Author's Note: Here's the last chapter. I hate being sick. Right now, it feels as though someone took a knife and scraped down my throat, not to mention the stuffy nose. I have already gone through one box of Kleenex and I'm starting on the second. And, to top matters off, the stupid Tylenol Cold ISN'T HELPING!!!! Okay, enough of my ranting and own with the story.
Disclaimer: If you have gotten this far and still think that I may own the characters, then you really need help. More help than I can give you.
Chapter Eleven: Resolution
Squall and Yuffie arrived at the world to find it in the same condition as Sora and Kairi, the castle crumbling into dust, the village deserted, and the forest dark and dreary. Seeing the castle brought back the recent memory of Yuffie's dream, the dream of the beginning of their curse. They found Sora and Kairi's Gummi ship the small clearing, but from what they could tell, there was no one there. Landing their ship, they jumped out and walked over to the deserted-looking one, hoping to find someone there.
"I don't think they're here, Squall," Yuffie declared as they walked up the ramp to the door. She lifted her hand to press the button that would open it when there was a loud banging coming from the other side.
"Yuffie, Leon, is that you?" came a muffled voice over the beating on the door.
Squall and Yuffie looked at each, confusion coming over their faces. The ninja pushed the button, the door opening with a loud swoosh. There sat Kairi, tears streaming down her face. Kneeling, Yuffie asked softly, "Kairi, where's Sora?"
Composing herself, the red-head started to explain. "I don't know. When we landed here, Heartless appeared and before I could do anything, he pushed me in here and locked the door." She began crying again at the thought of the Keyblade master missing, maybe even dead.
The ebony-haired ninja looked to Squall with worry in her eyes. "If the Heartless were strong enough to capture Sora, we might be too late," she whispered.
"No, we'll find him. And, we'll stop their spread." Squall fell into leader mode so naturally, it was almost scary. "We need to wait for Cloud and Aerith first." No sooner were the words out of his mouth than said couple landing their ship near the others.
"Well speak of the devil and up he pops," Yuffie murmured as the blonde and the flower girl walked down the ramp to the forest floor. "So, are we ready to do this?" she asked the group. Everyone nodded solemnly.
Not seeing Sora, Aerith inquired, "Where's Sora?"
"That seems to be the question of the day," Squall muttered under his breath. Speaking loud enough for everyone to hear, he stated calmly, "He's been captured by the Heartless."
Cloud took this in stride, declaring, "Well, let's go get this bitch, er, I mean, this witch and end this once and for all." Suddenly remembering the part Kairi had to play in the plan, he asked, "Has anyone told Kairi what she has to do?"
The princess looked up at him quickly, fear showing in her face. "What do you mean? What do I have to do? Haven't I done enough?" she demanded.
Aerith took a deep breath before telling the teenager. "The only way to destroy the witch is for one with a pure heart kill her." The flower girl paused dramatically, "A Princess of Heart, to be exact."
Kairi began shaking her head, "No, I can't do it. I'm not strong enough." Fear started to eat away at her, making her frantic. "I can't even save myself, how am I supposed to kill her? I don't know the first thing about fight--"
Yuffie slapped her, "Calm down, girl!" The rest of the group looked at the ninja in shock. "I had to do it, she was getting hysterical," she explained defensively. Taking Kairi's face in her hands she began to speak calmly, "Kairi, you have to do it. To stop the curse. To save the worlds." None of this was sinking in, so Yuffie tried another route. "You have to do this for Sora. Once the Heartless are stopped, he can go back to being a normal teenager." Kairi nodded gently, accepting what the ninja told her.
"Okay then, let's get this show on the road," Squall said as he started for a path that looked as though it headed toward the castle. Running to catch up to him, Yuffie grabbed his hand, rubbing her thumb over the rough knuckles. The Gunblade wielder squeezed her hand back in reassurance.
Unbeknownst to the ninja and the lion, Aerith and Cloud watched them; the pink-clad lady smiling softly at them, while the blonde wore a smirk upon his face. "They're so in love," Aerith whispered quietly to Cloud, causing his smirk to grow. He wrapped his arm around his beloved's waist as they walked into the dark forest, Kairi following reluctantly behind them.
Down in the deepest dungeon of the crumbling castle lay a sixteen year old boy, a bruise forming on his brow where he took the hit that knocked him out. A haggard looking woman watched him as he slowly came to, moans escaping his throat as he felt the headache. Putting a hand on his head, he sat up slowly, trying to make the room stop spinning. The woman decided it was time to let her presence be known.
"So, you are the one they call the Keyblade master, correct?" she asked, sounding almost polite if you could ignore the evil vibes emanating from her. She didn't wait for his answer, his angry glare being enough of one. "Do you really think you and your friends can stop me?" she cackled.
Sora glowered at her, choosing to ignore her complete and utter confidence with herself. "Yes, we will defeat you. And break the curse as well," he finally declared, feeling self-assuredness flowing through his veins.
The hag looked at him in confusion for a moment. "Curse?" she wondered aloud. "There is no curse upon you, what are you talking about?" She tapped her chin with her long black fingernail in thought for a moment. "Ah, I know now. I can sense their presence." Throwing her head back, she laughed maniacally. "That foolish Sir Richard and that servant are here." She curled her lip in disgust with the word 'servant.'
"Yes, they are here. And they will kill you," the Keyblade master stated calmly, never taking his eyes off the witch.
"They cannot kill me. I am the Ageless One. I am immortal," she hissed at him. She left the room, her long black dress swishing with each step she took. Slamming the dungeon door, she began to laugh again. "Those fools, they have returned only to have their precious love destroyed again."
"Okay, there's the castle, what now?" Yuffie asked, running a hand nervously through her short hair as the fear of the Lady Elaine's wrath chilled her blood. Even after two hundred years, and countless other lives, her soul still dreaded the witch that had cursed them.
Squall squinted at the crumbling towers. "You know, it seems as though I've been here before," he whispered to his ninja, who simply rolled her eyes at him.
"Of course, it does, stupid! This is where we were cursed." She sighed loudly, thinking, he can be so dense sometimes.
Kairi glanced at the once beautiful palace, remembering the nightmares she had that had warned them of this danger. "This is it, alright. Although, in my dreams, it looks a whole lot nicer," she told the group quietly.
Worry began to take over Aerith. "Um...if Kairi's supposed to kill the witch, doesn't she need a weapon of some kind?" she asked nervously, looking around at everyone who all shrugged their shoulders. "Come on, people! What do you expect her to do, walk up to her and strangle her?"
"We don't have anything to give her, Aerith," Cloud calmly stated. "My and Leon's swords are too heavy for her. And, she doesn't know the first thing about throwing shurikens, so we don't have much choice." He started for the castle, thinking deeply. "Maybe there will be something inside she could use," he pondered.
Silently agreeing, they all followed the blonde across the drawbridge, glancing down at what was once a water filled moat. Now, it was dry stone, skeletons scattered here and there. Aerith grimaced at the macabre sight, pitying the poor souls who had met their deaths at the hands of the witch.
Something's wrong, Squall thought to himself, it's too quiet. We should have seen some Heartless by now. Aloud, he said, "Okay guys, be on your guard. There's probably going to be a lot of Heartless as soon as we walk in." While he was still speaking, he brandished his Gunblade. Cloud nodded, pulling out his Buster sword as Yuffie prepared her shuriken.
They quietly crept into the entrance hall of the castle. At first glance, it appeared to be modeled after Hollow Bastion, twin stairs around a fountain. However, unlike Hollow Bastion, this place was a disaster area; the intricate rug on the floor had been ripped to shreds, the paintings on the wall were faded and torn, the stone walls of the room had smoke stains upon them, and the fountain was in crumbles.
Walking around the room slowly, they began to search for a weapon of some kind for Kairi. It was Aerith who eventually found it. "Hey, how about this?" the flower girl asked, holding up a small dagger she had found on a table. Upon closer examination, the handle was shown to be in the shape of a dragon's head and the blade was surprisingly sharp, slicing Cloud as he ran his thumb down it.
"I think that will do it," the blonde said, sucking the blood off his damaged digit. "That is, if she can get close enough to her."
"Well, maybe if you guys keep her engaged in battle, I can creep up behind her," Kairi finally declared, tired of feeling so helpless among this group of heroes.
Yuffie bit her lip, nervous at the idea of the fragile princess having to do most of the dirty work. "I guess that's the only choice, really, isn't it?" No one answered. "Well, maybe we better find Sora." She took off down a hallway to the right.
"Yuffie, wait a minute. How do you know you're going in the right direction?" Squall called after her.
"Because, I remember that the dungeon is this way. Lady Elaine threatened to throw me in there enough. I'm pretty sure that is where she would have put Sora, don't ya think?" Having stopped to say all this, she began to walk stealthily down the corridor, this time the rest of the group following her.
They finally came to an opening, revealing a dark, dank, and dreary dungeon, the smell of mildew nearly overwhelming. Looking around, they saw the small cells, skeletons still chained to the wall in many. While they were busy taking in all this, they failed to notice the change in the atmosphere as all hell broke loose.
Heartless of every shape and size surrounded them, cutting off the exit. Defenders stayed near the door, preparing to shoot a barrage of flames and ice at anyone stupid enough to get within range. Flying above the group were Wyverns, ready to dive down at the first person who moved. Wizards menacingly waved their staffs, threatening lightning. Darkballs materialized around them. And to top it off, at the ground level, were the small shadow Heartless. Of course, each of these creatures by themselves wouldn't be too hard to destroy, but in a smorgasbord like this, it was nearly impossible.
Squall began barking out orders. "Yuffie, you handle the Shadows and Darkballs! Cloud, take out the Wyvern! Aerith, you and Kairi stay out of the way! I'll take care of the Wizards and Defenders!"
The flower girl had to forcibly drag the princess away from the battle as she was brandishing her dagger, screaming, "Come on, I'll take you all on!" The girl didn't realize that her small weapon would have little to no effect on the monsters.
Whipping out her shurikens, the ninja soon had all the harmless Shadows out of the way, leaving the Darkballs for last. "Take that! And that! Bring it on!" she shouted at the large black masses floating around her, watching them burst into black clouds as obliterated them.
The Gunblade was slicing through the air, taking Wizards out in single strikes before they had the chance to summon the lightning storms. Squall grunted as each swing of his weapon struck a monster, leaving one less creature for him to deal with. After finishing the Wizards, he started for the Defenders still standing stupidly near the entrance to the dungeon.
In all actuality, Cloud had the hardest job of all. The only times he could actually reach the Wyvern was when they dove down toward him in one of their spinning attacks. However, when they did do this, he was able to kill them with two or three well-timed strikes.
The battle, which seemed to last for hours to Aerith and Kairi, only took a few minutes. The two girls crept out of their hiding place in the corner when they saw Squall take down the last Defender. Yuffie stood with her hands on her thighs, panting from the exertion. Both swordsman calmly took out a cloth and wiped the black ooze from their blades.
"Everyone okay?" the lithe ninja asked between breaths as she was still panting. Hearing a chorus of 'yeah's,' she walked over to Squall, making sure he was really okay and not just lying about it, as he was prone to do. Sure enough, his shoulder was seared where a fireball had hit him. "I thought you said you were okay?" Yuffie said, the question coming out more like a statement.
He winced in pain as she touched it gingerly with her delicate hand. "It's not that bad. I'll be okay." He looked down at her, noticing the scratches on her arms and legs. "What about you?" he demanded gently. "You look like you took some pretty good hits yourself."
She glanced down, noticing them for the first time. "Yeah, well, they didn't hurt til you told me about them," she muttered, grimacing as the cuts started to burn. "But, I'll live." Standing up on tip-toe, she intended to give Squall a quick peck on the cheek; however, he had other plans. Wrapping his arms around her, he held her, resting his chin on her head and closing his eyes as he rocked her gently in his arms, oblivious to the people around them.
"Hey, lovebirds! Do you think you two can disengage yourselves from each other long enough to finish our job here?" Cloud called across the room to them.
Squall shot the blonde the death glare before releasing Yuffie from his grasp, yet still keeping her hand within his as they continued through the dungeon looking for Sora.
Sora leaned against the cold, stone wall of his cell, patiently waiting for his friends to save him. He fingered the crown necklace around his neck, wondering how they were doing. He had heard what sounded like a battle moments before, but the noise was gone now.
"So, you're just going to sit there, boy?" the witch hissed, sneering at him.
The Keyblade master nodded. "Yep. My friends will be here soon." His trademark smile crept across his face.
"Insolent child! They have no hope of defeating me!" she shrieked.
Sora just looked at her for moment, taking in her haggard appearance. He could tell that at one time, she may have been quite beautiful. But, time and an evil life had taken its toll on her. Her long, dry, white hair cascaded down her back, ending at her waist. The nearly translucent skin of her face looked as though it had been pulled too tightly, leaving her cheek bones jutting out above the hollows where her cheeks should have been. Overall, she appeared to be very old, ancient in fact.
Trying to make conversation with the haggard woman, Sora asked, "So, how old are you actually?"
She turned her gaze to him, black eyes full of hatred. "I am the Ageless One."
"So, does that mean you're too embarrassed to tell me your age, then?" the teenager persisted.
"It means that an insolent brat like you has no need to know anything of the sort," she growled.
"Oh, I get it, you're, like, over the hill or something, right?" Sora had trouble holding his laughter in. This witch was so easy to anger.
Sighing in disgust, she left the room, leaving Sora alone with his thoughts of his friends once again.
Coming across stairs leading down into darker depths of the castle, Yuffie started down, knowing at least Squall would follow her. "Ya know, Yuf, you could at least wait until we check things out before you go running off into the unknown," he had told her matter-of-factly. She only smiled at him, then continued to run down the stairs, giving him no choice but to accompany her. Everyone else gave in as well, and began the descent.
"Ah, you have returned at last, haven't you, Katherine?" a malevolent voice stated calmly. "And, look, Sir Richard has come as well. Maybe he's finally realized the mistake he made when he choice you over me."
Yuffie's eyes narrowed. She recognized the voice as the Lady Elaine's, only now it sounded colder, more sinister. "You can't win, Elaine. The Heartless will be destroyed and the curse will be broken as well. You might as well give up." The ninja hoped her false bravado would work.
A figure stepped out of the shadows, revealing the now haggard and ugly Lady Elaine. "I see that you have learned nothing in your many lives, Katherine. You have forgotten that you must bow to noble blood," the witch sneered. "You do remember that you are a mere servant, don't you?"
Squall stepped in front of Yuffie, intent on protecting her from the hag's wrath. He pulled out his Gunblade, holding it in front of him. "This ends now, witch," he growled.
"And Sir Richard, you have forgotten as well. I suppose you don't remember what happened last time you tried to kill me?" She threw her head back and began to cackle. "I am immortal, you fools. Your silly weapons cannot harm me."
By now, Cloud and Aerith had come down the stairs, followed closely by Kairi. "Oh? More young lovers for me to curse?" the witch asked playfully. "And a Princess of Heart? I had only just begun the search for them. Really, Katherine, such gifts as these? You are too kind." She cocked her head to one side, thinking. "Now, let's see, what kind of curse can I place upon these two?"
While the Lady Elaine was pondering what type of creatures she would turn Cloud and Aerith into, Kairi began to creep around the edge of the room, hoping to get behind the witch. "Wait right there, Princess," the hag said calmly, waving her arms toward the red-head, who had now found herself paralyzed. The witch looked around at the group, "Oh, you thought that child would kill me, didn't you?"
Not being able to take the suspense any longer, Squall leapt forward with his Gunblade, tearing a hole through the crone's chest. She backed away disgust showing on her haggard face, "I hate when that happens."
"Squall, I told you that wouldn't work," Yuffie muttered. She began to think furiously of a way to get Kairi close enough to actually kill the witch. Looking over at the still frozen girl, she hatched a plan. Maybe if we all attack her at once, she will lose her control over Kairi. Her hand reached into her pouch and slowly drew out a shuriken. She hoped the others would get the hint. Flicking her wrist expertly, the star flew across the short distance and embedded itself into Elaine's shoulder.
"You people do not learn do you?" the witch screamed. But Yuffie wasn't paying attention to her, she was watching Kairi intently. As the wound caused by the shuriken healed, the princess was able to move an inch.
That was enough for Yuffie. She began throwing her ninja stars furiously. With each hit, Kairi was able to move another inch. Cloud and Squall finally got the idea and brought their swords around in wide arcs.
Elaine screamed in rage as she realized she was losing control of the girl while her wounds healed. She began chanting in a strange tongue, desperately trying to summon even darker powers to protect her. But just as the dark glow surrounded her body, she felt the thin blade of the dagger slip into her back, piercing her black heart.
"Noooooo!" she screeched as she fell to the ground. She writhed around in agony for a few seconds longer before finally turning to dust.
"Wow! I didn't know if I could really do that or not!" Kairi cried joyously. Everyone else stood in shock. The Heartless threat was finally over. The curse had been lifted. "Now, we just need to find Sora," the princess told everyone.
Squall and Yuffie still didn't realize the implications of the curse being broken. They just hadn't thought about it yet, so they mindlessly followed the others as the began the search for Sora.
"Sixty-eight bottles of beer on the wall, sixty-eight bottles of beer. Take one down pass it around, sixty-seven bottles of beer on the wall." Sora paced in his cell, singing the next verse of the song in his obviously tone-deaf voice.
"Will you please cut that out?" a voice rang out. "You're giving me a headache."
"Squall?" the Keyblade master yelled, running to the bars on the cell door.
"Damn it, it's Leon!" the voice answered as everyone came into Sora's view.
The spikey-haired teenager's face lit up when he saw Kairi. "Kairi! You're okay!" he exclaimed, racing out of his prison as soon as Squall had opened the gate. He hugged the princess tightly. Looking around at everyone, he asked, "So, did ya destroy the witch?"
"Well, actually we didn't," Yuffie said, "but Kairi did."
"And the curse has been lifted?" he persisted.
The ninja's eyes went wide for a moment, "The curse! I forgot all about the cu--" She was broken off when Squall pushed her against the wall and captured her lips with his own. Pulling his head closer, she ran her fingers through his tangled hair as he ran his hands up her sides, causing her to twist with pleasure.
They continued like this for a few minutes, only stopping for a breath occasionally, when Cloud couldn't stand it any longer. "Okay, enough is enough, guys!" They ignored him completely. "Guys?" Still they didn't stop. By now, Sora and Kairi were staring, mouths gaping in shock at how affectionate Squall was being, in public no less. Aerith leaned against Cloud, smiling happily. The blonde tried once again, "Could you at least wait until we get back to the Gummi ships?" he begged.
They both stopped, silly grins plastered on their faces. "There is a bed in the ship, Squall," Yuffie whispered in his ear.
"What are we waiting for then?" He grabbed her arm, pulling her behind him as he raced up the stairs, out of the castle, and through the woods to their waiting ship.
Not hearing what they had just said, Aerith stated, "I wonder where they're going off to so fast?" to which everyone else laughed.
Author's Note: It's finished! Now, as always, I will take this time to thank all the reviewers:
Cat of Darkness
Vulpes Lapis: the termites work wonders, don't they?
Okay, I think that's everyone. Now, I have a little preview of my upcoming work.
"These Are the Days" will be AU and take place in a college town with Yuffie, Kairi, Sora, Cloud, Aerith, and Squall going to the college together. The ages will be tweaked slightly, so:
Yuffie - 18
Kairi - 17
Sora - 18
Cloud - 23
Aerith - 21
Squall - 27
Despite their differences in ages, they will all have a few classes together. Oh, and I have to apologize to Riku fans: I'm sorry, but I can't put him in any stories because I cannot seem to write his character at all.
But anyways, the first installment of this story should be up by Sunday at the very latest. Knowing me, I'll probably work on it all day tomorrow and post it.