Shattered Peace

It had been six years since the end of the ordeal with the Empire. In those six years, peace and prosperity began to blossom again. Within the Disney Kingdom, King Mickey reigned supreme over his people, leading wisely and compassionately. Unlike many other kings of other realms, who were at times despotic and tyrannical, Mickey was always able to maintain a sense of justice and knew how to contend with the problems his people faced. Unlike most other royals, he was very generous and would go out to the streets to greet the people personally. The people would bow to him in respect rather than fear. The times were good and the kingdom had reached a state of stability.

It was on this particular day that Mickey began to address his subjects, telling them of the good future to come. The people gathered in front of the grand palace to hear their king speak. King Mickey, with his Queen Minnie, head wizard Donald, and Goofy, captain of the palace guards, beside him, stood tall before the crowd. He raised his hands into the air.

"My people," he began, "luck smiles upon our beloved kingdom this fine day. It has been six years since the ordeal we faced when the eminent threat of the Dark Empire was upon us. We seemed so vulnerable and helpless when this great threat was knocking on our doorstep. However, thanks to the efforts of our allies and our friends in other dimensional realms, our combined strengths were able to fend off this cunning scourge. We now gather, six years from that era of chaos, to celebrate the prosperity of the kingdom. For this, I wish you all the best of wishes to you and your family and friends."

"Hail, King Mickey!" the crowd shouted. "Hail, King Mickey! Long Live the King!" The cheering increased, but Mickey only raised his hand, gesturing to the masses to quiet down for he still had much to say to them.

"This day, I declare our independence day!" he continued. "Each and every one of you has contributed for the good of this kingdom. You reaped and sewed the soil you live on. You have shown great support to me. In gratitude, I have always stepped aside and lowered myself of high position to hear of your opinions. How to make this world better, how to make our kingdom better than it ever was before. You should not be thanking me for I have done very little to be given such praise. You should thank yourselves. Thank yourselves for all the achievements you have done to better your own lives as well as the lives of your neighbors! It was because of you that our kingdom has remained untouched for the passed six years. And let us continue to prosper and work for the sake of the kingdom, to keep the kingdom strong and keep it a nice place to live. And let us hope that there will be an everlasting peace for us all in the future to come."

There was a loud roar and the people cheered away at the King. Mickey raised his hands, greeting the people and again there was a great uprising in the praising voices of his subjects.

"That was such a brilliant speech, your majesty." Donald uttered.

"You have done well to keep our kingdom strong." Queen Minnie replied, kissing King Mickey on the cheek. Mickey blushed.

"Ah shucks, Minnie." Mickey uttered.

At the same time, however, another individual was watching the king make his speech as well from a television monitor. This dark individual clicked off the screen and sat there in the dark, slightly chuckling for himself.

"I commend you, King Mickey." he uttered in a sinister and mechanized whisper. "You certainly know how to motivate the people don't you. There is nothing wrong with wishing for everlasting peace, but the fact of the matter remains. Is the universe ready to embrace such an ideal?"

"Then, it would be best if we show them otherwise right, my lord?" said the subordinate next to him. "Soon, the Disney Kingdom will experience a rude awakening, will it not?"

"Yes it will." The figure sipped wine from a golden bauble. "My late master had entrusted me with the radical ideal of changing the face of the universal society structure completely. It is not right that some may live in peace while others are purged into war. What right does King Mickey and his subjects have to live in peace when others are suffering and dying out there? In the realm where the Z team dwells, there are still conflicts against factions of the former Dark Empire. Not only do the factions fight the alliance, but they also do battle against one another as well. Well, that will change in the time of my coronation. Once I have established myself within the Disney Kingdom, I will be able to link to other worlds without the Universal Alliance being the least bit suspicious of my activity. Then, once I have gained enough ground, I will use my full force to destroy the leaders of the battling Imperial factions and unite all the regions of the former Dark Empire. Just as his Excellency, Master Cavendish did before. Then, once the factions are unified under my banner, I will attack the alliance itself and destroy the only other power that stands between me and total domination. Even the Z team will not be able to stop me without the help of the Universal Alliance."

"An excellent plan, my lord." The subordinate uttered. "We will be domineering over these dimensional realms in no time."

"But first thing is first. I must also rid myself of all possible obstacles that may pose a threat to me. Especially…him."-

"Him?"-

"The one who stole my pride those many years ago. I will make sure that he pays."-

"Would it not be best to attack the Disney Kingdom as you had planned?"-

"I intend to do so." The figure uttered again, sipping his wine. "We will first attack the Disney Kingdom and secure that realm in our hands. This way, our enemies do not have a remote place to fall back and regroup. Besides the Disney Kingdom, you know the other targets right?"-

"Yes, my lord." The subordinate unleashed as scroll from his sleeve. "We take over the Disney Kingdom and secure it as our headquarters. Twilight Town and Traverse Town must also be placed under our control."-

"Those are your orders. Carry them out."-

"I will inform our forces right away." The subordinate began to leave.

"Wait one moment though." the figure said. "Also, make sure that our conspirator is ready to take down our two significant foes."

"He informs me that he has hired a new man to help Archibald and him to carry out with their mission. A former Imperial I think he is."

"Well done." The figure stood up from his chair. "Now get going."

"Yes, my lord." The subordinate left the room, leaving his lord alone in the dark. The figure sipped from his cup again.

"Soon, my dream will be fulfilled along with my vengeance." He uttered to himself. "We will see which one of us is worthy to bear that same name."

It wasn't long before the day of celebration in the Disney Kingdom had grown sour. In the midst of their celebration, the people's joys were shattered when exploding shells began to rain down upon the streets of the city. King Mickey could only watch in horror as he saw the shells bursting upon his people.

"Your majesty!" Goofy cried. "We gotta get you out of here!"

"Hurry!" Donald added.

"But my people…" Mickey said. "I can't leave them to this slaughter…"

"Please my dear." Queen Minnie uttered. "The people would be disheartened if you were killed…"

"I suppose you are right."-

Mickey and the others withdrew into the safety of the castle. At the same time, the armies of the kingdom rushed forth to defend the inhabitants from further annihilation. However, their efforts were in vain as the hordes of enemy troops began to swarm into the streets, overwhelming any resistance that dared to stand in their way. The thin lines of loyalist troops easily fell to the oncoming threat. Thousands of civilians rushed into the walls of the palace, many being shot in the back by attacking forces. The loyalist armies fought as best they could, but the oncoming horde of enemy soldiers proved to great. It wasn't long before the invading armies had demolished much of the city and were now upon breeching the gates of the castle.

"It's hopeless!" Donald cried. "Our forces are no match for such overwhelming numbers!"

"There's still a little bit of hope left." Mickey uttered. He turned to Donald and Goofy. "I want you to take the gummi and head to Oceansburg. Inform the Universal Alliance of our dire need of aid."

"But what about you, your majesty?"-

"I will stay here and support my people. The last thing that I want them to see is their king deserting them when they need me the most."-

"But your majesty…"-

"Do as I say, Donald! We haven't much time!"-

"I understand…" Donald turned to Goofy. "Well, let's go, Goofy…"

"Alright…" Goofy turned to Mickey. "I hope you'll be alright, your majesty."

"I'll be fine." Mickey looked at his frightened queen next to him. "Minnie, I want you and Daisy to accompany Donald and Goofy to Oceansburg. You will be safe there."

"No…" Minnie replied. "I will not leave you!"

"You will do as I say! I don't want anything to happen to you!"-

"I will not run away! I will stay by your side!"-

"I will too!" Daisy added. "We can't just abandon you, your majesty!"

"I will not be defied!" Mickey shouted.

"Please, Mickey!" Minnie cried, tears running down her eyes as she grasped firmly onto Mickey's arm. Mickey only smiled and placed his hand on her face.

"Very well…" he uttered with a sigh. "You may stay here and support me."

"Thank you…"-

"We will stay by your side, your majesty." Daisy said.

Mickey then turned to Donald and Goofy.

"Well, get going." Mickey said. "Time's growing short for us."

"We will return." Donald implied. "We will come back to help you!" he turned to Goofy. "Let's go!"

"Right behind ya!" Goofy chuckled. The two bounded for the gummi ship.

At the same time, the thundering sound of pounding shells began to lash at the wall. The sound of battle continued as the loyalist fought off the forces of the invaders. Slowly, the walls began to crumble brick by brick and the eminent danger began to draw nearer.

Donald and Goofy reached the launch pad where a gummi sat waiting for them. Donald jumped in and ignited the rockets. In the meantime, Goofy looked over the railing to see masses of enemy troops pounding against the wall of the castle.

"Hurry up, Goofy!" Donald ordered. "Stop gawking and let's get going!"

"But Donald…" Goofy uttered.

"The more time we waste standing around, the more time is lost for our chances to rescue the king and this kingdom!"-

"Looky there!" Goofy pointed towards the banners of the hordes. Donald joined him and gazed at the insignia of the enemy.

"But that's…" upon the crest of the fluttering banners, was the familiar shape of a cross. The Imperial Cross of Conquest, which was the symbol of the late Dark Empire. And silhouetting behind that symbol was the familiar shape of the Heartless insignia. Donald and Goofy cold only fear what the meaning behind the banner and the purpose of the attack was. "Could it be that…the Dark Empire and the Heartless have finally combined to form one great power?"

"Gawrsh… I hope not…" Goofy uttered.

"We have no time for this right now. We have to get going. The fate of our nation depends upon us."-

"I gotcha!"-

Goofy and Donald hesitated no further and jumped into the gummi ship. The rockets ignited and the little vessel lifted off at light speed.

In the meantime, the walls of the palace had finally collapsed and the hordes of enemies began to pour into the castle grounds. Queen Minnie and Daisy escorted the people into the safety of the palace halls. At the same time, Mickey took personal charge of the royal guards and prepared to battle. Using the power of his new keyblade, the 'Garion Concorte Noria,' he prepared to strike down all enemies who dared to stand in his way. Forming the Gatotsu stance, Mickey led his troops into battle."

"Today, we fight to the bitter end!" Mickey shouted. "For your families, for your homes, and for your country, we fight! We fend off the second invasion of our nation!" Mickey rushed forward, his guards swarming behind him in hordes. They met the face of the enemy and fighting began to ensue on the castle grounds. But the royal guards, despite their gallantry and their dedication to king and country, could not gain even a toehold in the fight. They fought as best they could. Mickey, who was in the fray of the fight, took down a hundred, or more enemy troops, but to fight against so many minions. The small force of royal guards, numbering only up to seven hundred had to confront a force that was fifty times larger. To add, the bombardment of the castle did not stop. Slowly, but surely, defeat was eminent. Though the enemy took more casualties against the veteran royal guards, their number were easily replaced by reserves. The guards themselves, however, could not contend with even one loss on their side. But still, despite being outmatched and outnumbered, they continued to fight, slowly being pushed back to the castle itself. Fighting slowly mellowed down though as one guard after another fell, but not before taking out ten to thirty times his, or her figure. The sound of battle died out completely, when Mickey and his guards found themselves completely surrounded by an angry horde of invaders. They clustered together in a tight circle, their weapons drawn out against their foes. But by this time, the battle had ended and no one man or woman dared to attack.

"You have fought bravely." A voice suddenly uttered amidst the enemy horde. "But you must realize by now that continuing to resist would be a futile effort. There is no need for you to needlessly throw your lives away for the sake of a cause you know is already lost. Your kingdom is in shambles and your lands are firmly under my control. What would be the point of you dying here, when there is no chance for you? Certainly, you may die honorably, but is that really how you want your lives to end? And what of your families? Do you want them to feel the pain in losing you? I think that would be the last thing that you want for your loved ones. To have them suffer more than they already have." It was then that the invaders split to form a long corridor. From their masses, a man dressed in grey and black came forth. Upon his head was a masked helmet, black and gothic, with glass eyeholes that reflected the glimmer of the sun.

"Who are you?" Mickey asked.

"I am the one responsible for leading the attack on this kingdom." He subtly replied. "And you must be the venerable King Mickey that I have heard so much about."

"What is it that you want from me? Why have you attacked us?"-

"For the sake of universal domination as well as to plunge this world back into darkness."-

Mickey then saw the familiar insignia on the man's shoulder. It was the crest of the Empire and the crest of the Heartless intertwining with one another, almost mixing with one another to make a single symbol. He gazed about to see that same symbol inscribed upon the banners of the horde.

"Are you of the Dark Empire, or of the Heartless?" Mickey asked.

"You may say that I am half and half." The figure uttered, "Fulfilling the wishes of my late master as well as fulfilling my own wishes and desires. This day, I will create a new era for my ambition. I will create a new era for the sake of his late Excellency, Master Cavendish, and for my late master!"

"Who is your late master?"-

"That little matters to you." The figure stepped forward. "Here are my terms. If you and your men lay down your arms and grant me your unconditional surrender, I will see to it that their lives, as well as the lives of you and your people are spared. However, should you refuse to do so, I will see to it that each any every one of you are executed. Every man, woman, and child." Mickey could only sneer, but he was in no position to resist.

"Lay down you arms…" he uttered in shame. The guards hesitated for a minute before laying down their arms and placing their hands behind their heads.

"King Mickey. If you would care to join me," The man uttered, "I would like to take a look at the palace." Mickey walked by his side, head down. The man went with a handful of his soldiers, up the stairs, to the grand gates of the palace itself. In the meantime, the remaining of the royal guards were escorted out of the palace grounds and placed in an area, deep behind enemy lines, where they could be of no use for aid, should an uprising occur.

The party entered the grand hall of the palace, the people still there, watching with fear and hatred in their eyes at this villain who had so ruthlessly attacked their kingdom.

"Escort these people out." The man said. "Have them placed in our internment camps. And if there is to be any resistance, kill those in rebellion and a hundred others to make an example."

"Yes, Sir." one of the officers replied. He then deployed his men to round up the people within the palace and escort them out.

"You are a cruel man." Mickey said. "Just because people refuse to do what you tell them, you can render their lives expendable?"

"The lives of peasants are nothing to me." the commander said. "I could care less if one, or all of them died."

"You monster."-

"Empty insults only fan the flames."-

"Mickey!" Minnie cried, running into his arms.

"Minnie." he uttered. He embraced her tightly.

"I see you are well loved." The evil man said. "But as if that really matters now though."

The band moved about the grand halls of the palace and into the throne room. The throne room was vast, with great tapestries decorating the wall. A red carpet stretched from the main door to the thrown itself. The party walked ever closer to the golden chair.

"So this is where you seat yourself during the grand processions you throw, eh?" the commander chuckled. He halted the party, keeping Mickey and Minnie at bay. He stepped up to the thrown and sat down gently in it. "I could get quite used to this."

"How could you just disgrace something sacred to us that easily?" Mickey asked.

"That's quite simple, my boy. I have no concern with what is sacred to you. I could easily dispense with your sacred relic as easily as I can take the life of a child." The commander stood up. "As of this day forward, King Mickey, you are relieved of your position as ruler of the Disney Kingdom. You have advocated your throne to me, the new lord of a new Dark Empire." He turned to one of the other officers who had accompanied them. "Dispense with both the king and queen. I have no further use of them."

"Yes, sir." The officer replied. "Shall we kill them here, or wait for a proper date to execute them."

"On second thought, do not kill them. They may prove to be more valuable to us alive, rather than dead. Take them to our prison in Cetorburg, I'm sure that no one will go so far as to rescue them so deep within that territory."-

"Sir." The officer escorted Mickey and Minnie out of the throne room.

"You will not get away with this!" Mickey cried. "Your kind will never gain power over the people."

"You misunderstand me." The commander chuckled. "I told you before that the fates of these people are of no concern to me. I only wish to gain all of this territory. Soon, all others will fall just as easily. Then I will give rise to a power that will restore the might of the former Dark Empire."

"Who are you!"-

"If you really must know…" the man stepped from the threshold of the throne. "You may call me the Phantom Lord."

With those final words, Mickey and Minnie were taken away, the grand doors closing behind them.

Just as the doors closed, another man presented himself before the Phantom Lord. He walked at a swift pace to the throne and kneeled before his leader.

"My lord." he uttered.

"Aw, General Gryphon." the lord replied. "Have your forces been deployed to take over the key worlds needed to establish a firm expansion of our territory."

"They have, my lord. I have sent the other five generals out to engage in those campaigns against the resistance. It will not be long, however, before victory is in our grasp."-

"Then, once we have firmly established control of the marked regions, we can begin the process of creating our weapons necessary to ensure complete takeover of all the realms. But in order to fulfill that goal, we must first take out the major powers who would prove to be the greatest threat to us." The Phantom Lord walked about and then turned again to his still kneeling general. "What of our conspirators who are engaged in the key elimination of our main targets."

"I have not received word from them yet, my lord."-

"Well, I expect to hear results soon. Otherwise, I will have to make a personal appearance myself! And to place my presence before those two prematurely would be something I'd like to avoid."-

"I understand, my lord. I will see to it that word comes to you as soon as possible."-

"I want a progress report on all of our movements. I want complete details on the conflicts to which we are engaged."-

"Very well, my lord. I shall take my leave." With that, General Gryphon departed from the throne room. The Phantom Lord turned and sat back in the throne. He placed his hand on his cheek and sighed.

"It won't be long before victory is in our grasp." He chuckled to himself.

The Disney Kingdom had fallen so easily to the power of the Phantom Lord and other worlds would be on the verge of collapse as well. However, all wasn't lost for this kingdom as there was still a ray of hope. Goofy and Donald were on their way to Oceansburg to inform the Universal Alliance of its dire situation.

It wasn't long before the little gummi ship reached the walls of the grand capital city of the Universal Alliance, Oceansburg. The little gummi landed in the main courtyard of the senate building. The two stepped out of the ship and ran into the building, but they were stopped by several officers.

"You two can't go in there." One of the officers said.

"We have to get in there!" Donald shouted.

"Yeah!" Goofy added. "It's an emergency!"

"The Disney Kingdom had been taken over! Let us by! Let us by!"-

"I can't let you in without proper clearance!" the officer said again.

"What is going on here!" a voice suddenly shouted. Goofy and Donald looked to see a familiar face looking at them. It was none other than the legendary Hound of Ulster, Cuchulain.

"Cuchulain!" Donald cried.

"Officers!" Cuchulain instructed. "Unhand them!"

"Sir!" the officers replied.

"Now what is going on? Why are you in a rush?"-

"We have to see Sneer as soon as possible!"-

"Why? What's happened?"-

"Our kingdom has been overrun and taken over by an invading force!"-

"I see!" He turned to the officers. "Let these two through!"

"Yes, Sir!" the officers uttered.
"I will escort you to see Sneer."-

"Thank you very much!" Donald implied. "It's good to know that we know people in high places!"

The three made their way to the top of the building. It was there that Sneer awaited in his office, finishing paper work, regarding military reforms. It was at this moment that the three entered his office.

"Well, Cuchulain," Sneer uttered. "What is the meaning of this intrusion?"

"We have a crisis on our hands, sir." Cuchulain replied. "Donald and Goofy are here to request and audience with you."

"Well, well, well," Sneer stood up, "It's been quite a while hasn't it. Six years I think it has been since the last time we met."

"We come begging for your assistance!" Donald began.

"Why? What has happened?"-

"Our kingdom…the Disney Kingdom has been overrun by invaders!"-

"Is this true?"-

"That's right!" Goofy added. "They attacked when we least expected it!"

"And what of your king?" Cuchulain asked.

"We don't know!" Donald said. "He ordered us to seek aid from the alliance. I don't know what has happened since."

"Could you identify who it was that attacked you?"-

"I don't know, but I think that they may have been a faction power of the former Dark Empire. Goofy and I saw this symbol on the banners that they carried into battle." Donald took a piece of paper and a pen from Sneer's desk and scribbled the best he could the symbol that was inscribed on the cloth of the flags. As soon as he presented the picture to Sneer, the alliance president knew exactly who it was that assaulted the Disney Kingdom.

"So is it confirmed?" Cuchulain asked.

"Without a doubt." Sneer uttered. "This is the symbol of the Midnight Faction! Viro's old organization! It seems that they have decided to reunite all the former followers of the Dark Empire."

"Didn't you mention earlier that out of the factions that splintered after the fall of the Dark Empire, the Midnight Faction was the one power that posed to most dangerous threat?"-

"That is correct. Out of all the factions that were formed after the collapse of the Imperial power, this one is the most dangerous and the most threatening, even to the Universal Alliance." He turned to Goofy and Donald. "It was no wonder that your kingdom fell so easily to them. The foe you had fought is the strongest of the former Imperial organizations. As reports say, the Midnight Faction has already managed to eliminate several of the other powerful factions and have their resources and manpower flock to their banner."

"It must be due to the thanks of their leader."-

"Who is their leader?" Goofy asked.

"We don't know his real name, or his identity." Sneer implied. "We only know him by the title he has declared for the public… The Phantom Lord…"-

"The Phantom Lord?"-

"Unlike many of the other faction leaders, he is the most superb and the most deadly. Unlike many who stick to the old thoughts of Imperial rule, the Phantom Lord has adopted to techniques that were considered too radical even for the upper lords of the former Dark Empire."-

"Is there anything that you can do for us?" Donald asked. "Can you send forces to help us battle these foes and regain our land?"

"The situation isn't as easy as that?" Sneer said. "Our forces have been deployed too thin as they are already. We have troops trying to fight off the forces of the former Arakis Foundation. And they pose just as great a threat as the Midnight Faction. Then there's the Red Ribbon Faction that has established itself within the Kambrian Empire. To add, there are thirty other major factions that have been harassing our coalition forces for the past six years. I can scarcely spare any man to be deployed from those areas."

"So what you're trying to tell me is that you won't do anything to help our kingdom?"-

"I never said that now did I Donald. I have every intention of helping your kingdom as much as I can. However, the fact of the matter is if we'll be able to lighten our efforts on the other areas just to help one kingdom. If I even spare one regiment of alliance troops, I weaken our other fronts. But if I don't give you aid, I only give the Midnight Faction the opportunity to strengthen their own defenses and make it harder for us to face them in the future. Even the might of the Z team is not enough to stop the chaos. Goku, Vegeta, and the others are right now trying to take out the main strength of the Red Ribbon Faction and the Arakis Foundation."-

"Please, Sneer, is there anyone whom you can spare?"-

"There are at least two whom I can spare, who'll be equally matched to at least delay the progress of the Midnight Faction. You know them well. You have journeyed with them before. Of course, it may be a little hard to persuade them from leaving their peaceful lives."-

"Are you talking about…?" Goofy asked.

"Yes. We must call upon the two keybearers to assist us once again." Sneer turned to Cuchulain. "Cuchulain, I want you to take the responsibility of retrieving them, alright?"

"I had a feeling that this might come up." Cuchulain said. "That's why I took the liberty of sending our assistant inspector to send them the message."

"Very well."-

"I have also instructed him to test their fighting skills through a trial battle of competency."-

"Then there is no time to lose." Sneer turned to Goofy and Donald. "You will accompany Cuchulain to retrieve the keybearers. Understood?"

"We gotcha!" Donald implied.

"Oh boy!" Goofy chuckled. "It'll be just like old times."

"Now there's no way that we can lose."-

"Come on, you two!" Cuchulain said. "We have no time to stand around!"

"Right behind ya!"-

The three rushed to where the gummi ship lay docked. As Sneer watched the gummi ship take off within minutes after the three had left his office, he placed his arms behind his back.

"It'll be up to those two young men to save the world from being consumed by the darkness again." He thought to himself. "Riku…Sora…"

It was on that fateful night at Halloween Town, when the KH team confronted the Imperial forces under the command of the infamous Gatler Generals. The night was cold and foreboding, but the team went forward to destroy the infamous Apocalypse Cannon, which was being constructed by the Dark Empire, to help speed the process of conquering the Empire. The fight against the Imperials was hard and without a doubt one of the toughest fights ever to be waged against the two sides. But the most intense fighting came between Riku and Sora against the two Gatler Generals, King and Triiken. However, it was the fight between Triiken and Riku that was the most recalled. Unlike many of the opponents that he had fought in the past, this new foe that Riku faced far surpassed the skills of the foes he had fought before. Riku desperately fought against this second strongest of the Gatler generals.

"You truly are a skilled warrior." Triiken chuckled. "Truly you are! However, it is because you are a highly skilled warrior that I cannot allow you to win! I know that by letting you emerge victorious, you will only slow down, if not halt the progress of the Empire!"

"I must commend you on your strength as well!" Riku replied. "Unfortunately, it is because you are strong that I can't allow you to succeed! Because I know that you would end up causing more pain and suffering if you emerge victorious and have your way!"

"Your sentiment is understandable, boy, but I will not lose to the likes of you!"-

"Funny! I feel the exact same way!"-

"Don't fool yourself, boy! You will be defeated this night! And your eminent defeat will come from none other than me, General Arinario Triiken, leader of the 2nd Gatler division! I shall claim your life, key bearer!" The two continued to battle against each other, clashing their swords and forcing sparks to fly. Their movements and skills were without flaws. But that was to be expected of truly talented warriors. The two clashed their swords for ten minutes, although those ten minutes seemed like an eternity, an eternity with no ending in sight. Finally, a last push came as Triiken and Riku locked their blades together, hoping that one would eventually give in. In the end, however, both jumped back and took their vigilant stances again.

"You're gonna have to give in sooner, or later!" Riku said. "There's no way that you'll be able to beat me!"

"Is that so, boy?" Triiken chuckled. "Then you truly haven't seen the full extend of my skills arsenal." Triiken suddenly crouched down, extending his right leg in front of him and placing the whole of his body weight upon his left leg. He stuck out his left elbow, drawing his blade back. He then, grasped the bottom side of his sword, almost reaching the tip of the blade and nuzzling it between his thumb and index finger. "Your death is assured this night, key bearer."

It was at that moment that Triiken lunged with all his might. Riku was almost caught off guard as he suddenly saw Triiken thrust the blade in front of him with great intensity. It seemed as if in slow motion as Riku saw the blade suddenly appear only a few inches away from his face. There was a sudden pause, as if time seemed to stand still.

"This attack…" Riku uttered. "This attack…could it be…?"

There was a sudden flash of light.

It was at that moment that Riku awoke from his bed. His chest and arms were covered in sweat and he sat up in his bed, heavily breathing as if something had scared him. Riku looked out of his bedroom window to see a storm begin to form. Lightning and Thunder bellowed in the air. He stood up, shirtless, wearing only a pair of blue jeans. He walked to the window and stood out on the little balcony of his room. He could feel the wind continuing to blow.

"It was all a dream." Riku uttered to himself. "A dream about the past. But I've had these dreams before. Why is it that now I feel so uneasy about the whole thing?" He walked back into his room and shut the balcony doors behind him. He lay on his bed, atop the covers and placed his hands under his head. "Is there something about those dreams that I must be aware of? I have gone through matches where I nearly lost my life? Is that it? Is it because I was so near to death that I could have lost my life had I not made the right decision?" Riku then sighed and placed his pillow over his face. "It's probably just bad memories that's all. That was all in the past. I'm here at home, safe and sound and there is no attempt on my life." Riku laid his hands on his chest, the pillow still gently lying on his face and fell asleep.

The next morning, the storm had passed and the bright sun was gleaming over the horizon. Riku, by this time, was awake and had already rowed out to the small island where he and his friends hung out at times. He was alone on that island, carrying out with his exercises as he did every morning during the summer. He now trained with a variety of blades. He would at times spar with Sora, using blunt steel swords, or wooden swords. He also used his sharpened katana for meditation fighting, moving in certain patterns and combating imaginary enemies. But most importantly, Riku would train with his new keyblade, the one give to him by the Universal Alliance six years earlier. The Ginroio Noria, The Way of Justice. A glimmering keyblade of black, red, and blue, it was quite a beautiful keyblade. As he trained with these weapons, the sound of the early morning breeze ruffled in the tops of the palm and paopu trees, the waves gently crashed on the white sand.

It was at that moment that Riku heard a voice call to him.

"Hey, Riku!" the voice shouted. Riku turned to see Sora just tying his boat at the dock.

"Hey there, Sora!" Riku replied. "Good morning!"

"I hope I'm not too late."-

"Too late for what?"-

"What else…?" Sora picked up one of the wooden swords. "A spar against you! That's what!"

"Already, Sora? You just got here."

"What's the matter, Riku? Are you scared of me? Afraid that I'll kick your butt?"-

"So you want it that way? Alright, Sora, let's see what you can do!" Riku withdrew his keyblade and picked up the other wooden sword. "Here are the rules though! No using any energy attacks, or magic."

"I gotcha!"-

The two young men made their stances and prepared to battle. Sora was the first to make the move lunging at Riku. Riku made an attempt to strike at Sora, but the young man leaped over his friends head. Sora landed gently on the sand and struck from behind. But Riku easily dodged the attack and thrust with his wooden sword. Sora blocked the attack and began a repetition spin, jumping about against Riku using 360 degree spins. Riku managed to counter however, side sweeping Sora's feet from beneath him. Sora fell, but leaped up again. Again and again, the two managed to evade and block without any trouble. Neither, so far, for an estimated thirty minutes or more, was able to even strike at the other. Finally, with a last attempt to strike one another, Riku and Sora swung their wooden swords and managed to strike at each others' throats.

"It's a draw…" Riku said.

"Neither one of us gained the upper hand." Sora added. They lowered their swords and sat down, side by side, on the sand. Sora threw his shirt from off his back and lay in the warm sand. "Man, I really built up a sweat."

"You and me both." Riku uttered, already shirtless himself. "It doesn't matter how much we spar, we never can seem to break that constant draw."

"But then again, I noticed that you weren't really taking me seriously were you."-

"No, I wasn't. But then again, neither were you."-

"I guess we're both just a couple of idiots."-

"Speak for yourself!" Riku suddenly grabbed Sora and got his head in a lock. He then gave strong noogies on the top of his head. Sora pulled his head out of Riku's grip. "I gotcha good that time, Sora."

"Oh yeah!" Sora pounced on Riku, wrapping his arms around his friend, tackling him to sand. The two rolled about, grappling with one another. But finally, Riku gained the upper hand over his younger friend. He managed to roll Sora over on his back. Riku then straddled himself on Sora's stomach and pinned his arms on the ground. Sora kicked his legs in the air, trying to get Riku off of him, but he was stuck underneath him.

"You're hopeless, you know that!" Riku chuckled. He added weight onto Sora's belly, forcing some of the air out. "You should know by now that you can't beat me in grappling."

"You…just wait…" Sora strained, trying to force Riku off his gut and free himself. But Riku kept his legs wrapped tightly around Sora. All the thrashing amounted to nothing and Sora was at his friend's mercy.

"That's right!" Riku said. "Struggle all you want, Sora. It won't do you any good." He added more weight onto Sora's stomach. Sora wrenched up, throwing his left leg into the air. "Just give it up, Sora. Say you give up!"

"In your dreams…"-

It was then that another familiar voice made itself known.

"Hey, you guys!" it said. "What are you two doing out here!"

The two young men looked up to see Kairi standing over them.

"Kairi…" they both uttered.

"She didn't come alone." Another voice said. The two looked to find Tidus standing behind her. "You two roughhousing again?"

"Hey Tidus!" Riku chuckled.

"This looks like fun." Kairi chuckled. "Can I join in?"

"Sora just had to pounce on me!" Riku said.

"You just wait until next time!" Sora shouted. "Next time, it'll be me that pins you down, Riku!"

"Is that so?" Riku then looked at Kairi. Kairi sat down just opposite of Sora's head and with both her hands, began to tickle him at his sides. Sora began to bawl out with uncontrollable laughter. He continued to kick, hoping to break himself free. But the more he struggled, the more Riku held him down. Tidus sat squatted next to the three.

"You might as well give it up, Sora." He chuckled.

"Alright! Alright!" Sora laughed. "I give up!"

Riku let himself off of Sora's stomach and helped his friend up.

"Maybe next time, you'll be lucky!" Riku said.

"Next time." Sora smiled and went to retrieve his shirt.

"So, what're you two doing here?"-

"Well, I came to get you guys." Kairi replied. "I just wanted to know if you guys were hungry because they're having that pancake bash at the Seaside Café."

"Hey, that sounds good!" Sora shouted, rubbing his stomach. "I could really go for pigs in a blanket!"

"Sure, I'm game!" Riku added. "What about you, Tidus?"

"I've already eaten." Tidus chuckled. "I just came here to set up the place for our annual summer beach party. You guys coming?"

"Has there ever been a year that we've missed?"-

"Then, I'll see you guys later tonight."-

"Don't worry about that." Sora said. "We'll give you a hand after we finish breakfast."

"We can't let you do this on your own, Tidus." Kairi added.

"Thanks a lot, you guys!" Tidus chuckled.

"We'll be back in an hour." Riku said. The three went off, heading for the dock. However, when reaching the dock, Riku suddenly went into a daze. His vision suddenly saw flashes of light and events from the past appear before his eyes. He only gazed out into the blue of the ocean. The waves seemed to babble the sounds of battle and of thousands of screaming men entering a great fray. He stood their as his memories continued to bombard him. Suddenly, his nostalgia was shattered by a shouting voice.

"Hey, Riku!" Kairi shouted. "You coming!"

"Come on!" Sora added. "My stomach is growling!"

"Alright!" Riku replied. "I'm coming! I'm coming!"

Riku, however, continued to go in a dazing faze, suddenly cutting his body away from his mind. During the row back to the main island, Riku was silent all the way, locking his thoughts in his mind, not uttering a word to either Kairi, or Sora. When they finally reached the shore, Riku lagged behind and took his time, while Sora and Kairi were chatting away in front of him. Riku gazed at his feet as he walked, then suddenly stopped to gaze for a moment, or two, at the beautiful shoreline with its waving palms. It was at that moment that he felt a hand placed on his shoulder which broke him out of his spell.

"Riku?" the voice uttered. Riku looked to see Sora by his side.

"Sora…" Riku replied.

"Are you sure that you're feeling alright?"-

"You seem to be preoccupied for some reason." Kairi added. "As if your mind were someplace else."

"It's nothing, honestly." Riku said.

"I have a hard time believing that…" Sora implied.

"You've been acting like this since we left the island." Kairi added. "You seem to have something bothering you."

"Tell us Riku. What is it that's bothering you? Maybe Kairi and I can help you out with this problem."-

"Well…" Riku paused for a moment. "I'm just experiencing old memories… That's all…"

"Memories of what?"-

"Are they good memories?" Kairi asked. "Like the memories of us three when we were kids, and going of on adventures?"

"Not at all…" Riku said. "They are memories that are far from pleasant. Memories that I'd like to forget."

"What are they?" Sora asked.

"It was regarding… The Gatler Generals…"-

"The Gatler Generals…?" Kairi asked. "Who're they?"

"Are you talking about the commanders that we confronted at Halloween Town six years ago?"-

"Who are the Gatler generals, Sora?"-

"They were three powerful Imperials of the Dark Empire that we had confronted six years ago. They were excessively powerful. More powerful than even a few of the members of the Cavendish Shinobis. But this is the first time that we've ever mentioned this to you, is it, Kairi?"-

"Yes, it is…"-

"Are these events the memories that have been keeping you dazed all this time?"-

"Yes…" Riku implied. "I remember that epic battle against the Gatler generals in thorough detail. To tell you the truth though, that was the one battle that I always seem to remember the most, but never mention it."

"Why is that" Kairi asked.

"Because it was the one battle that I was the most scared."-

"Scared?"-

"I never mentioned this to either of you, but that battle with the Gatler generals was the one confrontation that nearly cost me my life. The general whom I fought, General Triiken, was perfect in form and skill with his sword. His style of combat was without a doubt one of the best I've ever seen. His swordsman skills were equal to the skills of even General Kai himself."

"I see…" Sora uttered.

"I know it sounds a little bit strange…"-

"Not at all, Riku. You never really talk about the events that took place six years ago. It's not often that you refer to your past like this."-

"I agree." Kairi added, smiling. "I think it's great that you mentioned this to us. It makes us feel like you're really starting to open up."

"I guess you're right."-

"Well, come on, old buddy!" Sora chuckled, slapping Riku on the back. "Let's you, Kairi, and I go off to the Seaside Café and gorge ourselves in pancake heaven!" It was then that Sora's stomach growled. "My stomach can't wait any longer!"

"You're right!" Riku stuck his head up. "Then let's go and eat!"

"Yeah!" Sora wrapped his arm around Riku's neck and led him down the road. Kairi nuzzled up close to Riku too. Riku could only smile, wrapping both his arms around his friends. However, the smile he had on his face could not hide the memories of that fateful night.

"I have not had dreams about the past for the passed six years." Riku thought to himself. "Why now, of all times, do they decide to resurface in my mind? And why is it that it makes me feel so uneasy!" But Riku only let his memories slide and rejoined his two friends in their merriment.

Meanwhile, Tidus was back on the small island, setting up for the beach party. Setting up torches and a grill, he made the beach a soothing sight for his coming guest.

"I hope that it'll be another great bash this year." He thought to himself. "We always seem to have fun at these annual beach parties. And that's a tradition I wouldn't break for anything."

But as he set up one of the last torches next to the seaside shack, something caught his eye. He turned his head to see a man dressed in an old sports coat and raggedy old cloak, carrying a duffle bag on one shoulder.

"Excuse me!" the man said, with a high, squeaky voice.

"Can I help you, Sir?" Tidus asked.

"I'm an herbalist from the eastern isles. I specialize in the making of golden seal and a well known herb called senzu. He tipped off his hat and bowed respectfully and humbly towards Tidus. "Please to meet you, young man. My name is Kuroda. Yamagata Kuroda to be precise." He took out of the duffle back, a box with a bizarre symbol upon it. He opened the box and displayed several herbal sampled before Tidus. Tidus, however, suspicious of why his mad was here, happened to looks at the man's hands, noticing that there were calluses on only his right hand. Looking at his own right hand, he observes that his own calluses were identically placed to the man's. He then noticed the fine powder of herbal mounds placed in tissue within the box. "First of all, if you have some spare time on your hands, I would like to tell you more about these special herbs. They can heal bruises and broken bones, cure ailments and illnesses."

"No use trying to bother me with your trade." Tidus interrupted. "I'm not exactly interested in herbs. Besides, no one lives on this island."

"No one lives on this island you say? Are you sure about that?"-

"I've been coming to this island all my life and I can tell you that there isn't anyone who actually lives on this island, it's too small. A salesman should have known that from the start."-

"Well, I'm new at this. This is my first attempt to trade my herbs and spices."-

Tidus ruffled the fine herbal powder between his fingers.

"This is quite fine powder" Tidus said.

"Why thank you, sir." The man replied.

"Tell me, do you use a grindstone to help make this fine powdered herb?"-

"Of course I do."-

"Is that so?" Tidus stood up and sneered at the man. "You certainly are terrible when it comes to lying aren't you!"

"Lying?"-

"First of all, even a novice salesman makes sure to travel only to those places that are heavily populated! Secondly, you said that you used a grindstone to make this powered herb! But the reality is that you couldn't get such fine power with a grind stone, no matter how hard you tried! And even if you did, the labor would require two hands instead of one! From the looks of your palms," Tidus grabbed the man's palms and pointed out his evidence, "you only use your right hand for grinding! To make fine powder with only the use of one hand at the grindstone is impossible to do! Finally, the calluses developed on your right hand are identical to my own, which only points out to me that you are not an herbalist, but a man who excels in swordsmanship! Tell me, who are you!"

"You certainly are perceptive aren't you, young man." Suddenly the man's voice transformed from a squeaky, annoying voice, to one that was deep and threatening. "I'm impressed, Tidus, Defeater of Sin." Tidus backed away from the man. "So it appears that the key bearers are not here right now. However, I'm sure that they'll return, due to the hustle and bustle that you're causing here. So the best way to give my regards is to leave them a gift." The man unfurled his cloak from off his back and drew out a concealable sword from behind him.

"So you were carrying that thing the whole time, eh?" Tidus's sword was not with him, so he went for the next best thing. He grabbed the lantern he had recently stuck in the sand and broke it in half, attempting to use it as a weapon. "You came here with every intention to fight and cause trouble!"

"This guy must be after Riku and Sora…" Tidus thought to himself. He threw the broken staff before him. "Alright, pal! If you've come here hoping to fight, well then you found the right guy to battle! Just tell me this! Who are you really and what do you want with Riku and Sora!"

"As if that really matters to you." Kuroda chuckled.

"Fine, then you're gonna play dumb until the end are you? Then I'll find out who you are by letting this staff do the talking!"-

"If you were wise, you'd forget this futile effort and tell me where I can find the key bearers."-

"You'll have to beat it out of me first!" Tidus suddenly flipped into the air and slammed the staff right onto Kuroda's shoulder. There was slight tension as the staff made contact with Kuroda's shoulder. Tidus smiled. "Hey, sorry to lay it on you so hard."

However, Kuroda only grinned back, in a sinister fashion. Tidus was shocked that there was no reaction of pain. He stood back, letting Kuroda crack his neck from side to side.

"Interesting, my boy." Kuroda chuckled. "Your reputation certainly precedes you and that strike to my shoulder definitely proves it. You without a doubt deserve the title of the 'Defeater of Sin.'"

"I didn't even faze him one bit." Tidus thought to himself. "But that can't be. I put everything I had into that strike."

"However, you were merely facing a third class entity. To add, these are the peaceful days of the new Reconstruction Era. Had you been present in one of the bloodiest wars in universal history, you would have fully realized that your sword strikes would have amounted to nothing." Kuroda crouched down, extending his right leg in front of him and placing the whole of his body weight upon his left leg. He stuck out his left elbow, drawing his blade back. He then, grasped the bottom side of his sword, almost reaching the tip of the blade and nuzzling it between his thumb and index finger.

Suddenly, Kuroda attacked with intense force and speed, taking Tidus completely by surprise. Even for one who ran on fine sand, the speed was without question, unrivaled. Kuroda thrust his blade forward with great force and pierced the sword through Tidus's right arm. The force of the impact caused Tidus to bind backwards, hitting and breaking through the fragile wooden wall of the seaside shack. But in the rush, do the incredible power behind the thrust, the blade fractured and snapped in half. Tidus slammed against the opposite wall and fell to the ground. The fragmented tip remained lodged in his shoulder, but did not pierce all the way through. In the meantime, Kuroda skidded across the sand and stood up after managing to stop his body from sliding. He gazed at the fractured weapon.

"How monotonous is this?" he thought to himself. "Though these concealable swords have their uses, the blades they obtain are as brittle as glass. To inflict major damage against an enemy is almost impossible with such a flimsy weapon. When it boils down, there is nothing I prefer more than an Imperial class sword; whether it be a fencer, or a katana. Anyone of those would certainly put this piece of trash to shame." He threw the broken sword down on the ground. But when he did, Kuroda realized that Tidus was still conscious and was staggering to his feet. The blood from his wound dripped down in small streams down his arm.

"You just wait there, you bastard…" Tidus uttered. "I'm not finished with you yet! This battle is far from over!"

"I think it would be in your best interest to remain still and not attempt any futile effort to retaliate against me." Kuroda said. "Though the wound I gave you is not a fatal one, it is indeed a serious injury. Attempting to use your arm any further would only complicate the problem and…"

"Shut your mouth! I may be wounded, but I still have enough energy left to fight you!"-

"But you are severely crippled on your dominant arm. As a result, your effectiveness has been cut by half!"-

"That's not open for discussion!" Tidus lunged forth, with his staff now placed in his right hand. But as he attempted to strike, Kuroda easily knocked the staff out of his right hand. He then slugged Tidus in the stomach. Tidus hunched over in pain. Kuroda then threw Tidus against the wall again and pounded his hand into the broken sword tip, still lodged in his arm. The blade pierced straight through Tidus's shoulder, piercing him against the wooden walls of the shack. Tidus screamed out in agony, but Kuroda grabbed him by the face and slammed his head against the wall. Tidus went unconscious and hung limp and lifeless upon the sword fragment. Kuroda wiped the blood from his hands and walked away.

"Perhaps, those two keybearers will realize soon enough what they contend with." He walked away, leaving everything behind. His broken blade was never retrieved and the box of herbs remained visible on the beach. Blood was splattered about the walls of the shack and Tidus's blood spilled from his wound in rivers.

In the meantime, Riku, Kairi, and Sora had just finished their meals. Sora rubbed his stomach, feeling its fullness.

"Man, that hit the spot." He uttered.

"That certainly was a pancake bash alright." Kairi added. "A buffet of pancakes with no limit in sight."

"Well, now that we're finished with breakfast, and have full stomachs again, what do you say we go out and give Tidus a hand getting ready for our annual beach party?"-

"That sounds great."-

Sora and Kairi began their walk to the dock, their arms linked to one another. But it was then that Sora realized Riku was again in that dazed spell. He left Kairi's side and walked up to Riku.

"Uh…Riku?" Sora asked. Riku looked at him and smiled.

"Sorry about that, Sora." Riku uttered.

"Are you sure that you're feeling alright? Are you having those memories again?"-

"I am…"-

"This is really starting to concern me, Riku." Kairi said.

"Yeah." Sora added. "Your memories never took hold of you like this before."

"Then again, I've never allowed my memories to overcome me like this." Riku said. "I just…I just feel…"

Suddenly, Riku felt a blow to the back of the head that caused him to fall flat on his face. He looked up to see Wakka and Selphie walked behind him.

"I got you good, ya?" Wakka chuckled.

"You can be such a jerk sometimes, Wakka." Selphie said. Kairi helped Riku up.

"Are you alright?" Kairi asked.

"I'm alright" Riku replied. "I was just taken off guard, that's all."

"You?" Selphie said, in a sarcastic manner. "Caught off guard? I can hardly believe that!"

"It's true though, Selphie." Kairi said. "Riku's been spacing out lately. He says that it's his old memories."

"The funny thing is that they have never bothered him this much." Sora added. Sora turned to Riku. "You sure you're OK, Riku?"

"I'll live, Sora." Riku replied, rubbing the back of his head.

"Anyway, what are you guys doing here?"-

"We were going to help Tidus set up for the party tonight." Selphie explained.

"We're you now?"-

"That's what we were going to do too." Kairi added.

"Well, since we're all headed over there, let's go together!" Selphie said.

"We're gonna have another great party, ya?" Wakka chuckled.

"Then let's go." Riku said.

The party got into their boats and rowed over to the island. The wind was calm and the water smooth. So making their way over to the island went nice and slow. As they reached the dock, they could see the torches, the beach chairs, the volleyball net, and the barbeque grill all set up.

"It looks like Tidus has been busy, ya?" Wakka uttered.

"I guess he really didn't need our help." Selphie said.

"Speaking of which…Where is Tidus anyway! He would be out here somewhere, ya?" The party stood on the doc and looked around.

"Tidus!" Sora cried.

"Tidus?" added Kairi

"Come on out here, Tidus!" Wakka shouted.

"Where are you, Tidus!" added Selphie.

"Tidus!" Riku hollered.

There was no answer though. Only the sound of the breeze and the crashing waves could be heard. Riku and the others looked about.

"Where could he be?" Sora asked. It was then that Sora happened to look at the seaside shack and saw a massive hole in the wall. His eyes grew with fear. "Guys!"

"What's the matter Sora?" Selphie asked.

"Look! The shack!" Sora pointed to the little wooden structure. The massive hole in the side was apparent.

"Oh my goodness," Kairi uttered, "what happened."

It was then that Riku caught a familiar and rather foreboding scent. Immediately, his heart began to pound.

"That smell…" he said. "The smell of blood!"

"What?" Wakka asked. "Blood?"

The team rushed to the shack. On the ground, they saw drips of blood. Riku ran to the hole in the shacks wall and peeped in. And there, still impaled through the shoulder against the wall, Tidus hung, lifeless.

"Tidus!" Riku cried, rushing in to help his dying friend.

"Oh no, Tidus!" Sora added, moving in to assist.

As the others peeped in, there were utterly terrified of what they saw.

"Tidus!" Selphie screamed. "No!" She turned away, daring not to look any further. Tears ran from her eyes. Kairi too became teary-eyed at the sight, covering her mouth in utter shock. Riku and Sora pried Tidus off the wall and carried him out of the shack. He had lost a great deal of blood and hung limp in the arms of his friends. They lay him on the sand.

"Poor Tidus…" Selphie sobbed, her eyes filled with tears.

"Is he in?" Riku said, checking for a pulse and breathing. It was then that he felt a slight pulse of a slow beating heart. "He's still alive!"

"We gotta get him to the hospital immediately!" Sora instructed. Taking off his shirt and belt, Sora made a temporary tourniquet to help stop the bleeding. They cleaned the wound with water from the spring falls and shipped him onto one of the boats.

"I'll take Tidus, ya!" Wakka said, volunteering to watch over his dying friend.

"Very well." Riku implied. "Then we leave him in your care, Wakka." He turned to his friends. "I want you guys to follow Wakka and make sure that Tidus makes it to the hospital in time."

"What about you, Riku?" Sora asked. "Aren't you coming with us?"

"I'll stay here and investigate this crime scene."-

"Alright…" Sora turned to the others. "Come on, you guys. Let's hurry. The more time we waste, the more critical Tidus's condition will become."

"Right." Wakka said. The party climbed into their boats and rowed away, back to the settlement, at a quick and steady pace. Riku stayed behind, hoping to find evidence of who it might have been who attacked Tidus.

He walked about, looking at some to the key elements that were left behind. The herbal box with the strange symbol on its lid was only one thing that any significance. Riku gazed more at the symbol, hoping to see if it held any real significance. It was then, with utter shock and fear that he realized what the symbol represented. Turing the box, with lid opening away from him, Riku realized that this symbol was none other than the letter 'G'.

"Is this symbol what I think it is?" His memories flooded into his mind again, searching to that incident where he had encountered this symbol before.

In an inn, not too far north of the main settlement, a group of men sat about, chatting the night away. But this conversation was not the average meeting so to say. It was more of a conspiracy plot. Among the three was none other than the so much talked about Yamagata Kuroda.

"I am deeply honored to know that you have decided to join us, Inspector Kuroda." The first man said. "Or would it be better if I addressed you by your true and famous name, Mr. Triiken?"

"Address me however you please."-

The man poured rum into his pewter glass.

"I hope you don't mind rum while we go through the steps of our plan."-

"I'm sorry," Triiken uttered, "but I must decline to your kind offer. I have no tolerance for any sort of liquor whatsoever. That's why I don't touch the stuff."

"Really? I'm surprised that a man as strong as you can't hold his liquor."-

"It's not that. I just have this policy that one who drinks may lose track of awareness of the environment around him. One's heightened awareness is always an element to hold on to. Especially when you have a record so full of scorn as mine. That is why I've held back on my consumption since the fall of the Dark Empire."-

"I see what you mean. Then I will not force you to take any." The man poured sum into his own glass. He then placed the pitcher on the table "Now then, down to business… Your mission right now is to track down…"-

"The keybearers, I know that much already."-

"Well, you certainly work fast don't you?" The man swigged from his glass again.

"Knowing that they were in the town, I decided to take the liberty of rowing out to that small isle off the coast. It was there that I would place my evidence to make the keybearers aware of my existence. Knowing Riku, he may already have picked up my scent. However, he won't know the reason for my being here with only the box as his evidence. Next, there will be a written letter addressed to the keybearers, stating my terms. They know of the position I take, so they'll have to agree to any terms I set before them."-

"Well, I'm glad to see that you're putting so much effort into helping us, eh Triiken? I never would have thought that one like you would accept an offer like this from me?"-

"I was also surprised to here about you. Who would have thought that you of all people were the former minister of propaganda, Armadillo Ranker. You certainly knew how to manipulate the people for the old Imperial regime. To think that you were the one to hire me for this job. And the first task I'm assigned is to eliminate the ultimate arch rivals of the Gatler Generals." Triiken then leaned closer to the two men sitting at the table with him. "By the way, I'm quite curious to know the identity of the client who wishes to have the keybearers dead."

"You shouldn't ask so many questions." The second man uttered. "That's a good way to get yourself killed."

"And who might you be who's been silent the whole time?" Triiken uttered.

"I'm none other than Ilian Archibald."-

"Now, now…" Ranker uttered. "There's no need to be hostile, Archibald. Remember, we are all on the same side here, fighting for the power of Imperial rule. There's no need for us to bicker amongst ourselves. Now what do you say we help ourselves to some good food and enjoy ourselves for the rest of the evening?"

"I apologize." Triiken uttered. Placing on his hat and coat, he linked on his belt, which a heavy sword hung down. "Normally, I would accept such an offer of generosity, but I must return to my patrol as the alliance assistant inspector. If I don't fill in my reports, they may get suspicious."

"I understand."-

"Until next time, Gentlemen, I wish you good night." Triiken walked out of the inn with a tip of his hat to the hostess and disappeared into the night.

"To think that a man like him, former commander of the 2nd Gatler Tank division, Arinario Triiken, is serving under the authority of the Universal Alliance, the one power that he tried so desperately to destroy. He even went so far as to change his name to Yamagata Kuroda so as not to spread a scandal within the alliance. The world is quite a different place now. To think that someone with such a soiled reputation for ruthlessness, like Triiken was even accepted as an assistant inspector for the alliance's top secret security agency. I'm surprised that the alliance even accepted him in the first place."

"I really don't like him though." Archibald implied. "He's just another one of those sorry bootlickers working for the police."

"Just the same though, Archibald. Despite his employment into the alliance, he is still an Imperial by heart. The alliance certainly made a mistake hiring him though. Triiken should have been the last to be chosen. He acts as a link between us and the Alliance. At the amount of information given to him by the alliance, he could easily supply us with enough information to bring down that corrupted organization from the inside."-

On that cold night, Triiken moved down back to the settlement where he was staying at another inn outside of town. It was a warm, clear night. The stars twinkled brightly in the midnight sky. Shooting stars flashed and glimmered amidst the dotted lights in that sea of black. The sound of crickets filled the night air.

"These days of peace will soon be turned upside down." Triiken thought to himself. "And once again, the universe's fate will be decided. There will be another reign of chaos that stretches throughout the worlds. I'm sorry to say that your little era of peace has come to an end. You must pick up your weapons again and fight, keybearers. Fate will no longer have you standing idle. To fight is the only fate and only destiny which you two have…Riku…Sora…"