Chapter 30: To Make an End

"You said we'd meet again, but when we did, we might not recognize each other."

Sora, Donald and Goofy all stared at Naminé and Roxas, while Kaito and the others watched with only marginally less surprise.

"I did, didn't I?" Naminé admitted, voice thoughtful.

"But I remember you."

"Mmm... It's strange. I thought we would both fade back into the Darkness, to rejoin our original selves, but we're still here."

Roxas gestured with a hand. "…I think I understand. Until you came just now, I think I was sleeping… But angry, with Sora, with DiZ, with Riku… with myself. I don't feel that way now, though. You don't see me, don't remember me, that way, do you."

Naminé smiled. "I don't. And if I'm the way you remember, too…"

"Then we'll stay that way. If Sora and Kairi stay together, we'll be together, too. We won't fade away."

"We'll be together every day," Kairi chimed in, taking Sora's hand. "Right, Sora?"

Sora gave her a surprised look, soon joined by an almost disbelievingly happy crooked smile. "Uh, yeah!"

Naminé giggled. "Okay."

Kairi stepped closer and held out a hand; Naminé met her halfway and took it, fading in a golden light that briefly haloed Kairi's form, leaving her looking startled but happy. "Oh…"

"Hey, look sharp!" Sora turned to face Roxas just before the other boy closed his eyes and faded away, followed by Sora also glowing for a brief moment.

"Ah!" Sora looked down at himself, hands patting his torso as if to see if anything were missing or different until Riku took hold of his shoulder with a gentle but firm grip.

"The Organization tried to use him, but he's part of you again now. And don't worry, you're all still you," Riku added with a slightly wry smile.

Sora clapped his hands on the top of his head. "So complicated…"

Everyone chuckled briefly until Sora straightened, jaw tightening in determination, and held out a hand to summon his keyblade, which appeared as a mesh of intertwined silver and pale color. "I guess I owe Xemnas for Roxas, too." He looked around at all of them. "Let's finish this together and go home, okay?"

Everyone nodded or spoke in agreement, and as Riku gestured to summon his own keyblade to his hand, Kairi smiled. "This time… I'm fighting, too."

After she said the words, there was yet another flash of light—How many do we get before it starts burning out our retinas, anyway?and when it faded, a second sword rested in Riku's off hand. It was another keyblade, Kaito realized after a moment; there was no mistaking the shape of the golden blade, or the odd composition style that had expressed itself this time in a floral pattern around the hilt.

The younger boy stared at it for a moment, then looked over at Kairi and held it out to her, blade tucked against his arm so that it presented hilt-first. "I don't know how, or why, or even how I know, but… this is yours. Take it."

She did, with a faint air of reverence, and swung it experimentally a few times, getting used to the heft. "I don't have your experience, but I've been learning, this past year." She smiled, a bit self-consciously. "I wasn't sure exactly why, when I was doing it, but I didn't want to be left behind again."

Sora grinned. "With the three of us together again, plus our friends, we'll finish this for sure." He looked between Saguru and Kaito, and Donald and Goofy. "You guys ready?"

Kaito took a step forward, opening his mouth, only to wobble dangerously before a hand on his back and one on his arm steadied him. Apparently, somewhere in the midst of all the conversation, Hakuba had stood and positioned himself behind Kaito.

Dammit. I hate being anticipatable.

"While Kuroba-kun appears to be ready in spirit, perhaps you could spare another potion to keep him from falling on his face for the time being?" the detective inquired.

Riku looked at Sora. "Do you have any full ethers? I gave him the elixir the first time in case he'd managed to pull off internal injuries in the process of saving Axel, but now it's just energy drain."

As Sora nodded vigorously and began to rummage through the plethora of zippered pockets in his outfit, Kaito heard a very faint, mirthless chuckle from behind him. "He has you pegged."

"I resent the implication," Kaito grumbled loftily, trying to not lean too heavily against Hakuba's offered support.

"Resent away. It's still accurate."

"Why do I put up with you again?"

Hakuba's grip on his arm tightened, just a little, and he murmured in Kaito's ear, "Because at the rate you're going, without someone to keep you in check you're going to reach so far trying to save someone that you'll kill yourself in the process."

"…Ah." He was really starting to loathe fatigue. On a normal day, he'd never have let Hakuba get away with the last word.

…Of course, on what used to pass for a normal day, Hakuba might not have been quite so accurate, either.

Sora triumphantly brandished a small, squat bottle of blue liquid, which Riku took, opened, and held out to Kaito. "Drink this, but the next time you get exhausted, you really should sleep. It's not a good idea to use these too much without resting in between, especially since your body isn't used to them."

"What happens if I don't give my system time to adjust?" At Riku's look and Hakuba's hand tightening further, he hastily protested, "I just like knowing why I'm doing things!"

"…A high enough concentration of these properties in your bloodstream leads to migraines and risk of hallucinations. Moogles mention it if you synthesize enough elixirs at once," Riku added quickly, eyes on the bottle in Kaito's hand.

Too tired and not actually helpful to call you on that. Maybe later.

"Okay, then."

As Kaito quickly drank, and then moved to stand on his own again, pulling out his card gun, Sora gave him a curious look. "You don't have potions where you're from?"

"We don't have magic the way that you do, in our world, or moogles. I don't think we have any way to make them."

"Really? What's your world like?"

Kaito smiled. "Tell you what. We'll tell you all about it when this is over and we're at your home, while I work on bringing Axel back."

Sora grinned back. "Great! Let's go." He looked around. "If there's actually a way out of here…"

Riku extended a hand in front of him and a portal opened. "We're so close to their stronghold, it's really a doorway, not a corridor."

Hakuba smirked. "How helpful."

They walked through.

The portal didn't drop them in the castle, this time. Instead, they arrived in a kind of façade of a town, black skyscrapers and black ground beneath the same dark sky and heart-shaped moon, the castle's stark whiteness looming in the background. The buildings beyond the small, dim alley in which they stood had lit windows and neon signs, but nothing living moved either within or without the constructs of habitation.

"The doorway opens here," Riku explained. "To get closer takes a corridor, which would need a person to aim with any accuracy."

"Well, the King went ahead," Sora offered, "but I don't know where he is."

"We'll keep following him this way, then."

Kaito noted with interest that Sora simply nodded, more than willing to follow Riku's lead. The taller boy was a natural leader, when he had the confidence to try it.

"This is pleasant," Kaito remarked dryly as they stepped into a plaza lit by windows and neon lights and a large TV screen on the side of the building that dominated the plaza.

Hakuba looked about to reply, but whatever he had to say was lost when the black, gold-eyed forms of Heartless began rising out of the ground.

"This way!" Riku barked, driving through the mob. "They'll never stop coming, so fight them off and keep moving!"

"You've been here before?" Sora called to Riku as they fought and ran, following Riku's lead.

"I fought Roxas here," Riku replied shortly.

Ah... This is where Ansem's Darkness changed you.

They didn't spend long in the town-that-wasn't, fighting and running together. Before much time had passed, they reached the edge of the buildings, where the street gave way to the chasm over which the Organization's castle hovered. A white path stretched upwards across the gap, leading to an entrance at the base of the massive disjointed structure.

The Heartless didn't follow them to the border area, giving them a chance to catch their breath, and for Kaito, to reload his cardgun. The Shadows were fairly strong, but he wanted to keep his Deck in reserve for bigger targets.

They made their way up the path that Riku said the King had to have established and left behind, entering without a challenge. The castle was constructed on no architectural principles that Kaito could recognize—physics and conservation of useful space took a backseat to sheer impressive scale of design. The indoor passages and outside paths leading upward swarmed with packs of Nobodies, coming from all directions, but between seven fighters and three keyblades short work was made of the lesser minions.

It wasn't until they reached the first open area—a large open plaza surrounded by familiar white walls and enclosed by a glass dome through which the strange moon shone—that the real trouble started.

"Well, well…" Saïx stood in an aperture high up the far wall, gazing down at them. "Decided to embrace the Darkness, Keybearer?"

"What?" Sora looked confused until Riku growled from beside him, and then he joined his two friends in glaring at the blue-haired Nobody. "Riku's my friend, Darkness or no Darkness, and we're going to stop all of you!"

A chuckle, smooth as snake oil. "How quaint. You're too late… Just look there." He gestured grandly toward the moon, which now appeared to be whole. "Our Kingdom Hearts… Thanks to you, we've collected countless hearts. Can you hear their euphoria? Now, all they need is one more helping from the Keyblade bearer!"

He snapped his fingers, and abruptly Heartless began to emerge from the floors and all the nearby walls, with a band of Nobodies joining the closest approaching Heartless to surround them in a loose ring.

"We've gotta fight!" Donald cried, as Saïx vanished into a Darkness corridor.

"But—Kingdom Hearts!" Sora protested, and Kaito realized that while Sora had fought in perfect unity with Donald and Goofy to destroy the Nobodies within the castle, the younger boy had gone through the streets of the town below entirely on the defensive, knocking Heartless out of the way without destroying them.

… The Nobodies had been using Sora, somehow collecting the hearts released by the Keyblade's destruction of Heartless to create their heart-moon, however they thought they could regain some semblance of their own hearts, using it…

Kaito growled softly, in the back of his throat, as the Heartless scuttled into mêlée range.

Riku displayed none of Sora's conflicted hesitation, and plowed into the creatures before they could get close enough to overwhelm the brunet, followed by Kairi.

"Fight to stay alive," Riku ordered sharply, turning to deal with the next wave, "and we'll stop Xemnas and the others before they can use these."

Sora hesitated only a moment longer, then nodded determinedly. "Okay." He turned and joined Donald and Goofy in a joint attack that cleared a fair amount of ground in the direction of the exit.

Kaito stuck close to Hakuba, watching the blond's back and not liking the sudden stiffness in the other teen's movements as they fought. "You okay?"

Hakuba grunted, knocking several Heartless through the air with a sweep of his staff, one into an advancing Nobody. "Too much pressure against a barrier can create cracks."

Which translates from Hakuba-speak into: If too many Heartless or Nobodies show up, they're probably going to breach your shields from the sheer weight of numbers boosting the effect they have on you.

Kaito took a page from Inspector Nakamori's book and swore creatively about Xemnas, the Organization, and the Heartless in general under his breath as he half-herded Hakuba along the edges of the empty space the keyblades where creating. He didn't stop the muttered tirade until after they'd passed through an oversized doorway, shoved the large and ornate white doors closed behind them to impede the Heartless's advance, since no mind remained to direct the irrational creatures beyond the obstacle, and Hakuba's movements had become less labored as they ran on. One look at Hakuba's face, however, eloquently informed Kaito that suggesting anything other than continuing on would be disregarded with extreme prejudice.

Stubborn idiot. If this happens again, I'm using Exile of the Wicked1 even if it makes me pass out.

The detective saved his breath for running and fighting rather than commenting, and Kaito did as well for the rest of their ascent. The paths seemed to follow a linear progression of stairs and inclines interspersed with larger halls. In the next hall that they reached, they found that their presence had been expected.

"Down!" Kaito shouted, grabbing Hakuba by the coat and ducking as an energy-laced projectile flew down from another raised ledge on the far wall. It sliced through the air where Riku had been standing before Kaito's warning and thudded into the ground.

"Nice reflexes." Kaito recognized Xigbar's voice before the Nobody moved into view, aiming an arm-mounted, miniature energy cannon at their group. "Hey… I remember you." The arm adjusted to put Kaito squarely in its crosshairs as they all straightened to face Xigbar. "Did you decide to be the Keybearer's lackey instead? You really made a bad choice there, going with this dud—he's caused plenty of trouble, but he's not half as impressive as the as the other ones were."

Others, past tense? That… does not sound good. Potentially fascinating in the corollaries, but not good.

To Kaito's chagrin, before he could frame an inquiry that had hope of getting an answer from their opponent, Sora called angrily, "Are you done rambling?"

A lanky shrug. "Rambling? As if! All you need to know, traitor, is that your time is up!" He threw his arms out to the sides, a second energy cannon materializing around his free arm, and jumped down from the ledge, golden eye glaring at Sora. "You really shouldn't have betrayed us, Roxas."

"I didn't!"

Sora's declaration of innocence apparently didn't merit a response; Xigbar teleported back up to his original ledge and began firing, raining down a shower of projectiles at the entire group. "Gotcha now!"

Friggin' teleporters. Hell, where's a sword when you need one?

There was no cover to hide behind. Sora, Riku and Goofy were able to knock the energy darts away or even some back up at Xigbar, forcing the Nobody to dodge. Kaito moved behind Hakuba, shooting over the blond's head as quickly as he could to knock as many of the projectiles as possible away before they hit anything, hoping that Hakuba would be able to take care of the rest. Donald hid behind Goofy's defense and summoned a wave of lightning to hit Xigbar's position, while Kairi stayed where Riku had shoved her behind his larger frame, smart enough to not try sword-work out of her league.

A few impacts from his own weapons brought Xigbar back down to their floor, still teleporting around so that only a stray hit or two even grazed him. After Sora and Goofy collided from trying to attack him simultaneously, Kaito finally managed to finish sorting through his Deck for the right card.

"Swords of Revealing Light!"

I love this card. Stay put, you bastard.

Despite the quickly developing headache, Kaito's silent comment was obeyed and Xigbar froze in place.

"Now!" Hakuba called, standing aside to give the others, particularly Sora and Riku, free access to the Nobody. Kaito realized a second later that 'standing aside' placed the detective directly next to him.

"You're not going to hit him for me?" he asked lightly.

"No. Five against one seems sufficiently overkill at the moment, and you apparently require a keeper."

Kaito tried to keep his eyes from squinting against the headache and gritted out, "I do not collapse at the drop of a hat."

"Then why do you look three seconds from starting to sway?"

The sound of Xigbar's weapons clattering to the ground precluded Kaito's response, and he gratefully released the Shadows' hold with a small sigh.

I have no idea how this card works. I'm just happy that it does.

"Got any aspirin on you?" he inquired, more to have something to say than anything.

"…Yes, as a matter of fact." As Xigbar collapsed to the ground, Hakuba reached into his bag and came up with a small bottle, pulling out a white tablet.

"Thanks." Kaito took it, dry swallowing again. To his surprise, he didn't even have to give Hakuba an inquiring look before the blond quietly volunteered,

"Large crowds have always given me headaches." He smiled wryly. "I suppose now I know why."

"…Yeah. With any luck, though, maybe now they won't." Let something good have come of the whole mess.

"There is that hope."

"Hey, Kaito! Saguru!" Kaito looked up to see Sora waving at them from where Xigbar had finally evaporated into thin air. "Come on!"

...No honorifics is easier to get used to that I expected. Or maybe it's just that telling Sora-kun to be less familiar feels like it would be like kicking a puppy for being friendly.

"Shall we?" Hakuba commented, but didn't move to walk ahead of Kaito.

"I do NOT need a babysitter, Hakuba-kun."

"Of course you don't."

"Gah!" It wasn't worth continuing the argument while Sora and the rest were waiting for them. Kaito moved to catch up, acutely aware of Saguru's presence just behind him. Even traveling with Riku, as the long-range fighter he'd been watching the younger boy's back, not the other way around.

…It made the back of his neck itch.

Hakuba seemed content to stay silent as the group fought upward, since he'd—Argh—gotten the last word again. Kaito realized vaguely, through the chaos of running, firing, dodging, and firing again, that for all that Riku and Hakuba had practiced fighting together, he and Hakuba had gravitated to each other automatically, while Riku fought alongside Kairi.

The most disconcerting moment came when he discovered that he and Hakuba were circling each other as they all moved forwards, anticipating where the other was going to be without thinking.

We spent too long trying to get into each other's heads.

During a brief reprieve from the bands of Nobodies, a bright beam of light cut through the sky above them, touching the heart-shaped moon from a place higher up in the castle's ramparts.

"What's that?" Sora asked Riku, shielding his eyes.

"It's the king and DiZ — I mean, Ansem the Wise," Riku responded, faint worry in his tone. "We'd better hurry."

"Hold it," Kaito broke in. "DiZ is one of the Ansems?"

Riku beckoned for them to keep going, and answered, "The original Ansem. The others are all fragments of his foremost apprentice, Xehanort, who stole his name and perverted his work of trying to understand the human heart."

"Why do I not like the sound of that?"

"…Because Xehanort and DiZ's other apprentices gave rise to the Heartless, and became Heartless themselves. Their Nobodies created Organization XIII."

"Wow. Hey, Riku…" Sora laced his fingers behind his head as he walked. "How do you know all of that?"

"That's right!" Jiminy spoke up from Sora's hood. "I've catalogued some of that from bits of a journal we've found that seems to have belonged to Ansem the Wise, but where did you hear it?"

Riku gave Sora a wan smile. "DiZ, Naminé, and I worked together to keep you safe while you were asleep, and then to wake you back up."

"Oh." Sora smiled. "I guess I should thank him, too!"

"…If you want. He wanted you awake to be able to stop Organization XIII because he couldn't."

Sora nodded decisively. "I will. They have to be stopped anyway, and he helped us."

"How… touching." Darkness blossomed in front of them, and a bearded blond appeared in its wake. Before anyone in the group could react, he snapped his fingers and a wall of enormous playing cards cut across the path, isolating Sora and leaving the rest of them in a circle of spinning cards.

Before Kaito could even think of trying to examine the cards, the circle split apart and vanished, revealing Sora standing by himself.

He blinked.

Time dilation?

"Are you okay, Sora?" Kairi asked.

"Yep! No worries. Let's keep moving."

"Why do I feel like we should all be more creeped out by what just happened than they are?" Kaito muttered quietly to Hakuba as they fell once more into acting as the group rearguard.

"Because that Nobody's power was enough that we had no awareness of time passing, while Sora-kun fought him alone." Hakuba gave Sora a thoughtful look. "Whatever being a keyblade bearer means, he is far more powerful than he appears."

They entered a room that held what could have been gravestones, with two intact and glowing while the rest were cracked and dimmed. As they paused in front of the only open door, Kaito's eyes glanced across the closest stone, which glowed half-dim, unlike any of the others: an engraving of the chakrams that Axel wielded, beneath the words, "Flurry of Dancing Flames."


He's not gone, not completely.

The thought wasn't as reassuring as he'd hoped it would be.

When I figure out how to bring him back, I'm damn well bringing him back as a whole person, not a fragment. No matter what it takes.

...I promise, Axel-kun. For Sora and Roxas.

He was still staring at the 'gravestone' and another darkened one beside it, which displayed the words "Key of Destiny" over an engraved keyblade, when the closed door in the middle of the room suddenly opened on its own. He quickly turned, realizing belatedly that he'd been assuming the sense of Hakuba's presence at his back meant that the others were still in the room, while they'd in fact been standing alone.

Another of the gravestones had gone out, leaving only one intact, next to the door.

I'm zoning way too easily these days.

He hadn't realized he's muttered aloud until Hakuba spoke, while the others returned. "You're running on adrenaline, which is likely interfering with your usual ability to multitask."

Among other things.

Riku declared, "All that's left is Xemnas. The King and DiZ should be close, so let's hurry."

Outside the room, the path returned to following the outside edge of the castle. Heading for the source of the beam of light, they found Mickey and DiZ at the top of a long incline, near the edge of an open landing of white stone. DiZ held a machine that vibrated under his hands, while Mickey stood slightly to the side, watching.

"Your Majesty!" Sora called, causing the two to both look over at the Keybearer's approaching company.

DiZ stood no longer hidden beneath in red bandages, but a short blond goatee and beard framed an almost regal looking Caucasian face. Kaito matched gazes briefly with piercing golden eyes, which darted to Hakuba and back before the man seemed to smile, ever so faintly.

As they got close, the machine began to spark and short.

"Sora," DiZ declared gravely, gaze resting on the younger boy, "the rest is up to you."

I don't like the sound of—

:Kaito!: Méraud's voice cut in, drowning out DiZ's words as the world grayed.

What?Canthiswait? Kaito strained to hear DiZ's voice, and caught the words "Hear me... ...Sorry."

:No?: Méraud's presence overwhelmed the surrounding conversation again. :I'm sorry, I've been distracted by a conversation with Dark Sage and some of the other Monsters, but I just noticed something that worries me. There's something… It's like a thread or a wire, connected to you, in the Shadows that I don't think you can see, and it's—:

A new voice caught Kaito's attention, the smooth baritone interrupting Méraud's explanation. "I was wondering who would dare interfere with my Kingdom Hearts."

:Kaito! Are you listening?:

Ack! Thread-wire thing in the Shadows! Do you know what it is? If she wasn't going to go away, he wanted this conversation done with as soon as possible.

:Not exactly… It's stretching out into the wild Shadows, where I can't see it either, so I don't know where it ends. I can't seem to touch it… and it's not just Shadow, Dark Sage and I both agree that there's traces of Darkness in it.:

Kaito's blood ran cold.

Can you do anything about it? Can I?

:I don't know,: Méraud replied, sounding frustrated. :We've never seen anything like it before. It doesn't seem to be doing anything, not even trying to drain your energy, which is part of why I didn't notice it earlier. It's simply there.:

Then keep trying to figure it out and get back to me, there's important stuff going on here, too.Please, he added, just soon enough to not be offensively demanding, he hoped.

:…All right. Be careful.: Her presence faded.

As Kaito blinked, trying to refocus on the real world, he saw DiZ hunched over his machine, which rattled and sparked ominously in the man's grip, a hairsbreadth from overloading. He had a resigned, almost peaceful expression as he turned away from Riku and Mickey, who stood closest, to look up at the degenerating moon.

"Farewell!" he declared.

Wait, WHAT? No!

Kaito lunged forward as electricity surged along the outside of the machine, trying to reach the man before the inevitable explosion, trying to do something...

A bearhug from behind stopped him in his tracks, and Hakuba's voice roared in his ear, "NO, you bloody IDIOT!"

He struggled against the iron grip as time seemed to dilate for a second time, etching the silent, supernova-bright explosion into Kaito's memory. "No…"

If I'd been paying attention

The arms around him tightened, just a little, and Hakuba spoke again in a quiet, tired voice. "You can't save the ones who don't want to be saved, Kuroba. He made his choices, as Connery-san did."

Kaito closed his eyes, fists clenching around his card gun and Duel deck, and took a deep breath, exhaling slowly.

It doesn't make it hurt any less.

"Kudo-kun and Edogawa-kun would both disagree with you," he murmured.

"Not when attempting to save someone is guaranteed to kill you both," Hakuba countered immediately, loosening his grip and stepping back just a little as the white light began to fade.

An even larger hole now marred the moon's surface, and beneath it countless thousands of hearts were falling towards the ground over both castle and the city below. Of DiZ and the machine, no trace remained.

Kaito shoved any reaction away and looked over the others picking themselves up off the ground.

"Riku?" Sora's voice drew Kaito's gaze to him, and the stark contrast of Riku's black cloak against white stone.

Wait a minute

The figure slowly getting to his feet was too small. His hair was still silver, but it had a feathery, layered look to it, and as Riku turned to face at them, Kaito found himself staring at a fellow teenager's face: soft where the lines of Ansem's face had been sharp and harsh, lightly tanned instead of dark brown, and broken by a black cloth covering his eyes in a blindfold.

"Riku!" Sora and Kairi chorused, echoed by a "Wow…" from Donald and Goofy.

"Ansem did say that anything could happen," Mickey mused, smiling as he came up to Riku. Riku looked down at him with an almost disbelieving little smile, pinpointing the King's location with perfect accuracy even through the blindfold.

Heart sense. I guess Mickey has been to Riku what Donald and Goofy are to Sora.

"Riku, are you gonna take that off?" Sora asked from Riku's other side, standing beside Kairi.

"Oh…" Riku sounded like the thought hadn't even occurred to him, but he reached up and pulled the blindfold free, blinking several times against the long silver bangs that threatened to fall into his eyes.

Kaito and Hakuba walked closer, the movement catching Riku's attention, and his eyes focused to look at them as they came to stand behind Sora, next to the low stone railing that edged the path.

Kaito gave the younger teen a grin. "Unless you didn't always have silver hair, you look back to normal to me."

"No, I did—do. …What color are my eyes?"

"Somewhere along the lines of teal-aquamarine," Hakuba replied, with a hint of almost-amusement in his voice, then took a step to the side, looking over the edge of the railing. Kaito kept his eyes on the newly-restored Riku, still grinning.

"Why do you ask?" Sora gestured at the black cloth in Riku's hand. "And what was the blindfold for, anyway?"

"His eyes couldn't lie," Mickey spoke up, white-gloved hand pointing at Riku.

"Lie?" Kairi tilted her head.

"And just who were you trying to fool, huh?" Sora leaned over, looking up to be able catch Riku's gaze as the other teen looked down with a bittersweet smile.

"Myself. The more I used the Darkness while you were sleeping, but before I reawakened it completely to fight Roxas, I could feel Xehanort's Heartless stirring… I put this on after I left King Mickey's company, when gold started appearing around my pupils. If I didn't have to see it in my reflection, I could pretend it wasn't happening, just for a little while longer."

Kaito smiled. "But now you don't have to pretend any more. All that's left is you."

Riku looked up, a full, genuine grin slowly spreading across his face. "…You're right."

In a move that reminded Kaito somewhat of the way he switched from a civilian disguise to his Kid suit, Riku took hold of his cloak and flung it away, revealing jeans and a two-layered vest.

Riku continued, "We have to defeat Xemnas. He's the Organization's last real survivor."

Since Axel and Roxas don't count for this.

"Then let's go!" Sora cheered.

"Excuse me, gentlemen," Hakuba suddenly interrupted, voice strained as he looked over the path's edge to the rain of hearts and what lay beyond the drop-off, "I believe you need to see—Nngh…"

As Kaito turned, the detective crumpled sideways, legs colliding with the shin-high stone railing…

…and the physics of torque sent his unbalanced frame toppling over the edge just ahead of Kaito's outstretched hand.


Kaito didn't think. Acting on pure instinct, he dove after the blond, -pulling- and -reaching- and -grasping- with everything he had to catch hold of Hakuba's coat. They fell together in a sickening spiral towards the luminescent white ground far beneath the castle, where a swarm of thousands of Heartless grew thicker with every raining heart.

"Why didn't you say anything earlier, you idiot?" Kaito shouted over the rush of wind.

Hakuba didn't respond beyond a low stream of foul invectives that he didn't seem to be entirely conscious of muttering, doubled over within Kaito's grip with his eyes closed and hands over his ears. Kaito added a few curses of his own. The Heartless swarm was growing exponentially as he watched—the time it had taken to evolve from a noticeable presence to overwhelming pressure could easily have been no longer than the time it had taken Hakuba to interrupt.

This isn't the Shadows, there's so much Darkness, and I can't bend the Dark…

He reached out anyway, and –pulled- again for Nothere-Somewherereal-Safelanding-HOME!

The rip opened beneath them.

They fell through.


Potion lore is fanon, not canon, but depending too much on the magical equivalent of healing drugs and energy drinks cannot possibly be healthy.

1Exile of the Wicked: Destroys all face-up Fiend-Type monsters on the field.

Yes, this is the end of Promenade. Due to a change in narrative focus, adventures continue in The Way Home.

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