"Where's Axel?" Xaldin's voice echoed through the vast space, his cold eyes surveying the room.

The white circular room was only broken by his companions' black cloaks; however, the majority of the raised seats were empty, their usual occupants deceased. Silence was the only answer he received.

On the opposite side of the room, Saix smirked underneath his hood, it seemed no one had any idea of what had been going on as of lately. "He won't be coming – it seems that he was our little traitor."

"I thought it was decided that that was all Marluxia and Larxene's doing," Xaldin glared, glancing over at the hooded figure. "Weren't you positive it was them as well?"

"It seems he's trying to finish what they started, it also turns out he was the one who freed Namine during all the commotion last year. No doubt he's working with her now, that girl knows more than she should." Demyx spoke up, covering Saix's silence.

"Do tell, how did you figure this out?"

Saix rolled his eyes, annoyed as he looked over at Demyx. "If only you hadn't spoken early, Axel would still be here and then we could have rid ourselves of him a lot earlier."

Demyx shrugged, leaning back in his chair. "I don't remember asking your opinion."

"Get to the point," Xaldin drawled.

"The point is: Axel is the traitor," Saix said, cutting in before Demyx could launch into a story.

"He was the only one here who was remotely close to Marluxia and Larxene; both who knew how to turn off the Watcher System Vexen had created. It is rather ironic that after they were defeated, Namine went free. Then, before we know it, he came across Kairi, throwing the Princess into Darkness – to which he let me take the credit, and then allow the Second Keyblade Wielder of the Light to whisk her away," Demyx added, the pieces coming together as he spoke. "The next thing we know, Axel is back with not only the Princess of Heart, but the Keyblade Wielder as well, it all seemed a little too easy if you ask me. He must have been in cahoots with Namine and the Wielder; why else would he suddenly be on our side? No doubt about it – Axel plans to finish what Marluxia started."

Xaldin frowned, mulling over Demyx's words. "So, it comes down to this; Axel has finally shown his true motives."

"You knew all along?" Saix growled, his eyes narrowing at Xaldin.

Xaldin shrugged, holding Saix's gaze. "After Marluxia's demise, I was placed in charge of Castle Oblivion and I'm Second in Command," he said evenly, coldness to his calculated words. "I know what Axel is after, he is searching for his true self; he doesn't like being a Nobody. When that Namine was here, it's plain to see that she toyed with his thoughts, dangling the unknown before him. He let the seed of confusion grow until it was all that he could think about."

Demyx bit his lip, glancing at Axel's empty chair. "Namine . . . it seems she was more trouble then she was worth."

"Since Axel still has control over the darkness, it is only a matter of time before he uses it," Xaldin stated, his voice booming through the empty space. "He won't think we will be watching the darkness in lieu of everything else currently running awry. That will be easiest way to rid ourselves of him."

"And then we kill him," Demyx said, leaning back in his chair.

"And anyone with him."

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"What do you think Yunie has planned?" Rikku asked, the Marketplace stretching out before them.

"I wouldn't know," Paine said; her tone monotone. "Ask her when she returns."

"I will!" Rikku said defiantly, flopping down onto the stone ledge overlooking the cliff to the old Castle. Sighing, she propped her chin up in her palms, swinging her legs back and forth as she looked out over the empty expanse. The Castle still gave off an evil vibe, sending a shiver down Rikku's spine. "What are we going to do about Sora and the others, though? We can't really fight them . . ."

Paine remained silent.

"Hey, you're those sprites aren't you?"

Rikku and Paine jumped at the cheerful voice, having let their guard down. Paine rolled her eyes, her expression unreadable. Getting caught had always meant certain death in the Crimson Squad. Rikku, on the other hand, let out an awkward laugh, her wings fluttering restlessly.

"I really need that Claymore Chip . . . it's really important. You've had your little joke, so please, can I have it back? It's important to helping the city . . ."

"Who are you?" Rikku chirped, turning on her heel with a flourish, circling the newcomer.

Paine sighed, picking herself up off the ledge; when Rikku got like this, she tended to dig them into a bigger hole.

"You should do something new with your hair," Rikku quipped, before Aeris could answer the first question. "I mean ponytails are so last year – I have long hair too, but look what I've done!" – here, Rikku struck a pose – "I could totally whip up something!"

"Rikku –"

"Oh yeah," Rikku stopped twirling around, smiling sheepishly at Paine. "I'm Rikku, that's Paine and, then there's Yunie, but she went to see that Leon guy."

"Leon?" Aeris echoed. "What about?"

Rikku shrugged, nonchalant. "I'm not sure, she told us to wait here. Who're you?"

"Me? I'm Aeris," She smiled at them. "I was just on my way back; Leon and I live in the same place. You can wait for – ah – Yunie there."

Rikku giggled, hiding it behind her hands, causing Aeris to raise an eyebrow. "Her name's Yuna, only Rikku calls her Yunie," Paine said, warily watching Aeris.

Aeris nodded, letting the conversation fall away. She got the vibe from Paine that told her to mind her own business. "Well, you two decide what you want to do," Aeris said instead, picking up her flower basket.

Rikku grinned, floating after Aeris. "So . . . is Leon your boyfriend?"

Aeris blushed, shaking her head. "No, no, Leon's just a close friend. We live with about five other people, although a majority of them seem to spend their time down at the old Castle now-a-days."

Rikku grinned. "Alone at the Castle . . . I know what they're doing!"

Aeris paused, a blush creeping onto her features. "What are they doing?" Did she really want to know?

Paine shook her head, hitting Rikku on the head. "All they ever do is the study the books in the library."

Aeris smiled, letting out a light laugh. "That sounds something they would do, I wouldn't expect anything less. Now, that's our house there – just don't steal anything," Aeris warned, pointing towards the stone house in the far corner.

Yuna smiled as she found the small house with relative ease, her wings lowering her down. She idly wondered how many times she was going to have to enter uninvited into the house. She shook her head though, at least this time she wasn't there to steal anything.

Shaking her head to dispel the thoughts – she had to stay focused on the end goal – she reached for the doorknob, turning it. At this stage of the game; what was the point of knocking?

"Leon!" Yuna called, flying into the house, her bi-coloured eyes scanning the room, her eyes falling on two figures in the corner. "Oh, hi, sorry to interrupt you, is Leon around?"

She clasped her hands in front of her, bowing slightly at Cid and Merlin, the two looking at some sort of blueprint littering the table. Inwardly, she cursed herself, wasn't the blonde one the creator of the Claymore Chip? Luck just didn't seem to agree with her . . .

"Why do you want to see him?" Cid drawled, narrowing his eyes as he took a drag on his cigarette. "Ain't you one of those sprites that stole the Claymores . . .?"

Yuna nodded, her face flushing from the embarrassment. "I did. I'm sorry though . . . I had no choice."

Merlin stared critically at Yuna, silently watching the exchange. "That's strong magic," he said suddenly, making his way around the table. "It would take some time to break that."

Yuna blinked, dumbfounded. He knew? "That is correct," she said, nodding at the wizard. "But, I need to speak to Leon."

"We told you girl, you can't see him."

"It's alright," Leon's voice sounded, the gunblader appearing on the staircase. "I doubt she'll do anything this time."

Yuna nodded, bowing slightly to him. "Thanks, this won't take long."

Leon nodded, starting back up the stairs without another word. Yuna raised an eyebrow at his silence, but shrugged it off, following after him. She cast a glance back at the white haired wizard as she reached the bottom of the stairs – maybe there was another option besides Maleficent . . .

"Is she really under a spell?" Cid commented, glancing at the blueprints.

Merlin nodded; his eyes still on the empty staircase. "It's a strong one too."

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"What's so important that you would come here?" Leon asked, jumping to the point as he reached the top of the stairs. "Brave move."

Yuna shook her head, shrugging. "This is more important – Maleficent is still alive."

Leon looked at her, his expression unreadable as he took in her words. "Maleficent died two years ago. Sora killed her."

"Maybe he did," Yuna shrugged. "But, she's here. That's why the Claymore –" Yuna trailed off, dropping her gaze to the ground. "There's a reason why we targeted it . . ."

Leon raised an eyebrow, but didn't say anything.

"Maleficent found us when our world fell to the darkness. She saved us – at the expense that we would do whatever it is she asked for. She told us that Hallow Bastion had once belonged to her and that the Claymore Chip was hindering her plan to return to her rightful place within the Castle. We didn't really have a choice; we were attached to the contract we had already formed. I'm terribly sorry for all the hassle we caused; perhaps, it would have been better had Maleficent never found us . . ."

"I suppose its fine," Leon said at length, running a hand over his features. "However, if what you say is true, getting that Chip back is going to be difficult."

"We can get it back for you; she's located in the Castle's Chapel. Her end of the deal was to return us to normal after we got the Chip; however, now she wants us to do something else – kill Sora."

Leon's eyes flashed. "Sora isn't here."

Yuna sighed, wringing her hands together as she glanced out the window behind Leon. "Maleficent could sense that he was nearby, he's here in Hallow Bastion somewhere – or he will be soon."

Leon sighed, closing his eyes. "Maleficent's returned and, Sora's back . . . Yuffie must have contacted him."

He cursed the black haired ninja, always throwing a wrench into the mix. His mind whirled, trying to figure out where the energetic ninja would have gone. Could she have known about Maleficent and contacted Sora? She really needed to learn to mind her own business and leave everything to the adults.

"Do you mean the girl that was chasing us?" Yuna asked, cutting into Leon's thoughts. "She was following us at the Castle, but she didn't have anyone with her."

Leon nodded, shaking his head. It always came back to Yuffie, the ninja doing whatever you told her not to. Not only had she possibly put herself in the line of danger, but she had brought Sora into the mess as well.

"I'll make a deal with you," Leon said at length, his options sparse. "You lead me to where Maleficent is; no doubt that is where Yuffie is heading. You will help us defeat Maleficent and then I will get Merlin to break this spell on you and return you to your world."

Yuna blinked, surprised. "You'd do that?"

Leon nodded, expressionless. "Only if you help us out; no more, no less, no strings attached."

Yuna bowed once again, her wings beating in time in with her excitement. "Thank you so much Leon. I just have to get Rikku and Paine and we can get going."

"We're right here, Yunie!" Rikku chirped, appearing atop of the staircase, quickly latching herself to the brunette. "I agree to the contract as well! Pop and Gippal will kill me for being gone this long!" She laughed, shaking her head as she spoke rapidly in Al Bhed.

Yuna blinked, surprise etched across her features at Rikku's arrival, Paine not far behind her. "How'd you get here?"

"Aeris brought us here." Paine said with a shrug, settling on the windowsill.

Rikku's chatter died off then, the bobbles in her hair clanging together as she whirled around to face Leon. She looked intently at the gunblader, fluttering closer to him, taking everything in. "So . . . you're Leon, tell me, do you like her?" She paused in front of him, placing her hands on her hips. "Why else would you live in the same house?"

"Rikku . . . what are you talking about?" Yuna asked quietly.

"Aeris and I?" Leon echoed, eyebrows coming together. "I've known her since I was seven, she's like a sister."

"So?" Rikku quipped, shrugging. "Gippal used to think I was his sister, that didn't stop us though."

"Oh good, you haven't left yet," came Aeris voice, the flower girl standing at the bottom of the staircase. "I was hoping I wouldn't miss you."

"What's that you got there?" Leon said, noticing Aeris had something clasped behind her back.

Aeris let out a tiny laugh, bringing the item out before her with a flourish. In her hands, she held a silver rod, a green-hued ball attached to the top, blue wings sprouting out of it. "I asked Cid and Merlin to make this for me; it only has healing abilities, but it's a start."

"When did you get something like that?" He hardly remembered her interested in anything except her small flower shop.

"After the Heartless Invasion last month," she shrugged. "I didn't like having to rely on others, I can handle myself."

Leon sighed, running a hand over his face. He knew what Aeris was aiming for. "You're not coming with us."

Aeris glared at him, placing her hands on her hips, blocking the end of the stairs as he approached. "You can't tell me that, I've gone every other time, I hardly see how this is any different."

Leon shook his head, placing a hand on her shoulder. "That was different, this is more dangerous," he held the flowers girls' gaze, effortlessly moving her aside. "Maleficent is back, you know what that means. Do you want to die?"

"You'll need a healer," Aeris quipped, brushing away his hand. "But I am going. I heard what you said, Yuffie's in there. I'm her sister – I'm supposed to protect her."

"You're not sisters; her parents just adopted you." Leon said, brushing past her. "I'll bring her back, you know that."

Aeris glared at him, her grip tightening around her weapon. "Shut up Leon, whether you like it or not – I'm going. Let's go." Turning on her heel, Aeris brushed past Leon without another look, heading for the door.

Yuna shook her head. "You definitely have your hands full."

"You sure blew that, no wonder you two aren't together!" Rikku mumbled, throwing her hands up.

Leon glanced at the two sprites, but without another word, followed after Aeris.

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Namine sat silently at the White Room in the Mansion, the large table taking up a majority of the room. Her sketchbook lay open on the table before her, the blonde sighing now and again as she flipped the pages back and forth. Every once and while she'd mumble something under her breath, more pages fluttering from the different piles littered throughout the room into her hands.

Axel, Roxas and, Riku sat around the table, various expressions on the features as they watched the Memory Witch work.

"Have you managed to find anything?" Axel asked after a while, tired of Namine mumbling to herself.

Namine shook her head, briefly looking up. "Nothing," she sighed, trying to smile at him. "Your memory lines are very jumbled together; it's hard to make some of it out. It seems that I have to work backwards to find your true self. However, your Heartless half is still beyond my reach."

Axel nodded, letting out a sigh. "I'm going to walk around for a while," he said, pushing back his chair.

Namine nodded, cringing at the scraping sound of the chair on the flooring. "Just don't do anything irrational – and avoid the town at all costs. I imagine that Olette and the others would remember you."

"You got it," Axel said, waving slightly as he left the room.

Namine glanced at the door as it shut behind Axel, the slight noise echoing through the empty Mansion. "Don't do anything rash, alright?" she asked, smiling slightly as she looked over at Riku.

Riku grinned, already out of his chair. "As if I'd ever do that Namine," he laughed, ruffling her hair as he walked by.

Namine frowned, her hands flying to her hair as she tried to flatten the mess. Roxas glanced at Namine, a slight smile on his features at the normal girl behavior Namine was exhibiting. He shook his head as the door closed behind Riku; he could only imagine what was on the silver haired teen's mind.

"Do you think they'll try to go at each other again?" he asked quietly, leaning back in the chair. 'They've been almost civil for twenty-four hours."

Namine laughed, her hands falling back to the table, resting over the worn sketchbook. "Maybe you should go after them to try and stop them? I'll be fine here on my own."

Roxas nodded, sensing a dismal in Namine's words. Pushing his chair back as well, Roxas slowly stood up, heading towards the door. He glanced back at Namine as his hand fell onto the doorknob; however, the blonde had already turned her attention back to the sketchbook.

Namine paused as the door closed quietly behind Roxas. Glancing up through her bangs to see if the room was indeed empty, she sighed, leaning back in her chair. Closing her eyes momentarily, she pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to will what she had learned away.

When searching through the strings of Axel's memories, she had come across a rather startling piece of information: the darkness was starting to come together at a rapid pace; the final fight was looming overhead.

In her mind though, it couldn't have come at a worse time. She wasn't prepared for the final battle, everyone was still too scattered . . . there were too many mysteries still shrouded within the darkness.

"Why now . . ." she mumbled, it felt like everything she had successfully built up was starting to turn to ruin.

Shaking her head, she closed the sketchbook up; she had more pressing thoughts to deal with. For the time being, Axel's past would just have to wait a little while longer. Picking up the sketchbook, she placed it under her arm, as she too pulled away from the table, leaving the White Room in darkness as she turned the light off.

He was here, she could feel his presence.

Glancing around the empty corridor – she could hear the distant voices of Axel and Riku on the main level, yelling at one another. She shook her head; maybe if Roxas was there, it would stop the two from destroying one another. Her footsteps sounded against the old hardwood floors, the floors protesting the weight every once and a while; at least, she knew she wouldn't be heard over the ruckus downstairs.

"What have you done, DiZ?" she mumbled, reaching a door at the end of the corridor. "You're no longer . . . with us, are you?"

Namine quietly closed the door behind her, leaning back against it. The walls were hidden behind crammed bookshelves, a small table situated in the middle of the room; a rectangular carpet underneath it. Crossing the room quickly, Namine easily found the switch behind one of the bookshelves, the floor beside the carpet giving way to a hidden staircase.

"I know you're here," Namine said confidently as she descended the metal staircase, darkness waiting for her. "I'm tired of these little games, DiZ."

"Very perspective of you, Namine," DiZ's voice drawled, the red cloaked figure appearing beyond the staircase. "I knew he shouldn't have given you that sketchbook; you're way too nosy for your own good."

Namine shrugged, anger etched on her features as she reached the bottom of the staircase. Above her, the trap door closing off the hidden space, and after a moment of darkness, fluorescent strips of light lining the wall came to life. "I have a right to know what's going on in my area."

"What I do is none of your business, Namine. I could rid myself of you now, and no one would even know." DiZ's voice reverberated off the metallic walls, making his voice more commanding.

Namine glared at him, holding her ground. "I knew that you couldn't be trusted, the Memory Strings all proved that you would double cross us," Namine shook her head, her eyes never leaving his still frame. "Watching Twilight Town is my job; you're supposed to be watching the borders and pinpoint Organization XIII's movements and uncover any sort of pattern."

DiZ shrugged. "Alas, doing that for the past year and a half has been extremely fun."

Namine glared at him. "You don't honestly think I enjoyed last year, did you? I had to agree to get kidnapped by Organization XIII, mess with everyone's memory strings and then barely escape? They wanted me dead because I ran!"

"Then you should have stayed where you were."

"Sora would have died. I had already dug too far into his memories; if I had gone any further I would have untied the Memory Core. That's all that was keeping Sora together," Namine shook her head, dispelling the thought. "Untying that would have killed him."

"That's what the Second Wielder was chosen for," DiZ said, not missing a beat. "He was made to replace Sora when you killed him. We have no need for two of them."

"I'm not a murderer," Namine said, eyes narrowing. "Would you have killed him? Sora did so much for our Worlds; I wouldn't untie that string – that's going too far. Rearranging it might not kill him, be he would never return to the way he was before."

"Would that have been so bad?" DiZ challenged. "You did destroy the purpose Roxas was created for. We have no need for two Keyblade Wielders of the Light."

"Stop it DiZ," Namine shouted. "Both Sora and Roxas can be of use to us; with two Wielders we will be able to conquer both the Heartless and the Nobodies."

Namine kept her eyes trained on DiZ, her hands balling her into fists as she waited for some kind of reaction from him. She wasn't going to back down to him; he wasn't going to control her through fear or power he thought he had.

"Are we done here?" DiZ asked, the silence stretching on.

"We are," Namine said, not moving. "Why he said you were on our side, I'll never know. I knew that you couldn't be trusted."

She sighed as she felt the disappearance of DiZ's presence, the Mansion's aura returning to normal. Shaking her head, Namine flopped down onto the metal staircase, holding her head in her hands.

The Final Battle was looming overhead . . .

The pieces were scattered throughout different Worlds . . .

And now DiZ wasn't with them.

If things continued like this . . . she didn't want to think about it.

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"Ansem's Study?" Sora muttered, looking at the double set of doors before them.

Yuffie nodded, nonchalant. "This has to be it. I heard those sprites talking on the Postern; this is the only clear path. All the other corridors are blocked; we've been trying to slowly excavate the Castle."

Sora nodded slowly at Yuffie's words, a frown appearing as he mulled over her words. "But, this way only leads to Tron's World and . . ."

"The Manufactory District of the Heartless . . ." Yuffie trailed off, grinning as the overlooked place came to mind.

"Hyuck, do you really think that Maleficent is back there?" Goofy questioned, pausing behind the two.

"I think so!" Yuffie chirped, looking over her shoulder at Goofy, grinning widely. "We've never really paid much attention to that place as it's been abandoned for years. I suppose there could be something in the far depths of it, a hidden room, or passageway, something like that."

"You actually sounded like you knew what you were talking about Yuffie," Sora chuckled, effectively ducking the punch that came his way moments later.

"Alright, let's get going," Donald quacked, annoyed.

Suddenly serious, Sora nodded, turning his attention to the door. He frowned as he tried to handle, the heavy door not budging. Yuffie let out a laugh behind Sora, quipping that the door needed a females' touch as she joined him at the door.

"See, told you," Yuffie chirped, the door giving way under their combined weight.

The door opened before them, sending the two of them toppling to the ground. Sora cringed as the door collided with the wall. Donald and Goofy stood behind the two; Goofy's chuckle reaching his ears, drowning out Donald's annoyed words.

"Hmm, it looks like we have some visitors."

Sora paused, the unfamiliar voice reaching his ears. Blinking, he noticed a pair of black shoes in his line of view. "Who . . .?" He glanced up, a black clad brunette – with a look of surprise on her face – looking down at him.

"Oh hey!" Yuffie shouted, having fallen on top of Sora. "If it isn't Tifa, so this is where you've been hanging out," Yuffie pushed herself off Sora, the brunette groaning as Yuffie pushed him down again. "Oh, and Cloud's here too? Say, what have you two been doing down here . . . all alone?"

Cloud looked up from the article he was reading, his expression unreadable. It seems Yuffie was still immature; how did Aeris and Leon deal with her all the time? "I see you haven't changed," he grumbled, returning his attention to the article in hand.

"I see you haven't either," Yuffie said dryly, rolling her eyes. "I mean really, we're off fighting the Heartless in town and you're here reading?"

"Yuffie," Tifa warned, shooting the ninja a look. "There are reasons why were here, Ansem had done some theories and experiments before the chaos erupted."

"Right," Yuffie said slowly. "And it had nothing to do with you two wanting to be alone."

Tifa sighed, pushing her long hair back as she closed the door behind Donald and Goofy. "Believe whatever you want too; everyone knows that you tend to exaggerate."

"Aeris will believe me – we're sisters," Yuffie said, shrugging off Tifa's words.

"Aeris will believe you because she'll give you the benefit of the doubt; she's such a romantic." Tifa corrected.

"What are you doing here anyway?" Cloud asked, looking up from the papers scattered across the desk. "I thought Leon told you not to come here."

"Squall isn't the boss of me! I'll do whatever I want." Yuffie yelled, hands on her hips. "I was following the trail of these sprites, have you seen them? They stole Cid's Claymores –"

"Bet he had a fit," Tifa laughed.

Yuffie nodded energetically. "Well, I followed them here; they mentioned something about Maleficent and her return. Well, naturally, that meant that I had to get in contact with Sora. He's the only one who knows how to beat her."

Cloud's eyes flickered from Yuffie to Sora. "Maleficent isn't here, we haven't seen her," he sighed, returning his attention to Yuffie, holding her gaze. "Those sprites probably knew that you were there and decided to fool around with you. When are you going to learn to think before you act?"

Sora frowned at Cloud's words; the two had never really gotten along after their matches in the Coliseum's Stadium. "Well, I might check around here, anyways. Yuffie came up with an idea that I had overlooked," Sora explained, trying to say something to rival Clouds criticism.

"Exactly," Yuffie nodded, smirking at Cloud. "Sora understands me."

Grinning, Yuffie followed after Sora, she had to know if she was right. Maybe then they would treat her like an adult. In front of her, Sora paused as he reached the doors leading to the Computer Room, noticing Yuffie behind him.

"Yuffie, wait here okay?"

"Sora!" Yuffie whined, balling her hands into fists. There was no way Sora was treating her like Leon and the others did. "No way, I'm going too!"

Sora shook his head, motioning to Donald and Goofy to follow. "Maleficent is really hard," he said, flashing Yuffie a grin. "Only the Keyblade stands a chance – your Shuriken will just bounce off. Hmm, watch her for me?"

Tifa grinned, placing a hand on Yuffie's shoulders. "We'll call Leon to come get her."

"WHAT?" Yuffie yelled, drowning out Cloud's laugh. "Don't you dare call him – he's not my babysitter!" She grumbled, knocking Tifa's hand off her shoulder.

Sora tried to hide his smile, waving over his shoulder at Yuffie. "Bye Yuffie, I'll be back before you know it. C'mon guys!"

Donald and Goofy nodded, grabbing their weapons tightly, following after Sora.

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Demyx smirked as he reached the landing of the Seventh Floor, his mind moving rapidly from one thought to another. It seemed that everything was starting to come together; Axel had shown his true colours departing for Namine's side – the blonde witch obviously still a key player in the events at hand – and that Keyblade Wielder would be there as well. All they had to do was wait for Axel to call forth the darkness and then all three of them could be killed in one sweep.

It wasn't like anyone would miss the three Nobodies anyway . . .

"I hope I'm the one that finds them," Demyx muttered, his mind wandering to what he would do if that did indeed happen.

He shook the thoughts from his head though, he had to focus on the task at hand – he could worry about Axel later. He glanced up at the white door at the end of the empty hallway; Kairi was all that mattered now.

As long as the Princess continued to sleep, slipping further from her friends' grasp time crept by . . .

"He probably meant to take her with him," Demyx mumbled, stopping before the door, his footsteps muted by the carpet. He sighed, turning the door handle, pushing the door open. "Why else would he leave a little light left in your . . . heart?"

He paused, his eyes widening at the lit up room.

The room still looked untouched; however, the bed was empty.

Just like that, Kairi was gone.

Taking in his surroundings, he shook his head; this had to be a trick. There was no way that Kairi could escape, an hour ago she was still unconscious.

"Where could you have run off to, dear Kairi?" He muttered, looking around the room again.

Surely, he was overlooking something.

Venturing further into the room, he noticed that the bed sheets were perfect, the only indent being where she had been sleeping. Her pink shoes still sat at the end of the bed; meaning that she couldn't have gone too far.

It was then that he noticed it, a piece of paper lying on the bed, almost blending in with the sheets.

Heartless to Heartless, it read.

He raised an eyebrow at that; what was that supposed to mean?

His eyebrows raised as he reread the note, squinting at the miniscule writing. Heartless to Heartless . . .? He grumbled incoherently under his breath, crunching the paper in his fist.

Thinking it over, the riddle could reveal who was behind it.

"Maleficent," he seethed, turning on his heel. He had to inform the others of the breach; their key had been stolen right out from under them. "Wretched Witch, trying to defeat us at our own game . . ."

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Cool, piercing black eyes peered through the darkness at the figure that was leaning against the machinery opposite her. She narrowed her eyes at the pink clad girl, this Princess the fixation of so many people. Frowning at the still figure, she crossed the Chapel floor – her feet and staff hitting the floor the only sounds present – she found herself thinking of the last Princess that escaped her grasp. While Aurora might have found her Happily Ever After, this Princess wasn't going to achieve that.

Above her, a crow let out a caw as it flew through one of the broken stain glass windows; the caw a message to the dark figure. Pausing, she looked up at the crow, circling overhead before returning her attention to girl before her.

Maleficent smirked as she stood over Kairi, the red heads blue eyes glazed over, unseeing. "It seems they couldn't even throw you into the darkness correctly," she mused, her voice echoing through the empty Chapel. "Even from here, that precious light of yours is still managing to shine through. Your little Wielder must be in the area . . . how devastated he finds out that the holder of his heart," Unable to hold back the delight that appeared on her features, Maleficent brought a hand out from under her cloak, placing it on Kairi's chest. "Has been thrown into the darkness and is unable to return."

Mumbling under her breath, Maleficent could see the shreds of darkness that lurked within the deep recesses of the Chapel being drawn to them, disappearing into the unconscious Princess. Maleficent let out a loud laugh as the light within the Princess dimmed before suddenly, disappearing.

"It is done," she said, fluidly standing up, the crow descending to perch on her shoulder.

She didn't cast a glance at the crow, as she watched Kairi intently. Slowly, Kairi's eyes started to close, giving into the darkness circling her heart.

"Your burden is gone, Princess. You no longer have to deal with a broken heart via the Keyblade Master; Sora." Maleficent took a step back, allowing the darkness to swallow her, leaving Kairi alone in the middle of the room, her conscious starting to return to her. "I want you to finish what those sprites couldn't – kill the Keyblade Master and anyone who should get in your way."

Maleficent watched from the shadows as Kairi stirred, her fingers twitching as she came too. Slowly, Kairi opened her eyes, blinking away the endless sleep as she took notice of her surroundings, running a hand underneath her eyes. Slowly, Kairi brought her legs up to her body, pushing herself off the cold floor, as if testing her balance.

As if remembering what Maleficent had said, those words being the last she remembered, Kairi pushed away from the console she was leaning against, closing her eyes momentarily.

I can do this, she thought, focusing on what she had to do.

From the shadows, Maleficent smirked, watching Kairi's actions, all of this reminding her of the events two years ago. How easy it had been to ensnare Riku within the darkness, the silver haired youth hardly putting up any challenge to the reality she had portrayed to him.

Kairi opened her eyes as something heavy fell into her hands. Smiling, Kairi brought her hand up, a black Keyblade materializing in her hand.

"Don't disappoint me now, Princess . . ."

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12/20/11