Mirror, Mirror
Pre-KH1, spoilers for KH2. A Saix short. No, I don't really know.

He's halfway to Never Land when the interruption comes.

Ever since becoming a Nobody, Saix has exalted in the worlds around him. There is no lack of terrain to explore. There are a million beasts to examine, a thousand skies to walk under, and endless vents for his energy when it builds up too far, a pressure kettle inside his bones that demands to be unleashed.

But, despite the temptations, he rarely strays from orders.

So when the anomaly picks at his nerves, the Lunar Diviner does his best to ignore it. Once, twice, a dozen times it rings as he's traveling past it, until the man finally sighs and turns his attention towards the unwanted distraction.

There aren't as many Heartless on this world as he had expected -- something must be holding them at bay -- but their presence had long broken down any protective barriers that might have warded away intruders. The pathway through Darkness is solid, well-established, and even as Saix walks down the long road, he can see the occasional Shadow slithering by.

He arrives in the height of spring.

The air is clean. Branches heavy with water-dark leaves nod over his head. The forest is quiet with the dense silence of predators. There is no birdsong, no signs of animal life nearby, and Saix assumes that the Heartless must be out prowling.

In the middle of the clearing, there is a discarded box.

It's no bigger than a rabbit, or a small dog. He almost overlooks the thing, it's so weatherbeaten: bright red paint aged to a rusty brown, blue enamel chipped, a crack running along the lid. The latch on the front has been ripped off. Anything of value must have been stolen long ago.

He's kneeling to study the grain of the wood -- tilting the lid up with a cautious thumb -- when a voice rustles out of the forest behind him.

Are you a wicked beast?

Saix mulls over several answers in rapid succession before he moves on to the far more tactful, "And just who is asking?"

A whisper of leaves, and the words grow louder, coming closer. You don't look like one of the villagers. Nothing is there when Saix turns; then gradually, a shape fills itself in, standing beneath one of the trees. The details are indistinct, but Saix can extrapolate them easily. A pointed cap with an upturned brim, to keep off the rain. The bump of a dagger's sheath on one hip. The dark line of a beard and mustache, barely visible through the forest shadows, outlining broad lips.

Are you a fairy, come here to absolve me of my crime?

Saix fights against the urge to be dumbstruck. His first instinct is to escape this madman; the second is to exact payment for the question. Even if he isn't under orders to refrain from overt interference, Saix has no interest in being caught up in the pathetic little stories of the soon-to-be-dead. The sooner he leaves, the better.

But something about the chest catches his interest, tickling at a half-forgotten memory.

"What is this box doing here?" he asks instead, very quietly. His muscles unfold in smooth warning as he pushes himself to his feet.

The figure stirs. A dark line is seeping down the bridge of his nose, like syrup, or tree sap. I was ordered to kill the daughter of the late king, he rasps.The queen demanded that I prove the deed by bringing her the girl's heart.

Such a request is strange. For a minute, Saix wonders if they've misjudged; if this world is ruled by Darkness already, with a Heartless in control. A talking one. It would have to be Larxene's Other, unless one of the Organization members has a secret they're not sharing with the rest.

The itch in his brain doubles, fighting through the layers of white towers and strange moons and the reality he'd found himself in since his transformation, before Saix suddenly realizes where he is.

"It took a while," he finds himself saying slowly, "before you agreed to trick the girl into coming with you to the woods."

The man makes a gruff nod. I thought it'd be easy. But every time I thought about it, I realized that I didn't want to. Anything else the queen asked, I would have done -- but not this. She said she would hurt my family if I didn't obey. That she'd force someone else to the deed, if I would not. There was no other choice.

Saix picks up the thread readily, his words slipping in on the tail end of the story, so that his voice overlaps with the other. "You wanted to fight back. But you couldn't. You were so angry with how powerless you were, but there was nothing you could do."

I couldn't bring myself to kill the girl. Instead, I took the heart from one of my quarries, a boar I'd landed that morning. The princess, I ordered to flee. I told her to hide in the forest and never come back.

They stand there in the clearing, isolated from the rest of the world while the figure continues to ramble in the dry, dusty voice of leaves.

Every day since, I wonder what happened to our king's daughter. I should never have agreed in the first place to take her to the forest. It was a mistake to lead the girl here, to let her run into the wilderness like that --

"No," Saix interrupts. The sound is harsh. "Your error came earlier."

The woodsman shifts uncomfortably. What?

The Lunar Diviner gives an impatient shake of his head. "You served a queen. You were trusted to get a job done. Why didn't you obey?"

But the princess, the man protests, his hands clenching tight as he shakes them in the air. She was just a slip of a girl. How could I have harmed her? I could never have lived with myself afterwards --

"And that thought ate away at you." Saix feels his own fingers start to close in parallel fists at his side; he keeps them loose with an effort. "A stew of fear and hate and guilt that infected every part of your soul, only held in check by your capacity for mercy. Your rage grew like an animal, and still you could do nothing. All because you did not have the courage to seize a simple heart."

I didn't --

"Those emotions attracted the Heartless to you, each time that you came here to the forest." The box scrapes in protest as Saix nudges it with his foot, dislodged from the soft cushion of ferns that has grown up around the lacquered wood. "Each time, you wondered what had happened to that girl. You could not go to save her. You could not bring her back. You could not stay away. And it all can be traced back to that single lie."

His smile is hard. The words keep coming.

"You should have known better that to try and escape spellcraft. The Queen found out about your deception, and punished you for it." Another prod of his toes, and Saix is lifting his chin, seeking out the figure with his eyes even as he delivers one final verdict. "A good huntsman knows how to follow orders. You failed."

But the man is already gone.

Saix is not surprised; he had not expected the figure to stay. The fact that he was correct provides no satisfaction, but he does not let himself care either way. Patience will win out.

"When I have you again," he says aloud, a mild afterthought, "you will listen to me this time."

Now alone, he finally reaches down and picks up the box. There is a layer of brown residue inside, marked by periodic bumps where clots had once dried. The blood is old, and there are clumps of desiccated tissue here and there in the corners. A few flecks chip off as he fingers them, shedding away into dust.

Part of him wonders if it would be appropriate to find the princess and kill her, if only to finish the job. There were enough Heartless around. There were Dusks. He could direct either to seek out little children in the forest, or anything remotely child-shaped.

But the princess wouldn't be a little girl anymore, would she? She should be a young woman now. Hair as black as ebony. Skin as white as snow...

It is impossible for a Dusk to clear its throat, but their presence gradually intrudes on his senses. After a long moment, he turns his head to discover a cluster of Berserkers waiting tactfully on the side. "Yes?"

They hesitate; he is not certain why. Then one inclines its body towards him.

Master, the Heartless are becoming unruly. A vast Darkness approaches.

"I haven't finished here yet."

Master, and the Berserker edges forward, the great sword crushing the grass underneath its wake, any delays may trap us here. The Shadows grow. It is becoming dangerous. There may be, another pause, other... irregularities.

Irritated by the time constraints, Saix frowns. The Superior had instructed him to investigate rumors of a magical book that supposedly was a portal to another world, and even though Saix dislikes the sight of fluffy little animals walking around as if they were human, he has no intentions of disobedience.

His sword manifests readily to his call. Its weight is far heavier than a dagger or spear, but the mass is reassuring. He grips it with both hands. The point hesitates over the wooden chest as he debates; then at last Saix swings the weapon away, choosing instead to lash out at the box with a vicious kick.

One hinge snaps from the impact. The chest clatters open as it flies through the air; it turns end over end before crashing into the sturdy trunk of a tree, and from there to the ground. There is a dark moss stain on the bottom, a blot that nearly obscures the royal sigil stamped on the wood. A Queen's mark; a Princess's heritage.

"You foolish witch," he bites out, each word as bitter as a curse in the abandoned forest glade. "Everyone knows you store a heart in the sky, not in a box."