would be lucky if the older man didn't know he was here already.

For her part, Llyndellia would have sooner dealt with a thousand light wielders than be left alone with Neku again. Strange things happened to her thought process when they spent too much time together, especially when there was no one else to dilute the conversation a bit. Besides, she wanted the information she'd come for and then to get out of here. No side ventures.

When Jayden saw that she wasn't about to volunteer herself, he put aside his disappointment and continued.

"Do you think you can find us in the Eleventh District when you're done?" he asked. "That's where our base is, and you can always ask around if you get lost. You can look around town as much as you like in the meantime, but I need to make my report and get a few things taken care of. Will you be staying or going, Leon?" Jayden added as an afterthought when he remembered the other man standing silently nearby.
 

Grandsword

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in the castle balcony of the land of departure, among hushed whispers and roaring rain, Nihilus stood. he was flanked by a duo of cloaked figures, he himself was dressed in a hooded purple robe. he looked down to the the gathered crowd, he nodded to his guards and drew back the hood of his cloak to reveal his deformed face, earning gasps and awe from the throngs of people "is that general ordias?" "what happened to him?!" as the questions began being tossed nihilus rose a single hand in a hushing motion "yes, my people it is I, ordias wilson, general of the fateweavers and leader of the civilian council of our republic" he said, pausing before continuing "i bring grave news to you all..this war, this affront to civil society is but a ruse for a greater rebellion...a rebellion against our right to rule ourselves..they seek kingdom hearts to reshape the world in their image, and thus saught my order's demise at new world, plunging it into darkness to destroy our resolve.." he said, pacing the platform "it is thus that i make this announcement. Citizens of the republic of the land of departure, on this day we mark a transition.since times immemorial , this world stood as the crowning achievement of civilized beings. But there were those who would set us against one another, and we took arms to defend our of way of life against our enemies.In doing so, we never suspected that the greatest threat came from within. The keyblade wielders and some within our own republic, had conspired to create the shadow of separatism using one of their own as the enemy's leader. The wielders hoped to unleash their destructive power against the worlds by assassinating the head of the land of departure's civilian government and usurping control of the fateweaver order. But the aims of would-be tyrants were valiantly opposed by those without elitist, dangerous powers. Our loyal fateweaver army contained the insurrection within new world and quelled uprisings on a number of other worlds. The remaining keyblade wielders will be hunted down and defeated. Any collaborators will suffer the same fate.These have been trying times, but we have passed the test. The attempt on my life has left me scarred and deformed, but I assure you my resolve has never been stronger. The war is nearly over. The Separatists have been defeated, and the Keyblader rebellion has been foiled. We stand on the threshold of a new beginning." he paused, as murmerings erupted among the crowd "keyblader rebellion?" one fateweaver asked "he survived the destruction of new world?!" said another fateweaver in awe "he truly is the great general ordias! no other non-wielder could escape a catastrophe like new world." affirmed a group among the crowd. nihilus once again motioned for silence as he continued his speech"In order to ensure our security and continuing stability, the republic of the land of departure will be reorganized into the First Empire of departure , for a safe and secure society, which I assure you will last for centuries to come. An Empire that will continue to be ruled by this august body and a sovereign ruler chosen for life. An Empire ruled by the majority, ruled by a new constitution.By bringing the entire world under one law, one language, and the enlightened guidance of one individual who has seen the truth of war, the corruption that plagued the Republic in its later years will never take root. Regional governors will eliminate the bureaucracy that allowed the Separatist movement to grow unchecked. A strong and growing civilian military will ensure rule of law. Under the Empire's New Order, our most cherished beliefs will be safeguarded. We will defend our ideals by force of arms. We will give no ground to our enemies and will stand together against attacks from within or without. Let the enemies of the Empire take heed: Those who challenge Imperial resolve will be destroyed..and as your protector, the senate has named me emperor" as he finished his speech, the crowds, tired of the war between the two factions of keyblade wielders cheered "Hail the empire! hail emperor Ordias!" as he retreated to the castle, he smirked to himself "soon, soon my vengeance shall be complete..this is but the first step..."
 
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Xblade13

The Cleric of Flamesgrace
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Ximálech approached the water's edge, getting on his hands and knees to get a drink. For a second, he stared at his reflection, and marked the slight changes in his appearance. The man he saw looked hagard, with his enkempt hair and the dark shadows beneath his eyes. However, he also seemed more fit. He had developed a nice tan from the constant sun, and his muscles were bigger from his toiling in this savannah.

He then splashed water onto his face, and took another drink. The cool water was like manna from heaven. It ran down his parched throat, and down his cheeks and neck, cooling him with its touch. It was such a relief, in fact, that he was unaware of the figure standing next to him.

"This is a strange place to hang out."

Ximálech spat water, spluttering, as he turned to see the source of the voice. A man stood there, thin and muscular, with jet-black hair much like his own. One of his hands was in the pocket of his black pants, the other holding a black leather jacket. He too seemed hot.

"Who...who are you? Are you lost as well?" Could it be? A real person? All he had seen in this savannah were animals. He stood up, wiped his hand on his shirt, and extended it in friendship.

"Glad to see someone else around here! My name's Ximálech," he said, cracking a grin. Perhaps his luck wasn't so bad.
 

Story Keeper

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~- Nerves of Steel..? -~

Lumie sat on the ground, staring at the growing woodpile, Kataki had insisted that they stayed in the earth-based hut while he got supplies. Glancing at Aries, she smiled softly, the younger one looked like she was ready to fall asleep at the drop of a hat. Wrapping her arms around her knees, Lumie watched as Kataki walked back in, hair dripping wet from the rain that had started to fall outside of the earth dome. She didn't look over as Aries blinked sleepily at their...friend?...before Aries settled back down for some more sleep.

She watched as Kataki got the fire going and even did some other things, but her mind drifted away as she watched the flames lick at the night air; drawing oxygen in so it could grow larger and larger. A brief smile flitted across her lips at Kataki's suggestion of them getting some rest, nodding in silent acknowledgement; she watched as Aries curled up and drifted off to sleep.

For a little while the only sound was the crackling of flames eating wood and the scratch of pen on paper, Lumie stared at her sister for several moments in watchful silence; trying to figure out what to do to assist in the current situation. She glanced at Kataki out of the corner of her eye, seeing the ever present frown on his face and the way he glanced at her in concern. Puzzlement flashed in her eyes for a brief second before understanding settled into place, looking away slightly embarrassed; Lumie felt the heavy silence that hung in the air. Sighing softly, Lumie put her hands on the ground and pushed herself to her feet; walking over to the ninja, she sat back down and asked, "Are you okay?"

She stared at the writing on the scroll in front of her, reaching a hand out; she started to trace the writing with her finger hovering above the paper so she wouldn't smear the ink. "I'm sure you're curious about what happened in Olympus; don't worry I'm okay and it's not about to happen again anytime soon. Let's just say things work a little differently inside my head, I know Aries is aware of what happens but, while she can guess at it, she doesn't truly know the full extent of things. Just promise me something, whenever you fight your brother Neku, promise me you'll be careful and you won't let someone get a cheap shot in." She whispered softly, her voice softening even more at the very end of it.

It wasn't a true explanation to what happened at Olympus Coliseum, but it'd have to work for the time being; she just hoped that Kataki was willing to trust her on it.

~- A Different Kinda Pain... -~

Leon nearly stumbled as he followed Neku, Llyndellia and Jayden out of the portal. The cause? Their exit point, staring around him in concealed bewilderment; he felt a wave of comfort upon seeing that the first district of Traverse Town was okay. He nearly bolted toward the Accessory Shop but Neku's excited commentary kept him rooted to the spot, listening in silence he wasn't surprised by Llyndellia and Jayden's responses, before he could answer the silent question that hung in the air; Jayden asked, "Will you be staying or going, Leon?"

Shrugging quickly, Leon answered a little too quickly, "Sure, I'll go with Neku." Even as Leon said this, he was heading toward the shop; calling over his shoulder, "You coming Neku?"

He didn't wait to find out the answer, instead he reached out a hand and pushed the door open; eyes instantly drifting to the counter to see who was running it. It was neither Cid or the other guy that ran it in Cid's absence, but instead a pretty young woman with brunette hair and light brown eyes; causing him to freeze just inside the shop; the light gave her lightly tanned skin a healthy glow. The slender build and light blue jacket she wore over her black dress was even more disarming. Clenching his fist, Leon asked quickly, "Would it be okay for me to borrow the synthesis shop above this shop? Jayden said that we could use it."

Leon didn't exactly like falling back on anyone for help, but any kind of discount that could be gotten was a pretty good idea. Especially with how expensive synthesis materials could be, shaking his head, he caught the look the shop keeper sent him before they nodded; and motioned toward the ceiling. Without fully awaiting for them to make a move toward it, Leon was already pulling a chair over to the trap door.

Reaching up, having climbed up on the chair, he quickly picked the lock and opened it, pulling the ladder down, Leon hopped off of the chair and listened as the ladder hit the wood floor. "H-How did you know to do that?" The woman stammered, her eyes widening in surprise, making Leon look toward the ground as he answered hastily, "A friend of mine owns a shop very much like this one, so I already knew what to do."

Throwing a secretly desperate look over his shoulder toward the door, Leon added, "I'm going to head up, if you see a boy with fiery orange hair and blue eyes, let him know to head up the ladder." Without waiting for her consent, Leon hurriedly climbed the ladder, and as the closer he got to the top, the farther away her memory became.

Don't think about them, don't think about them, don't think about them. It's all in the past.
 
Last edited:

Grandsword

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within the land of departure's castle Nihilus sat on his throne looking over a map of some kind when a soldier approached, the soldier gave him a salute before speaking

"sir, the heralds have dispersed to your designated worlds..if i may ask, why these worlds, sire? they hold little that is worth to us. and the likely presence of those wretched keyblade wielders poses risk to the task of the heralds.."

"exactly..within those worlds, wielders of the keyblade seek solstice, we will root them out, and lure them here to their fate.." replied Nihilus who dismissed the soldier before returning to his map

"a gateway to the void..the perfect backdoor to my goal..first i'll assume control of voideus and then..i'll force him to open the path to what i seek.." he thought, chuckling darkly...

meanwhile,in the central plaza of traverse town a small group of people emerged from a portal, the insignia on their chest armor and on the flag they carried marking them as members of the empire, the one holding the flag stepped forward "people of traverse town! we bring grandly wondrous tidings! a new order has arisen, led by a glorious leader!" he announced, pacing as a crowd gathered

"
My name is Malak. I am here representing the empire of departure..Today, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to talk to you about the differences between keyblade wielders and non-wielders,I'm sure most of you believe that we normal people and keyblade wielders are partners that have come to live together because we want and need each other."

malak stated, pausing to allow the crowd to speak their opinions before continuing. "However... Is that really the truth? Have you ever considered that perhaps we non-wielders... only assume that this is the truth?" as he asked this he gestured to the area around them "look at this town, this beautiful city was built by normal people like and me..and yet, so called "light wielders" claim it as their base. what right do they have? better yet, what good does their presence do? mark my words, all they will accomplish here is to bring war to your doorstep."

at this distressed whispers erupted, what was stopping dark wielders from bringing the war to traverse town? and if they did, what destruction would follow? seeing that he had the seeds of doubt planted, malak said the finishing lines of his speech "but i assure you, good people. there is a way to keep your safety..pledge allegiance to the empire. under the just rule of our emperor Ordias, all its subjects shall be protected..."

 

magicedd

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  • Kingdom Hearts χ[chi]
~Sides~

Walking through the portal of darkness his master had taught him, the thoughts of his brother had come to his mind. He had spent too much time helping the folks from Radiant Gardens, find a new home... His home...

He walked with each footprint dissolving in the darkness, leaving a small trail of harmless blue fire. He looked around not knowing where he was, or where he was going... Insides of the dark portal, there was no roof there was no floor, but somehow he was walking on a flat surface. Why hadn’t he just fallen through? Swirling colors of blue and black racing endlessly; never to stop and the question of where he would be led to next. He needed a sign, something to lead him to his Toukan. Where was he? Why would he leave? Why doesn’t he ever listen? Questions, Thoughts, Comments gathered across his mind...

More thoughts came across his mind, Radiant Gardens, Why had heartless been to such a place full of light, why did people fight to protect the land, instead of protecting the citizens that were lost. Was Toukan in that battle...? Why had the portal opened for him there? Why did he even care? If people died or if they survived, he had a mission, and the mission was simple. Find his brother.

After the thoughts left him, he looked around again. Using darkness... Why did he have the power, which most didn’t understand. Why hadn’t he been given the power of light, like his brother? Was this place, this... Corridor of Darkness, causing him to think about question after question? Even when he was done, another question popped into his mind... If not the portal, what.

Suddenly, a light began to flicker, and he ran toward it. Toukan! he thought, he hoped, he prayed. All this thoughts raced toward his brother, as he raced towards the flickering light, awaiting at the end of the tunnel. The portal opened. He was now… Where exactly was he? He looked around where he had been standing, things looked as if they were Topise Turby, Everything looked as if it was from a Childs drawing book, even the lamps in the main center had been bended in a way they looked normal. "Portal, Darkness, whatever you are... Why did you lead me here...."

A voice spoke up as he finished his statement. "People of traverse town! We bring grandly wondrous tidings! A new order has arisen, led by a glorious leader!"


"Oh... I’m here." Rein said, looking around "Traverse town, I’ve read about this place, a town that is the direct link to darkness and light... maybe Toukan is here after all... But first... What is this Commotion lead by these people who claim rule?" He said softly closing his blue hood around his face. He walked towards the commotion and joined the crowd listing to what these strange people in armor had to say.

Keybladers, War, Truth, and protection, all caught Reins attention, he didn’t know who these people were, but they were disturbing the balance. The balance he had been ordered to protect. They wanted to turn these people into hating any and all keyblade wielders. His brother...

War... Was this what he was sent to stop, was something controlling his fate? Telling him this presence must be stopped... War, war, war… the sounds echoed in Rein’s mind, why… Was this the reason the warriors from Rectorm, were not returning? Had the war been started, why are we at war?

Truth... Rein had enough, as the man speaking finished, he spoke up.

"Truth. You promise Truth, but the fact is you promise Lies. People of Traverse Town, Do not listen to this man, the keyblade wielders are not here to bring war, nor destruction, they are the source of Light that balances the darkness. If you try to remove them, all you bring to yourself is destruction. Keybladers making this town into a base? I’m not sure if what you say true or not, to each is their own, but by following a path without the light, ends in darkness. Follow your hearts and do what you will, but the Truth this man speaks is nothing more than false hope."
He looked back up at the man who had been speaking, the man that claimed truth. He was ready, he knew at any moment this man might try to strike him down. But he was ready for whatever decided to come along.
 

Smoofy

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  • You've Got A Friend In Me
Kataki continued to sit silently, scratching away at the scroll in front of him, keeping his face lowered. He was still lost in his thoughts and worries, much to the point where he didn't notice Lumie standing up and then sitting back down next to him. His hand absent-mindedly filled the scroll with his writings. He had done this so many times to the point where it had basically become muscle memory.

"Are you okay?"

Unaware of her movement, Kataki was slightly startled, snapping his hand and the pen away from the scroll. Kataki turned his head to girl only to see her attention drawn to the scroll as well. She traced lightly over the scroll with her finger, making sure not to make contact with the paper. Were it anyone else, he would have asked them to stop immediately, but due to his current mental condition, he decided not to.

Or was it that he simply trusted her? How long had it been since he had trusted someone?

Lowering his head again, his eyes watched her finger slowly dance across the paper. He put down the pen, laying it on the side of the scroll closest to him. He paused for a moment, clearing his mind before he spoke. He didn't want to choke half-way through his response or embarrass himself in anyway, not right now. First, he took a deep breath and then exhaled slowly. Well, it was more of a sigh.

"I'll be fine. Just a rough couple of days." He said solemnly and unconvincingly. He couldn't tell her the truth now. If he did, they'd probably try to take his head, although, that may be something he deserves for all the things he's done. But they were starting to trust him, much to the point where Lumie felt compelled to comfort him. Maybe they would understand...?

"I'm sure you're curious about what happened in Olympus; don't worry I'm okay and it's not about to happen again anytime soon. Let's just say things work a little differently inside my head, I know Aries is aware of what happens but, while she can guess at it, she doesn't truly know the full extent of things. Just promise me something, whenever you fight your brother Neku, promise me you'll be careful and you won't let someone get a cheap shot in."

What did she mean? What on earth was she talking about? Things work differently in her head?

But as she spoke, Kataki flinched slightly at the sound of his brother's name. When trapped in his own mind, he could handle it... but if his thoughts were brought to the surface by someone, for instance, Lumie... Then he wasn't sure what would happen. But how did she know Neku's name? He never mentioned it to her... did he? He just admitted he had a brother, that's it. Was it her vision? Did it allow her to read minds?

Oh god. Did she read everything else too? His thoughts and worries about his past... did she know everything and was just withholding it? But if she did know all those things... Would she really hold it all back, just for his benefit?

But as she finished her question, her voice grew softer and softer. Was she worried about him? What did she see in her vision? Kataki think he understood what happened now. He needed to calm down. She wasn't reading minds, her sister had explained that.

"Aries told me you have visions." He said in a hushed tone, staring at the scroll in front of him. "What did she mean? Like... the clairvoyant kind?" He raised his head and looked at the girl, her skin and face illuminated by the fire. Kataki had never really looked at the girl before, and despite acting strong and stoic... she had a gentle, soft face. After his initial pause, he continued. "So... you saw me... and my brother? Is that how you know his name?" The words were hard to say, but he did his best to remain calm. She talked about when they would next fight... Did she see a fight from the past, or the future? What exactly did she see?

"I..." He paused again, collecting his thoughts. He was practically at breaking point after his previous mental attack and all it took to push him over was someone merely mentioning his brother. God he was pathetic. The words were ready to burst from his mouth, but he couldn't release them, not just yet. A few more seconds past, until he couldn't hold it in any longer. It needed to be said, not for her, but for him. He felt like he could tell her, she knows that the two of them must fight at least, and that made it a little easier to say.

"I don't want to hurt him." He admitted. It was excruciatingly difficult to say, but it was the truth. "I don't want him to end up like my followers, or my allies, I don't want him to hate the world, I don't want him to hate people, I don't want him to enjoy killing others... I don't want him to be like that at all... so I thought if I could force him to redirect all that hate by punishing him he would grow to resent what he was being brought up to do..." He stopped, unable to continue. He redirected his train of thought. "By constantly punishing him, he would hate me, and through that, he would hate everything associated with me, the darkness, the stone-hearted killers we were trained to be... I didn't want to see my brother become a monster. I didn't want to see him end up like me."

Why the hell was he even speaking? It's not like she asked. But his mind... his heart... it felt like it was ready to burst. He felt like he was straight up going insane.

"You don't know our past, but by making him hate me, I kept him safe. I severed the bond we could have had so that he could grow up into the caring and compassionate person he is now. He wants to help others and do good, and the only thing left chaining him down... is me. He hates me more than anything in the world. He wants me gone, he wants me dead. All of that killer instinct is directed to me, and not to those who don't deserve it." Kataki raised his head and stared into the flames in front of him. "I'll promise you that I won't let anyone get a cheap shot against me, or him. Honestly, I don't want to fight him again at all, but I don't know how I can get out of this. What I'm trying to get at is... I'm at the point of no return, Lumie, I can't just tell him that I was lying all along to protect him, that I was punishing him to keep him safe, he wouldn't believe me and even if he did, it would damage him so much, to know all along that even the abuse he was put through was a lie... I'd rather him believe this is the extent I can put him through... If he found out... I would do more damage than I ever have..." Kataki was very, visibly stressed as was evident in the last couple of words. As he finished, he almost seemed to choke, but he caught himself at the last moment.

Why was he opening up to her so much? Why could he tell her these things? They hadn't even known each other for a day. Why could he all of a sudden tell her things he couldn't even admit to himself? Kataki supposed it was because that he needed to acknowledge these things himself and that is what was driving him to speak... wasn't it?

"God. She must think I'm insane."

"Maybe you are. I thought you were a strong, cold, ruthless killer. But you're weak."

Not this now... please...

"You're weak willed, and you have a weak heart. Your life is a house of cards, and your cards are lies, and all it would take for me to make it all come crashing down is to take away just one card and expose it's face to everyone else... and everything will tumble down. You care for these two girls, you care for the girl sitting next you, I know this, I can feel your feelings, we are one, remember? But do you know what you mean to them? You're a suspect, Kataki, they're trying to suss you out, and if you tell her anything more... she'll hate you. She probably already does. She'll want to kill you for the terrible things you've done. And because you're so weak minded, you can't see past that. You can't see past what people are because you're too busy keeping up your appearance. As soon as someone shows you the slightest bit of feigned compassion, your heart opens like a floodgate. You better be careful with who you let in Kataki... coz maybe, they just won't leave. Remember, I control you Kataki. I did right from the start. The only reason you accepted my power is because I made you. You are my puppet. That is all you shall be. Your threats to me shall become nothing more, because you are nothing to me, and I could destroy you and your world in an instant... So you better be very careful with how you act..."

Kataki didn't want Voideus anymore. Why did he even want his power to begin with? Why did he agree? Why did he dare share his body with a God hellbent on destruction? Voideus said it was because he made him... but could he really believe that? Kataki was so hellbent on keeping up his facade it almost wasn't a facade anymore. Voideus needed to go. Kataki's body and mind was starting to deteriorate... just as his opponent at Olympus said it would...

Outside the jumbled mess that is his mind, Kataki was visibly shaken. God, how he wished the girls weren't here, it was absolutely embarrassing having an episode like this. This had never happened before and quite frankly he didn't know how to deal with it. Again, he lowered his head, fighting back cries of exasperation and longing.

What would she think of him...?

"I... don't know what to do..." He said, feeling more vulnerable and weak than ever.

--

"You coming Neku?"

Neku was pleasantly surprised with Leon's eagerness to reach the synthesis shop. It would save him the energy of having to drag Leon and making him move faster to his own eagerness. Neku was about to run off and join Leon, but he turned around before he could break into a full sprint.

"11th district right? See you guys there!" He called out to them, waving. He turned back around to sprint to the store but he was met by a small crowd. They were starting to gather before he made his way to the shop but he didn't think that it would turn into a crowd this size. Now the stairs were completely blocked!

"God dammit..." Neku said under his breath, winding his arms back and bending his legs, ready to leap over the crowd. He stumbled slightly as his jump was uninterrupted by a man in a blue cloak, speaking in opposition of these people. This man confronted these... soldiers... in an attempt to expose their lies. What were these people trying to do? The Key Wielders weren't bad people! They weren't trying to oppress or segregate anyone!

"Can't I just get my Gunblade please?!" He called out in exasperation while rolling his head back, pushing through the crowd towards the soldier looking people. He stood next to the hooded man with his arms crossed and head tilted. His eyebrows were furrowed, indicating Neku was aggravated.

"We don't need a fight here." Neku said arrogantly. "And I don't know what kind of planet you come from, weirdo, but with the Light Wielders here, Traverse Town is one of the safest places to be. They don't need to travel anywhere to protect people, because they're already here."

"Yeah well what about all the other worlds that got destroyed because the Light Wielders couldn't stop it?!" Cried out a bystander.

"What about Radiant Garden, the city of Light? That fell too! The Light Wielders are weak!" Yelled another.

"The Light Wielders are trying to prevent the war and to protect everyone!" Neku said, turning around to the crowd.

"Yeah?! Well what good have they done so far?!" The first man yelled, stepping up towards Neku. Neku took a step back, he didn't want another confrontation. He supposed the people were a lot more apprehensive about the war than they first indicated. "What do you know about the war anyway? You're just a kid!" The man yelled, taking another step towards Neku. "Get the hell out of here, kid!" The man shoved Neku in the chest, but he didn't retaliate. By doing so he could instigate a riot. These people were angry at their protectors and their "protection". Neku couldn't help here, he didn't have the stature to. Right now, someone like Jayden, or an official Light Wielder was necessary.

Fighting back his anger, Neku began to turn around.

"Light Wielders just want to help." Was the last thing he said before he ran towards the accessory shop.

Neku almost ran the door down, only barely twisting the handle moments before he entered the store. The door slammed against the wall and bounced back shut as he bounded into the room. He turned to the lady behind the counter who was clearly startled.

"Up the ladder right?" Neku practically snarled. The lady replied with a nod and a whimper. Nodding back, Neku stood underneath the opening and jumped up. Keeping his body straight, Neku grabbed the opening on either side of him and hoisted himself up through the hole. As his midriff passed through, he tucked in his knees and swung forward, landing nimbly on his feet.

"Hey Leon." Neku said quickly, looking about the room. It seemed kind of empty, there was a bookshelf and a counter placed at a ninety degree angle, sectioning off a part of the room. But there wasn't anyone else here. Where was the clerk?

"Hello?" Neku called out to the room. "Is... anyone here? Um, I'd like to make a weapon? Jayden sent us." Neku started looking around the room and peered out a window. There wasn't anyone here!

"Oh! Jayden-kupo! Good fellow, is he back yet?" A voice called out.

Neku jumped back from the window and once again looked around the room. Upon closer inspection he saw a red pom-pom looking thing poking up from underneath the counter.

"Hold on a second, kupo!" Said the pom-pom. Neku leaned over the counter, a look of confusion on his face, only to get a face full of red. The pom-pom rose up and hit him in the face! He jumped back from the counter and when he opened his eyes, he saw a cute little... bear? "Welcome to the Traverse Synthesis shop, kupo! My name is Stiltz, how can I help you today?" It chimed.

"Oh, you're moogle!" Neku said in disbelief, as if he had just reached an epiphany.

"Well, I was last time I checked, kupo!" Stiltz replied. "So, what is it you need, kupo-po?"

"Uh... well..." Neku walked up to the counter and removed a scroll from his pouch. He unraveled it, revealing a blue-print for a Gunblade. "I, uh, I need one of these?" He said as if it was a question. He'd never talked to a moogle before.

"Well... do you?" It questioned in response to his question.

"Yes. I do." Neku said, sure of himself.

"Do you have the materials?" It asked.

"Do I have the... materials..." Neku said dejectedly.

"Naaaah I'm just kidding, kupo! Since Jayden sent you, I'll use our stock, and just put it on his tab! I'm sure he wouldn't mind! Just give me a moment, kupo!" It said, lightly tapping Neku on the arm. The moogle grabbed his scroll and disappeared beneath the counter. From the sounds of it, it sounded like a trap door was opening, then shutting. As Neku waited, he could hear a muffled "Kupo-po, Kupo-po-po, Kupo Kupo!" being repeated over and over again. Soon the half-singing ended, and all Neku could hear was what seemed like glass shattering over and over again.

Neku turned to Leon. "Is... synthesis supposed to go like this...? I always just made them myself-"

"KUPO!" Stiltz yelled. Neku didn't even hear him come back! "All finished, kupo-po!"

Neku twirled around, startled. "Uh, thanks?!" He said in reply. The moogle reached beneath the counter and placed a plain, steel Gunblade with red accents on the counter.

"It's not as advanced as your blueprints suggest, you'll have to make those mods yourself, but it cuts and shoots, kupo!"

"Thanks!" Now Neku was certain with his word choice. He picked up the Gunblade and bounced it back and forth between sword and gun mode. It only had a hangun-esque form to it right now, the other versions Neku would have to add himself, but right now, he didn't care. He was clearly excited to have his weapon back. He placed it in his sheath and turned back to the moogle. He grabbed one of it's arms and shook it probably a bit too hard.

"Thanks again! My name is Neku!" He said, introducing himself in far to much of an ecstatic manner. But could you really blame him? Without his Gunblade, Neku felt like he was missing a leg.

"N-nice t-to m-meet you, N-Neku! K-Kupo..." Stiltz replied, trying to steady himself when Neku finally released his group. "Now that I've taken care of you, kupo, is there anything I can do for you?" Stiltz said, leaning over the counter with one arm. He pointed at Leon momentarily and then placed his arm back down on the counter.

Neku on the other hand, was too pre-occupied with his new weapon to pay attention anymore. It wasn't exactly like his old weapon, but it was certainly better than no weapon!
 

Grandsword

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"Yeah well what about all the other worlds that got destroyed because the Light Wielders couldn't stop it?!" "What about Radiant Garden, the city of Light? That fell too! The Light Wielders are weak!"
upon hearing these words against the light wielders, malak smiled under his helmet.. "you see, ladies and gentlemen..these atrocities are what i speak of..new world, radiant garden..many other worlds, they fell because your once intrepid "protectors" had everything they wanted: power, adoration, prestige; and it made them lazy, apathetic. laziness breeds stupidity..and Apathy is death"

he said, gesturing grandly with his hands towards the porta.l
"but the empire will never rest,
i
n this time full of turmoil and war. we will provide the means to retake your lives..remember that we as non-wielders have faced far worse than this. "
as he said this, he held the flag high, it's golden insignia gleaming in the midday sun "together we will fight against the tyranny of the keyblade, whose wielders preach hypocritical creeds of protection..together we shall march for our freedoms! Together!
we shall overcome!”
 

Key Wielder

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  • Rising Star
Jayden nodded as Neku and Leon started toward the Accessory Shop, turning to Llyndellia to find her staring in the other direction. It was strange to him: Neku really thought she was his friend? Weren't friends supposed to actually give a damn about each other? Not that Jayden was any expert in that realm of conversation or emotional understanding, but he supposed that was how it worked to an extent. Then again, Llyndellia was hunting for something she needed, that much was painfully obvious. What it was, he had no idea. His plans, however, were certainly coming along with every moment he spent with her.

She needs a major attitude adjustment. I'm sure she'll hate me for it at first, but it will be for her own good in the long run.

"Come on," he told her, jerking his head in the direction the others had gone. "The base is through the Second District alley."

Llyndellia's eyebrows flew up, but she fell into step beside him as they strode through the crowds of shoppers and tourists. Traverse Town was never without them. "That sounds a little unrefined for the great bastion of Traverse Town," she replied sarcastically, although he could hear genuine curiosity underneath her tone. Why can't people just say what they mean?

"It was originally meant to be secret," he explained, pushing open the door to the next district and allowing her to pass in front of him. "Years ago when the first hostilities began. Now, however, there seems to be more good in keeping the fact that we're here well known."

"Why's that?"

"It's kept this world safe so far."

Llyndellia didn't say anything to that, and he supposed he had answered her questions well enough that she saw no further need for conversation. For his part, Jayden didn't much care to talk right now either, trying to think of how he would situate himself once they arrived. Certainly, his first duty was to report in to Chief Odai, but after that would be when the fun began. His companion was simply another portion of his report, and his plans for her were only good so long as he was the only one who knew. Once he consulted with Odai, it would be in his hands.

They walked along the terraced level, descending the stairs and heading to a door to the right of the fountain. It led them through to a quieter alley, but even here there were people gathered around, viewing their purchases and attempting to find out how to get back to the hotel. Jayden led Llyndellia past these groups, gesturing to the pools of water along the sides of the road in warning, until they came to the end of the alley and found an enormous iron gate with a staircase visible just beyond.*

"I see what you meant about keeping it out of the way," Llyndellia commented dryly. Jayden simply smirked and led the way forward.

As they came up the stairs and rounded a corner, the brick enclosure around them opened wide, and they caught their first glimpse of the light wielder base. It was an enormous building not unlike the Accessory Shop, only much larger and built in a square with an open courtyard in the center. Training equipment was stored out of sight when not in use, but all of it was out today as the younger wielders trained. There were buildings surrounding the main headquarters, primarily apartments for the soldiers and their superiors, who did not reside in the barracks with the trainees.

Jayden and Llyndellia passed through the opening into the courtyard and avoided a few overzealous trainees as he led her through to the other end, up a few steps, and through broad double doors into an entrance hall of special magnificence. The burgundy carpet led to doors all along the main hall, but Jayden motioned for Llyndellia to wait.

"I'll go on ahead to my superiors and make my report. Stay here until I'm done, and then you'll get the grand tour."

She looked ready to argue, but Jayden didn't wait for her retort. He turned his back and went up the grand staircase ahead of them, bearing to the left as it spiraled around and opened up onto a hall above the foyer. The door in the center opened and Chief Odai's head poked out, the corner of his mouth twitching ominously.

"How do you always know?" Jayden sighed, only half as irritated as he sounded. Odai knew it.

"You may not be in training anymore, Jayden," the older man began as he opened the door wider to let the commander in, "but that doesn't mean you know everything."
~*~​

"I can't say that all of what you've seen is altogether unexpected," Odai muttered, his hands folded in his lap as he leaned back in his seat. Jayden stood before his desk, not at all intimidated by the commandant. He was by no means the highest in terms of rank, but he was Jayden's commanding officer and would relay his words to the proper authorities, who, thankfully, he generally did not need to meet with. Now they intimidated him.

"This girl, however..."

Jayden shifted his weight awkwardly. "I know it sounds far-fetched, but I'm sure it's the best course of action."

"And if she is unwilling?"

"She'll most definitely be unwilling."

"Ah." Odai smiled slightly. "Well, that's never exactly played much of a part in it anyway. After all, it was the proper course of action. Certainly she anticipated it before her Master's death."

"That would be my assumption." Although with this girl...

"Very well," the chief said after a long moment of silence. "But if we do this, you are responsible for what happens. What she may or may not know notwithstanding, there may be consequences to trying to force her."

Jayden nodded. "I realize that, sir, but the information she may have is too valuable to risk its loss."

"As you wish. Send her in."

Nodding once, Jayden turned and left the room, walking back down the stairs slowly. It wasn't that he thought Llyndellia knew a great deal, but there was something about her that rubbed him the wrong way. It hadn't escaped his notice that his mere presence in Kuzcotopia had caused her to flee, and immediately after her return they were attacked by dark forces. If there was any possibility that she was connected with the dark wielders they had fought in New World, or even others, they needed to gain access to her knowledge of them and their ways. Much as he hated to admit it, if she knew what he suspected she did, they needed her.

. . .

Watching in mild disgust as his presence shocked the stranded youth (or so he assumed as the boy looked quite a bit younger than him), Darien waited until he had composed himself in silence. As he assumed, this one would be no trouble.

"Who...who are you? Are you lost as well?" He stood and wiped off his hand before extending it. If it hadn't been exactly the wrong thing to do, Darien would never have accepted it. Honestly, not only was it disgusting to touch him when he'd been using that hand to drink with, but it was downright degrading to have to shake hands with...well, this guy. In spite of his reservations, however, he didn't hesitate in taking the proffered hand and shaking it warmly.

"Not exactly lost, no," he answered kindly, shaking his head in something like embarrassed reluctance. "I've been separated from a few friends of mine and was trying to hunt them down."

"Glad to see someone else around here! My name's Ximálech."

"Darien," he introduced himself with a nod. It crossed his mind that he probably shouldn't use his real name, but Ximálech wasn't long for this world anyway--nor was this world long for this World, as a matter of fact.

"I thought I would head for the jungle in case my friends ended up there somehow. You're welcome to come along if you like." Darien stooped and cupped his hands, taking a long drink of the surprisingly cool water. It wasn't much, but it was enough to keep him going. He stood back up and dried his hands on the legs of his pants. "It's probably not a good idea to be alone in case the local wildlife gets hungry."

"What are you doing now?"

I thought I'd finally gotten rid of you.

"You should know by now that I'd never make it that easy."

Well, then, at least keep quiet, will you? It's so hard to think with two voices going at the same time.


His Other made half a sarcastic remark, but it was too soft now for Darien to hear it as he tuned out the conversation and forced him back into the depths of his heart.

. . .

Who does he think he is, telling me what to do? He's back where he feels comfortable and all of a sudden he thinks he owns me? I can't wait to get out of here...

Llyndellia stopped pacing in the entrance hall as she heard footsteps coming back down the stairs, her arms folded over her chest in irritation as she surveyed Jayden coldly. He seemed aware of her frustration, but it didn't seem to bother him at all.

"My chief would like to speak with you," Jayden told her, his voice professionally aloof. "You will treat him with respect, however little you may have for everyone. You will speak when spoken to, and you will not do so out of turn. Should you have any questions, you can wait to ask them until he gives you leave to do so. Do you understand?"

Bloody self-righteous, conceited, son of a... "Fine."

"Good." Without another word, he turned on his heel and she followed him up the stairs.

They stood before the desk of an older man, perhaps in his forties or fifties, with salt-and-pepper hair cropped close to his skull. Unlike most aging men, his muscle had not all turned to fat, and he was built well and obviously in shape for his age. It suddenly struck her that, should she have lived to such an age, her Master would probably have appeared much the same.

Chief Odai introduced himself, and Llyndellia dropped her sullen silence in favor of a more charming personality. Jayden had probably told him about her already, but that didn't mean anything. Actions mattered more than words.

"Llyndellia Dwain, sir," she replied politely, inclining her head respectfully. The older man smiled at her.

"Jayden did not lie about you, it seems. You are quite pretty."

She could see Jayden's mortified expression out of the corner of her eye and realized that he hadn't actually said it. The two officers must be close if his superior would make a joke like that, but it served to make Llyndellia uncomfortable as well. She had to wonder if that was done on purpose or to make her feel more at ease with the situation. Either way, she laughed awkwardly and immediately fell silent again. What am I doing here...?

"He also tells me that you have some training as a wielder of the Keyblade," he added, making it sound like a superfluous afterthought.

"Yes, sir."

"Yet you are not a Master." It wasn't a question, and thus Llyndellia could not answer it. Odai went on, "I knew your Master well. A good woman, if prone to biting off more than she could chew, and you would never find one better. I remember her speaking fondly of students she had taken on, a young girl and boy. It is a pleasure to meet one of the objects of her affection."

Llyndellia again didn't respond, praying silently that he would not mention the other object.

"Your training was not completed, which is a shame from what Commander Merton has told me of your skills in battle."

"The commander flatters me, I'm sure." The stupid--

"Indeed he does," Odai replied with a nod, seeming quite sincere this time. "You may believe it was a needless compliment, but I find it to be of high importance."

She frowned. How had he known she was about to say that?

"I'm sure, however, you think yourself capable of handling your own affairs. That your training, while ended early, was not ended before you were ready. And why shouldn't you?" he seemed to ask himself more than Llyndellia. "You've come this far on your own, although where your Master's other student has gone is still a myst--"

"I'm not sure I understand your meaning. Sir," she added. Jayden's jaw twitched slightly and he exchanged a brief but significant glance with Odai. Speaking out of turn. Right.

"What I mean is that you have been through a great ordeal, Miss Dwain, from the time of your Master's passing up to this very moment." He inclined his head, indicating that he did not mean that as a sign of undue pity or affront. "In a sense, it can be added to your training, if you will."

"It is often said that life is the most efficient form of training," Llyndellia ventured bravely, and she wasn't disappointed. Odai laughed, and even Jayden's mouth twitched.

"Indeed it is, Miss Dwain. Indeed it is. Yet there comes a time when training must end," he continued, his voice becoming more serious now. It made the hair on the back of her neck stand up, and she had the sudden feeling that they were coming to the true purpose of this meeting. "There comes a time when the student must end her wanderings and become that which she was trained to be: a master."

Llyndellia merely frowned, unable to comprehend what he was saying and afraid that she might have an idea. Odai didn't care to let her remain in her self-imposed ignorance, though.

"You have come to us for information of some kind, and I will offer you the greatest kind that a Keyblade wielder can be granted. While I may not be your Master and there is no way of knowing how she would have tested you had you completed your training with her, we will administer your Mark of Mastery exam here, and I am sure you wi--"

The rest of his words were lost on Llyndellia, covered up by the sound of her own heartbeat as her blood pounded in her ears, blocking out all other sound. No, she couldn't take it. That had been a long time ago--she'd been through enough that she didn't need to be a Master! No, she wouldn't take it. They weren't here to see it--he wasn't here to see it--

"No."

Odai's words stopped and he glanced at Jayden as though he'd expected this reaction. The latter took the barest step backward. Llyndellia turned on him immediately.

"That's why you brought me here," she accused him, her voice deadly quiet. "What business is it of yours what I do with my life?"

Jayden was ready with an answer. "What you do affects those around you, including a couple of our mutual friends."

Llyndellia flinched instinctively at the word, but pressed on nonetheless. "I don't want to be a Master. It means nothing."

"It means gaining knowledge that you are without, even that you are perhaps seeking." Odai was the one who spoke this time, calmly and without inflection, as if he didn't know how close to the mark he had come.

"I won't do it."

"You will." He made it sound so simple.

"You just want to turn me into one of you," she hissed at him, taking a step away. Jayden took another step back. "You think you can give me the test and earn my trust and gratitude, then you'll ask me to join you and fight for the good side." It was her paranoia talking, her panic, but it was obvious that there was some truth to it. She could see it in his eyes.

"What you do with your life and your title is your decision," he answered her. "Whether you choose to remain with us or not; whether you take on students or continue to travel the worlds alone; or whether you choose to throw away your title and fall into darkness. The choice is yours."

Llyndellia glared at him. "Then it should be my choice whether I take your damn test or not," she spat at him in response, whipping around to find that they were no longer alone. Two other wielders had joined them at the door, large and muscular, and Jayden stood with them to bar her way. The two unfamiliar wielders stepped up to stand on either side of her, and she turned back to Odai, cursing herself silently for allowing herself to be caught like this.

Odai surveyed her, calm, professional, and with a strange gleam of something like pity in his eyes. "I'm afraid I have to insist."

--------------------------
*The gate is where the entrance to the Secret Waterway in Traverse Town is situated. No, my creativity couldn't come up with a better entrance than that.
 

Xblade13

The Cleric of Flamesgrace
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  • Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX
  • Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX
  • You've Got A Friend In Me
The man took Ximálech's hand and shook it. "Not exactly lost, no," he said, shaking his head. "I was seperated from a few friends of mine and was trying to hunt them down."

Ximálech nodded and introduced himself. Ecstatic, he was, for this was the first person he had seen in days. The man seemed equally glad to meet him, smiling and saying his name: Darien. The man then knelt and got himself a drink.

"I thought I would head to the jungle, in case my friends ended up there somehow. You're welcome to come along if you like," said Darien. "It's probably not a good idea to be alone, in case the local wildlife gets hungry." He paused for a moment, seemingly lost in thoughts, then went back to what he was doing.

"Sure, I'll accompany you. It's great to have someone to talk to," Ximálech said. It really was, too. As he said this, he fingered the necklace he wore, the one Siriné had given him. She had been the last person he had talked to. Before...

He shook himself out of his reverie. "So, you really think your friends are in the jungle? I haven't seen anyone here at all. Not one person since Radiant Garden, until you. But, I'll be glad to help you look for them. I'm looking for someone myself, though my road will probably be much longer." He smiled. This man, Darien, was looking for people important to him. Perhaps, if Ximálech helped him, he could get help himself.
 

Key Wielder

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Traverse Town
  • Rising Star
"I don't see why you're so upset."

"I really don't want to hear one damn word out of your mouth right now."

A near constant stream of profanities had issued forth from Llyndellia's mouth from the time they left Odai's office until they arrived back on the main floor, turning to enter a room on the right hand side. Any pretense of politeness had dropped at the mention of the exam and hadn't returned, both for her and Odai. The chief had simply nodded for the wielders to lead her out of his office and down the stairs, saying nothing besides brief and unintelligible words to Jayden. A couple of wielders came to speak with him, glancing in her direction curiously for a moment before relaying some information about a disturbance in the town. Odai merely told them to send patrols to investigate the issue and continued on his way.

Llyndellia had cooperated for no other reason than simple logic: she was small, they were big. Odds were she wasn't getting out of here without a miracle of some sort. She was just glad that Neku wasn't around to see how pathetic she looked right now, especially as they opened the door off the hall and she balked, refusing to enter until Jayden prodded her from behind and spoke. That brought the venom back into her voice.

Jayden shook his head. "You would have taken it eventually if your Master had lived. I honestly don't know why this is such a big deal."

Silently, she just glared at him icily, her eyes clearly conveying her thoughts: "You most certainly do know."

Seeing that she wasn't about to get any more cooperative than she was right now, Jayden stepped aside and allowed her to survey the room they had entered for the first time. Llyndellia wasn't quite sure what she had been expecting--a gymnasium, a torture chamber--but it certainly wasn't an empty room. The four cream-colored walls were quite plain without any hangings or borders. The floor was tile like the entrance, and a burgundy carpet covered much of it. There were no windows or other doors, no equipment with which to perform an exam. The room was just there.

If anything, it made her all the more uneasy. She hadn't thought about Darien's exam in years, but she seemed to remember that he had had to use his surroundings quite a bit. If asked to do the same, she doubted she would be able to; the only useful part of this environment was the door, and there was no way they were letting her get out of this that easily.

Before she could even begin to imagine what this test would involve, Odai stepped forward and stood facing her. Llyndellia willed every bit of ice she could muster into the glare she sent his way.

"This is where you will show us whether or not you have the Mark of Mastery," he said formally, ignoring her hostility. "You will find nothing of use to you in this room because you cannot trust anything else to succeed for you. You must be your own tool. Trusting your own heart is crucial to being a true Master. Do you understand this?"

She said nothing. That was as good as an affirmative answer to him.

"The only advantage you will be supplied with is this," he continued, holding out a hand. There was a small metal bar in the palm of his hand, black in color with a blue button at one end. He handed it to her, and she took it curiously but without question. "You will not be forced to go any further than you will. If you reach a point where the exam becomes too much for you, merely push the button and the test will end."*

Llyndellia once again said nothing. It was difficult, really, as she desperately wanted to point out that they were already forcing her to go further than she would, but she knew that argument would fall on deaf ears.

"If you understand all that I have told you, the test will now commence."

Odai didn't wait for her to answer, striding past her and out the door with the two wielders. Jayden made to follow them but turned at the door, a wry smile on his face. She had the urge to smack it off.

"And don't get cute and press the button the second I close the door."

"Go to--"

The door closed with a click, and the room fell into darkness.

. . .

Great to have someone to talk to? Clearly this boy doesn't understand what he's dealing with these days, Darien thought in amusement. He supposed that it was nice to know that he had found someone so trusting to be his cannon fodder, but it still made him wonder what on earth made people think that way. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. The Underworld had been guarded by a barrier that probably would have killed most mortals before they got anywhere near the Keyhole; if there was any such security on the Keyhole in this world, he wanted to make sure he had someone to bear the brunt of it. If that person was willing to come quietly, all the better for him.

"So, you really think your friends are in the jungle? I haven't seen anyone here at all. Not one person since Radiant Garden, until you. But, I'll be glad to help you look for them. I'm looking for someone myself, though my road will probably be much longer."

"I'm not quite sure," Darien said. He already knew the answer was no, but he did hope that those morons and Kataki showed up eventually. He really didn't want to be stuck in this world with Xim-whatever-it-was forever.

"They may be, or they may have ended up somewhere else. Which would be very inconvenient," he added, sounding a bit put out. "You never know, though. Maybe your friend is here, too. There aren't a lot of people here, so it won't be long before we find out. This world is mainly populated by animals," he added as an explanation. "Which would make this a good time to keep mov..."

Darien's voice trailed off and his eyes were distant suddenly, a slight frown on his face. What are you doing here?

. . .

Llyndellia sat in the center of the room, fuming in the darkness. The device Odai had given her lay forgotten somewhere across the room where it had landed when she threw it at the wall. Nothing happened, and she was beginning to think that they were testing her patience rather than her ability. Really, what kind of test was this? When did it even end--when she fell asleep? She had no idea what she was supposed to be doing or how she was supposed to do it. There was no way to find the door to ask, and she would rather die than push that button to tell them she'd had enough before it had even begun.

Listen to you, sounding like you care about the results.

She didn't. But as much as she didn't care what they thought of her ability, she didn't want to sit in this room forever to find out. Perhaps they were watching her, waiting for something to happen. Maybe it was all a big trick and she was now their prisoner rather than another trainee. Was that why Jayden had asked her to come? Was it all a big trap from the beginning? He couldn't have known, though. He couldn't know about the dark wielders or where her road would lead her. ...Could he?

It didn't matter anyway: they weren't going to let her go if he did. They would want information, and then they would want to brainwash her so she would join them and give up her life for their cause. It was what they always wanted, whether they belonged to the darkness or the light or anything in between. It was even what her Master had wanted, and Darien had bought into it completely. It was why he was in such a mess now...

Don't think about that, she told herself firmly. Those thoughts wouldn't help her, especially if they brought her closer to telling her captors about him. That would only make those things worse. She would do better to forget--she wished she could forget...

Without warning, her Keyblade appeared, hovering in front of her and shining like a beacon in the darkness.

"What do you want?" Llyndellia asked it, not really expecting an answer. She needed something to vent her frustration on, though. She just stared at her weapon for a moment, taking the time to really look at it for the first time in so long. It wasn't how the Keyblade had originally looked, that was for sure. This design was different, more appropriate for her personality as it was now. When it originally presented itself to her, it had been beautiful. Then again, she supposed she had been as well.

Almost against her will, her hand lifted before her and grasped the handle. Warmth instantly spread through her body and the darkness was gone, replaced instead with bright sunlight and color. Llyndellia squinted and held a hand over her eyes until they adjusted to the sudden onslaught of light, frowning in confusion as she recognized the marketplace of Kuzcotopia.

"It can't be," she muttered under her breath. If it was an illusion, though, it was remarkably realistic: everything was where it was supposed to be, solid and whole, and the palace loomed overhead like the emperor over his people. It threw shadows over the market, chilling the area even though the sun was still bright in the sky.

"This is just weird."

Llyndellia began walking in the only direction she could think of: toward the palace. There were no people to impede her progress, which made the market eerily quiet, and she looked around as she went deeper into the tower's shadow. Where is everybody?

There was no answer to her question. Before she could ponder it further, the world was gone, replaced with another market. She was back in Radiant Garden, only it was far different from the version she remembered. The sky was dark, purple clouds gathering overhead, and everything was twisted perversely as she came to a screeching halt. The buildings seemed to rock; the castle in the distance appeared ready to topple over at any moment.

"This can't be real..."

Repeating it under her breath didn't help, and she took a step back as she thought she saw something move in the shadows ahead of her. A sound like a footstep. Llyndellia whirled around. Nothing was there, but the hair on the back of her neck was standing up again. She felt like she was being watched, but no one was there. Unnatural thunder boomed in the distance, and lightning lit up the demolished castle, illuminating black smoke as it wound around the market. Her heart skipping a beat, Llyndellia tripped as she jumped backward, running in the opposite direction as the darkness pursued her. Her steps were pounding against the pavement almost as loudly as her heart against her chest--

And then it was gone and she was running through a forest. Twilight was falling and the trees stood out like dark phantoms against the red backdrop of the waning sun. There was not a sound around her, no familiar feeling of eyes watching her, but she didn't stop running. Llyndellia tore through the underbrush as though all the demons of the Underworld were on her heels, leaping over fallen trees and cutting her forearms on branches as she beat them out of her path. Her fear and her imagination were getting the better of her, and she could have sworn the ground was trembling beneath her feet.

Only it wasn't her imagination. The ground began to shake violently, and she nearly fell once or twice as it threw her off balance. She managed to keep her footing and the ground erupted nearby in a small explosion. It didn't make her stop, but pushed her even harder. More explosions blew dirt in her face and nearly knocked her off her feet more than once, but it was the absence of ground altogether that finally stopped her in her tracks. The earth vanished from beneath her feet and she screamed involuntarily as she tumbled down a steep hill and landed face-first on the dirt below, her head smacking against the ground hard.

The world was spinning and deadly quiet when she was finally able to push herself into a kneeling position, the Keyblade that had been all but forgotten in her hand laying on the ground beside her. She tried to get to her feet, but her legs wouldn't support her weight and the attempt made her head spin faster.

Instinct, however, did what will couldn't. Llyndellia was on her feet in an instant, Keyblade in hand, clashing metal echoing through the forest as she blocked the attack from...

"Neku?!" she gasped, her arms straining to hold her Keyblade up. Neku glared down at her, a crude and terrible mockery of his usually cheerful grin on his face.

"This is the best you've got, Llyn?" he asked, using her name like a cudgel. "You know, you're kinda pathetic."

He raised his weapon and brought it down hard, much harder than she could have expected, and the force repeated again and again until Neku hopped back, switching tactics and shooting projectiles at her. Llyndellia brought her Keyblade up in front of her, let go of the handle, and waved a hand. Her weapon spun like a propeller before her and decimated the bullets before they reached her, but Neku was quick. He attacked again before she knew what was happening...

But it wasn't Neku.

"Who are you?" she asked her opponent, gritting her teeth. The boy reminded her of Neku, but he had brown hair and green eyes, and he was dressed the way she thought a ninja would. He didn't answer, jumping to the side and kicking at her. Llyndellia reacted immediately, dodging to the side and slashing at him with her Keyblade. It never made contact, blocked by another Keyblade--Jayden.

"You!"

"You call yourself a Keyblade wielder?" he scoffed coldly, stepping back and raising his Keyblade for an attack. "How do you think you'll ever find it if this is all you're capable of?"

"SHUT UP!"

His Keyblade came down, but she ducked under his blow and launched herself at him, her own Keyblade forgotten. She could hear the air knocked out of him as her shoulder met the yielding flesh of his stomach, but that didn't stop her and she aimed a fist right for his face...

But a hand grabbed her wrist.

"You'll hurt yourself."

A familiar voice. His.

"Darien..." It can't be...

Darien looked down at her, smiling as though he hadn't seen her in years. She couldn't look at him. Instead her eyes trailed down to where his hand was holding her wrist, keeping it from making contact with a tree rather than a certain light wielder's face.

"You're welcome," he said in her ear, letting her go as her rage left her shaky and weak. She had no idea what had just happened, but it had done something to her, filled her with an emotion she hadn't felt for a long time: fear.

"But...what..."

"I have no idea. I don't know where we are--or, I guess, just you," Darien added thoughtfully. "I don't think I'm really here, but if I am, I don't have much time."

Llyndellia frowned at him. "What do you mean?"

"He's not going to like this," he replied with a sad smile.

"He..." It struck her like a ton of bricks, and she realized that this was real--he was real. Sort of. Taking advantage of the opportunity, she blurted out, "But what is he?"

Darien shook his head. "I don't know. He found me in the realm of darkness."

"The what?"

"Another world parallel to ours. I had no idea it existed until...well..."

She nodded; he didn't really need to say any more than that.

"So, he's a monster," she said slowly, thinking of the creatures from Radiant Garden. Darien grimaced in something like pain.

"Yes and no. I can't say what he is, but he's not good. You're smart, so I'm sure you figured that out already," he added teasingly. Gosh, how she'd missed him.

"Yeah, I'd worked that much out on my own," she replied with a smile. It nearly fell off her face as the sky around them darkened and the sun finally set, and she grabbed his hand, feeling him squeeze hers tightly in response.

The shadows fell, blotting out the forest, until a bright light erupted underneath their feet. It was a pillar of stained glass, depicting various memories, some of which she'd forgotten entirely. Darien was there, both before and after the years had changed them both; and there were Neku, Jayden, Leon, and so many others... Where are we now?

"What are you doing here?"

Llyndellia gasped and spun around, feeling Darien's arm tense as they stared into utter darkness. It could only be described as a creature: a grotesque shadow of Darien with features not unlike those of the dark creatures that had attacked Radiant Garden. Its golden eyes watched Llyndellia, ignoring the man standing beside her, narrowed dangerously.

"You," she and Darien murmured at the same time. The creature took a step forward, his shape changing, growing. Darien summoned his Keyblade beside her, bright red with orange jewels in the handle, just as it had always been. In the creature's hand appeared another Keyblade, dark with ivy sprouting up around the blade.

"Get back!" Darien shouted, letting go of her and raising his Keyblade to block the creature's blow. Llyndellia ducked and spun, moving behind it and slashing toward its back. It was a dirty trick, but she didn't care. Her anger had returned tenfold, and the insane idea struck her that this could be it: she didn't need to hunt for Kingdom Hearts if she could destroy the Thing. She could save him here and now; they could do it together.

It moved faster than she anticipated and her blow glanced off the pillar, shattering the glass where the Keyblade made contact. A hand closed around her throat and she felt herself flying through the air, slamming into the ground. Glass crunched beneath her. Llyndellia launched herself back onto her feet and came at it again, swinging her Keyblade wide. He dodged, but she didn’t pause a moment this time. Throwing her weapon into the air, she summoned as many copies as she could—dozens appeared.

“Darien, get down!”

Llyndellia saw him duck and dropped to the ground herself, her head tilted up to see all of the Keyblades swarm and dive at the creature as one. He had no chance to block, not that he could have deflected them all anyway, and they struck him and the glass at his feet, shattering the center of the pillar. There was a tremendous sound like thunder, and the Thing vanished into a cloud of darkness that covered everything like ash.

Llyndellia and Darien realized what was about to happen at the same time, and she could see him sprinting toward her before the rest of the pillar shattered. Glass flew in all directions, borne on the darkness, and Llyndellia screamed as she threw her arms in front of her face.
~*~​

Light burst through her closed eyelids and her scream reverberated off the walls. Her breathing was heavy as she opened her eyes, hardly aware of the tears streaming down her face. She was back—had she even gone anywhere?—and the lights in the room had come back on; she was curled in a ball in the corner, blinking until her sight adjusted. Her confusion was alleviated when she saw that somehow, impossibly, the device Odai had given her was in her hand, and she had pressed the button as her fist closed around it. The test was over.

Llyndellia jumped as the door opened, putting her hands over her face in embarrassment as Jayden reentered, Odai on his heels. Jayden extended a hand to help her up, but she ignored it.

“Don’t. Touch. Me.”

“Okay,” he said slowly, taking a step back. Smart move.

It took a while before she could speak another coherent word, but eventually she came to herself. She was in Traverse Town. She was among enemies. She needed to be strong. Even as she repeated it to herself, she was reminded constantly of the fear she’d just felt, the absolute horror at everything that had happened around her…wherever she had been.

Finally, when Llyndellia thought she could stand without her legs giving way, she slid up against the wall and cleared her throat.

“So,” she began calmly, trying and failing to keep a slight tremor out of her voice. “Do I pass?”

Chief Odai surveyed her carefully before sighing. “No.”

Llyndellia blinked. “Excuse me?”

“You did not show the Mark.”

It suddenly didn’t matter that she hadn’t cared what they thought or what the verdict would be. It didn’t matter that she had wanted to leave without taking the exam in the first place. Nothing mattered because…she hadn’t passed.

“What the hell do you mean, I didn’t pass?” she eventually managed through gritted teeth, attempting to control her temper. It wasn’t working, and her voice slowly grew to shouting volume. “I made it through your damn test! I did everything I was supposed to—not that you did anything to help me figure out what that was! I won every single fight I was in—“

“Yes, you did win,” Odai cut her off, now sounding slightly angry himself. “You won because every fight was within your own heart. Of course you had the power and will to defeat the phantoms: you created them. Yet you have come through and have no idea what any of those fights meant, do you? You still can’t even begin to imagine why you saw the people and places you did or why they behaved so differently from what you would expect, can you? All except one, of course, who wasn’t created by your heart but was brought to it from afar.”

All except one… They had been watching. Somehow, even though everything had occurred within her head (which was disconcerting enough as it was), they had seen what she had. They knew.

“That’s why you brought me here,” she murmured under her breath, not able to look Jayden in the face. Her anger faded; her disgust was even melting away. All she felt now was emptiness and a strange sense of betrayal, although she didn’t know why. They knew about Darien now, and the Thing that was holding him captive, and he would be their target. All because of her.

She wasn’t just racing the Thing anymore. She would have to race the light wielders now, too.

“You told me I was free to leave, whatever the results were,” Llyndellia said quietly.

Odai nodded. “I did.”

“Thank you for your time.” And with that, she walked out of the room.
~*~​

Without knowing how, Llyndellia found herself in the Second District and collapsed onto the fountain ledge, staring into the water without really seeing her own reflection staring back at her.

"You know, you're kinda pathetic."

"...this is all you're capable of?"


. . .

Jayden watched, something like shame welling up inside him, as Llyndellia left him alone with Odai. There was no instinct to follow her; she wouldn’t appreciate it anyway. Rather he looked at the chief, waiting for his decision. The older man was not forthcoming with it, and Jayden could tell he was turning his words over in his mind before he spoke.

“It appears things are worse now than we feared,” he finally said. “Another realm parallel to our own could very well house the entrance to Kingdom Hearts, and that boy—Darien—would be able to find it there.”

“But it isn’t his doing,” Jayden interrupted. “Whatever parasite has latched onto him is responsible.”

“True, but what if there is no separating the parasite from the host? We are entering undiscovered territory now, Commander, and there is no knowing just how deeply connected the two might be. We will find out as much as we can about this ‘Darien’ and keep an eye open for him. Should he be apprehended, he must be brought here for questioning, perhaps even to help him. If he is too strong or the two cannot be separated…” Odai’s face grew grimmer, which Jayden hadn’t thought possible. “He will need to be terminated.”

Jayden was silent a moment. “She wants to save him. She’ll try to kill you before you ever get that far.”

“In which case, she will be deciding her own fate.”

. . .

Pain erupted throughout Darien’s body, and he turned away from Ximálech to hide his face. How had she been able to do that? Where had they been, and how was Darien so strong there?

He told me so himself… That she had the power to stop me and I would find out what that power was soon… So that’s what he meant…

As he cleared his throat, he realized that he had only been unaware of his surroundings for a few seconds, although it had seemed like much longer in that place. He turned back to his companion, a still slightly pained expression on his face, and smiled as best he could.

“We should probably get going if you’re ready,” he said. “The lionesses may go out hunting today, and I would rather get as far from their domain as possible before then.”

-------------------------------------------
*The idea for the device is based on an object in "The Blinding Knife" by Brent Weeks that also brought a trial to an end at the push of such a button. It's not the same thing, but I thought it best to cite my source. ;)
 

Shinra

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  • Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy
~Traverse Town~

Renn could barely remember anything after his showdown with the heartless in Olympus Coliseum, after that he could recall the sensation of rushing air around him and being surrounded by night. He passed into a slumber because the air rushing around him seemed to lull him into a sense of security. Some time has passed and he's asleep, resting in the guest bed of one couple who discovered him in the square of the third district.

"This wasn't a good idea Celes, What if he's one of those Keybladers?"

"Well we don't know that Locke, all we know is that he's a keyblader..."

"His keyblade is black! I'm pretty sure that's a dead giveaway that he's one of the enemy keybladers!"

"Until we find out who he is, We can't assume that."

"Actually I think she's right Locke, Kupo!"

"What do you mean Mog?"

"He seems to not have any impressions on his heart, of either light or dark, Kupo. it either means he's been struck with Amnesia, or he was just born, but he doesn't seem to have been just born kupo."

"Okay... I'll give him a chance."

Renn awoke to that reaction. "Hunh? Give who a chance?"

"Oh! he's awake!"

"Hurray, Kupo!"

Renn's head turned toward a floating stuffed animal with white fur, a red nose with a matching red pompom attached to it, and tiny purple wings attached to it.

"WHAT THE HECK IS THAT THING?!"

"What do you mean 'Thing'? I'm Mog, The moogle, Kupo!"

"Moogle? Nope, never heard of it."

"He must be a dark wielder if he's never heard of a moogle."

"Dark wielder? I don't recall that... or anything for that matter... except for my own name..."

"See? He's just amnesic..." Celes said as she hugged Renn. He seemed to settle right into it, as if she was his mother.
"Now why don't we introduce ourselves... I'm Celes. You already know Mog, and this is Locke."

"Hey...So what's your name?"


"I'm Renn...now why did you think I was a 'dark wielder'?"

Locke pointed at Renn's Keyblade, which was laid across the table.
The young man picked it up, but suddenly relocated itself into Renn's grip.

"Most Evil Keybladers have dark colored keyblades... Sorry I thought you were one of them... So how did you end up here?"

"I was fighting these shadowy things... I managed to defeat them but almost like a sense, I could feel the pulse of the world weakening, and after that I fell into a trance and next thing I remember, I remember falling through the sky and that's it..."

"Do you remember anything else?"

"Nothing at all... Just scraps of things before that... Where am I?"

"You're in traverse town Kupo! A world that serves as a refuge for those who have lost theirs!"

"So my world might be lost?"

"Maybe kupo!"

"Well thanks for look after me Celes, Locke, Mog... well I must get going... I still need to find out who I am..."

"Wait! Kupo!" He said as he jumped on Renn's shoulder. "I wanna go with you kupo!"

"It might get dangerous... I can't risk another life."

"No worries... Mog'll be a real help, He's tougher than he looks..."

"Okay I'll take your word for it." Renn said as he got out of the bed and over to the door. With a quick nod of gratittude, He and Mog set out into traverse town.
 

Grandsword

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" malak sir!, a squad of key wielders are approaching from our rear..and they've got their keyblades out!" reported one of malak's squad "this is it people!, do you see the arrogance of the key wielders?! we come in peace, and they intend to force our departure! well i say NO MORE! who among you will join us?!" malak asked in a triumphant tone as the crowd erupted into declarations of joining his cause, some actually fired various magics at the key wielders, others charged with improvised weapons and malak's squad fired from afar. their void energy powered guns tearing into and scattering the keyblade wielder's ranks. as the chaos unfolded, up above the plaza on a nearby roof, a lone portal opened. it was strange in appearance compared to regular portals, rather than forming up from the ground as most seemed to it appeared as a series of clawmark-like rips in midair, then a pair of hands, covered in pitch black metal gauntlets expanded the rips. they seemed to be pulling whatever they were attached to through those tears, until the portal fully opened to reveal Nihilus in a new armor..due to his earlier damages sustained from his battle against kataki, he had forged a completely new set, it shone with a blackened sheen. ornate skull designs graced the knees and chest, and a tattered black cape flowed behind him.
even his sword had changed, gone was the blood soaked red metal that graced it before, and in it's place was a long silvery blade. on the inverse of it's edge lay a macabre mixture of darkness and bone, grinning skulls peaking out from it's flat, ending with a guard made out of some beastly skull. he stood there, watching the chaos unfold with barely hidden glee..all in all he looked like some kind of grim reaper, a predator ready to pounce upon his chosen prey
 
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Eternal Dream

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  • Nothing's Like Before
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~- From Heaven to Hell -~

Lucien wished that the serenity of Traverse Town still existed in Radiant Garden. He'd been to the City of Light after its downfall; his visit there had been brief and spent in the air, the Heartless on the ground too thick to even think of touching down. Someone had done an excellent job of evacuating the civilians, but even then, there were scores of souls that hadn't made it through the portals in time to reach safety. He had spent the whole of his time there racing the Heartless, trying to reach the dead and dying before their hearts were whisked away, lost to corruption and far from the reach of the Throne's love.

It had been tiring work, weighing on Lucien's heart until he could barely lift his wings. But at the same time, he felt a small sliver of satisfaction; he was certain that he'd been able to guide over more souls than the Heartless had been able to steal hearts from, so there was some consolation there. Now, he was in Traverse Town, his intent being to pick up Mira before he left for his next destination.

"This is it, people! Do you see the arrogance of the key wielders?! We come in peace, and they intend to force our departure! Well, I say NO MORE! Who among you will join us?!"

Or at least, that had been Lucien's plan, before he stepped into the First District to hear the call to a riot. Snapping instantly to alert, his eyes quickly picked out the group standing before the Accessory Shop, the soldiers and standard bearer inciting the crowd into a near frenzy of blood lust. Looking over the heads of the civilians, he saw more people coming, the grip on their Keyblades tightening as someone fired a spell into their midst.

Tired and heart sore, Lucien was in no mood to deal with some misguided fool's rebellion. Seeking to quell the disturbance quickly, he called a lightning bolt from the sky, directing it to crack into the ground of the alley way by the Accessory Shop; though he made sure that it wouldn't strike any of those gathered, he channeled enough power into the strike that it sent a rippling vibration through the ground that would travel up the legs of those around him. A bare second passed before a roll of thunder shook the air, its low, rumbling growl stretching on for what felt like an eternity, even though it was only ten seconds.

The lone thunderbolt did the trick. Startled, many of those gathered, from civilian to soldier to Keyblader, looked up to the cloudless night sky, trying to discern where the lightning had come from if it hadn't been from an impending storm. Several glances roamed over Lucien, and he used the eye contact to his advantage as he planted words into the minds of those that had seen him.

Even with their gifts, the Light Wielders are just human, just like the rest of us. They do they're best, but even they succumb to the weaknesses of the flesh; even they can't go beyond their bodies limitations. They understand what their power means; they're willing to lay down their lives in battle to stay the hand of corruption, even though they know they might not succeed. They use their skills the best they can, granting us protection so that our own skills can flourish with our lives.

Softly at first, murmurings began in the crowd as his words left their lips, the ideas taking root in their minds as if the thoughts were their own. True, the phrasing wasn't as eloquent as he would have liked, and the words were a little idealistic; but he felt that the rabble rousers were also feeding the crowd unrealistic, utopian fantasies. The mess in Radiant Garden, while he didn't blame the Light Wielders himself, had left him rather disgruntled because of the needless loss of life; if he had to deal with idiots here, he was almost certain he'd lose his temper and give himself away, so it was best to try and nip this "rebellion" in the bud.

~- Still Waters -~

The soft clicking of heels tapped softly down the street as the little mouse's head swiveled all around, taking in the sights as she traveled from one district to the other. She was enjoy her down time; after seeing the state of Radiant Garden, Lucien had instructed her to fly on ahead while he stayed behind to fulfill his duties as an Angel of Death. Mira had to admit, Lucien was pretty cool; but she missed the company of the others. Between the jokes and mock fights Varen and Jordon would put on to the feminine companionship that Ivy and Willow had offered, Mira had barely been homesick once.

Mira knew her training wasn't complete; she still had two more years before she caught up to the others. But they'd gotten a lead on a Dark Wielder they'd been looking for, so of course, that meant it was time to get moving; although, since she was the youngest, Mira had gone with Lucien so they could continue her training when they stopped to rest. Lucien had given them all cloaks for the mission; the garments were meant to conceal their auras and hide their identities while rendering the wing slits in their shirts invisible. But Mira had put her's away almost as soon as Lucien had left; it wasn't that she was disobeying him, it was just that she couldn't stand not being able to feel the light soaking into her fur, whether it was from the sun, stars or moon.

Entering the second district, Mira felt a soft vibration travel up her legs as a far off crack of lightning reached her ears; no doubt about it, Lucien had returned, although it seemed that someone had managed to anger the usually unflappable angel. She was about to go see if he needed back up when she was struck by the sense of someone in pain. Softening her step, she crept forward before peering around the corner.

A young woman sat on the edge of the fountain, staring into the water that pooled in the basin; Mira could sense a great deal of stress coming from the girl, both physical and mental. Watching her for a few more moments, Mira was able to pick out a few more specifics of her hurt, including a well hidden injury to the heart. Mira wished Willow was here; those that were heart sick could be especially dangerous if pushed too far, and feeling out the nature of the emotional distress was Willow's specialty.

But even regular old senses and feeling could show Mira that this girl could use a friend. Walking forward, Mira made sure to stop a short distance away from the fountain, close enough to be friendly while still allowing the girl to keep her personal space. Pressing a soft smile on her features, Mira said softly, "Hey, are you okay?"

While she knew she should check in with Lucien, Mira also knew it wasn't anything too serious; he would have contacted her if it was. There was just something drawing her to this girl, and Mira needed to find out what it was.
 
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Grandsword

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looking upon the proceedings Nihilus seethed in anger, what happened to his riot?! why did they pause? it was with these thoughts in his mind that he hopped down from the building he was on "why do you all cease battle? do you doubt yourselves and your powers? in that case..than i have a single decree... Don't believe in yourself! Believe in me! Believe in the emperor who believes in you!" he said, letting a mist of void energy flow from himself to them, and watching as they began to shift and change. in a flash of sickly violet light the rioters became skeletal creatures, holding bony scythes, who then resumed their attack as Nihilus joined in on the riot..

"now, my subjects!
Side by side we march as one, the light wielders being undone. fear and loathing cast aside, an endless tide they must abide!"
 
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Key Wielder

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Traverse Town
  • Rising Star
Odai led the way up the staircase toward his office, and Jayden followed silently. He had his reservations about their plans, which he found strange as he had been the one to enact them in the first place. There was no forgetting how Llyndellia looked when he entered the room: tears and hysteria weren't something he had ever expected to see from her. After what they had seen, though, he supposed he could understand. She was close to this Darien person, and although she wouldn't admit it, she also cared about Neku and had been obviously taken aback at his personality change in her mind. He doubted he would have made it through that test without cracking, although he was fairly sure he could still have passed it. All it took was understanding, looking inside yourself and trusting your heart to tell you what you needed to know. Why was that so difficult?

Because of what she wants to hide, he thought, trying to be unbiased. Jayden had passed his test, so of course he would be disdainful of someone who couldn't manage their own emotions long enough to do the same. Still, he hadn't meant to break her, and it wasn't difficult to see that that was exactly what he had done as the ghost of her face refused to leave his mind's eye.

"Chief Odai!"

The two wielders came to a halt as a private came running up to them on the staircase, out of breath and terrified.

"There was a full riot in the First District," he managed between gasps. "Someone arrived to raise the citizens against us, and we were attacked. There was this thunder and they stopped, but then they became horrible monsters..."

"Oh, for the love of..." Jayden trailed off, some choice curse words floating through his mind as he wondered when he would get a moment's peace. Odai was already on the move.

"Commander, take as many men as you can rally--not trainees, they won't be able to handle it--and go to the First District. Take no lives if it can be avoided, and capture whoever started this. Bring them back here for questioning."

The private turned and ran to find reinforcements, but Jayden didn't move immediately. "You don't think this is a coincidence?" he asked, knowing the answer already.

"No," Odai replied curtly. "Darkness seems to follow your friend wherever she goes."

"I don't think this is her doing," he replied quickly. He didn't know why he was jumping to her defense so quickly, probably to ease his own guilt, but he honestly did not believe that she could have caused this in the few minutes she had been gone. "Darkness may follow her, but that may be all it does: follow."

Odai stared at him for a moment, his face inscrutable, before he sighed.

"If that's the case, she's one of the unluckiest people I've ever met. Now get your ass out there, will you?" he replied roughly, although Jayden could hear the humor behind it.

The commander gave him a quick grin before summoning his Keyblade and heading outside to where there were already about three dozen wielders lined up and ready to go. The trainees were standing nearby, mouths hanging open as they wondered what was happening. Jayden whistled to get their attention, said a brief word of explanation and encouragement, and then they were off.

They ran straight through the alley in the second district, taking a shortcut by squeezing through a tight space between buildings straight into an alley next to the Accessory Shop. As they turned the corner, people came flying past them, screaming about monsters in the square. Jayden and the others didn't stop, coming to the top of the stairs and looking down to see an unprecedented sight. He was suddenly glad they hadn't brought the trainees: they probably would have soiled themselves.

Massive skeletons with enormous swords were standing where a crowd of people had once been, only they weren't normal skeletons. Jayden couldn't put his finger on what bothered him, but they were infused with a power he had only sensed once before in New World. That alleged dark god had been brimming with the same power, and these creatures were positively mild in comparison. The men behind him obviously hadn't been with him in New World and had therefore never felt a power like it; they quaked in their boots but stood firm. No one ran, and that fact alone made Jayden more proud than words could describe. Concern lined his pride, however, when he remembered that Neku and Leon had been in this district. He only hoped that they hadn't been transformed as these poor people had been.

Avoid killing if possible... Right.

Jayden stepped forward, spotting the leader immediately. He kept his Keyblade at his side, but his arm was tensed and ready to react if attacked. The skeletons did not move immediately, and he knew that his fellow soldiers would be watching for any moves against him, so he was relatively unconcerned. Instead he approached their armored leader, not bothering to look too closely at his rather disconcerting attire. He had seen worse, after all.

"Your presence here disturbs the peace of this world," Jayden said, his voice strong and clear so that everyone still unchanged could hear him. "If you wish to bring grievances against the light wielders of this world, I ask that you accompany me to my superiors so that we may discuss this matter privately and responsibly. Your actions against the peaceful people of this world have already warranted punishment of the highest severity, but we are willing to work through the conflict without further violence."

He felt like an idiot. Diplomatic, yes, but still an idiot. What were the odds that this guy was really going to take the offer?

. . .

"Hey, are you okay?"

Llyndellia started, nearly summoning her Keyblade at the sound of the voice. She hadn't heard anyone approach, and she was already on edge enough as it was. Her first thought was that it was Jayden coming to rub her failure in her face, but who she saw was the furthest from what she ever could have expected.

Talking animals were nothing new to her. Squirrels notwithstanding, she had seen quite a few animals who had voices of their own and were as articulate as humans (or even more so sometimes). Never had she seen a mouse who stood on two legs, was a little over half her size, and wore clothes like a human. If she hadn't just gotten out of an exam that required expecting the unexpected, she probably would have fallen backwards into the water of the fountain.

She asked you something, genius.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Llyndellia answered automatically, sounding far more miserable than she had expected. It made her statement far less convincing, but no one tended to press her about her well-being anyway; the mouse would probably nod and walk away. She wasn't sure if that was what she wanted or not, though. Part of her had wanted to go find Neku and Leon, if only to make sure that the former was still his cheerful self rather than the grotesque version in her illusions, but she hadn't made it that far and didn't know if she would be able to any time soon. If she looked this pathetic to a complete stranger, she doubted she would get away with not explaining what had happened to Neku.

A sudden vibration in the ground reminded her suddenly of the wielder who had brought news of some sort of problem to Odai before her test, and she realized that was yet another good reason not to go looking for the other two. Hopefully they would be smart enough to get out of there if it got dangerous.

Glancing at the mouse to see that she was still standing there staring at her, Llyndellia cleared her throat and tried to sound more upbeat. "You don't look like you're from here. Just visiting?" It was little better than before, but at least her voice didn't sound quite as dead this time. Normally she would have given her a curt word of gratitude for checking on her and walked away, but she didn't even have the energy to be rude.
 
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Xblade13

The Cleric of Flamesgrace
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  • Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX
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  • You've Got A Friend In Me
"I'm not sure. They may be, or they have ended up somewhere else. Which would be very inconvenient." At this, Darien sounded put out. "You never know though. Maybe your friend is here too. There aren't a lot of people here, so it won't be long before we find out. This world is mainly populated by animals. Which would make this a good time to get mov..."

Suddenly, Darien paused, his eyes growing distant. Ximálech was about to ask what was wrong, when the man turned away. -Perhaps it's his friends.- Ximálech thought to himself. -He's worried about them.-

A moment later, Darien continued. "We should probably get going if you're ready. The lionesses may go out hunting today, and I would rather get as far away from their domain as possible before then."

"Agreed," said Ximálech. He glanced around for a moment. The savannah seemed empty, except for him and Darien, but he couldn't shake the odd feeling of being watched. He shook his head, picked up the makeshift bag containing his coat, and prepared to leave.

------​

Nearby, lying in the hot yellow grass, lay a group of hyenas. Two of them there were, watching the two men talk. One of the men leaned down to grab a bag, and the male hyena started to make chase. The other one, a female, bit down on his hind leg, stopping him from moving closer.

"Not yet, Grim! What's wrong with you?" she hissed.

The male, Grim, bared his fangs. "I'm starving, Zeri. When are we gonna sink our teeth into them?"

"Soon. We'll follow them, wait till they bed down for the night. Then we'll strike," replied Zeri.

"Why not now? You know the pups are hungry!"

"They'll be all right. The others will look after them. We can't risk them," she jerked her head toward the men, "being too strong for us. Better to wait till they're tired. It's a long walk to the jungle."

"Whatever you say."

The two hyenas began to follow the men, as they walked away from the oasis.
 
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Grandsword

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as nihilus was about to order his forces into an attack, a lone key wielder spoke up"Your presence here disturbs the peace of this world,If you wish to bring grievances against the light wielders of this world.
I ask that you accompany me to my superiors so that we may discuss this matter privately and responsibly.
Your actions against the peaceful people of this world have already warranted punishment of the highest severity, but we are willing to work through the conflict without further violence."
Nihilus turned his head to the wielder, barely restrained rage evident in his eyes "i do not trust your words, key-wielder, your kind have brought only war and lies.." he growled out, voice warped and distorted, each breath strained, as thought taken through a steel mesh "for what reason should i give your kind anything, when all you do is take! take!! Take!!! TAKE!!!! This war was forged from your people's craven desires, to claim kingdom hearts and it's power for your own agendas!" Nihilus said in a deep seated rage. the full brunt of his void energy flared outwards in a twisted violet aura as he gestured with his arms to accent his words, marching towards jayden "the actions and inaction of your kind have lost countless worlds, and damned many others...and yet you light wielders call yourselves "protectors". "at least I've united the people, given them power to defend themselves..can you say the same?" Nihilus finished, glaring down at jayden, almost daring him to attack, to validate his point of keyblade wielders being untrustworthy
 
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