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The Path to Twilight

By Akino Ame and Ryan Griffin

Disclaimer: Kingdom Hearts belongs to Disney and Square Enix. Batman Beyond belongs to DC Comics and Warner Bros.

Chapter Two: Sins of the Father

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There were a lot of things Bruce was expecting to find upon leaving the throne room. He expected to see Kaze somewhere in the vicinity, sulking or fuming or something. He didn't expect Kaze to be nowhere in sight.

Suddenly, a noise caught his attention. Using the scanners in his cowl, he was able to pinpoint it and track its source. Bruce activated the rockets on his boots and flew off towards the source.

The noise grew, translating into clashes of steel and the grunts and yells of a fight. He saw an expansive courtyard and, in the middle of it, a fight. There was a large group of various types of animals, from bulls and horses all the way down to the mice, all surrounding Kaze, who was fighting them single-handedly with his Keyblade. Bruce boggled, wondering what could have happened that would cause them to turn on the boy.

Kaze did mention that he looked like a Heartless… maybe the people thought that Kaze had betrayed them.

Realizing in an instant that action would be better than wondering, Bruce literally flew into the middle of the fray, landing among the dumbfounded creatures beside Kaze.

"Figured you could use some help," Bruce said.

"Glad for it!" Kaze gave a thumbs-up.

And with a yell, Kaze ran at a large, ax-carrying bull while Bruce jumped up and kicked a ram into a nearby column. The fight became a blur as the two young men beat the bulls with their axes, the horses with their maces, the mice with their swords, the dogs with their shields, the ducks with their staffs and magic. Soon, all that was left was a single mouse, decked in amazing armor and wielding a glowing sword. Despite his armor, his agility was enough to dodge any and all of Kaze's spells and Bruce's batarangs, and his strength was enough to make close combat an impossibility.

Sweating, Bruce ran through several possibilities to counter the damn mouse, before hitting upon one. Taking several discs from his belt, and threw them towards the mouse in succession. Predictably, the mouse dodged or deflected the discs, but that was enough. Flying above the mouse, Bruce yelled, "Kaze, hit me with a lightning spell! As much as you can pump into it!"

Kaze stuttered, "What the-! Are you high!"

"Just do it!" Bruce yelled.

His authoritative tone was enough for Kaze to stop any questioning. Raising the Keyblade to the sky, a lightning bolt shot down to Bruce. Luckily, after some upgrades over the years, the suit was a lightning rod. As the lightning continued to flow, Bruce pressed a button on his belt, and the discs in turn, each glowed and produced an electrical charge. Suddenly, the mouse was surrounded by a giant cage of electricity, before the fields closed in, electrocuting him. Smoking slightly, the mouse fell to the ground.

And Kaze defied all logic by running across the field to the mouse, taking out an Elixir and reviving the mouse.

Coughing, the mouse patted Kaze on the back. Kaze smiled, which then faded as he approached Bruce, who was looking perplexed at this whole exchange.

"Merciful Harry Potter, Bruce! You DO realize that was a training session, right?"

"Training session? What the…"

Kaze sighed, though he looked less angry, "You thought they were really attacking me, so you jumped in. I appreciate the sentiment, and I'm glad for this to happen if it were real, but in this case, I can't have you incinerating members of the royal family…"

The mouse, looking much better after the Elixir, walked up to the two and said, "Damn, that was one heckuva battle. Though, Kaze, you'd better tell your friend he needs to calm down. That combined lightning attack almost made Diane first in line for the throne…"

Kaze nodded, "Roy, Batman, hero of Gotham City. Batman, Roy, Prince of Disney Castle."

Batman looked shocked, "Oh my, I'm sorry."

Roy laughed, "The only ones I'd be sorry for is anyone that has to fight the two of you to the death…" and with that, he gathered some of the troops and managed to rouse them. Kaze, in the meantime, stalked off.

Bruce attempted to help some of the fallen soldiers, but all refused him. And, rather than stand around like an idiot, he followed Kaze.

"Listen, I…" before Bruce could answer, Kaze raised his hand in a "stop" gesture.

"Don't worry about it, Bruce. I can't fault you for trying to help me. What did make you think my life was at stake, anyway?"

"Mostly the looks everyone gave me here. Figured maybe they thought you'd fallen in league with a demon or something."

"Just because this is a kingdom, it doesn't mean the peasants are wielding torches and pitchforks…" Kaze sighed, "Still, the sooner we can get out of here, the better."

"I'd have thought that you'd like this place. You're practically a celebrity."

"I'm living in my father's shadow, which is the last place I want to be."

Bruce wanted to say that the references to his father were minimal, that a lot of the comparisons that seemed to rub Kaze the wrong way were nothing to be concerned about, or possibly were even imagined. But, instead, Bruce said, "Why do you hate him so much?"

"He left my mother and me, left her to languish until she worried herself into an early grave. Why shouldn't I hate him?"

"From what I was able to glean from your ranting, it sounds like he died trying to save the world. I've known a lot of people who were lost like that. You can't blame him because he died."

Kaze stared at him, then said, "Come on. I'll show you…"

With that, Kaze walked through a few long series of corridors before reaching a gigantic vault.

"Let's see if Uncle Walt changed his password…" with that, he yelled, "Door to the light!" and the vault, in response, slowly opened, "Guess not…" and with that he walked in.

Bruce's father was the inheritor of WayneTech, one of the most advanced and profitable companies on the planet. And, as such, Bruce and a large number of his descendants could live decent lives without working a single day.

Inside the vault, however, were enough riches to make him gasp audibly. Kaze paid it no mind, and simply walked past the piles of gold and silver and priceless artifacts to a door at the very end of the vault. Kaze placed his Keyblade at the door and, in response, it opened. The room was small, and all that was inside it was a pedestal, upon which sat a ring of glowing green orbs.

"What are they?" Bruce asked.

"Memory stones. It's an extremely rare magical item. It records a person's memory exactly, when placed in the correct setting. What's really good about them is that the inherent magic plays the events as they truly happened, without any of the mistakes that are inherent when someone recalls something."

Bruce was immediately reminded of a classic children's book he had read when he was young. "So, they're kind of like Pensieves."

Kaze shrugged, "I guess, but then again, I don't know much about religious artifacts…"

Bruce would have questioned that statement, but decided to wait when Kaze took one of the memory stones in his hand and said, "Dark Heart."

Immediately, Bruce and Kaze were no longer standing in a dull, featureless room. They were in another world. The starless sky was an ominous violet color, and though they were standing, they could see the clouds below them. The only features of the place were several crumbling meteors falling from above and a mountain rising from the expanse of the horizon.

All of a sudden, Heartless appeared as three figures ran across the sky, with the air rippling beneath their feet like water as they ran.

The first noticeable figure was a red creature that looked something like a wolf and something like a lion, covered in scars and tattoos, with an upright red mane, gold anklets, and a flame sprouting from his tail. The beast fired off spell after spell, eradicating the shadows. Whatever Heartless managed to evade his spell casting were finished by his claws and fangs. Bruce remembered that Kaze called this creature his "Uncle" Nanaki.

The next was a mouse, a highly recognizable one. It was Walt, though his face had fewer lines, clothed in a royal blue outfit, with a poncho showing off an orange fleur-de-lis and a wide-brimmed feathered cap. Walt carried a shield, alongside a gigantic sword, as wide as he was and twice as long as he was tall. For even a human to lift, let alone wield, such a sword, would be a feat in and of itself. For the Walt, it was a miracle, and watching the mouse slice through the Heartless was both impressive and absurd.

The last figure was a human, a boy no older than Kaze was. He was clothed in a blue-green uniformed, outlined with a golden trim, and an olive vest. An emerald headband tried, rather unsuccessfully, to keep his black hair out of his face. He also wielded a Keyblade, though while Kaze's was white and had a distinct angelic theme, his was more esoteric, a rainbow of colors and a celestial theme to its craft.

"Two guesses who that is," Kaze said, "and the first two don't count."

"Why does your father's Keyblade look so different from yours?"

"It's a matter of the Keychain. That's what channels the power and shape of the weapon. His is the Dreamer's Eternity, the supreme magical Keyblade."

"And yours?"

"I don't know its name… when I got the Keychain, I was told, 'Take this symbol and fulfill your oath.' Probably, I could call this the… Oathkeeper, I guess."

Bruce nodded, as the figures entered the center of the "room", and the world seemed to follow them as they ran through the endless expanse. Before long, the trio came up on an athletic young woman, with blonde hair, surrounded by a throng of Heartless. In her hands was a Keyblade, though this Keyblade was black, with wicked curves, and it seemed to produce a black energy similar to the Heartless. While she was destroying the Heartless quite efficiently, she was severely outnumbered.

"Is… is that your mother?" Bruce asked.

Kaze nearly spat, "No. No it's not."

Without a second thought, Kaze Sr. and his team entered the fray, cutting a swath through the Heartless, and, within minutes, the field was clear and Kaze Sr. went up to the girl, hugging her, and yelling, "Koori! How'd… never mind that, are you all right?"

Koori smiled and rubbed his hair, "Just peachy, hotshot. Hope I can say the same for you…"

"We'll have to see won't we?" Kaze Sr. paused and looked towards the mountain, "This is it, isn't it? This is where all of it goes down. We face the king of the Heartless. We face their god, in the dark heart of the multiverse."

Nanaki sauntered up. "Do not worry so much. We have prevailed in the past."

"And we've failed, too. All those worlds… Simba, Mulan, Aurora, Stitch… we failed them…"

Walt shouldered his massive blade. "Well, we've come a long way from that. And as long as we're together, we'll be able to meet this thing head-on."

Kaze Sr. nodded. "And Hino's safe, back in Radiant Garden."

Koori laughed, "Ready to get this over with and get back to your girlfriend, huh?" Though she said this somewhat wistfully.

Kaze Sr. paused, then said, "Yeah…" Then, with renewed vigor, he charged back towards the mountain.

The charge, however, turned out to be unnecessary, as a gust of wind blew the four of them, including Kaze in mid-step, straight forward for several miles before depositing them in front of the mountain. As they fell to the strange sky-ground, a voice rumbled as the mountain began to crumble.

"Keybearer. Guardian Beast. Mouse Prince. I commend you all for reaching this far. Truly, it has been an eternity since I had faced a threat that required my personal attention. Unfortunately, you are proving too much of a nuisance to allow for your continued existence…"

The mountaintop exploded. From the molten core of the peak came a pair of enormous wings that enveloped the sky. Following the wings were the demonic creature, what looked like a man made of ebony, of living shadow, replete with pointed teeth and bull-like horns. The being never rose from waist height. He grinned madly at the four creatures below, looking like a small child about to crush ants.

"Your journeys end here! Abandon all hope, for I am king of the night! I am Chernabog!"

And with that, the creature swept his massive claw at the heroes, and only through quick scrambling did any of them survive. In retaliation, Kaze Sr. spun his Keyblade in his hands, as lightning crackled through it. He hurled the Keyblade like a boomerang at Chernabog, and its aim was true, striking Chernabog right between the eyes, causing the demon to reel back as the Keyblade returned to its owner.

"All right! We can hurt him!" Kaze cheered.

As he said this, Chernabog laughed, as he looked down, no real worse for wear, "Yes, little one, you can hurt me. Whether that's enough for you to stop me…" and with that, he formed a ball of flame in his hands and threw it down.

What followed was a battle like a swarm of mosquitoes against a grown man. Any and all attacks were useless, until finally, Chernabog got a hold of one of them, Koori.

Rather than crush her as all expected him to, instead, he took his other hand and, using it, made her rise, and then dance. Kaze Sr. sent the Keyblade rocketing towards his hand, but Chernabog swatted it away.

"Ah yes, little one, I know well of you. The one who craved the power to change her situation, who took a mockery of the weapon that can destroy my minions. You may have fought my underlings and prevailed, but you fail to see that in doing so, you have made me grow stronger… You see, little girl…" Chernabog smiled wickedly. "That Keyblade of yours doesn't come from your own soul, like your boyfriend's does, it comes from mine…"

And, laughing maniacally, he set Koori aflame and sent her careening to the ground.

"KOORI!" Kaze Sr. yelled, as he cast a water spell around the girl, choking the flames and leaving her alive, but wounded. "Trinity Arrow!" he yelled as his weapon glowed white and he rocketed straight towards her, catching her in his arms and offering her an Elixir. As he landed, Nanaki and Walt running beside him, Koori whispered.

"It's me… he's gaining power from me, from all my actions…"

"It's all right, Koori. You didn't know."

"I want him stopped, Kaze. Please… do whatever it takes. I'm worthless here. You can stop him, avenge the death of our world, and end this plague. Please, stop him."

Kaze Sr. looked at the demon, and the giant ball of flame in his hand, growing in power and might and illuminating the shadows of his wings. He began to cry.

"I love you…" Kaze said.

And then he plunged his Keyblade into Koori's heart.

Chernabog continued to laugh, but suddenly, he stopped, and the flare in his hands dissipated. From the peak of the mountain, he could see a flash of light at the base.

The sound of a church bell rang, causing Chernabog to start.

Another ring, this time accompanied by a flash of green light, and Chernabog cringed.

Over and over, the bells rang out, lights flashing as Chernabog screamed in agony, before the bells were accompanied by Kaze rocketing upwards like a comet, followed closely by Walt and Nanaki. The three of them, now flying in a way that reminded Bruce of Superman, flew into Chernabog. Keyblade and sword and claw met the demon's flesh, and now, the blows were landing not like pinpricks but as if they were weapons of his size.

Finally, Chernabog slumped forward, unmoving, as Kaze, Walt, and Nanaki all circled Chernabog, as a strange mystical transmutation circle formed out of light from each of the warriors, binding Chernabog in place.

Once the circle was formed, Kaze went to Chernabog and stuck the Keyblade in his forehead. As the demon impotently cried, Kaze yelled, this time addressing the Keyblade itself, "You're supposed to be the key to all existence. You're supposed to be able to open any lock and lock any door. Well, if you're half as good as you say you are, then LOCK THIS BASTARD UP!"

The Keyblade seemed to wink, and began to glow. Kaze flew back down to his place in the circle, held out his arms and the three warriors yelled as one, "TRINITY LIMIT!"

And, glowing with green light, Chernabog writhed in pain. His wings shuddering before closing up on him like a cocoon, before the wings hardened and turned to rock, reforming the top of the mountain.

Kaze looked amazingly tired as he sank back down to the ground. He had won; he had accomplished that which he had sought for so very long.

And yet, he did not feel like celebrating.

Staggering, he went to Koori's body. He hugged her, ignoring the blood that stained his green clothes a murky brown, and wept.

Around him, the world shifted and twisted, with eerie glowing and storms of lightning and comets. The crumbling land around them was flowing both up and down. Walt and Nanaki decided to interrupt the boy's mourning.

"Kaze, we have to go…" Nanaki said.

Kaze shook his head.

"Come on, Kaze! If we hurry, we can make it back to the Gummi ship. Maybe we can even heal…"

"NO! I can't go back… I don't care. I don't care anymore. I don't care what I have to leave behind, everything if need be. I'm not going back."

"Kaze, you can't mean that…" Walt said.

"Go… you'll be able to survive."

"Kaze, think what you will lose if you don't…" Nanaki said.

"Go."

"What about rebuilding Radiant Garden?" Walt said.

"Go."

"You said you'd help revive the worlds!" Walt cried.

"Go."

"You know you can do it. Simba and Mulan and Stitch and everyone else will have their homes back, if you just try and…" Walt shook Kaze.

"Go!" Kaze cried, more forcefully.

"What about Hino?" Nanaki interjected, bringing his face to Kaze's, "You said you loved her. You said you'd stay with her…" Nanaki looked pained to say this, as if he were breaking a promise, "She has told us… she does not know for certain, but there's a possibility that she is with child…"

Kaze trembled with rage or sorrow, it was unclear which. "GO!" and with that, a gust of wind hit Walt and Nanaki, sending them careening backwards.

And, with that, the world faded to black.

And, suddenly, Bruce was back in the blank room, in front of the Kaze he knew, the one dressed in silver and gold instead of green, with short bangs and a ponytail instead of wilting spikes. He placed the memory stone back on the pedestal.

"That's why I hate him, Bruce. He had the ability to leave, knew that he was leaving behind a woman that loved him, a child that might have loved him, and still he put himself, his own concerns over ours. And those of the worlds he lost. Those he claimed to be his friends, whose worlds were lost because of his own insecurity, they remain in the slumber of the dark, maybe forever, because of his selfishness. And even now, they hail him as a hero, a savior, when, at the moment when everything fell to pieces and only he could pick them up, he gave it all up and let himself be consumed when he could have saved himself. He threw in the towel, abandoned me and my mother, shattered her life, and then left me this Keyblade, for me to pick up his trash. That's why I hate him." And, with that, Kaze walked out of the room.

Bruce paused, then muttered, "With that kind of exit, he should get a chance in the Batsuit…" before following him out

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Fauntleroy, the duck who was the librarian for Disney Castle, laid out several star charts in the under-used war room. Bruce, Kaze, and Walt leaned over them, trying to locate Gotham.

"You say the Heartless ship crashed on your world while on-course somewhere?" Fauntleroy asked. It took a little while to understand what he said, but Bruce nodded.

"Yeah. Green Lantern found the coordinates and tried to copy them into his datapad, but it opened up a wormhole that sucked me through."

"I found him in the remains of Midgar," Kaze said, checking the space around that world. "So if the Gummi ship was headed there, Gotham must be close by."

"Not necessarily," Walt said, and Bruce looked at him with a feeling of dread. "We've been boosting our warp drives to take us farther through time and space. The worlds Kaze's father, Nanaki, and I visited were fairly close together. The new warp drive system would make it possible to visit the more distant worlds, but it would still take a long time to reach them until our technology advances."

"So that Heartless might have been traveling for years before finally reaching my world?" Bruce asked. Walt nodded. "Great."

"Well, we have to go to Traverse Town anyway, so there's always a chance that someone there's heard of your world," Kaze suggested.

"When you do find it, add it to this journal," Fauntleroy said, handing Bruce a small leather-bound book. "That way, we can add it to our charts and Gummi ship navigation."

"Record it for your world too," Walt added. "You said your Justice League has a massive archive. They'd probably want to know about the other worlds too."

"I thought that'd be breaking the rules, Uncle Walt," Kaze said. Walt shrugged.

"From what he's said, Bruce's world has already contacted other worlds. This probably won't come as any surprise."

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The next day, after stocking up on Hi-Potions and Elixirs, Kaze and Bruce got in the Gummi ship and took off. While Kaze piloted, Bruce took out the journal and started writing everything he'd seen in Disney Castle, along with short descriptions of Midgar and the Heartless.

"Hey, Bruce," Kaze said suddenly, making him look up from his writing. "We'll find an Accessory Shop when we get there, but first, I want to visit my friend Marlene. She works at a hospital/tavern in First District. Her dad and their friend Rosa run it. They'll want to see me before we do anything."

"Okay."

"You'll probably like them. Barret's a bit rough, but Rosa's really nice. Then there's Denzel, but you two should probably get along. And Marlene's probably the only person in the world who doesn't compare me to my dad. She prefers to see people for who they are."

"All right."

"Don't worry. We'll find your world. It may take some time, but you'll get home."

"That's not what I'm worried about." Kaze glanced at him. "That Heartless ship crashed on my world and killed about a dozen people by turning them into Heartless. We took care of them, but what if that's not the end of them? What if more come?" Bruce sighed and closed his journal. "The rest of the League was halfway around the world in Chong-Mai when it happened, so there were only four of us fighting. If Kai hadn't figured out how to defeat them, we all would have died, and Metropolis would have been the first to fall."

Kaze blinked. "You seem kind of young to be thinking of these kinds of things. How old are you?"

"I just turned seventeen a few weeks ago."

"What?" Kaze cried, nearly steering the ship off-course. He corrected himself before saying, "I'm seventeen too, but I didn't expect you to be the same age. Damn, I thought you were eighteen or nineteen at least."

"'Cause I'm fighting evil all the time?" Bruce guessed. "Most people don't expect me to be this age. My dad was sixteen when he started."

"Why so young?"

Bruce raised an eyebrow. "I think you're hardly in a position to talk."

"Point."

"Well, for my dad, it was because his dad, Warren McGinnis, died. He stole the suit and tried to avenge his death. For me, it's just because I've been training so much. About four months ago, Dad decided that I was ready to try patrolling. He just never expected me to push myself so hard to prove I was capable."

"You're pretty messed up, you know that?"

"So I've heard—from my own brother and sister. Wish I hadn't fought with them before I left, though."

"You'll get your chance to apologize. We'll be at Traverse Town soon enough, so cheer up."

"I'm Batman. That'll take an act of God."

"Heh," Kaze laughed. "Guess this is going to be one long trip."