ATUHOR'S NOSE: So this... is a more serious/realistic take on the self-insert genre than my other entry "A Decent Self-Insert, Probably" - actually it started as a rewrite of that fic, until it sorta evolved into its own thing. (DSI will still be continuing, but much slower.) With assistance from James CyberLink. Lots and lots of assistance. Co-writer credit isn't a thing on FFN, but I wish it was.

If you look at it really askew and squint, you could also interpret it as a lighter take on James's fic "Reality Just Is". (So if you're reading this and thinking something like "I like most of this, but I really wish it was darker", there's your recommendation!) By the way, the character of Jules is originally from his fic, so if you like her, you can find more of her there.

In any case, all of these are still stand-alone fics, and you don't need any background info from one to understand the rest.

This fic takes place in October 2017 (same as DSI), but in a slightly altered timeline such that Rachel could reasonably played all the games she references and also all the cameos are roughly her age. Actually I guess that's more than just slightly altered, but never mind.

A character in this chapter uses ey/em/eir pronouns. If that statement confuses you, you might want to check out pronoun dot is/ey and Learn™. ... And please don't start pronoun discourse in my reviews. I asked my online friends for cameos and ey was the second person to respond. (Out of two. You'd think a request like that would get more attention.)

The AO3 version has soundtrack links, if you're into that sorta thing, and will also have multimedia enhancements present throughout. There are several ways to get there from here, but I think the only one I can assist you with by typing words into this extremely limited space is to suggest that plugging "kingdom hearts beyond the borders wingedcatgirl archiveofourown" into your favorite search engine will probably do the trick. Depending on how long it's been since it went up.

Meta gag about how saying "I don't own it" is not actually legally meaningful but everyone on FFN says it anyway, which will be changed on AO3 to a gag about how people over there don't say it, except not really because this is both gags. ...I'm only gonna do this once.

...I promise I'm only rambling this much in the opening note because this is the first chapter. Future chapter notes will be much more concise.

"True" wordcount (defined as "what Google Docs tells me when I'm selecting only the portion of the document that I personally consider to be "the actual fic"): 5180

THIS JUST IN — October 7, 2017

The eagerly-awaited installment in the vastly popular Kingdom Hearts franchise, Kingdom Hearts III, has been cancelled by The Walt Disney Company and Square Enix.

It is unknown what happened behind closed doors at both companies, but the project, already having been delayed numerous times, was abruptly cancelled by both companies in a joint statement, and all official websites for the game have been taken down.

Devoted fans of the franchise are currently in an uproar, with numerous forums and online communities having been shut down either intentionally by moderators, or by being overloaded thanks to the chaos currently ensuing online.

Reasons for the cancellation itself are not clear, with many devoted fans having put forward numerous theories and suspicions of various potential causes, from possible financial problems at Square Enix, to a strike held by the writing staff.

Other devoted fans have suspected foul play of some description, such as money laundering, or a legal issue relating to some form of intellectual property. Rumors of a potential break-in at the head office of either Square Enix or Disney could not be confirmed at this time.

The creators of the franchise, including the director, have not been available for comment since the official statement was made, and have allegedly not been seen publicly since the cancellation. Their whereabouts are currently unknown.

When the announcement came down, many hearts were broken, and amongst the many broken hearts was a forlorn youth by the name of Rachel. A brown-haired and green-eyed young woman dressed in fairly ordinary blue jeans and purple T-shirt, she had decided that this event marked the single worst day of her life.

"I still can't believe they actually cancelled it..." she muttered in dismay, as she gently rubbed the cloth over the lenses of her glasses. "I always said I wouldn't believe any release date until I had the disc in my hands, but I never thought they'd outright cancel it."

The recently announced cancellation of the eagerly-awaited Kingdom Hearts 3 had already been presumed to have led to a slight increase in the suicide rate of numerous countries. Many assumed the news to be some kind of internet prank until confirmation was received, which prompted the greatest internet argument the Kingdom Hearts online communities had ever seen since... anyone in said communities had first said anything, really.

The event had shaken Rachel to the point where her friends took her out to grab a bite to eat, and drink in the relaxing atmosphere of the coffee shop they had chosen. The place wasn't overly busy, with an average amount of patrons for that time of day.

"It really is weird," Kira said as she patted Rachel's brown-haired head like one would pat the head of a cat. "The internet can't figure out why. Some of them are saying Square Enix had financial problems, some of them are talking about half the writing staff just failing to show up one day... There's even that rumor you see everywhere that their corporate headquarters was broken into... I don't think that one's true, but people keep saying it, and it's weird."

"Why would anybody do that?" Rachel asked, fiddling with the trans pride pin on her backpack. (If one asked directly, there were myriad ways Rachel might describe her gender, from "I'm a girl and that's a weird question to ask" to "none gender with left catgirl", depending on her mood that day. But nobody ever actually asked that, except for that one time on Tumblr.) "Who or what could possibly want to do that?"

"I dunno," Kira said, shrugging. "Maybe the darkness is somehow involved."

"...Really, Kira?" Sarah responded, with a worn-out expression that seemed to be the non-verbal equivalent of a painful groan. "Corporate espionage is way more likely."

"What kind of corporate espionage would video game companies do to each other, though?" Kira wondered.

"Consider this: Both. Corporate espionage by the legions of darkness."

Sarah blinked and shook eir head. "That... definitely makes less sense, but sure, Rach. The darkness sent Neoshadows to break into Square Enix and steal the enemy designs for the next game so they can make an army of the bonus boss."

That got a chuckle out of Rachel, despite her foul mood.

"If they wanted to make an army of bonus bosses," Kira said, "they should go backward, not forward. No bonus boss will ever be as brutally unfair as Young Xehanort in Birth by Sleep."

"Oh, dear gods, no," Rachel cried in mock-terror. "I don't want to fight one of him, much less an army. ... Oh, wait, he has that self-duplication attack. It's an army either way, isn't it?"

"Well," Sarah said, "considering Xehanort likes to put his essence in different people, make them into his 'other selves' as he puts it..."

"Oh dear, I guess we're doomed," Rachel said, breaking down in laughter. "... I suppose we should purchase something at this cafe, rather than crying on their table all day."

"We've got you covered, Rach," Sarah said, as a harried-looking barista with the most remarkable timing set down three slices of pumpkin pie, a ham and cheese panini, and four cups of steaming hot tea. "See?"

Rachel stared at the offering, then frowned, noticing the panini among them. "...Is Jules lost again?"

"Seems so," Sarah said, glancing out the window. "I swear I told her it's across from the library...?"

The three friends started to eat their pumpkin pies, waiting for Jules to show up. She finally did, apologizing repeatedly for her lateness as she sat down to eat the less warm panini that she had been ordered. With her arrival, their foul mood over the cancellation of Kingdom Hearts 3 started to subside, and the day looked to be just a bit brighter, for just a while. Then the food was eaten, and reality came crashing back down once again.

At the end of this day, Rachel would look back on the thought that this was the worst day of her life, and wonder if maybe she somehow caused what was to follow. It was the worst kind of magical thinking, and she knew it, but the rules against that had been made in a world where things work logically.

All that can be said for certain, was that her day was about to get a whole lot worse.

"I still can't believe they really cancelled it!" Rachel exclaimed as the four of them headed home from the cafe.

"And that makes forty-seven," Jules said in a tired, worn-out voice, marking off another tally.

Rachel frowned. "Are you actually counting how many times I say that?"

"With the number of times you're saying it, I might as well. At least there's a silver lining, though: with the series cancelled, they can't do something particularly stupid like... like abruptly kill off Aqua for cheap shock value."

"Would Nomura really do that?" Rachel mused, turning her head towards Jules with her eyebrows poised.

"He does seem to hate his female characters," Sarah replied. "Though I'd have pegged Naminé as the one at risk." Jules shrugged a shoulder in agreement.

"Ugh, he totally would do something like that..." Rachel sighed. "I know there's no way the ending would've lived up to my expectations, but I still wanted to see it, you know?" Rachel ran a hand through her hair as she walked along, with her three friends grouped around her.

Just then, unbeknownst to them and most of the people around them until now, the ground started to shake. It had been trembling gently for quite a while now, but at this point, the earth beneath their feet had really started to jolt and thrash like an entity chained up for a long time finally breaking loose.

"Did you feel that?" Kira asked.

"Feel what?"

"A rumbling," she said, "like —"

Rachel froze as she felt the next tremor. "I definitely felt it that time."

"I thought you didn't get earthquakes around here," Jules said.

"We don't." Another rumble, stronger than the last. "Until today, apparently?!"

The quakes continued to build, getting more and more violent, seemingly coming in waves. As the tremors got rougher and rougher, the people around them started to panic more and more.

"I think we should -" Rachel was interrupted by another shake and a loud crack in the distance. "- go in a shelter-ish sort of direction?" I don't know what you do in an earthquake! We're not prepared for this around here! Rachel thought to herself, as screams rang out from the crowd as one of the taller buildings took on a precarious tilt. "Not that direction," she added. "We should go in a direction that's not that one."

Jules finally spoke up, shaking herself back into focus. "We need to get out into the open, guys! We need to get the hell away from anything that might fall on us!"

"Right!" Rachel said. Where's an open, safe place around here...? Ah! "This way, y'all -" She almost pointed out a path to safety, when suddenly it wasn't safe anymore. The ground shook again, and this time it opened up entirely, breaking apart as if it had been wounded by a gigantic blade slicing a massive and gaping crack in the flesh of the Earth itself. Giant fissures, it turns out, are safety hazards by any standard. "Nope! Strike that!"

"If we don't go somewhere, quickly..." Kira trailed off, leaving the end of that sentence to the imagination.

And then the precariously tilted building slid past "precarious" into "actually collapsing".

"Run!" Sarah shouted. "Run, run, run, run, RUN, RUN!" Ey grabbed Kira's arm and ran, perpendicular to the building because ey's not a cartoon character, and Rachel and Jules followed closely behind.


The collapse knocked up a massive cloud of dust, obscuring everything for several seconds.

Jules was the first to stop coughing. "Is- *cough* — is everyone okay?" (Well, in actuality, the first to stop coughing as much.)

"Yeah, I'm fine, somehow," Rachel said. "Or, well, I'm covered in dust, and that's gross, but that's probably not new information and I'm fine other than that." It's a good thing I keep up with our self-defense classes... I don't have any other regular physical activity, and I don't think I could've covered that distance if I was completely out of shape like before we started those...!

"Same here," Sarah said. "No injuries, just... completely shaken. Kira?"

"Mm-hmm," Kira replied, slumping to the ground. "This is exhausting... I think the tremors have stopped, though." She leaned back and looked up. "... Um, am I seeing things, or is that...?"

Rachel couldn't see through her dust-covered glasses, and wiping them on her dust-covered shirt wasn't exactly helpful, and neither was wiping them on her dust-covered jeans. But even at this distance, even with her eyesight, she could see something that big.

A silhouette of a recognizably humanoid figure, became vaguely visible through the grounded clouds, about the same size as the building that had just collapsed, and jet-black from top to bottom. And in its torso, a hole — Rachel couldn't quite make out the shape, but she could not help but suspect the empty space within the thing's torso to have the outline of…above all else…a heart symbol.

"...No," Rachel said. "No way. That's not possible. And also, it's ridiculous."

Jules stepped back, staring wide-eyed at the gigantic monster, shaking from the soles of her feet to the hairs on her head. "No… Sweet mercy, no… This is not happening to us…" She whimpered, at a near-loss for words.

"It's a Darkside," Sarah said, breathing heavily as ey pointed a trembling finger from eir outstretched arm in the direction of the anomalous figure, eir head and focus turned back to eir friends.

"An impossible and ridiculous Darkside."

"We're all seeing it, though," Kira pointed out.

"Mass hysteria is a thing!" Rachel exclaimed. "Or — or I could be dreaming!" She bit her arm, not hard enough to draw blood, but hard enough to hurt. "Ow! Frick. Okay, not dreaming. Mass hysteria is still on the table, though."

"I don't think it works like this," Sarah said. Ey glanced at eir phone. "I'd look it up, but... no signal."

"No signal..." Rachel muttered. "No emergency services." She recalled a video game she had played a while back, in which emergency services had responded to a supernatural disaster by barricading everyone inside the area and covering up the true cause. "They would actually help, right? And not... try to make it go away?"

"That building that collapsed..." Kira said. "It wasn't evacuated. They'd at least be able to do something about... that. That's a normal thing for emergency services to do."

Something in the back of Rachel's mind suggested that the four of them might want to help, but she shut it down. We aren't trained. We'd be risking our lives for barely any chance at actually helping anyone. "Maybe we could find a landline."

"Maybe they already know what's going on," Sarah said.

"If we found a landline we could at least check," Rachel said. "Our phones' clocks all still work, right?" Murmurs of affirmation all around. "Then, let's split up and look for a working landline, and meet back here in 15 minutes."







Rachel was pretty sure there hadn't been any formal evacuation, but it did seem that most people had fled the area, and surprisingly fast, too. Abandoned cars could be seen dotted around, along with other clutter, showing clearly that whatever was going on, everyone had just upped and left. Rachel checked the businesses in the area, and all of them were empty. And, to her great annoyance, it took almost all her allotted time to find a landline that actually worked, in an abandoned bar with a notably rustic aesthetic.

(She very carefully did not think too much about the inky black substance covering the shelves, and the bars, and the tables and chairs and walls and floors and everything, choosing to gloss over it as probably a hallucination anyway.)

"Finally, a dial tone," she said, dialing 911. "Hello, emergency services, there's been a major disaster here..." She glanced out the window, still able to see the Darkside in the distance. "I'm... not sure I can tell what actually happened, because I seem to be hallucinating a little bit, but a building definitely collapsed."

Rachel belatedly realized that the person on the other end of the line hadn't been speaking. "Uh... Hi? Are you there?"

"This world has been connected..."

"No! No! NO! You have got to be KIDDING ME!"

"... tied to the darkness."

"What is this, a Kingdom Hearts themed creepypasta?!" She slammed down the phone and ran to the building's exit, only to stop as another tremor hit, knocking her to the ground.

"For... for crap's sake..." she said, breathing raggedly. "Can't we just be done?"

Not unless a Keyblade wielder shows up and slays that Darkside.

"Sure, let me just hallucinate up a Kingdom Key and get right on that." She bit her arm again, just to be sure, but it didn't wake her up this time either. "Still not dreaming... just hallucinating. A lot." No more pumpkin pies for me! She got to her feet and held her hand out experimentally. "All right, brain. If I'm gonna hallucinate, give me an imaginary weapon."

Rather than Rachel's mind allowing her to acquire something to defend herself with, she heard… something emanating from a dark corner of the bar. As Rachel walked from the phone, slowly towards the corner, she noticed a pair of yellow eyes peering at her, glowing with a faint golden light that illuminated various particles of dust and other such things in the air around it.

...Oh… Oh, no… Rachel thought, gazing upon the shadowy corner, and saw more than just a shadow… as two more pairs of eyes appeared from the shadows present in the corner.

Three pure-blood Shadow Heartless emerged from the corner of the bar, staring Rachel down like she was nothing but meat, a tasty morsel to them. They appeared to be masses of solid shadow, black as pitch, the shadows cast by what light there was glimmering around them, as the light was seemingly absorbed into their shapes, giving them the very vague appearance of being an anomalous hole in reality itself.

"That is... almost exactly the opposite of a weapon. Why. Why does my brain torment me this way." She shook her head, subconsciously refusing to believe what she was seeing. "Listen, hallucinations, I need to get back to my friends, so I'm gonna head out. Y'all okay with that?"

They were not okay with that, and showed their displeasure by lunging at her, claws outstretched. Despite not believing what was in front of her, Rachel jumped clear of the incoming attack and backed away a few paces.

Rachel sighed in annoyance upon touching down. "Um, about that, I don't actually care about your opinion? Since you're imaginary? So." She turned around to face the exit when another fissure appeared, tearing through the floor and cutting off the exit. Not just the exit, but the entire front wall — and behind it, nothing but an endless void, a starry expanse of black, purple, and dark blue nebula that seemed beyond what Rachel could possibly hope to understand.

"This hallucination is getting really elaborate..." Rachel muttered, starting to worry that her mental state might be worse than she realized. Or that she might not be hallucinating after all. She wasn't sure which outcome would be worse.

And while she was standing there wondering about that, one of the Shadows lunged close enough to hit her, leaving three bloody scratches on her shin (and corresponding gashes in her jeans).

Rachel recoiled in pain, uttering a heated string of nonsense syllables that almost kinda sounded like profanity. "... Argh! Not a hallucination, then!" Or maybe a hallucination concealing a wild animal, but I really hope not, because I'd rather die of Darkness™ than rabies!

Now taking everything she saw at face value, Rachel reassessed the situation. "Okay. Let's get rid of those, real quick," she said, grabbing a random pool cue from the debris and swinging at the nearest Shadow to absolutely no effect, as the Shadow simply saw Rachel's attack coming, and disappeared into the ground, zipping behind her, prompting Rachel to side-step away.

Rachel could hardly believe what she saw. If she was just seeing an animal that she was perceiving as a Shadow, then that would be one thing, but the way her attack had absolutely no effect on the creature she was seeing...

"... I was really hoping that would at least knock it about. Maybe into the... void. That would have been conven- ow!"

You just stood there rambling! Maybe don't do that?!

"Shut up!" Rachel shouted, vaulting over the bar, completely ignoring the opening on one side. "Alcohol's flammable, right?" Molotov = bottle + flammable + wick, I think? I'm an anarchist, kind of, I really should know things like this!

Rachel started to scramble around for something flammable. Okay, what did Jules say about this, again? She tried her hardest to recall what Jules had said one day when she had been in a very, very particular mood, one that was somewhat more extreme than either her own personal average or the national average.

Despite thinking as hard as she could, in the heat of the moment, Rachel couldn't remember much, except You want the high-proof stuff for best results, and Jules said that's whiskey, scotch, vodka or rum, right?

Rachel scrambled around the bar as the Shadows closed in, intent on ripping her heart from her body — the meaty, fleshy one, or some kind of metaphysical one, it didn't matter, Rachel was pretty sure she would need both of them to live.

Rachel managed to locate some vodka (labelled "Quintessentially Q" for whatever it was worth) and placed some dry fabric she found behind the bar in the top of the bottle, before looking around for something to set it alight. Bars have matches, I know they do, it's a whole thing!

This bar, at least, had a dusty-looking pile of matchbooks in a bottom drawer, which Rachel quickly seized and brushed off frantically as the Shadows gathered around her, two of them hopping up onto the counter to block her from vaulting back over it, and another one walking around behind the bar by the opening and slowly approaching.

Rachel's hands began to shake as she pulled the matchbox open, pulled a match out, and repeatedly swiped and scratched it against the rough edge, desperate to get it alight, kicking scraps of dust into the air in front of her in the process. After what seemed like an eternity to her, the match was lit, as Rachel was forced to retreat into the corner as the thirsty Shadows slowly closed in.

The fabric, the wick, caught fire and lit up in a spray of embers, the surprise heat catching Rachel right in the face, considering how close she was holding the bottle. She forced herself to her feet, bent her knees down, and vaulted backwards over the bar to avoid the Shadows closing in, with one of the Shadows on top of the bar lunging at her face and flying right past her shoulder, Rachel picking up an unusual sensation from it being so close to her face for a brief moment.

She quickly dashed diagonally from the bar across the room, coming closer to where the entryway had been eaten and digested by some form of void, and lifted the cocktail. She held out her arm to guide her shot, fingers flat and aimed at the jet black monsters, with gusto and fervor, only to stop in place, arms locked in the air, like a total doofus as a thought that only someone like Rachel could ever possibly have suddenly struck her.

"Wait. I have to call my attack, because apparently, I live in video games now... Uhh... Garlean Firaga!" she shouted and tossed the bottle at the shadows, now dashing towards her, with a level of accuracy that surprised even her. The mixture burst ferociously, dousing the Heartless in flaming fluids, which caused them to writhe and shake madly, spraying some burning droplets around the immediate area like a dog shaking itself dry.

This ended up igniting the surrounding area, because of course it did.

I think you've made a mistake.

"Hey, you had several minutes to point out that lighting the bar on fire might result in the bar being on fire."

No, I mean you blocked off your path to the back door.

She looked between the void and the fire and indeed, much to her horrified dismay, there seemed to be no exits. "Crap! I should have trapped them, not me!" She coughed, doubling over. "Oh, and fire creates smoke, too! Maybe if I could call the fire department!" She glanced around, looking for a fire extinguisher.

"Is there someone in there?"

Rachel froze. "That..."

Came from outside, yes.

"Yes! Yes, there is someone in here! Can you see a fire extinguisher back there?"

"... Yeah, here it is!" Extinguisher in hand, the stranger walked in — someone who Rachel recalled seeing on occasion, but had never actually spoken to, so she didn't know his name. He was clad in the attire of someone who seemed to like the great outdoors, wearing a beige shirt and khaki-green pants, and a similarly colored flat, broad-brimmed hat, with all the clothing on his body worn tightly, nothing hanging loose, boots zipped and tied, fitting exactly into place like a man of military-like discipline, or some other thing similar to that.

The stranger showed remarkable proficiency with the extinguisher, sweeping the blast around from the nozzle and clearing out as many flames as possible, before signalling to Rachel to head out the door that the stranger came through. Rachel quickly and carefully stepped through the flames, quickly passing through the way out of the building, and running away from the building in a justifiable moment of panic.

The stranger followed soon after, seemingly trying to flag Rachel down, presumably to get her attention to ask what the heck she was doing and what was going on. Rachel slowed to a stop in the middle of the street, abandoned vehicles all around, as the stranger stepped towards her, index finger pointing upwards, as the stranger tried to catch their breath, leaning against an abandoned car.

Before they could say anything, though, Rachel noticed something shifting around on the ground, behind the stranger...

"Hey, look out!"

The stranger turned just fast enough to catch a Shadow in the face rather than in the back and fell to the ground, screaming, trying to pull the creature off as it hugged his face, claws digging in and clinging on too tightly for the stranger to remove. Rachel leapt to his aid, swinging the pool cue around like a frenzied madwoman, but more Shadows piled on -

- there was so much blood -

- a heart floated up into the air -

- more Heartless, person-sized, rose up from the ground -

- the stranger's body wasn't there anymore, and the blood was slowly turning purple where the Heartless were touching it -

- a strangled noise that vaguely resembled screaming, which Rachel belatedly realized was definitely coming from her -

Rachel, don't lose yourself! You have to get back to your friends! ... Or at least away from here!

Head pounding with adrenaline and terror, she scrambled away, moving at a dead run whilst fearing for her life, as the creatures from elsewhere quickly crawled towards her from a vast array of directions. Rachel saw a Neoshadow crawl out from under a car and had to quickly vault over its hood to evade the creature.

Rachel couldn't feel any breathing on the back of her neck or hear any loud cries of rage, hunger, or anything of the sort. What she could hear was the scrabbling and scrambling of the things chasing her as they crawled around the metal of the cars, and the concrete and tarmac of the abandoned street.

She briefly considered looking back to see just how close her pursuers were, before remembering how every movie character who had ever done that had died immediately, and deciding to just focus on running.

Rachel's feet hit the street one after the other, and her arms pumped back and forth as her body was pushed as far as was possible. She wasn't taking any chances, she wasn't going to be devoured by those things like the other person was if she had anything to say about it. She vaulted over another abandoned vehicle.

She skidded to a stop as she saw more yellow eyes appear in front of her. "What?!" She chanced a look behind her — yes, the Heartless were still there, too. She looked around frantically for a marginally safer-looking path and dashed off again.

It was only after having run a way down this path that she finally realized that she had been so focused on escaping that she hadn't paid any attention to where she was going.

... You lost yourself.

"Ha. Ha. Funny play on words." Rachel leaned against another abandoned car for a moment, only to slump to the ground, completely exhausted both mentally and physically. "I would like this day to be over now, please and thank you."

Rachel found herself looking up at the sky in a melancholic manner, when she found that the heavens above looked rather different. They looked a lot darker than they should, considering the time of day. She checked the clock on her phone to be sure (which, luckily, seemed to still be running normally), and it was definitely too early to be this dark.

"Okay. I guess that was what was gonna happen next, wasn't it."

She was fairly sure she should get up and see what was going on, rather than leaning against this car. With what probably didn't look like a superhuman effort, she dragged herself to her feet.

... Not for long, though, as another tremor knocked her back to her knees. Longer and harsher than any so far, and much more so than all of them combined. Rachel clutched her head, whining like the helpless critter she essentially was at this point, as the quake reverberated all around her, sounding more akin to an explosion, as a black wind blew all around her.

Eventually, the quake died down and she dared open her eyes. And she saw the road, because her face was still less than a foot off the ground. "... Right. I knew that." This time, it did look like she was exerting extraordinary effort to get to her feet.

"... I really do hate knowing how this goes."

The world, or what was left of it, was much smaller. Suspiciously boss-battle-arena sized, in fact. Beyond the borders of the tiny chunk of land, all she could see was the void. Out of curiosity, Rachel lifted a small piece of debris from within arms reach and hurled it into the all-encompassing abyss, where, to Rachel's shock, it floated around, before it touched the void, causing it to ripple, and then accelerate into the black unknown.

"... This is... relentlessly unfair!" she cried out, fists clenched and breath ragged. "I can't even break down and cry... lousy goddamned worthless testosterone-poisoned flesh vessel... It never got this bad... when it happened... to SORA!" Only as the edges of Rachel's vision started to dim did it occur to her that her fatigue might not just be stress.

"... What's..." was all the protest she could muster, as, one way or another, she slipped helplessly into darkness.

In this chapter's edition of "things that almost happened"...

Rachel took careful aim and pulled the trigger. "Garlean Blizzaga!" she shouted as she blasted the Heartless with the fire extinguisher.

Why do you keep name-checking the fascists?!

"I'm not name-checking the fascists, I'm name-checking the magic-incapable race!"

Who are fascists!

"Yeah, but it's not the relevant detail!"