Greetings fellow readers and writers! At long last, here's the twelfth and final volume of Path of the Keyblade Master! I sincerely apologize for the delay, I've had a rather stressful summer and needed time to deal with a lot of personal problems, then I needed to take August off to deal with a serious bout of writer's block. And don't get me started on all the insanity of the past Autumn. But I'm back now and ready to finish what I started.
Okay, when we last left our heroes, Kairi was trying to hold things together on Radiant Garden against Columbina and Darklight's insidious assault on The Realms of light, while Columbin was revealed as Katrina, Sabrina's evil twin, said young witch is now the apprentice of Alegra. Tess, Aiden and Malcolm saved Sofia and Enchancia, while Riku saved Ooo and Sora is now possessed by The Lich. Yep, that pretty sums it up and sets things for the explosive climax that is to come.
The first half of the story will mostly focus on Aiden, Tess and Malcolm as they reunite with Riku in his travels in Ooo, afterwards the action will focus back on The Realms of Light.
As always, I own nothing in this story save for my original characters, so please don't sue me, I'm only trying to tell a good story, a story which I hope you'll enjoy reading as much as I've enjoyed writing. Again, as always, there'll be those who don't like it, and a few who'll downright hate it. That's your prerogative, it's still a free country. If you don't like it, don't read it and please don't clog my email box with hateful reviews. After all THIS IS FANFICTION!
And now, without further delay, the story begins!
Prolog: Setting The Stage
"They're just sitting there, talking," said Dio Brando as he rubbed his neck. He, Young Xehanort, Regina, Gaston and Lady Tremaine were lounging in the main room, while Katrina and Darklight sat at the far end. Katrina had cast a noise-cancelation spell to keep out unwanted eavesdropping, leaving Dio Brando and the other villains in the dark as to what was being said.
"Think they'll kiss and make up?" asked Gaston.
"After the way Katrina betrayed Darklight? Hardly," said Lady Tremaine, "no, the whelp shall walk out again."
"Wanna bet?" asked Dio Brando.
At that Regina stood up, sighing with disgust, "oh, this is ridiculous! Why have we sat here for so long and done nothing?"
"We're waiting to see what they'll do," said Gaston.
"Not that, you muscle-bound buffoon!" snapped Regina, "I mean done nothing ourselves? Why have we allowed Columbina…I mean Katrina, why have we allowed her to dictate our efforts to crush those fools in the realms? Why have we just stat here and watched that idiot box?" she pointed at The Interocitor.
"We've done more than just sit here," said Young Xehanort, "We've assisted Katrina in her efforts to drown The Realms of Light in darkness."
"Again, her wishes, not ours," said Regina, "am I the only one who's suspicious of just what Katrina really wants?"
"Quiet, she'll here you!" hissed Lady Tremaine as she fearfully looked at Katrina and Darklight.
"They can't hear us," said Regina, "that sound-suppression spell works both ways. Besides," she glared contemptuously at Katrina, "I'm not afraid of a spoiled little witch with an overblown sibling rivalry complex."
"You've seen what she can do, the power she wields," said Lady Tremaine.
"And what are we, chopped liver?" asked Regina, "I can take that upstart witch with one hand tied behind my back."
"You'll lose the other hand," said The Lord of Illusions as he appeared next to Regina, startling the evil queen, "Darklight will cut it off."
"Where have you been?" asked Regina as she regained her composure, "or have we yet to meet? Just how many doppelgangers are there of you?"
"You'd be surprised," said The Lord of Illusions, "and believe me, you don't want Katrina as an enemy. You saw how she made Kairi suffer."
"And she pulled through with flying colors," said Young Xehanort as he walked over to The Interocitor and turned the Intensifier Disk 18° to the left, "and is now gathering her strength to resist us."
"Resist her," said Regina as she glared at Katrina, "we're just pawns in her game. Well, I'm getting a little tired of playing by her rules."
"What are you saying?" asked Young Xehanort, "are you implying that you wish to leave?"
The other villains leaned forward to hear Regina's answer, yet none came as the silence spell ended and Katrina and Darklight stood up.
"And that's that," said Katrina as she walked over to the other villains, while Darklight performed a set of stretches.
"What's it?" asked Gaston.
"You two kiss and make up?" asked Dio Brando.
"Eew, we didn't do that," said a slightly disgusted Katrina, "oh, you mean we set our differences aside. Yeah, we did that."
"Pay up!" Dio Brando shouted triumphantly as he held out his hand towards Lady Tremaine.
"What?" asked the wicked stepmother.
"I won the bet, pay up!" said Dio Brando.
"I remember making no such wager," said Lady Tremaine.
"Oh, no, you're not welching out on me," said DIo Brando, "you owe me big time."
"I think we have other things to worry about," said Young Xehanort as he watched Kairi on the Interocitor. The young monarch of Radiant Garden was standing in front of a newly built factory. The production line had just come on line, producing Armored Trooper units.
"So, the little bitch thinks she can beat me with heavy metal," said Katrina, "we'll just see about that." She then looked at Darklight, "I think it's time you got back to work, young lady."
"I will," said Darklight nonchalantly as she performed more stretches, "as soon as I've limbered up. You shouldn't sit still for too long, it's not good for the body."
"Oh, we weren't sitting for that long," said Katrina.
"You were there for two freaking days," said Dio Brando.
"Really?" asked Katrina, "how'd that happen?" She looked at her watch, "oh, it stopped."
"You really should get a cell phone," said The Lord of Illusions.
"Oh, dear Leslie," said Katrina as she smiled with wicked glee, "how goes your efforts?"
"I've nearly everything we need to assemble The Sampo," said The Lord of Illusions, "just one or two key items left on my checklist."
"Just what is needed to make a Sampo?" asked Gaston.
"For this kind of Sampo, a lot of dark magic items," said The Lord of Illusions, "'cause we're not making any gold, grain or salt."
"And just what are you making?" asked Young Xehanort.
"Something worth a lot of Munny to a lot of renegade Moogles," said the vile doppelganger, "most of what I needed had to be crafted and you try getting those self-righteous little koopas to make something evil."
"Then you're really going to do it?" asked Regina, "Make this…this dark Sampo of yours?"
"Come hell or high water I will," said Katrina, she then glared at Darklight, whom was now doing a yoga routine, "are you done yet?"
"Ask me again and I'll start doing more advanced stuff," said Darklight, "I'll be done when I'm done!"
"Ugh!" sighed Katrina, "I'll be back." With that she zapped herself out of the room.
"Okay, now that she's gone," said The Lord of Illusions to Regina and the other villains, "there's stuff you need to know. Darklight isn't at all happy."
"Obviously," said Lady Tremaine.
"I mean she didn't really want to come back and stay," said the vile trickster, "she wanted to keep looking for Sora and the other Keyblade Wielders herself. The only reason she came back was to keep Katrina from replacing her."
"With what? Those Dark Spears she made out of condensed Heartless?" asked Young Xehanort.
"Or make another Princess of Dark," said The Lord of Illusions, "She almost had it with that Sofia girl, but missed her chance to grab her. Needless to say, Darklight knows how to hold a grudge. The first chance she gets, she'll take out Katrina and take The Sampo's for herself."
"Just what is it Katrina hopes to make with The Sampo?" asked Regina.
"Something that'll make her truly unstoppable," said The Lord of Illusions, "you thought she's powerful now? You ain't seen nothing yet."
Just then Dr. Insano and Zotarius stomped into the room, arguing at the top of their longs.
"Now what?" asked Regina.
"I'll tell you what," said Insano, "this prattling pussbag of parlor tricks is interfering with progress, That's what!"
"I told you time and again, you goggled geek!" snapped Zotarius, "they won't do it!"
"Who don't do it?" asked Young Xehanort.
"Those three children with Titan Power," said Insano, "they refuse to help me destroy our shared enemies!"
"They won't fight for us?" asked Regina.
"Oh, they're perfectly willing to fight," said Zotarius, "as Titans. They're more than willing to stop, smash, crush and even eat those who dare to resist us."
"Then why the frak won't they let me examine them?" asked Dr. Insano, "all I asked for were some DNA samples; a spit swab, a few vials of blood, maybe a spinal tap or two and drill for some bone marrow, but that's all, nothing more."
"They refuse to give any parts of themselves," said Zotarius, "especially Annie. No, she suffered far enough at the hands of the Raztonians and Lord Xenu's scientists."
"Which you cooperated in," said Regina.
"Yes, but they don't know that," said Zotarius as he grinned maliciously, "I have them convinced that I was against Annie's abduction and subsequent torture, all in the name of producing obedient Titans. I had them in the palm of my hand," he then glared hatefully at Insano, "then Poindexter here almost ruined it all!"
"I just offered to help make an army of Titans!" said Insano, "and I won't resort to torture, not at first. Look, my methods of extracting Titan DNA is far, far, far superior than anything those amateurs from Parzon and their insectoid allies could ever imagine, and far less invasive."
"They won't do it," said Zotarius, "Reiner and Bertold are, understandably, very protective of Annie and won't let anyone hurt her, even if it means violence."
"You mean they'd dare turn on us?" asked Sephiroth as he walked in.
"Where have you been?" asked Gaston.
"Talking a walk," said Sephiroth.
"Whatever fluffs your wing," said Zotarius, "and yes, those three would turn on us, and I'd doubt this castle could stand up to three Titans, especially that really big, big one."
"No, I doubt the castle could endure," said Young Xehanort, "but, surely we can come to an understanding with the three. We want use of their powers, they seek the extermination of mankind on their world, so surely we can reach some form of compromise." He then looked at his fellow villains, "can we?"
"We can try," sighed Regina.
"So long as it doesn't involve needles or any form of poking and prodding," said Zotarius.
"Why do you care so much?" asked Lady Tremaine, "you act like the whelps are your friends when they're no more than means to an end."
"They are," said Zotarius, "and as soon as I'm done with them, I'll toss them aside like yesterday's garbage."
"Well, that's one less crisis on our hands," said The Lord of Illusions, "but if only we can find the one person we need for The Sampo."
"Oh, now we need someone for it?" asked an irate Regina, "what next, a kitchen sink?"
"If that's what he or she needs," said The Lord of Illusions, "what, did you think The Sampo would just assemble itself? Silly Regina, Trix are for Kids!" with that he patted Regina placatingly on the head, earning a deadly glare from her.
"A craftsperson," said Young Xehanort, "you need someone to build the bloody thing."
"You're absolutely correct," said The Lord of Illusions, "we need a builder skilled enough to put The Sampo together. But it can't be just any craftsperson. He or she has to be a very special artisan."
"You have such a builder in mind?" asked Young Xehanort.
"A few," said The Lord of Illusions as he pulled out a piece of paper, "Katrina made a list, but she's crossed out all but a handful of names. But there is one she's circled," he then showed the list to the other villains.
"Now here's your builder," said Young Xehanort after he and the others saw the circled name, "get this one and The Sampo's good as made."
"But how are we to convince the builder to build the damn thing?" asked Dio Brando.
"That, my friends," said Katrina after she zapped back in, "is the question."
"At this rate we should have the first dozen finish by the end of the day," said Professor von Drake as he, Kairi, Ansem, stood in the newly built factory that was assembling the AT suits, "And then we'll have more once the next factory comes on line," he then chuckled, "oh, I can't wait for the bad guys to find out that they'll be running into a wall of waking tanks!"
"Assuming we find enough pilots for the AT units," said Ansem.
"And enough Jijirium for the darn things," said Cid as he looked at the assembly line, "that stuff's pretty hard to get."
"Oh, it's not that hard to get," said Professor von Drake, "wait, what am I saying? Of course it's hard to get. That stuff's more valuable than gold!"
"We have enough for the unit's onboard computers," said Ansem, "for now."
"Then we'll just buy more," said Professor von Drake, "yes, it's more valuable than gold, but I'm sure…"
"You're sure your head's screwed on the wrong way," said Scrooge McDuck as he walked up, "do you have any idea how rare Jijirium is? Bust me bagpipes, man, just one metric ton is enough to bankrupt a small kingdom!"
"We'll get it," said Cid, "I don't know how, but we'll get it."
"There's still the bigger issue," said Quistis as she walked up, "getting enough people to fight."
"Any word from SeeD HQ?" asked Cid.
"Oh, plenty of words," said Quistis, "none of it worth a damn. They still want to pull operations from The Realms, the cowards!"
"Then, you and the other SeeD operatives," said Kairi, "you're leaving?"
"Heck no," said Quistis, "not me anyway, and I'm sure nearly everyone already committed to the fight won't leave. Don't get me wrong, if we're officially ordered to leave, we'd be committing mutiny by staying."
"Then you should go," said Kairi, "I don't want you and the others to get in trouble."
"If we left, we'd be betraying you and everything you stand for, my queen," said Quistis, "I'd rather be accused of mutiny than condemned as a traitor. Either way, no more help is coming from SeeD."
"We don't need them," said Leon as he walked up, "those idiots at HQ are part of the reason I left."
"I thought you left because Rinoa left you," said Quistis, "speaking of which," she pulled out a letter from her pocket, "guess who mailed you this?"
"I don't want it!" said Leon as he turned away.
"Why?" asked Kairi, "If it's from your old girlfriend, then…what happened between you two anyway?"
"I don't want to talk about it!" said Leon as he irately hurried out of the area.
"Don't bother, he won't talk," said Quistis, "mostly because he stupidly said something to Rinoa he shouldn't have said and wouldn't apologize."
"Well, that was stupid of him," said Lara as she teleported into the area, "if a boy says something wrong to a girl, he should say he's sorry!"
"Like a squirt like you would know anything about boys," said Leon from just inside earshot.
"I heard that, you jerk!" snapped Lara. She then looked at Kairi, "But that's not why I'm here. I've got good news from my grandmother."
"About time we got some good news around here," said Cid.
"Depending on what the news is," said Ansem, "I'd say it'd be most welcome."
"Oh, you'll all like this news," said Lara, "My grandmother, Merlin and Yen Sid are very, very, very close to figuring out how to extend the protective properties of The Cornerstone of Light throughout The Realms of Light."
"How close!?" asked Kairi urgently, kneeling down to look Lara in the eye.
"Very close," insisted Lara, "we just need a few more things and we're good to go."
"What kind of things?' asked Leon as he hurried back.
"And how much will it cost?" asked Scrooge McDuck.
"The kind of things that only magic users can get together in time," said Lara, "just leave it to us. We'll take care of it."
"But what is it you need?" asked Kairi, "if we can help…"
"Sorry, but no," said Lara, "my grandmother explosively told me to tell you not to help. This is something we magic users have to do ourselves."
"But I'm a magic user, sort of," said Kairi, "I mean…the diadem…"
"I don't think your crown should be used for trivial purposes," said Lara.
"You call saving the universe trivial?" asked Kairi, "if…"
"I'm sorry, I've got to go," said Lara, "so much to do and so little time. Just one more thing first, something my grandmother told me to tell you! Trust yourself!" with that she teleported out.
"What was that all about?" asked Leon.
"Wizards, what else do you expect them to be?" asked Quistis, "and are you sure you don't want this?" she asked as she held out the letter.
"I don't want anything from her!" shouted Leon as he turned and walked away, passing Selphie as she walked up to Qusitis.
"Now what's bugging him?" Selphie asked.
"He didn't want to read a letter from Zell," said Quistis.
"Zell Dincth!?" exclaimed Selphie as she grabbed the letter from Quistis.
"Who's…?" asked Kairi.
"Zell?" asked Quistis, "he's Squall's old partner back in the day. He's…a bit…overeager…to say the least. Like Rinoa and pretty much everyone else from the old days, Squall left Zell on bad terms. It's all really stupid when you think about it."
But then Selphie gave a squeal of delight, "They're coming!" she shouted joyfully. "Zell and Rinoa are coming to help! I've gotta go tell Irvin and Squall!" with that she dashed out of the area.
"Well, gang's almost all here," said Quistis.
"So long as Leon doesn't let the past get in the way of what is to come," said Ansem.
"He'll be fine," said Kairi as she looked up at the stars, "but I wish I could say the same for us. Sora, Riku, where are you?"
The Lich walked on the beach in his stolen body, taking in the sights and sounds of Sora's childhood. There was the pier, the waterfall, the small hut, the obstacle course on the other side of the island where Sora and Riku had so many races. And there was the Paopu Tree on the small island, sight of so many practice duels. And there stood the tree itself, its fruit bitter to taste yet carried such sweet memories.
That's what The Litch had come for, to experience Sora's memories firsthand. The foul necromancer had access to all of Sora's memories, from his earliest childhood all the way up to Sora's drift through the primal darkness. Yet The Litch wanted to see the islands for itself, to make its own assessment of the life of the young Keyblade Wielder.
It walked the pier to the small island and looked up at the Paopu Tree. Reaching up with his stolen hand, The Litch picked a ripe fruit. It looked at it, remembering the promise Sora, Riku and Kairi made to share it one day. Then it remembered the time Sora, Riku, Kairi, Aiden and Tess tasted the fruit, realizing the fruit's true flavor and laughing it off. Such joy and love was felt that day.
"Pathetic," said The Lich coldly as it crushed the fruit, its necromantic power corrupting the fruit into rotten slime. It then touched the tree, infecting it with undead magic. Within seconds, the tree was dying. "Utterly, childishly pathetic."
The Lich walked back to the main island and touched the sand with both hands, chanting an unholy curse. There was a flash of green necromantic magic, yet when The Lich stood up, all seemed well.
"When the time comes, this world will fall to death," said The Lich, "all worlds Sora knew will fall." It then summoned a portal and stepped through, leaving behind an abominable time bomb of pure evil, waiting for the order to explode and turn Sora's world into a land of chaos and corruption.