Anime Hearts

Part 2

A whole not so new world.


Carrot wasn't sure how long he'd been sitting where he was. For all he knew it could have been days. He'd just woken up and didn't quite have the strength to open his eyes. He felt his hand brush against his face and run across light stubble on his chin.

"Ooooh, where am I?"

His eyes slowly opened and focused on something. A blob of color faded into view slowly. It was the face of a young boy. Carrot wasn't expecting to wake up to such a scene and responded by screaming loudly and flailing his arms against the brick wall he was propped up against.

Naturally, the child screamed as well. Another unexpected event happened and Carrot was not only surprised, but also put through a large amount of pain. A jet of flame shot out of the boy's mouth. He had but a spit second to realize that the child was floating about three feet off the ground before the flames hit.



"Jeezus kid!" Carrot flapped at his shirt desperately to put out the flames. His face was completely red and his hair was singed. His eyes rolled up into his head and he slumped down cold.

The child sniffled and glared at him for a moment. "Meanie!"

A new voice caught the child's attention and he looked up over his head. "Ten! What are you doing down here all alone?" His older cousin Lum floated into view and ignored the smoking body against the wall.

The child floated down to the ground and started making circles in the ground with his toes. "Well, I was, I mean looking for Ataru, and I figured a good place to find him would be this bathhouse."

"Really?" said Lum as she looked confused for a moment.

"Yeah, he's around back at the window. I asked him what he was looking for, but he told me I'd understand when I was older." Ten smiled sunnily at her.

"R-really?" said the girl as she looked down at her cousin with barely controlled rage. Energy crackled around her as she slowly turned her glare towards the back of the building.

"Yeah!" said Ten cheerfully. He turned away and rubbed his hands together impishly. "That'll teach him for hogging the view!"

Ten was quite surprised when a hand reached up and grabbed him in the face. "I heard that." The child found himself staring an angry looking Carrot in the face from between the man's fingers. "In another situation, I might sympathize with you, but I didn't appreciate what you did to me a minute ago."

"You let my cousin go right now!" cried Lum defensively as she seemed to forget about Ataru for a moment.

The man stood up; he was much taller than her and dressed in street clothes. He didn't look very happy and he simply held the child by his face. "No thanks, I don't like getting burned in the face twice in one day. It's a rather unpleasant way to wake up."

The girl stepped back and spread her feet. "I'm warning you..."

"This little runt was working with your boyfriend so he could see some naked flesh too. He seems a little young to be such a pervert."

Lum relaxed ever so slightly as she turned her eyes towards her cousin. "What? Don't be stupid."

"He was looking right at me when he was congratulating himself on sending you after him after this Ataru hogged the view. He's probably as dirty minded as your boyfriend, but he's cute, so no one suspects."

Ten growled angrily from under the boy's grip. It wasn't painful, but firm enough to keep him from opening his mouth.

Carrot dipped his arm back slightly and tossed the child into her arms. The boy tumbled back and shot flame out of his mouth as soon as he was free. The man was unharmed and his own jet sent him splashing into a puddle at Lum's feet.

"That wasn't very nice!" growled Lum.

"It's his own fault, if he hadn't shot his mouth off he'd have landed in your arms safely." He turned away from her with a smirk on his face and paused as he walked away for a moment. "Don't look at me that way. I know you would have caught him."

The girl didn't seem very pleased with this at all.


It had been about a half-hour since the incident in the alley. Carrot was sitting on a park bench staring at the ground in silence. He'd been there for almost twenty minutes. It seemed odd to him that he was still in Tomboiki. He had a giant key sitting across his lap and no one gave him a second glance.

Being sucked out of your apartment by a huge black vortex and watching most of your planet go along for the ride wasn't something to be taken lightly. It is expected that someone in that situation that wasn't dead would have no idea where the hell they were.

Therein lied the problem in this case. Carrot knew exactly where he was and it scared the living shit out of him. He had seen people walking by that he recognized, but he'd never met any of these people in his life.

He simply watched the people's feet go by in front of him. He didn't move or try to speak to any of them, although he could understand them all. It was odd considering not all of them were using Japanese or English.

"What the hell happened? What were those things? What does this thing have to do with it?" He held up the key in front of his face and peered at it. "Where did everyone else go?" He finally rose to his feet. "Dan and Jenn were right with me...and Mia..." He felt his fist clench at his side at the thought. "What the hell happened to her?"

He had a lot to think about, but he would have to do it on the move. He realized that his friends could easily be dead, or flung off into a different world. Still, they were with him when the end came, and maybe he'd find them here. "It'd be nice to not be alone." He chuckled at the thought as he stepped into the crowd of pedestrians on the sidewalk. His feet felt like lead as he moved down the street. He didn't want to move now; he simply wanted to sit somewhere dark and waste for a while. Everything he had or cared about was missing, and he had every intention of getting whatever he could back.

He glanced around at a few of the buildings and frowned. Familiar setting or not, he had no idea how to get around the new world. He didn't have any money, and he was basically on the streets. He had a funny feeling things would work out for him for now at least. There were forces at work he couldn't begin to comprehend just yet.

He opened his hand from around the key and it fell to the ground, vanishing in a flash of light before it hit the pavement.


"Where are we?" grumbled Jenn as she leaned against the counter at the small restaurant she and her companion had traveled too.

Dan had a deep frown on his face as he stared daggers into the back wall. "Japan, I think."

"Well thank you Captain Obvious! What happened to our house!?"


"Great. I had a date, do you know how long it's been since I've gotten laid?"

"Don't care," replied Dan just as calmly.

"What about Carrot?"

"He's probably around somewhere," replied Dan calmly. "We were with him until we blacked out."

Jenn tossed her hair as she spun away from him in frustration. They had woken up together in the middle of a park nearby about seven hours ago. "Great. So what can we do?"

Dan downed his glass and poured himself another drink from the flask on the counter in front of him. "Look for Carrot."

"We don't even know if he's even here!" snapped Jenn angrily.

Dan snorted and downed the next shot. "Won't know until we look." He tossed a few American dollars onto the counter in front of the bartender. The man bowed and took the money. "Besides, he can take care of himself for a while. He's got that key thing remember?"

"How did you know they'd take that here?" grumbled Jenn as she gave up on the topic and nodded her head at his wallet.

"There's a sign on the window outside. Why do you think I picked this place?" replied the boy as he put on his shades and stood up. "Probably get a lot of military in a place like this. I think there's a base nearby."

"Why?" said Jenn as she waited for him to stroll up to the exit with her.

"Well, I just saw a T-74 tank go by on the street. It's what the Japanese Self Defense Forces use, but there's probably American soldiers around too."

"This is so weird," grumbled Jenn as she walked outside and witnessed a boy of about sixteen run screaming by as a girl floated along behind him while electrocuting him.

Dan casually lit a cigarette and turned his head to follow the action that everyone else ignored. "Hmm. I could be wrong."


"Nuthin, it wouldn't mean anything to ya anyway."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?!" growled the angry looking girl as she crossed her arms over her chest.

"Why do you always have to look for hidden meanings? I swear you act like we're dating sometimes."

"Just come on," grumbled the girl angrily as she pulled on his arm and dragged him down the sidewalk.


In the shadows of the bar, a tall figure sat in a booth with a drink resting on the table in front of him. He pushed his round amber colored glasses up his nose and frowned deeply. "That man, has a weapon." He spoke to no one under his breath as he watched the two strangers at the bar. The woman had fast reflexes, but she couldn't fight and wasn't armed.

The man was talking with the woman next to them, both of them were probably off-worlders. Then he heard something that caught his attention.

"Carrot? Key? It couldn't be..."

He didn't move as the pair walked out of the restaurant and simply sat staring at his drink as they ice melted in his glass. "Could it be?"

He growled under his breath and did not move from his seat. He pushed his glasses up his nose and simply frowned into his drink.


Carrot had no clue where he was and sighed. It was some sort of business quarter, people bustled around and shopped while he simply stood dumbly in the middle looking around. "Where the hell am I?"

He walked along the sidewalk and frowned as he pushed through the shoppers, he was searching for a stretch of road with a bit more room to maneuver. Finally, after several minutes of navigating the crowded street he found himself on a considerably more vacant stretch of road.

It was eerily empty in fact.

His eyes searched the area but there seemed to be no life at all. "Weird." The sound of footsteps caught his attention and he faced the newcomer.

It was a man in his early twenties by the look of him. He was a little out of shape and was waving to him as he rushed up. The man had a skinny build to him and was wearing a suit. He looked quite geeky and had a pair of thick glasses over his eyes.

Carrot simply stood dumbly as the man bent down at his knees and panted. "Can I help you?"

The man looked up at him with a deep frown on his face. "What are you doing? You can't leave the safe zone!"

"Safe zone?" muttered the confused looking youth.

"What?" said the man as he stood up and stared at the boy. "Are you new here?"

This caught the boy by surprise slightly. "Yeah. What of it?"

"So, more people from another world?" said the man as he hung his head.

Carrot was perplexed. "Um, this has happened before?"

"Well, aliens were normal here before, so why not other dimensions?"

It was an odd statement, and Carrot was surprised how easily he shrugged it off. "I see your point."

"I hope I'm not trampling any hope you might have, but there are rarely more than a handful of survivors. You probably won't find anyone you know. It can be difficult to adjust too here at first and we'll do what we can to help you. This is something of a National crisis you see."

Carrot nodded grimly. "Well, that was blunt enough. Thanks."

The man didn't look quite sure what to say to that.

"Well, I guess I've got a few questions you could probably answer. You seem to have more idea what's going on here than I do."

"Your questions can be answered when we register you. I've got to take you to the town hall and we can see if there are any other survivors."

"Humor me anyway. We'll talk on the way. I've got quite a few questions to ask."

"All right, I'll tell you what I can, please walk with me. I've got to report this to my supervisor."

"Why is this area patrolled like this?" asked Carrot as he walked with the man.

"Mostly to keep people like you from wandering into the outer area these days. No one ventures very far from this area these days. It's becoming dangerous, we're running out of food, soon we'll have to start rationing things. We aren't quite to that level yet though. These constant drop ins aren't helping either. People just show up in the middle of town, we usually find them sleeping somewhere odd or just wandering around town trying to figure out where they are. The refugees can't be blamed because most of them don't have much memory of exactly how they ended up here."

Carrot nodded, his situation seemed to mirror that explanation. "Where are we coming from?"

"Other worlds, other dimensions, all sorts of places. It's an epidemic. I hope someone finds a way to stop it soon or this could be the end for us."

This wasn't exactly good news. Carrot found himself stopping and looking around.

"Hey, don't worry. We got some of the best minds in the universe here. I hear there's even talk of evacuating everyone off the planet."

"Yeah. I know. That's why you lasted this long right?"

The man seemed to cheer up. "That's right! That's the kind of positive thinking you need to have!"

"Yeah, positive. What are those things?"

"Oh? Your world was caught unaware?" the man gasped as a sad look flooded his face.

"Stop being such a wuss. Just tell me."

"They are called the Heartless."

Carrot snorted. "Heartless?"

"Yes. They devour entire worlds."

The man looked down at his Japanese companion and frowned. "I know."

"Oh. I see."

"What do we know about them?"

"Not very much. They seem to take something from inside of people. We aren't quite sure what it is though. Even the strongest and bravest of men can't seem to defend against it. We can fight them, but their numbers are overwhelming. I can't even bring myself to mention the larger ones, or the medium sized ones, or the really small ones, or..."

Carrot sighed as the man frightened himself to near petrifaction. "Okay, jeez."

The man calmed down and seemed to compose himself. "We patrol the borders. The Heartless haven't attacked us yet. Most of what we do now is keep people like you from wandering too deep into the area they control. We've had to seal off our sewage system. Needless to say things are not as they used to be here anymore. There are many dangerous places in Tomboiki."

The man merely nodded as he continued to walk forward with his key in his grip. He'd decided that until he learned his way around a bit more he'd be safer with it already out and ready. Especially since they were still in the patrolled area. Rather than take him back through the populated area of town, the man was simply walking them back down his original route. Carrot noted that he was armed with little more than a flashlight. Either he was very skilled, or very stupid. He decided it was the latter, as he now recognized the man as one of Ataru's teachers.

"Is there anything else you'd like to know? We're nearing my station check in. I'll hand you over to one of the managers there and he will be able to answer much more than I can."

"Are survivors usually standing close together on their own worlds before they get sucked here?"

"Most of the time yes. Some worlds will send two or three groups. It's growing a little crowded, but there's still enough living space to go around so far. Many of the people who used to live here were working in town when they came."

"That's morbidly interesting I suppose."

"Oh dear. I'm terribly sorry," muttered the man apologetically.

"Don't worry about it. Where do these things come from?"

"No one is sure, but often survivors speak of some kind of door. We haven't seen any doors or found any evidence of one in Tomboiki."

"That's because you're looking in the wrong place."

The man halted and turned to look at him. "What?"

"These things didn't come from here. The door would have to be out there, in the middle of that mess, the place where it all started. I'm betting that's somewhere on Japan though. I'm not sure why though."

"Well, Japan gets most of her resources from intergalactic trade these days. We don't have much to do with the other countries. There's talk of sending aid at the American Senate I hear though. Mostly they're just getting ready for it to spread from here so they can nuke it."

"Great. I've landed in the happiest place on Earth."

"It is depressing isn't it?" asked the man through his tears.

"Yeah, whatever. Look, I'm pretty sure there's at least two more from my world here. We got sucked up together and were pretty close last I recall. I hope I can count on you to find them for me, because if they wander into that place without me, I'm holding you personally responsible."

The man looked up and swallowed at the much larger American. "Um? But..."

"I guess you should go and find them for me huh?" said the man cheerfully as he pat his companion on the shoulder. He turned his head and smiled. "Oh look. We're here!"


"Your face is ominous!"

"And you're bald. So?" Dan took a deep drag from his cigarette and blew it into the bald midget's face.

"What the hell are you doing? Trying to pick a fight with an old guy?" snapped Jenn as she slapped him across the back of his head.

"Ah, such a fine girl to show proper respect," said the monk as he bowed deeply.

The girl glared at him. "I'm not sure how to take that."

"Your future is very chaotic my friend. I just thought I'd warn you. It is my duty after all."

"Yeah. I already knew that anyway," replied Dan with a small shrug.

"Everyone seems ominous these days it seems," grumbled the old man as he walked away. "You are different though." He stopped and did not turn around. "I'm not quite sure why though. A most interesting thing to meditate on."

Dan snorted and turned away. "Come on. We're not finished looking."

The girl frowned at him as she followed. "You're such a dick sometimes. I swear."

"Not often enough," grumbled Dan.

"Stop being a pervert and look for him," snapped the girl as she picked up her pace.

"Yeah, right," said the man as she shoved his hands in his pockets and continued to puff on his cigarette.


Carrot smiled as he walked up to the manager with his now quivering guide. "Hello." He patted the man on his back and winked at him. "You've got to learn to relax."

The man smiled weakly and nodded.

A large man in a yellow hardhat walked up to him with a clipboard in his hand. "Hello. Welcome to Tomboiki."

Carrot merely smiled as the man bowed. "Yeah. Thanks."

"There's a briefing you'll need to take. Then I can get you downtown for registration."

"How many others are there so far?"

"Only a few thousand, it's starting to get tight though."

The man snorted as he looked Carrot up and down. He seemed like the serious type and had a rather cold glare about him. He was one to be watched. He made a small mark on his clipboard and noted the large key in the man's hand. "What's that?"

"A weapon that can defeat the Heartless," replied Carrot calmly. "That's what I'm told anyway." Some of what had happened in his dream was starting to make more sense and that bothered him on more than one level.

"Another one of those huh?" grumbled the man as he frowned at the young punk in front of him. "Those legendary family heirlooms or whatever can be pretty strong and take out quite a few of em, but we ain't found one yet that can defeat them outright."

"I suppose not," replied Carrot as he looked down at the blade. This place appeared to be going down the same road as his own, but much more slowly. He'd heard nothing about the attack when it had happened, and his world was gone in moments. Still, he intended to go down fighting.

"You'd best watch yourself kid. That place is dangerous, and I can see by the look in your eyes you intend to go. Just make sure you know what you're doing."

"Have you heard any reports about a woman with them?"

"A woman, with them?" muttered the man in confusion. His eyes went wide as he stared at the boy. "You..."

"I didn't stutter."

The man frowned at this and shook his head. "No. Nothing like that."

Carrot merely nodded and followed after the man as he started walking. "Good."

"Any more questions? I can always spot the damned troublemakers. They ask the most questions."

Carrot's serious face was gone in an instant. "What! Don't say that! I'm a nice guy really!"

The man merely shook his head and continued walking.


"Where are we?" muttered Jenn as she looked around her environment with a perplexed frown.


"You've been here before?" said the girl as she looked at him dumbly.

"No. This is the town hall. It says it right here." He pointed at a nearby plaque.

"I can't read that!"

"Neither can I," replied Dan with a small shrug. He put out his cigarette and crushed it with the toe of his boot into the pavement.

"Hey! You can't litter like that!" cried an incredibly excitable youth nearby as he pointed at the sidewalk in what appeared to be surprised shock. His group of friends looked equally surprised and gathered around his back.

Dan casually backhanded the boy in his face and continued his conversation as if nothing happened. "Kinda strange isn't it."

Jenn was staring at the plaque dumbly. "Is that all you have to say? I can read Japanese! How could this possibly get any weirder?" Jenn stomped her foot on the ground in anger and paused suddenly at the sight that went on behind Dan's back.

A boy of about sixteen was rushing down the street. A girl followed him on some sort of flying motorcycle with a machine gun, a girl who shot electricity out of her body and flew without outside help, and a young boy riding atop the turret of a tank. The boy was waving a sword over his head as rows of what appeared to be soldiers marched along behind him.

"AAAAARRRRGGGGGHHHH!!" cried the girl as she clutched her head.

"Well, ya shouldn't have said that, you were askin for it."

Jenn glared at Dan for a moment and pulled his shades off of his face. "You don't look surprised. Why is that?"


"We just watched the weirdest parade either of us has ever seen, and you look as calm as you always do."

"It's nothing to get upset about."

"What do you mean it's nothing to get upset about!?"

"I guess I just don't rattle easy."

"No. You know what's going on here, or more than you're telling me."

Dan took his shades back from her and put them over his eyes. "What if I am? Maybe I ain't sure just yet."

Jenn grabbed his ear and twisted it hard. Dan's cool exterior was broken in an instant as he twisted into pain. "Dan. I'm only going to ask you this once before I rip this off. Where are we? Tell me everything you know, and I might decide to not kick you in the balls while you're like this."

The man fell flat onto his rear as his feet finally gave out. "Ouch! You coulda just asked!"

"I did. Start talking."

The boy sighed and rubbed the back of his head. "We're in a manga."

"Please tell me you did not just say that," said Jenn as she crossed her arms and frowned at him. Dan stumbled away from her and clutched at his ear as he gave her the evil eye as best he could. She didn't seem impressed and tapped her heel impatiently.

"Near as I can tell, that's what happened. Our world got sucked up, but we got stuck here when it got indigestion or something. I'm guessing that key Carrot had has something to do with this. He's my friend and all, I'd be looking for him anyway, but we really need to find him."

"I've noticed people looking towards the edge of town in a daze," said Jenn as she hung her head slightly.

"I know, something's going on here. I think I know what it is."

"Not again."

"'fraid so."

"I just hope this doesn't become a pattern."

"Hello, you seem to be lost," said a cheerful voice from beside them.

The pair turned and blinked in surprise.

"Hello," said the woman who bowed too them deeply. She had a cheerful smile on her face as she greeted them. "Are you new here?" She was a fairly large young woman with long brown hair. She had an almost mannish build about her.

"Um, hi," muttered Dan as he found himself basically eye to eye with the woman. "I guess you could say we're a bit lost."

"Oh! Have you been registered yet?" asked the woman cheerfully. "I can tell you're not from this world. You need to go inside and get registered. Otherwise we won't be able to write you into the rationing. It's very important."

Dan merely nodded and didn't reply. Jenn seemed somewhat perplexed by all of this and merely stared at the woman for a long time.

"Other world?" grumbled the girl.

"I figured it was something like that," muttered Dan. He seemed relieved to have some sort of explanation for what had happened too him.

Jenn ignored this and turned towards the woman. "Excuse me, but maybe you can help us out a bit more?"

"I guess I could. What do you need?" asked the woman. She had already started to focus her attention elsewhere.

"What are those things?"

"They're called the Heartless. No one is really sure what they are exactly. Only that they steal people's hearts."

Dan arched his eyebrow a little at this. "Hearts?"

"Yes, well, most of us believe that anyway. It's not official or anything."

The man merely nodded and turned towards the town hall. "We're looking for someone else. A guy who probably came here with us."

"There usually aren't more than a few survivors I'm afraid," said the woman with a sad expression on her face.

"I'm sure he's still alive. He could be carrying a giant key."

The woman stared at him for a moment and looked thoughtful. "Well, I'm not sure about that. I guess I could keep an eye open, but I don't think there's been anyone like that around here for a while."

"Well, we had to try," grumbled Jenn as she hung her head a little.

"Come on, we should go see what this registering thing is all about."


Carrot walked out of the registration building looking more than a little miffed. He'd had no idea that the process included a series of shots. He was probably going to feel pretty shitty for a while. It had at least given him a chance to wash off and get something for the minor burn on his face and arms.

He paused and glanced around with the key slung over his shoulder. He still didn't like his situation and he hadn't really learned any more than the teacher had told him on the way to his supervisor. He didn't need to pay the cab fare for the ride either. No one had any idea what the Heartless were, where they came from, or why they were here.

A popular notion around the area was that they were some kind of intergalactic parasite.

It was still early and he had no where to go really. He decided to sit on the steps and wait for a while. Maybe Jenn and Dan would probably end up here sooner or later, it seemed like a good place to hang around for a few days.

It was about then that he realized that he had no money. He hung his head and sighed. "Man. I gotta find a job here? This sucks."

Something caught his attention a short distance away. It was unusual to see such a sight in a place like Tomboiki. It was Kenshin Himura.

He found himself arching his eyebrow as he watched the man pay for an Okonomiyaki at a small Yattai. He was using small yellow and blue crystals as money. Carrot recalled he had absorbed quite a few of those.

This was probably the most surreal moment he'd ever experience he noted mentally. He sighed and stood up. He walked towards the Yattai and nodded at the vendor. Fortunately for his somewhat off balance sanity there wasn't a small cross-dressing girl bustling about around the cart. The man running it also looked a little young to be a father yet.

"What can I get for you?"

"You take those crystals as money?"

"Yeah. You must be new here. Killing the heartless is a big deal around here naturally. So we let the people who hunt them use these things as money. They seem to fly all over the place when you kill one of the big ones I hear. It didn't take long before they got into circulation so much that everyone around here accepts them from anyone."


"It's sort of like bounty hunting I suppose. A lot of the off-worlders have become quite rich I hear."

Carrot could swear he heard a cash register go off somewhere. He looked down at the key in his hand and frowned. "I'm still not very good with this thing." Still, it was pretty much in his plan at some point to try and find a way to go after these things. They had something of his and he wanted it back.

He opened his palm and noted that there were a few of the crystals in his palm. "Weird."

"Yeah, it is kinda. You know how many you got?"

"Yeah, I'm not sure how. I'm not gonna tell you how rich I am though."

The man chuckled. "They seem to know how many of them you need. It's hard to cheat people with these going around. There's talk of using it as currency if we manage to get rid of the damned things. Damn convenient if ya ask me."

"It's unsettling."

"I guess," replied the man. "You want the special?"

Carrot shrugged. "Sure. I guess I can blow a bit on lunch." He placed the crystals on the counter and sat down while the vendor started cooking.


"Ouch," grumbled Dan as he walked out with Jenn at his side.

"Shots? I don't believe this place," agreed the girl as she glanced around the courtyard.

"I wonder if Carrot has experienced the welcome yet?"

The girl sighed and hung her head. "I don't know, we've been wandering around quite a bit. We may have already missed him."

"If that's true, he'll probably hang around here."

"Think he's looking for us?"

"Of course." Dan put on his shades and shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket.

"I guess we should hang around and wait."

The woman who had greeted them appeared behind them and opened the lid of a trashcan. "Hello Mr. Vash. What are you doing in there?"

Dan and Jenn both turned to face the scene with somewhat surprised looks on their faces. They could see a mass of spiky blonde hair poking out of the top of the can. It was also making shushing noises.

"What did you find?" asked Dan as he walked over to her side.

The man inside the can didn't look particularly happy with his situation.

"Who's this?" asked Jenn as she moved up beside Dan and peered into the trashcan.

"This is Mr. Vash. I'm not sure why he's hiding in the trash though. He looked quite serious when I found him. That's a little unusual."

"What is this?! A peepshow?" cried the man in the can. He shifted into a shy looking pose and started making circles with his finger on the inside of his hiding spot. "I'm feeling pretty vulnerable you know."

"You were at the bar," said Dan.

"Oh. So that's where you've been all day Mr. Vash!" cried the woman as she smiled brightly.

A young, and much smaller woman with short cut black hair walked out of the town hall and glared down at him. "This guy again? What have I told you about talking to him Millie?"

"But, Mr. Vash is my friend..." said the larger woman in confusion.

The other woman sighed. "Fine. I'll bet he's just been goofing off again. We don't have time for this now. We've got lots of work to do. We may not work for the insurance company anymore, but we've still got to make a living where we can!"

Millie nodded and sighed. "I guess you're right."

"But, I haven't been goofing off. I was following suspicious strangers. Look, that one even has a gun."

Everyone turned to see Vash's arm pointing at Dan.

"Are you kidding me?" grumbled Meryl.

"Naw, he's right. We are suspicious, and I've got a gun," replied Dan as he pushed his glasses up his nose. "I would have followed us too."

"See!" cried the Trashcan.

Meryl kicked the trashcan over sending Vash spilling out onto the pavement with quite a few papers and wrappers. "Get out of there! Come on Millie, we've got work to do." She turned her nose up into the air and walked away from them.

"What a bitch," commented Dan.

"I dunno, I kind of liked her," replied Jenn.

Vash stood up and started picking papers off the ground and putting them into the trash after he'd put it back up. He noticed the two strangers were ignoring them in favor of scanning the crowd.

They all paused at a voice from a short distance away. "Hey!"

"Carrot?" said Jenn as she whipped her head around.

The man had a huge grin on his face as he greeted them with a wave of his arm. He had an Okonomiyaki in one hand and the key in the other. He was waving it over his head cheerfully.

Vash narrowed his eyes at this and remained silent.

Jenn dashed up to the boy and nearly tackled him as she wrapped her arms around his neck.

Dan casually strolled down the stairs that lead up to the doors of the town hall towards his friend. "Yo!"

Carrot was busy trying to get away from Jenn. "Hey! Cut that out! I got food in my hand!"

"Oh my god! You're all right!" She seemed ecstatic.

"Yeah. I'm glad you two made it too," replied the boy a little wistfully.

The girl covered her mouth and took in a quick breath. "Oh...I'm sorry..."

"Don't be, I'm not, not yet anyway," he turned towards the street and sighed. "So, you guys get the shots yet?"

"Unfortunately," grumbled Dan.

"What are we going to do?" muttered Jenn as she sat down. "Now that we've found you, it just hit me. We're all alone here."

"It's not so bad, I've seen quite a few interesting people so far," replied Carrot as he grinned at her for a moment.

"No kidding," agreed Dan.

"Why do I get the feeling I'm missing out on something here?" muttered Jenn.

"Mostly because you only watch Sailor Moon and Mecha Anime," replied Carrot. "Haven't seen anyone like that around here yet."

"Heartless probably have a hell of a time with them," replied Dan.

"Maybe, maybe not. I've heard talk around here, it doesn't seem to matter how strong you are. They go after something you really can't defend the way I hear it."

Dan nodded and looked around. "These people are still here, so they can be fought off."

"For how long though?" muttered Carrot as he sat down to brood for a moment. "We need to find a way to stop them."

Dan arched his eyebrow and coughed. "We?"

Carrot looked down at the blade. "You can stay here if you want. I'm going."

Dan snorted and crossed his arms. "Like I'd let you do something so stupid on your own."

"Wait a minute! You're leaving me?" cried Jenn.

"No, you're coming with us." Carrot looked at her and frowned deeply.

"What?! No way!"

"I can't leave you here alone Jenn. If Dan was staying with you I might not mind so much, but the truth is we don't have a choice. I'm betting that somewhere outside this safe zone is a door. Just like the one that opened on our world."

"What?" muttered Jenn in confusion.

"Mia went through that door, and maybe this one goes to the same place."

"You'll be killed!" cried the girl.

"We'll die if we stay here. Even if it doesn't go to her, maybe we can find a way off this world and onto another one. This place is nearly gone, I don't think there's any aide coming from other countries, because they aren't there anymore."

"You're smarter than you look."

Carrot looked up and saw the sidewalk in front of them had cleared. A small wind kicked up dust on the empty pavement in front of the man who had spoken. His red coat fluttered dramatically in the wind as he simply stared the man in front of him down from the barrel of his gun.

"I guess I am," replied Carrot as a smirk formed on his face.

"I'm gonna need that key," said Vash.

"What for?" asked Carrot as he stood up. Dan was standing calmly and ignoring the standoff it seemed.

"What are you doing?! Help him!" snapped Jenn.

Vash flashed a glare up at them for a split second.

Dan didn't move. "He doesn't need help."

The girl's eyes went wide.

Carrot stood up and stretched his back. "Put that thing away. You won't kill me Vash the Stampede. It's not in you."

The man gasped. "So, you've heard of me. Surely you must know my reputation."

"Yeah, an incredibly accident prone hippie, who wouldn't hurt a fly, because he doesn't like pain."

The man's arm dropped like limp spaghetti. "Darn."

"What would you want with this anyway?" asked Carrot as he held the blade up.

"It's important, I need it to stop the Heartless. Give it too me, it will only get you hurt."

"This world is already gone. No one has realized it yet though."

"You're right. This place is all that's left. I was awake when I fell, I saw the empty world. The aliens of this world are also keeping silent. In a month a fleet will arrive to evacuate the survivors."

Carrot nodded calmly. "What do you know about this blade? You seem awfully well informed to even know about it at all. You seem to know more than I do."

"Then you should give it too me, then I can use it too..."

"You're only getting this key from me when you pry it from my cold dead hands. I lost someone, and I'm going to get her back. This key and the Heartless are all I have to go on."

"If you lost someone to the Heartless, you can't get them back." Vash frowned as he turned his back on Carrot. "They will hunt you down. They are drawn to that key's power."

Dan snorted. "He does know an awful lot."

Vash's face was quite serious when he turned to face them. "We studied the Heartless on my world. Some old friends of mine lived above the rest of the world. They thought they were safe."

Jenn looked completely confused. "Wait a minute! What do you mean studied them?"

"We observed them for a while. Trying to find weaknesses that I could pass along to the population. We learned quite a bit, most importantly something about a Keyblade.

Carrot stared at his weapon for a moment. "Doesn't look like it has much of an edge too it."

"It was created to defeat the Heartless. There are several spread out across the Universe. It can close the doors and lock the Heartless away from a world. They fear it's power, and so they will hunt the one who carries it. I'm offering to set you free."

Carrot chuckled and tossed the man the key.

Dan and Jenn both gasped as they witnessed this.

Vash grabbed it out of the air. "Th..." It vanished from his hand and appeared in Carrot's waiting palm.

"As you can see, I don't have much of a choice about this either."

Vash merely nodded. "I see. Damn."

"Yeah. Bugs me too," replied Carrot with a small shrug. "I've got my own interest in this."

"I guess we'll have to leave the safe zone together then," said Vash calmly.

Carrot blinked at this. "Huh?"

"It seems I can't save this world myself no matter how hard I try. I'll just have to help you."

"Only if you promise you'll kill any Heartless we come across. You'll just be dead weight otherwise."

"Yeah. I know," replied Vash. "Those things have no life in them. I don't think they're really alive. I've got no problems shooting them."

"When should we leave?" asked Dan.

"I'm going to need a few days," said Carrot as he walked by Vash looking every bit as serious. "There are some things I need to take care of."

"It's hard at first," said Vash as he nodded his head.

"What's hard?" asked Jenn.

Carrot turned to smile at her for a moment. "You'll figure it out soon enough. Both of you will I think."

"I'll see you later," replied Vash.

Carrot shrugged his shoulders. "Come have a drink with us. I need one about now."

Vash blinked in surprise and pointed at himself. "Huh?"

"We're going to be working together for now, I guess we should get to know each other."


Four hours later...

"Waaaaaahhhhh! Mommy! Daddy!" Jenn was in tears as she hung her head over the bar. She was wailing quite loudly and everyone in the bar ignored her. Dan was merely brooding silently beside her. He seemed to be staring off into space with a glass of whisky in his hand.

Carrot sighed as he clumsily pulled one of the bottles that scattered the table and floor around him and Vash. "Didn't expect her to be this loud."

"I lost a lot of friends that day," said Vash as tears ran down his face. He now had a necktie tied across his forehead.

"So did I," replied Carrot somberly.

"Yer bringing me down," grumbled Vash.

"I'm here to mourn," replied Carrot.

"Oh. Thash okay then."

"Vash, I want to go through that door."

The man sprayed alcohol across the table and sat upright. "Are you crazy!!?"

"Maybe," replied Carrot. "I have to find someone. Something happened to them, and I don't think she was taken like the others. She seemed to join them. It was strange..."

Vash tried his best he really did. His face turned green and he quickly stood up from the table and rushed to the bathroom.

Carrot sighed and rubbed at his temples. "I'm thinking too hard for right now. It's giving me a headache." He stood up a little shakily and staggered towards the door.

"Hey. Where you goin?" asked Dan as he broke his dazed stare for a moment.

"Out for some air," replied Carrot as he staggered outside. "I'm not going far."

"No kidding," said Dan as he turned his attention away from his friend and went back to his own thoughts.

Jenn was sniffling loudly by this point. She rubbed her eyes and looked at Dan. It was hard to focus and she could feel how puffy they were as she rubbed under her nose with her wrist.

Dan picked up a napkin off the bar and handed it too her.

"Thanks, Carrot's worrying me. He's not acting normal."

Dan simply nodded. "He'll get over it soon. He's just got a lot of pent up anger right now. I'll beat it out of him tomorrow."

"Anger?" muttered Jenn. "I guess he would be mad at them."

"And himself, I think he's starting to think this might be his fault."

"What? That's crazy!" snapped Jenn as she slammed her napkin on the bar.

"Is it? Where did that key come from? Vash told us they were looking for it. Maybe our world wouldn't have been so high on the list if he didn't have it."

Jenn simply stared at him for a moment, unsure of what to say. "Still. That thing picked him didn't it?"

"Maybe it did, maybe not. He was having weird dreams before this started remember?"

"Even if he did, he couldn't have known."

"Carrot will figure it out soon enough. Let him work it out for himself."

The girl nodded and looked towards the door.

Vash sat down next to them and glanced around. "Where's Carrot?"

"He stepped outside," replied Dan. "He'll be fine on his own for now."

Vash simply nodded, then his head hit the bar as he passed out in his seat.


Carrot leaned against the brick wall next to the window of the bar. It was dark out now, stars glistened in the sky above as he puffed on his cigarette and simply stared up at them. "What the hell happened to me?" He knew he was depressed and drunk and it showed in his current train of thought. "Damn. What the hell can I do? I almost died the last time." He hadn't been very successful in fighting the Heartless, and he had no reason to think he had improved any.

Still, he had every intention of facing it head-on. To him, he didn't have an option. He looked at the key and frowned. "I've got no choice do I? Even if they hadn't taken her, I still wouldn't."

He looked up at the night sky again and watched as a single star flickered and faded from sight in a fraction of a second. He stood upright and balanced himself by putting his hand on the wall. "What the?" He shook his head, he was just drunk.

With a heavy sigh he turned back towards the entrance to the bar and walked inside. The door shut behind him as he walked inside to finish his drinking. He had every intention of having a hangover in the morning, and the only way to be sure was to pass out.


Sigh. One chapter, one world. What was I thinking? _ At any rate, Tomboiki will last a little longer than expected. There will be much more character interaction in the future of course. Lum and her friends will probably play a more prominent role in the next part.

Next Time: Journey into Darkness.