Summery: A boy who lost his heart, after it was locked away by the Keyblade. Everyone was ready to give up all hope for him. Then, came a princess. A story of how a girl found a boy's heart, and a boy who found the girl to share it with. Sora x Kairi

A/N: Yay! I'm back from the dead! Sorry about the wait, but most all my time and efforts were being put towards an Anime Convention I've been obsessing about for the past few months. It was Anime Banzai 2006, and Anime Oasis 2007, to be more specific. Lol, I cosplayed as Roxas in his Organization XIII coat while having both Sora and Mickey's Kingdom Keyblades. It was scary, because a lot of people couldn't tell if I was a boy or girl, but I was glomped a lot, nonetheless. Anime Oasis was a bit dissipointing personally, but mostly because I was sucked into other people's "dramatic" lives. But, My friends and I are already making plans to go to Anime Expo 2007 this summer at Long Beach, California. We're a cosplay group known as XDCDX. Standing for the emoticons XD and DX, the "C" standing for Cosplay.

But now its back to reality. Sadness.

I can't believe the Mulan world stretched this far! This is gonna be one of those real long stories, I take it, so hopefully, that won't distress you all. Like it somewhat does me...but hey! It's a challenge! And I'll do better then my best can give! Thank you all so much for reading this far, and special thanks goes to those whom reviewed the story! It really motivates me to continue, regardless of what obstacles in my life are thrown at me. I think I've put out writing this because I'm not very motivated to write more for the Mulan world.

Sorry the chapter is short, but it just felt like it should end at the scene it did. Plus, as proof that I've not completely given up on writing Those Without Hearts.

Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts.

The Lionheartless

Those Without Hearts

XIX: True To Your Heart

Roxas lifted his heavy cerulean eyes, as Tidus was annoyingly snapping his fingers at him.

"Man, you got to stop spacing out like that..." The teen muttered, drawing away. "What's with you, though? You've been acting stiffer then usual since we got here."

Roxas glanced away, looking at the shady characters sitting themselves in the audience. Most of them were lords of crime, dealers of deadly and illegal items, or worse. Others were simply rebellious youths or homeless beggars just in for the show.

"Just thinking, that's it." Roxas muttered. "It's nothing."

Tidus sighed, shrugging helplessly. "Whatever you say, man."

The lie was clear to them, even though Roxas was quite adept when it came to fabricating such things. He was part of Organization XIII, after all. However, his current issue was different.

Typically, Roxas had to cover another one of his coworker's shifts, thus, could not fulfill his promise pick up Namine from her lesson. What worried him more, was that she had come home exceptionally late, as she always arrived precisely on time. With their dinner solid cold and untouched, Roxas was about to leave and look for her, when someone had arrived at the door. Of course, it had been Namine, but Kimahri was with her. Roxas rarely met with the lion man, whom was rumored to be from a dying tribe from the mountains called the Ronso. The only occasions he saw Kimahri in person was when something happened to Namine.

The moment he saw Namine's fake smile and flushed face, he knew something was wrong.

Roxas felt his gut churn, disgusted that he still had the gall to sneak out to the Struggle tournament tonight. 'I should be with her right now,' Roxas scolded himself as he looked around at the individuals, or scum, as Roxas referred to them as, clotting around the fenced arena. 'Even if I might belong here...but...Namine...'

Roxas shut his eyes, shaking his head. He barely had the confidence to look up, let alone face an oppenent.

"You know, if you get first place tonight," Tidus said quietly. "You could quit your job and wouldn't have to work for a good three years..."

Roxas glanced up.

"They overwork you anyways," Tidus said, beaming a smile. "You should be spending more time with your girl, anyhow."

Normally, Roxas would blush and deny it. With the blush still staining his cheeks, Roxas smiled hopefully.

"Let's get you first place," Tidus declared softly, slapping his friend's shoulder.

"Thanks." Roxas replied, as it was the only thing that seemed proper to say at the moment.

Tidus smirked. "Who said I was doing this for you? No pretty girl should be alone every night."

Roxas shoved Tidus away, the teen laughing at the Nobody's beet red face. "And you wonder why we never hang out?"

"All contestants!" A hoarse voice called. "Take your places in the waiting rooms, and we'll call you out according to your number."

Shrugging, the two teenage boys quickly made their way to the darkened hallways, neither wanting to bump into the diverse number of dark characters flooding through. Struggle tournaments were typically rushed, since the sponsors were especially paranoid, it being an illegal event. Any and every person attending, be they spectator or a contestant, had to be on guard and ready for the event to suddenly be cancelled by authorities. Or worse.

Roxas dropped the worn brown bag in his hand, reaching in and pulling out a long, black leather object of some sort...a black trench-coat. Holding it more like one would a corpse of a sick creature, Roxas glared at it in distaste.

The coat was the very coat he had worn while in Organization XIII.

Why he had kept it, he wasn't sure. Several occasions, he had tried to throw it out, but it would only mysteriously be waiting for him back in his room, hanging on the door like a floating phantom. Roxas vowed to burn it someday, be never quite found the time to do so.

Despite it being a memento of the horrors of his past, the coat did have its uses. Brimming with darkness, its dark enchantments allowed the wearer to move about undetected by most anyone. It was almost impossible to sense the wearer's presence, proving very useful for stealth or during combat. Of course, Roxas had gotten used to the scent of it, and could easily pick off other members. Stronger enemies also weren't affected by its charms, either.

Roxas clenched his teeth as he looked at a certain tear in the back of the coat. Four parallel lines, claw marks.

"Hey!" Tidus shook Roxas' shoulder, bringing him out of his thoughts. "Man, you're so out of it. What's up?"

Roxas looked between the coat and Tidus, then sighed. "Nothing, just-"

A loud roar from outside towards the arena was heard. The Struggle was starting.

"Shouldn't you be getting ready?" Roxas said to Tidus coldly, fanning out the coat from its folded, crumpled state.

Rolling his eyes, Tidus muttered a 'Whatever' and began tightening the straps, buckles and bolts of his armored left arm. A heap of other armors laid waiting at his feet as he continued to ready himself, Roxas tapping the thin armor with his foot.

"Just for show." Tidus grinned at the armor, putting on his gauntlet.

Since the Struggle was a criminal gathering of gambling and risk, anyone attending and with enough sense took the precaution to conceal their identities. Of course, there were strange characters who took advantage of the opportunity and wore outrageous costumes to appear more fearsome, but Roxas thought it was rather encumbering to try and intimidate opponents on appearance.

Roxas held his breath as he zipped up his coat, the fabric feeling slimy and disgusting to his skin. He would have almost preferred to simply forego the disguise and compete without the coat. However, some spectators also attended to see if anyone was idiotic enough to show their face, then report them for a measly reward. Roxas laughed at himself, as he was guilty to sinking to the lower levels of scum just to get munny.

Curious, Roxas' fingers pinched the folded piece of paper in his possession. According to the number written, it would determine how soon he would enter the ring. Almost fearfully, Roxas slowly looked down as he peeled apart the uneven fold of paper. His fake heart froze as he saw half of the paper, and seeing only one of the potential numbers written on.


'You've gotta be kidding!" Roxas swore to himself he would scream, that is, once he had fully unfolded the paper and it revealed another unfortunate number in front of it. Roxas sighed, relieved.

"What's your number?" Tidus whispered from within cloth tied around his head, only showing his eyes as if he was some sort of bandit.

"Twenty-three." Roxas said, almost proudly. He was practically ecstatic it hadn't revealed itself to be the grim number thirteen. A number with too many personal ties that chained Roxas to his forsaken past.

"Nice." Tidus responded dryly. "I got fourteen, guess I get to fight whoever is thirteen-"

Roxas' stomach tightened at the format of Tidus' remark.

Tidus slapped Roxas on the back. "Good luck, pal." With that, the athlete drew back to explore the stuffy hallway and look over their competition.

Leaning against the wall, Roxas closed his eyes, and started to deafen out the sounds around him.

"Roxas, focus!" He could still hear people saying. He always had a strange tendency to become distracted, but somehow, someone would yell at him to regain his concentration. Why he would simply blank out from now to then, Roxas could only bitterly assume that it was because he was simply incomplete.

A Nobody.

"Number thirteen-!" An announcer shouted. Out of habit, Roxas looked up, but cursed himself, and forced his gaze back to his feet.

"-and fourteen, for the round!"

'Already?' Roxas mumbled to himself. He was finding it hard to believe that they had already mounted up to the ranks. Just a moment ago, it seemed as though the event had just begun.

Tidus strutted by, as usual, his opponent entering from the opposite side. Roxas knew the basics, that those assigned with odd numbers would face off those with even numbers. In total there were typically twenty-eight contestants, all fighting each-other. Eventually, it would narrow down the fighters, where it would become completely random.

Usually, many would drop out from exhaustion after their third round, making the Struggle event go much faster. As unorganized as it really was, it still functioned, and few complained, nor did any seek to make the system better.

Of course, there were those that always sought the easy way out. Much as Roxas was now currently hearing about.

"...looks like some blokes got in on the Cheat spots." A contestant garbed in dark forest green armor said bitterly.

"Probably that Setzer." Another stated, flicking a coin through the air. "He's always buying his way into things."

"Or out of them." One added.

The group of men chuckled at the statement, one of them cracking his knuckles for emphasis. Of the several loop-holes into the tournament, the Struggle was no exception for them. Anyone with the right amount of persuasion could easily rise through the rounds. Whether it be through extensive threats, or bribery to purposely loose a match. Roxas' lip curled up, since it was often the type of person who lacked the proper skill to even make it that far into the tournament. It only made his oppenent all the more easier to face.

Through listening to conversations being muttered about, Roxas learned that this particular tournament was a little more unorthodox the others, as an odd number of people had entered. Not only that, but several battles were being hosted at once. Of the information, the only part that interested him were the amount of times it would take for him to win the tournament. All Roxas had to do was simply win five battles in a row. Simple, for Roxas, as he had gone through much worse training brutalities that Organization XIII insisted upon to have worthy members.

"Number fourteen!" Roxas' attention snapped towards the direction of the caller. "You're up with seventeen."

"Seventeen?" Roxas repeated. What happened to the fifteenth contestant?

As if reading his mind, the man answered. "He went through already, sixteen dropped out, though." Roxas's mouth tightened. As it seemed his would-be oppenent already used one of the loopholes.

"C'mon, kid." The man urged, pointing towards the improvised arena. "You scared or something?"

Roxas' jaw tightened, provoked by the comment. Without further hesitation, Roxas pushed his way through the scruffy men gathered around the door and into the arena.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-(THoSe WiTHouT HeaRTS)-.-.-.-.-.-.-

"Are you sure of this?" The Superior said, increasing the intensity of his voice. Bobbing his head, the massive figure did not falter from his leader's harsh glare.

"Indeed." Xemnas said slowly, eyeing the box in his hand. "If our brother, Number Eleven, wishes to resort to such measures, we shall answer his challenge-"

Just then, the tension in the air shifted as a portal of darkness cut through the air, a slender figure stumbling through.

"Your late." The large man stated obviously.

"Yeah, well," Axel grumbled pushing off his hood, revealing the cuts and bruises covering his skin. "If you had just ticked off the 'Lord of the Dead' and had to play with his giant mutt, you'd be lucky to be just be late for a meeting-"

"I assume he did not take interest in our offer, Number Eight?" Number One asked, but already knew of the answer.

Axel shrugged. "Sort of lost interest...let's see..." He pretended to be thinking hard. "Oh! Right about the moment he saw me."

"I see...the blame must fall to this Entropy masquerading as members of our brotherhood." Xemnas assumed dully.

"Been a real pain, haven't they? Not only do we have this stupid mutiny, but the Entropy, too."

"What is your approach, Superior?" Lexaeus asked humbly.

Xemnas' mouth curved into a grin as he pulled out an identical box to the one he was about to give to Lexaeus.

"Look well, my brothers." He said, holding them up. "Just a few days before Number Four's demise, he finished the product I requested of him."

Opening it slowly, he revealed a tiny particle that glimmered a faint gold and shed a pinkish light. It shivered and pulsed, almost in fear, as it was being held down by small black chains. "Behold. What lies before you now is a shard of nothing more...then a heart."

"THAT is a heart?" Axel gaped in disbelief.


The Superior grinned. "Worry not on the details. Simply be put to rest that we've received valuable volunteering from a close...friend of ours."

Axel's eyes narrowed, knowing full well what that meant. Not only was this heart stolen, but it had been broken into many pieces, no doubt. Pity was the last emotion Axel thought he should be feeling, but still, he was curious as to whose heart it once belonged to. Axel had seen many hearts beforehand, witnessing them wither away before a Heartless devoured it, but somehow, he knew there was something special about this heart shard.

"Although we lack the full original heart," Xemnas explained. "We had thirteen shards of it. But due to recent events, they have been reformed and now a more suitable amount are available. That said, only those still loyal to the brotherhood are worthy to hold such artifacts..."

Axel and Lexaeus exchanged wary glances.

"With this, my brothers," Xemnas continued. "We can taste what we, as Nobodies, have yearned so long for. True, this heart is not ours, but it is exceptional. Because of its exceptional state, we can harness its power-"

"And use it for ourselves." Lexaeus finished, awing at the heart shard like a valuable gem.


Pulling out two more boxes, he handed them to his two comrades. "Keep it close. As long as that is within your possession, consider yourselves more formidable."

Axel opened his box, examining the tiny shard. "Doesn't look like much..." As he said that, he could feel its limitless warmth shed from it.

"Appearances can be deceiving, Number Eight." The Superior recited. "I assure you, that is no ordinary heart piece. In fact, it once belonged to someone we once held..." Xemnas chuckled, a sickening noise to hear. "...very close to our own hearts."

With that, Xemnas' chuckle increased to a full-out laugh as he stepped back into a shade of darkness, vanishing.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-(THoSe WiTHouT HeaRTS)-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Roxas heaved as his oppenent slammed the large, pole-like weapon into his gut. While he tasted the bitter flavor of his own blood, Roxas grinned as he saw the opening he needed to end the match.

Rolling forward, everyone thinking Roxas was doubling over in defeat for the first two split seconds, Roxas let his body limply tumble until his feet touched the ground. Instantly, Roxas swung the hardest he could horizontally, the Oblivion Keyblade slicing through his opponent's armor effortlessly.

Screaming, the man grabbed his now open side, falling to his knees. The bloodlust in Roxas' eyes flared as he saw the man fall, Oblivion seizing control of Roxas' arm to bash the man over his head. Just as he fell over cold, the crowds cheered and booed alike as Roxas was proclaimed the winner.

While his hood concealed his face, he was glaring down at Oblivion. As powerful as the weapon was, sometimes, it seemed too powerful and Oblivion was aware of it. If Roxas knew any better, he would have labeled Oblivion's personality to showing off its power all too often. Yet another reason for Roxas to miss his other Keyblade, Oathkeeper, as they countered each other's effects and influences. This giving Roxas complete control, usually.

Flopping down on a bench, Roxas leaned over to the side, spitting out the tangy mix of saliva and blood in his mouth. Rubbing his ribs, Roxas grimaced as his fingers touched the precise spot to were they had cracked. A smile crept along to his face, unknowingly to him, as he thought how Namine would lecture him about roughhousing again. However, his mood spoiled as Roxas was also reminded of how he would possibly face the beautiful blonde witch.

As his ever falling mood was plummeting, the Keyblade Master Nobody was was shaken from his thoughts as a sudden surge of twisting and rending pain tore inside of him. Choking, Roxas bit back a yell as he gripped his chest, eyes watering with stinging tears. The leather of his coat creaked from the strain, refusing to rip no matter how hard Roxas tugged and clawed at it. His other hand dug hard into the edge of the bench, the soggy wood giving into Roxas' desperate attempt for support.

"Dammit, not again..." Roxas swore, nearly biting off the tip of his tongue.

The wood groaned and splintered at this point, the pain taunting him as it ran its cruel touch all along his insides, poking and jabbing into the heart beating in his chest. Doubling over, Roxas' shoulders trembled as he shut his eyes, trying hard to hold onto the image of the only person that never made him feel like a Nobody.

He was about to shout out Namine's name in desperation, as if it would banish the pain gnawing inside of it. His stomach lurched, Roxas jumping up and bolting to someplace secluded, shoving people out of the way.

Pushing through two men who were simply loitering near an abandoned, dark hallway. Roxas punched the wet brick walls as his body forced out the disgusting pain worming around inside of him. It felt more like coughing up icy razor blades, along with someone long and very slimy. Roxas was glad his eyes had sealed themselves, so he wouldn't have to watch whatever it was he just regurgitated.

The revolting heap steamed and bubbled, Roxas knowing its scent anywhere...mixed in with his own flesh, was Darkness itself.

Roxas was about to stomp on the dark sludge coated in dark crimson, but it only made him feel more nauseated.

Murmuring voices from behind, but moreover with suspicion rather then concern. Taking off his glove, Roxas unzipped the top of his coat, reaching in his hand to rub the sore heart in his chest. Splotches of red dotted his vision as the sickness reluctantly left him, and it didn't help when Roxas saw the dark heap slowly shrink away into the gutter, as if it were alive. Aside from the stench of Darkness, it luckily didn't reek of rotting food. But let off an acidic smell of burning flesh, which was even more disgusting. Unfortunately, Roxas wasn't completely unfamiliar with his sudden breakouts.

Of the many secrets Roxas kept to himself, this was one of them. Most likely one of the more serious ones, unfortunately. And of course, he simply didn't have it in him to inform Namine about his predicament. Checking himself, he glanced down fearfully at his bare hand, then sighed in relief. Still whole and solid...for now, that is.

"Hey, man." A voice said, knocking on the brick wall to get his attention. "You alright in there?"

Roxas ignored him for a minute, trying to stare into the graffiti staining the walls.

Just as he sensed another inquiry of his well being, Roxas sighed irritably. "...yeah, I'm fine. Just felt a little sick."

"Yeah, we heard you." Another voice added.

Wiping off evidence of the crimson and black shaded substance from his mouth, he exited the scene as if none of it happened, regardless of the unsure faces looking at him. His hood was already tightened over his head, but his coat was still unzipped. Curious, Roxas glanced down, as if he would see his heart poking itself out of its place. Putting a hand over it, Roxas frowned as he felt it flutter pathetically, weakened significantly.

It was a paradox, actually. No matter how many times he was told his heart was not a true one, Roxas could not help but contemplate whether or not he was caught as an exception. Without even realizing it, the dark Keyblade, Oblivion had presented itself into Roxas' free hand, trying to comfort him somehow.

You will understand soon.

Roxas bit his lip. "You keep saying that...and whenever you do, I only end up with more questions with every new answer..."

Oblivion's blade glinted, its way of smirking, since it was hardly the type of Keyblade to offer a kind gesture of reassurance.

"Hey, I found him!" A large man said into a walkie-talkie, appearing almost from out of nowhere as he put his oversized hand on Roxas' shoulder. "You just gonna stand there or do we have to drag you out there? You're up!"

Hesitating, Roxas slouched as he followed the man back into the Struggle arena. Eyes on his feet, Roxas stared helplessly ahead, not at all realizing the match was seconds away from starting.

"What's up with you?" A familiar, and rather annoying, voice said. Roxas glanced up, but gritted his teeth as soon as he saw who it was.

"You again..."

"Nice to see you, too." Riku returned sarcastically.

Roxas snorted. " Hardly."

Both of them continued to stare each other down, both itching to begin as the countdown on the flickering scoreboard above them ticked away the seconds.

"Well, I hope you're half as good as him..." Riku taunted, leveling Soul Eater to his head as he brought back his foot.

Grinding his teeth, somehow knowing to whom Riku was referring to. "If you're trying to psyche me out, it's not gonna work."

"Oh, really?" Riku pressed, his smirk widening. "If the two of you are anything alike-"

"I'M NOTHING LIKE SORA!!!" Roxas screamed, lunging at Riku with murderous intensity. Riku held his breath in surprise, jumping out of the way as Oblivion cleaved through the air, leaving a dark aura in its wake. Shuffling back, Riku held back his provoking comments, fully focusing on parrying Roxas' strikes. But Riku was not fast enough to evade all of the enraged Keyblade Master Nobody's attacks, receiving several scrapes and cuts.

Hammering against Soul Eater, Riku slid back from the sheer force as Roxas continued to pound away, pure rage taking hold of him. Riku's leg suddenly gave away to one certain block, and he fell to one knee. Before Roxas could take the opening, Riku rolled away to the side. Hounding after him, Roxas leapt in the air, raising Oblivion over his head to cleave through Riku's skull.

Riku twisted around, gathering a desperate ball of dark flames and shooting it for Roxas, forcing the Keyblade Master Nobody to use his reserved slash against the ball of flame. Landing hard, Roxas brandished Oblivion into intimidating twirls from one hand to another. While it may have been wasting his energy, Roxas was in need of venting out his anger somehow. Charging for Riku while ducking over another dark Firaga coming his way, then leaping over another one, Roxas spun around, Oblivion over his head to gain momentum. Bringing it down hard with both hands, Riku sidestepped away from the Keyblade, but the sleeve of his coat snagged on Oblivion's thirsty tip, and was torn clean off.

The fabric fell, burning and withering away to Oblivion's black flames. Riku took note of the power of Oblivion's terrifying darkness, hoping that Soul Eater would just be able to stand against it will its own inadequate source of darkness for just awhile longer. King Mickey himself helped design the blade, but had warned Riku not to use Soul Eater too much, as the name of the sword had a reason for it. The King had an interesting formula, that the sword would be as strong as a wielder. And right now, Riku was seriously doubting that power.

Taking chances, Riku made to cut Roxas' wrist, but as expected, it was blocked. Not only that, but Roxas expertly slid Oblivion away to thrust for a counter attack. Holding in a gasp, Riku would have sighed in relief as he moved away, feeling only the tip of Oblivion's burning edges scraping his skin. Knocking away Oblivion, Riku jumped back, then backflipped again as the black Keyblade nearly sliced off his legs.

Stumbling from the acrobatic maneuver, Roxas broke into a run to catch up, then lifted himself into a flying kick. Riku could only turn around, just as Roxas' boot nailed Riku square in the chest. Sent flying back into the fence, the jeering audience whooped and hollered, demanding more ruthless fighting. Riku gritted his teeth as the wire fence prickled into his back, then gripped Soul Eater all the tighter.

Just as Roxas landed from his successful kick, he forced himself to fall limp, so that he would roll forward. Popping up again, Roxas thrust Oblivion, one arm supported his elbow as the black blade struck through the fence.

Riku narrowed his eyes, to hold back the surprise in them. Roxas had purposely missed, as the Oblivion was caressing side of Riku's neck with its razor cold edge. Roxas looked up, his fiery blue eyes sparkling in rage and excitement, then smirked at Riku.

Ripping Oblivion away, then letting go, Roxas leaned back quickly and reached his hands over his shoulders to catch him on the ground. Pushing himself up, Roxas backhanded into a temporary handstand to shove himself into the air. After landing briskly on his feet, he held out his hand as the obedient Oblivion Keyblade landed in his hand.

'Show off.'

Roxas seemed to have heard Riku's thought, looking back at his loosing opponent. Stepping back into typical battle stance, Roxas cocked his head, provoking Riku to try and fight him again.

Riku felt himself being pulled to his feet and forced into a run, as if Roxas had some sort of power over him. Both clashed weapons, their faces inches apart as they glared at each other.

"Why are you wasting your time here, anyway?" Riku asked.

"What kind of stupid question is that-"

Pushing away, the two panted for a moment, both holding up their guard. "Think about it. Only losers participate in these sort of events-"

"You're obviously not from around here." Roxas countered, lashing out Oblivion to Riku's vulnerable leg.

Riku snorted. "Oh, that's it, then..." He moved his targeted leg back, catching the oncoming Keyblade with Soul Eater. "Wow, man. I didn't think you'd be the type to sell yourself out-"

"I'm not a sellout!" Roxas snarled, slashing upward and letting Riku block his move. The two blades were now tangled amongst the other, Soul Eater being caught by Oblivion's thick chain. The two fighters circled one another like two angry wolves biting into each other's necks, both trying to free their weapons.

"But that's why you're here," Riku reasoned. "That has to be it. I mean, it's not like it's fun-"

"Fine! Whatever! So what!" Roxas admitted, putting his foot against Riku's stomach and kicking off, freeing both of them from the deadlock. "So what I'm selling myself out! It's not a big deal, Riku-"

Riku flinched slightly. 'I never told him my name...'

"Glad we're starting to agree with each other-" Riku faked a laugh to get rid of the pestering thought. Roxas growled as he spun around, throwing his legs into the air to try and kick Riku in the face.

"It's not for me, anyways!"

Riku raised an eyebrow after he ducked another swipe. "It's for that one girl, right?"

Roxas' face flushed, distracting him enough for Soul Eater to come too close, leaving his instincts to block it with only his arm. The blade bit hard into it, but didn't have enough force to cut through his bone and sever off his hand.

Blood dripped down quietly, spilling freely as Riku withdrew his weapon.

"Yeah..." Roxas said, his face still slightly red, not at all acknowledging the wound.

The two paused for a moment, Roxas slightly embarrassed for somewhat confiding into someone such as Riku. Riku, on the other hand, was now fighting the aftertaste of guilt.

"I don't have much time left with her," Roxas began, lowering his injured arm. "But I want to make what we have last for what its worth, that's why I have to win this tournament. I probably won't be around to..." Roxas stopped to breathe. "...but she deserves so much more. Someone better then me, someone who can give her a good life and actually be there for her while she lives it."

Riku's jaw tightened, absorbing what Roxas just stated. 'He really is like Sora...' Riku chuckled. 'Both are total saps.'

"Don't think I'm going to go easy on you know," Riku replied nonchalantly. "Saying stuff like that."

Roxas' smile widened. Maybe this guy wasn't so bad after all...

-.-.-.-.-.-.-(THoSe WiTHouT HeaRTS)-.-.-.-.-.-.-

"...alright, do you all understand the plan? Any questions?" Mulan finished, looking over her troops.

A rather short and stout, and flat out disturbingly looking woman raised her hand.

"Yes?" Kairi nodded her head towards her.

In a deep, gruff voice, she coughed. "Does this dress make me look fat?"

Mulan and Kairi stared for, Mulan's left ear twitching at the ridiculous comment, but Kairi politely laughed it off. "You look...stunning, Yao."

"Tee-hee!" He giggled, which sent uncomfortable shivers raking down their spines at the horrid noise.

"Okay, I'm going to check how Sora's doing-" Kairi said, turning to go to his dressing room. Just as her back was to them, everyone exchanged glances and smirked.

"Sora?" Kairi called out, pulling back a drape. "Are you-"

Her words stopped short in her mouth, crumbling meaninglessly back down her throat to leave way for the flooding, hot blush taking over her face. Wriggling out of the gown and straightening it out to try again, was a very exposed Keyblade Prince. Thank heavens managed to figure out how to put on the bottom skirt. Even it it was on backwards, as the obi so painfully showed. Waist up, was now completely bare, the dust floating around in the room making the light shining in all the more obvious at it hit Sora's uncovered skin.

Coughing aloud, and not simply from the dust, Kairi adverted her eyes elsewhere. Sora turned his head, relaxing at Kairi's presence, and simply went back to his work. Just two months ago, Sora would have ambushed an unannounced entree with a arm unceremoniously around their throat and a Keyblade readily placed at the back of their head.

"Hey," Kairi tried, which actually translated to an incoherent mumble after leaving her mouth. Clearing her throat again, she walked up behind him and began to straighten out the skirt.

"You're doing it all wrong," She said stiffly as the Princess of Heart regained some self control. "Just stand still and let me do it, okay?"

"Yes." Sora responded without question. Kairi sighed. Maybe now would be a good time for another lesson.

"Turn around-" The Keyblade Master obediently rotated, Kairi holding the skirt in place to it's proper position. Sora paused, almost hesitating, as they came face to face, but resumed turning until Kairi instructed him otherwise. Looking at the girl before him, he couldn't help be have a strange impulse to look at her and nothing else. Sora was taught to be aware of all his surroundings, but seeing her in her gown, he was more preoccupied with the jewelry that aligned with sparkle in her eyes. Or the make up meant to lighten her skin made her look all the more like a flawless, soft doll. He was suddenly reminded of what King Mickey would often say Queen Mickey. Sora scrounged to remember the phrase, deeming it appropriate to repeat it to Kairi.

"You look," Sora's muscles stiffened slightly. "Beautiful."

Kairi flushed, trying her best to distract herself by dressing him. But the thought only made it worse. Sora's cold lips deepened into a frown as he noticed no reaction from her after his comment. Did he not say it correctly? Working his thoughts to solve why he hadn't received any feedback, the two were left in an agonizing silence.

As Kairi was adding on the decorative jewelry and ribbons to make Sora's disguise more convincing, or to stray the eye away from his more masculine features, Sora's mind wandered. Perhaps because he didn't complete the steps that he had seen Mickey do before. After complimenting Minnie, he would usually approach her and-

Kairi had just finished looping the earrings over Sora's ears. Luckily the seamstress twins had already applied the make-up on Sora, sparing her the trouble. Just as she opened her mouth to tell Sora she was done, a sudden strength grabbed her shoulders. The unsure grip instantly made Kairi feel tense and a rise of panic shoot all throughout her body. Forcing the both of them to look at each other, Kairi found herself unable to look away from Sora's empty, cerulean eyes. Every time she found herself looking into them, an overwhelming sadness tempted to get the better of her.

If only. Every time, she would think those words. If only there was a way for her to make that loneliness vanish, if even for an instant. Sora deserved much better then what fate had denied him. Leaning closer to him, Kairi rethought the words, if only I could...

Sora shifted, his weight feeling dead as the two were so incredibly close. The air felt thick and sweltering, though it was really frigid and dusty. An impulse nagged his judgments to simply take in all of the warmth would Kairi constantly shed. Though his lessons in mannerisms contradicted the notion completely, Sora would have easily throw them aside if it meant another chance for him to experience the Princess of Heart's benevolent touch.

The Keyblade Prince's chilled breath clashed with Kairi's own hot breath, just barely before their mouths were about to connect. Her eyelid that had lazily closed from the moment fluttered open at the realization of their position. Fright, confusion and nameless other emotions gripped her insides, all screaming the same thing.

This isn't right.

With that, Kairi backed away, her arms shoving Sora's shoulders away to widen the distance between them. Sora was not suspecting Kairi's sudden rejecting move, and was caught completely off guard. As soon as the presence of Kairi was ripped away from him, Sora felt a thundering throb inside his chest, searing a new and foreign pain unlike any other he had ever experienced. The shock of the inward blow was too much, even for the so-called invincible Keyblade Prince.

Shaking all over, his hands clamped over his chest, nails digging into the fine cloth of the gown he was wearing, trying to find the source of the pain and stop it. Even more, Sora's eyes were blurring faster with numbing cold tears.

As Sora's crumbling composure played out before Kairi, she instantly regretted her actions, even if it was meant to spare the two of them from...well, something Kairi definitely was not experienced in. Let alone ready for.

"Sora?" Kairi finally managed to forge together her voice. "Are you-"

Shaking his head, Kairi caught glimpse of his hardening eyes, darker and more desolate then she had seen even when she had first met him. Trying to approach him, Sora backed away like a frightened animal.

"Sora, I'm sorry-" Kairi pleaded, holding out her hands to him. "I was just a little startled that-"

Before she could attempt to explain her reasonings, Ling stumbled in with Yao. "Hey, you two all prettified yet? We gotta go! The gates to the Imperial Palace are gonna close for the night soon-"

"Coming." Sora said, forcing himself together and callously brushing by Kairi. Frozen in spot, Kairi stared, unable to speak.

"Hey!" Ling tugged on her sleeve. "We gotta get moving! Let's go!"

Swallowing, Kairi shut her eyes, closing off her emotions as well. She never realized until now how fragile both Sora and her really were. Sora, especially.

"...yeah. Okay, I'm ready."