Kingdom Hearts VI: Infinities



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KeybladeOrder

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Hello, readers, new and old. Welcome to Kingdom Hearts VI: Infinities, the action-packed finale of my eight part Acolytes of Chaos fanfiction saga. For those of you who have read the previous stories of my series, welcome back. For those who haven't, I highly suggest you go to my previous works on fanfiction.net under the username DragonKey27 to get caught up, because I'm not going to stop at the end of each chapter and recap everything that happened previously.

Finished? Good. Now we can get started. I actually started posting this on fanfiction.net earlier this month and completely forgot to upload it here too, so now I'm going to be posting every chapter I have so far in one day to make up for lost time. Just a quick reminder of my writing style before we begin:

"Talking"
Thinking
"Speaking in a language other than English"
"Singing"
"Written text"

Alright, now that we're on the same page, on with the show.
[HR][/HR]Act I: Preparations:
Prologue: The Faustus Method:
Unknown World – Unknown Location; Unknown Time:


"I don't normally believe in second chances," Aurilam remarked as he set his glass of champagne down on a nearby table. The man once known as Marluxia wore a mask of eerie calm as he walked around to the front of the device their latest prisoner had been strapped into. "But we need to work together for the greater good of mankind. We need you to become a valued member of our Legion. Surrender, and you will find meaning. Surrender. And you will find release." Despite the Graceful Assassin's melodic tone, the prisoner continued to struggle.


"Take a deep breath," Aurilam instructed. "Calm your mind. You know what's best, which is that you comply. Compliance will be rewarded. Are you ready to comply, young man?" The man trapped into the device only spat in the High Praetor's face defiantly. Without flinching, the Unchained wiped the saliva from his face, his expression neutral the entire time.


"I figured it would be a long night," the former Nobody remarked. "That's why I decided to treat myself to some wine. Praetor Long, start at the beginning. History has proven that the Faustus method takes time. We have a large enough window that we can meet our deadline with time to spare." Although all Unchained despised HYDRA and their hypocrisy, the Legion's High Council was able to recognize that the Faustus method of converting agents to their cause produced results with a high success rate. And this time, they would not fail. With all six Infinity Stones within their grasp, the Legion was finally ready to put the Endgame into motion. Within a matter of weeks, the Earth would be whole, mankind would be united, and the Unchained Legion's mission would finally be complete.
[HR][/HR]As usual, the prologue provides cryptic clues as to what's about to happen without giving away anything major yet. It goes without saying that it's pretty obvious given the way that Kingdom Hearts V ended who the prisoner is. I just like to have a sense of mystique and confusion in Unchained-centric chapters to make everyone second guess where things are going. But if you've watched Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 and recognize the scene I quoted some of Human!Marluxia's dialogue from, be afraid. Be very, very afraid (Maniacal laughter). And in all seriousness, Praetor Long is an existing American Dragon: Jake Long character and member of Jake's family, but I'm going to leave you guessing as to who they are until the last moment (don't worry, it's not his dad). With everything else out of the way, on with the show.
 

KeybladeOrder

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Chapter 1: Watching Troy Burn:
Earth – Castle Vulpeus; 8,023 Years Ago:

"What's going on?" Skuld demanded as the Atlantean hover craft landed in the courtyard of the citadel serving as the headquarters of the Vulpeus guild in the days leading up to the Atlantean peace talks. In the wake of the Atlantean empire's destruction, the rest of the world was in chaos. The Keyblade guilds had declared war against each other, but news so was frantic and jumbled that the Vulpeus guild and Ava's Dandelions had no idea what had actually happened in Atlantis. A crowd began to gather as Derax and Ophelia disembarked from the stolen Atlantean yacht with a cluster of Unchained picked up on the way back from Atlantis carrying a large cradle. Necks craned and Keyblade Wielders stood on their toes or climbed up the walls to get a good look at what Unchained were carrying. And when they realized what was in the cradle, cries of despair rose up in a wave that quickly swept through the castle.
Several senior members of the guild dropped to their knees with tears in their eyes as Derax's escort carried Lady Ava's body inside the castle. Some held their heads in their hands to muffle their anguished sobs as the growing crowd followed the procession through the corridors.

"I imagine you've all been hearing conflicting accounts of what happened in Atlantis," Derax began. "So let me set the record straight. Foreteller Leopardos was unmasked as the traitor, and in retaliation, he murdered Master Ava. When Leopardos troops attempted to invade Atlantis, King Kashekim used experimental weapons derived from the Heart of Atlantis to obliterate the Leopardos navy. However the shockwave of the weapons used created a mega-tsunami that completely obliterated the entire kingdom. With Ava's death and Leopardos' treachery, the Keyblade Guilds are now at war. Ursus has sided with Leopardos, while Anguis and Unicornis are fighting each other as much as they are the guilds aligned with Darkness."

"These are difficult times," he went on. "But as badly as we want to avenge Ava's death, we cannot get involved in this war. Ava's greatest fear was for the civilians now caught in the crossfire between the warring Keyblade armies. Out of respect for her wishes, the Vulpeus guild will remain neutral, and focus our efforts on helping refugees escape from the fighting. Is that clear?"

"Yes, Foreteller!" The assembled Key Bearers shouted in unison as they began form a queue to pay their respects to Ava. While Ophelia and new recruit Acrabua Orves left the room to make the arrangements for Ava's funeral, tears began to well up in Derax's eyes as the magnitude of everything that had happened in the last few days finally caught up to him. As Ava's second in command, he was the one expected to take her place as the Foreteller Vulpeus if she perished. But he had never imagined that it would ever happen like this. He had expected to take up the mantle when Ava either retired or else passed away from old age, not for her to be murdered at the onset of a civil war between Keyblade wielders.

"And what about everyone here who's not part of Vulpeus!?" a new voice rang out in the grand hall of the castle, snapping the new leader of the Vulpeus guild out of his thoughts. He looked up to see the crowds parting as a familiar, silver haired young man marched across the hall towards the cradle carrying Ava's cryogenically preserved corpse. The left side of his face was badly burned, with an eyepatch over his left eye and a large scar running from his right cheek to his nose, but there was no mistaking the recognizable, albeit singed, outit. "You can't expect the rest of us to just sit here and let Ava's murder go unpunished!" Ephemer continued as he stood in the center of the room.

"Ephemer," Derax began. "We are all upset, but we have to make sure that there will still be people left when this war finally ends. That's what the Dandelions were formed for."

"Don't act like we're fragile little flowers just because of Ava's nickname for us," Ephemer snapped as he turned to the rest of the assembled Keyblade wielders. "Each and every Unchained is a fully trained Keyblade Wielder. I can respect wanting to follow Ava's wishes, but the rest of us have to make our own choices. Everyone in the Vulpeus guild Unchained themselves on Ava's order, but not ever Unchained is under Vulpeus jurisdiction. Those of us who aren't under your command reported directly to Ava herself, and you and I both know that if anything happened to her she wanted me to lead the Unchained."

"Warriors of the Keyblade," he addressed the ever growing crowd, which now included almost every member of the guild in the castle and every non-Vulpeus Unchained in the entire army. "The time has come to choose. If you are already in service of the Vulpeus guild, follow your Foreteller's instructions and remain neutral in this conflict. But for those of us who cut all ties with our own guilds to follow Ava, we can either sit here and do nothing while her killer pursues his plans of world domination, or we can rise up to be the Legion that puts him in the ground for what he did to her. So who's with me!?"

Without waiting for a reply, he marched out of the hallways leading down to the courtyard. Cheers rose up in the room behind him as every Unchained in the building not already a member of the Vulpeus guild filed out of the room after him, his friend Skuld leading the way. When they reached the courtyard, Ephemer conjured up a corridor of light to a fortress in the wilderness of Sokovia that he and Ava had been investigating as a potential bunker for the Dandelions in the event that her worst fears were realized. Now, he thought as the army of Keyblade Wielders marched through the portal to their new base it would serve as the headquarters of the newly formed Unchained Legion.
[HR][/HR]Earth – The Isle of Draco; Now:

For generations, the Isle of Draco had been a peaceful place. Despite the continual fight against the Huntsclan and various magical conflicts over the last several thousand years, the Dragon Council's seat of power had remained untouched. No one in the magical community dared attack the Council's palace and despite the full backing of the Unchained Legion, the Huntsclan could never find the place. Even in the modern age, defenses against mortal surveillance systems were so thorough that many of the younger dragons began to take the island's security for granted. While they still followed security protocols after the magical world was exposed, many of the guards stationed along Draco's shores spent most of their time goofing off instead of guarding their headquarters.

As a consequence, they were caught with their metaphorical pants down on the day that Malekith the Acursed dared to invade their isle. Laser cannon fire shot down the defenders of Draco before they could even realize what had hit them. Roars of fury and screams of terror rose across the island as the dagger-like form of the Nathalis slid silently down from the clouds. The remaining defenders of Draco, only two dozen in number now, took to the skies in a desperate attempt to repel the invasion. The draconic guards breathed fire, ice, and lightning at the attacking vessel, hoping to bring it down quickly. A few managed to dodge the lasers and get close enough to slash at the warship's armored hull with their claws.

But it was to no avail. With the Dragon Council attending a meeting with the United Nations off island on neutral ground, the island was understaffed and outmanned against a numerically and technologically superior opponent. One by one, the dragon defenders were cut down by laser turrets and the bladed wings of Dark Elf troop carriers flying towards the island. Once Draco's air defenses were eliminated, Malekith's command ship landed tip first in the courtyard of the island's fortress. The Dark Elf king marched confidently down the boarding ramp as it unfolded to deliver him and his entourage directly to the top step of the stairs leading to the Council chamber.

Dark Elf skiffs flew overhead course the volcano in the center of the island. Research teams carried equipment designed to detect the unique energy signature of the Gauntlet of the First Keyblade Master and its components. As Malekith marched into the Council Chamber, a few of the remaining magical creatures on the island came charging out of the nooks and crannies of the citadel in an attempt to avenge their dragon protectors. Demona and Algrim swiftly hunted down and eliminated all pockets of resistance as Dark Elf soldiers hung a flag bearing the insignia of their military that Malekith had commissioned a few days ago from the roof of the palace overlooking the courtyard.

"Our sensors have confirmed your suspicions, my king," Algrim reported as Malekith sat himself in the central throne at the Council's table, his feet propped up against the tabletop. "The Infinity Gantlet lies buried deep beneath the Dragon Isle's volcano." The Dark Elf king grinned maliciously at that announcement. He clasped his hands behind his back as he stood up from the table.

"Good," Malekith replied. "Order our mining teams to begin digging immediately. I want that gauntlet excavated within the week."

"As you command, my liege," his lieutenant answered as he turned around on his heel and marched out of the chamber to relay the orders. For a few moments, Malekith looked out the back window of the council chamber overlooking the rolling green fields of Draco in silence. We have come so far, he thought to himself as he reminisced over what his late wife and son would think of the scenery. You will be avenged soon, he silently promised his deceased family. This I swear. I will obtain the Infinity Gauntlet at all costs, even if I must sacrifice my armies in order to do so.
[HR][/HR]And now things are getting interesting. One of the major elements of this multi-part saga that I've had rattling around in my head for a long time was the idea of a multi-faceted battle with one group of villains occupying the Isle of Draco from American Dragon: Jake Long for one reason, with other antagonists trying to undermine them while the heroes try to stop all the villains and recover the Infinity Stones at the same time. As such, I figured that a major, high-casualty victory for Malekith's loyalists while everyone else is still reeling from Maleficent's death and Sora's capture by the Unchained Legion would be the perfect way to get the plot of the story moving along.

Malekith's thoughts about sacrificing his armies for the sake of revenge are going to become more important later on in the story. With the Unchained Legion stealing two Infinity Stones from right under his nose, he's becoming increasingly desperate to get his hands on the Gauntlet, becoming a bit unhinged as a result. As such, his Villainous Breakdown is going to start driving a rift between himself and his people, especially Algrim. You'll start to see where I'm going with this later on, but this should keep things interesting.

The name Acrabua Orves is Sevro Au Barca spelled backwards. I've become super obsessed with Pierce Brown's Red Rising trilogy over the last few weeks and I just read books 2 and 3 two weeks ago. Sevro is my absolute favorite character in the entire story, hands down, and I wholeheartedly recommend the books to anyone who has not read them yet. Pardon my use of in-series slang but go read them all you bloodydamn pixies. I'm in that phase I get into every time I finish an amazing series where I'm still coming down from the emotional high of the ending, so expect to see more Red Rising references sprinkled here and there throughout the story.

I'm pleased to finally have the opening flashback to show the major players of the Unchained Legion back in the days of the Keyblade War reacting to Ava's death to demonstrate how much of an impact her demise had on the Keyblade Wielders of the Vulpeus Union. From here, you'll keep seeing more flashbacks like this every few chapters showing the early years of the Legion during and after the Keyblade War.
 

KeybladeOrder

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Chapter 2: Darkest Hour:
New York City – Unchained Safe House:

"Wow," Spud remarked as he surveyed the safe house that Rose lead them to. The small, non-descript looking apartment was filled to the brim with everything from ancient battle armor to high-tech modern weapons. "I don't think I've ever seen this many bazookas in one place since I got hired by S.H.I.E.L.D." Jake, Rose, Trixie, and Spud stepped gingerly over and around the piles of equipment and memorabilia that had been scattered haphazardly around the main room. Rose pulled a banner bearing the insignia of the Vulpeus guild off the couch to make room for the four friends to sit down.

"Legend tells us one thing, history, another," she commented as she slipped a metal cauldron around her shoulders before pounding it with her palm to form her old Vulpeus armor. To her relief, it still worked. "But every now and then something comes along that belongs to both." The safe house was her personal bunker and safe deposit box for the last eight thousand years. This was where she had stashed away everything she considered worth saving. During her days as leader of the Huntsclan, this usually extended to weapons, but a few of her personal effects from before the war were still here.

Jake stepped over to put a comforting hand on his wife's shoulder as she reminisced over all the friends she'd made and lost over the last eight millennia. She sighed sadly as she moved a box of photos she and her friends Marko and Alana had taken back when they met in Wakanda's tourist areas. The couple had been expecting their second child when the Keyblade War broke out, and even if they managed to survive the world spanning conflict, they were long dead by now. But while Rose was sick of the immortality that came with being an Unchained Keyblade Master, she didn't want to have to die to get rid of it like Ephemer did.

"What exactly are we doing here again?" Spud asked as he examined a pile of Keyblade War-era weaponry. "Not that I'm complaining, this stuff is pretty cool, though."

"This safe house has been Rose's storage locker for the last eight thousand years, Spud," Jake replied. "There's got to be something in here that can help us stop the Legion."

"And there is," Rose replied. "I still have video recordings of meetings with the High Council. The most recent ones are from the early nineties, so he should still be in those meetings." She left the room and returned with a box full of old VHS tapes and began digging through the box.

"Hold up," Trixie interjected. "He? Rose, you make it sound like someone else we know is part of the Legion." Jake and Spud's eyes widened at the conclusion, and their jaws nearly dropped when Rose nodded her head to confirm the other woman's assumption.

"Don't tell me," Spud commented. "Is it Rotwood?"

"No," Rose replied as she finished digging through the box and pushed the tape into the VHS player. "I've also go some old files on politicians and public figures who are part of the Legion," she added as she pulled out a few floppy discs. As the archived meeting footage played on the old TV, Jake, Trixie, and Spud watched as a familiar man walked into the room and took a seat at the table. Although the meeting went on for several minutes, it took only seconds for those present to recognize the dragon in human form sitting alongside the leader of the Huntsclan.

"Councilor Kukulkhan is an Unchained!?" Trixie and Spud shouted. Jake wasn't very surprised. Kukulkhan had always seemed to have it out for him over his relationship with Rose, and the fact that she had betrayed the Legion made sense. There was also the fact that she had told him after their reunion at Turo, but seeing concrete proof of it was another thing entirely. Now the fact that the councilor never showed himself in human form around Rose was starting to become a clear attempt to keep her from recognizing his human form.

"We've got to get this to S.H.I.E.L.D.," Spud commented as he stood up from the couch.

"And the Dragon Council," Jake added. "Kukulkhan's been trying to undermine any attempt at retaliation after Draco fell yesterday. This should get them ready for action. Rose nodded her head in agreement before calling out for Manifold to teleport them to the Playground.
[HR][/HR]Earth – The Playground:

"There are relics that predate the universe itself," Thor explained to the Earth military leaders assembled for the morning's briefing. "Ancient forces of infinite destruction. These Infinity Stones can only be brandished by beings of extraordinary strength, and were often used individually to mow down entire civilizations like wheat in a field. But tens of thousands of years ago, the very first Keyblade Master crafted a gauntlet that would allow a mere mortal to wield all six Stones as once." On the screen behind him, the video changed from footage of a titanic figure using the Power Stone to obliterate an entire planet to display ancient carvings that depicted a human being wielding a glove with six glowing gemstones inserted into it.

"So if these Unchained bastards have all six, they could wipe out the whole solar system," General Talbot surmised, speaking what every other military leader in the room was thinking.

"Without the Infinity Gauntlet, the damage to the universe the Unchained could do would be severe, but also limited in scope since they would have to have multiple people wielding the stones to keep using them," the new king of Asgard replied. "But our intelligence suggests that they are seeking the Gauntlet. With that, one Unchained could wield all the stones simultaneously. Whoever wields the gauntlet would have the power to reshape reality on a whim. Turn back time, teleport across the universe, track anyone from across space, mind control, incinerate anything or anyone, reshape reality… The powers of the Infinity Gauntlet would be enough to make its wielder a god."

"If these artifacts are so powerful, what chance do we have against them?" the general from Japan demanded.
"While the situation may sound bleak," Coulson explained as Thor took a step back to allow the deputy-director of S.H.I.E.L.D to speak. "We have two advantages. The Legion has all the stones but no gauntlet, while the Dark Elves have taken Draco to dig for the Gauntlet but don't have any of the stones. The two factions are going to go to war with each other to get what the other side has, so the chaos will be our perfect opportunity to grab everything from them and hurl it into the sun while they're all going for each other's throats. The representatives were slightly reassured, but everyone still looked nervous.

"Look," Coulson went on. "Things look bleak. I get that. We're dealing with an ancient army of immortal knights and a syndicate of would be conquerors. But we cannot simply roll over and wait for the end. It is our duty as human beings to protect this planet and that is what we're going to do. I'm not going to lie. We have the Daybreak Coalition, the Inhuman race, and the magical community on our side, but the odds are still stacked against us. But, if you'll forgive the Independence Day reference, we will not go quietly into the night. We will not let these people destroy us without a fight. Because if we can't protect Earth, you can be damn sure we'll at least avenge it."

With the mood lifted by Phil's rousing speech, the briefing ended and Gordon arrived to bring the military personnel back to their respective bases to begin planning on a coordinated strategy to combat the Unchained and the Hellfire Club. Thor was about to return to Asgard to help organize a battle party to help with the impending siege of Draco when Daisy Johnson came running into the room, out of breath and panting for air.

"The Hellfire Club remnants have been sighted in Greece," she gasped frantically.
[HR][/HR]We're about to start getting into the major action sequences in the next couple of chapters, but right now I just want to let you all know that the writing of this story is going to be divided into three acts within the same fic: Part 1 is Preparation, Part 2 will be Invasion, and Part 3, Liberation. As you can guess, Part 2 will be when the action really kicks off, and Part 3 will be when things start to escalate to the conclusion. Counting the prologue and epilogue, this fic will have a total of twenty-four chapters by the time I'm finished writing the finale of the saga.

Marko and Alana are the main characters of the amazing comic book series Saga by Brian K. Vaughan. I included a mention of them as a fun little reference because I was in the mood and thinking of the series before I got on the plane. Nothing more will come of it. This was only a small little shout out done for my own amusement. And yes, Coulson quoting Iron Man's iconic "if we can't protect the earth" line from The Avengers was absolutely intentional.

So yeah, Councilor Kukulkhan is an Unchained spy on the Dragon Council. Ever since I started this saga I've wanted to have one member of the Dragon Council from American Dragon: Jake Long serving as a mole for the bad guys and undermining the council a la the Death Eaters in Harry Potter. After cycling through the names of the councilors for a while I settled on Kukulkhan since he's one of the ones we know almost nothing about and who, If I remember correctly, never even had any lines in the show. But there is still one more AD:JL character who's part of the Unchained Legion, so look for that reveal to happen around Part 2 or 3 of the story.
 

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Chapter 3: A War on Two Fronts:
Beast's Castle – Bridge; 8,023 Years Ago:
"Is everyone in position?" Ephemer called out to his assembled army. They had tracked the Leopardos Foreteller's movements back to Ursus' headquarters at a castle in what will eventually be known as France. Eager to hit now before he could lead more troops to the warfront, Ephemer had organized a hit and run raid with the express goal of assassinating Ava's killer. Now two dozen Unchained stood in the shadow of what would eventually be called Beast's Castle doing one last run down of their equipment in preparation for their mission. Now, after a week of travel and planning, everything was finally ready.

Everyone in the group nodded their heads in agreement, and without any further noise, the strike team leaped over the gates and began scaling the bridge leading to the castle. Ephemer reached the top first, killing the two sentries standing guard at the gates leading to the courtyard before they even knew he was there. Skuld was the next one up, shaking her head in disgust at her friend's tactics.

"Was that really necessary?" she whispered as the rest of the strike team reached the bridge.

"They chose to steep themselves in Darkness," the silver haired leader of the Unchained retorted. "They deserve their fate." Skuld sighed in frustration but held her tongue as she and the rest of the unit ran along the walls of the courtyard until they found a defensible corner with the fewest guards. Ephemer took his own route, slitting the sentries' throats with his Keyblade in utter silence. His soldiers crossed the courtyard as he ran to the center and pushed the gargoyle statues into position. When the hidden door opened in the tower to the left of the stairs, the group stealthily raced towards it.

Ephemer lead his army through the hidden passage until they came to the balcony overlooking the castle ballroom. Down below, Aced and his lieutenants of the Ursus guild. They were discussing a recent attack by Anguis on one of their outposts. But from the sound of their conversation, Gula wasn't anywhere in the castle.

"Damn it. He's not here," Ephemer whispered to himself before turning to the rest of his strike team. "Alright everyone, here's the plan. We can still salvage this even if Gula's not here."

"So glad you could join us, traitor," Aced's voice called out from the ground, stopping the Unchained army cold.
[HR][/HR]Earth – Los Angeles; Now:

"Okay," Hades began. "As long as nobody does anything to attract attention, we should be fine." Enraged at his wife's demise, Hades had guided the Jolly Roger to Los Angeles in search of one of the auxiliary entrances to the Underworld in the hopes of bringing his wife back from the dead. Unfortunately, the Avengers had arrived to apprehend them and he and the members of the Hellfire Club still loyal to Maleficent. They had spent the last day attempting to get the heroes off their trail so that they could reach the entrance to the Underworld. He turned around to look forlornly at his wife's corpse. Frozen in stasis by a hastily cast Blizzaga spell, you'd hardly know she was dead were it not for the large gaping stab wound in her chest.

But when one was the lord of the Underworld, such wounds were easy to heal even without extensive use of Elixirs and Curaga potions. Hades turned and nodded to Diablo. He knew where the entrance was, but after the fiasco with yesterday's battle with the Avengers, he needed to be subtle about this. Malick's men and their remaining Leroys had proven to be anything but subtle, meaning that he was going to have to do this alone. He kneeled down to give his daughter a kiss, promising to bring her mother back. And with that, he picked up Maleficent's frozen body and teleported away in a puff of smoke.

He emerged on a hill behind the famous Hollywood sign. With a wave of his hand, he read the Ancient Greek inscription carved onto the back of the giant "H". But to his confusion, nothing happened. He stepped forward, thinking that he was just too far away from the sign. But as soon as he got within five feet, an invisible force blasted him backwards. Maleficent's frozen form clattered to the ground behind him as he frantically scrambled to his feet.

"I'm sorry for your loss," a young, nasally voice called out. Hades looked up to find the portal blocked by a lanky teenage boy clad in jeans and a baggy collared shirt leaning against the large metal letters. Hades grimaced. Great, he thought to himself. And here I was hoping to get this done without picking a fight with the Higher Planes. Behind Joshua, the portal flickered into existence every few seconds.

"Out of my way Kiryu," Hades snapped as he picked up Maleficent's body. The Greek god of the dead attempted to push past the angel and enter the Underworld, but to his surprise, a barrier crystalized into existence in front of him, cutting him off from the sign.

"I can understand the pain you're in right now," Joshua Kiryu replied. "But you can't bring her back."

"Of course I can," Hades snarled. "I'm the lord of the dead, I can do whatever I want." One thing that Hades never told Maleficent about his personal history is the role that the Reapers and the Higher Planes played in his origins. Kronos had been a low-ranking angel with delusions of grandeur, his power levels only just barely higher than a Producer. His children, born from mortal mothers out of wedlock, were taken and raised in isolation. Kronos used what power he had to turn Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades into pseudo-Reapers before they worked up the courage to overthrow him. When they killed their father, they were ignorant of their true place in the celestial hierarchy, thinking themselves to be gods as Kronos had raised them to believe. That idea lasted all of five minutes when a team of Reapers and Angels stormed their father's castle.

Hades, Zeus, and Poseidon were taken to the Higher Planes, where they were informed of where they really fit on the food chain. The angel in charge of the strike team offered them three choices for their futures. They could abdicated their powers and return to being mortals living out their lives. They could become leaders of the "Middle Ones," a vaguely defined term for entities who oversaw the maintenance and workings of the natural world and were more powerful than Producers but less powerful than Angels. Or they could try to continue their father's legacy and be executed. The three siblings chose the second option, and the rest was history.

There were three openings in the Middle Ones at the time: The Middle Ones in charge of overseeing the sky, sea, and afterlife were looking to choose successor, and there was only room for one applicant each. That was where the famous "drawing lots" scene of mythology came in. The three brothers had been given twenty-four hours to decide which path they each wanted to take, and after a few too many drinks, Zeus had suggested drawing straws. And that was how Hades had become the apprentice to Anubis, overseer of the Underworld.

"Not anymore," Joshua retorted, snapping Hades out of his reminiscing. "Don't you remember what Anubis told you while he was grooming you to take over the position? The shepherd of the dead cannot play favorites. Besides, Tethered worlds may mean that you've only been away from your post for a few years, but as far as Earth is concerned, the Underworld has been without an overseer for over two thousand years." Hades' eyes widened as comprehension dawned on him. Kiryu was telling him that because he'd ditched the Underworld to join up with the Hellfire Club, he'd been replaced. And Anubis had been quite clear on what happened to overseers of the afterlife who abandoned their post. His access to the Underworld had been cut off, his power levels hobbled, and his life expectancy entirely dependent on how long he could evade the celestial entities sent to hunt him down.

"No…" he whispered frantically, desperately hoping that he was only dreaming.

"I'm sorry, Hades," Joshua remarked, showing a rare moment of compassion for someone whose deeds at this point were so despicable. "I can understand being tired of the monotony of the job, but your actions are unacceptable. After you abandoned your office, the Higher Planes shuffled the job around to a few different people until they finally shoved it off to me a few weeks ago. Personally, I think that they did it as a punishment for all the times I've bent the rules in the Reaper's Game over the years, added to the fact that I tried to wipe Shibuya off the map… But I've been getting off track." The "teen" cleared his throat, his demeanor becoming more formal.

"Hades, by the power vested in me by the Higher Planes as overseer of the Underworld, I hereby declare you guilty of abandoning your post with malicious intent, and hereby sentence you to death." In a flash of light, Joshua's casual clothes were replaced by medieval plate armor, and the familiar form of Excalibur appeared in his hands. Grief-stricken, enraged, and refusing to let this man make an orphan of his daughter. His anger mounting, Hades raised his arms and released a veritable tornado of bright orange flames from his arms, his fiery hair creating a thirteen-mile-high column of fire in the sky as he lashed out at the former Composer of Shibuya.

When the tornado dissipated, the entire hillside was in flames. The Hollywood sign was reduced to a melting line of molten metal as ash rained and smoke billowed up into the sky. A single white feater floated to the ground above the remains of the sign, completely untouched by the smoke and fire around it, a clear sign that Joshua Kiryu had escaped the inferno unscathed. As Hades dropped to his knees in emotional agony and collected Maleficent's body, singed and stripped of its cryogenic preservation, but still intact, the telltale light of an Arc Reactor grew in the distance as Iron Man and the Avengers closed in on the leader of the Hellfire Loyalists.
[HR][/HR]The entrance to the Underworld being in L.A. is a shout out to the Percy Jackson series. Unlike in that series, where the entrances to Mount Olympus and the Underworld and such moves over time, the entrances to both are fixed in this universe, and the Underworld just has multiple entrances at different points on the globe (one entrance on each continent). Hades is simply using the L.A. entrance since it's closest to where Hook's ship landed. I decided to go with the Hollywood sign entrance from the movie adaptation (even though I enjoyed the first movie despite its flaws, the second one was terrible) since it would attract less attention than Hades carrying Maleficent's body through Los Angeles to DOA Records.

As for where Hades and the Greek pantheon from Hercules fit with in the celestial hierarchy of The World Ends With You, they're a few spaces above Reapers, but bellow Angels. Zeus and Hades' power levels are slightly above that of Composers and Producers depending on the individual. For instance, now that Joshua has replaced Hades as ruler of the Underworld, Joshua now outranks him. As for how this fits with Hades' Greek mythology esque backstory in The Xehanort War that he told Maleficent, my explanation is that he left out any mention of the whole plane system from TWEWY because he's forbidden from speaking of it, sort of like how the Producer isn't allowed to directly reveal himself to anyone on either side of the Reaper's Game. If Hades were to tell mortals that the Greek gods were not as high on the celestial hierarchy as everyone thinks they are, he'd be, in TV Tropes terms, Killed To Uphold The Masquerade.

I know nothing really happened in this chapter to move the story forward, but I just wanted to make it clear that Maleficent was absolutely, definitively, no-chance-of-ever-being-brought-back dead. Given that she's survived before in canon, I just felt the need to make it crystal clear in this story to avoid confusion or pointless speculation on if I'll change my mind. I'm not. I've got the next saga planned out to the very end and she's not coming back, as much as she is my favorite villain. On another note, virtual brownie points for whoever can spot the Hamilton reference in Hades and Joshua's confrontation. Josh using Excalibur is a reference to the Knights of the Cross from the Dresden Files by the way.
 

KeybladeOrder

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Chapter 4: Salt the Earth:
Earth – Atilan; 8,021 Years Ago:

Thousands of years before the Unchained Legion will attempt to assemble the Infinity Gauntlet, panicked Inhumans ran screaming through the streets as the capital of the Inhuman Empire burned. Medusa's sister, Crystal, watched in shock, horror, and anger as Jenova floated overhead, laying waste to the city from above. Unchained Legionnaires and Anguis troops swarmed out of the hole the rebellious Inhuman left in the wall of the royal palace, keenly aware that despite their quarrel with the Inhumans that their survival depended on Jenova's desrtuctions. As an energy blast from Jenova destroyed another building across the city, killing hundreds of Inhumans in a single fireball, Crystal Amaquelin wept for the fate of her kingdom.

"This is all on you," she snapped as Invi, Ophelia, and Valerie came through the wall behind the last of their armies.
"Crystal," Invi replied as the Unchained commanders went on ahead to rejoin their Legion. "We're all to blame in all of this. If your husband hadn't joined forces with Ursus and Leopardos – "

"We wouldn't have had to if the guilds had done more to protect my people from persecution and prejudice!" Medusa retorted. "My sister and her husband did what was necessary to protect our people. You're the ones who allowed that madwoman access to the Terrigen Vault! Don't pretend you're any better than those you despise, Foreteller. You're all so focused on "the greater good" that you ignore the suffering and hardship that bubbles just beneath the surface. Don't act all high and mighty just because it finally boiled over for all to see. If it weren't for you, Medusa would still be alive." With that, the Inhuman princess retreated into the palace, barking orders to her father's guards to contact the Genetic Council about retrieving something called "The Monolith".

Focusing on the matter at hand, Invi forced her old friend's words out of her mind as she leaped down from the parapet she stood on to join the fray. The exhilarating feel of the wind rushing through her azure hair was muted by the drama and sorrow of the moment as she focused on the task at hand. About ten floors below where she'd jumped, she kicked off the walls and launched herself towards the rooftops of the square surrounding the Boltagons' palace. Just like when I fought with Aced, the Foreteller Anguis thought to herself as she summoned her Keyblade and fired a Prism Rain spell at Jenova before running along the roof to dodge an incoming fireball. She cursed as she recalled that the Inhuman had been adept at combat magic even before her Terrigenesis.

Thankfully, her warriors were keeping the madwoman contained. As Invi ran along the rooftops towards where Jenova hovered above the city walls, she spotted the Unchained Legion joining the fray and firing spells at the monstrosity above. Invi grimaced as she recalled how zealous Ephemer's army was in their views about the superiority of the light and their hatred for anything that they felt was corrupted by Darkness. Admittedly, she reminded herself as she dodged a Mega Flare, she was just as dogmatic as they were about the superiority of the light, and had no moral high ground But the Unchained took their views to lengths even she considered extreme.

Thunder echoed from above as a flaming red missile streaked down through the cloud layer. Good, she thought to herself. It's about time the air support arrived. The Foreteller slid down a rooftop and landed next to one of her lieutenants. The young man handed her a radio as she began calling out battle strategies to bring down Jenova. Between flight capable Inhumans and the airships of the Leopardos guild, the Boltagon loyalists held air superiority over the Inhuman Empire. But with the aid of the Unchained Legion's stolen Atlantean battle craft and the airships provided by the kingdom of Lucis when King Regis declared for Anguis at the cost of his alliance with Wakanda.

The destruction of friendships is always the greatest casualty of war, the leader of the Anguis guild thought to herself as Jenova's blob-like form shifted into a vaguely humanoid shape coated in shell-like armored plates with large black wings sprouting from her back. In the months following Ava's murder and the sinking of Atlantis, the different kingdoms and empires of the world had been forced to choose sides. Alliances were made and broken as world leaders scrambled to decide on a faction to support. For thousands of years, Wakanda had been in a trade alliance with the kingdom of Lucis, providing coveted Wakandan technology in exchange for access to Lucian shipping routes.

When the war broke out, Wakanda chose to follow the example of Vulpeus and remain neutral in the conflict. The king of Lucis, however, chose to ally his country with the Anguis guild, offering their Wakandan technology for the war effort. Outraged at their technology being used by other nations without their consent, the ruling Black Panther of Wakanda withdrew the treaty and stopped supplying the Lucian government with access to Wakanda's research laboratories. But it hadn't mattered. Even cut off from Wakanda, the weapons and vehicles Lucis already possessed were more than enough to help turn the tide in the war effort. Now they were taking control of the Atilan sieges and devastating the Leopardos fleet.

With deft parkour skills, Invi ran up a nearby building before slashing at Jenova's winged form. Jenova dodged before striking back, her arm forming into a blade-like appendage that knocked the Foreteller back to the ground, leaving a crater in the street. Thank Kingdom Hearts for Keyblade-enhanced durability, Invi thought as she climbed to her feet in time to watch a falling Leopardos airship knock Jenova off balance as a powerful Graviga spell began to appear on the roof of the palace's tallest tower. Jenova's now dazed form was quickly drawn into the rapidly expanding sphere of gravitational energy, dragging her towards the palace.

Invi ran along the rooftops in pursuit to see what was happening. As the sphere began to dissipate, a large grey stone was revealed in the center of the spell. It was as large as a single person and so thick that not even Aced could wrap his arms around the entire thing at its widest point. And as soon as Jenova's semi-conscious body dropped to the floor of the tower roof, the stone melted into a flood of grey liquid, sucking the madwoman in before reforming into a rock, leaving no sign of the rebellious Inhuman.
[HR][/HR]Earth – The Playground; Now:

With the Avengers and most of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s top agents out battling the remnants of the Hellfire Club along the west coast of the United States, the Secret Warriors and most of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s personnel were stuck back at the Playground keeping their metaphorical and virtual eyes peeled for any signs of activity from Draco or any indication of movement from the Unchained Legion. Between that and the fact that two of the Koenig brothers had died the last time Sephiroth's offspring attacked their central headquarters, the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and C.I.N. were more than ready when the so-called "Advent Children" returned.

Kadaj parried Vanitas' strikes while Yazoo and Loz traded blows with Daisy and Shego. The siblings' quest for Jenova's remains had lead them to the conclusion that the Unchained Legion was in possession of the ancient Inhuman's corpse. And since neither faction of the now splintered Hellfire Club possessed adequate intelligence on the Legion and their bases, that left S.H.I.E.L.D.'s mainframe as the only source of information for them to turn to. But while the silver-haired trio were able to catch everyone off guard the last time they were desperate enough to attack the base, this time they were quickly losing ground as they fought tooth and nail to get to the Playground's server room.

After knocking Vanitas back, Kadaj nodded to this older brothers and warped out of the room. While Yazoo and Loz kept S.H.I.E.L.D. and Coalition Intelligence busy, the youngest of Sephiroth's offspring was busy hacking into the mainframe and searching for the files that he needed. With Daisy Johnson out on the front lines instead of bolstering the firewalls, he was in and out with his prize in under five minutes. Kadaj slammed the laptop closed and warped through the corridors to the lair only for his eyes to widen in horror when he emerged from the Corridor of Darkness just in time to watch Loz take a plasma blast to the gut courtesy of Shego. Dark wisps of smoke began drifting up from the eldest brother's body as the Secret Warrior continued to hurl plasma bursts at her much larger opponent.

Yazoo frantically intensified his already rapid cover fire as Kadaj raced over to try and cast a Curaga spell as his brother slumped against the wall. His panicked breathing increased in speed as the spell failed to take hold, bringing the son of the infamous mercenary to a horrified realization that his eldest brother was not long for this world.

"Brother," Loz whispered. His skin was already pale and his form was flickering between translucent and opaque as the wisps of Darkness rising from his body became thicker and more frequent. "Tell father… I died… bravely…" And with that, the darkness consumed him. When the smoky haze disspated, he was gone. His custom gauntlet the only sign he had ever existed to begin with. Kadaj and Yazoo both shed tears amidst the storm of bullets and spells as they mourned their fallen brother. With a nod, the two brothers left the base through Dark Corridors. As they left, Agents FitzSimmons fired an old "Bambino" prototype at Yazoo's rapidly closing portal of darkness.

Kadaj sighed in relief as he stepped out of his corridor seconds later into the comforting entrance hall of their castle on Maveth. He turned around to speak to Yazoo, only to stand frozen in shock at the sight of his brother standing still with a gaping, blood soaked wound in his stomach. Without thinking he raced to catch Yazoo as he crumpled to the ground, once again trying futilely to heal the injury even as familiar dark smoke began to drift up from his dying sibling. Blood soaked Kadaj's hands as he attempted to use a hastily summoned first aid kit to stitch the wound closed, but it was already too late. Yazoo reached up and pressed his gun into his brother's hand.

"We can't change the past," the silver-haired man groaned weakly, his breathing ragged. "What's done is done. Our quest was doomed before we even began… So don't throw your life away Kadaj. Go out there and find your path. Father would want you to live. So go out and do it." And with that, the son of Sephiroth breathed his last. Tears continued to flow as it hit home to Kadaj that his brothers and father, the only family besides his mother he'd ever known, were gone. He was alone. A wail of anguish and agony echoed through the halls of the citadel as Kada wept over his brother's guns for several hours. Once his tears were spent and his energy exhausted, he stood up, removed the thumb drive containing the stolen files from his pocket, and marched off to clean the drive and unlock its secrets.
[HR][/HR]Since this was going to be another chapter focused on Sephiroth's kids, I thought a flashback to how Jenova was banished to Maveth in the first place would be an appropriate way to start the chapter. I decided to give Invi (the Anguis Foreteller) some time in the spotlight to get the Foretellers' perspective on the Keyblade War and the rise of the Unchained Legion. Jenova's winged battle form is a reference to the FF7/Harry Potter crossover Harry Potter and the Cetra Heritage. And I did try to work in some characters and locations from Final Fantasy XV. I figured that if they're going to show up in the Kingdom Hearts universe, the time period of the Keyblade War would be the best place to include it for this story.

There will be one more flashback to the fall of Atilan to show the aftermath of Jenova's banishment, and then the rest of the Keyblade War-era flashbacks will focus on other major campaigns in the war and the aftermath of the Siege of Daybreak Town. Anyway, now that their crusade has cost Yazoo and Loz their lives, Kadaj is going to become even more desperate to bring back Sephiroth. While there will be those expecting a rehash of the final battle of Advent Children, I can assure you that this will not be the case. Things are going to take on a more interesting twist when Kadaj finally reaches that point in his plans.
 

KeybladeOrder

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This is it, folks. The final chapter of Part 1. I'm going to take tomorrow off before starting Part 2. Then the real fun will begin.
[HR][/HR]Chapter 5: Rescue Mission:
Earth – The Isle of Draco:
Deep beneath the surface of Draco, Dark Elf women and children toiled in the heart of the island's dormant volcano digging tunnels and wheeling rocks and debris up to the surface as excavation teams continued to dig in search of the legendary Infinity Gauntlet. In his increasing Mania for the Gauntlet and his revenge, Malekith had decreed that the Elven civilians needed to contribute to the mining effort so that his warriors could focus on fighting off the rivals factions he knew would even now be homing in on the island and making their way there to steal the Infinity Gauntlet for themselves. Algrim had protested, as the conditions in the mines were quickly becoming brutal a few days into their occupation. Malekith had dismissed his lieutenant's concerns claiming that they needed to be able to use the Gauntlet to defend the island. Since Malekith no longer believed Algrim could be objective in supervising the excavation, Demona was placed in charge of overseeing the mining operations.

Suddenly, dirt rained from the ceiling as the cavern shook. Alarmed, Demona glided up the inside of the volcano shaft to the mine's exit so she could get a better vantage point on what was going on. When she crested the peak of the cone, her eyes widened with shock as they witnessed the sight of twenty warships flying the flag of the Unchained Legion closing in on Draco from all sides. Every few seconds, at least one warship would fire their long-range guns at either the Nathalis or the volcano. The female gargoyle barely scrambled out of the way as cannon fire impacted against the slope of the volcano. Creating a large crater along the mountain slopes.

Aboard the bridge of the Dark Elf command ship, Malekith seethed with fury as he surveyed in holographic map displaying the battlefield the island of dragons was quickly becoming. The incoming cannon fire from the Unchained navy was too thick to send out the smaller Elven ships without risking them being torn apart. Proximity sensors began to wail as Corridors of Light began opening along the shores of Draco, spilling out dozens of Unchained onto the island. Malekith ordered the gunners aboard the Nathalis to target the Unchained before ordering his remaining armies to focus on defending the mines at all costs. A dome of energy shielded his command ship from serious damage, but even the Dark Elf warship's energy shield would not be able to withstand the artillery fire for much longer.

Out in the ocean, half the remaining members of the High Council stood on the top deck of the battle cruiser built and constructed in secret in preparation for this day. Skuld, Aurilam, and Lerena stood on the deck watching the beginning of the Siege of Draco with rapid interest as cannon fire from the other ships launched devastating broadsides against the mostly undefended island. To the Imperator's left, Aurilam snacked on a celebratory bucket of fried chicken while to her right, Lerena was busy cleaning Gonzales' blood off of her daggers. The lead assassin of the Legion had snuck into S.H.I.E.L.D.'s "Playground" while Sephiroth's bastards attacked the base, interrogating the former High Praetor about how much he'd said before executing the man for his betrayal.

"We've almost done it," Lerena commented in awe as she finished cleaning her knives and reached over to mooch some chicken from Aurilam. "After eight thousand years we finally have all six Infinity Stones and the Gauntlet of the First Keyblade Master is almost within our grasp."

"We don't have it yet," Skuld replied as she looked forlornly at the fire and smoke defiling such a beautiful island. So much was being sacrificed for a goal that the Novus Imperator was no longer certain she believed in. The Huntsmaster was leading the remainder of the Huntsclan in assaulting the eastern coast of Draco, while the Chaste had abandoned their secret war with The Hand in order to aid in assaulting the island's west coast. With the exception of the traitors Rose Long and Natasha Romanov, every Unchained on the planet was gathered here in the ocean surrounding the draconic isle in a full court press to achieve the Endgame Skuld herself had proposed thousands of years ago.

"True," Aurilam remarked. "But as Lerena said, it's only a matter of time."

"Speaking of time," Lerena added coyly. "Isn't it about time you introduced us to our newest friend?" The former Graceful Assassin smirked triumphantly as if to say he thought she'd never ask.

"Well young man," he called out as he turned to face the lone figure standing in the shadows of the corridor leading down into the ship's lower levels. "Are you ready to prove your commitment to making the world a better place?"

"Happy to comply," Sora answered as he stepped out onto the deck, Keyblade in hand.
[HR][/HR]New York City – Stark Tower; One hour later:

Kairi took deep breaths as she paced back and forth across the common room of Stark Tower. She'd been tossing and turning with worry every night for the last four days, and now she couldn't take it anymore. Between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers handling the fight against the Hellfire Club loyalists, Coalition Intelligence trying to prepare for an all-out assault on the Isle of Draco, and the Unchained Legion completely underground, there was nothing to do. She felt as if she was helplessly waiting for the bad guys to make a move. Compounded with the fact that they were doing Kingdom Hearts knows what to her fiancé, and she was beginning to get a little stir crazy. There was only so much she could do as a tourist to lift her spirits before she began to feel bored.

Suddenly, an idea popped its way into existence inside her head. While she and Sora had been preparing for their wedding and writing up their vows, they had come across an old Radiant Garden proverb talking about your home being where the people you loved were. Since the Door to Light transported people to wherever they considered home, then theoretically, she could use that proverb as a loophole to get the door to take her right to Sora's location. There's only one way to test it though, she thought to herself before movement in the hallway leading into the common area snapped her out of her thoughts.

"Kairi?" Riku called out groggily as the silver-haired Keyblade Master walked into the room behind her. "What are you doing up?"

"I have an idea to find Sora," she told him excitedly before explaining her plan.

"Kairi," he replied. "I get it. We're all worried about him. But running off without a plan is just going to get you killed."

"I know that Riku," she retorted. "But I have to do this. We've just been sitting here and hoping for good news all week. I need to do something and not just sit here waiting for the green light to take the fight to the Legion. I'll be careful. I'm not going to try and stop them all by myself. I'm just going to get in, grab Sora, and get back out. I'll be back within a day, already." Riku's concerned look softened slightly as he let out a sigh. He knew that once Kairi had set her mind to something, there was no stopping her.

"May your heart be your guiding key," he told her, using an old saying that Aqua had learned from Eraqus that had fallen out of use decades ago that Mickey and Aqua inadvertently brought back in recent months. After a few seconds of concentration, a Door to Light appeared against the glass, lighting up the room as bright as a spotlight.

"And yours as well," Kairi replied, recognizing the phrase. And with that, she stepped through the door as the light vanished behind her. Be safe, Kairi, Riku thought to himself as he went to wake the other Keyblade Wielders and inform them of the Princess of Heart's decision. Whether she returned with Sora or not, Riku had a feeling that she was going to need a whole lot of backup either way.
[HR][/HR]Okay, so with the final trailer for Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue skyrocketing my hype levels for the game to come out (only need to save $61 until I can buy a PlayStation 4), I decided to throw in the "May Your Heart Be Your Guiding Key" phrase that Mickey, Aqua, and the Master of Masters from KHX were throwing around in the trailer as a nice little mythology gag. Although I try to keep my stories as canon-compliant as possible, 2.8 was announced after I was already a third of the way through writing The Xehanort War. Since I had gone too far to go back and re-write the affected aspects of the story and I had no idea what would be included in 0.2 or Back Cover, I kept things as they were. Nevertheless, I do like to include the things introduced after I started writing this crazy intricate universe last year.

And that, my loyal readers, is the end of Part 1. I was originally going to have the Unchained Legion attacking Draco and Kairi heading off to rescue Sora as separate chapters, with a few Keyblade War era flashbacks to bolster the word count a bit, but I decided that for the sake of the sequence of events it would be better to have the two events back to back in the same chapter. So that's one chapter less in this story. I may cut out one or two more chapters if I feel that the events I want to cover can be condensed, but this chapter is the end of the buildup.

From here on out, it's going to be almost entirely action and battle sequences. And when I say battle sequences, I am talking about something on the scale of the battle of New York in The Avengers, or the Resistance attacking Starkiller Base in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, or the Battle of Hollow Bastion in Kingdom Hearts 2. The final battle of this saga is going to be long, drawn out, and epic. So prepare yourselves for several weeks of brutal Keyblade-on-Keyblade warfare, harsh betrayals, second chances, and one hell of a ride. Be afraid everyone, be very afraid.
 

KeybladeOrder

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Alright, everyone. The preparations are complete. Now it's time for the battle to begin. Sorry this chapter is so short but I've been away from the house and spending time with family today, so I had to cut some stuff short.
[HR][/HR]Part 2: Invasion:
Chapter 6: Turning The Tide:
Earth – D.E.S. Nathatlis:

"So," Malekith remarked as he paced back and forth across the bridge of the Nathalis. "Your armies are broken, your hiding places rooted out, and so now you turn to me. How ironic." Outside the window, explosions bloomed up and down the shoreline as the Unchained warships continued to fire upon Draco. Occasionally, the Nathalis would rock from the force of a cannon blast impacting against the ship's defensive shields.

"How do you think I feel?" Hades replied bitterly as he stood with his arms clasped behind his back, flanked by Captain Hook and Diablo as he attempted to negotiate an uneasy truce with the man who murdered his wife. But unfortunately, desperate times called for equally desperate measures. The Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. had completely annihilated the last remnants of HYDRA. All that was left of the Hellfire Club were about a hundred Leroys, Nebula, Helga, Gaston, Scroop, Hamsterviel, and the remnants of Maleficent's inner circle. The rest of Maleficent's council had pressured Hades into negotiating a truce with Malekith's defectors in a desperate gamble to maintain their power.

"Even before I killed Maleficent you tried to destroy me," the Dark Elf king began. "So why should I ally myself with someone who has sought my extermination? Who has attempted to undercut me and remove me from your ranks?" The ship rocked again as another round of Unchained artillery struck The Nathalis' shields. Sirens began to blare alerting the bridge crew to the fact that the rear starboard energy shields were failing. Hades smiled the grin of a shark smelling blood, or, given Hades' personality, a salesman who knew that he was about to close a deal.

"Because no matter how much you despise us, you still need us," the former lord of the dead answered. "Even if you manage to hold off the Legion for more than a few hours, S.H.I.E.L.D., The Avengers, the Asgardians, and the Coalition are coming to take the Gauntlet from us. You may be able to hold off one group for a few days, but not all of them at once. The only way to survive this is to help each other. So, do we have a deal?" Malekith desperately wanted to reject Hades' offer out of hand. To refuse to have any ties with a deity who had ordered the annihilation of his army. But there were too many arguments against it to reject the offer. Reluctantly, he held out his hand.

"We do," the Dark Elf king said through gritted teeth.
[HR][/HR]The Lanes Between – G.S. Stormfall:

"Alright everyone, listen up!" Riku began as friends and acquaintances from across Coalition space gathered in the hangar bay of the Stormfall as it orbited the Earth. After the Unchained Legion's attack on Earth's moon, Aqua had pulled Coalition forces back aboard the Gummi battle cruiser in preparation for just this moment. A small platoon of U.C.A. troops stood at attention as they waited for instructions, while Vanitas and a dozen C.I.N. agents watched from the catwalks overhead as they prepared for their own phase of the plan. Even a few members of the S.A.C.K. were present, exploring Gummi Ships for the first time as they waited for the briefing to begin.

"I'm aware that right now, things look bleak," the silver haired Keyblade Master went on. "Maleficent may be dead and the Hellfire Club fractured, but the Unchained Legion has managed to obtain all six Infinity Stones, and Sora has been taken prisoner. We don't know to what end, but we all know that it can't be anything good. Right now, a splinter faction of the Hellfire Club has taken an island called Draco, believing that the Gauntlet of the First Keyblade Master is buried there." A hologram of the world with a blinking red dot to indicate Draco appeared over his head to emphasize his point.

"Given the fact that Unchained Legion is desperately laying siege to the island, there's a high probability that the Gauntlet really is there, so we'll need to act quickly. Our fighter squadrons will be providing cover fire so that our troop transports can reach the island and keep the artillery fire away from the soldiers on the ground. I'm not going to sugar coat it, ladies and gentlemen. The odds are against us, and casualties are going to be high. But if we don't take the island and get our hands on the Gauntlet before any of the forces of evil do, then the worlds as we know them will never be the same."

On either side of him, Terra, Aqua, and Mickey nodded their heads in agreement. It was all hands on deck for this mission, and Riku was ready to make sure that they finally snuffed out the Legion for good. Everyone on this ship knew the risks when they had agreed to join the voyage to Earth. They had all made the necessary preparations if any one of them perished today. Leadership of their delegation to Earth had been passed over to Ienzo, while Roxas, Xion, and Lea had been called out of hiding to help protect Coalition territory. Terra and Aqua did not wish to leave their son an orphan, but the worlds needed them right now, and if both of them were to die today, Queen Minnie had been named as his guardian in their will.

"So," Riku added after another dramatic pause. "Let's do this!" A roar of applause went up from the assembled army as each division loaded up into the dropships waiting to ferry them all to Draco. Up above, Coalition Intelligence agents climbed into Starfighter cockpits as they readied themselves for battle. Vanitas warped down from the upper levels of the hangar as the Keyblade Wielders present gathered around for one final pre-battle discussion before they had to board their respective ships (or in Vanitas' case, take a Dark Corridor down to Draco with a handpicked team of C.I.N. agents for a stealth incursion).

"I still don't think Kairi should have gone alone," Aqua commented.

"I don't like it any more than you do, Aqua," Riku replied. "But we all know that once she sets her mind to something, there's no stopping her. And she's convinced that she can rescue Sora and deal some damage to the Legion behind the scenes while she's at it."

"It's dangerous," Mickey agreed. "But also a risk worth taking. If she and Sora can deal enough damage, they can cripple at least one Unchained ship and help even the odds for the rest of us."

"Either way," Terra added. "The only way to know for sure is to get down there and find them both. Agent Romanov's comm channels indicated that all the Unchained are there surrounding Draco. I doubt they would have left their prisoners behind unguarded. So we get down there, and we'll find them." Everyone nodded in agreement before saying their final goodbyes before the battle. Terra leaned over and gave his wife a pre-battle kiss. Riku gave Mickey a reassuring handshake.

"May our hearts be our guiding key," Mickey, Riku, Aqua, and Terra said in unison before heading to their respective Gummi ships.

"Yeah, yeah," Vanitas remarked snarkily as he opened a Corridor of Darkness in the back of the room. After days of planning and preparation, it was show time.
[HR][/HR]And with that, the three-way Battle of Draco has now officially begun. This is going to be a lot like a cross between the Keyblade Graveyard and Cable Town battles in The Xehanort War combined and on steroids. Expect lots of explosions and long chapters of action with every major and minor character present for this fight getting at least a paragraph of focus in the lengthy final battle. I had an uneasy alliance between the two splintered factions of the Hellfire Club so that I could have all the bad guys in one place for this fight without leaving anyone out. That whole paragraph thing applies to the villains too, so look forward to some more bad guy introspection as well.
 

KeybladeOrder

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Messages
374
Location
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Something I'm going to do from now until the fighting is over is provide three songs to listen to and get your blood pumping at the start of each chapter. For starters:

Here Comes The General from Hamilton
See Who I Am by Within Temptation
Awake by Skillet
[HR][/HR]Chapter 7: The Enemy of My Enemy:

"Sometimes, I worry about little Ienzo. The death of a parent at any age is an event that brings great sorrow into one's heart. But to lose them when he was so young, and in such a violent manner at that, would traumatize anyone. Ansem adopted the child out of guilt for the fact that one of his own guards was responsible for his parents deaths, and did the best he could to fill the void in the child's life. But because of his duties as king, there would be at least one day each week where I would be forced to play babysitter.

While I usually detest children, I have fond memories of the times when Lord Ansem and I managed to cheer him up. The feelings of pride when he showed us a successful experiment, or an idea for social programs. Where Ansem filled the role of a surrogate father, I fit the job of honorary uncle like a glove. Still, despite our best efforts, the once energetic and inquisitive boy remained firmly entrenched in his shell of shyness. And now I worry what effect my liege's latest charity case will have on the boy.

Since Xehanort's arrival six months ago, Ienzo has been fascinated by the mysterious young man, constantly asking questions. Ordinarily, I would have been overjoyed that my surrogate nephew was finally coming out of his shell, only someone who did not bear witness to the deceptions and machinations of politics would be blind to the fact that Xehanort was clearly manipulating the boy. Ansem cannot see it, because he always believes the best in everyone, but I know it's there.

I mean, honestly. When Ienzo begged his adopted father to build our new basement laboratory after already telling Xehanort no, that should have been the first warning sign. But my king's greatest flaw is that he is far too trusting for his own good. That is why betrayals by people he considers trustworthy hurt him so deeply. But Ansem has always tried to make everyone happy, and that will be his downfall one day.

Despite my opinion on the morally dubious nature of Xehanort's hypotheses, I go along with him. I always ask myself why, and then I remember the answer when an emotionally frail ten-year-old wakes me in the middle of the night because he had a nightmare and his adoptive father is working late. While I would never dream of having children of my own, Ienzo is probably the closest I will ever come to having a son of my own.

So, I bite my tongue and swallow my objections if it means I can shield him from the morality consuming quest for the secrets of the heart that Xehanort seeks. Even then, there are some things that even I cannot screen. Just this morning, he asked Xehanort if the old adage about a married couple being of one heart was actually possible. There was no malice behind it, simply a child's curiosity of the world around him and things he'd heard neighbors say about his parents.

Now Xehanort has decided to test that theory, and he's even had the gall to insist that the boy actively participate in our research. I tried to protest, but I was soundly outvoted. Dilan, swayed by the idea that the boy will need to be exposed to the horrors of the world (as if his parents' violent murder at the hands of a drunk, lecherous-minded guardsman wasn't horror enough!), sided with Xehanort and Braig. Only Aeleus agrees with my objections, having helped care for the boy as much as I have. I continue to protest, but I am under no illusions as to what road Xehanort is leading us down. May whatever gods that exist in this universe have mercy on our souls.
Even Report 0"
[HR][/HR]The Isle of Draco – Beyond the Reef:

"HELMSMAN! BRING US ABOUT!" Dr. Joshua Sweet, former medical officer of the original expedition to Atlantis and one of the highest-ranking leaders of the Society of Advanced Cultural Knowledge, had to shout at the top of his lungs to be heard over the din of battle as klaxons blared and the concussive shockwaves of depth charges roared around him. Rebuild and upgraded with modern weaponry and Atlantean technology, the Ulysses had served as a mobile command center for the S.A.C.K. since its formation. Now, with what would most surely be one of the most significant wars in the history of Earth and mankind as a whole, it was being called into service as a battleship.

"LOAD THE TORPEDO BAYS! SUB POD CREWS, BATTLE STATIONS!" Peggy Rogers roared just as loudly as Society volunteers scrambled to their stations. To help distract the Unchained armada, the submarine and its all-volunteer crew were assigned to cause as much undersea chaos as they could. Down on the launch deck, Neku, Shiki, Beat, Rhyme, Vinnie, Mole, the Johnsons, the FitzSimmons, the Hunters, Mack, Cobra Bubbles, Jumba, Pleakley, Kim, Ron, and ten other S.A.C.K. members scrambled into the ship's fourteen Sub Pods while Nani, David, Lilo, and the other members stationed in the ship's torpedo turrets fired crystal-powered broadsides at the nearest Unchained ship.

At the fifty mile perimeter the Legion had established around the Isle of Draco, warships and submarines from every country on the planet streamed through the water towards the island, firing at the semi-aquatic Gummi Ships as they did so. Thor used his hammer to bring a lightning bolt down on the deck of The Atlantis, setting the munitions scattered across the ship's bow on fire and tearing a hole in the upper decks while Iron Man and War Machine peppered The Anguis with missile fire and repulsor blasts. Above the clouds, Captain America leaped from the back of the Avengers' Quinjet without a parachute and hurtled down like a missile towards where The Invi was anchored off the shore of Draco. Black Widow, the Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, and Stitch followed behind with parachutes, while the Secret Warriors prepared to do the same in boarding The Vulpeus.

Jake, Rose, Falcon, Hawkeye, Black Panther, and Wasp attacked The Daybreak while the Guardians of the Galaxy provided cover fire by bombarding the upper decks of The Sokovia. In the midst of the chaos, Gummi Ship troop transports landed on the shores of Draco, where hundreds of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Coalition troops, and soldiers from nearly every army on Earth gorged out of the ships onto the crater-filled beaches. Gunshots, plasma bolts, and magic spells flew back and forth as the forces of good fought tooth and nail to break the defensive lines set up by the Hellfire Club remnants. Lightning jumped to the side as a laser blast from a Dark Elf rifle scorches the sand where she used to be standing.

In a secluded clearing near the occupied palace of Draco, Violet used her force fields to deflect incoming laser fire from a squad of Leroys while Vanitas dispatched the defenders with swift but brutal swings of his Keyblade. Cloud and Zack felled Scroop, the scouting team's commander, with a few sword strikes to crack through his armored carapace. Sonic booms echoed constantly throughout the sky as military fighter jets arrived from the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier to unload their payloads in brutal, punishing strafing rounds against the armored hull of the Dark Elf command ship, while on the northeastern side of the island, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and the Hulk were causing chaos and confusion among the enemy forces.

Aboard the Unchained Legion's flagship, the raven-haired woman in command of the immortal army knelt in front of a small shrine erected in the common area in the heart of the Ava. Recent events had shaken her faith in the Legion's cause, and she sought solace at the shrine erected to the fallen Foreteller like all her subordinates did.

"The only true order is the order of nature," she whispered to herself as a reminder of the Legion's eventual goals once the worlds had finally been brought back together as one. "Chaotic, but ordered. Random, but structured. We are the acolytes of the natural order. It is our duty to restore Earth and mankind to its proper state… But recent events have left me confused and doubting our purpose. I've been plagued by doubts, by questions of whether what we are doing is truly what is right in the long run. Lady Ava… What should I do?" But since the woman whose death had triggered the outbreak of the Keyblade War had never had the time to Unchained herself, her followers could receive no guidance from her. Another explosion rocked the ship and reminded Skuld of where she was. The dance of death had begun.

Meanwhile, several decks below the Skuld's feet, Kairi slipped silently through the shadows. Her clothes a dark shade of violet to help her blend in with the plush carpets along the metallic corridors of the warship. She had arrived in one of the ship's storage closets, and made her way from there. Using passcodes provided by Natasha and Rose, she was able to access the fleet's mainframe and transmit strategic data on the Legion's forces to Riku and the alliance. From there, she'd used a few carefully timed Vanish spells to reach the armory and incinerate it. They knew she was there now, and were actively looking for her.

But despite the brig's prisoner logs indicating Sora had been brought in a few days ago, he wasn't there when she checked the cell he was listed in, and the mainframe didn't have any information stating what had happened to him. She was getting frantic and was just about to risk capturing and interrogating one of the guards when she rounded a corner to find her fiancé standing there, Keyblade in hand. At first, she was relieved. But then her joy turned to confusion and dread as she noticed the angry look in his eyes and the broken five-pointed star of the Unchained Legion painted across the armor on his chest.
[HR][/HR]I decided to throw in a Report for this as an alternative to flashbacks and a way to get inside the heads of side characters who I can't really focus on a lot in the present-day storyline, as well as drop some hints about things that may play out later on in this universe. Since I already killed off Even, I decided to give him some posthumous page time. His view of Ienzo as a surrogate son is based heavily on his (technically Vexen's but they're basically the same person anyway) portrayal in the amazing Kingdom Hearts AU fanfic "Why The Sun Sets Red" on Archive Of Our Own, which I think I've already mentioned in Cloak & Dagger. I thought it would be a nice little nod to the fact that Even practically helped raise Ienzo before the birth of Organization XIII. There may probably be more "shitty science dad (as he's referred to in comments on WTSSR)" references in future reports.

Yes, the lines spoken aboard the Ulysses are quotes from the Leviathan scene in Atlantis: The Lost Empire. I figured since we're seeing that ship again, it would be fitting to acknowledge the lines spoken in the movie before it's destruction. Hopefully that won't be the case this time. ;) And you'll also probably be wondering why just about every major character who's part of the S.A.C.K. is aboard the Ulysses, actual combat experience be damned. I figured that for a crisis of this scale, S.H.I.E.L.D., The Avengers, the S.A.C.K., etc. would be all hands on deck, getting everyone to help out in some way, shape, or form. So I figured it would make sense to have most of the people who aren't Avengers or Keyblade Wielder-levels of badass serving as sub pod crews or gunners aboard the Ulysses or other air and submersible craft.

One of the Unchained ships being named Atlantis is a shout out to this new sci-fi novel series I got into called The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu. Its premise is a bit too much to explain in one Author's Note, but I assure you it's action packed and very funny. The reason they named some of their warships after Invi and the Anguis union even though they were technically at odds during the Keyblade War is that she and the Unchained Legion shared similar views on Darkness and its role in the universe. Skuld's doubts are going to become a major plot point throughout this story. There are a lot of possibilities for how this will play out, and all of them still involve a lot of blood and bodies.
 

KeybladeOrder

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Messages
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Songs to listen to this chapter:
Stay Alive from Hamilton (not the reprise)
Warriors by Imagine Dragon
Not Gonna Die by Skillet
[HR][/HR]Chapter 8: Out of Distress:

"Sora, snap out of it!" Kairi yelled as she struggled against the bars of her cell, looking out at her fiancé. "This isn't you. You need to fight this. I know you can." But for some reason, Sora only looked confused.

"Why would I need to fight?" he asked. "For the first time in my life, I'm finally at peace."

"That's just what they want you to feel," Kairi retorted as she grabbed his hand through the cell. While she expected his eyes to just look blank, he simply looked sad. "Sora, whatever the Legion did to you, this isn't who you are."

"Kairi," Sora replied softly. "I haven't changed. I'm still the same guy. All the Legion's done is give me a purpose. All my life, I've just wandered around, ignorant of everything going on around me. The history of the Keyblade, Organization XIII's plans. Just look at what happened in Castle Oblivion. And after what Vanitas did to me, I was lost. But the Legion has helped me move on and be a better person. I can't change the fact that my powers have been corrupted, but I can still do what I can to make the world a better place."

Kairi's heart sank as she began to piece together what was going on in her mind. Tron had once told her about how the early versions of CLU's repurposing program were crude and left very little of a victim's personality intact, but that later versions left the program with their personalities completely unchanged except for a near-fanatic loyalty to CLU. She had hoped the Unchained Legion's brainwashing techniques were more suited to the former, but it was becoming clear that it was more in line with the latter.

"And you really think that conquering the worlds will make things better?" she asked sadly. "That all the people the Legion is willing to kill justifies their misguided utopia?"

"I do," Sora replied. And it broke Kairi's heart because the brainwashing meant that the line between what the Legion had brainwashed him into believing and what he actually believed were blurred. And she had no way of knowing. She blinked away the tears as she let go of Sora's hand and returned to the back of her cell to think. Sora looked almost heartbroken as he half-heartedly told her she'd understand eventually before leaving the room. Once she was certain he was out of earshot, she pulled out her phone and pulled up the information she'd saved on the Legion's brainwashing program from Black Widow's intel packet.

Let's see, the Princess of Heart thought to herself as she read. Cognitive recalibration not possible, but early versions of the program had failsafe codes in case someone ever subjected a Legionnaire to the Faustus Method and they needed to get them back. Activation passcode must be repeated in reverse… Got that. Okay, it says that once the password has been spoke, the subject requires a catalyst to trigger a chemical reaction in the body in order to completely purge the Faustus brainwashing. A smile crept onto Kairi's face as a plan quickly formed in her mind. All she had to do now was escape from her cell.

Thankfully, that proved to be an easy task, all thanks to a critical oversight that made her glad Sora had been the one to bring her here himself. Since one of the powers of the Keyblade was its ability to open any lock, only a dungeon built without locks could actually keep a Keyblade wielder contained. The Unchained Legion rarely took other Key Bearers prisoner, and so hadn't had the time to actually prepare a Keyblade-proof cell for her. Sora, being new to how the Legion ran things, didn't realize this and simply took it for granted that all cells were designed to prevent her from getting out with her Keyblade (either that, or he was fighting from the inside. She wanted to believe this, but she also had to be realistic about it).

Fortunately, she was able to just pull out her blade, unlock the door, use a Vanish spell to avoid the cameras, and just walk away. Once she was out of the brig, she pulled out her phone and activated the tracker she had planted in one of the gaps in Sora's Unchained armor as he was taking her to her cell. With a determined grin and the passwords for the Faustus Method memorized in her head, she set off through the ship. She had no chance against them on her own, but she knew from experience that only the X – Blade could permanently destroy an Unchained. And Sora was the only one who could remove it from its resting place inside Kingdom Hearts. Once she was far enough away from the prison, she dropped the invisibility spell and marched confidently through the corridors. She wanted these Legionnaires to know she was coming for them.

While the Novus Imperator and her inner circle kept a tight reign over their flagship, the rest of the Unchained war fleet was not faring as well. Seven carrier ships were already crippled and sinking thanks to either the Ulysses or artillery fire from the Earth navies, while the Secret Warriors were making short work of the crew aboard the Vulpeus. Daisy and her team fought tooth and nail towards the bridge of the massive Gummi Ship, dispatching Unchained along the way. Since the Unchained would just reincarnate if killed and return in two decades with a vengeance, everyone was going out of their way to defeat the immortal Keyblade wielders without killing them. Even the sinking warships had enough air and supplies to last the crew several weeks. Just long enough to finish the battle and come back to apprehend them.

Unfortunately, winning the battle with minimal enemy casualties was easier said than done, although the Inhuman strike team was having an easier time of it than most were. Part of that was thanks Yo-Yo's super speed and Joey liquefying floors, walls, and doors to disorient their opponents before restraining them with S.H.I.E.L.D.'s magnetic handcuffs developed after the battle of Sokovia back in 2015. Black Panther's strike team aboard the Daybreak was able to easily take the ship and restrain its crew thanks to the stash of Wakandan technology that T'Challa had brought with him for the battle, and quickly began turning the warship's cannons against the other Unchained vessels. This also had the side effect of focusing most of the remaining fleet's attention on them as the Legionnaires decided they would rather destroy the ship than allow it to remain in the Avengers' hands.

Meanwhile, Captain America's team couldn't reach the bridge or engine room of the Invi, and settled for irreparably destroying the ship's weapons instead and damaging the engines, leaving the flagship a sitting duck as the Avengers abandoned the ship and headed for shore. Across the bay from the crippled warship, the Sokovia was beginning to sink beneath the waves under heavy fire from the Milano. As the ship's upper decks began to dip below the water line, a lone silver-haired figure raced through the blood-stained corridors of the ship, desperately cradling a battered, caution-tape marked box in his arms. Tears of desperation and relief streamed down Kadaj's face as he reached the ship's escape pods and jetted for shore, searching for a safe place from which to bring back his family.

On the island, the tide of battle was starting to reach a stalemate. Violet, Cloud, Zack, and Vanitas, Coulson, May, Piper, and a small army of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents swarmed into the palace's back entrance armed with Destroyer class laser cannons and began to decimate the Dark Elf ranks. In the fortress' courtyard, hundreds of elven families swarmed out from the tunnel connecting the castle to the mines. Concerned for the safety of the children, Algrim had ordered the mines evacuated until the battle was over. Now if only he could just convince his liege to have the Nathalis take them into orbit where they would be safe. Unfortunately, the king of the elves didn't sound like he was in a very agreeable mood right at this moment.

"ALGRIM!" Malekith roared as he emerged from the dragon palace. "WHY HAVE YOU ORDERED THE MINING CREWS TO ABANDON THEIR POSTS!?"

"We have no choice, my king," Algrim replied as more and more families flowed into the courtyard behind him. Their movement onto the ship was held back by the fury in their king's voice. "We are being overrun. We must evacuate the island now or we will all die."

"NEVER!" The Dark Elf king snapped. "WE WILL FIGHT UNTIL OUR REVENGE IS COMPLETE!" This caused a murmur of concern to sweep through the Dark Elves scrambling into the citadel's courtyard as warriors and their families made a push for the Nathalis. What was the point of staying if it only meant the extinction of their race. Was Malekith really that desperate for vengeance that he no longer cared about his subjects' well-being?

"And what of our people?" Malekith's lieutenant whispered angrily, holding a tight lid on his thoughts to keep himself from shouting. "Our families? Our children? If we do not withdraw now, they will be slaughtered, and our people will be driven to extinction."

"I DON'T CARE!" Malekith answered with mounting fury. "WE WILL GET OUR REVENGE OR DIE TRYING! IF THE ONES WHO CANNOT FIGHT MUST BUY US TIME WITH THEIR LIVES, THEN SO BE IT!" Those words were the straw that broke the camel's back. Tired and weary after nearly a decade as refugees, the faces of the Dark Elf civilians and children finally hardened into the anger and sorrow of betrayal. Algrim looked to his daughter and his heart broke as he realized that his king had lost his mind in his quest for justice.

"Then you are no king of mine, Malekith," Algrim said with a hint of tears in his eyes as he mourned his oldest and closest friendships. But determination and anger soon took priority, and he moved to stand with the terrified civilians, declaring his choice with this stance. If Malekith wished to sacrifice his own people to achieve victory, then he was no longer fit to lead the Dark Elves. He felt a surge of pride as over half the warriors of Svartalfheim came to stand by his side, declaring their allegiance even now. Within minutes, only the most fanatically loyal soldiers still stood by Malekith's side.

"KILL THEM!" Malekith snarled at his loyalists in rage as he whirled around and strolled towards the Nathalis to use it's guns to obliterate the betrayers in one strike. Behind him, a firefight broke out. Corridors of Darkness emerged along the back wall of the courtyard as families siding with Algrim scrambled through the conjured portals to Svartalfheim, carrying whatever they could with them. Food, clothes, tools, anything that they could use. The warriors defecting from their king's crusade provided cover fire against Malekith's loyalists so the civilians could get to safety while Algrim charged at his former king.
[HR][/HR]Algrim's betrayal. I've been building up to this moment ever since I decided to include the Dark Elves in this storyline. Since Algrim was a hero in the comics but Malektih's loyal-to-the-end lieutenant in Thor: The Dark World, I needed to come up with a believable reason for him to turn his back on Malekith, and when I created the backstory I came up with for the Dark Elves, the idea of Malekith being willing to sacrifice unarmed Dark Elf civilians, both adults and children, to achieve victory seemed like it would be the ideal tipping point where Algrim realized how far gone his king was.

The weapons being used by S.H.I.E.L.D. against the Dark Elves are indeed the same gun used by Coulson in The Avengers against Loki. And I forgot to mention last chapter, Steve jumping out of a Quinjet without a parachute is a deliberate callback to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The way Sora was brainwashed by the Unchained Legion is a lot like how Culter was repurposed in TRON: Uprising. The personality is still the same, the only thing that's different is their fanatical loyalty to the group that brainwashed them. Rest assured, Sora will be getting out of that situation one way or another in the next few chapters. In the meantime, I always planned on having Kairi being more proactive in the story when he got captured, and that'll continue for the rest of the saga.
 

KeybladeOrder

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Messages
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Location
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Music to listen to:
Everybody Wants To Rule The World by Lourde
Centuries by Fallout Boy
Ready Aim Fire by Imagine Dragons
[HR][/HR]Chapter 9: True Love's Kiss:

"The great Inhuman Empire is dead. With the royal family massacred and the Unchained Legion declaring a campaign of genocide against Inhuman kind, our people are facing extinction. If my sister had lived, she would have been able to handle the situation much better than I. As it is, only myself and a growing caravan of refugees have thus far managed to escape the carnage as Atilan fell. With the Boltagon dynasty all but snuffed out, the Keyblade guilds wage their petty wars for scraps of the Empire's corpse, clawing and fighting over territory was never there to begin with. Medusa and Blackagar would be rolling in their graves at the fate of their civilization if there had even been enough of them left to bury. I curse Lady Invi for the role she and her kind played in my sister's death. Everyone knew that Blackagar's ideas of what was best for the empire would have gotten him assassinated eventually, but Medusa's death is something none of us can forgive.

And yet, in this time of chaos and strife, hope is not lost. More refugees are added to our growing band of survivors with each village we pass. Inhumanity lives on even if our nation has been destroyed. There are still difficult days ahead. Everyone makes sacrifices as we scurry and slither towards the outskirts of the empire. A secret, underground bunker in the southern province of the empire built by my brother-in-law as a military base to lead from as a contingency in case the capital were ever attacked. It has enough provisions to feed the entire population of Atilan for a year, a hydroponic garden to grow additional food, and enough weapons to arm half the empire.

If we are lucky and avoid the patrols of whichever faction controls the province for that day, not to mention stay clear of the fighting, we should arrive at the bunker by tomorrow afternoon. From there, we can barricade ourselves inside the mountain and ride out the storm. It will be difficult, but if my people remain united, then we can look after each other. Leopardos and Ursus only cared about Inhumanity as a means to an end in their war with Anguis and Unicornis, and none of the self-proclaimed "defenders of light" were willing to lift a finger to stop the prejudice and persecution Inhumans faced outside the empire's borders. If our people are to survive, we must do so on our own.

Crystal G. Amaquelin,

Written in the third year of the Keyblade War."
[HR][/HR]The Isle of Draco – Volcano Lair:

Lerena grinned triumphantly as the excavation team emerged from the mouth of the mine shaft. Despite the chaos and fury of battle raging around them, they had done it. Her pulse quickened euphorically as she caught sight of the sparkling metal glove on the cart the Unchained miners were pushing. They had finally done it. After tens of thousands of years buried beneath the Earth, the Unchained Legion had finally discovered the legendary Infinity Gauntlet. Created from the strongest metals in the world, and forged in the heart of Kingdom Hearts itself, the First Master had used the gauntlet to design a near-omnipotent blade to serve as a vessel for the Heart of all kingdoms.

This was the power that had forged the X – Blade. That had shaped the world she and the other Legionnaires had been born into. She smiled a grin that would have made the Cheshire Cat of Wonderland jealous. And now we can use it to finally make things right again, she thought to herself as she created a corridor of Light in front of the mining team leading back to the chapel aboard the Ava. At the sight of the ancient relic, many of the Unchained not actively assigned to combat positions knelt in reverence as The Gauntlet was carried past. As they should, the Savage Nymph thought to herself. This thing is as old as humanity itself.

The excavation team gingerly placed it beneath the shrine erected for the gemstones that powered it. The Gauntlet may be as old as humanity, but what Asgard never realized was that the Infinity Stones were the fundamental forces of creation given physical form, in much the same way that the Heartless were the manifestation of the darkness and decadence in peoples' hearts. As the gauntlet was carefully lowered into place, the normally cold and ruthless assassin dropped to her knees, tears welling up in her eyes. She had been dreaming of this day for eight thousand years, and at long last, it had arrived. After taking a moment to compose herself, she hastily stood, knowing that the Novus Imperator needed to be informed.

"Imperator Skuld," Lerean began, taking a moment to wipe the tears of joy from her eyes. "We have it. I repeat. We have the Gauntlet." On a small skiff loaded with twenty of the Imperator's honor guard, Lerena's words elicited a roar of applause from the soldiers standing down on the deck. On the skiff's upper level, Skuld, Aurilam, and the Huntsmaster toasted with celebratory bottles of soda in honor of their impending victory. But inside, Skuld felt an intense feeling of foreboding. Despite her plans finally coming to fruition, the victory felt hollow and empty as her doubts continue to lay siege to the fortress of her mind. She was just about to order radio silence as her party neared the shores of Draco when she heard sirens beginning to wail on the other end of the call.

Meanwhile, in the palace of Draco, the fighting between the two Dark Elf factions came to a halt as Vanitas' C.I.N. team and Coulson's S.H.I.E.L.D. strike squad stormed into the fortress' courtyard. Algrim's forces quickly held up their hands in a gesture of surrender, one of them waving a white scrap of fabric dropped by a fleeing family as a makeshift flag. A dozen rebels were cut down by Malekith's loyalists in response, but S.H.I.E.L.D. and C.I.N. quickly got the message. With the added influx of heavily armed S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Malekith and his allies bade a tactical retreat aboard the Nathatlis.

Hades, Nebula, Diablo, and Helga had witnessed the entire Dark Elf schism from aboard the warhip's bridge. They were under no illusions as to their ability to hold off the fanatical elves in a sustained fight, but if they could steal the ship before anyone could board it, then they could be able to escape. Scooping up Lily in his arms, Hades conjured a wall of fire around himself and his daughter to ensure her safety just in case. Helga was about to take the helm of the warship when Nebula reported that Malekith had already boarded. The remaining members of the Hellfire Club quickly reassessed their priorities and made a full court press for the dagger ships. If they couldn't steal the mothership, they could at least snag a shuttle.

They felt the ship lift off from Draco as they made their way through the ship's twisting metal passageways, and had just reached the launch bay when Malekith found them.

"Get Lily to safety," Diablo told Hades firmly as he and Helga stepped forward. "Sinclair and I will hold them off. Hades nodded solemnly. He knew that the mercenary and his wife's familiar were volunteering to die in order to buy him time to get his and Maleficent's daughter away from this war zone. He would have protested, but Helga would have likely gotten shot anyway, and with Maleficent dead, Diablo wouldn't have it any other way. As Diablo and Helga charged down the corridor both literal and metaphorical guns blazing, the former Lord of the Underworld ducked into the ship. Lily's blue-skinned godmother took the helm, and the last Hades saw of his allies before the hatch closed was Helga slammed against the wall by Dark Elf rifle fire.

In the cacophony of sound aboard the Ava, Kairi moved silently towards the heart of the ship, once again shrouded from view by a Vanish spell. Now that everyone knew she had escaped, she needed to go back into stealth mode for the next phase of her plan. After knocking out a Legionnaire stationed in a blind spot of camera coverage, she used the Legion's emergency backup comms, which relied on Morse Code to prevent infiltrators from accessing the main comm frequency, to send a message that the escaped prisoner had been sighted heading towars the cafeteria. With the entire ship looking for her on the opposite end of the vessel, she made her way to the chapel in the heart of the warship, where she found the only person she wanted to see standing outside on guard duty.

Drawing on the visions she'd experienced years ago of the events surrounding Ava's death in conjunction with the ancient Atlantian script of the tomes stored in the Mysterious Tower, Kairi marched confidently down the corridor, releasing her cloaking spell as she went. Sora's eyes widened when he saw her, but she cut him off before she could say anything.

"Freight Car," she began in fluent Atlantean. Sora blinked at the words and pinched the bridge of his nose. Good, she thought to herself. It's working. The original version of the Faustus Method developed by HYDRA after World War II relied on passwords being spoken in Russian. Kairi had a hard time pronouncing Russian, so she was eternally grateful that the Unchained Legion preferred everything in Ancient Atlantean instead to flaunt how long they'd been around for.

"One," she continued. Sora placed his hand on his forehead, as if he had come down with a fever. Hang in there, she told him mentally. Almost there.

"Homecoming." Now Sora winced, like he was listening to a high-pitched whistle only he could hear.

"Kind-Hearted." Now he pressed his hands against his forehead, his eyes dropping lower with each word spoken.

"Nine," she went on, keeping her tone neutral through it all. "Stove. Dawn. Seventeen, Rusted. Longing." As she spoke the last syllable, Sora cried out in pain, hands clutched to his ears. Knowing that every Unchained within earshot would have heard them by now, she acted quickly. Before reinforcements could emerge to stop her, she walked up to her fiancé and gave him a long, passionate kiss. Sora's body went limp after a few seconds, and she caught him before he could hit the floor. She checked his pulse and was about to consider dragging his unconscious body into the chapel when she heard him groan.

"Kairi," he gasped weakly as his eyes opened, residual terror from the brainwashing methods still lingering in them as his frantic breathing slowed down. "Thank you." Tears welled up in both their eyes as they embraced each other happily. Sora apologized for what he'd been influenced and conditioned to do profusely as she helped him to his feet, and she reassured him that she didn't blame him for what had happened.

"Well isn't this just touching?" a voice remarked sarcastically from behind them. The couple turned in surprise to find Lerena standing in the door to the ship's chapel, six glowing gems implanted in the gauntlet running along her left arm.
[HR][/HR]Sora's free of the Legion's control. Yay! Told you it wouldn't be too long. Fair warning though, the scenes with Sora and Kairi trapped in the heart of the Unchained Legion's command ship in the next three chapters are going to be very emotionally draining for fellow SoKai fans, so just giving you all advance warning. Crystal is Black Bolt's sister-in-law in the Inhumans comics, and I wanted to have at least one member of the Inhuman royal family survive the siege of Atilan. Her middle initial being G is meant to imply that she is the ancestor of Shego and Team Go from Kim Possible. The bunker the surviving Inhumans move into is the precursor to Afterlife from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a first start before they rebuild elsewhere after the Keyblade War.

Anyway, now Hades, Nebula, and Lily live to fight another day. As for what happens to the rest of Maleficent's loyalists stuck on Draco? Well, you'll have to wait and see. Hades, Nebula, Lily, and Malekith won't be showing up again until the next saga I've cooked up in this universe, Invaders From Beyond. However due to various factors, I'm not starting that one until after Kingdom Hearts 3 finally comes out. On another note, enjoy the mental image of Larxene wielding the Infinity Gauntlet haunting your nightmares for the foreseeable future. Until next time!
 

KeybladeOrder

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Song suggestions:
Heathens by Twenty-One Pilots
Louder Than Words by Les Friction
Move Along by All American Rejects

Just a head's up, this is the longest chapter of the story so far. Enjoy.
[HR][/HR]Chapter 10: The Spell Shall Break:

"Oh, Ienzo. You have no idea how right you were. Of course, I'm not able to actually tell you this, but it is entirely possible for two people to share a heart. After all, Saix and I have got chunks of old man Xehanort's swirling around in our chests. I put the idea of the experiments in the younger Xehanort's head to see how much of the old coot's memories were left inside Terra's head and remind him of what we were cooking up as part of his post-Keyblade Graveyard backup plan. All it takes is a Keyblade and surgeon-precise hands, and viola. Instant heart sharing.

Now, one of the big lynchpins of our Castle Oblivion research was that memories were stored in the heart. So theoretically, that would mean two people sharing a heart would cause the donor's memories to bleed over into the recipient, right? And what about the memories of the receiver if they had already lost their heart? What happens to their memories? Let's put it this way, memories are stored in the heart like a hard drive. The reason that Nobodies remember their past even before their replacement hearts start to develop is because the soul essentially functions as a back-up hard drive for a person's memories and personality.

So if someone were to receive half of another's heart, the donor's memories stay with the donor's body, copying over things like emotions into the other piece. Once inside the recipient's chest, the heart regrows to full size as the soul transfers all of the saved memories and personality traits into the new heart. The reason it never worked that way with Xehanort is because the rest of us already had our own hearts still there when Xehanort shoved a chunk of his into our chests. But I'm getting off track. The only reason I wanted to write this is because it's been three months since the Castle Oblivion fiasco and I'm a bit disappointed Zexy didn't make it out of that mess. He would have been a good candidate for the REAL Organization, and I'm feeling a bit reflective tonight. Ah well, time to go join Luxord in the lounge for poker night and see if he's still suitable as a vessel.

Xigbar Report 117"
[HR][/HR]Isle of Draco – Palace Courtyard:
"Hold your fire!" Algrim cried out as the Nathalis climbed into the sky and the combined agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and C.I.N. trained their weapons on his fellow rebels and the handful of families that hadn't managed to escape to Svartalfheim. "We surrender!"

"And why should we believe you?" Vanitas snapped. A sharp look from Coulson silenced the dark Key bearer's cynicism.
"So what exactly made the Dark Elves go Fort Sumter on each other?" the second in command of S.H.I.E.L.D. asked cautiously as S.H.I.E.L.D., Cloud, Zack, and Violet spread out to secure the Dragon Palace. Algrim did not understand the reference the human was making, but he did recognize the intent behind it.

"Our people have been on the brink of extinction ever since the warriors of the Keyblade attacked us thousands of years ago. Malekith was willing to sacrifice the few of us who remained in order to achieve victory. We may hate your kind for what you have done to ours in the past, but unlike Malekith and his lapdogs, we are not so blinded by hatred that we cannot recognize when we are beaten. We will submit ourselves to the mercies of Midgardian justice and accept whatever punishment your laws deem fit for our actions. All we ask in return is that our families be spared. They were little more than passengers aboard our fleet, and played no part in the actions we took on their behalf."
Coulson, May, and Vanitas briefly stepped out of earshot to discuss the possibility in hushed voiced.

"So, what do we think?" Coulson asked. "Think they're sincere?"

"Debatable," May replied. "We saw impoverished looking Dark Elves fleeing with children through that Dark Corridor. But on the other hand, they may simply be looking to fight another day."

"I believe them," Vanitas said bluntly. Coulson and May looked surprised. Ven's darker half was usually more cynical than even Nick Fury, so to see him actually voice something that went counter to his usual attitude was a shock to them both. "I read up on the history of the Dark Elves from Sif," he explained. "A lot of the stigma against them back before they went into hiding came from Keyblade Wielders who viewed anything related to Darkness as evil, degenerate abominations that need to be exterminated. Speaking from experience as someone who was forced to live up to that stereotype on a daily basis just to survive, the few people who don't treat you like a plague upon the universe are more treasured more than life itself. So I know that when they say they're willing to surrender and accept whatever punishment the alliance sees fit, they mean it."

Coulson nodded in understanding and put Vanitas in charge of handing the terms of surrender before walking into the citadel's antechamber to contact the fleet. Further out on the cannon-fire charred remains of Draco, the Legion was quickly gaining ground. Hundreds of Legionnaires swarmed up from the beach, outnumbering the defenders of Earth two to one. Aqua brought up a Reflega spell to deflect an incoming Fission Firaga cast by Unchained soldiers entrenched on the volcano slopes while her husband used the whip function on his Keyblade to dispatch the circle of immortals surrounding them.

In the forests closer to the Dragon palace, Leon, Rinoa, Yuffie, Tifa, and Barret squared off against Demona, dodging the mad Gargoyle's claws and plasma guns with ease. Elsewhere on the island, Riku and Mickey lead a strike team consisting of Donald, Goofy, Mulan, Shang, Yao, Ling, Chien Po, Phoebus, and Hercules around the main supply camp the Legion was in the process of setting up for soldiers to sleep in order to surround the camp and ambush the Unchained before the newest wave could dig in and replace the tiring troops. On the beach, Gaston and a squad of Leroys were turning the tide against a small squad of Coalition troops lead by Tidus, Lightning, and Selphie when Skuld's honor guard made landfall.

The elite division of the Unchained Legion cut down Gaston before he could blink, and prompty roasted the Leroy clones as the Coalition troops retreated. Beneath the ocean's surface, four more ships had been sunk as the sub pods circled the island. Compared to the fury and chaos raging above them, the undersea portion of the battle was comparatively calm. At least it was, until a Thundaga shot spell flew out from one of the sinking ship and struck one of the sup pods, incinerating it instantly. Immediately, the pilots steered their sub pods in the direction of the attack as they scrambled to figure out what happened.

"WHAT THE BLOODY HELL WAS THAT THING!?" Fitz shouted over the comms.

"Don't know," Bobby commented, but it just took out one of our pods like an ant being crushed under a boot, so stay sharp."

"I thought Unchained weapons did not work underwater," Jumba commented as he and Pleakley flew their mini-submersible closer to the sunken Gummi Ship to investigate. They had just enough time to report that the Legionnaires were evacuating their ships in scuba gear before another Thundaga shot obliterated them. Above the water's surface, things weren't going very well. Black Panther's team was forced abandon the sinking Daybreak, and upon reaching shore, were confronted by an Unchained battalion under the command of Jake's paternal aunt Patchoulie. Meanwhile, the Secret Warriors were encountering stiff resistance aboard The Vulpeus, and were quickly losing ground.

In the chapel at the heart of The Ava, Sora and Kairi were quickly being overwhelmed. Lerena, confident in the superiority granted to her by the Infinity Gauntlet, was content so simply use the stones for individual purposes in battle rather than unleashing their full potential. There was so much havoc that she could wreak with any one stone, but the former Number XII of the organization was content to toy with her food for the time being. And despite the growing number of bruises on their bodies, Sora and Kairi were grateful for the fact that she was taking things easy on them.

Sora turned and nodded to Kairi before charging up from the table they were covering behind. Keyblade in hand, he took a swing at Lerena, only for her to use the Time Stone to rewind his movement until he was reversing back to where he had just been crouching behind the table next to his fiancé before she kicked him in the chest and sent him flying across the room into one of the far walls. Kairi fired off a Holy spell to heal the both of them before ducking an energy blast from the Power Stone. Sora climbed groggily to his feet before Lerena used the space stone to open a portal at his feet, then another one on top of the ceiling above the table, sending him crashing down onto Kairi.

"I could do this all day," the sadistic blonde commented as Sora launched a Mega Flare spell at the Savage Nymph's face. Lerena blocked it easily, but it obscured her vision long enough for Kairi to scramble over to the shrine and draw out the Keybladed embedded in the imported stone. As the Keyblade wielded by her past life was pulled from the altar, Kairi's sensation of the world around her dulled. To the outside worlds, however, her eyes were completely white.
"HOW DARE YOU!" Lerena snarled as she charged towards the Foreteller's Shrine.

"I think I am the one who should be saying that, Ophelia." The voice that came from Kairi's mouth sounded a few years older than woman Sora knew, but there was no mistaking who it was supposed to be. Lerena stopped in her tracks. Taking advantage of the distraction, Sora reached out his arm, silently pleading for his desperate cry for assistance to be heard even in the depths of Kingdom Hearts itself.

"Lady Ava?" she replied, slipping back into the old tongue without even thinking about it.

"In the flesh, so to speak," the voice coming from Kairi replied. "Though I have long since passed into the afterlife, my spirit can still be channeled through my Keyblade. If only you had thought to do so sooner, then perhaps this whole mess might have been avoided. I made peace with my murder a long time ago, but there are times like this where I wished I was still alive when the war broke out so I could talk some sense into all of you. Honestly, what are you thinking?"

"We've been trying to avenge your murder and restore the world to the perfection it was meant to be," Lerena stammered nervously. On the beaches of Draco, Skuld listened to the conversation on a private line, having broken radio silence out of concern for her friend's safety.

"My child," Ava replied sadly, reminiscing of the days when Keyblade Wielders were barely a day over eighteen when they began their apprenticeships. "The kind of perfection you are all seeking isn't possible in the world of the living. I may be angry at Gula for killing me, but he was right that balance cannot exist when Light is using Darkness as a footstool. Ira had the right idea. Light and Darkness need to be able to coexist peacefully in order for there to be true balance. But fighting over every difference of opinion and belief was what led us to the brink of war in the first place. That's why I wanted my Dandelions and the Vulpeus guild to stay out of the war."

"Well we had to do something!" Lerena snapped, tears welling up in her eyes at her idol's deconstruction of her millennia held beliefs. "With you gone, the other guilds were tearing the world apart, ever nation on the planet was tearing each other to shreds over petty territorial disputes, the magical races were slaughtering innocent civilians… If you hadn't died, things wouldn't have gotten so bad, so fast."

"Yes," Ava admitted. "You're right. Things would have been better if I had been able to help mediate between everyone. But you cannot dwell on the past. The Dandelions were supposed to ensure that light would live on even if everything went to Hell. But ever since Ephemer lead you all into the war, you've spent the last eight thousand years acting as if you're still fighting it."

"And the rest of the world needs to stop acting like it ever ended," Lerena retorted. "We're removing everything that's gone wrong with the world... We're trying to build the world you always believed ours could be if everyone stopped fighting."

"I wanted things to be better, true," Ava remarked. "But not at the cost you are all willing to pay. This madness has to stop, Ophelia. And if none of you will do it, I will." With that, Kairi threw Ava's Keyblade forward in a massively enhanced Strike Raid attack that severed the Warden's left arm, taking the Gauntlet with it. The heat of the light enveloping the blade cauterized the wound instantly, and Lerena collapsed to the ground, clutching the burning stump in pain. As the blade embedded itself in the far wall, a bright light lit the room like it was the middle of the day as another older, more powerful one appeared in Sora's hands.

Sora tucked the Keyblade into the belt holding up the kama of his dark suit that he'd changed into during the beginning of the battle to get out of the Legion armor as he raced to keep Kairi from collapsing to the ground. After a few minutes to catch her breath and get her bearings, she was fine. As they walked towards where the Infinity Gauntlet had fallen near the back of the chapel, Sora brought her up to speed on what she had missed while her past life had taken control of her body to tell Lerena how she felt about what the Legion was doing. They reached the back of the room and were about to pick it up together when Kairi screamed in agony.

Lerena shakily stood behind Kairi, bloodlessly plunging her remaining hand into the Princess' back before pulling it out to reveal a small, glowing pink heart clutched in her hand. With a sadistic grin, she squeezed the heart into powder, laughing to cover up her pain at Ava's judgement as Kairi stopped breathing.
[HR][/HR]DON'T PANIC! Accidental Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy joke aside, everyone please take a deep, calming breath before you all rush off to scream at me in reviews for killing Kairi. First off, this is Kingdom Hearts. Few deaths in this universe are permanent. Second of all, do you really think I'd actually kill off a member of the original trio? Okay, true, I killed off Ven in Connected worlds, but remember the teaser I posted at the end of KHV that had her wielding the Gauntlet? Yeah. That's not going to change. So take a deep breath and give me a day to finish writing the next chapter so you can see how she comes back. If you've been paying attention to the breadcrumbs I dropped around the middle chapter of KH4 and these past few chapters with Xigbar and Even's reports, you'll already know where this is going.

Ava's spirit showing up through Kairi was something I had been considering for a while now, and I wanted to have a way for Skuld to directly confront her doubts. So I decided that going for the "Ava's spirit showing up through her Keyblade" and having Skuld overhear it would be the best way to go. The idea of the spirits of the deceased Foretellers being channeled through their Keyblades is an idea I came up with as an explanation for Young Xehanort's "a will that is passed down" comments about it in the scenes added to Re:coded for the HD 2.5 Remix.

I figured that Vanitas would be able to empathize with the Dark Elves' motivations against humanity and be able to judge their sincerity and help negotiate Algrim's surrender. And yes, as shocking as it is, Jumba and Pleakley have been killed in action. Jake Long's aunt Patchoulie had a one-shot appearance in the show's first season, but since we never see anyone from Jake's dad's side of the family, I decided, partly inspired by a few "Jake's Dad is part of the Huntsclan or a descendent of them" fanfics, that Aunt Patchoulie would be the one to have ties to the Huntsclan through the Unchained Legion. Lerena using the Time Stone to throw Sora around like a ragdoll is a reference to the way it was used in the Doctor Strange movie.

And now, I'm all caught up with the chapters posted on fanfiction.net. The next chapter will be up both here and there by the end of the day.
 

KeybladeOrder

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Here's today's new chapter.

Playlist for the chapter:

Stay Alive (reprise) from Hamilton
On Top of The World by Greek Fire
I Want To Live by Skillet
[HR][/HR]Chapter 11: Stay Alive:
Radiant Garden – Marketplace; 3 Weeks Ago:

"You're kidding," Sora almost choked with laughter as Kairi put down her fork and grabbed her pencil, chuckling at his surprise. "He can actually do that?" It had been four days since they and their entourage from Earth arrived in Radiant Garden after the Hellfire Club's invasion of Turo, and after showing their new friends around the first few days, the couple was ready for some time to themselves. Despite the Halloween festivities going on around them, the duo were content to sit and enjoy a quiet meal together in casual attire. After being flung across the universe and reunited, they had begun to start making concrete plans for their upcoming wedding, and were currently discussing things like who to invite, the size of the ceremony, and other logistical details.

"I'm not joking," Kairi laughed. "When the captain of the guard decided to get married after retiring, my uncle actually officiated the ceremony himself. For some reason, whoever wrote the laws of Radiant Garden wanted to make sure that the royal family would always be able to pull double duty as wedding officiants in case there weren't any priests available to do weddings for important officials."

"That's so bizarre," Sora commented with a chuckle. "That means if you wanted to, you basically have the legal authority to officiate your own wedding." Kairi burst out laughing as she made the connection and realized that her fiancé had a point.

"As fun as that would be to just have a quiet wedding with just the two of us," she replied as the laughter died down. "We have too many friends and family members who would be crushed if we left them out."

"I know, I know," Sora answered with one last laugh. "It's just a funny thing to think about. So how big of a guest list are we going to have?" This was a bit of a paradox for the two of them. On one hand, they wanted to have a small, quiet ceremony instead of a lavish public spectacle. But they also had so many friends that the guest list was going to be close to a hundred people no matter how small they tried to keep things. They continued like that for the rest of the night. The cracks and stains of life were on the back burner for a while. For now, they were just enjoying the fragile, crystalline moments in time where they could relish in the fact that they were alive.
[HR][/HR]U.W.S. Ava – Foreteller's Shrine; Now:

"KAIRI!" Sora screamed as he grabbed his childhood friend's body before she hit the floor. Frantically, he checked her pulse and found none, futilely begging her to open her eyes. Despite the different surroudings, his mind flashed back to his fight against a Xehanort-possessed Riku in the Grand Hall of Hollow Bastion all those years ago, Kairi's lifeless, comatose body lying on the floor as they dueled. Behind him, the blonde-haired Unchained assassin focused all the godlike power of the Infinity Gauntlet to do what she wanted it to do.

As she focused her willpower through the Space and Time Stones, a massive ring of portals of portals opened up in orbit over the Pacific Ocean, spewing forth ever single fragment of the original world, both from the Daybreak Coalition and the Nine Realms of Yggdrasil. As the worlds began to enter Earth's atmosphere, the planetoids rocked. Citizens of every world affected rushed into earthquake shelters or clung to the nearest stable surface as their worlds upended around them. Jotuheim emerged apart from the pack, directly above the arctic circle. Muspelheim, Niffleheim, and Helheim, being part of the Nordic realms of the dead, were knocked out of phase with reality and attacked themselves to the Underworld. Back on the ship, the blonde sadist smiled as she sensed that she had succeeded before turning to face her next target.

"What a waste," Lerena commented bitterly. Even though she had never Unchained herself, the princess was still the reincarnation of Ava. All Unchained would mourn the fact that her death had been a necessary step in The Endgame, especially the Novus Imperator. "She could have done so much more if she had been given the time to Unchained herself. But don't feel too bad, boy. You were never worthy of her anywa– "

"SHUT! UP!" Sora snapped as he lashed out at the former Organization member, unleashing a wave of energy from the X – Blade that incinerated the Savage Nymph on the spot before carving a trail of destruction across the middle decks of the ship all the way back to the engine room. As the light faded, the ashes of every Unchained on those levels drifted slowly towards the deck like snow. With the engines destroyed by the burst of the X – Blade, the flagship of the Unchained Legion's war fleet began to sink beneath the waves. Fires burned across the entire floor from the heat of the energy burst. But Sora ignored it all, kneeling on the floor of the chapel as he cradled his fiancé in his arms.

As he frantically tied to process what was happening to his fiancé, his mind wandered back to when the newly formed Coalition Intelligence Network had showed the wielder so the Keyblade notes and repots they had found hidden in Braig's private quarters in the ruins of the Castle That Never Was. Hidden among comments on the irony of Xehanort's plans was a report in which he explained that it was theoretically possible for two people to share a single heart. The procedure was similar to how Xehanort split off pieces of his heart to create his vessels in Organization XIII, only the methods Braig described did not involve any kind of possession and were completely benevolent. As the memory came to the forefront of his mind, an idea popped into his head. It was crazy, it was desperate, and he honestly had nothing to lose by trying.

With a grunt of pain, he steadied his regular Keyblade and thrust it into his chest. With an agonized cry of pain, he pulled it out bloodlessly, his heart attached to the tip. Holding the core of his emotions and humanity in his hands, he carefully carved it in two with his blade before returning one half to his chest. The other half he held gingerly over Kairi's lifeless form, wrestling with the concern that it might not work. Taking a deep breath to steady himself, he brought his hand down and forced the heart inside of her body. For the next twenty seconds, he held his breath before her eyes opened and she gasped for breath.

While the X – Blade master desperately attempted to revive the now-former Princess of Heart, the tide of battle began to turn. At the sight of the Ava sinking, the Legion was momentarily rattled. Aurilam and the Huntsman managed restore order among the troops, but by the time they calmed their startled subordinates down, the Earth-Coalition Alliance had taken full control of the Dragon Council's fortress and was quickly spread across the island. The battle was quickly turning into a battle to push back against the enemy lines. The ECA troops began reclaiming the island from the palace, while the Unchained Legion stood their ground and fought back from their encampment in the Dark Dragon's old volcanic lair.

Beneath the waves of the ocean, half the S.A.C.K.'s sub pods were eliminated before Neku, Shiki, Mack, Cobra, Beat, Rhyme, the Johnsons, the FitzSimmons, the Hunters, Kim, and Ron managed to limp their battered mini-subs back into the Ulysses' launch bay. Fortunately, the sight of the Ava beginning to dip below the waves caught the Unchained scuba troops long enough for the Ulysses to limp towards the battlefield perimeter to make repairs and tend to their wounded. The Pelekai family gathered in the ship's cafeteria for a small, private eulogy for Jumba and Pleakley. The Avengers consolidated back into one group again on the shores of Draco and proceeded to decimate the Legion's heavy artillery. While the Secret Warriors fighting on the front lines against the hordes of immortal Keyblade Masters, the tide of the battle was once more turning in the heroes' favor. Now, instead of the Legion having the upper hand, the battle was now on more equal footing.

Captain Hook, Cruella, Hamsterviel, and the original Leroy had all been captured and were being shuttled off the island to a proper detention facility via Gummi Ship. Leon, Yuffie, Barret, Tifa, and Rinoa managed to incapacitated Demona and restrain the genocidal gargoyle when Loki (who was aboard the Coalition Gummi Ship maintaining a magical barrier that blocked the creation of light or dark corridors leading off the island) called in to report that Kadaj had been spotted fleeing one of the sinking wrecks carrying a small metal box. Realizing that the mercenary intended to resurrect his father while both sides were distracted with the chaos of the battle, Riku nodded and ordered Cloud, Zack, and Tifa to join up with Leon's squad and take Kadaj out before he could bring Sephiroth back from the dead.
[HR][/HR]The bit about cracks stains, and fragile moments is a reference to one of my favorite quotes from the third book in the Red Rising trilogy: "Everything is cracked. Everything is stained except the fragile moments that hang crystalline in time and make life worth living." So yeah, Sora and Kairi are now sharing a heart between them like Snow White and Prince Charming after the third season of Once Upon A Time. As you can guess, Kairi's heart is now longer pure light, even though she's still referred to as a Princess of Heart out of habit and respect for her previous status as one. And since it was mentioned earlier that the hearts of the princesses maintain the barriers that keep the Fallen Ones at bay, you can bet that when I get around to writing Invaders From Beyond, the fact that one of those seven hearts of pure lights was destroyed will have a major impact on the plot.

Yeah, Vinnie and Mole are dead. I seem to have this weird habit of killing off side characters that I loved in the original material. The big wall of portals bringing worlds back to Earth is a reference to Gilgamesh's Gate of Babylon from Fate/Stay Night. Next chapter marks the end of the second act of this story and where a lot of plot threads come together and we get ready for the final fights. Rest assured, things are going to be intense and epic. And the big draw of next chapter, Sora and Kairi tie the knot, Pirates of the Caribbean style.
 

KeybladeOrder

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Playlist for the chapter:
I Don’t Think Now Is The Best Time from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (the song that plays during Will & Elizabeth’s impromptu wedding).
Kiss The Girl
Can You Feel The Love Tonight?
At Last I See The Light [HR][/HR]Chapter 12: Just Kiss:
U.W.S. Ava – Foreteller’s Shrine:

In the heart of the slowly sinking Unchained flagship, the X – Blade wielder and the princess of Radiant Garden panted as their breathing slowed after the adrenalin of the past fifteen minutes calmed down. Since Sora already had the X – Blade for himself, he was currently moving the remains of Lerena’s severed arm from the Infinity Gauntlet so Kairi could put it on herself.

“Sora, will you marry me?” she asked once the gauntlet was secured to her arm. Sora blinked and looked up at her in surprise.

“Kairi?” Sora replied cautiously, confused as to where she was going with this. We’ve already been engaged for two months now after dating for six years, why would - his confusion ended abruptly as he realized what she was thinking. Before either could say anything, one of the Unchained stationed on the lower levels came charging into the room, saw Lerena’s arm lying on the floor, and came charging at them like an Asgardian berserker to avenge their fallen comrade. The man didn’t even make it within ten feet of them before Sora blasted the Legionnaire with a beam of light from the X – Blade.

“I almost died,” she answered once their attacker was obliterated. “You got stabbed and brainwashed, and given our status as Keyblade Wielders those are the kind of things that keep happening to us on a regular basis, so let’s just stop putting it off and get married already. I have the authority to officiate my own wedding, and after everything that’s happened in the last two months, I feel like we’ve waited long enough.” Sora was stunned. While he and Kairi had jokingly toyed with the idea back in Radiant Garden before they arrived on Earth, the thought of actually doing it? All their friends and family would be disappointed they missed it. But I’d rather we do it now than keep putting it off because of one crisis or another, he thought to himself as he made up his mind. We can always redo the ceremony for the benefit of our friends and family later.

“Alright, let’s do it,” he replied with a grin on his face as he dodged and vaporized another Unchained attempting to take a pot shot at them while they were talking. “I love you, Kairi.”

“Dearly beloved,” Kairi began. “We’re gathered here today – “ she was cut off as another Legionnaire dropped in from above and attempted to take both of them out in one swing. A quick energy blast from the X – Blade obliterated their attacker before the Princess of Radiant Garden continued, although not without a rare moment of cursing at the “idiot who had the nerve to interrupt a wedding.” They went on like this for the next five minutes, repeating the wedding vows they had prepared weeks ago, in between Unchained attacks as they made their way through the ship towards the top deck.

“As princess of Radiant Garden,” she said after to more interruptions of Unchained attacks in the midst of fleeing the ship. “I now pronounce us husband and wife. You may now – “ An enraged war cry from a heavily armored Unchained cut her off and forced her to block the swing of the man’s Keyblade with her own. Again, Sora obliterated their assailant with the X – Blade. With the ancient weapon once again in play, they could now safely kill their foes without worrying about future reincarations.

“You may kiss – “ As she said this, their deck of the ship reached the water line, and the floor quickly began to fill up with water.

“Oh, just kiss me already,” she finally said with a mix of exasperation and playfulness as Sora leaned in and gave her a long romantic kiss on her lips. The two halves of their shared heart beat in perfect sync as the water level began to rise. The broke away from the kiss once the water reached their knees, smiles still on their faces.

“Ready to get off this boat?” he asked her as he raised the X – Blade into the air.

“I thought you’d never ask,” she replied with a smile on her face.

Meanwhile, several thousand feet above the island, two figures stood on the deck of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier watching the chaos unfold around them. Despite looking obviously out of place, the two were currently operating at a higher frequency than the mortal plane, and so were invisible to those around them.

“Whatever happens here on Earth,” Joshua Kiryu remarked as he looked down at the chaos unfolding below him. He wanted so badly to fly down and help his friends. To save the day and keep the heroes from dying. But even he knew that free will would be what ultimately decided the fate of the world. No amount of divine intervention could change that, and he had his orders. “That right there,” he commented as he looked up at the sight of so many world fragments streaking through the atmosphere like meteors. Though too far away to be visible to mortal eyes, to an angel like Joshua, he knew exactly where they were. “That’s the real endgame. The end of the cycle. Permanently.”

“So after this, no more Keyblade Wars, then.” Sanae Hanekoma commented. “Sounds a little too good to be true, Josh.”

“Ordinarily, I’d agree,” the blonde former Composer remarked. “But so much has been different this cycle from all the others. The Unchained Legion, the Princesses of Heart, knowledge of the system being transferred from one cycle to the next. But it was pure chance really. Any one of these things by themselves wouldn’t have made a difference. It takes lots of little things coming together in just the right way at just the right time to make really change stick. And the deciding factor is Sora.”

“Yeah, that kid’s a paradox alright,” Mr. H remarked. “Born with no special talents or powers, yet he’s the first brand new, non-recycled heart the big KH has spat out in hundreds of thousands of years. No training, no special prophecies, no super important destinies. Just an average Joe who proved himself worthy of the X – Blade. Do you really think he’ll be able to glue all these moving parts together and fix the problems of the past?”

“I hope so,” Joshua replied. “The future of the world depends on it.”

Kadaj gasped for breath as he ran through the catacombs beneath the Dragon Council’s fortress. Tears and sweat streamed from his face as he clutched the small box even tighter against his chest than it already was. First, he had lost his mother, then his father, and now finally even his brothers were gone, too. But no more. With Jenova’s remains, he would finally bring his father back. He wouldn’t be alone anymore. He finally found an large, open cavern from which to perform the ritual. With a deep breath to steady himself, he cracked open the sealed container and poured Jenova’s head into the Tupperware container he’d packed in his bag.

The ritual was relatively simple. All he needed to do was paint a few runes in blood, say some incantations over the Tupperware, and then drink the fluids leaking from Jenova’s decayed, severed head. It was a little disgusting, but in his grief, Kadaj was willing to do anything to reunite with his family. He painted the runes along the upper terrace of the cavern and was had just finished pouring the fluids from the container into a red plastic cup when his hated uncle came running into the room, accompanied by several armed soldiers. When Cloud spotted him, the blond warrior came charging across the terrace towards him.

“You’re too late, you fools,” he replied as he took a long drink from the chalice and fell backwards off the ledge into the main cavern. Cloud leaped after him, drawing his sword. Kadaj landed feet first and drew his own sword right as Cloud swung his own blade down towards his. And in a flash of light, the silver haired teen was gone. In his place stood a tall, long-haired man with a ten-foot-long sword held high above his head, green mist emitting around him. Everyone’s eyes widened in shock and fear as the new arrival made himself known.

“Good to see you, Cloud,” Sephiroth remarked smugly.

Above the surface of Draco, the fighting between the two armies was intense. The Keyblade wielders lead the charge from the front lines alongside the Secret Warriors while S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents provided cover fire from ridges and other high vantage points. Jake and Rose fought their way up from the beach alongside the rest of their team, incapacitating Jake’s aunt along the way. With most of the Unchained now concentrated on Draco itself, Maria Hill and Ienzo began directing airstrikes against Unchained troop formations as the tide of the battle continued to flow back and forth between the two sides. And then, It happened.

Hostilities momentarily stopped as both armies stopped and looked around at the ocean. Nobody could do anything except stand dumbstruck as The Ava vanished in a brilliant column of white-hot energy, the entire ship obliterated and every Unchained on board permanently killed with no chance of reincarnation by the power of the X – Blade. Flaming chunks of molten metal rained down into the bay, erupting into new columns of light with the same result each time they impacted against the hull of an Unchained warship. Within a matter of minutes, every Unchained not currently standing on the shores of Draco was destroyed. Only Rose, Black Widow, and the two hundred Legionnaires now trapped on the Isle of Draco remained.

As the light faded, everyone stood still with looks of awe on their faces. Twenty miles off the coast of Draco, hovering just above the water and completely unaffected by the events surrounding them stood Sora, wearing his old black and white muscle suit and wielding the X – Blade in his right hand, and Kairi, wielding the fully loaded and powered up Infinity Gauntlet on her left. [HR][/HR]Quoted some of the dialogue from Will and Elizabeth’s mid-battle wedding in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End for this scene. When I decided to have Sora and Kairi’s wedding as an element of the story, I knew I wanted to have Will and Elizabeth’s wedding scene be the basis for when they finally got married. Originally, I was planning on having Sora and Kairi’s scenes inside the volcano on Draco, but as I planned out this fic, I decided to move it onto the Legion’s main command ship instead. As a result, some of the details of the teaser I left at the end of KH5 where changed for the final version.

In other news, SEPHIROTH’S BACK!!! I knew from the moment I decided to include Kadaj and the other remnants from Advent Children, but since I’m painting them in this universe as Sephiroth’s grieving offspring, my interpretation of the One-Winged Angel’s resurrection is going to be a little different from most versions. Joshua’s comment about “little things coming together” is a quote from Unsouled, the third book in the amazing Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman. I changed replaced the last few words of the quote with “to make real chance stick” since the full quote heavily tied into that series’ plotline. And Kadaj carrying around a Tupperware container is another reference to Those Lacking Spines.

Anyway, this is it, folks. We’re heading into the final act of the story. Only eight more chapters and an epilogue until the Acolytes of Chaos saga ends. I’ll be taking a break from writing tomorrow before I get started on part three of the fic.
 

KeybladeOrder

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Messages
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Forgot to post this yesterday.

Soundtrack for the chapter:

Me Against The World by Simple Plan
The World Turned Upside Down from Hamilton
Where Is The Edge by Within Temptation

This is it, people. five more chapters (counting the epilogue) to go until this is over.
[HR][/HR]Part 3: Liberation:
Chapter 13: Cry Havoc:

"Forgive us, Lady Ava. We have failed you. The war you sought to avoid has begun, and things are not going the way you wanted. But I suppose, things rarely go the way anyone wants them to in a war. The Vulpeus guild has declared its neutrality as per your wishes, but Ephemer is leading the Dandelions on a quest for vengeance against your killer. I've tried to remind him that this isn't what you want have wanted, but my pleas fall of deaf ears. All of us are shaken and grieving from your sudden demise, and Ephemer, in his anger, wants revenge. He wants to honor your memory by creating a world in which no one has to die for politics or power plays, and I can understand that. But I worry about the path he is leading us down.

The war has fractured the fragile peace that has existed between the world's superpowers for the last two thousand years. Kingdoms and nations are choosing sides as the Order of the Keyblade tears itself apart over greed and ambition. Anguis and Unicornis are fighting each other as much as they are the alliance between Ursus and Leopardos, leaving innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. Your guild has dispersed to help evacuate refugees away from the front lines of the battlefields, but I fear that even then it will be enough.

You were always afraid that the war would destroy the world, and I'm afraid you may be right. It's been a year since the Sinking of Atlantis, and the war has already reawakened old rivalries and territorial conflicts between nations. The Republic of Sokovia and the Wakanda Conglomerate have declared their neutrality alongside Vulpeus. Leopardos controls Daybreak Town with the aid of the Inhuman Empire. The Crystal Gardens and the Kingdom of Lucis pledged their allegiance to Anguis. The Niffelheim Empire has declared itself for Unicornis, and the remaining civilizations bent the knee to Ursus.

With so many nations plotting and scheming against each other on top of the ongoing conflict between Keyblade wielders, chaos and destruction are imminent. I can only hope that the Dandelions have the courage and strength to weather the oncoming storm. May your spirit grand us your blessing from beyond the grave for what we are about to do. Please forgive us.

Skuld"
[HR][/HR]The Isle of Draco:

Rose looked out from the castle parapets towards the water and stood dumbstruck as the smoking wreckage of the Unchained Legion war fleet rained down from the skies. While she was glad that Sora and Kairi were alright, she was a little concerned deep down. Ephemer had always told her fellow Legionnaires that the X – Blade was the only thing that could strip them of their immortality, but had never really elaborated as to how. But as she watched flaming chunks of debris fall into the ocean, a sinking feeling came over her as she realized that the X – Blade could only remove an Unchained's immortality by killing them. That was why there had been no sightings of Ephemer's reincarnation after he died as Braig.

"It's unnerving, isn't it," Natasha Romanov remarked as the Avenger stepped up beside her fellow Unchained. "The realization that the only way we can ever shed our immortality is to die by the original X – Blade." For a few moments, neither woman said anything. The two immortal Keyblade wielders simply stood and watched the battle unfolding in silence. Their battle groups were recovering from their wounds and exhaustion as fresh troops from the Stormfall and Earth's military forces made landfall to reinforce the soldiers already on island.

Out in the bay, Kairi and Sora walked arm in arm across the surface of the water towards the island. Between the sheer power of the Infinity Gauntlet now surrounding the two of them and the lingering heat of the X – Blade's pillar of light attacks, the water splashed up by the raining debris evaporated before it got within five feet of their bodies. They walked slowly so that Kairi could acclimate herself to the powers of the Infinity Gauntlet by the time they reached the shore. Gesturing up with her hands, she activated the Time Stone and sped up the returning fragments' journey through the atmosphere.

Thousands of miles away, Destiny Islands touched down into the ocean, and Kairi quickly slowed time so that the world she had grown up on would have a gentle landing. The process was repeated with every world now falling through Earth's atmosphere. What would have taken hours was now finished in a matter of minutes, as beyond the horizon, a brand-new landmass made up of all the worlds of the Coalition and most of the nine realms pushed and fused itself together. Satisfied that that potential problem was out of the way, she nodded to Sora, and in a flash of blue light, teleported herself and her husband directly to the shores of Draco.

Soldier on both sides of the conflict stared at them, still in shock over the fact their entire fleet and most of their armies were gone. The Unchained recovered first, and after taking in the sight of the Infinity Gauntlet in the presence of the worlds' first ex-Princess of Heart and the X – Blade out in the field once more, their unit fractured. Half the Legionnaires in the group did the smart thing and surrendered, while the other half foolishly attempted to attack the newlywed couple, and were promptly incinerated by the X – Blade for their trouble. Sora and Kairi nodded to the Alliance troops, who saluted before moving to restrain the remaining Unchained on the beach as the princess and prince of Radiant Garden continued their unflinching walk towards the center of the Legion's war effort.

The devastation of the Legion's ranks, in conjunction with the scathing lecture Ava's spirit had given through Kairi, made Skuld drop down to her knees and weep. What have we done? The Novus Imperator asked herself as her doubts and Ava's worlds demolished the wall of cynicism and fanatic loyalty to Ephemer's vision had built around her heart. How could we have fallen so far, so fast? Eight thousand years' worth of guilt and regret welled up to the forefront of her mind as she realized how twisted the Unchained had gone from their true purpose.

We should never have gotten involved in the war, she thought to herself as she watched her armies burn. I should have talked Ephemer down before he lead us down this path. Now the Unchained Legion is doomed. Or are we? Is it not too late to atone, or have we come too far to change our course? Drying her tears, a look of fierce determination cemented itself on Skuld's face as she stood up and marched away from the observation post set up during the lull in fighting, making her way back to the Legion's command tent. With Stick and She needed to talk with Aurilam and the Huntsman to figure out what to do next. She could only hope that they would be reasonable and see things her way.

In the catacombs of Draco, Cloud could only stare in shock before Sephiroth slashed at him with his sword, sending the blonde swordsman flying back up to the ledge he'd just leaped down from. The One Winged Angel flew up and landed gracefully on the upper ledge on the opposite side of the cavern.

"What do you want, Sephiroth?" Cloud demanded as the rest of the squad circled the room to surround the infamous mercenary.

"The same thing I've always wanted," the silver-haired warrior replied with his surprisingly menacing monotone. "For you to embrace the darkness in your heart."

"Should have known," the blonde remarked sarcastically as he leaped across the caver and swung his sword at his inner demon. Sephiroth knocked Cloud back before parrying every strike from Leon, Zack, and Tifa. With his foes dazed, Sephiroth did something that nobody in the room expected him to do. Instead of attempting to kill his opponents while they were down, he jumped back down to the ground level of the chamber and took off at a run down the tunnels leading towards the surface. The assassin's behavior confused the team, but they raced after him anyway. Sephiroth was too dangerous to be allowed anywhere near the battlefield, or the casualties would get exponentially higher.
[HR][/HR]Kairi and Sora's walk to the shores of Draco is based on the scene in Atlantis where Kida's been fused with the crystal and she's walking calmly across the water as all the big head stones are crashing into the water around her without getting a drop of water on her. I wanted to have a similar dramatic moment as they finally got involved in the major battlefield. I had them use the Infinity Gauntlet to speed up the worlds all combining back into one in order to save time and not have to deal with it later in the story.

The choreography of the fight against Sephiorth is partially based on the final battle of Advent Children, albeit in a more confined space, and will be showcased more in the next few chapters. You'll also notice that Sephiroth isn't using any of the attacks he uses in any of his Kingdom Hearts fights. That's intentional. There's a reason that he's holding himself back despite the fact that Cloud and (some of) the others have already killed him before. All will be explained next chapter.

Skuld's journal entry is meant to lay out who has control of what territory during the Keyblade War. For context on where all these kingdoms fit in terms of a modern map, Leopardos controls all of Asia and the western half of Europe. The eastern half of Europe and the southern half of Africa are Vulpeus territory. Anguis territory includes Japan, Mexico, and the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Unicornis has the rest of North America. Ursus has South America and the northern half of Africa. After the war, all these empires collapse and fragment until none of them except Wakanda remain.

And as you can see, Skuld is, to put it in TVTropes terms, having a Heel Realization. The question that remains to be seen is whether she'll attempt to stop the Legion's war machine before its too late, or will she decide that she's come too far to turn back now? You'll have to wait until tomorrow and see for yourselves.
 

KeybladeOrder

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Soundtrack for the chapter:
Get Out Alive by Three Days Grace
Radioactive by Imagine Dragons
Immortals by Fallout Boy

Chapter 14: Let Slip The Dogs Of War:

Earth – Bablyon; 7,895 Years Ago:

The raven-haired woman walked calmly through the snowy night as she made her way through the twisting, turning forest towards her destination. She knew that the people of her village would protest and even try to stop her if they knew that she was leaving. The village was primarily made of farmers and foragers, with only a few warriors to protect their families from other groups or wild predators. And they would have considered a woman walking through the wilderness at night, or leaving the village for that matter suicidal. Fortunately, she didn’t need it. Yesterday marked twenty-one years since her body had been born into this world, and with the restoration of her memories cam the restoration of her ability to wield her Keyblade.

Skuld smirked as she trudged unimpeded through the snow. Most animals were in hibernation at this time of year, meaning the only predators she had to deal with were the occasional wolf pack on the hunt for a late-night snack. And between her Keyblade and a few well-controlled combat spells, she was never in any danger to begin with. Even if she didn’t know where she was going, the glowing dragon-shaped birthmark on her arm meant that her fellow Unchained would find her soon enough. When she’d been wounded in a skirmish with fanatical Leopardos holdouts, she’d managed to drag herself five miles to the village before she set up the Reclamation Point for when she reincarnated.

So much had changed since the Keyblade War. In the wake of the Siege of Daybreak Town, the world was consumed by Darkness. Thankfully, the light in the hearts of children, too young and innocent to understand the horrors of war, brought Earth back from the brink, albiet fractured into several smaller worlds. In the six months that followed, society as they knew it had completely collapsed. With all the fighting going on over what was left of the Inhuman Empire’s territory, the governments involved in the siege simply gave up. Mounting public dissatisfaction with the war itself lead to violent overthrows of every civilization on the planet. With all the tension and fighting of the war ingrained into everyone’s minds, The Crystal Gardens, Inhuman Empire, and Republic of Sokovia splintered into smaller serfdoms, and the remaining nations collapsed into anarchy and looting.

It had taken half a century for the violence to die down, and by then, the once proud empires of the world were reduced to scattered bands of family groups loosely clustered into small agrarian villages or roaming tribes of nomads. With all of their advanced technology obliterated during the war or rendered inoperable following the devastation caused by the world’s fragmentation, mankind was back to using stone tools to do everything. In all honesty, Skuld found the ease with which humanity had regressed to their prehistoric roots deeply unsettling. Yet another reason she had abandoned the village her current incarnation had been raised in.

While society regressed and reset itself around them, the Unchained Legion had been scrambling over what to do. Thankfully, Ephemer had designated her as his second in command, or else they would never have gotten anything done. Skuld had created the Illuminati Protocol, instructing Unchained operatives to remain in the shadows and observe how quickly society was developing. If this sociological equivalent of the fetal position was just going to be a temporary thing, then the Legion could help distribute their stockpiles of technology that were painstakingly rebuilt over the last hundred years. But if humanity was going to continue sucking its metaphorical thumb for the next few thousand years, then the Legion needed to start working to get humanity back up to speed once more.

Another policy Skuld had insitituted once the dead Legionnaires lost during the war made their way back into the fold was the Birth By Sleep Protocol. When a Legionnaire died, a beacon would signal the location of an Unchained’s death. From there, a small cohort would be sent to camp nearby for the next twenty-one years and search for the fallen warrior’s reincarnation. Since experience had proven that Unchained were typically reborn within a certain radius of where their past life died, that meant she just needed to go a little farther and she would be back in the fold. Eventually, she saw the glow of a fire as she neared a clearing and found a dozen armored Keybalde wielders sitting around preparing for bed.

“So what did I miss?” she asked with relief as she took a seat next to the fire. [HR][/HR]Earth – The Isle of Draco; Now:

“ARE YOU MAD!?” Aurilam practically shrieked as his commanding officer told him of what had she had overheard over the comms before the destruction of their fleet, her realization, and her possible plans for what came next. “You can’t seriously expect us to allow these ants to shackle us out of survival instinct simply because Ava doesn’t agree with our methods. We’ve known that for thousands of years and now because you heard it from the Foreteller Vulpeus yourself, you suddenly get cold feet?”

“Even leaving aside our differing opinions about the Legion’s methods,” Skuld replied. “It’s suicide to keep fighting any longer, Aurilam. Our enemies have both the X – Blade and the Infinity Gauntlet. If we don’t surrender now they will not stop until every last Unchained in the universe is hunted down and executed for what we’ve done.”

“What we’ve done?” Aurilam asked rhetorically. “We have been the guiding hand of humanity for eight thousand years and we are on the home stretch. We can still complete The Endgame with a sneak attack on the palace. We just need to get the Gauntlet away from the princess and we can reshape the world to the way it needs to be.”

“OPEN YOUR EYES, AURILAM!!!!” Skuld snapped. “We’ve lost, and we deserve to face the consequences for our actions.” The man formerly known as Marluxia narrowed his eyes in anger. As he opened his mouth Skuld realized that his decision was made and she would have to do this herself.

“I knew you were having doubts, Imperator,” the Graceful Assassin remarked. “I just didn’t realize they were making you this weak. Well, if you don’t have the nerve to see this through to the end, then I will. Under Article 7 Section 13 of Legion regulations, I’m declaring you unfit for command. I’ll carry things on from here while you think about where your loyalties lie in your next life.” Skuld’s eyes narrowed as he marched out of the tent, ordering the guards to initiate Tranquilizer Protocol (referring to when a Legionnaire was too injured to continue operating in their current life and would be euthanized so they could reincarnate and return to service) before returning to command what little remained of their once might Legion.

“I’m sorry, Imperator,” the man on the left remarked. “But you have to remember why we’re doing this.” He pulled out a gun and was about to shoot her in the head when the red-haired Legionnaire standing opposite from him cast a Sleep spell on him to knock the man out before he could fire.

“I agree with you, Imperator,” the woman replied. “Things have gotten out of hand from how Lady Ava wanted things.”

“If we do this,” Skuld explained. “There will be no going back for any of us. We will be fighting against our fellow Unchained, possibly even killing them. But it is the only way to truly honor Ava’s memory. Are you willing to risk all of this?” The sentry didn’t even blink, or show any signs of reconsidering her dedication.

“What are your orders, Imperator?” the woman asked without hesitation.

Back in the Dragon Council’s fortress, things were busy. In the wake of Sora and Kairi’s emergence on the battlefield, both sides had pulled back to regroup and plan their next move. The joint leaders of the Earth-Coalition Alliance were currently standing around a foldout plastic table set up in the middle of the courtyard looking at maps of the island with it’s hidden tunnels and caverns marked off. They were just about to discuss using the caverns for an ambush when the doors opened and the newlyweds walked in.

“It’s good to have you back,” Riku told Sora and Kairi as the Keyblade Wielders assembled in the courtyard of the citadel, the Dragon Council having since moved back into their fortress after providing air support for the ground portion of the battle. Sora and Kairi had managed to deal a tremendous amount of damage to the Unchained armies as they reached the palace of Draco, where their friends in the Coalition and the Avengers welcomed them excitedly. Sora had to suppress a laugh as Thor warned Tony that he was not allowed to study the X – Blade or the Infinity Gauntlet.

“It’s good to be back,” Sora replied with a smile as everyone gathered around the table. With the X – Blade in hand as a means of permanently eliminating Unchained, Sora and Kairi were going to take point in the next wave of the battle. Most of the Unchained could be easily wiped out with a few energy beams from the blade itself, but Sora intended to confront High Praetor Aurilam personally. The man had tried to brainwash him twice now, had murdered his brother and Kingdom Hearts knows how many others… While Sora was not one to normally indulge in revenge, after being tortured and brainwashed for a week he was ready for some payback.

After everyone congratulated him and Kairi about their impromptu wedding, Sora walked over to where Rose and Natasha were talking quietly in the corner with their spouses. As he reached over, he explained that the X – Blade had told him of a way to remove their immortality as Unchained without killing them. With the gentleness and delicacy of a ballet dancer, Sora used the X – Blade to make a small cut in each woman’s palm. Light from the X – Blade raced into the cuts, instantly sealing the wounds. Both immortal Keyblade masters doubled over in pain as the power of the original Keyblade coursed through their body before they were forced to vomit the light out again. When the last of the X – Blade’s energy exited their bodies, the two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents stood, mortal for the first time in over eight thousand years.

Any further discussions about doing this to the other Unchained captured during the battle were halted when a squad of heavily armed Coalition troops entering the courtyard escorting another prisoner. Rose and Natasha’s eyes widened in shock as they watched the Novus Imperator of the Unchained Legion being escorted into the Dragon palace in chains. But despite the manacles around her wrists and ankles, the raven-haired Unchained looked as if she was right where she needed to be.

“I’m here to discuss terms of surrender,” Skuld said bluntly.

[HR][/HR]So basically, after the Keyblade War, society basically ended up regressing until it looked like the Neolithic period in real life, with the Unchained Legion doing what they can to basically give humanity either a kick in the pants or a guiding hand to get back up to Keyblade War-era levels of technology and culture. I just wanted to have one Legion-centric flashback set after the Keyblade War to show how different Keyblade Wielders reacted to the whole fiasco. The Birth By Sleep protocol is a bit of a meta joke on my part, since the whole theory that started me on this entire saga basically suggested that Birth By Sleep referred to literal reincarnation. The Illuminati Protocol bit is meant to imply that all the conspiracy theories were based on the Unchained Legion.

So, there you have it. Skuld’s Heel-Face Turn is something I’ve been toying with for a while. Originally, I wanted to have the Big Bad of the Acolytes of Chaos saga stay evil right to the end. But then after looking around at some discussion boards on KHInsider about the future of the franchise after the Xehanort saga, I realized it would be a better contrast to have the villain of the saga after Xehanort to be redeemed at the end. And you didn’t really think I’d kill off Rose and Black Widow, did you? Anyway, only three more chapters and the epilogue to go until we’re done, folks. Things are about to get crazy.
 

KeybladeOrder

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Joined
Jan 8, 2015
Messages
374
Location
Georgia
Sorry for the delay in getting this chapter up. My family is on a little mini-vacation before Christmas starts and I don’t get much time by myself to write, so my updates from now until Saturday may be sporadic or slow. I’ll resume my normal posting schedule after Christmas.

Songs for the chapter:
Duel of the Fates from Star Wars
I Want to Live by Skillet
Storytime by Nightwish
We are the Brave by Veridia [HR][/HR]Chapter 15: Duel of the Fates:
Island of Draco – Council Palace:

“Oh, that’s totally believable coming from you,” Rose sarcastically remarked at Skuld’s pronouncement. “For the last eight thousand years, your devotion to the cause has been second only to Ephemer himself. You’re the one who came up with this whole Endgame bullshit in the first place. Why should we believe you’d back out of it now?” The raven-haired leader of the Unchained Legion winced at the former Huntsgirl’s words, but did not otherwise lose her calm demeanor. Sora and Kairi shared a look. They were beginning to think that maybe this woman was serious about surrendering.

“Because unlike Aurilam and your old protégé in the Huntsclan, I am not so blinded by fanaticism that I cannot recognize when we are on the losing side,” the Novus Imperator replied. “The last six years have weakened my resolve and brought doubt into my heart. Ava’s words reawakened the last shreds of my conscience. With the way the battle is going, the only other way this war can end besides our surrender is the extermination of every Unchained in the universe. I may not agree with your views on the balance between light and darkness, Valerie, but I am not so uncaring that I would knowingly lead our people to their deaths.”

She went on to explain Aurilam’s coup and the growing divide between the Unchained tired of the endless warfare and the mindless fanatics willing to fight to the bitter end for their cause. Rose and Black Widow treated their former superior’s plan with a healthy degree of skepticism, not entirely convinced of her sincerity.

“Something’s going on in the Legion’s hierarchy,” Vanitas exclaimed as he warped breathlessly into the corridor. “The Unchained are starting to tear into each other like jackals.” As he finished, he noticed the presence of the lead Unchained herself in the Alliance’s war meeting. With a snarl, he lunged forward, summoning his Keyblade mid-swing before Sora stopped him and explained the situation to his brother’s darker half.

“Now do you believe me?” Skuld remarked rhetorically. Without waiting for an answer, she summoned her Keyblade and unlocked her manacles before marching back towards the gates of the citadel. “Whatever you believe,” she added. “I’m going to stop Aurilam from driving the Unchained to extinction, with or without you.” With that, she took a running leap over the wall and landed on the other side, marching back towards the Legion’s encampment. After a quick consultation with the rest of the alliance, Sora and the others came up with a plan of attack before following the former Imperator out onto the battlefield.

True to Vanitas’ words, the Legion’s encampments were in chaos. Unchained fought Unchained as the ancient army splintered into two factions: those like Aurilam, blinded by their fanaticism and convinced that they were right, and those who shared Skuld’s doubts about how far they were willing to go to achieve their goals. With Sora, Kairi, Donald, Goofy, and Skuld leading the charge, the next wave of the battle began anew. Skuld’s splinter faction began falling back towards the advancing army of Earth and Coalition troops, drawing the fanatic Loyalists into the line of fire.

While Sora used the X – Blade to cut down enemy Unchained like trees, the remaining members of the Huntsclan division were moving away from the battle in the direction of Draco’s volcano. Without needing any further instruction, Jake, Rose, and the magical creatures who had showed up to help liberate the island broke off from the main Alliance force to pursue the magic-hunting Legionnaires. Skuld and Aqua used Glacier and other high-level ice magic to immobilize large portions of the opposing armies, while Terra knocked out scores more with Meteor spells. Vanitas used his variety of warping abilities to launch brutal sneak attacks from their rear flank.

Trapped on Draco with nowhere to flee, the remaining Unchained loyal to the Legion’s cause splintered into scattered groups. While the Huntsclan pushed for the volcano’s summit, Aurilam and the last of the Imperator’s Honor Guard fell back into the catacombs beneath the volcano, clearly intending to use the narrow tunnels to their advantage in a pathetically obvious attempt at an ambush. Bereft of leadership, the Legionnaires left behind who hadn’t sided with Skuld were quickly either killed or captured as the Earth and Coalition troops swept over the Legion’s camp like the tide. There was nowhere left on the island that the immortal Keyblade wielding army could run to.

While Sora repeated what he’d done with Rose and Natasha to remove their immortality on the other Unchained, both the Loyalist prisoners and Skuld’s followers, Jake and Rose’s contingent confronted the Huntsclan on the slopes of the volcano. Jake lead the supernatural warriors in driving the Unchained foot soldiers back down towards Sora so that the X – Blade could be used to permanently eliminate the Huntsclan, while Rose chose to face the man who had once been her student, confidant, and friend on her own. But despite their shared history together, Stephen’s actions and fanaticism had long ago crushed what little mercy she might have shown him. Now, she only faced him with cold, hard determination.

“Why would you cast this all aside for them?” the Huntsmaster demanded angrily as he dueled his former protégé on the slopes of the volcano. But after being dead for over a decade, the Praetor of the Unchained Legion’s High Council was rusty. Rose easily deflected his strikes before retaliating with a series of swift, brutal swings that sent him rolling down the volcano summit.

“Because right now, life is giving me a chance to do more than just hide in the shadows,” Rose retorted as she leaped down the slopes and swung at her former “uncle’ with both Huntstaff and Keyblade. “A chance to truly live.” She kicked him hard in the abdomen, knocking him towards the Alliance formation. Behind her, Jake and the rest of the assembled magical creatures were doing the same. Caught between two armies, the last remnants of the Huntsclan had only two options: surrender, and be consigned to prison for the remainder of their soon-to-be-mortal-again lives, or continue to fight until every last hunter was dead.

While Rose and Skuld both hoped that the Huntsclan could come to their senses, her former student unfortunately chose the second option, and were swiftly annihilated with a quick energy wave from the X – Blade, courtesy of Sora. Once the battle on the surface of Draco had been decisively won, all that remained was to send a team into the catacombs to hunt down Aurilam’s forces and destroy them. As the respective wielders of the X – Blade and Infinity Gauntlet, Sora and Kairi were already on the team. Skuld was the next choice, since her knowledge of the High Praetor’s psychology and tactical quirks would be beneficial to them. Donald and Goofy volunteered without hesitation.

“You’re not going in there alone, Sora,” Donald remarked when the young Keyblade Master tried to protest.

“All for one and one for all,” Goofy reminded him with a chuckle. With Riku and Mickey coming along for good measure, the team lineup was decided. Once everyone had stocked up on healing items and spare weapons, the group of seven set off through the tunnels. After what felt like hours of navigating through the labyrinthine maze, they arrived in the chamber that had once served as the lair of the Dark Dragon. The irony that a self-proclaimed warrior of light would make his last stand in the den of one consumed by darkness and evil was not lost on Skuld, further cementing her realization of how far the Legion had fallen.

“You’ve no chance of winning,” the man once known as Marluxia remarked smugly as the seven stormed into the chamber. Four warriors from the Honor Guard flanked the pink haired Foreteller Vulpeus as they stood waiting in the center of the room. With his forces routed and with nowhere to escape, Aurilam was clearly becoming unhinged. With nothing to say that could possibly talk him down, everyone simply prepared for battle. The plan had already been determined ahead of time. Riku, Mickey, Skuld, and Kairi would deal with the Honor Guard, leaving Sora, Donald, and Goofy the task of defeating the Graceful Assassin themselves.

“You all turn from the truth because your hearts are weak,” he remarked as a small, pink flower petal drifted downwards into his hand, forming his familiar scythe from his days as a Legion spy within Organization XIII. In his other hand, he summoned his Keyblade, shining and spotless despite eight thousand years of disuse. “YOU WILL NEVER DEFEAT ME!!!” [HR][/HR]So yeah, Aurilam’s going through a bit of a Villainous Breakdown there at the end now that thousands of years’ worth of planning and manipulations have been undone in a single day. Anyway, the next chapter is going to focus on the final boss battles against Aurilam and Sephiroth, and they are going to be long and epic. I added one extra chapter into this story just so that I can give the final fight scenes more time to breath without having to rush the post-battle cleanup portions of the finale. Since Human!Marluxia is the final boss fight of this saga, expect lots of call backs and nods to Chain of Memories in the next chapter, everyone. And yes, I did have him quote his pre-battle dialogue from Re:CoM there at the end.

We’re almost to the end of this story, everyone. Just a few more chapters and everything will be done. I won’t be doing any writing this weekend, so consider this chapter my Christmas gift to you all. With all the insanity of the world right now and all the turmoil that is yet to come, I hope you all have safe travels and a pleasant holiday season, regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas or not. Stay safe and be well, everyone.
 

KeybladeOrder

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone. I hope you all had a pleasant weekend at least. Including this chapter I’m posting now, we are down to the last three chapters (plus the epilogue). I’m going to try and get the main chapters done by Wednesday, but I’ll be travelling Wednesday and Thursday, so I may not be able to get the chapter and epilogue up until Friday at the latest. Don’t worry, folks. We’re almost to the end.

Soundtrack for the chapter:
I Want To Live by Skillet
One-Winged Angel (Advent Children Complete version)
Lord of the Castle (Re: Chain of Memories OST)[HR][/HR]Chapter 16: Yorktown:
Isle of Draco – Lava Caves:

The battle against Sephiroth was long and intense. Shadow Flares and Firaga Walls bounced surged across the tunnels as the silver-haired mercenary casually deflected nearly all incoming attacks. Cloud quickly brought his blade up to block as his inner demon swung his blade forward with blinding speed, attacking thirteen times in less than a second. The blonde quickly retaliated with a few short combos of his own before he managed to knock Sephiorth off his feet. Zack rushed forward to add in a few more attacks before Sephiroth teleported behind him and knocked the raven-haired warrior against the walls of the newest chamber they’d just entered.

While Sephiroth went after Zack, Leon fired off a few well-aimed shots from his gunblade to keep the infamous One-Winged Angel disoriented while Cloud and Tifa maneuvered into position. When the assassin changed targets to go after Leon, Zack took advantage of the opening to make a strike across Sephiroth’s wing that – to everyone’s surprise – managed to draw blood. Everyone in the room, even Sephiroth, stared at the sight in shock. After a few seconds, the inter-planetary killer for hire regained his composure and coated himself in an aura of soft pink light.

“Descend…” he began to chant as he floated slowly into the air. But before he could say “Heartless Angel” and complete the spell, a Firaga blast from Leon’s gunblade knocked him out of the air and caught him off guard. Tifa rushed in to take advantage of the situation with some close-quarters combat, but he managed to dodge every punch and kick she threw at him. Sephiroth retaliated with lightning fast strikes with Masamune, but Tifa managed to avoid every single hit with the skill and grace of a dancer.

Tifa rolled out of the way as Sephiroth called down a ring of fiery projectiles out of thin air. Once the flaming barrage came to a halt, Cloud leaped up to take the offensive. After twenty minutes of back and forth parrying, Cloud tapped into his energy reserves for a move he had been working on perfecting for the last six years: Omnislash. His body glowed with blue fire as he tossed his multiple swords into the air before leaping up after them. Each time he reached a blade, he flew towards his opponent and struck with the swiftness of a snake. Until finally, he landed on the ground and grabbed the main component of his blade as the rest landed tip first in the cave floor around him.

Sephiroth hovered in the air above him, bright green blood leaking from a dozen wounds all over his body. It was clear by this point that the One-Winged Angel was losing the battle. But despite this, the silver-haired man didn’t look angry. Instead, to everyone’s confusion, he looked almost – dare they say it – sad. Without a word, Sephiroth wrapped the large, feathered wing on his back around his body like a cocoon. Everyone on the ground stepped back, anticipating one last retaliatory strike. But instead, his body began to fade.

As Sephiroth’s body vanished in a cloud of feathers and shadows, his youngest son dropped to the ground in front of the party. Cloud and Leon prepared their swords in case the young man tried to keep fighting, but Tifa and Zack quickly stepped in front to stop more fighting when they realized that instead of trying to get up, Kadaj was quietly sobbing with the realization that he was alone. Taking pity on the silver-haired young man, Cloud walked over and gently placed a hand on his shoulder. Despite the fact that Kadaj was the son of the embodiment of his inner darkness, the blond soldier couldn’t help but empathize with the pain of losing one’s family. The loss of his family in The Fall, combined with Sephiroth’s murder of Zack and Angeal, had been devastating for him emotionally.

After making sure that his weapon was secure, Cloud helped his… kind-of-sort-of-nephew… to his feet before Leon came over with handcuffs to make sure he was restrained. Regardless of any empathy Cloud might now be feeling towards the progeny of a being born from the darkness of his own Heart, Kadaj was still a wanted criminal, and now, a prisoner of war. Either way, Cloud and Tifa walked behind Kadaj as the group made their way back up towards the surface of Draco. [HR][/HR]Isle of Draco – Dark Dragon’s Lair:

Before the scythe had even formed in Aurilam’s hand, Sora sprang into action. With speeds that would put even Vanitas to shame, he warped around the cave and swung the X – Blade at the usurper’s honor guard. He didn’t bring to bear the blade’s full power, but he cut just hard enough to break the skin and repeat the process he’d done on Rose and Natasha. While the Honor Guard doubled over, vomiting light, Sora, returned to the front of the group and charged towards the man who had been torturing him less than a day previously. With all but one Unchained stripped of their immortality, the final battle began.

Goofy threw his shield at Aurilam, only for the pink haired man to slam the shaft of his scythe into the earth, causing the shield to clatter harmlessly against the side of the blade before bouncing back to Goofy’s hand. Donald fired off a Thundaga spell that the former Graceful Assassin expertly blocked. Meanwhile, Kairi used the power of the Time Stone and the Power Stone to quickly obliterate her opponent before moving on to help Skuld with hers. Riku and Mickey used their old Holy Burst attack to disorient their own foes before Kairi and Skuld took the former immortals out.

With the Honor Guard defeated, the Organization’s former Number XI was now the last Unchained left in the entire Legion. Sora charged towards where Aurilam was standing even, but the pink haired man jumped out of the way, moving so fast he appeared to simply be gliding over the floor until his feet touched the ground at Sora’s original position. With a swing of his scythe, the High Praetor launched a deadly wave of energy at his opponent, only for Riku to leap in front and raise a Dark Reflega shield just in time to block the incoming energy. Donald launched magically summoned fireworks at the Unchained, while Mickey did a flying leap over Aurilam’s head and fired off a Pearl spell from the other side of the room.

Kairi fired off Holy and managed to leave her target disoriented long enough for Riku to coat himself in Darkness and launch into his Dark Aura attack. Once he’d recovered enough to dodge out of the way, Aurilam warped over to Sora and a spell that caused a large number 99 to appear above Sora’s head. When Sora was hit with the flat of the man’s scythe, and the number decreased to 98, the group was able to put the dots together fairly quickly. While Sora continued to dodge, Kairi immediately came upon a way to remove the spell. With a few hand signals to Riku and Mickey, she put her plan into action.

In a whirlwind of light and darkness, Riku and Mickey charged at Aurilam, keeping him distracted long enough for Kairi to use the Time Stone to reverse Sora’s movements until, sure enough, the curse disappeared from over his head. After taking a second to reorient himself once more, he and Kairi withdrew towards the back of the room as Skuld, Donald, and Goofy raced towards the Graceful Assassin to cover their friends. With how furiously Aurilam had been coming after them, Sora hadn’t been able to focus long enough to activate the X – Blade’s power.

Now that his friends had created an opening, he stood in the back of the cave and raised the X – Blade into the air, sword aiming skyward. As he held it in place, the blade began to glow with a brilliant white light. Aurilam took notice of this fact and broke away from the three Keyblade Masters assaulting his defenses and made a full-on sprint towards his foe. But before he could get within striking distance, Sora swung the X – Blade down and released an intense burst of light that obliterated the High Praetor of the Unchained Legion. As the light faded, a man-shaped cloud of ash collapsed to the cavern floor.

As the heroes (and Skuld) dropped to the ground in exhaustion, light burst forth from the X – Blade once more. When it faded for the second time, both the blade and the Gauntlet were gone. But despite the confusion, Sora knew where both had gone. He’d left the X – Blade inside the core of Kingdom Hearts to keep it from falling into the wrong hands all those years ago. And now that it was no longer needed, it had returned there, bringing the Infinity Gauntlet back with it. While their friends and ally recovered their breath and started making their way back up to the surface, Sora hung back so that he could give his wife one last kiss before they headed upstairs to face the parties.

While both he and Kairi would have wanted to have a larger ceremony for their wedding, neither one of them regretted saying their vows tonight. Because after three months of conflict with the Hellfire Club and the Unchained Legion, the war was finally over.

[HR][/HR]And with that final stroke, the battle is over. But there is still more to the plot before I bring the Acolytes of Chaos saga to a close. It’s not going to be much, really. Just a chapter where everyone recuperates from the battle and talks about what’ll happen now that all the pieces of the original world have been put back together again, followed by the usual “what’s everyone up to” end credits, and an epilogue set about a month after the final battle on Draco.

When I came up with the idea of incorporating Kadaj and the other Sephiroth remnants into the Kingdom Hearts universe, I debated whether or not to bring him back in this saga or the next one. I also toyed with the idea of Sephiroth’s resurrection being against Kadaj’s will. But when I came up with the idea of them as Sephiroth’s offspring, I decided to humanize Sephiroth a little bit and show that despite being an evil jerk to Cloud and everyone he cares about, the infamous One-Winged Angel still has people that he cares about.
I originally planned on having Kadaj die at the end, but after deciding on Star Lord also being a child of Sephiroth, I decided to keep Kadaj alive for the possibility of hanging out with the Guardians of the Galaxy for some sibling bonding time with Quill. So there will be a scene with Kadaj and Star Lord in the next few chapters.

The battle choreography for both the Sephiroth and Aurilam fights was heavily influenced by their actual moves from the games. Mainly from Kingdom Hearts 2 in Sephiroth’s case. I did throw in a reference to Tifa dodging all of his attacks back in KH2, and the Cloud vs. Sephiroth fight in KH2 heavily influenced those portions of the fight scene. The scenes with Kadaj after the fight were intended to be reminiscent of his death scene in Advent Children, even if he’s still alive in this universe.

I also threw in a few references to the Marluxia vs. Axel fight scene in Re: Chain of Memories, as well as Marluxia’s Absent Silhouette and Data Replica battles in Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Mix. And yes, that was a Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword reference there at the end.
 

KeybladeOrder

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The title of this chapter comes from a Season 1 episode of The Big Bang Theory. If you can recognize which one it’s from, you’ll know what’s going to end up happening at the end. Since the final battle is over, this chapter is going to be a short one. But since the next one will be the “End Credits”, that’ll be longer. [HR][/HR]Chapter 17: The Hamburger Postulate:
The Isle of Draco – Dragon Council Palace:

And just like that, it’s over. The Earth and Coalition soldiers tend to their wounded and count their dead. The Alliance Keyblade Wielders escort their prisoners of war towards the shore as Coalition dropships descend from orbit to deliver their foes to the Stormfall for incarceration. They’ll all be prosecuted for their various crimes over the years once the more pressing task of integrating the Daybreak Coalition into Earth’s international community. Once the last Gummi Ship takes off, victorious cheers rise up all over the island. Even more so once Sora and company emerge from the catacombs beneath the Isle of Draco’s lone volcano and plant Aurilam’s scythe into the ground blade-first to signal the outcome of that last portion of the battle.

Aboard the Ulysses, the Peleka’i family morns the loss of “Uncle Jumba” and “Aunt Pleakley”, alongside every S.A.C.K. member who knew them. Soliders of both Earth and the Coalition mourned the loss of comrades and friends as campfires sprang up across the now deserted fields where armies had waged a long and bloody battle less than an hour before. The Dragon Council, restored to its seat of power, declares an island-wide celebration in honor of the alliance’s victory over the Unchained Legion. As fireworks launch themselves up into the night sky, Mickey, Coulson, and Thor step away from the newborn festivities to handle political matters that need to be addressed immediately to avoid confusion.

Since the worlds of Coalition space have now been transplanted onto Earth as a single landmass in the north Pacific, the Coalition would be recognized by the U.N. as a sovereign nation and treated as such by the international community. Since Asgard and most of the Nine Realms were included in the new landmass, Thor and Mickey arrange for the territory under Asgard’s rule to be granted a seat on the senate of what will now be referred to as the Daybreak Confederation. With the seismic activity caused by the sudden reunification of the original world, the Coalition Council was holding an emergency session to reorganize the Coalition charter to provide for a stronger central government.

Out on the beach, bridges were being built. American soldiers discussed combat training alongside Royal Guards from Radiant Garden, while Chinese navy officers discussed the concept of Tethered Worlds with Mulan and her unit. Coalition and Earth soldiers were mixing and mingling as the party spread from one end of Draco to the other. People from every fragment of the original world were coming together, bonding over the shared experience of battle. While seemingly innocuous, these small conversations would play a large role in accelerating the Coalition’s integration onto Earth. S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents were talking with C.I.N. operatives about sharing resources and knowledge, while Vanitas had surprisingly ended up flirting with Joey.

But while many of the commanders of the battle walked among their subordinates and joined in the celebration, some were simply too exhausted to stay more than necessary. After an hour of partying and rubbing elbows, Terra and Aqua flew their Keyblade Gliders back up to the Stormfall to spend time with their son. Rose and Black Widow withdrew alongside their respective spouses to recuperate from the loss of their immortality. Ant-Man returned home to let his daughter know he was all right. Thor joined Loki and their mother back in the royal palace of Asgard to mourn their father’s untimely demise.

And as for the newlyweds, they could barely get any peace. As the wielders of the X – Blade and Infinity Gauntlet, they were being heralded as the heroes of the day. Consequently, they were constantly being approached by young soldiers from various armies who congratulated them on their heroism. The sympathy of friends who weren’t blinded by their celebrity status in Coalition territory helped make it bearable, but fame could be a burden of its own sometimes. They finally managed to slip away a little before midnight, returning to Radiant Garden via Corridor of Darkness.

“Are you sure you’re ready for this Kairi?” Sora asked her cautiously as they emerged from the corridor into her private quarters in the palace. He didn’t regret saying his vows in the middle of the battle, but it still felt strange realizing that they were married now. Kairi smiled playfully as she dug a necktie from her Destiny Islands High School uniform out of her closet before carefully draping it over the doorknob and closing the door so that the tie was facing outward as a silent signal not to disturb them.

“We said our vows and everything, Sora,” she replied. “We promised to save this until after we got married, and now, we’re married.” Her husband could not fault her with that logic, and with a loving smirk, he dismissed the dark suit he’d been wearing. Kairi removed her jacket while Sora started taking off the armor he’d been forced into, and by the time they climbed underneath the sheets of her bed, both were completely undressed. While it wasn’t quite the wedding experience they’d been planning on, they both agreed that they wouldn’t have it any other way. [HR][/HR]And with that, we’ll leave off for the chapter. Whew! Almost there, people. I’ve got a three-hour layover in between flights, so if I have time I’ll try to get the end credits done within the next two hours and do the epilogue on my last flight. I’ll be publishing the epilogue, timeline, and my end of series Author’s note all at the same time, so by nine p.m. Eastern Standard time, on Thursday, December 29[SUP]th[/SUP], 2016, the Acolytes of Chaos saga will finally come to its long-awaited end.
 

KeybladeOrder

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Chapter 18: End Credits – Conqueror's Respite:
The Realm Eternal – Palace Throne Room:

As the celebrations continued long past midnight, Asgard and the nine realms of Ygdrassil were in mourning. With the chaos of the Unchained Legion's offensive, there had not been time to properly prepare Odin's funeral. But now that pressing concerns were out of the way, the Asgardian royal family could finally grieve. Thor, Loki, and Frigga knelt beside the funerary altar as people from all over Asgard and its vassals came to pay their respects to the fallen king. Thor had put off his coronation until after Odin's funeral, and now, he could no longer put it off. While he was willing to forgive Algrim's rebels, Malekith and his loyalists were still at large. And Asgard would need a strong, wise, and humble leader to strike back against the elf that had murdered his father.
[HR][/HR]Radiant Garden – Hollow Bastion; North Tower:

The morning after the battle, Ansem the Wise quietly walked through the corridors of Radiant Garden's castle so as not to disturb the guards as they recovered from their post-party hangovers. While the Royal Guard slept until well past noon, Ansem made his way towards the bedroom of the one person that he knew would be awake. Even as a child, Kairi had never been able to sleep in, and that habit had followed her to adulthood. He was surprised to find her door locked, and was about to knock when he noticed the tie draped over the doorknob. The scientist-king's eyebrows shot up towards his hair as his mind put together the pieces of what was going on.

The king of Radiant Garden chuckled softly to himself. He should have known this would happen as soon as he heard that his niece and her fiancé had said their wedding vows on the battlefield last night. The fact that she had nearly died troubled him greatly, although since Sora had managed to save the day, Ansem was just greatful that Kairi was safe and happy. That didn't mean he wasn't going to resist the urge for some gentle, familial teasing about how eager she and Sora were to get married when the opportunity arose. He would, however, let them enjoy themselves for a few more hours before they had to deal with anything else. After everything they'd gone through in the last several days, both of them needed all the sleep they could before they were swamped with interview requests and hounded by the paparazzi.
[HR][/HR]City of Heroes – Nomanisan Island:

The afternoon after the battle ended, Vanitas and Cassim surveyed the subterranean base used by both Syndrome and the Legion at various points over the last several years. The Coalition Intelligence Network was still recovering from the massacre at San Fransokyo two months ago, and with the Legion defeated, both men agreed that it would be foolish to let an already existing military complex go to waste. With some minor modifications, the base would soon be converted into a base for the United Coalition Army. Neither man would dream of denying the fact that danger was non-existent now that the world was whole again. With Malekith and Hades still at large, everyone would need to be ready for action.
[HR][/HR]So yeah, if I ever get around to writing the Invaders From Beyond Saga, Malekith and Hades will play prominent roles. I'm still in the airport waiting for my next flight, so I'll try and get started on the epilogue, but I probably won't have it up for at least five hours. This is it, everyone. Only one more chapter to go and then it's over.
 

KeybladeOrder

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Epilogue: Coronation Day:
Radiant Garden – Grand Hall; Two Months Later:

While the Grand Hall of Radiant Garden's castle was always crowded on busy days, today was different. It had been two months since the Draco Sieges, and today was the day Kairi was crowned Queen of Radiant Garden. After years of training and two months of transition, the former Princess of Heart was ready to take her place on the throne. With the responsibilities of leadership passed on to his niece, Ansem the Wise had been offered the job of serving as the Daybreak Confederation's first ambassador to the United Nations. But despite the uncertainty about the future, Kairi was ready. She wore a brilliant white gown as she marched up the stairs towards the throne on hall's upper level, her gaze steady and her posture impeccable.

By her side, her husband marched with her, their movements in perfect sync despite their contrasting attire. While Kairi wore white and green, Sora wore white and red. But while only one of them was actually going to be doing the work of running the city, Sora couldn't be happier for his talented wife. Thousands had come from across the world for this day. World leaders… friends… family… Everyone was coming to see the new leader of Radiant Garden finally ascend to the throne. Kairi had proven over the last six years that she was more than capable of juggling the workload of the job, and journalists everywhere were anticipating her term as Chair-person of the Daybreak Council.

In the wake of the Draco Sieges, the government of the Daybreak Coalition had been modified to become the Daybreak Confederation. While the original framework of the Coalition Charter simply set standards for things like education, healthcare, defense, and other inter-world things that the first Council agreed would be best to ensure were the same across the board, the new version was different. The original framework remained, albeit with the addition that rather than each world having its own sets of laws, the laws of the Coalition would be standardized across the board for all member worlds, with a council made up of three representatives for each province. The rulers of the various states would all rotate annually for the position of chair-person of the Confederation's new legislative body.

Having spent much of her life on Destiny Islands, Kairi had grown up with an appreciation for the simpler things in life, and, as such, would have preferred a smaller, quieter ceremony. But this was one situation where big, ostentatious spectacles were practically a requirement. So she and Sora took the over-the-top extravaganza of her coronation in stride. After a few more minutes, they finally reached the throne. Once they reached the dais, husband and wife knelt together. The ceremony took barely ten minutes, and once it was done, Kairi rose to her feet and stood, not as a Princess, but as a Queen.
[HR][/HR]Well folks, that's it. It's finally over. I'll have the timeline and end-of-saga author's note uploaded within the next five minutes. It's been a blast everyone, and I hope you enjoyed reading this crazy, convoluted saga of mine as much as I enjoyed writing it in the first place.
 
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