The Xehanort War



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KeybladeOrder

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Last year I created my own account on Fanfiction.net because I had a lot of ideas about what would happen in the KH universe after Kingdom Hearts 3 that I wanted to get out of my head. Initially, I didn't want to do a fanfic of my Kingdom Hearts III predictions, but after a few really entertaining theories and crazy ideas, I was inspired to give it a try. I finished posting the last chapter right before New Years' Eve 2015, and now that I've found KHInsider's fanfiction boards, I'll be re-posting all 106 chapters (counting the prologue and epilogue) of it here for you all to enjoy, with minor adjustments to correct small grammar errors and plot inconsistencies that went unnoticed when uploading them on fanfiction.net.

And for clarification so nobody gets confused:
"Talking"
Thinking
"Written Text"
"Speaking in another language"
"Singing"

One last thing: I tried to be as close to canon as possible in this story, but some of the elements I've included in this fic have been overridden by recent Chi updates and contradicted by the inclusion of BBS 0.2 in the 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, which was not announced until long after I had already written Aqua's rescue from the Realm of Darkness. With that out of the way, enjoy the show.

[HR][/HR]Prologue: The Key On The Beach:
Destiny Islands - Seashore:

Man, time flies, Sora thought to himself as he walked along the beaches of Destiny Islands. It feels like just yesterday when Riku, Kairi, and I were building a raft to explore beyond the islands. After failing his Mark of Mastery Exam, Sora had spent a few hours in the Realm of Sleep with the Dream Eaters he'd befriended on his travels. He hadn't told anyone, but as much as he felt it was only a formality, failing to prove himself a Keyblade Master had hurt him more than he wanted to admit. It stung to be told that despite everything he'd accomplished, he was not a true Keyblade Master.

After spending some time in the Realm of Sleep, he went back to the Islands to talk to his parents about the test. When he'd returned home after defeating the Organization 2 years ago, he told his parents everything about what he'd been doing for the past year. He'd been expecting them to freak out and forbid him to leave the world on any more adventures. But while they were a little shocked and surprised about everything, they took it all in stride, and were fully supportive of his life as a Keybearer.

Riku, King Mickey, and Master Yen Sid had insisted that he stay on the Islands for a while to rest and recover from having his heart shattered by Xehanort. His parents had done a remarkable job helping him deal with his emotional scaring. (Which, considering his dad was a full time psychiatrist, wasn't really a surprise) The young man truly appreciated the fact that his parents would help him with his problems, even if they didn't fully understand all of them.

Being away from the action had helped him at first, since Xehanort had yet to make his move. But now that Kairi had started training to use her Keyblade, he wanted to get off the island again. While Kairi was far from helpless, she wasn't as experienced at wielding a Keyblade yet as he and Riku were, so Sora was nervous for her. Riku had assured him that she'd be fine, but just the thought of thirteen Xehanorts lying in wait, ready to snatch Kairi and the other six Princesses of Heart at a moment's notice, put the teenager on edge.

His silent reflection was interrupted when he looked down the beach and saw something lying in the sand. Curious, he leapt down from the wooden bridge that stretched out towards the small island where he, Riku, and Kairi spent their evenings. As he walked towards the strange object, he immediately recognized several key features: the long shaft, the guarded hilt, and the teeth. By the time he held the object in his hand he knew exactly what he was looking at: A Keyblade.

But whose Keyblade is it? He thought to himself as he looked at the ebony blade with a look of curiosity and confusion on his face. And how did it get here? After a brief glance at the ocean, he turned around and scanned the shoreline for any sign that anyone was here except himself. But no one was there. There were no corridors of darkness. No agents of Xehanort waiting in the shadow of a tree. Just him and a mysterious Keyblade, alone on the beach. "Maybe Master Yen Sid will know more about this," he said aloud as he placed the Keyblade in his boat while he prepared to paddle back to the main island. Riku was supposed to be back from Mysterious Tower tonight, so Sora resolved to get a ride back to the ancient Keyblade Master's home with his best friend.
[HR][/HR]Realm of Darkness - The Dark Margin:

On the outermost shores of the Realm of Darkness, the blue – haired woman's eyes suddenly snapped open with a look of surprise. Next to her, the man in black noticed her behavior and looked over at her.

"What is it?" the man asked. The two of them had spent a majority of their time in the Realm of Darkness here on this beach. Since the man, who could no longer remember his name, told her about Sora, the young Keyblade Wielder who would eventually free them from this sandy prison, the two had not left this area. They carried on conversations with each other to ensure that the woman's memories would not fade, nor would the man lose what few memories he had left.

After a few minutes of silence, the woman answered.

"Our message has been received," Aqua said, referring to how she set her Keyblade adrift in the ocean months ago, like a message in a bottle, hoping that the boy the man had spoken of would find it and come rescue them. "He'll be coming for us soon."
 
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KeybladeOrder

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In between the last chapter and this one is where I imagine game's tutorial will be, hence the title. Just a head's up, I'm also including most of my original Author's Notes from the fanfiction.net posting of this story because I include little bits about my thought process behind story developments later on.
[HR][/HR]Chapter 1: Tutorial:
Mysterious Tower - The Tower:

"You're definitely improving," Lea said to the girl standing across from him, Keyblade in hand. He and Kairi had just finished a sparring match to test their progress, and the red-haired young man could tell that both of them had gotten significantly better at wielding their blades. "Thanks," she replied as the two of them walked back inside the tower. She'd been training at Master Yen Sid's tower for the past couple months, and everyone was impressed with how far she'd come in such a short time. Lea wasn't exactly lagging behind either, but he already had years of previous combat training under his belt, so his progress wasn't as significant as Kairi's.

"I'm kind of starting to get bored honestly," he said aloud as they walked up the tower's long spiral staircases. Since he returned from Radiant Garden (he'd gone back to make sure that the newly revived founders of the original Organization XIII were on their best behavior), there had been nothing to do around here besides training with his new Keyblade. "I know Master Yen Sid and the King are working on a plan to counter Xehanort," he continued, "but I wish that we wouldn't be stuck here all the time."

"Tell me about it," Kairi replied. "I get that because I'm a Princess of Heart, I'm a walking target, but that doesn't mean I should be stuck here, afraid to live my life because of what might happened." Merlin and Yen Sid had combined their magical powers to create a protection spell that kept the forces of Darkness away from this tiny world, providing the group with a safe haven from which to plan and regroup for the coming war against Xehanort. Kairi had been staying here since Sora and Riku's Mark of Mastery Exam, and she hadn't left since.

She and Riku had explained the Xehanort situation to her parents as best as they could, and her parents made her promise to communicate by letter. Since Riku made weekly trips to Destiny Islands as part of his patrol of the worlds for signs of the New Organization, he had agreed to deliver messages between Kairi and her family. Mysterious Tower quickly became a dull, monotonous place. Mickey, Donald, and Goofy kept her company some of the time, but they had a kingdom to run and were only there a few times a month. Sora hadn't left the Islands since he returned from the Realm of Sleep, and Lea snuck off to Twilight Town every few days to alleviate the boredom. Kairi was stuck here with only the stern and stoic Master Yen Sid for company.

Kairi and Lea's arrival in Yen Sid's study snapped her mind back to the present. Mickey was standing in front of the great sorcerer's empty desk. The king greeted the two as they walked in.

"Hi you two," he said cheerfully as Lea turned around and closed the door. "How was sparring?"

"I'd say we're both improving pretty quickly," the red-head replied as he reached back to scratch the back of his head.

"Well that's good to hear," the King responded before Kairi spoke up.

"I could use some time outside of the tower though," she added as she and Lea sat down in the arc of chairs that had been placed around the sorcerer's desk. "It's boring being cooped up in here all the time."

"I know it's hard training all the time," Mickey replied sympathetically, " but until you're good enough to at least defend yourself against Xehanort…"

"I'm a sitting duck. I know," Kairi finished with an exasperated tone. "I get that but Lea and I could at least go to a world that doesn't have that many Heartless so I can get some fresh air every once in a while."

"You know," the king answered with a grin. "I think something like that might work."

"Thank you," Kairi practically jumped up out of her chair and hugged the mouse. When she realized that Master Yen Sid had entered the room, she blushed in embarrassment and sat back down.

"I'll explain later," Mickey told the wizened Keyblade Master as he moved to sit down at his desk. "Riku should be coming back from Destiny Islands soon."

"Good," Yen Sid replied. "Once Riku gets back, we'll need to talk about what to do next. Xehanort has been scheming long enough. We must strike quickly before he does."

Before the ancient Master could continue, the door to the study opened, and Riku walked in, with Sora right behind him. As Kairi jumped up to greet him, the sorcerer and the king's eyes were immediately drawn to the Keyblade the boy was wielding. King Mickey had never seen it, but Master Yen Sid recognized his former student's weapon all too well.

"Where did get that?" Yen Sid asked the teen, trying hard to keep the shock and surprise out of his voice. He had not seen that blade in over a decade, yet it had not faded from his memory.

"Master Yen Sid," Sora said as he bowed respectfully before placing the blade on the desk. "I came with Riku to ask you about this. I found it on the beach on the Islands, but I have no idea who's Keyblade this is."

"I do," the elderly master replied. "It belonged to my student, Master Eraqus. I have not seen him in over a decade."

"Do you know what happened to him?" the teenage Keybearer asked as he sat in the chair in the center of the arc. After taking a deep breath, Yen Sid answered.

"Xehanort killed him."
 
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KeybladeOrder

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Before I get started I just want to clarify that this story begins six months after Dream Drop Distance.
[HR][/HR]Chapter 2: Refresher:

Mysterious Tower - Sorcerer's Loft:

"How did it happen?" Sora could barely keep the shock out of his voice as he leaned toward the desk, eager for an explanation. On one side of the semicircle of chairs, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy (who had come in during the had solemn looks on their faces as they recalled that time, only thirteen years ago, when the ancient Order of the Keyblade had been brought to its knees. Mickey, Donald, and Goofy had lived through it, and thus already knew what Yen Sid was about to say. However, Kairi and Lea had not, and Sora and Riku had only been informed of part of the story before the chaos of their Mark of Mastery Exam, so the sorcerer wanted to make sure that everyone was on the same page. After a taking a moment to mentally prepare himself, Master Yen Sid began his tale.

"As you know, there have been many Keyblade Masters before you. The tutelage of ancient Keyblade Wielders was a lineage that goes back for millennia. Many years ago, I was a Keyblade Master myself. In those days I trained two apprentices. One of my pupils was Eraqus. The other… was Xehanort himself."

"What?" Sora shouted. Realizing what he'd done, he quickly gave a respectful bow. "I'm sorry for interrupting, Master Yen Sid."

"No harm done," the old wizard replied. "Now as I was saying, Xehanort was not always the despicable man he is today. However as he continued his training, he became obsessed with the Keyblade War, an ancient conflict between Keyblade Wielders that led to the destruction of the world as we know it. I will explain more about this conflict later, as I do not want to bore you by talking too long. Anyway, over the years, Xehanort and Eraqus had each taken on apprentices, though after a near death incident about 17-years ago, Xehanort's pupil Ventus was sent to live with Eraqus and his students. Eventually, Xehanort resurfaced, attempting to bring about a second Keyblade War. During the days that followed, Xehanort manipulated the three young Keyblade Wielders, Terra, Aqua, and Ventus, to achieve his own ends. It is because of Xehanort's machinations that they were among the individuals King Mickey wrote to you about a few months ago, who must be led back to our world. Terra was manipulated into becoming a vessel for him to use to extend his life. Eraqus was murdered as part of his manipulation of Terra, and Aqua ended up trapped in the realm of Darkness. Ventus was used as a pawn in a failed attempt to recreate the Keyblade War, and in the end, his heart was cast out from his body."

As Yen Sid finished his tale, he looked around at the faces of the Tower's occupants. Kairi, Riku and Lea looked horrified at the pain and suffering that Xehanort had caused. Mickey, along with Donald and Goofy (who had come in during the story), were solemn and melancholy, having seen the fates of the Keyblade Wielders firsthand. Sora on the other hand, looked like he had seen a ghost. Before he could ask Sora what was wrong, Kairi spoke up.

"From what I heard during the story, the Keyblade War reminds me of the fairy tales my grandmother used to tell me about Kingdom Hearts when I was little," she said. Although, she didn't remember anything else about her life in Radiant Garden before being sent to the Islands by Xehanort, she still remembered her grandmother and those stories.

"A very astute observation, Kairi," Yen Sid replied. "The Keyblade War happened so long ago that the finer details are lost to the ravages of time, and only the general outline of the conflict has survived in the form of myths and legends." With Kairi's question answered, he turned to address the young keybearer whose shock could not be more obvious.

"Sora," the sorcerer began. "You look troubled." That's putting it mildly, Yen Sid thought to himself with an amused chuckle despite the apparent gravity of the situation.

"I think I know what happened to Ventus' heart," he said after taking a moment to gather his thoughts. This news was a surprise to Yen Sid, but Mickey acted perfectly calm, waiting to see if his suspicions are correct.

"Well," the seventeen-year-old began, "When I was four, I remember this one night that Riku and I were sitting on the beach on the Islands. We were gazing up at the stars when out of nowhere I just started crying. I had no clue why I was crying, but I just felt so sad and I had no idea why. Riku suggested I reach out with my heart, and when I did, I felt this disembodied heart floating in space. It, or I guess he, was hurt, so I offered to let him into my heart so that he could heal. It was so long ago that I forgot about it. But after hearing this story…"

"You think you might have accepted Ventus' heart into your own without realizing it at the time," Mickey finished for him. "I started to suspect as much before Master Yen Sid asked you and Riku to take the Mark of Mastery exam." He and Sora looked around at those assembled to gauge how they'd react to this news. To their surprise, Lea was the only one whose expression remotely resembled shock.

"Not that I'm complaining," Sora began, "but I kind of expected everyone to be more freaked out by this."

"Come on, Sora," Riku replied. "Back when you first got the Keyblade you were carrying Kairi's heart around with you for weeks without even knowing it. You willingly and knowingly harboring the heart of a past Keyblade Wielder isn't that much of a stretch."

"Yeah," Sora chuckled. "I guess you're right. But here's what I'm wondering. It's been thirteen years now…"

"And you wish to help Ventus' heart return to his own body," Yen Sid finished for him with a solem nod. "An admirable goal. However, in order to do so, you'll require the precise location of his body, which only Master Aqua knows. Therefore…" the seemingly stoic sorcerer stiffened with undisguised shock as he felt the ripples of a great disturbance in the universe hit him like the shock-wave of a bomb. A quick glance around the desk confirmed that everyone else in the room sensed it as well.

"Man is this headache a big one," Lea spoke up as he rubbed his forehead. "What was that anyway?" This time, it was not Master Yen Sid who spoke, but Kairi, who was sitting to Sora's left and was currently being comforted in his arms, her face as white as a sheet and tears streaming from her eyes like lava from a volcano.

"It's Xehanort…." She replied with a pained whisper. "He just took one of the other Princesses."
[HR][/HR]Before anyone asks why nobody sensed the abduction of the Princesses of Heart in KH1, the first reason is lack of experience. Sora was just starting out with the Keyblade and was learning as he went along. The other reason is that Xehanort has spent the time since DDD slowly tipping the balance of power towards darkness enough that the magically inclined can sense such a dramatic shift in the balance between dark and light.
 
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KeybladeOrder

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Chapter 3: New Developments:
The Land of Departure - Library; 73 Years Ago:

Many years ago, on a world that is now twisted beyond recognition, two teens sat on the windowsill of a great castle as they battled wits over a game of chess. One, Xehanort, had silver hair, and was playing with the black pieces, while the other, Eraqus, had black hair and played with the white pieces.

"Have you heard of the ancient Keyblade War?" Xehanort asked his opponent.

"Yeah," Eraqus replied. "It's the master's favorite story."

"So," Xehanort continued as he captured one of his fellow apprentice's pieces. "You know the lost masters. They're the ones who started the Keyblade War."

"Never heard of them," the other boy responded as he moved a piece forward.

"You can drop the façade," he retorted. "I know the stories of the Foretellers of the Keyblade Guilds before the war. I'm curious to know. The master only spoke of four factions in his stories of the War, yet the stories of the Lost Masters say there are five. I wonder which is more accurate." Since Xehanort had already chosen the Seeker's path, only Eraqus was privy to the secret knowledge of the Keyblade War. Sensing that his silver-haired companion would not give up asking about the secrets that Master Yen Sid had shared with them, Eraqus spilled the beans.

"Both are," he began. "Centuries ago, in the days before the Keyblade War, there were five Keyblade Guilds, each led by a Foreteller: a Keyblade Master trained by the First Keyblade Wielder to protect the world. The first Keyblade was actually called the X – Blade, and unlike our blades, it was created by Kingdom Hearts iself. All other Keyblades were crafted by men in the X – Blades image and imbued with magic to give them power."

"Really?" his silver haired companion showed a definite interest in the new information he was getting from his fellow apprentice. "That's fascinating."

"It is, isn't it," Eraqus replied before continuing his story. "Anyway, in those days, there was no darkness in the world, as the Master mentioned the story. But it was through the greed of men, each of the Foretellers' desire to wield the X – Blade for themselves, and the infighting and treachery they resorted to in pursuit of that desire that caused the Keyblade War as we know it. The main factions of the war were composed of the Foretellers and their followers in the Keyblade Guilds. Foreteller Anguis and her soldiers were defenders of the light. Leopardos and his minions were seekers of darkness. Ursus and his followers simply sought power. Finally, Unicornis and his allies sought only to reconcile the other guilds."

"But what about the fifth guild," his companion asked, curious to hear more. His companion's insatiable thirst for knowledge would be bound to lead him to trouble someday, but for now, Eraqus saw no harm in humoring his fellow apprentice's curiosity.
"The fifth guild was made up of the Foreteller Vulpeus and her servants, who believed that conflict between Keyblade Wielders was senseless and abstained from the War altogether."

"So I take it the Keyblade hanging over the fireplace once belonged to Vulpeus herself?"It struck Xehanort as an odd choice for a supposedly neutral master to wield a keyblade that suggested alignment with darkness. Not that he minded that at all.

"Actually," Eraqus answered, "legends suggest the existence of a sixth Foreteller. Some believe that he deliberately avoided the infighting of his comrades so he could clean up the wreckage left behind, while others suggest he caused the infighting himself. All the legends agree, however, that the other Foretellers avoided him because they believed him to be part of a prophecy predicting the fall of the light."

"Oh, I've heard of it," Xehanort replied as he gazed at the ornate blade he'd just asked about. "On that land shall darkness prevail and light expire. But you knew that, didn't you? The future has already been written."

"Who's to say I can't change it?" Eraqus, asked as he captured one of his opponent's pieces. "And maybe Light will prevail. There's more to light than meets the eye. You might be surprised."

"I'm counting on it," Xehanort replied as he examined the state of the board.
[HR][/HR]The World That Never Was - Xehanort's Room; Now:

Dull grey walls greeted the old man's eyes as he woke from his slumber. While the formidable powers of darkness could allow one to go for days without sleep, at some point even the most powerful dark Keyblade Wielders needed to let their bodies rest. A pity, Master Xehanort thought to himself as he rose from the bed in the highest reaches of the Castle That Never Was. Without sleep, the completion of my goals would proceed much more smoothly and briskly.

He and his numerous incarnations had spent the past few months lying in wait, establishing their base while simultaneously searching for the thirteenth and final member of the new Organization. Though they had not been able to find their final Seeker of Darkness, they had successfully retaken the World That Never Was from the dark fairy Maleficent. But what stood out today from the monotony of the past few months was the sudden shift in the universe he sensed as he emerged from his private chambers. He recognized it immediately for what it was: a sign that one of the Princesses of Heart had been captured.

We aren't supposed to move until we find my final vessel, he fumed inwardly as he quickly dressed in his usual black coat before storming through the halls of the citadel in search of answers. He could always teleport around the castle to find one of his vessels or incarnations who knew, but he preferred to walk around the castle himself as a means of staying in shape. By the time he found one of his original accomplices lounging in the Grey Area, he was fuming.

"I thought our intentions were perfectly clear," he began as he brought his Keyblade up to his vessel's neck. "We do not move against the seven Princesses of Heart until we have obtained my final vessel. So answer me this: which of us has somehow defied me and why?"

"It's simple, old coot," Braig replied with a smirk as he looked up from the book he was currently reading. "Since all of our other targets for being your last vessel either resist or get themselves killed, we've been looking for a suitable candidate. I've spent the last few months researching what little information I could find on the Keyblade War, and I think we've found our ideal vessel."

"You already know it is impossible for one to travel beyond the span of their own life." Xehanort replied, remembering the lecture he'd given to his time – displaced incarnations on the laws of time travel when they'd first arrived in the present. He knew fully well the limitations of the method of temporal displacement he'd chosen. And he was surprised at the mans use of plural. They were only missing one vessel. Why would they need to gather more? His sudden reminiscing ended when Braig responded.

"You see ordinarily, that'd be true," the one eyed man retorted with his usual attitude of snarky mysticism. "Except my research showed me a pretty big loophole in that little limitation. I sent your cookie cutter, bland teenage incarnation off probing the times stream to see if I'm right, which I most likely am. Since he should be back soon, I figured I should send The Gambler off to get a head start on gathering the seven. As for why we're going after more than one vessel, I did a head count of the ones who we have so far, and aside from your time-displaced previous incarnations, we really only recruited eight out of the eleven we need. Just because they were there in the realm of sleep with us doesn't mean we've recruited them yet." No longer enraged, Master Xehanort was now intrigued to see how this development would play out. Satisfied with Braig's answer, though still suspicious of the man's motives, he dismissed his Keyblade with a thought before speaking.

"Very well," he replied. "Though let me clarify that I am to be informed before such actions are taken. Do I make myself clear?"

"As crystal," Braig fired back with his trademark smirk.

"Now tell me," Master Xehanort continued. "What loophole in the laws of time travel has your research uncovered?"
[HR][/HR]I know in Chi the Keyblade factions are called Unions but for the purposes of storytelling I thought guilds sounded better. The info on the Foretellers' allegiances that Eraqus gives is based on gelandporn's Rebirth theory over on the Kingdom Hearts III board.

And before anyone cries foul about Xehanort knowing so much about the Keyblade War before BBS, remember that he's never been concerned with what happened during the war. His obsession has always been focused on how it ended and what came afterwards.
 
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If you told me this was how KH3 started, I'd believe it. You did a fantastic job of keeping everyone in character, and I love that there is some trouble in Xehanort's ranks (I always go the feeling that would happen to him). Keep it up, and I can't wait for more.
 

KeybladeOrder

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Thank you. I tried to write this as close to what might actually happen as I could based on the information I had at the time. Since I've got my first day of spring classes at college tomorrow, I'll leave off with the last of the prologue chapters for tonight and start posting the next world tomorrow. [HR][/HR]Chapter 4: End of the Beginning:
Mysterious Tower - Sorcerer's Loft:

Back in the Mysterious Tower, Sora continued to comfort Kairi in his arms as the group discussed their next move.

"It's worse than I feared," Yen Sid began. "I'd hoped to use Xehanorts inaction to buy us some time, but it's too late now. We must find the remaining Princesses and keep them from Xehanort's grasp."

"But we'll need help to go against Xehanort," Riku added. "Some of us should try to find Aqua and free her from the Realm of Darkness so that we'll have an extra ally." Nobody questioned his suggestion. Everyone in the room was fully aware of the gravity of their situation. Any help they could find at this point would be a blessing, and they didn't need to be reminded of what they were up against.

"With these new developments," Yen Sid replied, "I believe we must divide our forces. Sora. Donald. Goofy. You three will find the other five Princesses of Heart and bring them back here." The trio nodded, knowing that the strong protective spells the sorcerer had cast on this world would prevent Xehanort or any of his allies from setting foot on the tower grounds.

"Meanwhile, Mickey and Riku," the sorcerer continued, "will find a way into the Realm of Darkness and free Master Aqua." Mickey smiled at the news, relieved that he would be able to help one of his old friends. Aqua won't be hurting any more, he thought to himself.

"Yes Master," the five of them replied as all except Sora, who still had Kairi in his arms, stood up and bowed. Although she had now calmed down after the initial shock of sensing the capture of one of her fellow Princesses, Sora could see she was still upset.

"Don't worry, Kairi," he said as he handed her a tissue from Yen Sid's desk. "You'll be alright. You're completely safe here."

"I know," she replied as she wiped the tears off her face. "I'm still sick of being cooped up in here. I know it's dangerous but I want to be able to go out and see the worlds too. I can't stop living my life just because we're afraid of me getting kidnapped."

"Tell you what, Kairi," Riku spoke up from behind them. "When one group gets back, we'll take you wherever you want to go. Is that okay?"

"Alright," she answered in a tone that was both exasperated and appreciative at the same time. "You guys better hurry back." Sora gave Riku a glare that clearly said he wanted to be the one to get back first, which his friend responded to with a knowing smirk.

"We will," replied everyone except Lea, who was staying to help protect the Tower. Before they could leave the tower, Master Yen Sid had one last set of instructions for the group.

"Before you go," he began, "there is one more goal that we must accomplish. Our allies in Radiant Garden have been decoding the data that Ansem the Wise hid within Sora's heart, and they've discovered reference to something called the "Key to Return Hearts." If such a thing exists, it could allow Sora to separate Roxas and Ventus from his heart. I strongly advise you to investigate this Key. See if any worlds have records or legends that would give us more information on where or how it can be found."

"Yes, Master," the five travelers responded with a quick bow before racing down the tower stairs towards their waiting Gummi Ships.
[HR][/HR]And the adventure begins. The chapter title is a reference to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., specifically the sixteenth episode of season 1, right before the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier pulls the rug out from under everyone.

Anyway, just wanted to get this out of the way now that there will be a few general themes in terms of chapter titles. With the exception of these opening chapters, the general pattern of chapers will go like this:

first chapter of a world: world name
second chapter of a world: field theme title
third chapter of a world: battle theme title

The only exception to this rule is Cable Town. Since it's a new original world, I did some Disney shout-outs or references related to the events in the second and third chapters.

For new Disney worlds like Tangled and Big Hero 6, I pick tracks from the film in question's score/soundtrack that I feel would fit as its field/battle theme.

 
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Chapter 5: Enchanted Dominion:
The Lanes Between - Sora, Donald, and Goofy's Gummi Ship:

I'll be back soon, Kairi, Sora thought to himself while he gazed back at the Mysterious Tower as it receded into the distance through the Gummi Ship's cockpit dome. Turning his attention back to the main control panel, he activated the ship's navigation menus, bringing up a map of the known worlds. The menus were a recent upgrade to their Gummi Ship, courtesy of Chip and Dale, that displayed the locations of every world within the ship's vicinity, ensuring that the trio did not have to blindly travel the Lanes Between until they found the world they were looking for.

"Don't worry, Sora," Goofy spoke up from the copilot's seat. "You'll be back with Kairi before you know it." Having known the boy for years, he, Donald, and Jiminy could practically read Sora like a book. They were perfectly aware that Sora was head over heels in love with the Princess of Heart.

"Don't try to deny it, Sora," Donald added before the boy could protest. "You couldn't be more obvious with your feelings than if you painted "I love you, Kairi" across your face." The anthropomorphic duck and dog chuckled when Sora's face turned as red as Lea's hair.

"Do you guys really have to tease me about it though?" he asked as he input the navigation data Yen Sid had given them for the worlds inhabited by Princesses of Heart that they had not been to yet. A flash of light from the navigation menus distracted him from his embarrassment, and he looked at the menus to find a new world appearing on the holographic display. "Hey guys," he shouted to interrupt the duo's laughter. "According to the navigation menus, one of the Princesses' worlds is nearby."

"Oh, all right," Donald replied with a chuckle as he angled the control yoke in the direction of the nearest World that Sora pointed out on the map. As they approached the world, they each went down to the lower deck to pack their equipment for this world, and to prepare extra bunk beds for the other princesses. Gawrsh, Goofy thought as he stuffed one last potion into his pocket. I just hope we're not too late.
[HR][/HR]Enchanted Dominion – Bridge:

Sora, Donald, and Goofy looked around at the forest that surrounded the bridge before gazing up at the magnificent castle that loomed before them. Sora was curious as to which Princesss lived here. They'd only been to a few of the Princesses' worlds, so this world was most likely the home of either Aurora, Cinderella, or Snow White. When he looked over at Donald, and Goofy, he could tell they'd reached the same conclusion that he had. Goofy finally voiced what they were all thinking.

"So which princess do you think lives here?" he asked aloud.

"Why don't we go to that castle and ask them ourselves?" Sora suggested as he started walking in that direction. He was anxious to find whichever princess lived here and get her back to the Tower as fast as possible. Xehanort was already one step ahead of them, and he was anxious to catch up and take the lead. A quick glance behind him confirmed that Donald and Goofy were following to the castle. They'd been together so long that when they were out in the field that very little communication was required between them to know what each was doing and where they were going.
[HR][/HR]When they arrived in what looked like the castle's throne room, the trio couldn't help but stare in awe at the magnificent tapestries hanging from the ceiling. Donald and Goofy continued to gaze in wonder at the fancy decorations, while Sora looked around and realized that they appeared to have walked in on an important meeting of some kind. Men and women dressed in elegant robes and dresses were gathered around a table that had been placed before the throne. A cool breeze from the open door alerted the assembled men and women, who, if Sora were to hazard a guess, were probably lords and ladies of this apparently medieval world, from their meeting, directing all eyes in the room at the three interplanetary interlopers. One of the lords stepped forward and started yelling at the trio.

"Who are you?" he began. Before the trio could speak, he continued unprompted. "This is a closed meeting. We're in the middle of a crisis, and judging by your attire you're probably spies for the demons. GUARDS! SIEZE THEM!"

"We're not spies," Sora replied as he, Donald, and Goofy readied their weapons to defend themselves while palace knights dressed in chain mail and armor surrounded them. What demons is he talking about? he thought as he slid into his battle stance. Is he talking about the Heartless? Have they started popping up again with one of the Princesses gone? Before either side could attack, a woman's voice spoke up. Sora hadn't heard it in almost three years, but he recognized it nonetheless.

"Stop!" she shouted. "Let them come forward." The guards stood down as the crowd parted to clear the three a path as they walked towards the throne, ignoring the confused, angry, and suspicious glares the nobility were giving them on the way. As they walked towards the throne, Sora recognized the three good fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, in the back of the crowd, confirming his suspicions of whose world they were on. Considering they keep in constant contact with Merlin and Master Yen Sid, they probably knew we were coming, he thought to himself as he turned back towards the throne.

On one throne sat a man with wavy brown hair and such extravagant attire that he could only be the king of this world. The king gave Sora a look of confused recognition. Since Sora was still holding his Keyblade, he suspected the king had seen one before. On the other throne sat a blonde-haired woman the three of them recognized immediately. The queen greeted them with a warm smile that proved that she remembered them too.

"Hi, Aurora," Goofy said first, ignoring the shocked gasps of the assembled noblemen and women that someone would dare to be so informal with the queen. They gasped even louder when Queen Aurora stood up from her seat and wrapped the three intruders in a large hug.

"It's good to see you three again," she told them before letting go and turning to address the assembled lords and ladies of the royal court.

"I'd like to introduce you all to my good friends, Sora, Donald and Goofy. Three courageous knights who rescued me and other kidnapped princesses when I was abducted three years ago. They are friends of the crown and are to be treated with the utmost respect." This seemed to calm most of them down, though Sora noticed a few still sent accusatory glares their way. Ignoring the suspicion of the court, the trio turned back to the queen as she introduced them to her husband, King Phillip.

"So you're the Keyblade Master my wife has been telling me about," Phillip said as he stood up to shake Sora's hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

"So what brings you all here?" Aurora asked as Phillip gestured for one of the servants to bring over some chairs for their guests.

"Do you remember Ansem?" Sora asked as he, Donald, and Goofy sat down.

"Yes," the queen answered as she reached out and took Phillip's hand, her expression saying she knew what Sora was going to say, but was desperately praying he wouldn't. "But you defeated him years ago."

"It turns out his real name is Xehanort," he began. "But more importantly, he's back, and he's going after the Seven again."
[HR][/HR]I figured that, while the Princesses of Heart would only share the details of their captivity in Hollow Bastion before/during the first Kingdom Hearts game with a select few, they'd at least tell the public on their worlds a watered down version of the story to pacify those concerned about their Princesses' disappearances.

So in this world, the only person who knows about Xehanort, Princesses of Heart, the Heartless and all that stuff from KH1 besides Aurora, Maleficent, and the 3 fairies is Phillip. The reason I have left out Aurora's and Phillip's parents is because I figured that, while most of the inhabitants of the world were kept in stasis until it was restored, I figured Maleficent probably killed a few people when she captured Aurora after Birth By Sleep, making Aurora and Phillip the only royalty left when the world is restored after KH1. So yeah, Maleficent killed off both their families after BBS in this universe.
 
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KeybladeOrder

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Chapter 6: The Silent Forest:
Enchanted Dominion – Aurora's Chamber:

Sora, Donald, Goofy, Phillip, Aurora, and the three fairies solemnly filed into the chamber at the top of the castle. Since only a select few in the kingdom knew the full truth of Aurora's abduction by Maleficent, King Phillip had adjourned the court meeting early so that the eight of them could discuss matters pertaining to Xehanort and the Heartless in private. After the door had been closed and Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather cast spells on the tower to make certain they would not be heard, Aurora finally spoke.

"I felt it too," she told the visitors, knowing that no further explanation was required. "The Heartless began appearing more and more these past few weeks," she continued. "So at first I thought maybe that's the reason that one of the others went missing, but now that Ansem – sorry, Xehanort – has returned, I know better. But he already used us to open the Door, so I want to know why he's going after us this time." Sora took a deep breath before speaking, knowing that he would have to explain a lot.

One truncated explanation of the Keyblade War, the X – Blade, and Master Xehanort's intentions later, Aurora had to sit down from the shock. After taking a moment to collect her thoughts, she spoke.

"If Xehanort is going after the Princesses of Heart," she asked, "what are you planning to do to protect us?"

"Well," Donald began, "an ally of ours, a retired Keyblade Master named Yen Sid, has offered the use of his home as a safe house for the Princesses of Heart until Xehanort has been defeated once and for all. Kairi's been staying there for the past few months, and Master Yen Sid has place powerful enchantments around his Tower to ensure that Xehanort and his allies cannot set foot on the world."

Aurora pulled her husband into a corner to discuss the matter in hushed whispers, no doubt arguing over the merits of her safety if she were to leave the world. I can't say I blame them for being wary of her leaving, Donald thought, it may only be for a little while, but Phillip probably feels worried that he should be the one protecting her. His thoughts on the matter were interrupted when the couple walked back over to the group.

"Phillip and I have agreed that it's safer for me to come with you." She said. "Phillip and I are going to pack a few bags." When she noticed the sun beginning to dip below the horizon, in addition to the dark bags under her three friends' sleep deprived eyes, she told them that they would leave in the morning. "It's getting late and you three look like you haven't slept in days," she told them. "If you're going to be body guards for the Princesses of Heart, you'll need to get your sleep." None of the travelers had slept since the night before Sora's arrival at the Tower, and despite the gravity of the situation, the jetlag from the time differences between worlds was exhausting. So despite their reservations about letting their guard down, Sora, Donald, and Goofy reluctantly agreed to get some rest, knowing that Aurora was right. To ensure that they could still protect Aurora at a moment's notice, Aurora had instructed the servants to prepare beds in the rooms immediately adjacent to the royal bed chambers. After a long, dreary night, everyone fell asleep, ready to bring Aurora back to the Mysterious Tower in the morning.

[HR][/HR]The Next Morning…

Before teleporting onto the castle bridge, Donald had set the Gummi Ship's autopilot to land itself in the nearby forest to ensure the ship stayed concealed. The teleportation mechanism only worked when the ship was in orbit, and Donald didn't want to risk the ship getting blown up while they were down here. So, at dawn, the three visitors, Queen Aurora, and King Phillip rode out on horseback from the royal palace in secret, with Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather following behind in the air. Until tonight, only a select few would know of the Queen's departure. As they rode off the bridge and into the forest, Sora was worried by the lack of opposition on the way. Not that I'm complaining, he thought to himself, but given what Aurora told me about this world's Heartless problem, I thought they would be coming after us like bees going to a flower. This is too easy.

Almost as soon as the thought entered his mind, he felt a dark presence off to the side. He looked to the left just in time to see an armada of Heartless headed their way. In the middle of the mob he could make out Neoshadows, a few Crimson Jazz, some Wyverns, and small fast moving green heartless that from Roxas' memories he knew the Organization called Deserters. The large mass was moving with frightening speed, and there was no doubt in the teen's mind what their target was.

"HERE THEY COME!" He shouted to the rest of the group as they pushed the horses to go faster. When they reached the forest they split up. Sora, Donald, Goofy, and Aurora followed the homing beacon that Chip and Dale had installed on the ship to find where it was parked. Meanwhile, Phillip rode his horse in the opposite direction with the three fairies right behind him, hoping they might be able to throw the dark horde off the groups trail and divide the mob.

They were wrong.
[HR][/HR]Before anyone asks, the reason they're all on horseback is that everyone agreed that it would be quicker than walking/running the entire way to where the ship was.

Since the only time we actually see Sora, Donald, and Goofy enter a world in the series (as far as I can remember, correct me if I'm wrong and no, I'm not counting the rabbit hole in Wonderland for KH1 because we didn't see how they got in there) was Pride Lands in KH2, where they teleported into the Gorge. So it makes sense to me that the Gummi ship would have an autopilot and a teleportation mechanism for discreet arrivals, and a homing beacon so that they can find the ship when they're ready to leave.
 
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KeybladeOrder

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Chapter 7: The Rustling Forest:
Enchanted Dominion – The Forest:

We're almost there, Sora thought to himself as he pushed his horse to go faster before twisting around in the saddle and slashing at every Heartless that came within reach of his Keyblade. He was quickly finding battling Heartless on horseback to be a challenging and cumbersome task. The restricted mobility caused by the stirrups and saddle greatly reduced his range and accuracy.

His train of thought snapped back to reality as he, Donald, Goofy, and Aurora entered another clearing in the forest, this one containing a small cottage with hoof and boot prints leading right to the front door, which King Phillip held open as he urged the four to hurry. Up ahead, Sora could hear the tracking beacon in Donald's hand beeping like crazy, meaning that the Gummi ship was nearby, and all they had to do was get Aurora on the ship. The automated defensive cannons would take care of the Heartless.

However, Aurora realized that they could not outrun the horde forever. So as soon as she reached the old house, she leapt from her horse and quickly let it into the now cramped cottage to weather the storm while her three protectors turned around to fight off the seemingly endless mob of Heartless. A Keyblade wielder, a magician, and a royal knight from Disney Castle fighting off a thousand Heartless on horseback, Sora thought as he turned his horse around to face the dark legion that now surrounded the clearing. This will certainly be interesting.

Before the trio could charge at the Heartless, they parted on one side. Out of the mob came a massive Heartless that none of them had ever seen before. It was large, almost as big as the Prison Keeper they'd faced in Halloween Town two years ago. One arm was longer than the other, and held a long spinning wheel. The other arm resembled one of the gauntlets of the Guard Armor that they'd fought in Traverse Town together back when they first met. The feet were pointed like blades, and the head resembled a large wooden pole with a spindle at the tip. As soon as it close enough, the three heroes charged.
[HR][/HR]Despite the limitations of fighting on horseback, the three of them were doing remarkably well. Goofy threw his shield so that it ricocheted off the monster's feet for maximum damage. Donald cast fire spells at its arms, and Sora circled the body, slashing at the torso whenever his steed came in range. It was a fairly easy battle, and the beast was vanquished in a matter of minutes. For some strange reason, the legions that had surrounded the cottage vanished with this one. But Sora, Donald, and Goofy had more pressing concerns.

They quickly dismounted their horses and were about to go give everyone the all clear when the cottage door opened. They immediately went into their battle stances when they saw who was coming out. A man wearing the Organization's signature black coat emerged from the cottage with an unconscious Aurora slung over his back. His hood was down, showing his short grey hair, and though Sora didn't know who he was, he still seemed familiar to the boy somehow. Donald and Goofy, on the other hand, recognized him from the pictures they'd seen of him from the Disney Town Racetrack over a decade ago.

"TERRA!?" they shouted in surprise. So this is Terra, Sora thought to himself as he examined the man who Mickey and Yen Sid said had helped shape who he had become. Before any of them could react, Terra spoke, but his voice was hauntingly recognizable: it was the voice of Xehanort.

"Terra is no more," the man with Terra's face and Xehanort's voice replied as he started walking off with the captive Princess of Heart. "And I'll be taking the princess now."

"Not if I have anything to say about it," Sora cried out as he, Donald, and Goofy attacked the man in black, only to be blown back by a massive blast of darkness from Terra/Xehanort's free hand. Donald slammed into the side of a rock wall on one side of the clearing and Goofy had the wind knocked out of him by a tree branch. Sora, on the other hand, carved a trench across the clearing before stopping at the feet of the group's horses, which had begun grazing after the battle. As the seventeen year old Keybearer lost consciousness, he managed to hear Aurora's kidnapper say a few parting words before vanishing into a Corridor of Darkness.

"Foolish boy," he said. "The thirteen are nearly assembled. What hope do you have against us?" Sora didn't even have the energy to respond before he passed out to the sight of Terra/Xehanort escaping with Aurora through a portal to who knows where. We failed, was Sora's last thought before consciousness left him.
[HR][/HR]Meanwhile, in a gloomy, long decaying fortress in the heart of a mountain range not far from where the Princess had been taken, a dark fairy walked briskly through the halls of her ruined citadel. Today, conquerors and villains from across the known worlds had gathered here in secret. Though they were of different backgrounds, personalities, beliefs, origins, and even species, all of them had one thing in common: an insatiable thirst for power and conquest. A small but diverse gathering, if I do say so myself, Maleficent thought to herself as she made her way toward her throne room. Her musings on the gathering she had called were interrupted by the sound of an elderly gentleman's voice.

"Lovely day for abducting a princess." In an instant she whirled around and slammed the elderly man who'd appeared from nowhere against the wall behind her.

"You are not welcome here, Xehanort," she almost spat the name out as she lifted the Keyblade Master by his neck with one hand.

"But I came to provide you with some information," the old man managed to choke out from Maleficent's icy cold grip. Maleficent snorted with disgust.

"The last bit of information you offered me was a collection of half-truths worded to deceive me into doing your dirty work for you Make no mistake you old fool, I. Am. No one's. Pawn." With that, she released the old man and sneered as she watched him gasp for breath. However powerful he is, she thought to herself, he has his limits. "You may have the princesses," she continued, "but I know how to find the Book. You need me, but I don't need you."

"If you interfere with my plans I will kill you myself," she warned as she spun on her heals and resumed her trek for the throne room, casting a barrier spell that would block all intruders from entering once she passed through the door.

From left to right she could identify them all: a one–handed pirate captain, the bumbling oaf who had been her servant for nearly thirteen years, a small gerbil–like creature who'd recently escaped from an intergalactic prison, an egotistical hunter with an ego as big as the mountain, a fur–obsessed fashionista and her two thugs, a mutated fish man who ferried souls to the afterlife, a power–hungry leonine prince from Sherwood Forest, and the god of the underworld whom she'd grown surprisingly fond of in the last 2 years.

A bit of an odd assortment, I'll admit, Maleficent thought to herself as she gazed out at potential allies new and old. But with enough planning and preparation, we could be a force to be reckoned with. With that, she stood and addressed the assembled evildoers. The reputation of the "Mistress of All Evil" clearly preceded her, as all heads immediately turned to face her as she stood up from her throne.

"Good morning," she began. "My oafish associate was supposed to have informed you of what this gathering is about so I'll get right to the chase. We've all got one thing in common, and one thing only: an insatiable lust for power and conquest. But if there is one thing that the past decade has taught me is that total domination on the scale that we all crave cannot be achieved alone. Conquering one world, let alone enforcing our reign across several requires collaboration." She paused, giving her audience a moment to let this sink in before she continued.

"In the past, some of us worked together in a loose alliance to spread our influence across the known worlds. Our campaign of conquest was brought to a halt, our numbers were cut in half, and though I died in the initial battle, I was resurrected a year later. Since our initial defeat, we've all gone our separate ways. Every attempt we have made to achieve our aims of conquest on our own has ended in failure. Which is why I think it's time we join forces once more. To rekindle old alliances and forge new ones." There were murmurs of caution and disapproval amongs the newcomers, but she noticed Hook give a nod to signify his commitment to the old alliance. When Hades gave a thumbs up to convey the same sentiment, she felt a sharp pang in her chest. Suprisingly, she found the experience-which she'd once heard peasants on other worlds call one's heart "fluttering"- enjoyable.

Pushing the sensation aside, she struck her staff against the stone floor of the castle, releasing a burst of green fire that immediately captured everyone's attention.

"I know what you're all thinking," she began. ""Why should I trust anyone else in this room? To answer that unspoken question, the reason we must band together once more is because like it or not we need each other. Every time one of us tries to achieve anything on our own, we're beaten down by Keyblade Wielders and other miscreants of the universe. But when we act as one, combine our resources, and coordinate our strategies, WE! ARE! UNSTOPPABLE!" As a chorus of cheers and war cries rose up from her audience, Maleficent knew she had them. She smiled a malevolent grin as she looked out over her new allies. It's time, she thought to herself. No more hiding in the shadows, striking out only when it's convenient. If we are to conquer the worlds, we need that wretched King's "datascape" and the Book of Prophecies. And I refuse to wait around any longer and rely on Xehanort's machinations to provide us with fleeting windows in which to acquire what we need. We will take what we want, when we want it. And we. Will. Conquer.
[HR][/HR]The reason why everyone knows of Maleficent's reputation is because, if you recall, her takeover of Hollow Bastion took place nine years before the first Kingdom Hearts, so it's only natural that the Mistress of All Evil would develop an infamous reputation by the time of Kingdom Hearts.

For reference, these are all of the villains who attend Maleficent's meeting in order of reference in the last scene: Captain Hook, Hades, Pete, Hamsterviel (Lilo & Stitch: The Series), Gaston, Cruella de Vil, Horace and Jasper (Cruella's Henchmen), Prince John (Robin Hood), and Davy Jones (Pirates of the Caribbean).

And before anyone asks, there will be no female Seekers of Darkness. It has been established that the new Organization is composed of incarnations of Xehanort or individuals who had a piece of Xehanort's heart implanted in them. Given that, the idea of Xehanort doing that to a female character is just too much Squick/Nightmare Fuel for my taste.

Also before anyone asks, the reason Maleficent is able to gain control of the villains so quickly is a combination of the intimidation and respect that her reputation generates, and her own natural flair and charisma.
And for those of you who watched the old Disney animated TV series House of Mouse, I will be shipping Hades/Maleficent in this fic.
 
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KingdomKey

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This was AWESOME! I've read through all seven chapters to catch up and I'm dying for more. I'm really impressed how close this is to being canon. Maleficent is a badass with her reputation of being the Mistress of Evil. I'm curious what it'll be like with Maleficent and Hades being shipped together in this story too. Seriously, keep it up, because I really can't wait to see what happens next! Is it weird that I want to see Maleficent succeed instead of Xehanort? I wonder if Prince Phillp will be the one to find them, or help Sora and co. back to their ship?
 

KeybladeOrder

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Part of the reason I glossed over the Heartless boss fight last chapter was because from what we've seen in the trailers, a good majority of the Heartless in KH3 will be entirely new, so I've been trying to keep the descriptions of the Heartless bosses vague because I doubt my Heartless boss ideas will be anywhere close to the actual game.
[HR][/HR]Chapter 8: Realm of Darkness:
Halloween Town – Bone Yard:

Riku sighed as he closed the door to the tunnel leading out of one of Halloween Town's cemeteries. He and Mickey had chosen this world as their entry point into the Realm of Darkness for two reasons: the first was because the denizens of Halloween Town had proven to be perfectly capable of tearing the Heartless to shreds unaided. The second reason was because they would attract less attention creating a portal to the Dark Realm than they would on another world. With Xehanort on the loose and going after the princesses, he and Mickey wanted to ensure that their trip to the Realm of Darkness was as brief as possible.

Though he had not spoken of the meeting to anyone, Riku still remembered Terra after all these years. Though he had never learned the name of the man who had given him the power to wield the Keyblade, once he heard what had happened to Terra - how he'd been manipulated by Xehanort - it wasn't that difficult to make the connection. Now that Riku knew the full story, he was eager to free Terra from Xehanort's control. But in order to do that, they'd need to defeat the tyrant first, and for that, they needed to rescue Aqua.

Well, he thought to himself as he turned back to Mickey and nodded to confirm that they were alone in the area. Let's get this over with.

"We're ready," he told the king as he tugged at the hood of the black coat each of them was wearing. Since the two of them were entering the Realm of Darkness, they would need the cloaks to protect themselves from the realm's corrupting influence. Hang in there, Aqua, he thought, help is on the way.

After taking a few moments of stressful concentration, a portal of darkness appeared against the wall of the cemetery. With a wordless glance at his royal companion, the duo stepped through the Dark Corridor. In a few moments, the portal closed, leaving no trace that anyone had been there in the first place.

Meanwhile, on a beach far from the morbid world Riku and the King had left behind, Aqua and her amnesiac companion turned to look at the barren landscape laid out behind them. They could both feel it, even from here.
"Our rescue has arrived," she said.
[HR][/HR]Realm of Darkness – Middle Zone:

As he and Mickey exited the Corridor, they looked around at the dark and foreboding landscape. So this is the Realm of Darkness, he thought as the two of them took off at a run along the widening path of black stone and grey dirt in the direction in which they could sense the small flicker of light in the distance that could only be Aqua. With Xehanort and his allies still at large, the two had agreed that while they were in the Realm of Darkness, talking would attract too much attention. So as they ran in Aqua's general direction, the two Keyblade Masters only communicated when absolutely necessary, and even then they limited their communication to hand signals only.

During his brief odyssey into the dark realm three years ago, King Mickey had created a map of the parts of the realm he had been to. According to Mickey's map, the realm was composed of three main zones: Upper, Middle, and Lower. This being the Realm of Darkness, and Riku and Mickey being Keyblade wielders from the Realm of Light, Heartless naturally started crawling out of the woodwork to face them. Although the Heartless were much stronger than they were before, the interlopers of light were as well. The duo fought their way through three waves of the monsters by the time they reached the path between the Middle Zone and the Lower one.

The human boy and the mouse king fought their way through the Lower Zone in a third of an hour, their rapid pace and impressive combat prowess allowing them to make short work of the Heartless and good time as they climbed the elaborate stone platforms in the Lower Zone. When they reached the Upper Zone, however, they saw that the path to the part of the realm that Mickey had entered from the last time, the Valley of Darkness, was blocked off by a shadowy barrier.

Sensing that the only way to bring down the barrier would be to destroy enough Heartless, Riku signaled his intentions to Mickey before he quickly began jumping across the floating islands of the Upper Zone towards the pools of darkness that were obviously points at which the Heartless would spawn to defend the barricade. Nodding his understanding, Mickey hooped across the islands on the other side of the Zone to do the same. Within a matter of minutes, the barrier was down, and the two friends met in the middle.

Something's wrong, Riku thought as he and Mickey walked into the circular area surrounded by rock spires past the barrier they'd just brought down. He tensed and quickly drew his blade as a dome of purple energy enveloped the ring of stone. A trap, he stated mentally as he glanced at Mickey from the corner of his eye to confirm that the mouse had readied his Keyblade as well. Dozens of Heartless began to emerge from the ground as the duo stood back to back and prepared to face the horde.

Here they come, he mouthed silently to his friend as the demonic legion charged.
[HR][/HR]Just to clarify Riku and Mickey's trip to the Realm of Darkness is happening at the same time as Sora, Donald, and Goofy's failed attempt to get Aurora back to the Mysterious Tower in the past 3 chapters. Riku and Mickey's reactions to Aurora's abduction will be addressed in the next chapter. There will be a few times in this story where the events on one world are happening at the same time as another, so from this point on, I will clarify at the start of each chapter when that is the case, and include a timeline at the end to outline when everything happens.

So this chapter was more or less the Birth By Sleep Final Mix Secret Episode with Riku and Mickey instead of Aqua. The reason I had Riku and Mickey go through the Realm of Darkness so quickly is 1: there's no one for them to interact with besides Aqua, DiZ, and each other, and I'm saving all that for the next chapter. 2: Time moves slower in the Realm of Darkness (Aqua still looks the same in the BBS secret ending 12 years later) so I don't want them to be there very long. And 3: Whereas Aqua in the BBS Secret Episode was aimlessly wandering the dark realm and in no rush, Mickey and Riku are in a hurry so of course they're going to move quickly.
 
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KeybladeOrder

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Chapter 9: Night In The Dark Dream:
Realm of Darkness – Dark Meridian:

Although thirteen years had passed in the Realm of Light, time did not flow in the Realm of Darkness, so Aqua vividly remembered the vicious creature that had attacked her as she made her way through this dimension of darkness. It was a massive and relentless beast, and it had taken nearly all of her energy to defeat it. If there were more of them, as she suspected that there were, whoever had come to rescue them would need all the help they could get. Taking a deep breath, she stood up from her current spot on the beach, turned away from the water in the direction she'd come from to get here, and ran.

"Where are you going?" her companion asked as he turned around to watch her leave.

"Our rescuers are probably going to need some help," she shouted back as she weaved her way between the rocks on the grey sand. "Try not to forget who I am before I get back," she added with a combination of mirth and sarcasm in her voice. Chuckling, the man turned back to face the ocean before verbally reciting everything he could remember about himself to keep him busy until she got back.
[HR][/HR]Realm of Darkness – Upper Zone:

We're almost there, Riku thought to himself as he and Mickey finished off the last of the heartless and the energy dome above their heads dissipated, the dismal black sky of the Realm of Darkness replacing the purple of the dome. When the monsters were all gone, the duo nodded to each other before resuming their run to Aqua. The two of them ran in silence before they finally reached the Valley of Darkness.

As the pair ran across the open ground, they could sense a sinister presence lurking behind them. Riku and Mickey stopped dead in their tracks, and barely managed to cast a reflect spell around themselves as a massive Heartless with glowing red eyes charged at them from the shadows. As soon as the spell dissipated, the beast retreated into the shadows, until all the boy and the mouse could see was it's glowing red eyes. When the beast reemerged from the shadows to strike again, both of them blocked the swipe of its claws then immediately began slashing at it with their Keyblades the instant it stopped moving.

After repeating this pattern a few times, the beast changed it's attack pattern. It started charging the duo, leaving a trail of fire in its wake. The two Masters dodged the blazing demon until they could land a few hits on it. Despite their best efforts, the fire spewing Heartless was moving too fast for them to land a hit. A sudden Blizzaga spell knocked the Heartless off balance long enough for Riku to land a few more hits while Mickey looked for the source of the blast. When the monster recovered and another Blizzaga spell flew past, he finally saw her.

There, racing towards them from across the Valley of Darkness, her appearance unchanged after thirteen years in what some cultures would probably refer to as Hell, was Master Aqua. Mickey smiled at the sight of his old friend, who gave a quick smile back before leaping over the Heartless and casting more ice - based spells at its back as she twirled through the air. As she landed on her feet, the monster started creating a multicolored assortment of projections of itself. Upon realizing that it could only direct it's duplicates in one direction at a time, the three Keyblade Masters took turns drawing the beast's attention while moving in close enough to strike. After a few more mintues - or what amounted for minutes in a dimension where time didn't flow - the monster finally fell.
As the Heartless disintegrated into the shadows, Riku stood to catch his breath while Mickey ran to Aqua and hugged her. The two old friends were crying tears of joy at seeing each other again after so long. After a few moments, Aqua finally spoke.

"It's good to see you again Mickey," she told the mouse. She had never known Mickey was a king, so to her he had always been a fellow Keyblade wielder and a friend.

"It's good to see you too, ," he replied as Aqua briskly led them back to the beach to introduce her rescuers to her companion. "It's been too long," he continued. "Almost thirteen years." At that little bombshell, Riku felt ashamed for almost chuckling at the look of shock on Aqua's face. Mickey quickly reached over and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze to let her know that they were here for her. As the three of them exited the valley in awkward silence, Riku decided to clear the air.

"Sorry we didn't come sooner," the young man spoke up. "We've been pretty busy." Realizing that he had yet to introduce himself, he quickly corrected that. "I'm Riku," he added. Aqua turned to look at him, and her eyes widened in surprise. He clearly seemed familiar to her, but why was completely… Wait! He thought. Now I remember. She was there on the Islands, the day after I met Terra. Despite the fact that the event in question happened thirteen years ago, Riku's eidetic memory was something he prided himself on, to the envy of his friends. As intelligent as he was, Sora could be a bit forgetful at times, and was naturally jealous. Riku's reminiscing was interrupted when Aqua spoke.

"I remember you," she began. "I met you and your friend Sora on the Destiny Islands thirteen years ago. My friend Terra gave you the power to wield the Keyblade." Before she could ask the question he knew she was about to ask, Riku summoned his blade into his hands. He raised an eyebrow in answer to her unasked question.

"I guess that answers that," she responded with a chuckle as they reached the Dark Meridian. Mickey grinned, relieved that his friend was alright, though he suspected that was the first time she'd laughed in a long time. As they approached the shoreline, a man in the Organization's coat stood up from one of the rocks near the water's edge. Riku and Mickey immediately tensed and prepared for a fight, but Aqua remained at ease.

"It's alright," she told them. "He's a friend." Their confusion and Xehanort – induced distrust of the Organization's iconic garb quickly turned to shock when the stranger approached and lowered his hood, revealing his long blond hair and familiar face for the duo to see.

"Ansem!?" They both gasped as their old friend walked towards them with an inquisitive look on his face before suddenly doubling over and clutching the sides of his head in pain. The two Keyblade Masters quickly realized what was wrong immediately. He's been here long enough that he's forgotten who he is, Riku thought to himself. And now, seeing Mickey and I is bringing at least some of them back. Just like how Roxas started regaining his memories of the Organization when he looked at Namine's drawings of him and Axel in the group's uniform. His train of thought was interrupted when the amnesiac king of Radiant Garden released his head, stood up, and gave his two old friends the biggest hug Riku had ever been given.

"I remember now," he said. "Mickey, Riku, it's been a while hasn't it?" he chuckled as he released his friends and they took a moment to catch their breath. The three friends all laughed for a moment, cherishing the reunion before Mickey finally spoke up.

"We've missed you both, but we'll have to continue our reunion elsewhere," he began before lowering his voice to a whisper. "Xehanort has ears everywhere." Despite both castaways' surprise as the mention of his name, both of them nodded their agreement before Mickey turned towards the ocean and used his Keyblade to open a Door to Light, which would take them to Disney Castle.
[HR][/HR]I know I said that Riku and Mickey's reaction to Aurora's abduction and the interaction between the group in the Realm of Darkness would be this chapter, but when I was writing, I decided I felt that the foursome catching up with each other and reaction to the capture of Aurora should be its own chapter. Sorry to disappoint everyone.

If you have not played Birth By Sleep Final Mix or just forgot about it, the boss Riku, Mickey, and Aqua fight is the Dark Hide, a pureblood Hearless boss that looks like a quadrupedal version of the Dark Thorn from KH2. It's fought by Aqua in the Realm of Darkness as part of the Secret Episode.

For those of you who are wondering why they're going to Disney Castle, there are 2 reasons. 1 in-universe reason and 1 out-of-universe reason. The in-universe reason is that the Door to Light takes people (or at least this is how I've heard it explained here on the forums, idk if Nomura ever specified if this was accurate or not, but all other uses of the Door to Light in the series corroborates this interpretation, so I'm going with it for the sake of my story) to the world they come from or consider home. The out-of-universe reason is because Maleficent is naturally going to make another move for the Datascape from Re:coded again, and I want Riku, Mickey, and Aqua to be there when she does.
 
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Chapter 10: Survivor's Respite:
Disney Town – Castle Dining Room:

Aqua slumped back in her chair in shock as she processed what Mickey and Riku had told her she'd missed. Xehanort – still in control of Terra's body, much to her chagrin – performing cruel and inhumane experiments on innocent people. She stared blankly into space as she processed everything she'd just heard. Xehanort becoming a heartless; His creation of Organization XIII for the sole purpose of stripping them of their regrown hearts in order to fill them with his own; Travelling back in time to create an army of himself to achieve his goals. It sickened her to no end. I should have killed him when I had the chance, she thought bitterly to herself as she reached for the nearest glass of water. No, she realized. I couldn't. Not when Terra could still fight back. I couldn't do that to him. I…

Acknowledging that self – deprecation over what could have been was pointless and accomplished nothing, Aqua instead turned her mind towards digesting the rest of the info dump Mickey and Riku had given her. She hadn't performed the Inheritance Ceremony on that boy Sora to avoid conflict between the two friends because she knew Terra had already done it with Riku, but Riku had apparently followed in Terra's footsteps and became another pawn of Xehanort's, causing his Keyblade to transfer itself to Sora instead. Riku had eventually broken free of Xehanort's control and had spent the past three years atoning for his mistakes, culminating in his passing of the Mark of Mastery Exam.

It was when hearing Riku's story of his quest for redemption that Aqua realized that Master Eraqus had taken the wrong approach with Terra all those years ago. While she, Terra, and Ven had been taught that balance between light and darkness had to be maintained, their teacher had always instilled in them the belief that darkness was evil. So when Terra's darkness surfaced during their Exam, Eraqus had berated him for being obsessed with power. But when Riku began to dabble in darkness, he was encouraged to embrace it. And because of that dual control of light and darkness, Riku had succeeded on his Exam where Terra had failed, and that was an impressive feat in her eyes.

"Congratulations on passing your Exam," she told Riku when she finally spoke. After Riku thanked her, she turned to address Mickey and continued.

"This is so much to take in right now," she told him. "I feel like I could have done more to stop Xehanort last time. But now that I'm back, I'm going to help make sure that we put him in the ground for good this time." After taking a moment to calm herself with another glass of water, she had one final statement. "But first, I need to wake Ven up." Mickey immediately grinned at that and Aqua had a feeling as to why.

"I was trying to find the right time to bring that up," he said. "We've found his heart, but you're the only one who knows how to get to his body." Aqua hadn't felt so happy in thirteen years with that news. Not caring about court etiquette around royalty–since Mickey had told her not to be so formal around him anyway. They were still friends first and foremost – she walked around the small table and hugged the mouse. "As soon as we set off again I can take you there," she began as she wiped tears of joy from her eyes. She was so relieved to know that she could finally wake Ven up. Now that just leaves Terra, she thought to herself as she sat back down.

But before she could continue, the three Keyblade Masters suddenly turned and looked to the sky as they felt a tremor in the universe. Ansem, as her formerly amnesiac friend was called, was puzzled by their reaction, but figured that he could not sense what they were because he wasn't a Keyblade Wielder. Before he could ask the three of them what they meant, Riku answered for him.

"Xehanort's taken another of the Princesses of Heart," he said simply. Before either Ansem or Aqua could broach the subject of what they would be doing now in light of this development, the castle shook with a thundering roar. Though she had not heard it in thirteen years, Aqua recognized the sound for what it was: an explosion. The castle was under attack. Years of combat training and instincts kicked in as she shot up from her chair and bolted from the room with Riku and Mickey right behind her. I may be tired after living in darkness for over a decade, she thought to herself, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to do my job as Keyblade Master and help those who need me.
[HR][/HR]To clarify, Ansem/DiZ doesn't remember everything yet. There are still a few details that are missing from his memory, but talking about Xehanort with Riku and Mickey is helping to jog his memory.

The reason Donald and Goofy could sense the first Princess abduction a few chapters ago is because Donald is a Magician and while Goofy relies primarily on defense, he's still adequate enough with combat magic to be considered magically inclined. Ansem has never used Magic and so has cannot sense things the way Magic users and Keybearers can.

And I forgot to mention this in the prologue so I'm just going to get it out of the way now,
By this point in the story, Riku is 18. Sora and Kairi turned 17 between DDD and this story.
 
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Chapter 11: Castle of Dreams
The Lanes Between - Sora, Donald, & Goofy's Gummi Ship:

We failed, Sora thought to himself as he, Donald, and Goofy piloted their Gummi Ship through the Lanes Between. Xehanort took Aurora, and we couldn't do anything to stop him. Despite the trio's promise to find Aurora and bring her home, King Phillip was devastated by his wife's abduction. Nonetheless, he wished the three travelers luck in their quest, and they provided him with some tips for effectively fighting the Heartless before leaving to find the next Princess.

The ship flew through the stars at top speed towards the nearest confirmed Princess-inhabited world. None of them spoke throughout the entire journey, the gravity of the situation now weighing down on them like lead. As they approached the nearest world on the navigation menus, the trio took turns preparing for the adventure. Only as they were preparing to land their ship did Goofy break the uneasy silence that had fallen over them since they'd left since the Enchanted Dominion.

"I hope we're not too late," he said.
[HR][/HR]Castle of Dreams – Palace Courtyard:

Sora, Donald, and Goofy raced out of the forest they'd covertly landed their ship in, only to find themselves in what was obviously the courtyard for a castle. Since, including this one, there were only 2 worlds inhabited by a Princess of Heart they hadn't been to yet, they knew that this was either Cinderella's world or Snow White's. Considering that either of the two was an actual princess, Sora figured that the castle would be the best place to look for them, and started toward the door, Donald and Goofy right on his heels, having reached the same conclusion.

As they climbed the steps, they found that the entrance to the castle was blocked by two palace guards. The two of them snapped to attention as soon as the newcomers approached.

"I'm sorry," the guard said, "but due to the ball tonight, only invited guests are permitted on the palace grounds."

"Do you three have an invitation?" the other one asked.

"We don't," Sora began, "But…"

"Then would you be so kind as to vacate the premises?" the first guard asked rhetorically as the two of them crossed their weapons in front of the doors. Recognizing that starting a fight with the guards would not make a good first impression, the group departed the castle to plan their next move.

"What do we do now?" Donald asked as the three closed door behind them. They knew that their only option now was to sneak into the castle, but none of them voiced what they were all thinking. As the three discussed how to sneak inside, none of them noticed a small light floating down towards them and its glow softened to reveal an elderly woman in a light blue robe.

"It's good to see you three again," Cinderella's Fairy Godmother's voice snapped them out of their conversation. After exchanging greetings, she explained to the Keyblade Master and his friends that Prince Thomas and Princess Cinderella were hosting a royal ball to celebrate the prince's birthday. The three heroes in turn explained their current situation, and the urgent need to bring the Princesses of Heart somewhere safe. However after they explained what was going on, the trio found that their old friend had bad news.

"I saw a man in a black coat sneaking into through an upstairs window," she told them. With this pronouncement, the trio became even more agitated.

"We really need to get inside now," Sora practically shouted as he started jumping around on his toes, like he was ready to fight his way to Cinderella single-handed. Before he could however, the Fairy Godmother stopped him in his tracks with four words.

"I have a suggestion."
 
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Chapter 12: Bibbidi – Bobbidy – Boo:
Castle of Dreams – Mousehole:

I hope we're not too late, Sora thought as he, Donald, and Goofy made their way through the mouseholes of Cinderella's castle. The fairy godmother had shrunk the trio down so that they could make their way through the castle undetected. After introducing the group to Cinderella's mouse friends Jaq and Gus, the five raced through the mouse-sized tunnels toward the ballroom. Sora, Donald, and Goofy were doing parkour off the walls while Jaq and Gus scampered along behind.

When the trio had discussed the benefits and disadvantages of this particular method of infiltration outside, Donald had pointed out that their abilities and the lack of security would outweigh the disadvantage of smaller strides. So the three warriors found themselves hurrying through the passages Cinderella's mouse friends used to traverse the castle. The Fairy Godmother went on ahead to warn Cinderella and Prince Thomas of the danger, leaving the mice with the task of guiding the heroes through their miniature labyrinth.

Since the Organization had arrived before them, they weren't surprised when Heartless began popping up at the major intersections of the labyrinth. The three of them made short work of the monsters before moving further into the castle. However as they moved deeper into the building, the Heartless began attacking any of Cinderella's mouse friends wandering the tunnels too close to the Keybearer's path. Sora, being the compassionate young man that he was, was always compelled to rescue all the mice pinned down by the Heartless.

[HR][/HR]A few hours later, the trio reached an opening just above the ballroom. Goofy looked around the room before spotting Cinderella, Prince Thomas, and the Fairy Godmother standing directly below them. After interrupting Donald and Sora bickering over how to slip through the crowd at their current size without being seen to tell them what he saw, the trio decided to simply drop down to the floor from the hole. Cinderella spotted them first as they drifted toward the ground, and the Fairy Godmother quickly restored them to their normal size.

"It's good to see you all again," Cinderella said as she hugged the three heroes once they'd finished growing.
"My wife's godmother told us what's going on," Prince Thomas added after he introduced himself. "I hope you have a plan to keep Cinderella safe from this madman."

"As a matter of fact" Goofy replied, "We do have a plan." With that, Sora quickly explained the plan to use Yen Sid's tower as a bunker of sorts for the Princesses of Heart.
[HR][/HR]"I'm sorry, my love," the prince said to his wife after Sora finished explaining the plan. "But it sounds like you must leave immediately." Cinderella didn't have to argue. She wanted to stay with her prince and her mouse friends, but she knew that every minute she stayed while Xehanort was on the loose was another minute the danger she was in grew exponentially.

"Alright," she told Sora after she said her goodbyes to her husband and her father-in-law. "Thomas will take care of things here. Let's get going."

"I wouldn't be so sure about that if I were you," a voice loudly interrupted. The crowds quickly parted with surprise to reveal a one – eyed man in a black coat standing in the doorway, with grey streaks in his long greasy hair. Sora, Donald, and Goofy were filled with an intense feeling of dread as they recognized him immediately.

Braig.

"You're not getting anywhere near the princess," Sora shouted as he, Donald, and Goofy stood in a protective circle around Cinderella. There was no need for banter with the schemer this time. They knew why he was here.

"I thought you chumps learned your lesson after we snatched up Aurora," the Freeshooter fired back as a massive Heartless like none the trio had ever seen before appeared in front of them out of thin air. "You're in way over your pretty little heads." The palace guards gathered behind the trio to escort the princess to safety.
[HR][/HR]After all the Heartless the trio had faced in the castle's plumbing, subduing the giant one took almost no time at all. The partygoers fled the room in panic while the three warriors battled the monster. By the time the last guest cleared the doors, a heart floated up and the beast went down.

"We took care of it!" Sora called out to Prince Thomas after he, Donald, and Goofy caught their breath. But Thomas didn't answer. His gaze was transfixed on something behind them. When the trio turned to follow his line of sight, their hearts plummeted in their chests when they saw Cinderella's escort lying unconscious on the floor with pools of blood oozing outward from the visible holes in their chests that Xigbar's laser guns had obviously created.

"How are we supposed to protect the princesses is Xehanort is always a step ahead of us?" He wondered aloud as their second failure weighed down on his shoulders like lead.
[HR][/HR]The name of Cinderella's prince is from the TV series Once Upon A Time.
I glossed over Sora, Donald, and Goofy's journey through the castle because I didn't want the entire chapter to just be the three of them travelling.
 

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Chapter 13: Restoration:
Radiant Garden – Grand Hall:

"Are there any questions?" Leon asked as he looked around the members of the Radiant Garden Restoration Committee. As more and more survivors of the Fall had returned from across the stars, the Committee's ranks expanded rapidly and their progress towards restoring the world to its former glory quickly accelerated. In the past two years, they'd managed to completely rebuild the castle, the city walls, the framework of the gardens, and the remaining residential districts. Rain had fallen on the mountains for the first time in over a decade, and the once barren mountains were now verdant with fresh grass and other vegetation. The dry, rocky canyons had been mostly filled up with rainwater, and some of the new arrivals had set to work restoring the gardens. The last major obstacle in their goal of restoring Radiant Garden was refurbishing the city's power grid and plumbing network.

All things considered, we've done a pretty good job, the young man thought to himself as he looked around the room to find that nobody had raised their hands.

"Alright then," he continued. "Meeting adjourned." With that pronouncement, most of the crowd dispersed to go work on various projects. Within a few minutes only the original members of the group remained.

"It's amazing how far we've come in such a short time," Aerith said as she packed up the notes they'd taken for the next meeting.

"Yeah," Yuffie added as the gang began the trek downstairs to the castle entrance. "Looking at what we've accomplished, it's easy to forget that three years ago this world was a desolate wasteland."

"Well we've still got a long way to go," Leon replied. "We've got a lot more to do before Radiant Garden can really be considered "restored to its former glory"."

"We know, Leon," Cid called out with a sarcastic chuckle. "It's nice to have more people around here. It helps make things a bit livelier."

"I still don't really trust the old apprentices though," the so-called "Great Ninja" replied as she fiddled with her oversized shuriken. "Even if Xehanort duped them they still did a lot of awful stuff." After Lea left to train with Master Yen Sid, the four former founders of Organization XIII - Dilan, Even, Aeleus, and Ienzo - had immediately set to work rebuilding the castle interior as a means of atoning for the crimes and atrocities they'd committed as Nobodies.

"That's why we keep a close eye on them," Aerith spoke up. "And besides," she continued. "So many people have been deceived and manipulated by Xehanort. If Riku can be forgiven for what he did, then so can they." Nobody pointed out that Riku's crimes weren't as severe as what the apprentices had done, but they at least understood the unspoken sentiment. That the Organization's founders deserved a chance at redemption.

"Yeah, you're right… as usual" Tifa replied with a chuckle as they reached the Entrance Hall. "Has anybody noticed how quiet it seems with Merlin gone?" After Lea and Kairi began their training with the Keyblade, the old wizard had left to assist Yen Sid with the duo's training.

"As much as I hate to admit it," Cid interjected, "I actually miss the old loon."

"Don't let him hear you, old man," Yuffie teased as she gently elbowed him in the side. "Otherwise you'll never hear the end of it." Everyone laughed aloud at that pronouncement as they walked out the castle doors towards Merlin's house. Even after the official headquarters of the Restoration Committee was moved to the castle, the five of them still stopped by every afternoon for snacks and casual conversation.
[HR][/HR]When they finally returned to Merlin's house, they were surprised to find a tall man with bright red hair waiting for them.

"Hey Lea," Yuffie greeted the unexpected visitor. "What's up?"

"Bad news, I'm afraid," the red-headed Keyblade wielder replied as he stood up from the bed.

"Xehanort's going after the Princesses again," he told them. "And we're going to need all the help we can get."
[HR][/HR]I just wanted to use this extra chapter to pop in on what Lea and the Radiant Garden gang are up to. The Final Fantasy characters will have a larger role in this story, so I wanted to give them an introductory scene to establish what they were up to these days. I figured that by the time of KH3, they'll have made significant progress rebuilding Radiant Garden, especially when more former citizens start coming home and helping out. For reference, Radiant Garden basically looks like a cross between its appearance in BBS and its appearance in KH2.

I was originally going to include a Sword in the Stone world, but ultimately had to cut it due to time constraints and inability to come up with a good enough plot for it. So while the conflict with Xehanort is going on, Merlin's off teaching young King Arthur.
 

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Chapter 14: Disney Town:
The Lanes Between - The Flying Dutchman:

At last, Maleficent thought to herself as she looked out the windows of Davy Jones' cabin aboard the Flying Dutchman. It's taken a year, but the key to the Book of Prophecies – the path to power and conquest – is finally within my grasp. She smiled a malicious grin as an explosion bloomed down on the surface of Disney Town. Dr. Hamsterviel's clone army was doing its job well. The Leroy legion had been already begun laying siege to the castle as the rest of the alliance prepared to swoop in and seize the Datascape. Her musings were interrupted by the sudden arrival of the lord of the dead.

"The view is beautiful, isn't it?" Hades said as he stepped towards the window to stand beside her.

"While the sight of worlds burning is inherently amusing," she answered with a disgusted sneer, "I would hardly consider the sickeningly colorful village below us beautiful."

"I wasn't talking about that view," he replied. Maleficent turned to see the Greek god with a look in his eyes that suggested that he indeed meant what she thought he meant. Although normally stoic and cold-hearted, let it not be said that the Mistress of All Evil didn't have a soft side buried deep down. Having been shunned during her childhood over her green skin and magical abilities, she felt flattered that someone like Hades considered her attractive. After working with him for almost a decade, she was even willing to admit that maybe she felt the same way about him.

"As long as we're being honest with each other," she began after processing his words, "I appreciate a man with a fiery disposition. It brings out the dragon in me." The two fire-wielding villains moved a little closer together before a knock at the door caused them to awkwardly push back a few steps.

"M'lady," the duo turned to see one of Jones' mutated crew members standing in the now open doorway.

"What is it?" she asked, irritated with being interrupted. "Is Phase 2 ready yet?"

"No, m'lady," the fish man replied. "But we've hauled something up onto the deck that the Captain thinks you'll want to see." Curious, Hades and Maleficent followed the crewman upstairs and were surprised to find a large mass of metal and what appeared to be rubber sitting on the deck.

"Jones," Maleficent called out as she approached the object. "What is this heap of junk?"

"We don't know," the captain of the Flying Dutchman shouted back as he descended the steps from the helm. "We found it drifting through the lanes between. It looks to be the remains of an automaton of some sort." Hades stepped past Maleficent to examine the metal monstrosity. It looked like someone had tried to stuff a balloon inside a suit of armor judging from the shapes of the metalwork. A extremely sturdy balloon, Hades thought as he poked the rubbery substance with his absurdly sharp fingernails. What exactly is this thing? His curiosity went up further when he spotted what appeared to be a hatch on the robot's chest.

"Interesting," he said aloud as he placed a finger on the hatch. To his surprise the hatch pushed inward before splitting open to reveal a small white cylinder that rotated outward from the now open hatch. As the lord of the underworld removed his finger from the cylinder a thin, red square emerged from it, marked with a skull and crossbones – once a flag of pirates, now a near-universal symbol of death. He smiled. "We'll need to get to a computer to analyze what's on this disc," he said as he withdrew the red square. "But I think this thing could prove useful." He handed the disc to Maleficent as he gazed down at the rubbery shape that made up the machine's head, staring contemplatively at its covered mechanical eyes.
[HR][/HR]First of all, the reason the Disney Villains from less technologically advanced worlds know about things like computers, robots, and floppy discs is twofold. First, it's because in the course of their conquests (they being Maleficent, Hades, Hook, and the original team form KH1) they've most likely come across things before and took the time to learn all they could about them. Second, they and Hamsterviel (from the Lilo & Stitch TV Series) explained everything to the newcomers.

For those who have never seen the Lilo & Stitch sequels or TV series, Leroy was basically an evil twin of Stitch that Jumba was forced to create at laser point, and then Leroy cloned to create an army (50,000 strong to be precise) a la Jango Fett and the Clone Troopers in Star Wars.

Yes, Maleficent is now in possession of Baymax's body form the end of Big Hero 6. I figured that since the details of how the Dark Baymax is created are vague at this point, it made more sense to have Maleficent be the one responsible, since overt conquest is more her thing than Xehanort's

Anyway, I figured that the Disney Villain Alliance from the first Kingdom Hearts would be fairly close on a personal level because they've been working together for so long. We don't know how long the group was active for before Kingdom Hearts 1, but considering how many Princesses they grabbed and how many worlds were lost, I think it's safe to assume that the group has been together at least since the fall of Radiant Garden.
 

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Chapter 15: Mickey Mouse March:
Disney Town – Raceway:

Mickey blocked another plasma bolt as he leaped over a mob of the red creatures that resembled the little blue alien called Stitch who Sora, Donald, and Goofy had befriended at Radiant Garden two years ago. Whether these red doppelgangers were related to him in any way was a mystery, but one that would need to be solved at a later date, as the King of Disney Castle and Town had more important things to worry about. Like the fact that the red monsters were sowing chaos and destruction all over his beloved world.

But why? The mouse king thought to himself as he cast a Blizzaza spell that trapped a large portion of the attacking creatures in a massive block of ice. They're clearly organized, yet they don't seem to have any real goal beyond causing chaos and mayhem. He dispatched the last of the furry attackers, knocking it unconscious against a wall in the district's lower level. But just as he was about to radio the castle guards to bring the immobilized and unconscious monsters to the dungeons, the voice of Ansem –who had volunteered to coordinate the defense of the city– came over the radio.

"All units, come in. The castle is under attack. I repeat, the castle is under…" Ansem's voice was replaced by static as the line went dead. They were fighting these monsters blind. Mickey cast a freezing spell on the unconscious monsters as he ran back towards the Castle, hoping he wasn't too late and desperately praying that he was wrong.
[HR][/HR]This is almost too easy, Maleficent thought to herself as she, Hades, and Pete moved swiftly through the Castle. Everyone is so busy defending the city against the Leroy army that they've neglected the possibility that one such as I would use the chaos to infiltrate the castle undetected. And indeed, the Castle appeared completely deserted. Not a trace of life besides the blond old man Pete had locked in the communications room with a fire bomb a few corridors back. But it didn't matter. As long as nobody opposed them, it was smooth sailing from there.

Maleficent would have preferred to simply use the Corridors of Darkness to reach her target, but even with Xehanort's actions shifting the balance of power towards Darkness, the Cornerstone of Light was still powerful enough to prevent the use of the Dark Corridors even though it could no longer physically keep her out of the castle. But it was all inconsequential. Once she had what she needed, she would be on her way.

A few minutes later, the trio reached the castle Library, where they found their target: the "Datascape" that King Mickey and his allies used to create a simulation of all the known Worlds based on the journal records of a tiny cricket who'd been accompanying the Keybearers and their companions over the years. With it, Maleficent intended to study it in order to find the link she believed existed between these journals, and the fabled Book of Prophecies. All they needed to do now was find a way to transport it out of the castle without damaging it.

"Quickly," she gestured to Hades, since she didn't trust Pete to prepare food, much less move delicate technology. "Help me disconnect it from the wall."

"Don't you dare take another step," a woman's voice called out behind them. The three villains turned around, and their eyes went wide with shock as they gazed upon a Keyblade Master they hadn't seen in over a decade.

"YOU!?" They all cried out.
 

KeybladeOrder

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Chapter 16: Up And Down Adventure:
The Lanes Between – Cid's Gummi Ship:

"Look Out!" Kairi shouted from the navigation console as the Gummi Ship weaved its way between the cannon fire of the two flying pirate ships orbiting Disney Town. She had gone with Lea to Radiant Garden to enlist the aid of Leon and the others against Xehanort, and after Cid's long-range communication equipment received a distress beacon from Disney Town, she, Leon, Yuffie, Cloud, and Lea quickly piled into a Gummi Ship and flew off to help.

"Yuffie!" Leon hollered into the intercom from his seat in the pilot's chair. "What's the damage in the engine room?"

"That last cannonball took out our forward shields," the ninja in question fired back over the speakers. "The rear shield gummi is still working but we're toast against a direct frontal hit."

"Leon, you've got to beam us down there," Lea shouted over the blaring sirens of the cockpit. "Kairi and I can take care of things on the ground while you three get out of range of these two juggernauts." He grabbed onto a support railing as an incoming cannonball struck the ship, rocking everyone inside. Alarms shrieked louder.
[HR][/HR]Disney Castle – Library
"It can't be," Maleficent said as she, Hades and Pete faced down Aqua in the Disney Castle library. "You haven't been active in over a decade."

"You can thank Xehanort for that," the blue-haired Keyblade Master snapped as she stood in the doorway, blocking the villains' exit. "I don't suppose you'd tell me why you're attacking one world just to steal one computer?" she almost laughed as she asked the question both she and her foes knew would never be answered.

"As if," Hades shot back with a chuckle as he and Maleficent went back to preparing the computer for transport. "Now if you'll excuse us," he continued, "we'll be helping ourselves to the mouse's Datascape."

"Over my dead body," Aqua replied coldly as her stance tightened, clearly prepared for battle.

Well far be it from me to deny her that wish, Maleficent thought before speaking. "That can be arranged." She turned to her rotund accomplice. "Pete?"

The bumbling cat who Aqua had last seen banished from the city quickly pulled out a fire bomb and tossed it at the young woman's face. Aqua quickly cast a Reflega spell, but after being in the Realm of Darkness for nearly a decade with very little sleep her reflexes were a little rusty and the shockwave of the blast flung her out of the Library and down the Colonnade. She groaned as she stood up from the floor in time to see the trio of villains retreating the way they'd come with the "Datascape".

"You're not getting away that easily," she shouted as she ran through the castle corridors casting Firaga spells as she went. A triumphant smirk flashed across her face as the former "Captain Justice" hollered when one of her spells set his pants on fire. He quickly turned around and bowled another bomb at her.

"Well if it's a fight you want," he shouted as she leaped over the rolling explosive, "then it's a fight you'll get."
[HR][/HR]"I hope we're not too late," Riku panted as he and Mickey ran through the streets of Disney Town towards the nearest entrance to the Castle. Most of the red monsters had been rounded up and being taken to the dungeons, and the rest were being taken care of by the royal guards, freeing up the two Keyblade Masters to hurry to the Castle. Ansem had called a few minutes after the radios had been lost to inform them that he was alright. Mickey had instructed to wait for them in the castle Gummi Hangar in case they needed to pursue these invaders off world.

"I'm just hoping I'm wrong," the mouse replied as they came up to the Raceway. He didn't need to elaborate on what he meant. Mickey had already told Riku about the Datascape when the met up in the dash back to the castle, and the fact that the only people besides them, Donald, Goofy, Jiminy, and the chipmunk twins who knew the Datascape existed were Maleficent and Pete. Deep down Mickey knew that this attack was the dark fairy's latest attempt to seize the computer containing the virtual world for herself. They'd defeated her last time, but she and Pete were alone then, trying to hold his wife for ransom in exchange for the this time they weren't alone, and instead of trying to take hostages they were using these creatures to cause chaos to divert attention away from the castle so they could slip in undetected. Why didn't I realize it sooner? He asked himself as they reached the Main Plaza.

Mickey's stomach sank as the castle doors opened and his worst fears were realized. Maleficent and Hades walked out carrying the Datascape. This only confirmed Mickey's fears that Maleficent had rebuilt her old cabal of villains.

"Not so fast!" He shouted, determined not to let them escape with the computer. The two villains turned their heads to face him.

"Well, look who decided to show up," Hades fired back. "I was wondering how long it would take you to figure out what was going on."

"As if we would ever let you get away with the Datascape," the mouse king retorted as he and Riku spread out to cut off the duo's escape routes. Just then, Pete came running out of the castle doors with Aqua right on his heels. With the addition of Aqua, the three Keyblade Wielders began closing in on the surrounded villains.

Just before they could strike, they all stopped and turned their heads up towards the sky. They could all feel it. The loss of another Princess to darkness. Xehanort had struck again. Mickey, Riku, and Aqua turned their attention back to the evil trio to find that Maleficent's gaze was now directed at the something along the castle walls. In an instant, a Corridor of Darkness opened up beneath her and her allies' feet, dropping them through it and sealing up seconds before a massive fireball struck the plaza floor from above.

"Ugh," they heard a familiar voice cry out. "Missed them by that much." The three Masters looked up to see Lea standing on the castle walls. "Oh, hey guys," he shouted when he looked down and noticed them. "I'll be right there," he added before turning and walking out of sight. A few seconds later he leapt out over the plaza before landing on his feet with another familiar face in his arms.

"Kairi!" Riku shouted, racing to his friend's side. He recognized the look on her face from when the first princess was taken only a few days ago, and quickly cast a Curaga spell to help her recover. "I thought you were supposed to stay at the Tower until Yen Sid felt you were ready to be out in the field."

"I took her with me to Radiant Garden to see if we could drum up some support from your old friends there," Lea answered, knowing that he had allowed her to sneak out with him. "We got the distress signal saying this place was under attack and came straight here."

"Well as long as you're here, we need all the help we can get," Aqua interjected as Lea and Riku helped Kairi to her feet. "Those three stole something they called the "Datascape,"" she continued. "I have no idea what that is but it seems important."

"It is," Mickey replied as he led the group into the central gazebo of the plaza. "And we have to get it back," he continued before crouching down and slipping his fingers underneath a circular panel in the floor. "We built emergency access tunnels leading to the Gummi Hangar in case of emergencies," he said as Riku joined him in moving the heavy slab. "This will take us straight there so we can hurry after them."

"Leon, Yuffie, and Cloud are still in orbit on their Gumi Ship trying to avoid the fleet they have up there," Kairi added as the two masters finished opening the tunnel, revealing a metal ladder going straight down. "They'll be able to follow them and give us an idea of which direction they're heading."

"Great idea," Riku said as Lea made contact with their friends' ship to inform them of the situation. "We'll talk about everything else on the way. Now let's move." With that, the five Keybearers jumped down the long shaft leading to the hangars, racing to catch up to the villains and recover the Datascape before it was too late.
[HR][/HR]First things first, answering the obvious questions.

1. Because time flows differently in the realm of Darkness, Aqua has apparently been on the beach since after the end of Kingdom Hearts II. This would basically mean that as of the beginning of this story she's been out of practice for roughly 2 years. So I figured that combined with the fact she's still recovering from her ordeal (she's only been back for a single day, so she hasn't really had much time to rest) means that for her first boss fight of the game she's not going to be at the top of her game.

2. Aqua knows about modern technology because 1) Eraqus still keeps up with the times even though his castle is almost devoid of technology (I say almost – Ven has a holo-projector in his room in BBS), and 2) she, Terra, and Ven weren't very surprised by the advanced tech in Deep Space.

3. The princess abduction everybody sensed at the end of the chapter was Cinderella being captured by Xigbar captured back in Chapter 13. It's easier for me to jump back and forth between each group's story to show what's happening at the same time and all than to do switch every chapter.
 

Lanydx reborn

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Okay been reading this. So far, it's pretty dang good. I do feel like some chapters could be longer, or two chapters could be turned into one, but you've done some great work.
 
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