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Fanfiction ► Kingdom Hearts The Other Story



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NemesisSP

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The story I mentioned in my Art Showcase thread... I'm not too happy with the first few chapters, since they feel a little off compared to what I've come up with since, but it's just important to get it out there and see what other people think before I work on it further, right? Please let me know if you enjoy it and I'll post all current chapters over the next few days.


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Chapter 1: The Starting Point


The small world of Traverse Town was a world of sanctuary. A town for those who had lost their home. It's old fashioned buildings and eternal night sky was strange, but the timeless feel of the world made it a good safe house for its lost inhabitants. It was very quiet tonight and was that way most nights, there was one problem with it.


And that was the Heartless. Beings seemingly without hearts, creatures of the darkness and pure evil as were clear by their very existence and intentions. The citizens of Traverse Town did their best to avoid them, and usually stayed in their homes unless they had to go out. Thankfully, they only came out during certain periods of time and when that happened, everyone in the town knew and took the appropriate steps to avoid trouble. Only a few of the townsfolk were brave enough to fight any of them whenever an attack took place.



In the Third District of Traverse Town, several individuals were doing just that. Breaking the quiet of the night with their fighting, but doing so only for the protection of the citizens who dwelled there. A small black creature with yellow eyes, designated as a Shadow, tried to scurry away as a blast of fire struck it and it disintegrated. A young woman, probably no older than 15, with black hair and a dark blue school uniform of some kind, approached the spot where it had been only seconds ago.



“Got another Shadow over here!” she said to her companions. Clutched to her chest a white doll with a big red nose and a pom-pom coming out of its head. She had been using it to channel her magic through.



“Good,” said a brown haired teenager with dark blue eyes. He too wore a dark blue school uniform and was wielding a weapon known as a gunblade, which came in two varieties. One was a gun attached to the blade that, when the trigger was pulled, sent vibrations through the blade that could increase the deadliness of the attack. The kind he had a mechanism that switches between a gun and a sword mode. He swung the weapon in its sword mode at two Heartless that jumped at him. These were only slightly bigger than the shadows, were of a dark brown color and had armored helmeted heads that still exposed their blank black faces and yellow eyes. There was a large insignia on its chest and it had dark claws on its hands. “Got two Soldiers for me.” He said as he sliced one in half, followed quickly by the other.



“Ha! I got three Large Bodies!” their other friend said; as he quickly kicked one into an exposed electrical plug. He had blond hair that he had spiked up in the front, with mostly blue and red clothing on. He didn’t have a weapon like his friends, he fought entirely with his fists and feet. “They should really fix this place up, don’t ya think?”



“I agree, Zell.” The gunblade wielding teenager said, slicing through a down more Heartless. As another came at him however, the gunblade quickly changed into a gun that he shot the Heartless with. “What’s our count, Lulu?”



The young woman shot off more blasts of fire. “I’d say about forty each.” She said. “Which would be about one hundred and twelve in total? Looks like we’re all cleared, Omega.”



“Good, then we should wrap up soon.” Omega said, blocking a Heartless’ claws from striking him. “Just a few more to go, I think.” He said as he stabbed through it.



It took them a few more moments to clear up the rest of the Heartless, but by the time they were done, the whole of the District, as well as the second had been cleared.



“Whew, that was a long one.” Omega said, wiping his arm across his forehead and placing his gunblade in its holster.



“I think we did pretty well, though.” Zell said as he punched the air above his head. “The citizens of this town don’t have to worry while I’m here!”



“What about when you sleep?” Lulu asked with a hint of sarcasm in her voice.



“SO, let’s go report back and grab something to eat!” Zell said, completely ignoring his friends comment. “What are you guys up for? I’m paying this time.”



“That Ratatouille place looked good.” Omega commented.



“Something within my price range, please!” Zell replied, though he was laughing a little. Indeed, as they left they were laughing, acting as though everything was normal. And this was their idea of normal, so it didn’t seem out of place for them at all.





It was an hour after they had finished their report, and now they were sitting in the small diner in First District.



“Did you guys see the look on Rusty’s face in the debriefing?” Zell asked, chuckling lightly. “It was priceless!”



“Yeah, being told that three punks did better fighting Heartless in one night than you have in nine years tends to do that.” Lulu said, trying to remain stoic. She started laughing as well after a few seconds. “And yes, it really was.”



“And it came from Instructor Trepe, too.” Omega commented. “So it had to sting.” All three of them had been sitting there, laughing away and driving several of the other people who came by insane. But they didn’t care, they hadn’t been able to go out at all for a while, and so it felt good to just hang out and not worry about Heartless or anything related to them.



“This was a pretty good place.” Omega noted. “We’ll have to come again at some point?”



“I completely agree with that.” Zell said, raising his glass as if to toast his friend before taking another swig from it.



“I agree.” Lulu said as well. “As long as Zell pays again.” She quickly added, causing Zell to spit out his drink at the suggestion.



A waiter walked up to them. “Is that all for this evening?” Zell nodded and the waiter handed him a bill.



“Yikes, that really was expensive.” Zell said, grimacing a little.



“Sure you have enough munny, Zell? I can pay for half, if you want.”



“Nah, I’m good, bud.” Zell said, pulling out some munny and handing it to the waiter. “You guys ready to turn in?”



“No, not really.” Omega said, getting up. “But we probably should.”



“Good to know.” Zell said, getting up as well. Lulu simply nodded as she got up.



“HEY! STOP THAT THING!” someone called out. The three of them looked just in time to see something rush past them. It looked blue, but they couldn’t make out what it was.



“What is that, a dog?” Omega asked.



“Don’t know.” Zell said.



The man who yelled out ran up to them, looking very angry. “Why didn’t you stop that that monster?!”



“Why would we? Didn’t look like it was doing anything wrong.” Omega said.



“Wasn’t doing anything wrong, it was stealing food from my store!” the man said.



“What was it?” Lulu interjected.



“I don’t know, but what about my food?!” The man said, obviously seething with anger. He began to move to where whatever it was had run to, only to be stopped when Omega grabbed him by the arm.



“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Omega said. “The Heartless might not be completely gone. A few stragglers could be lurking around that corner, for instance.” The man’s face automatically filled with fear, and he retreated back in the direction that he had come from



“Your people skills are as impressive as usual.” Lulu said as she walked past Omega.



“Well, I’m not going to let some idiot go and get themselves killed.” Omega replied, as he followed after her. “It’s already hard enough keeping the Heartless at bay as it is without people like him giving them more to add to their numbers.” Zell chuckled as he walked past.



“Admit it.” Zell said, now walking alongside Omega. “You just didn’t want whatever that thing was to starve.”



“Not really.” Omega said in a neutral kind of tone, but gave Zell a friendly offhand punch to the arm. He suddenly stopped though. He wasn’t sure, but it felt like someone was watching him, perhaps that creature that had run off. He turned around to look, but there was no one there. Thinking that it was probably just his imagination, he quickly hurried off after his friends.







It was always night in Traverse Town, so it was often difficult for many to get used to it, especially when it comes to the time. Omega was used to it though, having lived here for so long. It was actually very early in the morning, and Omega and the others were walking around the First District. They were supposed to be meeting their Instructor, who had said to meet her at the entrance to the Second District. Omega, Lulu and Zell were part of the SeeD Program, a type of mercenary group, although it was originally a program more akin to Special Forces. After the Heartless started attacking nine years ago, the world that SeeD was originally set in was lost, and it was retooled into an Anti-Heartless mercenary group by an important world, although what world that was, it was a Level 9 secret, and since Cadets like Omega and his friends were only Level 1 holders, they were not in on it. Today, SeeD consisted of over two hundred members, with almost twenty worlds that they were stationed at.



Quistis Trepe was a woman who looked to be in her early twenties, but carried herself as though she was older than that. She was not the strictest Instructor, and because of this, she was also among the most popular. She was wearing her regular clothes today, instead of her uniform. Her blond hair was still done up in the style she usually had it in, with it tied up in back, while two long fringes at her sides that framed her face.



“Alright, you three.” She said as they approached. “Today will be a major Field Exam. One that has been carefully decided ever since the previous night”



Omega, Lulu and Zell stood at attention and did not state anything. It would be disrespectful to interrupt with something that did not have relevance to the subject.



“Your performance yesterday was incredible, and we decided that you were ready for the Exam.” Instructor Trepe continued. “We have just received word that one of our training worlds, Codenamed “Specter” to be precise, has come under attack by a large force of Heartless.”



This information came as no real surprise. After all, “Specter” was a world that was filled with Darkness, which made it a perfect place to start off SeeD training. Omega and his friends had once gone there and had found it to be a slightly unpleasant place.



“Since most of the more experienced members are off world, they need back up. A team from each of our training worlds will be sent to Specter to help stop the Heartless.” She said. “You three are to depart Traverse Town and head to Specter to help with the defense. This is an important mission; we cannot allow Specter to fall to the Heartless. Do you all understand?”



“Yes ma’am!”



“Good. You have three hours to departure.” Instructor Trepe said. She looked all three of them in the face, and gave them a kind smile. “Good luck. Dismissed!”



Omega, Lulu and Zell saluted, which the Instructor did as well before leaving. The three of them waited until she was out of sight before they started talking.



“Great, we finally get a real mission!” Zell said, grinning broadly. “Told you guys that they would!”



“Yeah, it would appear you were right.” Lulu said. “But I’m not sure going back to Specter is a good thing.”



“Of course it isn’t.” Zell said. “It’s a horrible place yeah, but soon, we’ll be real SeeD members, and get real missions, that don’t involve Specter at all!”



“Yeah, all we need to do is finish this mission.” Omega said. “We can’t afford to screw up. Who knows when we’ll be eligible for the next Exam?”



Lulu looked thoughtful for a moment before looking up at the other two. “You’re right. I say we go and prepare for the mission before we leave.” She said. She took a quick glance at the two of them. “I’ll handle the preparations; I’ll meet you two at Cid’s later.” And with that, she walked off. Omega and Zell.



Zell turned to him. “I’m going to go over to Cid’s right now, and get the ship ready. What are you going to do?”



“Well, I’m sure Lulu will be doing the supplying, I’m not sure. I guess I can always go info surfing.” Omega commented casually, but at the same time he started looking around.



“Think she’ll have any idea of what’s happening in Specter?” Zell asked, doing the same.



“Hard to say, but since she’s Level 4, she could.” Omega replied. “Though, some information is better than nothing. Walking into a battlefield without knowing anything will just get us killed.”



“Okay, but you be careful.” Zell said having made sure no one was listening to them. “She’ll get in really big trouble if the higher ups find out she’s been giving us top secret info that we aren’t allowed.”



“I know.” Omega replied. “I’ll see you later.”



“See ya.”




Omega stood outside the door, hoping that he wouldn’t be here long. The place always gave him the creeps. The door opened after a few minutes.



“Okay, come back next week just in case.” A young woman’s voice said, as another SeeD cadet walked out the door. A young woman in a white suit, with shoulder length black hair, appeared as well. “Remember, no strenuous activities until you recover.”



“Hello Aki” Omega said, stepping forward.



The doctor looked at him. “Oh, hey Omega, come on in.”



Omega did so. “How’s life as a doctor going?”



“Oh fine, just fine.” Aki said. She had a worried expression on her face, which slightly worried Omega. “



“I see.”



“So, how can I help you today, my friend?” Aki said, sitting down.



“I’m just here to tell you that we’re going to be heading off in a few hours.” Omega replied. “To Specter.”



“Oh, so you guys are the ones going?” Aki said, sitting up in her seat.



Omega nodded. “Yeah. I wasn’t given much info on it, though.”



“I know, we haven’t either.” Aki said. “Dr. Kadowaki was sent off earlier without much of a briefing as to why.”



“Why weren’t you called in too?” Omega asked.



“Don’t know, but I’m worried. Dr. Kadowaki always keeps me filled on what is going on when she can. So this must be something very serious.”



“Yeah, I know.” Omega agreed. “But you’ve got to know something, like what happened?”



“All I know is that there was some kind of incident.” Aki said. “Apparently, a couple of cadets stumbled upon something. Something that put them both in serious intensive care, and had something to do with the first wave of the Heartless attack! And whatever it was has been classified a Level 10 secret.”



Omega looked at Aki in shock. Level 10 was the highest level of security that SeeD had. Only a select few were even at Level 10 clearance, and if that was the case, Omega knew he wasn’t going to be getting anything more from this. He just stood there silently, folding his arms in thought.



“I’m sorry, but that’s all I know.” Aki said.



“It’s okay. Thanks anyway.” Omega replied, heading for the door.



“No problem.” Aki said. “Hey!” Omega turned to look at her. “Good luck.”



“Thanks.” Omega said, and he left afterwards. He wasn’t sure what to think about what he had just heard. Whatever happened in Specter was definitely worse than Instructor Trepe had let on, but he still had no idea what had caused it. And it looked like he wasn’t going to, if it was a Level 10 secret.

It was right as he was at the door to the First District that he heard it.



They need your help….



Omega stopped when he heard that and looked around. “Hello? Anyone there?!”



Nothing. Omega was confused, but shrugged a little. It had probably been his imagination. He went through the door and headed towards Cid’s shop when he heard it again.



But you are not ready…



“What?” Omega said, coming to a stop again. He didn’t know why he had said that, or why he was hearing these voices. All he knew was that it wasn’t making him feel comfortable.



Trying to shake off his unease, he didn’t realize that he wasn’t alone anymore. “Are you alright?” Omega turned to look at who had spoken and saw a girl wearing a blue jacket and black jeans staring at him in concern. He knew her, her name was Iris and she was a SeeD cadet, just like he was. She had put red highlights in her brown hair since the last time he had seen her, however, which he thought made her look very pretty.



“Oh, yeah. I’m fine.” Omega lied. “No need to worry about me. I’m just peachy over here.” He continued, trying to sound as cheerful as possible, though Iris just chuckled. Though he never really got a chance to hang out with her because they were on separate teams, every time he did, a kind of fluttering feeling appeared in his stomach that he wasn’t sure he like. Or disliked, for that matter.



“Alright then.” Iris replied, smiling slightly. “It’s been awhile, Omega.” The feeling intensified, but he ignored it.



“It really has, Iris.” Omega said, giving her a small smile as well. “How has it been?”



“Oh, you know the usual stuff.” Iris replied. “Just the patrolling of the town and all its districts, killing any Heartless that pops up. You?”



“Pretty much the same.” Omega said. “Though, on some nice occasions I get to meet up with old friends that I haven’t talked to in awhile.” His blue eyes met her green eyes for a moment before they both started laughing.



“Yeah, I miss it too.” Iris said and for a moment Omega thought he saw a brief blush appear on her face. “Hey, how about after this mission we hang out more?”



That fluttering feeling started to grow again and his heart started pounding with it. “Sounds cool, though I’m guessing it might still be a while.” Omega replied, trying to pretend like nothing was wrong with him.



“Probably, but I’m sure we can make it work.” Iris said as she started walking past him. “See you soon, alright?”



“You definitely will!” Omega said, smiling again. She returned it and walked away, that fluttering feeling becoming almost unbearable now until see left. He felt happy though, and he hoped that nothing would get him down. But then he heard it again….



You must be ready………Or darkness will conquer everything.



Before Omega could say or do anything, the world went pitch black, and it felt like he was falling.



To be continued…….



 

Dast

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I enjoyed the first chapter. I like the concept of an anti-Heartless mercenary group and I really liked the ending with the disembodied voice; I could imagine it actually being the opening to one of the games. I'd be happy to read more.
 

NemesisSP

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Thanks. I hope you keep enjoying it as it goes along. It's taken too long to work on this, but I'm feeling more confident in getting this project done.
 

NemesisSP

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Chapter 2: Dive Into The Heart





Traverse Town was quiet at the moment, with hardly anyone outside of their residences. And if they came out, they’d hurry with what they were doing so they could return home. It had been that way ever since Iris had gotten here so many months ago. She and her team had been sent her as part of an extended field training. To get used to the possibility that they would have to be in any one world for any length at a time.



It was a time that was soon to be coming to an end, Iris knew. It was almost time to move on to a new world, their first world where they’d be sent on their own. Without instructors to guide them, as a test to see if they could handle it. If they could, it would open up a variety of possibilities for them. Places that were far more interesting than Traverse Town.



Iris opened the door to the apartment that she and her squad were living in. She went over to the first room on the right and knocked. “Alright, I just finished surveying the First and Second Districts. How’s coming along here.



“Excellent. Just working on a report.” A teenage boy’s voice answered. “The doors unlocked if you want to check.”



“I think I’ll pass, Hope.” Iris said as she walked away, but stopped briefly. “You already make food?”



“No, I just had Irvine go out to get some pizza.” Hope replied, the door opening as he does. He was a silver haired boy of about fourteen. He was wearing an orange and yellow jacket, with black gloves and green pants and shoes. He also wore a green neckerchief and was a few inches shorter than Iris “He was driving me a little crazy, actually.”



Iris smirked a bit at that. Hope was probably the smartest of the group, but he also tended to get annoyed fairly easily.



“He does tend to do that.” Iris said as she went and got them some drinks. “What are you reporting on?”



“I was updating my database on secret passages and caverns around the town.” Hope said as he accepted the drink. “There are quite a lot more than we expected. I have a few theories that I think you-“



“I hope you haven’t eaten yet!” A calm, suave voice called from the entrance way. Tall and dressed in long brown coat with a black cowboy hat on his head, stood Irvine, one hand holding two boxes of pizza and the other flourishing around in the air. “For I have brought dinner!”



“So we can see.” Iris said, though she stifled a chuckle. “You have good timing, we just mentioned you.”



“About what a reliably handsome fellow I am?” Irvine said as he winked.



“More like what a slacker you are.” Iris cheerfully said as she very quickly but still careful took the boxes from Irvine, who looked like he was about to prat fall.



“I’m wounded, I do my part!” Irvine replied.



Hope crossed his arms. “Only if you can’t get away with it.” He said dryly. Iris shook her head in mock exasperation as she got some plates to use.



“Hey, I brought the food, so you can’t complain.” Irvine shrugged as he grabbed himself a slice and went to sit down on the couch.



“Oh, I’m sure we could find ways, cowboy.” Iris said as she sat down as well and took a bite. “Still, you aren’t completely useless.”



“I take that as a compliment, my dear Iris.” Irvine said. “And might I say that you are looking lovely today.”



“Save it, it’s not going to happen.” Hope replied as he sat down as well. “How many times do you have to be turned down before you quit it?”



I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Irvine shrugged. “You think so little of me.”



“Besides, we all know who Iris likes.” Hope said as he cracked a smile and looked at her. “I have it on good authority that his group is here too.”



“You don’t know anything about who I like.” Iris says and the playfully bumped her arm against Hope’s. “After all, we all know I only have eyes for you.”



Hope almost spit out his drink, but he managed to hold it in. “T-that’s not funny! Not at all!” Hope stuttered as he rubbed his hand against his nose, presumably trying to hide a light shade of pink from showing up on his cheeks. This prompted laughter from both Iris and Irvine, followed shortly by Hope himself.



“And I already know they’re here.” Iris told them.



“Oh, how’s that?” Irvine asked.



“I happened to run into Omega, of course.” Iris said. “Just a few minutes before I headed back here.”



“And how was he?” Hope asked, a slight smile back on his face.



“He honestly seemed to be doing well.” Iris said before taking another bite.







Omega fell for what felt like forever. He had closed his eyes the moment he had started to, though he didn’t know exactly why. His fall slowly felt like it was losing momentum, and soon enough, it felt more like he was slowly drifting down to the bottom of this dark place. He slowly turned over and reopened his eyes. His feet touch solid ground and he looked around



It felt familiar for some reason, although he could not quite place it.

He stood on some kind of platform, which glowed a bright white as he looked down to inspect it. This place was strange, alien and yet somehow familiar. Omega couldn't quite place it, but he felt a strange sensation concerning this place. He stepped forward, and had to cover his eyes as a bright flash came from the platform, almost blinding him. Omega opened his eyes slowly when the light faded and was very shocked by what he saw.

The black area was now covered in a glass portrait. The glass work showed him, asleep and peaceful looking. Next to him, in circular frames were Lulu and Zell's faces, though they were awake, and next to them were three crown shaped symbols that he was sure he had never seen before. They were all in a large frame of their own, and that was framed by Omega's slightly curled body. On the bottom was what looked like a town, with a castle in it, perhaps? The town was another thing that was familiar, but once again, Omega couldn't tell why from how abstract the image was. More crown symbols surrounded them and except for Omega and the town, all of them were a dark blue color, with some lighter shades of the color for the crown symbols and his friends' faces.

Omega did not have time to wonder about the meaning of the glass painting, as at that moment the voice he had heard before started talking.



The Darkness is growing….



Omega thought the voice sounded vague with that. “I know. The worlds are under assault by the Heartless. So that’s why, because they just keep coming.”



You are needed for when the Darkness comes. Take up your weapon and help maintain the balance.



“What?”



A sword, staff and shield appeared before him. He didn’t know what was going on, but he moved to the sword on instinct without even looking at the other two items that had appeared. He grabbed the sword and looked it over carefully. The handle was blue, while the pommel was yellow. The hilt of the sword was also yellow and there was an insignia that looked very familiar on it. He had seen it before, but like everything else about this place he couldn’t quite place it. He looked and saw the other weapons disappearing.



Be careful…



Omega looked behind him just in time to see a Shadow Heartless try to attack him. He jumped out of the way and slashed at it. It bursts into a black cloud and floated away, while more Shadows began to materialize as well. They tried attacking Omega from all around, but he dodged and jumped of them, slashing when he landed. It didn’t take long to clear them out. He looked at the sword for a moment.



A pathway appeared and led from this station on to the next. Omega ran up the steps and saw the exact same portrait as the other platform, only a green this time instead of blue. Omega looked around the image on the platform again. He didn’t understand what this place was, or why he was here. Or why he had the strange feeling that he had been here before.



What do you value most?



Omega folded his arms at the question. He was very sure what he valued most. “Lulu and Zell are the only thing I ever had. What could be more important than them?”



Do you want the power to protect them?



“I do.” Omega said. “Of course I do, more than anything!”



Walk through the door, and awaken that power



A door appeared at the other end of the platform. Omega hesitated for a moment, but approached the door. He came out the other side onto another platform, but it was red this time instead of blue or green. He walked up to the center of the new platform.



The path ahead of you has many roads. Past this point, moving forward is not always certain



At that, he turned around just in time to see a dark entity emerge from behind him. It was a huge Pureblood Heartless, but it was not one that he had ever seen before. It had a heart shaped hole in its abdomen, and tiny wings on its back. Its glowing yellow eyes were the only thing about its face that could be seen, as the rest was covered by black tendrils.



If you cannot defend against the Darkness, your power will be worthless to anyone



It raised its fist to strike, Omega readied his sword and jumped out of the way as the fist came crashing down to platform. A black vortex opened and Shadows began to materialize out of it. Omega ignored them and slashed at the hand until it withdrew. Omega easily destroyed the Shadows when the Heartless did that, and waited for another attack.



The Heartless knelt down and suddenly struck its hand down onto the station, creating a shockwave. Omega barely managed to jump over it. He looked and noticed that the Heatless had not destroyed the platform, but had opened up another vortex and was pull a large orb of Darkness out of it. Omega ran to the Heartless and started attacking, hoping to stun it or something before it used that. Unfortunately, the attacks didn’t slow the Heartless down and it unleashed the orb. The orb broke into smaller ones and Omega tried his best to avoid them, which he succeeded in, but one almost came close to hitting his left arm.



The Heartless leaned back, another orb of darkness appearing in the heart shaped hole in its abdomen. Three blasts of dark energy shot out and flew towards Omega, who managed to jump out of the way. Another volley came flying at him and he jumped out of the again. A third volley flew right at Omega and this time, he had to block it with his sword instead of dodging. The impact nearly knocked him off balance, but he managed to regain his footing as the Heartless raised its fist yet again. It brought the fist down and Omega stumbled as he tried to dodge and fell to the ground, the sword slipped from his hand and fell to the floor of the platform with a clang.



Omega reached out to the place where it had landed and grabbed it. He turned and saw that Shadows were now surrounding him. He slashed out and destroyed them the moment they tried to come closer and regained his footing. He thought over his options as the huge Heartless prepared for another attack. It leaned forward giving Omega a quick opening. He jumped at it right as it was reeling back and stabbed his sword into its head. There was billowing sound as the blade sunk into the Heartless, followed only by an inky blackness that seemed to consume everything around Omega.



Your power is slowly awakening. But you must hurry, or everything will be consumed by the Darkness.







Omega jerked awake and found that he sitting up against the wall near the door to the second district. He yawned a little and closed his eyes again. The dream he just had may have been strange, but it felt very real at the same time. It was strange, he didn’t realize he had even been sleeping. But he must have been.



“Of course I find you napping somewhere, again.” came Lulu’s voice. Omega opened his eyes again and looked at her. She folded her arms in a disapproving manner, a gesture he was quite familiar with after all these years.



“Well, I didn’t actually mean to fall asleep.” He said. “I just didn’t know how tired I was. And I had the strangest dream.”



“I’m sure you did.” Lulu said. She was now right in front of him and was probably ready to scold him more. Omega yawned again, got up and stretched.



“Oh good, you two are right there.” Said another voice. Zell was walking over to them. “The ship’s all ready, we can leave early if ya both want.”

“I’m fine with that.” Omega said wanting to get started as quickly as possible.



“I think we should probably go train a little before setting off.” Lulu interjected and the other two stared at her. It was completely like Lulu to want to make sure they were in tip top condition for any fight. That was probably why she was the designated leader and not Omega or Zell. And that was what they both admired about her. “We will not be able to do it on the ship, so doing it now is essential.”



“Alright." Omega said, pulling his gunblade out. “Fight to the Third District then?” he asked.


“Of course.” Lulu says, also pulling out her Moogle doll.



“Sounds good to me!” Zell nodded, cracking his knuckles as went over and opened the door to the Second District.



All three of them ran through it the moment it was it was open wide enough. Almost at once, Shadow Heartless appeared and jumped toward them, but one vertical slash made them explode into dark vapor. As the Shadows fell three new Heartless, Soldiers, appeared to take their place. They had helmets covering their heads and their bodies were dark, with tan mixed in for their “outfits”. One of them spun like a propeller at Omega, only for a burst of Fire from Lulu to hit it square in the chest.



The other two Soldiers jumped in to attack, only to be kicked back by Zell. They hit the ground hard, unlike Zell, who had landed lightly on his feet. He clenched his hands into fists and began to pummel one of the Soldiers until it burst into vapor as well. The other one attempted to attack him as well.



Shadows and Soldiers were the only Heartless they encountered as they fought their way to the Third District. This wasn’t anything new, so it didn’t concern them much. What they were not expecting was for there to be no Heartless in the Third District as they entered.



“I do not like this.” Lulu said as she looked around to the statue of the two dogs in one corner of the square district.



“I would bet that this is when the big Heartless comes to kill us.” Zell commented, sounding rather excited about this possibility.



And no sooner had he said that when a bunch of what looked like pieces of an armor fell to the ground in front of them and then assembled into a large body, with a head falling down right where it should be. The armor was predominately white with red, blue and yellow mixed in as well. The Heartless symbol was visible on its torso. This is what they called the Guard Armor and it only appeared on occasion. They had heard rumors of it, but had not actually fought it until today.



“Told you so!” Zell said jumping into a battle stance as the Guard Armor began stomping over to them. The Heartless’ arms, still disconnected from the torso, began spinning around it like a tornado of claws. All three of them made sure to stay until they stopped, at which point all three began their attack. Omega and Zell went in for a physical assault, while Lulu waited in the back and fired spells off at the Guard Armor.



The best strategy they found was to take out the arms first. As Omega’s gunblade and Zell’s fist hit the right arm it attempted to fly out of reach and then strike back at them. It managed to hit them, prompting the both of them to use a potion each. The right arm fell rather quickly and the Guard Armor jumped up and crashed down over by Lulu, knocking her down. She got up quickly and tried moving away from it.



Omega wasn’t quite as good at magic as his friend was, but he fired off a Thunder spell at the Heartless, which hit its remaining limbs and its torso, but didn’t seem to do much damage to it as it tried punching at Lulu. Zell jumped over to her aid and blocked the punch and counterattacking with his own. Lulu cast another Fire spell that hit the arm right as it was coming at Zell and it exploded.



The legs were next. They proved to be much tougher than the arms, but not by very much. Zell started attacking the right leg while Lulu fired at the left with her magic. Omega performed a powerful slash that hit both legs, but wasn’t able to do it a second time for awhile, so he stuck to basic slicing or shooting he was forced to stay at a distance. The legs kicked and slammed against their attackers, but ultimately they fell just like the arms.



And now there was just the torso to deal with. The torso began spinning very fast, knocking the three friends down. Without its limbs this was the only attack available to the Guard Armor, making much easier to take down.



And then the Guard Armor fell, exploded and faded away.



“That was a good exercise run.” Zell said stretching a little.



“Yeah, I guess we should get to the Gummi Ship hangers.” Omega said.



“Yes, probably the best idea to do.” A voice that none of them recognized said from behind them. It sounded formal and businesslike. They turned to see a man with black hair and black suit with a long coat over it. "After all, you've already wasted valuable time as it is."



“Who are you?” Omega asked at once. He was getting a bad feeling from this man, and these feelings usually turned out to be correct.



“It doesn’t matter who I am right now.” The man said, flashing a smile that Omega liked even less. The man was looking right at him. He had purple eyes, but that only made him seem more strange and unnatural than he already was. “Although truthfully, it doesn’t matter if you go to the Gummi Ship hangers either.”



“And what does that mean?” Lulu said. She was holding her Moogle doll tight to her chest, readying herself for another fight. Omega did the same thing, gripping the handle of his gunblade.



“It means they’ll all be dead by the time you get there.” The man continued, with that horrible grin still on his face. "Not like you would have been able to save them even if you had hurried there anyway." He added, flicking his hand around in a flippant manner as he said this, as if he was dismissing some minor problem that was beneath his notice.



“WHAT!?” all three of them said at once.



“Who are you and what do you know about what’s happening!?” Zell said.



The man laughed. A cruel and deep laugh that sent chills down the spines of all three of them. “Why tell you when you can just see for yourself?”



“Don’t play games with us!” Omega snapped at him, running forward and slicing at the man. But his gunblade didn’t hit anything and he almost fell to the ground. He quickly steadied himself and looked behind him. The man was standing behind Zell and Lulu, who jumped away from him.



“If you wish to know more, then you’ll have to see for yourself, Chosen wielder of the Keyblade.” The man said, fading away again.



“What?” Omega said, lowering his weapon. “Keyblade?”



“Omega, we don’t have time.” Lulu said. “Let’s hurry to the hangers.” She was already heading for the door of the Second District. Zell was following her, but Omega stood in the same spot.



Zell looked back at him. “What’s wrong?”



Omega was thinking about that strange dream he had earlier and the man’s words. He could barely remember the dream, he had dismissed it so casually. Whatever the dream had been about, he had a feeling that somehow they were connected. He could just feel it in his gut. He shook his head and put it aside. Lulu was right; they didn’t have time to worry about this. “It doesn’t matter. Let’s get going!” He said, running after his friends.



Above the District, a small blue creature had heard and seen the entirety of the events that had happened below. Upon hearing the word “Keyblade” and before the three teenagers were even running, he had made up his mind. He crawled over the wall of the Third District, planning on getting in their ship without them noticing him. After all, he knew every shortcut in this city, so it wouldn’t be hard.
 

NemesisSP

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Chapter 3: Garden of Shadows





Trabia Garden, that’s what it was really called. Specter was a code name, something that only members of SeeD were supposed to know. Just in case any enemy was likely to intercept any transmissions. This way the students could be trained without worrying about unexpected attacks. There were several other training worlds like this out there, all of them under different codenames.



The world was a dark place; the ground was a purple color, while the trees looked dead. A lingering shadow fell over the place due to clouds that never parted so no stars or any kind of light shown through. It wasn’t the nicest world to begin with, what with being mountainous and snowy, but seeing it look like this was unsettling.



As they stepped out onto the dark world, they immediately feared that what the man in black had told them was true. The training base still stood, but it was severely damaged and looked as if it would collapse at any moment. The air had a faint musty smell to it.



“Looks like they were overwhelmed.” Lulu said, leaning down to inspect a damaged machine. “A very large attack wave of strong Heartless, no doubt?



“Yeah, looks like it.” Zell replied. His voice was heavy, much unlike how he usually was. He scowled and continued speaking. “I don’t expect we’ll be finding anyone here.”



“Probably.” Omega said solemnly. “We can’t go back without knowing for sure, though.” His fist clenched as he walked forward and studied the place closer.



As he did, three Soldier Heartless materialized in front of them, ready for a fight.



“Still here.” Omega said, drawing out his gunblade and slicing down on one of the Soldiers, while the other two were taken care of by Zell and Lulu. No more appeared after they had fallen, but Omega didn’t put away his weapon.



“Probably will be more, let’s get moving.” He said, moving forward into the wreckage.





The inside of the complex was just as bad as the outside had suggested, if not more so. There were slash marks on walls, as well a scorch marks and holes. The lighters flickered on and off as they searched through the hallways.



Omega was worried that they may not find anyone, which was a feeling that the others shared. They didn’t have to say it for him to know though.



A sudden crash was heard and all three of them pressed up against the wall. They knew better than to attack without knowing what it was. Zell poked his head over and gave the all clear sign. Whatever it was had gone.



“Maybe someone is alive?” Zell whispered to the others.



“Hopefully.” Omega said. Lulu as well.



However, they didn’t find or hear anything else and the hope that they might quickly fell apart. Despite this, they searched the entire place just in case.



Thirty minutes into the search, Lulu suddenly stopped and folded her arms. A troubled look appeared on her face. Omega turned to face her when he saw this. “Hey, what’s wrong?” Zell turned to her as well.



“I was just thinking. We were not the only ones sent here, right?”



“Right.” Both Omega and Zell said.



“So why haven’t we seen them yet?” Lulu asked them.



There was a very uncomfortable silence, and all that could be heard was the sound of an approaching storm. None of them wanted to say what they were thinking.



“They….they probably just haven’t made it yet.” Zell said, but with no real conviction in his voice. Omega tried to say something to add to that, but the words didn’t come out. He too was hoping that they had indeed not made it to this world. After all, there were no ships here from Traverse Town beside their own.



“I think-“, Lulu said, looking from side to side, “that we’d better be careful. That creep in black definitely has something to do with this, and he may be watching.”



“Agreed.” Omega and Zell said together.



They heard another sound, a loud banging this time. They suddenly tensed up for a moment. A smart movie, as Shadow Heartless suddenly appeared all around them, starting their attack immediately, the three friends barely having time to dodge and block before Soldiers joined in as well.



While Omega slashed at the Heartless with his Gunblade and Zell punched the Heartless, Lulu used her magic both to cause damage and distract the Heartless while they tried moving away from them. This hallway, while big, was still not an ideal place to fight and the quicker they got to a much better area, the quicker they could effectively take care of the Heartless.



However, more Heartless just kept materializing, making it near impossible to actually move out of the way of their assault. The three of them kept fighting, still looking for a way out of the situation.



“Perhaps we should just charge them?” Zell said.



“No, very bad idea at the moment.” Omega replied. “There’s too many of them, and we’d leave ourselves completely exposed from behind.”



“Well, we could use a very good distraction right now!” Lulu said, causing the other two to laugh slightly despite their situation.



A large piece of what looked like part of a wall suddenly flew over their heads and hit the Heartless in front of them, causing all three to suddenly stop what they were doing in surprise. Omega thought he saw a blue creature where the wall had come from, but it disappeared quickly.



“W-what was that?” Zell said, completely surprised by this.



“At this point I wouldn't care if it was pink elephants." Omega said as more Heartless began materializing in front of them. Some of them moved in the direction that the wall had come from.



“Whatever, just move!” Lulu shouted and began to run over the place where the wall had been. Omega and Zell regained their sense as well and quickly followed her.



“Isn’t there anyone coming?” Zell called out



“I doubt it!” Omega replied.



“It doesn’t matter if we can get to our ship!” Lulu said. “This is a lost cause.”





Getting out of the destroyed building turned out to be easy after that. Omega, Lulu and Zell had to deal with Heartless, but not quite as much, since they seemed to be chasing that blue creature Omega thought he had seen. They all ran as fast as they could before finally making it out. They did not come out the way they came, and the only thing they knew was that this was not the same way they had entered.



“How far away are we from the Gummi Ship?” Omega asked, breathing heavily.



“I don’t know,” Zell said, his hands on his knees, “but it might be on the other side for all we know. We did have to lead them through a quite a chase.”



“There’s nothing to be done about it.” Lulu said, clutching her stomach and breathing just as heavily as her friends. “Going back in there would be a bad idea no matter what.”



“You said it.” Zell said. After a moment they regained their composure and began running again.



As it turned out, they had ended up on the other side of the building and had a long walk ahead of them. It didn’t matter, though, as it was still easier than trying to get through a building full of Heartless. But then again, they still had to deal with the occasional Shadow and Soldier Heartless. Thunder could be heard, with a few bolts of lightning appearing as well.



They soon saw the Gummi Ship right where they had landed just a few minutes later.



“Ah, finally.” Zell said, a happy expression appearing his face.



Omega couldn’t help himself either. “It’s in one piece. The Heartless haven’t touched it.”



As soon as they tried getting closer to it though, a force field suddenly activated and trapped them. A large black Heartless appeared right in front of them. An image from his dream suddenly appeared in his mind. It was the same kind of Heartless, no doubt about it.



“Oh, you got to be kidding me.” Omega growled, any happy feeling he had vanishing. “I hate déjà vu.” he added, making Lulu and Zell look at each other confused, but they both shrugged it off.



The Heartless started off by forming a ball of energy in its fist and slamming it into the ground.



“Now! Aim at the head! Give it everything you've got!" Omega said. He jumped onto the fist, and began striking the Heartless’ head, Zell following his example with a charged fist of energy, punching it right in the face.



“Move!” Lulu said.



Omega and Zell jumped out of the way as Lulu sent a Fire spell at the Heartless, followed by a Blizzard spell, Thunder Spell and finally an Aero. The beast stumbled slightly, allowing Lulu to throw of one last spell before it burst into dark energy and faded, taking the barrier with it.



Someone began clapping behind them. “Impressive, I didn’t expect you to take out that Darkside so quickly.” Said a familiar voice. All three of them turned to see the man in black standing on a large piece of broken wall. “But then again, SeeD is supposed to produce excellent fighters, so this isn't all that surprising." He smiled, rather menacingly.



“So you did have something to do with this!” Omega said, raising his Gunblade in gun mode at the mysterious figure, standing his ground firmly. Lulu and Zell got into their own fighting stances, their eyes focused on the man as well. Lulu clutched her Moogle doll tightly to her chest.



“So I did.” The man in black said. “In a way, you could say I directly caused this.”



“What do you mean?” Zell said anxiously. He clenched his fists tightly.



“Isn’t it obvious?” the man said, a horrible smile appearing on his face. “I controlled the Heartless and had them destroy this place. It seems like a simple idea to grasp, personally.”



“What!?” Omega said his anger quickly rising the more the man spoke.



“You did this!? What for!?” Lulu said as anger formed on her face as well. She held up her Moogle doll, bracing herself for the next round.



“To get you three here, of course.” The man said, his smile not fading in the slightest. “Not too hard, truthfully. But it still got us very far in other areas as well.”



“You!” Omega said, leaping for forward and trying to strike the man with his Gunblade in sword mode now. This turned out to be a stupid idea, as the man caught the blade in his hand.



“Tsk tsk, forgotten your training for a moment it seems.” The man said in that calm voice. “It’s quite a shoddy blade anyway, don’t you think? Let me fix that for you!” He added as he, with amazing strength, broke the blade clean in two. Omega barely managed to register any kind of surprise as the man kicked him aside. Zell went to help him up, but Lulu kept her sight on the man as he did.



“Tell me this, why did you want us here?”



“Well, let’s just say it’s a little experiment. A test of sorts.” The man said.



“Very good plan.” Lulu said with sarcasm in her voice. The man simply smiled more, as if he actually found her more amusing than anything else. Sweat began to form on the back of her neck as the man approached her, but she didn’t back down.



“Got you here, didn’t it?” the man replied.



“You’re a monster!” Zell shouted.



“What makes you think that?”



“You destroyed an entire world just to get us here!?” Omega said as Zell helped him up. “What else could you be otherwise!?” He stared at the man, hatred flowing through him as he put his Gunblade back in gun mode. He pointed it at the man. “And you don’t even feel any remorse for it, do you?”



“It’s true, I did attack this world. But, are you not responsible for this as well?”



“How would that click?” Zell snarled.



“What if I told you that this place was only attacked right when you guys got the assignment to come here?” The man said, his voice calm and cold now.



A horrible silence filled the air as his statement sunk it.



“Impossible!” Zell shouted.



“That’s utterly absurd!” Lulu said.



“There’s no way that could have happened. You couldn’t have even known we’d be the ones sent here!” Omega said defiantly, but it felt like something hard had fallen into his stomach. It couldn’t be possible, it was stupid to suggest it was. But this feeling…



“And why not?” The man said. “Think about it, if I didn’t know, then how could I have told you back in Traverse Town?”



“That’s-“


“And even then, you guys didn’t even know what was going on here. You just knew an incident might have happened. You didn’t know anything, but instead of making sure you could get here fast enough, you three went out hunting monsters for fun. Just like the children you are.”



“That’s not true, we tried to find out what was going on!” Omega shouted, but the feeling in his stomach was even worse now. He stole a quick glance at his friends. Neither of them had shown whatever they were feeling on their faces, but he knew instantly what they were feeling just from that glance. Zell’s fists were clenched and he looked like he was about to be sick. Lulu’s knees were shaking slightly, but she still held her ground.



“Talking to one person hardly counts.” The man said, his smile now gone. “The fact is, that you didn’t take any real initiative to finding out if there was a problem.”



“That isn’t fair. How were we supposed to know?” Lulu said, her voice trying to stay calm.



“A trained soldier, complaining about fairness?” The man said, chuckling now. “What a ridiculous idea, don’t you think? Wake up! You aren’t going to save anything if you’re not ready to accept the idea that you might screw up.”



The words stung, they shouldn’t have, but they did. Omega’s hand shook as he pointed the Gunblade at the vile person in front of him. Lulu was right, it wasn’t a fair assessment, no matter what he might said. From the information they got, they couldn’t have known. And even if they did, what would they have accomplished?



“Even if we had… would we have saved anyone?” Omega asked quietly. The man looked at him and then, in the coldest way possible, without a smile on his face, he got his answer.



“No.”



Omega’s eyes flashed at that. “Then what is your point!?” He growled. “What are you trying to say? Do you even have anything to say? Or are you just trying to mess with us?” The man said nothing, which only made him angrier. “I refuse to believe that. No matter what, we would have saved them.”



“That’s right!” Lulu said, her knees no longer shaking, her voice no longer trying to hide her distress. “We may not have known and we may not have tried hard enough to find out, but that only means we’ll try harder from now.”



“We aren’t gonna let people like you hurt anyone else.” Zell said, punching his knuckles together and then placing his right leg forward.



“That’s right, we’re gonna make sure to stop you right here and now!” Omega said, the right corner of his mouth going up in a small smile. “We couldn’t save them, but we can at least bring their murderer to justice.”



‘And how will you do that without a weapon?” The man said, his smile returning. “You have no idea what you are getting into, with a broken weapon and already tired out from having to fight so many drones of Heartless. And to top it off,” He pointed above them, where a huge ball of darkness was growing even large above them. Flashes of purple lightning was streaking the sky in rapid succession and the wind was blowing ferociously around them. “If you insist on fighting, you will be pulled into the destruction of this world. And what will you have achieved then?”



Omega didn’t even blink. “As long as we’re together, we manage something!” Omega said as the three of them got into a battle stand and got ready to launch into a new attack-



A bright light suddenly enveloped them for a few brief moments, but it felt much longer than that. And when it cleared, the damaged Gunblade in his hand was gone, replaced instead with a new weapon. But it didn’t look so much like a weapon as it did as a giant key! It had a black guard on it that, a sharp steel blade, the end of the blade helped with the key similarities by having teeth that formed a crown like formation. A keychain also dangled off it, some kind of box with a crystal and the omega symbol on it.


“What the?” Omega said, his eyes no longer on the man in black and instead on this new weapon. Lulu and Zell had dropped their stances and were staring at it as well. But the thing surprised Omega most was that the man in black… was laughing.



“Excellent! My experiment was a success.” He said. “You have finally awakened to your power!” He then clicked his fingers and several Heartless materialized between him and the three friends. There were Shadows and Soldier Heartless, but there was another one they hadn’t fought here yet. It looked like a bigger, and fatter, version of the Soldier, with huge hands and feet. Despite how it looked, it hit very hard and tended to go berserk when it too much yet. It was known as a Large Body and it wasn’t to be taken lightly. Their attention was immediately taken away from the strange weapon and to their immediately predicament. “Show me the power of the Keyblade!”



Keyblade? There was that word again. In Traverse Town he had called Omega the “Chosen Wielder of the Keyblade”. Was that what this weapon was called? He didn’t have time to think further on it when two Soldiers jumped right at him. Instinctively, he slashed at them and they both exploded into a black mist while two pink glowing hearts also floated away. Omega had never seen anything like that happen before when he had destroyed a Heartless. He had no time to reflect on this when two Shadows tried attack him as well, but a blast of fire ended that. He looked back and saw that Lulu was holding her hand out, palm facing forward. She smiled at him and he grinned back and nodded in appreciation.



“Omega! Let’s take em down and worry about it later!” Zell said as he placed a hand on Omega’s shoulder. Omega looked at his friend and nodded. The Large Body was running at them now and Omega held the Keyblade in front of him in a guarding position, which stunned it long enough for Zell to run behind it and kick it in the back of the head. He and Omega then dived out of the way as another blast of fire from Lulu hit it square in the torso. Omega then jumped up and sliced right through the Large Body. The Heartless then exploded into a fine black mist as well, a heart also rising up from where it had been.



The man in black was laughing again now, as well as clapping. “Excellent, excellent!” He said, a large smile on his face. “That was an impressive showing.”



“And you’re next!” Omega said as Lulu and Zell moved to flank him.



“Am I?” The man said, his smile never faltering as he held up a hand. “Shall we test that too?” A ball made of fire and lightning appeared in his hand and he threw it.



Something huge crashed down in front of them, sending a cloud of dirt their way that they covered their eyes for. When they looked it was a large figure, clad in golden armor. He held up his hand and large barrier appeared before them, blocking the ball of lightning and fire from reaching them.



“This has gone on long enough!” The armored figure said. He had a soft, but slightly deep voice. It was calm, but there was an element of quiet strength behind it.



“It seems you’re going to interfere now.” The man in black said, that infuriating smile still on his face even now. “It doesn’t matter though, I got what I wanted.”



A dark portal opened up behind him.



“Hold on!” Omega said. But the man in black had already stepped through and was gone.



“There is no time. We must leave immediately.” The figure said. The ground shook horribly again as he said that. “I’ll explain soon enough, but you have to leave now.” The ground shook violently again and the ground started to crack. There was a flash of light and the figure was gone. Though his voice lingered. “If you want to know what’s going on, then you must go now!”



“He’s right.” Lulu said. “We have to leave.”



“Darn it.” Omega nearly shouted. “Just what is going on? What just happened right now!?” It didn’t make sense, none of this made sense. What was the point? Zell had the same expression on his face that Omega had, only Lulu was able to remain focused.



“It doesn’t matter, we’ll find out later!” Lulu shouted at the two of them. Omega regained his sense and nodded. The three of them ran straight for the Gummi Ship.



They watched from the cockpit of the Gummi Ship as the Trabia vanished and was consumed by the Darkness. As he watched it go, Omega felt nothing but a cold emptiness inside him.



He didn’t know what was going on, but he wasn't going to rest till he got answers to this.







Kingdom Hearts The Other Story
 

NemesisSP

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Chapter 4: Introspection



Traverse Town – Secret Caverns

Hope had suggested exploring some of the caverns in Traverse Town and Iris was wishing that she had said no to it. They had gone and inspected five already and of them, they had only managed to get into one. And so far it had nothing of interest in it.

“How many caverns and secret areas did you say you had written down?” Iris asked.

“About thirty.” Hope replied.

“Thirty? And how do you suggest we go and cover all of them?” Iris retorted, folding her arms together.

“We probably won’t tonight, but we’ll be happy to have checked out.” Hope said as he pulled out a pocket notebook and scribbled something on it. “At least we know that some of them require certain things to get into them.”

“Where did you find out about these caverns anyway?” Irvine said, examining some of the scratch marks on the walls.

“I asked around.” Hope replied. “It’s amazing how easy it is to get someone to tell you something when they aren’t being leered at.” Irvine simply laughed at that and said nothing.

“And how many are we going through tonight?” Iris asked.

“At least ten more.” Hope said as he put his pocket notebook away, then gave them a sly smile. “Come one, it’ll be fun. We’re bound to hit something interesting.”

“Yeah, very fun.” Iris said as she walked further into the cavern. “I can’t imagine anything worse than this.”



Omega’s Gummi Ship




"This must be the place." Zell's voice said, though Omega wasn’t really paying attention.

"You okay?" Lulu asked, looking back at him. Omega thought she sounded worried, but her face didn't show it.

"No, I'm fine." Omega said, trying to sound a blank as he could. Sharing his thoughts with them wouldn't help any.

"Thinking about your girlfriend again?" Zell asked, not looking back at him, though Omega could tell he was grinning.

"No." Omega said.

"Come on, you two aren’t hiding anything.” Zell said, laughing a little.

Omega said nothing and just glared at Zell, who automatically stopped laughing and realized that now was not the time.

"What are you two talking about?" Lulu asked her arms folded impatiently, like she always seemed to. Omega and Zell automatically fell silent. How could she be so smart and yet so dense when it came to that?

"Nothing." Zell said, while Omega remained silent. Lulu scoffed.

"So, what are you thinking about, Omega?" Lulu said. "This "Keyblade" thing?

"Obviously. It simply doesn’t make sense no matter how hard I think about it." He leaned forward, resting his arms on his knees and interlocking his fingers. "None of this feels real." He looked at Lulu. "What do you think?"

"I'm thinking the same as you." Lulu said. She looked away and placed the forefinger of her left hand under her lips. "But without any more information, it's hard to draw conclusions. We were clearly set up to be there. For what reason, though?”

Zell made some calculations for the landing process before adding his thoughts. "Gotta keep all ideas in mind, right?”

They all nodded in agreement. As Zell brought the Gummi Ship down to land, they all were thinking the same thing. No matter what, they were going to get answers.

They landed in front of what looked like a castle, but it only looked like one, as it was too small. The proportions were not what a castle looked like, or at least not one that Lulu had ever seen in the books she had read. Several turrets floated in the air all around the main structure. How did it seem to defy gravity like that? There were also large wing designed structures behind the castle, for what purpose she could not say, but it certainly left an impression.

The armored man from before stood in front of the doors to the castle, waiting for them. He looked over them as they approached. As they did, his armor disappeared in a flash of light, and what looked to be an ordinary man stood there. He wore grey robes with gold trim and some bits of armor on his shoulders and chest. He had short black hair that was slicked back and green eyes that had a sharp look to them. He had an aura about him that suggested he was always on alert.

"Hello, Omega, Lulu, Zell." he said in a calm voice. "I appreciate that you've come here. My name is Arcanus Verum."

They saluted in respect… or at least, Lulu and Zell did. Omega just folded his arms impatiently.

"We are honored." Lulu said.

The man named Arcanus dropped his stern expression for a moment and smiled, almostly bashfully. “Please, there is no need for that.” The man nodded. "I'm sure you have many questions, but I must ask you to do something first. Omega, can you summon that Keyblade again?"

Omega said nothing and just held out his hand. The weapon had disappeared after they had gotten to their ship, but as soon as he thought about it, it appeared in his hand in a flash of light.

"That is no ordinary weapon, as I’m sure you’re aware." Arcanus said upon the Keyblade's appearance. "Obviously, you three already figured that out." None of them said anything, though they had given it a great deal of thought. "I, too, wield the Keyblade. You could say that I am a Keyblade Master.”

"Keyblade Master?" Omega said in an incredulously tone, but he didn't ask further. “Why did I get this?" Omega held up the Keyblade. "What is this thing?”

"It is a weapon of great power, a weapon that only a chosen individual can use." Arcanus said. "Especially after they prove themselves in some way.”

Lulu didn't know what he was referring to, and neither did Zell by the look on his face, but recognition seemed to dawn on Omega's face. He looked at Arcanus with an expression that was unreadable. An expression he often had when he was trying to hide what he was feeling

"Where you that voice in my dream? Omega asked.

"Yes, I was." Arcanus said. "I have been waiting for a chance to meet you. I wish I could have done so before you encountered that man. And once that man set his sights on you, I couldn’t react fast enough to stop him."

“Seems highly suspicious to me. I don’t see why you couldn’t.” Omega said, his tone full of incredulousness. Lulu groaned. Omega was always like this with their teachers as well, or at least the ones he didn’t respect.

“Omega, try not to antagonize the man.”

"Whatever. Why give me this Keyblade?" Omega asked, looked away from Arcanus and at the weapon.

"I didn't give it to you." Arcanus said. "You were just meant to have it. As I said, the Keyblade chooses who will wield it and you obviously qualified as someone who can wield it."

Lulu wasn't sure what to think at this, nor did Omega or Zell obviously. This was getting too complicated, but she didn't say anything. Not that she didn't have anything she wanted to ask, but she got the feeling that Arcanus only wanted to speak to Omega.

"Not like you’re going to give me a straight answer, but why did you want to meet me?" Omega said. “And again, why couldn’t it have been sooner?”

"I’ve wanted to for some time, but I couldn't approach you until the Keyblade actually manifested." Arcanus said. "One can learn how to fight with the Keyblade themselves, but often cannot bring out its true power. I want to help you to do so."

"I’m not against using it, if it’s so powerful.” Omega said, his face unreadable as he stared at the Keyblade. “But I don’t want your help.”

Lulu and Zell both made incredulous gasps of surprise, but Zell was quicker to speak up. “Dude, I don’t think it’s a good idea to reject the guy.”

“This is man is just as suspicious as the other guy. Talking to people via their dreams is creepy.” Omega said and it was clear that nothing any of them said was going to get him to change his mind. Arcanus, however, just smiled in bemusement.

“I don’t blame him for thinking that. And I’m not gonna force you to train with me, since with the Heartless so out of control, I do not have time to train anyone. If you to use that Keyblade during your missions, that’ll be enough for now. You'll at least be able to get experience with it even if you won't be able to use its full power.”

“I will. But I’m not gonna train with someone who refuses to give me straight answers.” Omega replied, the Keyblade disappearing again as he said so.

It was at this that Lulu finally had enough. “Fine, you won’t do it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t just burn this bridge. Stop being so stubborn about this.” Lulu said angrily, though Omega just looked away, indicating he wasn’t going to stop being stubborn about this. Lulu couldn’t deal with his nonsense right now. They had a question that needed to be answered and they weren't getting to it quick enough.

"Who was that man? And why did he destroy a world just to get this Keyblade to manifest?" Lulu asked. Arcanus turned to look at her. He stared at her for a moment, as if trying to gauge how she would react when he answered.

"That man." Arcanus said, his voice grim. "I do not know who he is."

"Oh come on, really?” Zell almost shouted the words out, stepping forward as he did. "You seemed like you did back on Trabia! I’m starting to think my buddy might be right."

"You misunderstand. I’ve met him, but I do not know much about him.” Arcanus continued, looking at Zell now. "But I don't know his real name. No one does. He always uses an alias.”

"How convenient.” Omega said under his breath.

"Even if I knew his name, I wouldn’t tell you. I will admit to that." Arcanus said in that infuriatingly calm voice. "You shouldn’t be going after him right now. You aren’t ready.”

All three of them were about to protest, but decided not to. It wouldn't have done any good to do so anyway.

"Omega, Lulu, Zell, I apologize that it had to go this way, but that man obviously wanted this to happen in this way." Arcanus said. "I don't know what he is planning, but I do not think that you should not try and go after him. However, I know you three will. It will be your mission once you report it. There is no stopping it."

All three of them nodded. There was no way to keep this secret; they would have to report it.

"Do you mind if we stay here for awhile." Zell said.

"I don't mind." Arcanus said and he gave a small smile. "You're always welcome here." He turned and left them. Lulu sighed and looked at her friends. Zell looked very annoyed by this and she couldn’t blame him at all. Even though they had gotten some answers, it had only raised more questions. She looked at Omega, but he wasn’t look at either of them, nor at Arcanus’ retreating figure.

Omega was staring off into the distance, towards the mountains. His face was still as unreadable as it had been since Trabia. Zell had clearly noticed this too.

"Omega." Zell said, placing his hand on his friends shoulder. “I get what you’re saying, but we need all the allies we can get at this point.”

“I do as well, but I don’t why you have to be such a jerk about it.” Lulu added in. “You may be able to somehow get away with it at Garden, but now we’re on our own, we don’t have the luxury for your authority issues.”

"Sorry about that." Omega said calmly, walking away from his friends without even looking at them. “Why don’t you guys go and report in?”

Lulu watched as he walked away, though he didn't follow Arcanus or go back to their Gummi Ship. She was tempted to follow, but she couldn’t think of anything to say.

"What do you think?" Lulu asked Zell.

"I don't know, Lu. I’m completely lost.” He said, scratching his head and he did so.. "But he’s right, we have to report in.” Lulu nodded and they both set off for the Gummi Ship.



Hollow Bastian - Library




"Hm, quite impressive." Maleficent said as she walked around the Library of Hollow Bastion. She often came here when she tired of the others, but today she was with her greatest ally. And perhaps her most dangerous one.

"Thank you very much." Came the reply. A black haired man wearing black clothing to match sat in a chair next to a table, a book in front of him. But he wasn't reading it, Maleficent knew, he just wrote in it. She never looked, not like she needed to. She knew he would never let her look at it.

"But, perhaps there would have been an easier way?" Maleficent said.

"I'm afraid in our time frame; I didn't have much of a choice." The man in black said. Maleficent didn't know his name, he never said. But he was a valuable ally, even if he refused to tell her. But this also kept her on guard regarding this man. She knew he was capable of anything. "I couldn't risk having Omega and Sora meet. And since Sora is going to land in Traverse Town, it was even more vital that Omega not be there."

“How did you know that this Sora boy will appear in Traverse Town?” Maleficent asked him, though he only smiled.

“Traverse Town is a safe haven for those whose worlds are lost to darkness. It is highly unlikely that he’ll end up somewhere else.”

“That is not what I mean.” Maleficent insisted. “I mean, how can you be certain of what time he’ll arrive?”

“I have my ways.” He said, though he placed his hand on the book, a gesture that he clearly wished for her to notice him do.

"I see." Maleficent said and decided that she didn’t need more than that. At this moment, that is. “You seem to have outdone yourself this time, regardless.”

The man chuckled at that. "What about the others?” He asked. “Do you plan on telling them about this?”

"Eventually.” Maleficent replied, smiling a little. “Though there are some things they don’t need to know.”

The man in black chuckled. "It shouldn't be long now."

"Quite right." Maleficent said. She turned and walked down the stairs. "Soon Kingdom Hearts will be ours. You have been most helpful with this, Nero."

“It is the least I can do, my lady.” “Nero” said.

The man in black, “Nero”, smiled as she left; a smile that didn't bode well for Maleficent. "My dear Maleficent. You have no idea."



Traverse Town – Apartment Section



Iris collapsed onto the couch the moment they had gotten by to the apartment. Hope had been right that it would get more interesting, if one found relentless Heartless attacks interesting.

“Alright, I admit that it might have been bad timing.” Hope said as he sat down on the other side, his notebook out again. “Still, we did get a lot of valuable data.”

“True but I’m not looking forward to doing it again.” Iris replied as she opened up a bottle of water and took long drink. “Where’d Irvine go?”

“Went to take a shower, no doubt.”

“Sounds about right.” Iris said as she picked up the remote and turned on the tiny TV. There wasn’t much on, but she just wanted something on to take her mind off of things. It had been a long and rough day, the Heartless more active then they usually were. She wanted to see if anyone was gonna mention anything about it, though it seemed no one had found anything out yet.

“I’m sure we’ll find out tomorrow once everything calms down.” Hope said as he wrote down a few more things before putting it down. At that moment, there was a buzzing noise.

“What was that? The phone?” Iris asked.

“Probably.” he pulled a specialized phone out of his pocket and flipped it open. “This is Hope. Anything to note?” Hope looked at her and mouthed the name “Aki Ross” at her.

“Yeah? What’s she have-” Iris was about to ask, but the look on Hope’s face had distracted her. He looked absolutely horrified.

“T-that can’t be right!” he stammered. “Are you sure?”

Iris looked at him, her chest suddenly feeling tight as she did. “What is it?” she asked.

Hope turned his head towards her and what he said made her heart drop into her,

“Trabia Garden has been destroyed.”



Arcanus’ World



"I see." Instructor Trepe said over the computer in the Gummi Ship. "Did you manage to find out who this man was?"

"No ma'am." Lulu said. "We haven't been able to."

Instructor Trepe sighed audibly. "Well, there is nothing to it. I'll report this and we'll try to figure it out. Here are your new orders though. Track down this man in black and make sure you manage to apprehend him."

"I understand, ma'am." Lulu said.

"Good luck." Instructor Trepe said and she signed off. Lulu turned off the communicator and leaned back in the chair she was sitting in.

"Yeah, easier said than done." Zell said, sitting in the pilot's seat, his hand resting behind his head and his feet up on the dashboard. "Some first mission, right?"

"I know." Lulu said, not bothering to argue with him. "I don't think we'll be able to, truthfully." Zell looked over at her when she said that.

"Why?"

Lulu hesitated, but went on. "I got the feeling he was toying with us." She said. "He had this whole thing planned and wiped out a whole world just to get us to go there. Just who is he?"

Zell shrugged. "He's bad news, no matter how ya look at it. We can't let him go around doin’ as he pleases." He stood up and stretched a little. "I think we should get some rest. No point starting now."

"You're right." Lulu replied. "You go ahead; I’ll wait up for Omega."

Omega sat on a chair that overlooked the area around the castle. Omega could see trees and rivers, as well as the mountains. But he also noticed that there seemed to be towns, or at least buildings, though he couldn't see anyone. Or perhaps there weren't any, and he was just imagining these buildings?

He just sat there in silence, trying to analyze everything that had happened to them since Traverse Town. The dream, the man in black, Trabia’s destruction and, of course, the Keyblade.

The Keyblade. A powerful weapon that had appeared before him. A weapon that the man in black knew would appear before him.

But…why him?

Surely there was someone else that was more worthy of such a weapon. But the Keyblade had appeared before him.

Omega shook his head in annoyance. Perhaps he was thinking too much about this a little too much. He was tired and it was growing dark out. He was certain that Lulu would scold him if he stayed out too late, especially in a strange world. But suddenly, he heard something approaching from behind. Suddenly alert, Omega jumped out of the chair and turned to face it; the Keyblade automatically appeared in his hand, which was definitely useful, if nothing else. But there wasn't anything there that needed the Keyblade.

What stood in front of him was a small blue creature. It was only about three feet tall, had long ears and a stubby tail. It had black eyes that were looking right up at him. It was also carrying something around its neck, but he couldn't tell what it was.

Omega's first thought was that he had never seen such a creature before. But then he remembered that he had thought he had seen something small and blue running away from that man in Traverse Town and at Trabia Garden as well. Now that he thought about it, it made sense.

But why had he been at Trabia Garden? Had he stowed away on his ship with them noticing?

"Are you the one who helped us before?" Omega asked the creature. It nodded. "Did you sneak aboard our ship to do so?" The creature nodded again. "Okay, why?"

The creature frowned a little and suddenly began talking, although Omega couldn't understand a single thing it was saying. Now that he heard it talking, he thought it sounded male.

"Uh?" was about all he could say as the creature stopped talking. "I couldn't catch that." Omega replied honestly. The creature's ears dropped and he rubbed his chin, possibly trying to think of a better way to tell Omega whatever he had been trying to.

Finally, he seemed to settle on something. Slowly, he began talking again, though in English this time. It was strained and difficult for him. Obviously he wasn't very skilled in the language. "My….my name….Stitch…" He said as he held out his hand. “Hi.”

Omega raised an eyebrow at this, but just shook Stitch’s hand. "Hello, Stitch. I'm Omega." He told him. "Now, again, is there a reason you stowed away on my ship?"

Stitch nodded. "Looking."

"For what?"

"Terra…Aqua….Ven….." He replied. "Do you….know…..where they…are?"

Omega shook his head, "No, I don't. I don't even know who they are." He said honestly. Stitch's made a noise that Omega interpreted as disappointed and crushed. He had never met anyone by those names, and he was curious to know why Stitch thought he might. "Why are you looking for them?"

"For…help…." Stitch said. He lifted the object around his neck, although he didn't remove it, for Omega to see. Omega leaned in to look closer, and now noticed that it was some kind of good luck charm made out of different pieces of metal. "…friends…..circle….."

Omega wasn't sure he understood. It was clear that whoever Terra, Aqua and Ven were, Stitch considered them very important friends and needed help from them. He just didn't know how to find them. But that still left one thing.

"Why do you think I can find them?" Omega asked Stitch. The answer came almost immediately and was something he wasn't expecting.

"Keyblade." Stitch said.

It was as if Omega had been hit over the head with a bat! These three people were also Keyblade wielders?! And Stitch thought he knew where they were because he now had a Keyblade?

But Omega had not had the Keyblade when he had left Traverse Town. There was no way Stitch could have-

Of course, the man in black! He had known before Omega had, he had said it right to his face! Stitch must have heard that, and automatically zeroed in on Omega because of that, most likely under the impression that Omega had already had the Keyblade. Stitch had taken a chance, and it had turned out for nothing. Stitch sat on the ground, looking dejected and miserable

"I'm sorry." Omega said. He couldn't stand to see anyone sad. "But I don't think I can help you with finding Terra, Aqua or Ven." Stitch didn't say anything and neither did Omega. He was filled with a desire to help, now that he had an idea of what was going on. "But, maybe I can help you anyway. I can travel to other worlds obviously; maybe I could at least try to help you look for your friends and-"

"Not just Terra, Aqua and Ven…..Lilo too…" Stitch said. "Need to find…..Lilo…"

"Is Lilo a friend of yours as well?" Omega asked him. Stitch nodded, looking as if he might start crying. It was a strange but sad sight. Obviously this was a touchy subject, but he needed to know more. "What happened?" But somehow he knew the answer. He didn't know why, and when he heard it, he still had been able to hear it but not register it.

"Alp…" Stitch started, but looked scared to use the name, "That…man in black….came…..took Lilo and rest of family….." Stitch told Omega. "Did…..horrible things to Stitch too….." He quickly became quiet after that, and Omega couldn't say anything either. He was at a loss for words.

The man in black, at first Omega tried to say it was just a coincidence. But Stitch had said "That man in black" not "A man in black" and Stitch had been there when he had appeared in Traverse Town. That was how Stitch knew about Omega's Keyblade after all. Not only that, but Stitch was about to say his name, Omega was sure of it!

"When did this happen?"

Stitch sniffed, looking even more on the verge of tears. "….six years..." He said. Omega didn't ask anymore, nor could he. He wasn't going to make Stitch tell him anymore. Whatever happened was so horrible that Stitch was obviously still affected by it. Omega curled his fist in anger, but he uncurled it and looked down at the ground.

What could he do?



Lulu heard Omega walk in, but didn't turn her head to see. "Took you long enough! You should rest up; we'll be heading out once all of us….." She turned as she said that and stopped abruptly. Omega could understand why. He was carrying Stitch on his back, a difficult task since Stitch was much heavier than he looked. He hadn’t necessarily wanted to be doing this, but he knew that she wouldn't react well to him any other way. There was a short silence, followed by, "What is that?"

"This is Stitch." Omega said simply, letting Stitch jump down on one of the empty chairs. "He stowed away when we left Traverse Town and helped us at the Trabia Garden.”

"And why are you telling me this?" Lulu managed to say. Lulu looked calm, but Omega was sure that her temper was about to rise once he said what he was about. She did not take surprises well at all.

"Because, I sort of agreed to help him." Omega said.

“Excuse me?” was all Lulu seemed to be able to say. Perhaps out of shock or anger, she seemed to be at a complete loss for words.

At that moment Zell decided to walk up as well. "Ah, I thought I heard the ramp come back up. What took-" He started to ask, but stopped when he saw Stitch. Luckily, he didn't react as badly as Lulu. "Who is this?"

"Stitch." Stitch said, not waiting for Omega to speak for him. "Omega help Stitch."

"It talks." Lulu said. Her calm demeanor was now completely gone, something that did not usually happen, so Omega must have really angered her this time. "Of course it talks." Stitch stuck his tongue out at Lulu in response. Lulu turned back to Omega. "I want an explanation now."

"Omega, I really don't understand either." Zell said more calmly.

Omega blew air out of the side of his mouth. Where to begin?
 

NemesisSP

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Secret Report 0

An island, a town and a castle

They are all connected, even though one of them is gone

Destiny is never left to chance, because Destiny requires tools

But what would make the perfect tools to open the door?

The empty children who seek answers? The broken experiment who has lost everything?

The child who seeks his friends? Or the wayward king searching for the darkness?

The man lost in the darkness or the man hidden in the light?
 

NemesisSP

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Chapter 5: Suspicion



Omega’s Gummi Ship - Bridge



“So, let me go through this yet again.” Zell said, for what was probably the tenth time he had brought it up in the past few days since they had left Arcanus’ world. “Along with searching for that creep in black, we’re also going to be looking for these people called Terra, Aqua and Ven…”



“Who, it should be said again; nobody has any idea of where they are.” Lulu added in snidely. Zell tried to ignore Lulu when she was like that, which was almost always when they did something she didn’t like.



“Yeah, and on the way, we might find your new friend’s family?” Zell finished.



“Pretty much.” Omega replied nonchalantly, and the creature called Stitch, who was sitting in the chair right next to Omega, made a noise of approval.



“Well, it’s not a terrible idea, but….”



“It just happens to be impossible.” Lulu said.



“No, it’s just highly unlikely to happen anytime soon.” Omega said. “There is a difference.”



“Barely.” Lulu said, eying Stitch with distaste, which Stitch returned by growling at her. “And why did we have to bring him?”



“Well, I suppose it’s because I don’t know what they look like.” Omega said flatly. “So having someone along who does would do wonders.” Lulu scoffed at that. “And besides, I have a feeling that he would have just snuck on anyway.”



“That’s true, we didn’t know he was aboard since Traverse Town till just a few days ago.” Zell said. “’sides, it’s not as if he can’t pull his own weight around. He might be useful.”



“Definitely useful!” Stitch said, followed by something in his own language that was probably the same thing. “Stitch very useful!”



Omega held out his hands in a ‘there you go’ kind of gesture. “Well, if there’s nothing else, I’m going to go rest up before we go to this first world.” He got up to leave without even looking at either of them. Stitch looked at both of them or glared at in Lulu’s case before following after him. Lulu watched them leave, then planted herself in the empty seat that Omega had been sitting and rubbed her forehead.



“This is the worst.” she said through her teeth.



“I don’t know, after seeing what he was capable of earlier, I think he’ll at least carry his own weight.” Zell said.



“That’s not what I’m concerned about.” Lulu replied as she crossed her arms.



“Really? ‘cuz it seems like it.” Zell replied in confused sort of voice. This response got him a very nasty looking glare from Lulu. The kind that screamed how much she wished to set him on fire. “Uhhhh, I mean, what is it you are concerned with?”



“This is too convenient.” Lulu said. “It doesn’t make sense that he would show up just when Omega gets that Keyblade. And he happens to know some others who have it? How do we know he’s not some sort of spy?”



“We don’t.” Zell simply said. “But that’s just a bigger reason to keep an eye on him, isn’t it?”



Zell looked at her for a few seconds before he turned back to piloting, leaving Lulu to her own thoughts.



Traverse Town



Iris had never thought the day would come, but it finally had!



The day they would leave Traverse Town! Something she had been hoping for quite some time, almost for as long as they had been in this town even. It was a nice and peaceful town, Heartless attacks notwithstanding, but Iris had always wanted to see more of the worlds. It was a big reason for her deciding to join SeeD, after all!



Traverse Town was a strange world in many ways. By its nature as a safe haven, new areas and buildings would just appear whenever large amounts of people did. Districts and alleys would show up one day to accommodate the refugees. And along with them, new caverns and secrets that had yet to be explored. In a way, Iris would miss exploring this world and seeing what new things would appear. But she had always hoped to travel through the stars in search of other worlds more.



And now that it was here… she couldn’t help but feel more anxious than excited.



After the destruction of Trabia, everything had been a large mess. While not the largest of the worlds that SeeD were stationed on, it was still a major location and with hundreds of students and teachers gone, it was a large loss for the already struggling organization.



“I’m sure you weren’t expecting to be sent off like this any time soon, but given the current situation.” Instructor Quistis Trepe said. Despite her professional posture and tone, she looked tired. Iris could sympathize, but knew it wouldn’t be appropriate to point it out.



“We understand, Instructor.” Hope replied. “We’ve got everything together yesterday.”



“Which was very efficient.” Instructor Trepe said. “I will be heading back to Balamb after you leave. I will be taking on a new class there. You will need to operate without instructors for once.”



The three of them said nothing for a moment before Irvine spoke up. “Oh, I don’t think that will be an issue at all as long I’m around.”



“Very humble of you.” Instructor Trepe retorted. “Still, I do expect constant reports. And since you have everything under control, I expect them from you, Irvine.” Iris and Hope only barely managed to hold in their giggles as Irvine looked like he was about to fall on his face. The Instructor looked like she was about to start laughing too, but was trying to remain professional. “Anyway, dismissed.”



Iris, Hope and Irvine saluted and made to leave when Iris stopped. “You guys go on ahead, I’d like to ask the Instructor something.” she said.



“What more do you need to know?” Hope asked her.



“Nothing you need to worry about.” Iris replied as she turned back to follow after their instructor. Though it was only after they had gone that she spoke up.



“Instructor, do you have a moment?”



The older woman looked back at Iris with an amused expression on her face. “There really isn’t a need for formalities, Iris. I’m not a particularly good instructor, I feel.”



“I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that.” Iris said.



“That’s nice of you to say, but I’m afraid that they don’t agree.” Trepe replied.



“But you just said-“ Iris started to say, but Trepe quickly interrupted her.



“It’s a complicated issue, Iris.” Trepe said and then as if to change the subject quickly, added, “You had a question?”



Iris hesitated. She wanted to know what Trepe had meant, but she knew that trying to press the issue would probably only land her in some kind of trouble. “I just wanted to know if there was anything else we needed to know before heading out.”



Trepe looked at her carefully. “Everything you need to know you’ve been informed of.”



Iris felt her jaw tighten, nodded and then saluted her. “Yes, Instructor.”



“Just Quistis is fine.” Was the reply Trepe gave, but Iris just smiled and shook her head. She had too much respect for the Instructor to do so… and a lot of misgivings.



“So, what did Trepe have to say?” Hope asked as Iris rejoined them. They had been waiting around the corner, just out of earshot so as to not arouse suspicion from their instructor.



“She definitely is holding back on us.” Iris noted dryly. Then she added in a low tone, “But I think she was trying to let me in on it discreetly.”



“That would make sense.” Hope nodded as he put his hand to his mouth. “To my knowledge, we’re the only SeeD members left on this world, but if she’s being cautious.”



“Hold on.” Irivine chimed in as he looked back. “This isn’t the best place to talk.”



Iris and Hope nodded in agreement.











They had chosen an alley to talk in and after checking that it was abandoned, continued their conversations.



“So Instructor Trepe might be facing some kind of dismissal?” Hope said. “But why?”



“I’m not sure, but I think she might have done something that the higher ups didn’t like.” Iris said.



“This doesn’t exactly mean it has anything to do with Trabia.” Irvine commented. He was leaning against the wall with his arms folded. “It could be something else.”



“It’s a little too convenient that it’s coming not so soon after, though.” Hope said. “It might not be due to the incident, but it’s still connected.”



“No one really knows what happened though.” Irvine retorted. “We just know that Heartless attacked the world.”



“That’s not quite accurate, though.” Hope said and he looked a little darker now.



“What do you mean?” Iris asked him.



“Well, I managed to get into some records.” Hope said. “There were at least seven squads sent there. And six of them have gone missing.”



“What?” Irvine said, standing up straight now. “Trepe never mentioned that.”



“Exactly.” Hope said bitterly. “Because the one squad that didn’t was sent there by Trepe. And as far as we know, they have not made contact with anyone but her.”



“But we know that part already.” Iris said. “That’s why we’re being sent after them, right?”



“Maybe. But there’s something just strange about it.” Hope said. “Omega, Lulu and Zell are supposed to be the top cadets, right?”



“Yeah? And?”



“Well, then why are we being sent to find them?” Hope asked. “Why have they fallen off the radar?”



“I’m sure they have good reason.” Iris said. “It’s just something that might happen.”



“Yeah, but it still doesn’t quite make sense.” Hope said as he looked disturbed by something. “Maybe I’m reaching, but there is something going on. I just don’t know what.”



“Well, there’s no use talking about it now.” Irvine said as he looked to the side.



“Because we can just ask them when we find ‘em?” Iris asked.



“That and we have company.” Irvine said as he pulled out his gun. Iris and Hope looked where he was and saw that several Heartless had begun to form.



“I suppose it can’t be helped.” Iris said as she materialized a rapier. “Just gonna have to deal with this as we go along.”



“Try not to hit Iris, Irvine.” Hope said as he pulled out a boomerang.



“Who do you take me for?” Irvine grinned as he opened fire on a Shadow Heartless that had jumped closer to them, vaporizing it instantly.



“A dork?” Iris said as she blinked at him and jumped at a couple of Soldier Heartless that had shown up as well, all while ignoring Irvine’s indignant retort. They were clanking around in a disorganized fashion but attempted to kick and claw at her when she moved closer. But she was too fast for them, stabbing one right in the chest four times in quick succession before doing a wide arch that scattered them. As she recovered her stance, bolts of lightning struck them. Her attack had left them open for Hope’s follow up, which soon left nothing but black mist.



“Watch out.” Irvine said as he aimed overhead. What looked like three blue Soldier Heartless with wings and goggles on their faces lunged forward, though Irvine managed to shoot them quickly out of the sky and crashing to the ground, where several quick slashes from Iris finished them off.



“Nice one.” Irvine said as he walked over and did an offhand hi-five with Iris.



“Not too bad yourself.” Iris said as she looked around for any other attacking Heartless.



Except she couldn’t see any. They had all been taken out.



“Alright, good work everyone.” Irvine said as their weapons disappeared. But Iris felt uneasy.



“Didn’t that seem… odd?” Iris asked.



“Why would it? Heartless attacks are frequent.” Irvine replied. Hope looked at her with uncertainty.



“You okay, Iris?” Hope asked.



Iris didn’t immediately respond. Irvine was right, this wasn’t that uncommon these days. In fact, for a while they had had even more Heartless attacks than usual. But that had been only a small group of them. And there had actually been less and less attacks the past few days. Not since…



Iris shook her head. “It’s nothing.” she said, smiling a bit in an attempt to convince Hope and Irvine and herself that this was true. “Just my overactive imagination.” But she wasn’t totally convinced by this herself. And she couldn’t help but shake this feeling that they were being watched.
 

NemesisSP

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Chapter 6: The Coliseum


It was almost three years ago that Iris had first met Omega and his friends. She had just been transferred to the same Garden facility due to a glowing recommendation on her behalf. The Garden’s reputation for producing some of the best students and fighters preceded it and Iris had been eager to start proving her own worth there just as she had at her old school. Plenty of other students were already trying to live up to the high standards the Garden demanded, especially with the news that the Heartless threat was growing stronger and more worlds disappearing. Several students had gained popularity through sheer tenacity much like Iris had. Stories of several students having braved the age restricted areas to fight real monsters instead of the simulated ones the school would only allow them to do. Rumors that usually turned out to be greatly exaggerated for self-gratification of the central figures.

However, there were those rumors that had actual weight to them. A group of three friends who were almost never seen apart, Omega, Lulu and Zell were at the top of the class charts in almost every way. All three were skilled combatants to the point that they were already being allowed to tackle real monsters despite being under the age of 15. Lulu’s magic prowess was unparalleled and she ranked high in academics as well. Zell, on the hand, was the star of the martial arts club and had already proved an exceptional mechanic and information gatherer. Lulu had been described by many as aloof but willing to lend a hand when necessary, while Zell was stated to just be a fun, if perhaps over-excited person to know.

And then there was Omega, a prodigy if there ever was one they said. Almost everything he tried he excelled at and even when he didn’t the results were higher than one expected. He had also been reported to have a mastery of weapons no other student could possibly possess. Omega had even been officially reported as the only student to have finished off the strongest monster the Garden offered for training not only solo, but at the mere age of 10. His reputation among the students was almost legendary and plenty of rumors and stories surrounded him. Whether they were true or not was uncertain, since who Omega was as a
person only Lulu and Zell knew and they refused to talk about him to others. He rarely interacted with anyone besides them to the point where a popular interpretation of him was that he was a smug and holier than thou figure who thought himself better than anyone else. Many also just claimed he was a misunderstood figure who people just wished to bring down out of jealousy.

Iris didn’t know and, quite frankly, did not care. She did not care about the rumors at all, the only thing that interested her were the facts. It was more important that she make her own way in the school, not because she wanted fame, but because she had to get stronger. With the Heartless growing stronger, she needed to be prepared for them. And if that meant trying to struggle in the shadow of these three, she was going to face it head on.

Nothing was going to stop her.



SeeD produced Gummi Ships were, by necessity, designed to be able to go for long missions and trips without visiting SeeD associated worlds for repairs and resupply. As such, they came equipped with fully functional living conveniences, such as an onboard kitchen, restrooms and separate bedding for larger groups. This particular model even came with four two-person rooms as a result. While it was only Iris, Hope and Irvine currently, the possibility of new members more than justified the necessity. An unlikely possibility, but one that had to be prepared for regardless.

Despite these necessities, though, budget concerns still kept them from being comparable to a high class cruise ride. They were designed more for function rather than comfort. It was also up to the assigned crew to make sure the ships were maintained and functional. However….

“This Gummi ship sucks.” Iris said bluntly as she looked at the specs. “Irvine, you were supposed to keep it up to snuff! Just what have you been doing?!”

“I did! That old guy at the accessory shop told me these were the best upgrades.” Irvine said indignantly.

“Are you sure? Because it seems to me that you got the cheapest.” Iris said as she clicked through the screen. While she didn’t necessarily understand everything that was shown, she did know enough to get a general idea. And the stuff she did know was what was worrying her.

“Hey, it’s just because we haven’t optimized everything, alright?” Irvine said defensively.

“Well, it’s not completely terrible.” Hope said as he also looked through some screens. “Some readjustments and this ship will be much better.” He looked up at Iris. “It should be fine to fly for now, though.”

“I suppose it could be worse.” Iris conceded as she sat down in the pilot seat. “But if we break down halfway there, it’s not as if we’ll be able to hitchhike afterwards.”

“Heh, I don’t think that’ll be too much of a problem, Iris.” Hope said as he looked through some other windows on his console. “We’ve got plenty of supplies and if we have any problem, we’ll just head back to Traverse Town.”

“Good, then we’ll go talk to the old guy and see if Irvine is telling the truth.” Iris said, smirking a bit as Irvine voiced his complaints. Though otherwise she paid him no attention. “Any suggestion on where to start?”

“The Olympus Coliseum would be a good place to go. It’s one of those worlds that has a lot of strange characters coming and going.” Hope said, pulling up the files on it. “It’s also not too far away from here. With any luck we should be able to find out something.”

“What sort of strange characters?” Irvine asked.

“Well, reports vary.” Hope said as he briefly looked through it. “Tournaments and various other contests are held there, so anyone who can travel through the different worlds will try to enter them. They could be upstanding or shady; by all accounts it doesn’t really matter. It would seem that the only thing that does is whether they are skilled enough for it.”

“Like you said, then, it’s the best place to start. So, if no one has any complaints,” Iris said as she started up the ships engines. As she did so, a large smile came over her face. “It’s about time to leave this sleepy town behind!”

And as the ship sped away from Traverse Town, Iris couldn’t help the growing sense of excitement that was coming over her. Even despite everything that had happened, even if it was just for this moment, Iris felt free.

Nothing could stand in her way.



The trip to the Olympus Coliseum did not take that long and they managed to avoid having to get into any fights with Heartless ships. Though perhaps that was simply dumb luck rather than Iris’ piloting skills. Not that she was complaining, of course. Iris really didn’t want to see just how far she could push this ship in its current state. Even after piloting it for just a few minutes, she found it much more sluggish and unyielding than most simulators had suggested that it should be. Iris just hoped it wasn’t a misleading simulator.

The world itself was certainly different from Traverse Town had been. The architecture had lots of columns and large statues of some people of importance that the trio couldn’t begin to try and figure out. Traverse Town had also been perpetually stuck in night time, so the bright sunlight was something to get used to after so long of being without it.

The townsfolk didn’t even both looking the direction of the three as they walked through, even though by looking at what they were wearing it was clear that they weren’t from around here. At first, that made Iris worry, but Hope had a quick answer for why this was the case.

“Remember, plenty of stranger looking people than us have come by here. No doubt everybody here is just used to this kind of thing.”

“I suppose, but it still feels so odd.” Iris said, her forefinger and thumb pressed against her upper lip.

“Stop worrying so much, Iris.” Irvine said. “It just means we don’t have to worry about answering awkward questions.”

Finding people to talk to, though, was proving harder than Irvine made it out to be. Most of the citizens just brushed them aside or were overall indifferent to them. Some gave them notices, but none of the information panned out. It seemed that Omega’s group had not been here. Or at least it seemed that way. Hours under the baking sun made everything seem longer.

“This is taking a lot longer than I expected.” Irvine admitted.

“Ya think.” Iris said irritably. She turned to Hope. “Any ideas?”

“All that’s left is the Coliseum.” Hope said. “If they were here, then that would be the best place to check.”

“Wouldn’t they be trying to stay under the radar, though?” Irvine asked.

“It depends.” Iris said, thinking back a bit. It seemed so obvious now that she mentally kicked herself for not insisting they head to the Coliseum first. “If there’s a challenge there that they couldn’t resist, they would go for it. Remember, Omega once took down the strongest monster at the Garden.”

Hope caught on to what she said and it was clear he too was feeling just a bit stupid for not thinking about it. “Oh yeah, how could I forget that?”

“The problem of thinking too much.” Irvine said, casually and smugly. “Got to go with the flow sometimes, let the thoughts just come to you naturally.”

“Shut up, Irvine.” Iris and Hope, deflating Irvine immediately. However, there was an unspoken agreement when they looked at each other that they’d need to try not to make that mistake again.

Before they could head there, however, a scream came from behind them. Iris already figured before they turned around that Heartless were attacking the citizens. When they turned to survey the attack, they found a fairly large amount of small Heartless like Shadows and Soldiers attacking the citizens, along with some larger ones like Fat Bodies. It would be an easy battle. Iris looked at the others to make sure they were ready and they nodded. Iris pulled out her sword and charged at the Heartless, a quick stab forward instantly taking out a Soldier. A couple of Shadows immediately tried lunging at her, though she managed to sidestep away from them. Just in time for blasts of ice to strike and then freeze them solid. Hope then threw a ball of fire at the frozen enemies and they exploded into a big pillar of flames, incinerating them instantly.

“Nice move.” Iris said another Soldier tried to lunge at her, only to be stabbed through the chest by her blade and then kicked away. Irvine then followed that up by shooting the Heartless, finishing it off instantly. He quickly gave Iris a thumbs up and she returned the gesture.

“Wow, you guys are really good!” A cheerful voice called out and a large, muscular and handsome man jumped into the fray along with them, picked up one of the Large Bodies and proceeded to toss it at a group of Heartless like a ball. He didn’t even look winded after doing so. It left Iris very impressed.

“Not so bad yourself.” Irvine said as placed his rifle against his shoulder for a second.

“Still, mind if I tag in?” The man asked.

“Knock yourself out.” Iris said as she sliced a Soldier in half.

It didn’t take long after that for them to mop up the rest of the Heartless. Once every last one was exterminated, a crowd of people attempted to come up to

“Thanks for the assist.” Iris said.

“Not a problem! Though, I don’t think you really needed it.” The man chuckled a bit. “I’m Hercules. Who are you?”

“I’m Iris and these two are Hope and Irvine.” Iris replied. “I’m not sure if that’s entirely true though.”

“Well, either way, you three seem like you’re very strong. You think you’d be interested in trying out for the Coliseum?” Hercules asked.

“We wouldn’t be against it.” Hope said as he walked up closer. “But, I’m afraid we’re not going to be staying very long.”

“Really? That’s too bad, we already had three other good fighters decline too.” Hercules said in slight disappointment, but smiled. “There’s always next time, though.”

Iris looked at Hope and Irvine and could tell they were all thinking the same thing. “Three fighters?” Iris asked. “Do you happen to know their names?”

“Well, I do believe they gave their names as Lulu, Zell and Omega.” Hercules replied. The look of surprise on their faces must have been very apparent, because he continued. “Do you know them?”

“We’ve been looking for them.” Hope explained. “How long ago were they here?”

“A couple of days ago, but they didn’t stick around all that long.” Hercules said. He frowned a bit as he added, “Sorry, though; I don’t know where they were headed afterwards.

“That’s alright, thanks for that.” Iris said.

“It’s no problem, it’s a true hero’s duty to help everyone, after all.” Hercules said as he smiled proudly. Iris chuckled a bit.

“I don’t know anything about a ‘true hero’s duty’, but it’s appreciated regardless.” Iris said.

“If you guys change your mind, feel free to hit up the coliseum anytime. Just say that Hercules sent you.”

“I’ll take you up on that.” Iris said with a sly smile on her face. Hercules waved a bit and walked off.

“That was a bit more helpful than I think he realized.” Hope said as soon as he was gone.

“You think you can pick up the trail?” Iris asked.

“I think I can, but I won’t know till I try.” Hope said. “It’s been a few days, but I think I could probably track the route they took.”

“We don’t have any time to lose then.” Irvine said. “Let’s head back to the ship.”
 

NemesisSP

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Chapter 7: The City of Airships



Stitch could barely contain his excitement as he looked around the city they were standing in. It looked much like Traverse Town in terms of the building designs, but everything seemed more alive than Traverse Town. People of various species walked the streets, happily talking with each other if they stopped, or angrily shouting because they bumped into another person. Kids were out playing around, either with each other or pulling pranks on someone! A few kids were even running from an adult who they clearly had been messing with!



And then there were the airships up in the sky. They weren’t like the space ships Stitch was used to; they were more like boats that flew in the sky rather than float through the ocean. Every few minutes another one came by and then another. They were all heading towards the large castle or away from it.



“Impressive, right?” Zell said to Stitch. He was also looking up at the castle. “I’ve never been to Lindblum myself, tho’ I’ve wanted to see this for a long time.” Stitch kind of liked Zell. He was trying a bit hard to be cool, but Stitch appreciated it, even if he had mostly ignored him up till now.



“We’re not here to gawk at the ships, Zell.” Lulu said. The same could not be said of Lulu. Stitch did not like her one bit and he knew she returned the sentiment. Her cold, high and mighty attitude really got on his nerves in a way that he didn’t really remember feeling since Gantu. But biting Lulu or anything would not help endear himself to her friends either. “We need to gather information.”



“I know that, Lulu. But it’s not often we get to come to places like this.” Zell said, his cheerful attitude not dented in the slightest by Lulu’s coldness. “I’d love to go and figure out how those airships work.”

“Don’t we have a spaceship?” Lulu retorted.



“What’s your point?” Zell replied. Stitch chuckled a bit at that. He also wanted to know more about those airships… and deep down felt the urge to try to mess with them. But those days were long behind him! Stitch had no doubt that he could resist the urge to be bad.



Lulu sighed and shook her head at Zell. She looked forward at Omega, who was reading the contents of a tiny book that he had pulled out of his pocket. “Got anything to add?”



“Not particularly.” Omega said, his eyes not leaving the book. Stitch had even more mixed feelings about Omega than he expected. Although Omega was nicer to Stitch than Lulu, Stitch had a hard time figuring him out. Ever since he had let Stitch join the crew, he had mostly kept to himself. An impressive feat, since Stitch was bunking in the same cabin on their ship. He never saw Omega crack a smile and he never talked about himself in anyway. Stitch had tried to get him to do so and Omega would just ignore him. Despite this lack of luck, Stitch wasn’t going to give up on trying. Otherwise trying to get Omega to help him would be even more difficult that it already was. Omega looked through the book a little before closing it up and putting it back in his pocket. “However, since we might be here for awhile, it’s hardly fair to keep Zell from checking it out if he wants.”



Lulu wasn’t amused by this, but she just shook her head. “Very well, if you wish to waste your time on that, be my guest.” Lulu said. “In the meantime, I will be gathering information. We’ll meet at the hotel at the end of the day, yes?”



Both Omega and Zell nodded in response as Lulu walked off into the crowd. Zell immediately went off towards the castle while Omega headed off in the opposite direction of him. Stitch wasn’t sure at first who he was going to go with. He really wanted to check out the airships, but at the same time he still wasn’t sure if he could resist playing around with them. So he went off after Omega instead, who was heading into some kind of building not too far away. Stitch managed to follow him in before the door closed.



They had entered a small pub by the looks of the furnishings, and not exactly a very nice looking pub in Stitch’s opinion. Though it was fairly full, so perhaps that was just his opinion. It was a diverse crowd, from humans to what looked like small hippos. One particular individual that stood out looked like a large rat in a red coat and hat.



Omega had already gone up to the bar and sat down in an open chair. The bartender almost immediately appeared in front of him that made Stitch jump a bit. He wore a vest and had a ridiculously long mustache that he kept messing with. “Hello lad, never seen you here before.”



“I’m just passing through for a couple days, along with a few friends.” Omega said, as he pointed to Stitch to Stitch as he sat down. “You have anything you’d recommend?”



“Well, there’s always today’s specialty, Soup du Silence.” The bartender said proudly, stroking his mustache even more now. Though if he thought that’d get a reaction out of Omega, all he got was a blank stare.



“And what is that supposed to be?” Omega said flatly. The bartender looked dejected by that.





Airship Hanger



“This. Is. Awesome!” Zell exclaimed as he watched a ton of mechanics of various species working on a very big variety of different airships. One that had particularly caught his attention was one that was clearly being built for luxury.



“Like what you see, young man?” A mechanic said. He looked a lot like a raccoon, just a lot bigger and a bit broad shouldered.


“Definitely! I wish I could get a closer look.”


“Yeah, we get that a lot.” The raccoon mechanic said. “Sorry to say that it probably won’t happen.”


“I know, jus’ wishful thinkin’, I guess.” Zell conceded, but still watched the ship being built. “How do you make ‘em fly?”



“You don’t know?”



“Nope, new to this place!”



“Aha!” The mechanic said as he leaned against the railing. He pointed at an engine that was being installed on the ship. “Well, see that there? That engine is run on a substance called ‘Mist’.”



“’Mist’”? Zell repeated.



“Yup, Mist. We’re a bit farther up from it, but below the city and canyon, I’m sure you’ve noticed a thick fog, yes?”



“Yeah, I noticed that too. I didn’t think too much about it, though.”


“I’m not sure how you don’t know that much about Mist, but it isn’t something you want to handle without caution.” The mechanic said.



“Huh? What does that mean?”



“Means stay away from the Mist, kid.” The mechanic said as he headed in the other direction. “Sorry, I have to head back to work.”



“But I still have lots of questions, mind if I help out?” Zell said.



“We have deadlines kid, I can’t really babysit you.”



“Hah! I’ll have you know I’m a bit of a mechanic myself.” Zell said as he put his knuckles on his hips proudly. “No need for babysitting at all.”



The mechanic looked back at him. “You aren’t playin’ me, are you?”


“Of course not!” Zell proclaimed proudly, puffing his chest out as he placed his knuckles on his hips. “I’m perfectly capable of providing any kind of mechanical know how you might need.”



“It’s true.” A calm voice cut in. Zell turned to see Lulu walking right up to them.



“Lu? What are you doing here?” Zell asked.



“To keep an eye on you, of course.” Lulu replied dryly. “You always do tend to get yourself into antics, after all.”



“I thought learning about airships was a waste of time?” Zell said sarcastically.


“At the time. Though as I walked up I couldn’t help but hear you two talk about this Mist thing and I wanted to know more.” Lulu walked up to the two of them. “It’s most interesting sounding.”



“Great.” The mechanic said sardonically. “Look, I gotta get to work, so if you want to join in, fine. I suppose I’ll give you a crash course in the Mist.”



“Perfect.” Lulu looked from the mechanic to Zell. “After you.” Zell gave her the stink eye, though that only produced a small, amused smile from.





Industrial District – Tavern, one hour later




The crowd in the tavern looked in Stitch direction in shock, horror and disgust as Stitch dug into the food without bothering to grab a spoon. Even the rat lady, who had maintained a stony expression throughout, looked thoroughly annoyed by the mess and noise that Stitch was making as he did so. The bartender looked absolutely mortified as Stitch ate.



Everyone was reacting in some way and Stitch took pleasure in that.



That is, everyone except for Omega.


“You better wash your face, or I’m not going to pay for you.” Omega muttered as he picked up his glass and took a drink. He wasn’t even looking at Stitch as he said this, he just swirled his spoon around the bowl in front of him to get the rest of his food.



Stitch responded with a ‘bleugh’ noise, but grabbed a nearby towel and wiped the leftover bits of soup from his face.



“How was it?” The bartender asked, trying to save face after witnessing Stitch eating. “Make you feel happy and satisfied?”



“Well, that was pretty good, I’ll admit.” Omega said as he pushed the empty bowl away from him. “Not sure I’d use those ingredients though.”



“You’re breaking my heart, boy.” The bartender grumbled as he took the dish away. Stitch kind of felt sorry for him, though only because he had just been told off by Omega for supposedly having poor table manner. Omega was just being rude for no real reason, he thought!



Omega just sat there drinking his water, though, completely ignoring Stitch and the bartender. He seemed to be deep in thought, though whatever it was he was thinking about Stitch couldn’t tell.



The doors to the pub flew open and a cheerful whistle was heard. Stitch turned around to see a short, blond haired teenager walking up to the counter. He was wearing quite a lot of blue and had a monkey tail! “Well, looks busy today! That’s a nice change of pace, Bobo!”


“Your name is Bobo?” Omega asked, though the barkeep ignored him.



“Very amusing.” The barkeep replied in a tone that was decidedly unamused. “Back in town already, Zidane?”


“Oh, come on, don’t be so salty.” Zidane said as he sat down between Omega and the rat lady. Almost immediately, he turned to the latter and began flirting with her! “Hey, have I seen you around here before?”



“You know perfectly well you’ve seen me before, Zidane.” The rat lady replied in annoyance. “Must you go through this motion every time we meet up here?”



“Oh come on, Freya, don’t be like that.” Zidane waved his right hand a bit. “You know I’m just teasing.”


“I wish you wouldn’t.” Freya muttered into her drink.



“Always the killjoy.” Zidane shrugged as he turned his attention over to Omega. “I know I’ve definitely never seen you before.” He held out a hand. “Name’s Zidane.”



Omega reached out and shook his hand briefly. “Omega.”



“Well, nice to meet you, Omega.” Zidane smiled. “What brings you to town?”



“I’m looking for someone.” Omega said. “A man with black hair and purple eyes, wearing a black coat. Seen anyone like him?”



Zidane crossed his arms and tilted his head. “Can’t say I have, though my troupe and I just got back ourselves.”



“Troupe? Are you an actor?” Omega asked. Stitch wasn’t sure, but it seemed like Omega was genuinely interested even though his expression hadn’t changed. His full attention was on Zidane, so it certainly seemed like it.



“I don’t want to brag, but yes!” Zidane said proudly. “The Tantalus Theatre Troupe is full of top notch performers. We go all around in the hope of spreading joy and entertainment.”


“Is that what we’re calling your antics?” Freya snidely commented.



“Ignore this sour sport.” Zidane looked at Omega again, particularly at his note book. “What are you writing down there?”



“Jokes and one-liners.” Omega said with a completely straight face, though Zidane clearly wasn’t fooled for a second, but he let out a good hearty laugh.



“Ha ha ha, I guess I could buy that. But you look more like a warrior.” Zidane noted as he looked Omega up and down. “You here for the Festival of the Hunt? If I recall it’s coming up soon.”



“I’ve seen some signs for it, but I can’t say I know what it is.”



“It’s a competition they hold every year,” Freya cut in before Zidane could answer. “Monsters are brought into the city and scattered throughout the streets for 12 minutes. Those entering the competition must slay as many beasts as possible for points.”



Omega leaned forward a bit, looking more interested than Stitch had seen him before. “Sounds like you’re very familiar with this competition.”



“I always enter.” Freya said simply. “But usually there’s no challenge anymore.”



“Perhaps you should enter?” Zidane said. “After all, you might like it.”



“I’ll think about it.” Omega said as he got up, then dropped some munny on the counter. “Nice talking with you. Come on, Stitch.”



“Leaving already?” Zidane asked.



“I think I got all I need.” Omega said, which left Stitch confused as they left the pub.





Theater District



Lulu walked out of the tram that she and Zell had taken to the Theater District and looked around.



“Quite the town.” She said as Zell followed her off.



“Very much so.” Zell said.



“So what do you think about the Mist?” Lulu looked at him with a serious face. “Think it’s anything to worry about. Zell crossed his arms and looked down.

“I can’t say. He didn’t really say much, did he?” Zell said. “At least, not what we might’ve needed to know.”



“Yeah. I wonder if he just wanted to get rid of us.” Lulu shrugged. “I guess it doesn’t matter. We can always investigate further. We’ll just let Omega know when we’re done.”


Zell looked at Lulu, puzzled. “We’re not going to let him in on this now?”



“What does it matter?” Lulu said, a bitter tone to her voice now. “He makes unilateral decisions all the time. It’s just what he gets.”



“Ya know, that sounds pretty petty, dontcha thin-“



“I don’t recall asking for an opinion.” Lulu snapped. Zell recoiled at that and decided not press the issue. He’d have to wait for the right moment, otherwise he’d never get a word in. Lulu could be very unreasonable sometimes, same with Omega.



“Alright, alright.” Zell said, waving one hand dismissively. “Forget it. So what do you purpose we do?”



“I thought that was obvious. We’re going to search for a way down to the Mist.” Lulu replied.



“’kay, but how?”



Lulu fell silent for a moment. “Well-”



“Lost, are we?” A horribly familiar voice said behind them. Lulu and Zell immediately turned around to see the man in black standing right there. Both were alert at once, ready to attack the moment they needed to. The man in black chuckled and walked past them without the slightest hint that he considered them any kind of threat. “Please, let’s be civil, shall we?”



“Civil with a man who murdered thousands of people?!” Lulu retorted. “You can’t be serious?”



“Oh, but I am.” The man said as he turned around to face them once more. “You see, if we’re not going to be civil, then I’m afraid that it might just happen again.”



“That sounds like you’re already planning it!” Zell said and before Lulu could do anything, he rushed at the man, ready to punch him!



“Zell!”



The man just smiled malevolently.



Business District - Inn, three hours later



The room they were in was a pleasant room, probably one of the nicest rooms Stitch had been in for a long time. He sat on the bed he had picked out when they first entered and bounced a bit on it. Omega had sat down on his own bed, quiet as usual, not giving Stitch any kind of notice. He just looked thoughtful about something and it got Stitch curious.



“Something wrong with Omega?”



Omega’s eyes looked in Stitch’s direction, but again there was no indication of any kind emotional response from. “I’m not sure.” He answered after a moment.



Stitch tilted his head at that. “Oh?”



Omega’s eyes turned away. “I was thinking that Lulu and Zell should have been back by now.” He crossed his arms. “It’s not like them.”



He got up to look out the window, his arms still crossed. It was night time and the lights from various houses and the street lamps illuminated the more quiet streets. Stitch wasn’t sure if he honestly thought he’d spot them or not, his face had still not changed in any kind of way about this.


Still, he couldn’t help but get the feeling that Omega was genuinely worried, despite not showing it. And he wasn’t sure he understood at all, because these three didn’t really seem like friends at all. Why did he seem to care so much?



Stitch didn’t understand. And he wasn’t sure he liked this at all.
 

NemesisSP

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Chapter 8: The Man Called the Devil



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Lulu groaned as she woke after what seemed like hours. Her vision was obscured, and at first she thought it was just her eyes adjusting, however after blinking a few times realized it was, in fact, a thick fog around her. She stood up and tried looking around, but could barely make out anything in front of her.

“Zell!” She cried out into the fog. “Zell, where are you!?”

Lulu heard a groaning noise to her left and looked in that direction. It was still hard to make out, but she thought she saw a body on the ground. Without hesitation, she rushed over to see if it was Zell and hopefully that he wasn’t injured. It was Zell and thankfully he was fine, just a little dazed looking as he got up.

“Lu?” Zell asked as he tried to get up. He stumbled a bit, then fell back, before finally managing to get to his feet. “What happened? Where are we?”

“I’m not sure.” Lulu said. “I just remember that we were walking around town and then the next thing I know, we’re here.”

“Ugh, if even you can’t remember- ow!” Zell grabbed his left arm. “I’m really sore. You okay, Lu?”

“Yes, I’m fine.” Lulu said as she held out her hand then waved it. Green light surrounded Zell, then quickly faded.

Zell breathed a sigh of relief and rotated his arm a bit. “Thanks for that.”

“You’re welcome.” Lulu replied, then looked around into the fog again. “I have this really strange feeling.”

“What is it?”

“I’m not sure, but I definitely think we need to find some shelter before night fall, whenever that is.” Lulu said as she looked around. As soon as she did, she spotted a light nearby. A light she was absolutely certain had not been there a second ago. “Zell, look!”

Zell did so and his reaction suggested he didn’t catch on like she had. “Oh yeah! That wasn’t too hard.” He said as he ran over to it. Lulu reluctantly followed him to a small shack, the light they saw coming from the window. It looked like it had been abandoned for quite some time, as there was no sign of anybody.

“Wow, this is pretty convenient!” Zell said as he walked around.

“Yes, perhaps a little too convenient.” Lulu said, gazing over to the fire. “Yes, it’s just too convenient.”

“Huh?”

Lulu groaned and folded her arms. “Did you hurt your head as well? Think about it.” She said. “We wake up here with no memory of what happened and there just happens to be a little shack just a few feet away?”

Zell gritted his teeth and clenched. “I get that… but what other choice do we have?” He said.

Lulu said nothing. He had a point, even if she didn’t like it. “I don’t know.” She muttered. “However, we should at least remain alert.”

“Of course.” Zell replied. “I’m not a complete idiot, you know?”

“I sometimes wonder about that.” Lulu said, though she found herself smiling a little. “Though, I am starting to regret not meeting up with Omega again.”

Zell nodded. “Yeah, having him around would certain help.” The fire crackled a bit and they could hear the howling of wolves a good distance away. “Why don’t you get some rest, Lu? I’ll take first shift.”

“Hah, nice try hero, but you were in worse shape than I was. You rest up first.”

“But-“

Lulu cut him off before he could finish, “No, I insist, Zell.” She said. “Please.”

Zell’s fists clenched, his shoulders tensing up. “… alright, you win, Lu.” He said. “Just don’t try and do it all by yourself.”

“I’ll try not to.” Lulu said as she gave a small smile. “I’m not that reckless, you know.”

Zell loosened up with that and grinned in return.



Lindblum Business District, Inn – Several hours later



When Stitch woke up, he found himself complete alone and with no sign anyone else had been in the room with him. Lulu and Zell’s beds were completely untouched and the one Omega had picked looked like it too despite Omega having been there last night. Though, Stitch hadn’t really been sure if Omega had been asleep or not at all.

As Stitch got out of bed, he saw a note on the nightstand next to him. He grabbed it and read it. The message on it was short and blunt, just like how Stitch usually expected from him.

Went out, be back later. Do not leave the room.

Omega

Stitch snorted disdainfully, crumbled up the note and tossed it onto Omega’s bed. There was no way he was going to stick around this room when he had an entire city to explore! So much to see and do and if a little mischief was on hand, Omega need not know. And even if he did, it’s not like he could prove anything.

Feeling wide awake now, Stitch immediately went out the door, down the stairs and out the inn doors into the bustling city streets. He didn’t have any real plan on what he’d do, but that wasn’t going to stop him. Though the first thing he probably should figure out was where Omega was. If he was gonna have fun, it’d be a huge inconvenience if Omega just suddenly showed up in the middle of it.

It didn’t take him long to figure it out…

“Somehow I knew you weren’t going to stay put.” Stitch’s ears perked up and his body tensed. He slowly turned around and saw Omega leaning against the wall of the inn, his arms folded, apparently having waited there for some time. “Seems a problem we’ll have to talk about if we want to keep working together.”

Stitch’s snorted, his eyes narrowing. “You aren’t my boss.” Stitch said.

“You can think that, but I do have your only ride.” Omega said and Stitch’s eyes widened at the implication. “So, I think that indeed makes me your boss.”

The corner of Stitch’s lip twitched. He didn’t think that Omega actually would just leave him behind, but he kept surprising Stitch often enough that it wasn’t something he was going to take a chance with. “…fine…” He muttered.

“Good.” Omega said as he unfolded his arms and walked past Stitch. “I did have stuff I wanted to do, though. If you stick by me and behave yourself, I’ll let you come along.”

Stitch grumbled and followed Omega. The more he hung around him, the more Stitch didn’t think he liked Omega.



“Have you seen these two?” Omega said as he held up a sketch of Lulu and Zell to the store clerk. She looked it over and shook her head.

“I’m sorry to say I have not.”

“That’s fine, thank you for your time.” Omega said as he walked off, Stitch following him as he did. They had been at this for several hours now and hadn’t found any sign of Lulu and Zell. Stitch couldn’t care less, particularly with Lulu, but Omega’s insistence on looking for them had won out. Stitch really couldn’t tell why he cared so much, since he seemed apathetic at best to them. Still, Omega had made it clear that he was in charge and that Stitch needed to fall in line with that.

At the same time, Stitch was so bored! A city full of interesting things and he was stuck looking for two idiots he didn’t care about. And it was now almost night time and all of the interesting places were deciding to close up! It’s like Omega was punishing him and for no particular reason, because Stitch couldn’t figure out what he could have done to deserve this. It was made even worse by the fact that when he wasn’t asking around, Omega was window shopping.

“Hmm, this might be a good place to grab some port.” Omega said as he wrote a note down in his little book. “Might need to make sure my permit is available, but it doesn’t seem like there’s any alcohol regulations here.”

“Can we go see the airships?” Stitch begged.

“No.”

“Come on, please?”

“No.”

“Pleeeeeaaaaaaaaaase?”

“No.”

Stitch grumbled and folded his arms. “Omega sucks.”

“Whatever.” Omega said as he continued writing down notes. Stitch pulled on his bottom eyelids in frustration. An entire day wasted! This couldn’t get any worse as far as Stitch was concerned.

“Help! Someone help!”

Omega and Stitch looked to see what looked like a Moogle with a large backpack running away from a large group of Heartless. Stitch tilted his head a little bit in confusion, as while he was sure it was a Moogle, it looked quite different from other Moogles he had seen and interacted with back in Traverse Town. It also seemed a little odd to him that so many Heartless would be chasing one Moogle, especially since there were still other people around town who hadn’t gone in for the night. But he supposed it was just another weird Heartless thing and found he didn’t really care about the why! All he cared about was that this was his chance for some action!

Stitch smiled in glee and his blasters were out now. “Akootah!” He jumped at the Heartless and started shooting at them. Their attention turned from the Moogle to him, but they didn’t stand a chance against the Experiment. Stitch hopped over one, blasting it into oblivion as he did, then slid under another when it jumped at him. It too met a flashy end courtesy of Stitch’s plasma pistols.

“Heh heh heh heh!” Stitch was much happier now than he had been all day! Sure it might not have involved scaling buildings to sneak into the castle or any number of fun things he could do, but blasting Heartless was always fun! He just kept on blasting them until they either fled or

However, it escaped Stitch’s notice that some Heartless were still going after the Moogle. By the time he took notice, though, Omega had already dealt with them. His Keyblade was in hand and several pink hearts were floating away from black mists where the Heartless once stood. Stitch looked around and noticed that all the Heartless he hadn’t been shooting at were also all gone now and he quickly made the connection. Stitch hadn’t even noticed that he had even moved or started attacking the Heartless.

It annoyed him very much. Omega had once again taken his fun away from him! Stitch was beginning to lose patience with the teenager! No amount of help with looking for Lilo and his friends could be worth putting up with this.

“You done?” Omega said as the Keyblade disappeared. “Because I think you scared the poor guy senseless.” And indeed, the Moogle was curled up on the ground, his bag a few inches away. Stitch scowled and folded his arms. Like he really cared!

Omega knelt down in front of the Moogle. “You okay?”

The Moogle uncurled and got up. “Y-yeah, thanks for the help. I’m Stiltzkin.”

“Name’s Omega, and the trigger happy fellow there is Stitch.” Omega said and Stitch stuck his tongue out at him in response. Naturally, Omega took no notice to the gesture.

“No problem. Why did they gang up on you like that?”

“I don’t know. I just-“ Stiltzkin began to explain before Stitch decided to go over and yank on his pom-pom to look it over. “Ow ow ow!”

“Stitch, what are you doing?” Omega said with at best mild annoyance.

“Just checking. Doesn’t look like a Moogle.”

“That doesn’t mean you can play with his pom pom.”

“Have to be sure it’s not a trick!”

“I am a Moogle! Let go of my pom pom!”

“Moogles just look different depending on the world. Sometimes they retain the same form, sometimes they have a slightly altered form.” Omega explained. “I’ve seen it plenty of times. Now let the Moogle go.” He said that last bit in a much sterner voice, and Stitch recognized it as an order, not a request. If he didn’t, Omega might just really leave him behind.

“Bah!” Stitch let go of Stiltzkin’s pom pom and crossed his arms again in a pouting fashion. Stiltzkin straightened himself out and looked at Stitch with extreme irritation, but Stitch didn’t care.

“So anyway,” Omega said, ignoring Stitch, which infuriated Stitch even more. “Why were those Heartless ganging up on you?”

“Well, I can safely say that they weren’t really chasing me.” Stiltzkin explained as he went over to his bag.

“What do you mean?”

Stiltzkin reached into the bag and pulled out an elaborately designed book. “I’m pretty sure they were after this.”

Omega looked at it with some interest and even Stitch was now a bit intrigued, but he tried not to show it. Why would the Heartless be after some random book? It didn’t make sense to him.

“What’s so special about it?”

“Well, this is a special book. I found it on my journey through many different worlds.” Stiltzkin explained. “This is a Grimoire and inside it is another world.”

“Am I to assume by “another world”, you don’t mean in the joy of reading kind of thing?” Omega said. “How is that possible?”

“I’m not sure myself, but I have been inside it and I can safely say that it is its own world.” Stiltzkin said as he placed it back in his bag. “And the Heartless probably wanted it like they want all other worlds.”

“Yeah, I can see that.” Omega put his forefinger and thumb on his chin in thought. “I’ve been to a few worlds over the past few years, but I can’t say I’ve ever come across that before.”

“Unsurprising.” A soft-spoken, yet cold voice said. It was a voice that Stitch recognized immediately. A voice that he had hoped he’d never have to hear again, but knew he would. But even that knowledge didn’t help prevent that cold feeling that crept up his spine. “Such tomes are rare and have more than likely already suffered the same fate as countless other worlds have.”

The three of them all turned to look at the source of the voice, as the man in black was standing right behind them. Stiltzkin immediately hid behind Omega, while Stitch just stood frozen in place.

Omega didn’t hesitate.

“Looks like you saved me the trouble of finding you.” He declared as he summoned his Keyblade.

“Are you really going to attack me, Omega?” the man in black said. “Last time it didn’t go very well for you, if I recall.”

Omega’s lip twitched, but he didn’t back down. “A nameless man who destroyed an entire world. At the least I’m going to make it an option.” The man just chuckled in response.

“Oh, still trying to play the hero.”

Stitch felt his heart sink into his stomach as he stood face to face with the man in the black right in front of him. That horrible half smile on his face, the glint in his purple eyes. Stitch was frozen with fear as he watched Omega and the man talk, ignored by both as he felt a panic attack start.

“I suppose if you must have a name to call me by, I’ll give you the same name I gave Maleficent. Nero Diabolus.”

“No wonder she felt quick to ally with you. That name just sounds like a comic book villain name.” Omega retorted.

“Names are only important when we want to display a certain image to the onlooker.” ‘Nero’ said as he placed one arm behind his back and gestured at the spot where the Heartless had been moments earlier. “The Heartless, for instance, have no use for such names, being mindless, pathetic and interested in only collecting hearts and growing in numbers. We are the ones who give them names because it is convenient for us. Easy for us to distinguish which is which. Just like this name is convenient for deals with Maleficent and her followers.”

“Fascinating stuff, but is there a point to all of this?”

Nero smirked. “Not one I wish to impart on you at this time.” He said as he pressed the fore and middle fingers of his left hand against the rail overlooking the city. Stitch flinched as he came closer to them, and he was aware that Stiltzkin was now paying attention to him instead of the man in front of them. “Not when I have other things in mind for you to do.”

“And you assume I will just do whatever it is you have in mind?”

“Willingly, no. I know you, Omega and following orders and doing what you are told has never been a strong suit for you.”

“You don’t know-“

“-anything about me!” Nero finished for him. “Oh my young friend, nothing could be further from the truth. I know you better than anyone else ever will.”

Omega grunted, clearly trying to hold back what he wanted to say. Stitch watched the two talk and couldn’t comprehend how Omega could talk to this man like this. Wasn’t he at all scared?

Nero didn’t seem to care either way as he continued, “You will enter the Festival of the Hunt tomorrow and you will win it. And you will win it using the Keyblade.”

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“I assure you I’m not.” Nero replied, his smile never once wavering. “I was disappointed you left Olympus before you went to compete in the Coliseum.”

“We had more important things to do!”

“Which is the reasoning I’m sure Lulu used in order to get you to leave.” Nero said. “I’m sure it burned you up inside having to take orders from her. Especially since you’ve always wanted to compete in those games.”

“That is completely different!”

“Is it now?” Nero chuckled a bit at that. “Well, now she and Zell aren’t around to talk you out of it this time and you can indulge in all the fighting you want.”

The meaning of his words was clear to everyone present and Stitch’s stomach went dead. He hadn’t really taken into account that the man in black had kidnapped Lulu and Zell and even worse, he hadn’t cared at all. Even if he didn’t like them, he wouldn’t have wished that on anyone!

“What did you do with my friends?” Omega said through clenched teeth.

“Oh, don’t worry, they’re fine.” The man said. “For now anyway.”

“Comforting. How about you bring them back?” Omega said.

“If you win, they will be returned to you, unharmed.” Nero said. “Of course, you can also go and rescue them yourself. They are in the valley below Lindblum, in a little cottage twenty miles from the cliff side.”

Omega looked momentarily taken aback and Stitch couldn’t blame him. He hadn’t expected Nero to just give away the location of where he’d hidden Lulu and Zell. The fact that he was, though…

“What is your game?” Omega said. “You wouldn’t tell me this for no reason.”

“You’re catching on fast, my friend.” Nero said. “You see, it is almost impossible to get down to the valley, what with the Mist and all the monsters and such. Not to mention the only way down is sealed off in Lindblum castle. Going down to the port won’t help you either, since they aren’t near it and by the time you got there through the port, the Festival of the Hunt would start.”

His smile widened and Stitch grew even colder. Stiltzkin also looked terrified, even though Nero hadn’t acknowledged his presence at all since he got here.

“And if you aren’t there, then I might just have to unleash an army of Heartless on the city.” Nero finished and let the words sink in. For once, Omega didn’t have a retort, he didn’t look confidant and more important, he looked genuinely worried. Stitch was seeing more expression from Omega now than he had in all the time he had known him and that worried Stitch even more. He could clearly see Omega’s thoughts now and it was clear he was scrambling for a way out of it.

“Well… then I’ll just-“

“- go right now.” Nero said. “I suppose you could do that, but at the same time, there’s no guarantee you’d make it back up here before the Heartless attacked, is there? Oh, what to do?” His eyes closed and he put his left wrist on his hip. His eyes opened again and immediately turned to look at Stitch himself. They had now changed from purple to a piercing crimson. “I suppose, then, that I shall make it easier for you.”

His eyes made contact with Stitch and he immediately froze up, not from fear, but from a feeling he had hoped he’d never feel again. Suddenly his arm spasm’d and pain flared up as he grunted. Omega and Stiltzkin both turned to look at him. He clutched his head as it felt like his skull was about to slip open, only to spasm again before he lost his vision momentarily in a flash of bright green light. This was a sensation he had many times over the past two years, but somehow this was different! A buzzing noise also rang in his ears and Stitch tried desperately to shake the feeling off. He head indistinct voices trying to call out to him, shapes blurring in front of him and someone’s hands grabbing his shoulders, trying to steady Stitch.

But the damage was done, and the pain was too much for him to take. The last thing Stitch saw before he blacked out was Omega’s face filled with concern and worry… He was trying to say something, but Stitch couldn’t hear him…

And in that moment, all Stitch could say was. “Stitch sorry…. Stitch so sorry.”



To be continued….
 

NemesisSP

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Chapter 9: Reluctance

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Zell and Lulu sat in front of the little fireplace, exhausted and eating some rations that they kept on their persons. They had been out all day in the Mist trying to figure out a way back to Lindblum, to absolutely no avail. A steep cliff, a river and some wooded areas were the only thing nearby. They couldn’t call their ship down due to interference with the Mist either. They were well and truly stranded.

And it didn’t help that there were monsters lurking around outside.

“What do you think we should do next?” Zell said as he took a bite out of the ration bar.

“I’m not sure.” Lulu replied as she took a bite out of her own bar. It tasted very bland, but was packed with enough protein to make up for it. It wasn’t the first time they had had to eat these bars, so she was used to it. Still, she really would rather have been eating something a bit tastier. “I suppose we could try to find some kind of entrance in the Cliffside. It’d be a bit risky, though.”

“Yeah…” Zell said. “We might even have to abandon this place just to make any headway.”

Lulu looked around the little hut. They hadn’t tried going too far away from it, even though they might have found a way back up to Lindblum if they did. It was dusty and looked like it was falling apart. Or at least, that’s what it seemed. But it really felt like this place had been deliberately built like it was on purpose.

Both Lulu and Zell knew that there was something suspicious here, and perhaps against their better judgment had stayed. Plus, the more they were out in the Mist, the more tired and irritable they became.

“How do you think Omega and Stitch are doing?” Zell asked.

“Probably doing better than we are.” Lulu said dryly, but she was sure her own worry was plain. “The Target might be planning something similar for them.”

Zell punched the ground in angry. “Darn it! Just what does he want!?”

Lulu looked at the crackling flames. “I really don’t know. I just hope they’re okay.”

Zell looked at her. “Feeling a bit more accepting of Stitch then?”

“No, not really. He’s a little pain in the butt.” Lulu retorted. “Still, I do realize that Omega probably had a good reason for bringing him on board. It’d just be nice if he’d fill us in on that.”

“I’m sure he’ll tell us eventually.” Zell said. “Maybe we should actually talk it out with him, though?”

Lulu nodded and was about to say something when a terrible chill flew up her spin. It was a feeling that had crept on them ever since they got here, on and off, but at a consistent rate. Lulu tensed up and could tell that Zell had felt it too.

Without verbalizing anything, they both slowly crept to the window. As far as could be seen, there wasn’t any activity out there. But Lulu could just tell that some kind of creature was lurking out there in the Mist. It wasn’t a Heartless, though, that much they could surmise. In fact, they hadn’t encountered any Heartless while they were down here. The reason for that Lulu couldn’t begin to speculate on, and it didn’t make the situation any worse.

Zell placed his hand on the handle to the door and looked to Lulu for confirmation. Lulu took another quick look out the window again and nodded. Zell opened the door and slowly made his way out of the hut. Lulu followed him and together they checked the perimeter, again finding nothing. However, there was still that sense of unease over them. There was something out there, just waiting to strike.

“I’ll take the first watch this time.” Zell said and Lulu didn’t protest. She was just really hoping that Omega and Stitch were alright.



Lindblum Business District, Alley



“Stitch! Stitch, say something!” Omega shouted at Stitch, but Stitch didn’t respond. He had just collapsed against Omega’s arms, trembling, but unmistakably unconscious. Omega held him in disbelief, trying to figure out what happened in his head. It all led to one conclusion.

He turned to face Nero, his expression and voice filled with rage. “What did you do to him!?”

“You couldn’t begin to imagine the extent of what I’ve done to Experiment 626.”

“Why!? Why are you doing this!?”

Nero smirked. “To make you stronger.”

That was the last thing Omega thought he would say. That was what this was about? Was that why he destroyed Trabia? Was that why he was holding Lulu, Zell and Lindblum hostage? And Stitch?

Stitch’s body shook so violently that Omega had to tighten his grip. “You… you would hurt so many innocent people just to make me fight monsters? Just to make me use the Keyblade and become stronger?”

“Of course! My dear Omega, nothing is more important than you getting stronger.” The man said, his smirk widening as his eyes narrowed. “And I will force you to get stronger through any means.”

After he said that, he seemed to just fade away, as if he weren’t there to begin with. Omega didn’t waste any thoughts on where he might have gone as he took off his jacket and placed the still trembling Stitch in it. Stitch let out a little wheezing moan, but didn’t wake.

Stiltzkin, who had been understandably frozen in fear this entire time, slowly approached. “Umm, sorry… but what was that all about?”

He looked up at the Moogle. “I wish I could tell you, but I don’t really understand myself.” Omega said as he got up, holding the wrapped up Stitch to his chest.

“W-what are you going to do?”

“Well, as you can see, I don’t have many options.” Omega coolly said as he turned and looked around. He wanted to make sure that no Heartless was lurking around, as fighting them while holding Stitch would have been a chore. Perfectly doable, but not necessarily the most practical approach to take in this situation.

“Let me come with you!” Stiltzkin piped up. Omega stopped and turned back to look at him. Stiltzkin, who seemed to recoil a bit, but continued. “I mean, the Heartless might come back and I still have this book on me.” Omega just continued to look at the Moogle in silence, which clearly made him uncomfortable. “Maybe… I might be able to help your friend there, at least.”

Omega didn’t really need to think about the offer. In truth, he hadn’t actually intended on leaving Stiltzkin behind. As it happened, Omega had some suspicions he wanted to confirm concerning that book and this meeting. That Stiltzkin might be able to help out was just a bonus as far as he was concerned.

Before he could respond, however, another voice chimed in from overhead. “I wouldn’t say no to that. Moogle magic is very powerful, after all.” From some rooftop nearby, a short figure dropped down in front of Omega and Stiltzkin. The figure had blond hair, was well dressed and had a tail. Omega recognized him immediately.

“Zidane.”

“Oh, so you remembered me! That’s great.” Zidane said cheerfully. “Makes things a bit easier that way.”

“What do you want?” Omega said bluntly, while Stiltzkin stood there trying to make sense of everything. Omega could sympathize with his confusion, but had other things to worry about. “How long have you been here?”

“I’ve been around for a bit.” Zidane explained. “I was looking for the right moment to jump in.”

“Have you been following me?” Omega said. “Don’t think I don’t know a thief when I see one.”

“Seems I’ve been figured out.” Zidane said, in that same annoying friendly tone he had at the diner. “Though, rest assured, I’m not here to steal anything from you.”

“So you’re just out for an afternoon leisurely stalking?” Omega said dryly.

“Not exactly.” Zidane said. “I’ve been hired to keep an eye on you and your friends.” He put his hand up up to stop Omega from responding to that. “I know, you probably are not happy to hear that, but I will explain everything once we’re away from possible Heartless attacks.”

Omega snorted in exasperation at this short thief’s tone. He was the one who started this whole conversation at this moment and now he was trying to take the lead? Who did he think he was? However, another moan from Stitch made Omega calm down a little. Much as he hated it, he would have to wait till both Stitch and Stiltzkin were safe before he pressed the issue further.

“Fine, you better.” Omega said darkly to Zidane. He looked down at Stiltzkin. “Alright, follow me closely.”

Stiltzkin nodded and picked up his bag.



Business District Inn, an hour later



Omega tucked the blanket under Stitch’s chin and turned to Stiltzkin. “You sure?”

“Maybe… but even Moogle magic has its limits.” Stiltzkin said uneasily. Omega hadn’t been sure if he would even want to help after Stitch’s behavior towards him, but was grateful that Stiltzkin didn’t seem to care too much about that.

Omega didn’t say any of that, though. He just nodded, then looked at Stitch’s sleeping form. “Well, I appreciate anything you can do.” He told Stiltzkin before turning to Zidane, who was sitting on the window, looking calm with that annoying smile of his, while also having a good getaway next to him.

“And you,” Omega started in a completely different tone, one that showed his overall contempt. “You have exactly thirteen seconds to explain yourself before I decide to hack you into little pieces.”

“Oh come now, is that anyway to treat a friend?”

Omega just narrowed his eyes at him. “I’m gonna make this clear, Zidane. You and I are not friends. You are just someone who might be an ally at best and an obstacle to take down at worst.”

Zidane shrugged and shook his head. “Ah, you’re just as hardheaded as I was told.” Zidane said. “My group was hired by a man named Arcanus to keep an eye on you and help you out when we can.”

If he were expecting Omega to be surprised to hear this, he must have been very disappointed.

“Obviously the guy can’t take a hint.” Omega folded his arms and turned away from Zidane and watched Stiltzkin taking out several bottles of potions, ethers and any other things that Omega assumed he would be using on Stitch. The latter was squirming around, still clearly in pain. Omega wondered if he was dreaming. He pushed the thought away and turned back to look at Zidane. “Look, I don’t your help, especially if he’s offering.”

Zidane scratched the back of his head. “You really don’t like him, do you?” He said. “But, I’m not just going to break my contract. I stick to what I do.”

“Honor from a thief, that’s a rarity.”

“You can make the tired jokes, but the way I see it, you aren’t going to be getting rid of me so easily.” Zidane confidently placed his hands on his hips. “You need me.”

“Debatably.” Omega said as he cracked his neck. “Now would you prefer to leave by the door or, my preference,” Omega went and began opening the window, “thrown out the window?”

If Zidane had thought Omega was serious, it didn’t seem like it. It was clear, though, that he wasn’t about to give up without a fight.

“I know how to get down to the valley.” Zidane said and that made Omega pause, the window halfway open. Seeing he had the advantage, Zidane continued, “And my group can get down there and rescue your friends for you while you fight in the Festival.”

Omega looked back at Zidane. “You aren’t lying to me, are you?” He said in icy cold tone. Stiltzkin stopped what he was doing to listen. Zidane continued to stand his ground, though.

“No, absolutely not.” Zidane said. “I’m not trying to trick you, or take advantage of you. I just want to help you.”

“A lot of people have said that to me,” Omega said, approaching Zidane, “They often have secret agendas.”

“Yeah, well I don’t.” Zidane said, clearly not going to back down and unintimidated by the taller teenager. “And again, what choice do you really have?”

Omega and Zidane stared at each other for quite a while. The tension in the air was stifling, but Omega knew that Zidane was absolutely right. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, as much as he didn’t want the help, he knew he had no real choice. Whatever it took to save all three of them.

“Fine.” He looked away and back to bed where Stiltzkin and Stitch were. “I better not regret this.”

Zidane placed his hand on Omega’s shoulder as if they were all chummy and flashed a half-smile at him. “No worries, you won’t.”

The corner of Omega’s lip twitched. This already sucks.
 

NemesisSP

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Secret Report 1



I sent the boy and his friends on their way, on a journey that could hopefully lead me one step closer to Kingdom Hearts. Maleficent and the Seeker are already putting their own plans into motion, but it means little to me. I’ve seen their future. All I need to do is bide my time while I wait for it to happen.



Still, Maleficent will do doubt try keeping her eye on me and it would be best to keep her eye from wandering where I don’t wish for her to see. I will need to play along if my own plans are to be fulfilled. So I intend to alleviate her doubts about her enemies.



I will tell her that the foolish King won’t be a problem. He’s already disappeared from this world and will not pose a threat to her. A half-truth, but it’ll suffice for now. Once that is done, I'll wait a bit before I share my latest experiment with her. No doubt she'll be pleased by the result.



She has warned her comrades about Sora but has left them in the dark about Omega. It would seem she doesn’t truly trust them enough to know about this other Keyblade wielder? Perhaps. Or does she have trust in me to keep Omega on the road I set out for him?



Heh, I don’t think Maleficent trusts me any more than she does the rest of her ensemble.
 

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Chapter 10: The Festival of the Hunt



Lindblum Castle, Aircab Station




Omega leaned against the wall of the starting area, his arms folded and attempting contemplation. Something made more difficult by Zidane next to him, still acting annoyingly chummy. It took serious willpower to not beat him senseless, as the guards would no doubt not allow contestants to actively fight each other or worse. And he couldn’t afford to get disqualified or arrested.

“What’d you do with Stitch and Stiltzkin?” Zidane asked.

“They’re on my ship.” Omega replied.

“Ah, isn’t that breaking the rules?”

“Moogles travel to whatever worlds they want to go to with their own powers and even set up shop in many. And they leave holograms behind to run the shops when they aren’t in that world. It’s hardly a secret to them.”

Zidane chuckled a bit and kept up his barrage of questions, “And not worried about interfering with the ‘World Order’?”

“Not particularly.” Omega said, feeling as he did so his patience slowly eroding more and more.

“I’m starting to wonder if SeeDs have any regulations.” Zidane noted.

“They’re all bendable.”

“Well, how about-“

“You’re planning on just annoying me all day, aren’t you?” Omega asked dryly.

“Not all day.” Zidane replied, patting Omega’s shoulder. Omega just narrowed his eyes at him, but said nothing else. “Oh come on, don’t be like that.” Zidane said as he gently hook Omega. “No use in giving me the cold shoulder like that. We’re allies in this, after all.”

“I’m being blackmailed into doing while my friends are being held hostage.” Omega said, his contempt managing to seep out a little. “We’re allies only because you claimed you could help. Or did you forget that?”

“Hey, I’m just trying to help.” Zidane said. “Can’t look a gift Chocobo in the beak, can ya?”

“You just love the sound of your own voice, don’t you Zidane?”

“He sure does.” It was not Zidane who answered, but rather Freya, the rat woman from the bar. “Be thankful you aren’t a pretty woman.”

“Everyone’s picking on me today!” Zidane replied with a very fake sigh and even faker whiny tone.

One of the guards approached them. “We’ll be ready to start in just a few minutes. The rules are simple, you just have to go hunting for monsters within the town. You’ll have about an hour to kill as many monsters as possible or you can wait to try and slay the Zagnol.”

“The Zagnol?” Omega asked, his attention piqued this time.

“It’s a big, nasty fellow with very sharp horns.” The guard explained. “It is quite a fearsome foe.”

Then that was the one Omega would go after. If he could kill it, then everything would work out perfectly. Or at least, it seemed like it. There was no doubt that that man hadn’t factored such a creature into his plan. Still, it was Omega’s best option and not taking it down would allow someone else to do it instead and he couldn’t risk that.

“Now that we got the basics down, it’s time to talk about prizes. Each participant may choose a prize should they win the Hunt.” The guard said, which just greatly annoyed Omega even more because he was just saying obvious things now. The guard turned to Freya. “What do you wish for, madam?”

“I will ask for a specially made spear.” Freya said.

The guard nodded and looked at Zidane. “How about you?”

“I’ll just take some munny.” Zidane said, his hands behind his head again.

“So kid, you got anything you want for a prize?” The guard asked him. Omega didn’t even turn to look at him, he handed over a piece of paper. “Oh wow, this is unexpected. That’s quite a reward you want. You planning on making a feast with this?”

“More or less.”

Zidane whistled at that. “Seems you quite confident.”

“This won’t be much of a competition.” Omega said dryly. Zidane placed his hands behind his head and laughed as if Omega had told a funny joke, while Freya looked offended by the idea that she wasn’t being taken seriously by him. Omega didn’t really care either way. He didn’t have time or need for pleasantries, not with so much at stake. He could only hope he could rely on Zidane to fulfill his end of the deal.



???



Lulu hadn’t slept at all that night and she had a feeling Zell hadn’t either. They hadn’t had much chance to do so with some kind of creature stalking just outside the hut they were in. There was always the possibility that whatever it was would burst through the door and finally attack them. However, it hadn’t yet done so, though Lulu suspected it really was only a matter of time.

“Lu… you think it’s safe enough to make a break for it?” she heard Zell ask.

“I don’t know.” Lulu said. “We could probably beat whatever that thing is, but where will go?”

“Anywhere could be better than this.” Zell replied. “I mean, it’s an extremely obvious set up.”

“You don’t have to tell me twice…” Lulu said. “It’s not helpful.” She looked out the window again, hoping to catch a glimpse of the creature. “Still, we may just have to risk it.”

“Alright then.” Zell said as he went to the door and reached for the knob, just stopping inches from touching it. “Ready?”

Lulu held out her hands and one of her Moogle dolls appeared in them. She nodded, kneeling down as she did. “Ready.”

Zell took a deep breath and then wrenched the door open. The moment he did, the Moogle doll jumped out of Lulu’s hands and ran out the door and into the Mist. And as if drawn to it, what had been stalking them throughout the night appeared… yet they couldn’t actually see what it was! Finally, it made sense why they hadn’t been able to find it during the night. It grabbed the Moogle doll, which made it look like it was floating. And that was its big mistake, as Lulu started channeling fire magic through the doll. It unleashed an explosion that stunned the creature, allowing Zell to rush forward to try and punch it. He manage to land a hit on it, causing it to stumble back, as well as a strange reaction to occur. The skin that they had managed to strike took on various shades of dark grays, as well as black. The emblem of the Heartless was on its chest.

“It’s a Stealth Army.” Lulu called out to Zell, charging electricity through her doll. He jumped back to allow Lulu to send a burst of thunder magic through her doll at it, keeping it stunned so that Zell could continue to strike it with several kicks and punches. Each spot that was hit became visible, just like the initial strike. A large, chameleon like monster, this was a rare, but dangerous, Heartless. And one they could really use Omega’s help with, though by themselves it could be doable.

Still, Lulu knew they couldn’t keep this up indefinitely, as she felt her magic reserves deplete with each spell cast. Eventually, she would have to have her doll retreat so she could recover her energy, leaving Zell to find by himself. After hitting the now partially visible Heartless with ice magic, her limit was hit and the doll ran back to her. The lack of additional magic power meant the Stealth Army was much quicker to counteract, doing a quick swipe with its arms that managed to send Zell flying. Winded, but not down, Zell recovered and jumped up into air, managing to land a powerful kick onto the creatures back, knocking it down again, the Heartless then responded by gathering energy into its.

“Zell, to me!” Lulu called out, running towards the Stealth Army and Zell did so. Just as the monster unleashed blast, Lulu felt her magic return to her and cast her spell. The moogle doll floated in front of them, glowed and a magic barrier appears around them. It looked like it was made of glass almost and when it was struck by the beams, it shattered and flew outward, little bursts of energy following them. The two of them were unharmed, but the monster was hit and collapsed again. Not wasting another moment, Lulu charged for another powerful blast of fire and flew it at the creature.

The chameleon like creature shrieked in pain and fell still. Though, it wasn’t destroyed, it might have been down for the count… for now Lulu nearly collapsed, but Zell managed to catch her.

“Nice one, Lu. You okay?” Zell asked her, rather worried.

“Yeah… I’m fine. We just have to destroy this and we’re home free.” Lulu said, offering a small grin at Zell. Zell snorted and grinned back.

“Home free, perhaps.” A voice called just out of sight. Lulu and Zell looked up to see the man in black appear, as if out of thin air as he had so many times before. Lulu and Zell steadied themselves, but knew they weren’t going to be able to fight this man in their state. “Back to the stars, to chase what is so near, yet still so far.”

“Didn’t know you were a poetry nut.” Zell spat. “I’d stick with destroying worlds, though, since yours stinks.”

“Oh, my wayward children. Still no manners, I see.” The man said, that slight smile still on his lips as he placed his hand on the Stealth Army’s horn. “Though, you’ve been in the Mist for at least 36 hours, so perhaps it was unavoidable.”

“And what exactly was the point sending of us here?” Lulu said, managing to regain her breath and ability to stand on her own feet. “Just to get us angrier?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” The man asked as he examined the Heartless. “I had hoped to see how a Heartless would react to the Mist, to see if it’d become stronger when exposed to it. But sadly, it seems a slow infusion of the substance was not enough.” He stepped backward from the Stealth Army and before the duo could say anything, he raised his hand at it. Suddenly, the Mist around them began to be sucked into the large Heartless, as if it was water in a vortex! The Heartless bellowed again, as if in pain, shaking uncontrollably like it was going through a seizure! The vortex of Mist suddenly stopped and the Stealth Army let out another shriek as red and black armor suddenly appeared on its body.

“Ah, how interesting.” The man said as he checked out the Heartless’ new form. “Yes, this should suffice.” He snapped his fingers and the Heartless suddenly disappeared! Lulu and Zell grew even more tense. It had already been enough to take it down normally, but having to do it again in an upgraded form?

The man chuckled malevolently. “No worries. I have someone else who will fight this Armored Sneak.” He said, a glint in his violet eyes that Lulu did not like. She had a feeling just who he had in mind to fight his powered up monster. However, he did not elaborate further and instead looked up. “Ah, I see they’re finally here. Must have been drawn to all the fireworks.” Lulu and Zell looked up to see a small airship floating down to them. “Give my regards to Omega when you see him.” The man said as he faded away.

Before they could even fully regard everything that they had just witnessed, the airship landed and two individuals they’d never met before jumped out. One was a burly looking fellow bit a bandana over his eyes and a rather shabby looking clothes. The other was a short man with red hair that swished back, with his eyes covered by a belt, and several pieces of skin, including the left side of his face around the eye, looking liked patches of leathered showed on to him. The bigger one spoke first.

“Ah man, seems we were a little.” He said. He looked kind of brutish, but there was a way to how he talked that suggested he was far more sophisticated than one would expect.

“Naturally.” The second man said stoically. He too also had an air to how he spoke that didn’t quite match his physical description. “But that does not matter,” He pointed to Lulu and Zell, “we’re here for them, remember?”

“And just who in the Hell are you?” Zell nearly shouted, looking ready to start punching again.

“Calm down, your buddy sent us to grab you.” The bigger man said. “The name’s Marcus and that’s Blank.”

Lulu, at that moment, could not care less what their names were. “Omega would have come for us himself. Where is he?”

“He’s off competing in the Festival of the Hunt.” Blank replied. “Perhaps you heard about it before you got trapped down here?”

“Yeah, I did hear about it. But why would he be competing in that instead of savin’ us?” Zell asked.

“I think it’s best to talk about it on the way back.” Marcus said, going over to the side of the airship, which it’s landing ramp now open.

“Besides, we saw that Heartless you took down.” Blank said, his voice grim. “I have a feeling I know where it’s going to be next.”

Lulu grimaced and knew they were right. That “Armored Sneak” as it had been dubbed was going to be set loose on the town. “Thank you for the help.” She said as she stepped onto the airship, Zell following her, though much more silently.

Lulu and Zell walked into the small cabin, only to find a familiar mechanic working it. “Of course it’d be you two.” The mechanic they had met the other day said in a sardonic tone. “I’m not sure why I’m surprised.”

“Hey, I remember you!” Zell said, his mood suddenly lifted slightly, though Lulu wasn’t sure why. “Oh, it’s so good to see a familiar face, Mr… um?”

“Never you mind.” The mechanic interjected in a grumpy tone. “You two nitwits and your buddy are making me miss the festival with my kids.”

“Okay, why’s he here?” Lulu asked Blank as he jumped in.

“We needed an airship to get down and he’s something of an ally.” Blank said. “He also won the Festival of the Hunt a few years ago and we figured we might need an extra hand.”

“I still don’t understand what the Festival has to do with anything.” Zell chimed in.

“Well, you see,”

“Yeah yeah, all fascinating stuff, can we get going, or what?” the mechanic interrupted again, checking the engine as he did.

“Of course, don’t need to be so snippy.” Marcus said as he grabbed the wheel. “Ready whenever you are.”

“Hope you guys are ready to jump in if you need to.” Blank said as he leaned up against the railing. Lulu’s gut tightened even more than before. She really hoped Omega was okay.



Lindblum, Business District



The wolf creature let out a cry as it fell to the ground before falling silent. Marking it as his fiftieth kill, Omega continued on to his next target; the Zagnol. If his calculations on the time were right, it would be released into the business district in just a minute and if it was, there’d be no doubt that he’d be the winner in this sick game.

Omega stopped and took a moment to listen for any noises that would lead him to his target. He did hear something, but it wasn’t something he wanted to hear.

“Seems like I got here first.” Zidane said as he sat on high wall, eating a piece of fruit. “Though, no worries, I’ve not done much critter killing myself.”

“How thoughtful.” Omega said as he turned his attention back to the surrounding area. Zidane jumped down to join him. “Then I don’t need to make it clear that the Zagnol is mine.”

“Of course. What do you take me for?” Zidane inquired in a sheepish tone.

“I think he takes you for a backstabbing thief.” A voice from above them rang. Omega and Zidane both looked up to see Freya on the roof of a building. She jumped down to join them, a look anger still on her face. “Not that it wouldn’t be an apt description.”

“Freya, why must you break my heart so much?” Zidane said. Freya ignored him and approached Omega, who didn’t blink or back up as she did. The tension in the air was thick, but that wasn’t going to stop him.

“Can’t I help you?” Omega inquired in his best polite voice. Freya seemed to take more offense to that.

“I know you two are conspiring to get you to win. And I will not have it.”

“Oh? Is that it?” Omega shrugged.

Zidane sighed. “You know, it’s not very polite to eavesdrop on a private conversation.”

“Have such conversations where people won’t eavesdrop then.” Freya retorted.

“Look, Freya, I’m not helping him win. I’m just-“

“Don’t bother.” Omega interrupted. “Sorry, but I am going to win this.”

“I’ve been the victor of this hunt for years and I respect and honor it.” She replied, her voice full of anger. “You-“

Omega’s patience was at an end though and he coldly cut her off. “Look, I don’t care about winning or this hunt in general. I don’t care about any prize or any fame that could come with it. At the end of the day, I’ll be leaving this town and I don’t plan to come back anytime soon.” He narrowed his eyes at Freya. “I am still going to win this and nothing is going to stop me.”

Before Freya could reply, and Omega could tell she wanted to, there was a loud thudding heading their way. As expected, the Zagnol was there, by the fountain in the square. It was definitely larger than the other monsters that had been released into the streets, with its large hooves and horns looking particularly dangerous. But Omega had seen worse and as he summoned the Keyblade to his hand again, out of the corner of his eye, he saw that both Zidane and Freya had also readied their weapons.

The Zagnol began to charge at them… and then suddenly was pushed to the ground as if by an invisible force. It lay quite still, dead from the impact. The sudden abruptness of this startled the three of them.

“Well, this is… definitely different.” Zidane said. “I guess he wasn’t going to keep his end of the deal after all.”

“Of course he wasn’t.” Omega said, bracing himself more than before. Freya’s anger had now turned to confusion.

“What is going on?”

“A complicated story. One we would be best to save for later.” Zidane said. “All you need to know is that that is most likely a Heartless and a big one, no doubt.”

“I could figure that much out, Zidane.” Freya looked to Omega, though he didn’t look back. “Then I suppose this has something to do with you?”

“Do you want to keep talking or let that thing stay loose?” Omega said. However, he was not going to wait around for her answer as he dashed forward, he brought the Keyblade down to strike at the invisible creature, only to hear a clang of metal, a brief flash of color expanded from the impact. He had hit the arm of what looked like either a Stealth Sneak or Army, only this one had armor covering it. The creature pushed its arm in a backward swipe, which Omega only barely managed to dodge via a backflip. He landed on his feet as Zidane and Freya ran up to him.

“That was pointless.” Zidane said.

“Was it though?” Omega retorted. “We know exactly what we’re fighting now, don’t we?”

“Yes, and it looked very heavily armored.” Freya said, just as the Heartless roared and tried charging at them. Thinking quickly, Omega threw a blast of fire magic in front of them, which struck it and again made it temporarily visible. All three of them jumped out of the way, sending the creature hurtling into one of the stands, which had some kind of foul smelling food in barrels. Whatever it was, the juices from it managed to get all over the Heartless, which was momentarily stunned.

“If I’m right, there’s a weak spot we can very easily exploit.” Omega said. “Plus, we can use that smell to our advantage.”

“How’d you managed to figure that out in the two moments it was visible?” Zidane inquired.

“It doesn’t matter right now.” Omega said. “What matters is if we can hit it, we can take it down in one strike. We just need a clear, visible shot of it.”

Zidane shrugged as the Heartless began stirring. “Fine, I suppose I shall help you out.” He looked at Freya. “How about it? Think you could let that Heartless stay loose?”

Freya snorted, as if insulted by the question. “It would not do to let such an abominable creature live.” Freya said. “However, I demand to know exactly what is going on once we’re done.”

“Zidane can handle that.” Omega said as he surveyed the buildings while the Heartless was still down. “Alright then, Freya, stay on the rooftops, then when me and Zidane manage to make it visible, aim for the eyes or the neck.”

Freya nodded and without hesitation, jumped onto the roof. Omega looked at Zidane. “Well, if it’s all about making the creature visible, I think that fountain back where it showed up will help. Think that’ll work?

“Of course.” Omega said bluntly, as he had seen the Heartless got back up and then could see juice and vegetables falling off of its arm, making it a bit easier to see it now. It tried to swing its arm at Omega, who managed to parry it with the Keyblade. The Heartless shrieked in some pain as the armor became somewhat visible again, though it quickly faded as its eyes started to glow and a quick burst of energy homed in on them. Omega and Zell dodged, moving closer to the fountain they hoped to draw the monster to. It wasn’t a very smart creature, as it followed them, trying to swipe at them as it did. Eventually, they managed to get in position in front of the fountain. Omega held the Keyblade in front of him in a defensive position, as did Zidane with his daggers and, sure enough, the creature took the bait. It swung at them one last time, though both dropped their defenses just in time to dodge again. The fountain broke apart from the force of the blow. Water immediately flew into the air and down on the three of them. The water fell down on the Heartless, its silhouette now clearly visible.

Immediately, Freya jumped right onto the Heartless’ back, her spear managed to hit a groove in the armor. Not enough to get fully through, but enough to cause damage. The Heartless shrieked in pain, lurching backward as it briefly became visible again. And along with it, it’s bare and vulnerable underside was exposed. Omega lost no in rushing at the Heartless, stabbing the Keyblade straight through its chest. The creature let out one final shriek and fell to its side. Its body then vanished, releasing a blue heart like apparition that eventually faded away as well.

Omega let out a sigh of relief as it did. Zidane whistled, then patted Omega on the arm, the water from the fountain still raining down on them as it did. “That was impressive. How did you know its underside didn’t have any armor?”

“When I struck it the first time and it blocked me, I got a chance to see it when it became briefly visible.” Omega explained, looking at the place it had vanished. “I have fought Stealth Sneaks or similar Heartless before, but we do have data on them. I’ve never seen one like this before.”

“What about having Freya strike the head?”

“Well, isn’t it obvious? The eyes were not covered by the helmet so it could use its eye beams better and joints are always more lightly armored.”

“Well, that is true.” Zidane said. “Still, you’re full of many… surprises.”

Omega raised his eye brow and was about to ask what Zidane meant by that, but Freya moved forward. “Now that this is taken care of, I would like that explanation before the crowds come back down.” Freya said.

Zidane scratched the back of his head again. “Oh geez, it’s really quite a long story, Freya.”
 

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Chapter 11: Letters



Lindblum Business District



“Seems you have quite the enemy.” Freya said simply after Zidane had finished explaining everything. Omega didn’t respond, he just leaned up against the wall. “Seems I might have misjudged your motivations. Though your attitude, I certainly did not.”

“Would you rather I go around with a big fake smile?” Omega retorted.

“No, but you could treat your allies a bit better. Zidane might be annoying, but he’s reliable enough.”

“Awww, you do care, Frey.” Zidane said.

“Don’t call me that.” Freya said dryly.

‘Yes, he might be. Might be annoying that is.” Omega said. Zidane chuckled a bit at that, though Freya didn’t. “Still, I suppose I can at least trust him to not stab in the back. Steal my munny, maybe, but not betray me.”

“It’s a start.” Zidane said. “Either way, let’s go get your prize.”

Omega started walking away in the opposite direction. “No thanks.” He said simply. “I don’t need it.”

“Huh?” Zidane said. Freya also looked rather surprised by this. “But you won, didn’t you?”

“Did I?” Omega looked in the direction of the Zagnol’s corpse. “Kind of looked to me that we couldn’t finish it.” Omega said, turning back to them, giving them a kind of playful smile. “Next time, though, I’ll win it fair and square. You better bring your all, Freya.”

And with that, he left without another word, off to his ship no doubt to rejoin his friends.

“I think that’s his way of complementing you, Freya.” Zidane said, putting his hands on his head and started walking away too. “Looks like you’re the winner by default then.”

“Where are you going?” Freya asked.

“I got a job to do and that’s keeping an eye on him. Though, might do it from a distance for a while.”

“Why take on such a job?”

“Hmm, who can say?” Zidane shrugged dismissively. “See you around, Freya.”

“Zidane,” Freya interjected before he could leave, “… that boy. There’s something not right about him.”

Zidane looked suddenly passive and… serious. It was a strange sight to her. Though he almost immediately was back to normal, shrugging her concern off. “Freya, you worry too much for your own good. You should relax a bit more.” And with that, he too left without another word, leaving Freya alone to her thoughts.



Gummi Ship



By the time they finally made it back to the ship, Lulu was utterly drained and exhausted. And perhaps a little disappointed that they hadn’t made it back to help out with the Heartless. Though she supposed she couldn’t complain too much since it just ended with just some property damage. Still… she couldn’t help wonder what the point of this whole situation was.

As she and Zell walked into their little mess hall, they were greeted by the sight and smell of a big plate of hot dogs and a grilled salmon. Seems this was the reason for why Omega left before she and Zell had even gotten back to the city. Zell, naturally, was quite ecstatic about the hot dogs, so he probably didn’t think too much on them.

Sure enough, Omega came over with Lulu and Zell’s preferred drinks in hand. “Seems I timed it just right.” Omega said as he placed the drinks down. “Give or take, maybe a few seconds off.” He added as he adjusted the plate of hot dogs, then the salmon.

“How thoughtful of you.” Lulu said as she went over to the chair with the grilled salmon, while Zell was already going at the hot dogs.

“It’s nothing, I just thought you guys would like a hot meal, so I just put something together.” Omega said. “And an apology that I couldn’t be there to bail you guys out myself. I just-“

“It’s alright, you don’t have to explain, dude.” Zell said, or at least what Lulu thought Zell was trying to say through his mouthful of hot dog meat. “Those Tantalus guys told us the gist of the situation.”

‘Yeah, those Tantalus guys.” Omega said, then fell silent. Lulu knew he was not going to say anything else about them. She took a bite of her own food for a second before saying anything else.

“So… I don’t see Stitch anywhere.” Lulu said. “Did he help out at all during this?”

It was almost as if a bit of gloom had fallen on the room, as Omega looked a bit hesitant to speak. Zell stopped eating for a second to listen as well, having picked up on the sudden change in mood. “Well…” Omega’s mouth twitched a bit in a scowl, but he did his best to hide it again. He explained everything that had happened in the alleyway the night before. About how the man in black, Nero as he claimed this time, had done something which caused Stitch to have a seizure of some sort. When Omega was done, Lulu held her forearms tightly, while Zell looked livid.

“That son of a-!” Zell said as he punched the table. The contents on the plates bounced a little, but thankfully didn’t go flying.

“Zell!” Lulu exclaiming, quickly holding onto her drink and plate instinctively.

“Sorry, Lu! But that’s just messed up!” Zell growled. “The creep couldn’t be happy just messing with us, and that’s just-!”

“I know, I know.” Lulu could feel her skin crawl at the very thought of what might have happened if Omega hadn’t contained the Armored Sneak. “How is Stitch, then?”

“Stitch? He’s fine, he’s just resting. Stiltzkin looked after him.” Omega told them. He didn’t seem like he was going to say anything more on the subject. Lulu made a note to herself to check in on Stitch herself just to make sure how fine he really was.

“Someone say my name?” A voice said behind them, startling both Lulu and Zell, though Omega remained silent and still in his seat.

“Guys, this is Stiltzkin. Though he wasn’t supposed to be out without permission.” Omega explained.

“Sorry, sorry. It’s just that I smelt food, couldn’t help but check it out.” Stiltzkin replied, rather jovially, considering the circumstances. He got up on one of the chairs and looked around. “In all the excitement, I kind of forgot to eat. Guess it wasn’t hard, considering I dropped most of my newly bought rations when the Heartless attacked me.”

“You kept your other bag rather close, though.” Omega said dryly.

“Hey, an adventurer should always keep his exploration tools safe.” Stiltzkin said, this time rather indignantly. He went and grabbed one of the hot dogs, much to Zell’s horror and took a bite before he could say anything. “Hey, this is pretty good!”

“It’s just a hot dog.” Omega noted dismissively, which caused Zell to look aghast at the mere thought.

“Why were the Heartless chasing you?” Lulu asked before Zell could protest either the theft of the hot dog or Omega’s dismissal of it.

“Oh, just the usual reasons.” Stiltzkin said as he took another bite. “Of course, they might have been drawn to this book I had.”

“Book? Why would they be drawn to a book?” Lulu inquired further.

Stiltzkin started to answer, but Omega cut him off, “It’s some kind of special book, containing some kind of world in its pages.” Omega looked at the Moogle. “Though how, he’s yet to tell me.”

“I don’t know! I just happened to find it on one of my travels.” Stiltzkin said. “If you guys want it, you can have it. It’s been more trouble than its worth.”

“We’ll see.” Omega said. “In the meantime, shall we take you back down to Lindblum?”

“That’s not necessary. I was planning to move to the next world anyway.” Stiltzkin said. “But, don’t have a destination yet, so I think I’ll stick with you guys for a while.”

“That wasn’t part of the deal.” Omega said, which amused Lulu. One stowaway was fine, but two was too much it seemed.

“I know, but you might require my help. Or, maybe I can interest you in something I found a while back?” Stiltzkin said, finishing the hot dog as he did.

“And what exactly would that be?” Omega asked, folding his arms.

Stiltzkin left for a moment, then came back with his bag. He must have put it out of sight, as if he had been practicing this. He jumped in the bag, then began to rummage through it in an almost comedic fashion, tossing things out of it. Finally, he came out of the bag again. “Whew, found it.”

“Not very organized.” Omega muttered.

“What did you find?” Lulu asked as Stiltzkin climbed out of his bag.

“This!” He exclaimed as he placed a bottle on the table.

Inside was a rolled up piece of paper. A piece of paper that looked like it had had a fair amount of water damage to it.

The three of them looked at it, though Zell was the first to speak. “What is it?”

Stiltzkin grinned. “A job for three SeeDs, of course!”



Alexandria, Town Square



The castle was huge, impressive and almost imposing, Iris thought. It was quite the sight to see as they came into the town, though. Especially with how it had the sword like structure in the center that looked like it was piercing the sky.



“Are you sure this is the place, Hope?” Iris said as she, Hope and Irvine walked through the town of Alexandria. It was a much older looking world than Traverse Town, with no electricity or machinery of any kind.

“I’m 100% positive that I’m not sure.” Hope admitted as they walked along. “I’m sorry, but it’s the best I could do given what we knew, you know?”

Iris sighed a bit. “I know, I know.” She looked around the square again, which had been filled with many different people in different states of dress. They had already been around a good chunk of the town, asking as many people as they could if they had seen anyone matching the descriptions of Omega, Lulu or Zell and each time the answer had been a no. Despite the fact that there was a general air of apathy with many of these individuals, it was increasingly likely that the trio had never been here.

“Unless they managed to get into the castle, I don’t think they were ever here.” Iris said.

“Seems like we’re on wild goose chase then.” Irvine stated nonchalantly.

“It is our mission, though.” Iris looked around the part of the town there were in. It was a big square with tons of shops, with the castle towering overhead. She very much wished they could just stick around for a little longer than they had previously with Thebes. But she had the feeling that that wasn’t gonna be an option. “Maybe we should split up and explore around the area again, just in case?”

“It’s about an hour before it’s dark out, based on the look of the sun. Do you think we’ll have time for it?” Hope said.

“Afraid of the dark now, after all the time we spent in Traverse Town?” Irvine teased.

“I’m not afraid of the dark! And we knew Traverse Town very well, so it’s not the same.” Hope insisted. Perhaps too strongly, but Iris knew he wasn’t wrong. It’s just that Hope really did let Irvine get under his skin a little too easily. Though, truth be told, she often got tired of his attitude as well.

“Hope is right, Irvine and you know that.” Iris said sternly.

Irvine shrugged. “Yeah yeah yeah. You guys take all the fun out of life.” He pointed his right finger at the sword like structure of the castle and mimed pulling a trigger. “What’s your suggestion then, Hope?”

“Well, we could always go and check Lindblum.” Hope replied. “Get back on the ship and we’ll be there in under an hour.”

Iris wondered about that. If they hadn’t been in this town, they could be in Lindblum, the only other major city on this world that they might find Omega’s group in. Of course, if they did leave, they still would be night and in another town they were not familiar with in the slightest. They’d be back at square one. But still, if they didn’t leave now, they’d run the risk of them already being gone. If they had been there to begin with.

“That might be the only thing we can do.” Iris admitted out loud. “We’ve been here all day and found nothing.”

“Seems like it.” Irvine said, turning back to them. “Kind of a boring place, anyway.”

With the three of them in agreement now, they turned and began to head back to the main street. As they passed by the pub, a woman with light blue hair walked out the door onto the street in a dramatic fashion that it was hard to ignore her. She approached Iris in particular and started talking. She had a strange accent to her that Iris could not figure out. “It’s about time you lot showed up. Fur crying out loud, I’ve been waiting for you guys for hours!”

Iris was taken a bit aback by the woman’s attitude and presence. She was a little shorter than Iris was, but seemed to be a lot taller than she was at the same time. “Um, sorry? Didn’t mean to… inconvenience you?” It was all she could think to say. Irvine chuckled a bit behind her, while she heard Hope chastise him a bit.

“Oh sure sure, that’s what they all say.” The woman said. “Anyway, name’s Ruby. I’m part of the Tantalus Troupe. No need for you to introduce yourselves, I already know yur names.”

“Tantalus?” Hope said soft. “That name sounds familiar.”

“As it should. Either way, come here.” The woman named Ruby said before grabbing Iris’s arm and yanking her away from the main street and into the entrance of the pub. “We must talk.”

“H-hey!” Iris said as she managed to pull her arm free just as they were right on the stairs. “Excuse me! I can walk myself.”

“What a rude woman.” Irvine whispered to Hope as they followed the two woman. If Ruby heard them, she didn’t show it.

“And what makes you think I even want to talk to you?” Iris said, trying to keep her temper even.

“Listen up, honey, it’d be best to talk in here than out there.” Ruby said, seemingly uninterested in Iris’ protestations. “It’s about yur buddies. Names are Omeka, Lala and Zeff, if I remember correctly.”

That caught their attention, but also just more annoyances. “Omega, Lulu and Zell?” Iris said, skeptically.

“Yes, whutever.” Ruby said, waving the correction off. “Now come on inside and we’ll talk about it more.



The next thing they knew, they were in a corner of the pub, which was suspiciously empty aside from the bartender, who looked to be trying to avoid looking at Ruby. Iris had a guess how it managed to be so empty. At her insistence, he was making drinks for them, though they were non-alcoholic at least

“Alright, listen up.” Ruby said once they were all settled and their drinks had been delivered by the jittery bartender. “Yur buddies just left this world earlier today.”

“You dragged us into this bar just to say that?” Iris said incredulously.

“What a waste of time this was then.” Irvine says as he took a sip of his drink.

“No, I dragged you into this dive to let you know where he’ll be next.” Ruby retorted. She pulled out of her satchel an envelope. “A tip from a reliable source who knows.”

“And how could he possibly know that?” Hope inquired with suspicion.

“He didn’t say, deary.” Ruby placed the envelope on the table, though she pressed her fingers against it.

“What would you have done if we’d gone to Lindblum instead?”

“It wouldn’t of mattered.” Ruby waved the suggestion off. “Plus, someone else from Tantalus would have just delivered you an identical letter. Once I tell him, he’ll burn his letter.” She eyed the three of them careful, tapping her forefinger on the envelope it a manner meant to draw their attention to it even more. “Whether you take it or not is yer choice. My guess is that yer not gunna get far without it, tho’.”

The three of them looked at each other. It was pretty clear now that Ruby had led them in here so they couldn’t get away from her when she offered this letter to them. Clever. The three of them, however, didn’t need to really think it over in private. They could tell that they were in agreement on this. It was the only lead they had.

Still, there was something about it that Iris didn’t like. “What’s the catch?” She inquired. “Why are you guys going through so much trouble to let us know where they are?”

Ruby gave them wry smile. “There’s no catch, darlin’.” She said. “I already got paid for this more than you kids could ever give me, plus interest. Makes no difference to me or Tantalus as a whole if you do or don’t.”

Iris looked at Hope and Irvine again, before looking back at Ruby. “Fine then.” She said as she held out her hand for the envelope. “Let’s see it.”
 
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