Hey, everyone! :D
So much has happened since I posted last, haha! If you're looking for good summer reading, I would recommend the Inheritance Cycle or the Mortal Instruments trilogy... that's what I've been doing all summer. :D I also received my first flame ever, on Somebodies... I can see why everyone hates them now. It really wasn't a nice feeling, but mainly because it was a dig on an OC. If you're reading this and are going to flame me, at least be brave enough to sign in and leave your name.
As always, enormous, hippo-sized thank yous to all who have continued to read and review, even though I'm such a bad author when it comes to posting regularly. You are too good to me. Shout out to samuraistar, who returned to ffnet recently also. :D
I have said this so many times, but really, this is the biggest chapter I have ever posted, EVER. Over 7,000 words. Hope you're comfortable where you are! :D Because I've been working hard on this for QUITE some time, haha. More keyblade descriptions in here--Riku and Sora's this time. :D Enjoy!
A ball of white light sat gently in Korin's palm, Ran's rigid, expressionless face visible within it. "Shall I wait here, then?" Korin asked softly.
"Yes. I'll soon be joining you." Ran chuckled softly. "I'll bring our best with me."
Korin stared blankly into the light of the ball, gaze drifting out of focus as she strategized in her head. Bringing their best from the places they were guarding in Hollow Bastion could mean that more than half of the world would fall today, assuming the Queen's fighters were on the offensive. The number of places the Adherence had held for over ten years that would be taken made Korin seriously concerned. "I apologize for my stupidity, but if you don't mind my questioning, why should we remove the best from the places they guard?"
The corners of Ran's mouth curled upward. "Korin, you're not thinking ahead. Who cares if those places become overrun? The final battle is not taking place here in Hollow Bastion. Once Yuri and her fighters are dead, claiming our positions again will be easier than it was years ago."
But what if Yuri… if Riku… if Naminé do not fall? Korin thought. They had been outwitted by their enemies many times before. Not wanting to draw attention to the many times she had failed and their opponents had prevailed combined with not wanting to question Ran again kept her silent. Clearly, Ran had thought things through and was doing what she knew was best. She had kept the Adherence afloat for so very long that Korin had no reason to distrust her logic now.
"Either way, I've done what you ordered," Korin said, shaking doubts from her mind. The queen and her fighters would fall, and she would be the one to strike them down. "How long until they realize what I've done, do you think?"
Ran pondered the question for a moment, running her thumb across the tips of the long, sharp fingernails on her right hand. "It's difficult to say. Yuri would find it difficult to watch us in her condition, as well as with her magic. She relies heavily on Hollow Bastion, and I do not think that the magic she can draw upon directly in that world is any good where you are."
"Yes, we can only pray it is not," Korin added. "At any rate, we'll have plenty of time to get ourselves set up here before they arrive." She hesitated, knowing her next suggestion would probably not be well received. "I also think you should check the hiding places of your… valuables… before coming here."
As if the reaction was automatic, Ran's hand darted for the small but bright red spherical pendant of her necklace. An eerie glow always surrounded the pendant, and if Korin simply concentrated, the pulsing magic of Hollow Bastion was easy to feel within it.
"There's no way they could know about that." Her face was stone; unmoving, expressionless, and without the smallest glimmer of normal human warmth. "But as you probably know, I have already taken care of the matter and ordered some of our strongest to remove them from their hiding places and carry them. It's none of your concern."
Korin hesitated again. "But Ran, Hana—"
"Worry not about that betrayer. I have taken measures to ensure that information is not revealed."
"By now, she will have spilled every secret out to Riku—"
"I said worry not!" she snapped harshly. "It is not your concern."
Hiding something. Ran was hiding something from her! From the tone in her voice, Korin knew it was something big—very big, perhaps a fathomless secret of their organization. No matter how big the secret seemed, no matter how much the curiosity burned within her, Korin could not press the matter unless she wished to end up like Hana. With a great heave, she pushed all of her doubts from her mind and refocused on her task.
"As you wish," she replied to Ran. "I shall await your arrival."
Right now, doubting anything was not an option. She had to be stronger than ever before. Without iron determination and the best fight of her life, Naminé would never fall, and Korin's first priority—even before her allegiance to Ran—was taking Naminé's life. She sat on the carpet, folded her legs, and slipped into a meditative state. Naminé will die today, she chanted to herself.
In Port Pine, the docks were already awake, busy with bustling fisherman, hurrying back to their booths in the marketplace with the morning catch. The hollow clunk of hard soled shoes against wood echoed as the churning, murky water chanced a brief but audible slosh here and there. Small fishing boats were tied up to the large posts on the docks, filled with fishing nets and supplies. As the sun rose, the sky was stained a cherry red, gray wisps of clouds swirling throughout.
"Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning," Riku recited the old saying irrelevantly. Hana rolled her eyes, but didn't comment.
"You know what I've noticed?" Riku began thoughtfully. Hana braced herself for what was probably just a remark to avoid the uncomfortable silence that had descended upon them since their last skirmish in the town. "In every story you'll ever hear, sea-faring men have peg legs. I've been to this town loads of times, and never once have I seen a man with a peg leg. Where do these crazy myths come from?"
Really? Momentarily, Hana was almost embarrassed for him, but quickly decided she'd rather just smack him one. Why was it that when it came to serious matters, he could never keep the unrelated personal matters out of it? Their task right now was finding the remaining spheres, not avoiding awkward silences brought on by unrequited feelings. "Riku, I honestly think that it's okay if it's silent. You don't have to talk."
He smirked. "Maybe I just like to hear my own voice."
"Can't say that would shock me."
He inhaled sharply. In faux anguish, he said, "You think I'm selfish!"
"I never said that." In spite of herself, she allowed the corners of her mouth to turn upward. Teasing Riku was fun before he left, and she was glad to find that it still was.
Riku crossed his arms. "You didn't have to say anything, and you still said it! I can hear the undertones of what you're saying. Wanna know what I'm hearing? Total jealousy, that's what."
With a momentary scowl, Hana snapped back, "Jealousy over what?"
Riku sighed resignedly. "Hana, Hana, Hana… my good looks and charming personality are the envy of everyone," he explained slowly, as though she were a child in the first steps of learning something as basic as the alphabet.
"Keep at it, and you'll charm the vomit right out of my stomach," Hana said sweetly.
"Relax!" Riku shrugged off-handedly. "Only joking."
"I wasn't! Seriously, every moment doesn't have to be filled with conversation. In fact, if you're going to talk about peg legs, I'd rather you not talk at all. They creep me out," she said.
Riku peered sideways at her innocently. "Who said I was going to talk about peg legs?"
"You did, not twenty seconds ago!"
"Yeah, well, I wasn't really talking about them, was I? I was just registering my astonishment that I have never seen a man with one, when traditionally, if you have a boat and a parrot, you know… you have one. There are plenty of men around here with both boats and a bird of some kind, but the peg legs are only conspicuous in their absence." He smiled a perfect, angelic smile.
"You. Are. Impossible," she growled through gritted teeth.
He shrugged his shoulders. "Just trying to make a logical observation."
"Failing," she informed him nastily.
"So you've seen a man with a peg leg, then? When?"
"No, really, I'd like to know if you have—"
A huge flare of magic that could only be a sphere stopped Hana completely dead in her verbal tracks. She noticed Riku stiffen up a bit and assumed that he could feel it as well. He let the ridiculous subject die as they tried to move slowly without moving slowly enough to be suspicious. Silently, each was focused so intensely on the source of power that neither found it prudent to blink for fear of breaking their concentration. The tricky thing about sensing magic was that it could be close up and weaker, or further away and stronger, and it might feel like it was in the same location. As such, actually locating flares of magic was on occasion very difficult, but letting a sphere slip away was absolutely out of the question.
"It's moving," Riku muttered. "Someone is carrying it."
"I know," Hana replied sharply. She wasn't stupid, after all—she had the same skills in sensing the magic as Riku did. "But who? There's nobody around here but fishermen."
Riku bit his lip as they continued along the main dock, eyes snapping from fisherman to fisherman. "I'm more concerned with why it's being moved than who is moving it…"
Hana nodded once, immediately agreeing. From her very fuzzy, mostly unattainable memories of her time with the Adherence, she felt purely based on instinct and what she knew of Ran's character that the leader would not ever suggest moving the spheres, since, if Hana's memory served, Ran had hand-chosen the hiding places. Not only that, but Hana was inclined to assume, since she could not produce a reliable memory to indicate otherwise, that Ran had personally performed any spells protecting the spheres. Some were, of course, more important than others—at least, Hana thought. The important ones were more powerful and stole more magic than the others, and as such, warranted stronger protection. At least, that's what made sense to Hana. Most of this train of thought, however, was pure speculation based on memories which had been erased from her consciousness and gut feelings. "Perhaps we've been discovered, and they're running from us," she murmured to Riku.
"I don't think that's a possibility."
A bit peeved, Hana hissed snappishly, "What makes you dismiss it so quickly, then? For all you know, they could be just a bit further along up here!"
Riku turned to her, and gave her a dark look. "I doubt that any of them would do anything to provoke a confrontation with us after the way we decimated their army. If they knew we were here, they would not come anywhere near us, including taking the time and energy to run from us. They'd hide. That's it."
"You think they're afraid of you."
"That, and they probably don't want to fight you."
"You clearly don't understand how this whole 'evil' thing works, do you?"
Riku stared at her blankly for a moment, and then turned his head to face forward again and resumed scanning through every man in the vicinity. "What I mean by that is, you don't get that they won't care, even if you killed everyone they knew. They don't get scared; they get even. Case-in-point: Korin. As for me… well, I doubt they'll care about that, either. If I'm not with them, I'm against them," Hana said.
For a moment, Riku was silent. His ravenous search for an enemy disguised as a fisherman came to a screeching halt. Slowly, his gaze dropped to the ground, and he could do nothing but watch his feet pass over the aged planks of wood. At last, he said, "That… it's just horrible. Even if Naminé ran off to join up with them tomorrow, I'd never be able to kill her… I can't imagine how any of them could lay a finger against you."
"Assuming I am remembering correctly, the relationships among all of the members are more relationships of convenience than actual friendship. Why do you think Korin doesn't care that I'm gone? She never really cared, that's why." Hana looked so downtrodden that it reminded Riku of a child who had dropped their ice cream cone on the ground.
"Yuri is endlessly thankful for what you did, you know."
"I know, she told me as much."
"So am I."
If it was possible, she looked even more depressed. The emotion permeated every part of her facial expression. Her eyebrows were set stiffly above her eyes, which were focused on the ground; her mouth was a gentle but very serious frown. Her feelings weighed a crushing amount, and her facial expression betrayed just how much. Two lines framed either side of her frown, sadness etched deeper beneath the shallow marks. After a long moment, she mustered the strength to reply at barely a whisper, "I know that, too."
"We don't have to talk about that," Riku quickly muttered, aghast at his own complete and utter lack of sensitivity. Obviously she can't expect me to be unhappy that Yuri survived, Riku thought, but I really shouldn't have come out, guns blazing, wearing my feelings on my sleeve like that. She knows I don't care for her in that way… no need for me to keep rubbing salt in the wide open wound. It's official… Naminé was right. I am stupid.
Just as quickly as she became upset, the emotion on her face faded as she forced it back inside. Riku wasn't sure where she kept all of it—she was pretty small, after all… but Hana always had a big heart, and he assumed that was one thing about her that never changed. Being part of the Adherence had probably trained her very well to keep her emotions hidden.
"It's okay," she assured him. With enormous effort, she tried for a small smile but missed and ended up with a bit of a wince. "Where is this sphere?" There was no feeling in what she said—she had merely brought up the sphere to direct the conversation away from Yuri, and Riku let her, though the shame of being so stupid lingered, tingeing his cheeks with a pink sheen and leaving his face hot with embarrassment.
"Not sure." He continued to scan their surroundings while they kept moving at a slow pace until they could get a better idea of where the sphere carrier was.
Many feet behind them, a sailor sporting heavy rubber boots clunked along, though to Riku's dismay, he did not have a peg leg. His heavy-looking tan parka didn't seem quite fitting of a sailor and didn't match his dark, battered leather hat. He jingled quite loudly—Riku could even hear it—as though all of the pockets on his jacket were full of loose change. He was hugging his large coat around his body and keeping his head down as if he hoped not to be noticed.
"I feel like the sphere is right on top of us, but I still can't seem to pinpoint it," Hana grumbled, clearly frustrated.
Riku turned his head quickly to steal another glance at the odd sailor, and barely had time to react to what he saw. In a sweep of his muscular arm, invisible bells announced the arrival of his black and red blade. It was darker looking than anyone else's; the opposite of Sora's intricate blue and white keyblade. The blade itself was a black wing, spindly and bat-like, with wine red pieces filling in the spaces between the long, thin dividers; just like the skin between the finger-like bones in a real bat's wing. At the tip, a single dark gray angel's wing hung off to the side. Unfortunately, the presence of that wing and another wing found as half of the circular piece around the blade's handle didn't redeem the dark quality about it. Sora's giant white and blue blade, intricate crisscrossing spilling from the tip down the hilt, looked like the weapon of an angel compared to Riku's.
His muscles strained as the sailor met his keyblade with a large, silver spear. With the appearance of his keyblade, his disguise blasted off of him, leaving his distinctive long hair shining in the morning sunlight. Hana's disguise was gone as well as she drew her katana. The sailor had thrown off his parka and hat to reveal a mop of bleached blond hair, which only meant one thing. The jingling that Riku had originally believed to be loose change was actually his belt full of weapons. Knives and daggers of all shapes and sizes hung (sheathed and unsheathed) all the way around the belt. Chains with thin links that Riku assumed to have some sort of magical property were hung from each of his hips. All in all, this guy was ready for combat—specifically, ready to turn someone into a human pincushion, and then chain them to something, possibly forever, once all was said and done.
Several more blond males descended upon them, each disguised as a fisherman. Riku and Hana stood back-to-back, completely surrounded. A familiar red light began to glow on the hilt of Riku's keyblade, the land lending its unyielding support to him.
Moving so quickly that it looked like he only made one swift, fluid body movement, Riku grabbed at Hana's waist, holding her securely in his left arm while with a graceful heave, his keyblade soared through the air in a frantic and dangerous spin, easily slicing the necks of two dumbstruck Adherence members as it passed. The two enemies that fell left an open space in the circle of enemies, and before anybody could react, Riku ran for it, all the while toting Hana as though she were lighter than a grocery bag. His keyblade flew like a boomerang; he plucked it easily from the air as it soared back toward his head, audibly slicing into the wind as it spun.
"Put me down," Hana complained. "We can't run forever, so you might as well—"
"Just saved your life," Riku snapped anxiously, glancing over his shoulder to see how closely they were following. "You might act a bit more grateful."
"So what's your plan?" Hana asked, panicked. She could see the blond enemies chasing them, and they were much closer than she expected. Riku was such a fast runner that she was amazed the dock didn't collapse with the extra strength the magic was giving him. His feet slammed repeatedly against the wood, making earsplitting cracking noises with each step. Behind them, however, as the Adherence men pounded over the same boards, the wood seemed to be intact.
"Well," Riku said evenly, "I was thinking, get them away from the Port and the town as much as we can. We'll likely pull them all out of the town, so if we call someone who can teleport, they can come back and secure it while we get rid of these guys."
Feeling nauseous from behind held parallel to the ground and moving at such a high speed, Hana mustered a grunt of ascent, but that was all she could do. How could Riku not even be tired? Sure, he was sweating—that much she could see—but he wasn't anywhere near the point of even breathing harder than normal. She took a long moment to collect herself, and managed to choke out a short question: "How can you run like this?"
Hana rolled her eyes. Of course.
"How long can you go for?"
Riku hesitated, though Hana could see his smug smirk. "I actually don't know. Possibly indefinitely?"
"Oh come ON!" Hana said in disbelief. Why did everything about Riku have to be so incredibleand interesting? He was an impossible sort of being. Obviously not normal, but not so far from normal that he didn't seem human. His hair was without a doubt otherworldly—come on, who actually had hair like that—and the things he could do with a keyblade and a little bit of magic were completely astounding. But beyond all of that, he was more or less a normal guy with normal feelings and an exceptionally unique personality. What was it about him that made him seem so incredible to Hana?
"Impressed?" Riku asked teasingly. "I didn't want to tell you; I knew you'd react this way."
"It's just not fair, the things you can do. I wonder how we've even lasted against you guys."
"They've stolen magic, that's how," Riku said simply. Hana noticed his use of the word 'they' while she had stuck with 'we', thereby still including herself with the Adherence. Riku's reminder that she was on his side now struck a powerful chord in her, and for a moment, she was completely content. For that moment, she didn't feel like the charity case that was booted out of the organization she had been with for a large chunk of her life, and taken in by the pitying good guys. She felt like she belonged with the good guys; like they wanted her there. She didn't speak, just clung to Riku's shirt as he carried her along, still running faster than she could fathom.
The room was silent. Roxas and Naminé wore nearly identical gaping expressions; conversely, Yuri looked like she was about to collapse into a sobbing heap. As if they needed more terrible things to happen. Slowly, very slowly, Yuri managed to unclamp her hands, stiff in fists, and cover her mouth.
"Nobody ask me if I'm sure," Sora added quietly. "I just know. She killed people. A lot of people," he paused, eyes narrowing, "by our standards, anyway."
"Someone has to go to Earth," Kairi murmured sadly. If Korin was there, it was the last place any of them wanted to be.
Another long silence swallowed the room. Even Naminé had no idea what to say, or to do. There were simply too many questions. Could they even find Earth to get back to it? The thought had not crossed Naminé's mind once since arriving in Hollow Bastion. Even if they managed to find it, would any of their magic work there, or would they revert to the normal humans they were before returning to Hollow Bastion? There was no way to know.
"No," Yuri said very suddenly, looking straight at Naminé. "Naminé's right. There are too many questions." Naminé blushed a little when she realized she had been sorting everything out internally on their magic network.
"Sorry," she muttered. "We'd better not get in the habit of just… never speaking out loud." Yuffie pouted a bit in agreement.
"It's fine," Yuri shrugged. "But you're right. We can't just go charging back without knowing whether we'll even be able to come back here, or whether going there will even make a difference. We can't leave everyone here now."
Sora piped up, "Obviously, I agree with that, but how are we going to find out?"
Thick silence descended again. Sora and Yuffie sat down on the bed next to Roxas and Naminé, but Yuri moved over to the balcony and began to pace in the doorway. Kairi sat in an armchair, knees curled to her stomach tightly. "There are a lot of ways we can go about this," Yuri said. "Akiko may know something about it. She figured out how to make herself immortal… I think anything she tells us will be helpful. Aerith knows plenty about containment fields—if we fight on Earth, we'll definitely need one of those."
"If we can fight on Earth." Naminé's tone was grim.
"You're all forgetting something," Kairi said. "I know memories of before we came back are getting a little foggy, but Aerith and Leon came to Earth, and used magic there to boot. If they can, why not us?"
"That's different." Yuffie bit her lip, deep in thought. "Technically, you guys originated from Earth. You were reborn, physically at least." Sora was staring oddly at Yuffie, as though he were surprised that she had something to add. "What? I paid attention when they were talking before they came to get you guys!"
Kairi and Yuri shared a long, uncertain look. "We cannot gamble," Roxas said firmly, glancing quickly at Naminé.
"It would be a really good idea to check with Kyo," Yuri said. "He knows a lot of history. Between Aerith and Akiko, I think we can answer the magic question…"
"But regardless, we can't go without all of the spheres," Naminé reminded her. "They can't be planning to just leave Korin there by herself. They planned for us to find out eventually—there must be others joining her. For that matter, Korin was probably sent there to lure us away from here… perhaps so that we wouldn't discover the spheres."
"If Hana told the truth, there's no way Ran would know we had found out about the spheres unless one broke," Roxas added.
Riku's voice in their minds burst the fragile atmosphere of careful reasoning the room had acquired.
Shit, shit, shit, SHIT! You guys will never guess what just happened… We're done. Absolutely done.
Riku and Hana were far ahead of their pursuers, but were still within their sight. The point was to lure them away, not to escape. They had taken a moment to readjust, so Hana was in the piggy-back position—a bit more comfortable for both of them. "I think we're far enough out," Riku commented loudly over the rushing wind around them. They were in the middle of a farmer's field on the outskirts of the town. The farmhouse clung to the horizon in the distance, but it was far enough away that it would probably not be threatened by a fight.
"Think you might be right," Hana agreed. "How do we engage them?"
"We hide." Riku sounded absolutely thrilled at the prospect. Hana rolled her eyes again—he would never truly grow up.
Without warning, Riku flung himself into the tall stalks of corn. Hana tumbled from her position, doing a full flip before landing on her back in the soft, black dirt. "You are so rude," she muttered acidly.
"Now that was fun," Riku snickered under his breath. "C'mon, we're crawling this way. That way, they'll have no clue where we are and we can get some of them with magic."
They crawled far from where they had dropped to the ground. Before long, they could hear the footsteps of their pursuers closing in on them. "Where are they?" one of the men growled. "They dropped just over there… where'd they go?"
"They didn't teleport," another informed the rest. "We would know if they had."
Riku charged a spell in his hand; Hana followed suit. Aiming very carefully, they launched the balls of magic, and two blond males fell at the back of the group. "What—over there!" One pointed in the direction the magic had come. There were only five left, which was more than manageable, even for Riku alone.
They sprang up from their hiding place among the corn. Drawing their weapons, they charged toward the men, Riku keeping pace with Hana instead of using the insane speed he had shown earlier. Once they caught sight of Hana, they rushed eagerly to meet them, a hunger in their expressions that Riku had never seen in the face of an Adherence member before.
"Kill the traitor!" one of them screeched. "Boss has offered a reward for the traitor's body!"
Riku understood, then. Even though Hana was not a threat to the secrets of their organization, Ran would still not let her live based purely on her own dignity and reputation. Nobody would get away from her and live to tell about it. He grasped his keyblade tighter. Despite all the conflicting (and very confusing) emotions she had instigated, he still did not like the idea of someone targeting her or trying to kill her. I'll watch her carefully, he resolved. Yuri almost died yesterday. Nobody else needs a knife in them.
With a great heave, he met the blades of three of the men, shoving them back with great effort. Through the tip of his keyblade, he shot a spell through one, leaving a bloody wound in his stomach. The other two looked almost frightened, and hesitated momentarily before attacking Riku again. Clearly, Ran had insisted that retreating against any of them was not an option and would result in a horrible punishment. For a moment, Riku felt a pang of sympathy for the members of the Adherence. It was very likely some of them were trapped in the organization against their wills. He vaguely wondered whether he had killed any of those sorts of people. Remorse consumed him internally, but with a bitter mental shove, he pushed the emotion away. It was not the time to be considering the circumstances under which many of his victims had died.
He flicked his wrist, slicing through the metal of their blades with his own. Behind him, he heard a slash and the very unpleasant noise of a man dying at Hana's hand. Even with a quick glance, he could see that it had taken a very deep blow for her to kill him, and her hands were covered in gore. The men he was fighting regenerated their swords, and Riku went to it again, parrying blows left and right. When he saw an opening, he went for it—right through the man's throat—and another fell. The last man's expression was that of pure terror. With a sweeping glance, Riku knew instantly that the man was no match for him, and the fight was over.
Hana wailed. Riku made fast work of the last man and whirled around. A long gash on Hana's forearm bled, fresh scarlet running down her arm to meet the pink stain already on her hands. It was the man with the spear that had jumped them on the docks. Riku could sense his magic, and it was enormous, a white hot light against the dull, empty land surrounding them. Riku was shocked Hana had not noticed how powerful this one was compared the others—why didn't she go for the weaker ones and leave this one to him? He ran to join her, shoving her gently out of the way as he blocked a blow with his keyblade. She landed on the ground, and held her arm tightly against her stomach in an attempt to stop the bleeding, staining her clothes in the process. Healing spells were tricky, and Hana wasn't confident enough in her ability to heal such a large wound.
Riku struggled against the lone challenger, exchanging extremely fast strokes with their oddly matched weapons, each fighter blocking and returning expertly. The man tried a simple spell to catch Riku off-guard, but he was too quick with his magic shield—Naminé had taught him so very well. With the enormous magic that hovered around him, Riku knew he was capable of much, much more, and was careful not to let his guard down, even when Hana whimpered quietly from the sideline.
After several minutes of non-stop, ferocious fighting, Riku at last had a breakthrough, slicing through the man's spear at last and wounding him in the stomach. Surprisingly, the man did not move to heal himself, but fell into the dirt, holding the wound tightly. Riku moved quickly, hovering over the man with the blade at his neck. "Before I kill you, tell me everything you know." He jabbed the tip of the blade a bit closer to the man's throat for emphasis.
With a sick smile, a maniacal smile, the man dug into his pocket. Riku immediately knew what the burning magic around him had been, and acted right away, grabbing at the man's hand before he could do what Riku was afraid he might—
Clutched in the man's hand was a glowing orange sphere, a bit larger than the one he and Hana found in the cavern. The light was brighter, too, the magic greater. An electric blue light from the man's palm surrounded the sphere, burning Riku's hand as he tried to wrestle it away from him. With a surge of power, the glass cracked—and shattered.
A string of colorful curses flew through Riku's mind as rage built in his chest, a harsh pressure that he could not contain. The man died laughing, pleased that he had managed to ruin the enemy's chances at a surprise victory. With a furious scream, Riku flung his keyblade as far as he could, though it wasn't a strategic, measured throw like on the docks. It flew end over end and disappeared, leaving glittering magic behind. He spun to tend to Hana, and put his thoughts into his internal magic network. Shit, shit, shit, SHIT! You guys will never guess what just happened… We're done. Absolutely done.
In the castle, Yuri cursed right along with Riku as he explained the situation. A sphere had been broken—not by any of them, of course, but by one of the members of the Adherence in a stroke of genius. It was lucky none of the others had thought of it before that man. Sure, it took magic from their leader and peers, but it also alerted her to what was happening. He would be honored like a hero for what he had done.
"What now?" Yuri asked, voice cracking under the new strain of the situation. "She knows what we're doing. What now?"
I don't know, Riku responded rigidly, still very obviously furious, but Hana's hurt. We're coming back… I have a feeling the shit's about to hit the fan.
"We're already there," Yuri muttered, clasping her hands together to prevent herself from grabbing something nearby and destroying it like she wanted to.
"You know what is just so polite of you guys?" Yuffie began sarcastically. "When you talk, but I can't hear half of the conversation! Seriously, what is going on?"
Sora murmured Riku's story to her while Yuri continued, "Sora's finally been given his extra power… it seems he can pinpoint specific spells, who is using them, and where they are."
"So," Yuri pressed, "Sora felt someone casting very bad magic in a very bad place."
Really, not in the mood.
"Korin. Killing spells. Earth. Seriously, Riku, you're so smart… you could have figured that out easily."
Seriously? Damn, this is even more serious than I thought!
"You're telling me. Just get back here, Yuffie's getting angry that she can't hear your half of the conversation, though Sora's muttering the whole thing to her under his breath."
In a matter of seconds, Riku appeared in the room, cradling an injured Hana in his arms. He set her gently on the bed. Almost reading his mind, Naminé lobbed a walkie-talkie across the room into his waiting hand. It seemed that at some point that morning, their walkie had fallen off of Hana's belt where it was clipped. "Axel, Akiko… sorry to bother you again, but when you get a minute, could you quick check out Port Pine? I think we pulled out all of the Adherence, you'll just need to secure it. Then, could you come back to the castle?"
"Roger," Axel replied immediately, sounding positively gleeful. At least one person was having fun with the situation.
Riku tossed the walkie back to Naminé while Yuri descended upon Hana. With a quick healing spell, the wound closed and the bleeding stopped.
"Thank you," Hana said gratefully.
"You've done so much for us, it's the absolute least I could do."
Hana flushed, embarrassed. "I'm sorry that he broke the sphere… there really wasn't anything we could do."
"I tried," Riku said bitterly, holding up his burned palm. Yuri took his hand in hers, and carefully set her fingers over the injury as she healed it. Hana thought her fingers lingered a bit after the spell was finished, and tried to ignore the feelings of jealousy and resentment that were parasitic in her brain, trying to consume her reason.
"I think I have a plan," Yuri said, at last releasing Riku's hand. "Riku and I will talk to Kyo about the historical aspect of everything here. Naminé, you will talk to Aerith, because if we use a containment field, I trust you to cast it more than myself. She'll need to teach you. When Axel and Akiko arrive, Kairi, I want you to help them get cleaned up and find something to eat. Then, we'll reconvene, gather up the spheres that we have, and talk about how to get to Earth and who will go."
"Good," Naminé said. "Come on, Roxas, let's go radio Aerith and wait for her in headquarters."
They linked arms and disappeared. "Yuri, I think Yuffie and I will go grab some food, if that's okay."
She smiled. "Of course. You've worked very hard."
"Hurrah!" Yuffie punched her fist into the air. "I am SO hungry!" She grabbed for Sora's wrist, and dragged him from the room while everyone chuckled. How Yuffie.
"I'll stay here and watch Cloud and Tifa," Kairi said, walking back out onto the balcony as magic gathered in her eyes.
"Perfect! Everyone's occupied," Yuri said, pleased. "Let's go." She linked her arm through Riku's and in less than a second, they reappeared in the library.
Riku immediately turned to her, absolutely choking with happiness that she was okay. He had been so nervous to see her again—the last time they spoke, they had fought. It felt like it was weeks ago, though truly it could not have been more than hours.
She was close enough to touch, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. So much had happened since the last time he had seen her, it was unbelievable. "I'm so sorry." She slowly took his hands in hers, guiding them to her face. With closed eyes, she placed them at her temples, half buried in her long, blonde hair, and held them there with her own pressed over his. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you."
"It's fine," he replied lamely. He was so surprised that he was touching her that the words didn't want to come. She still didn't know about the Hana escapade…
"You were just saying such nice things… and I threw it in your face…"
"It's okay," he insisted, half-smiling down at her. "I'm just glad you're feeling better…"
"I'm so happy you're alive. I worry about you."
"We're both here now…" he let his voice trail off, finally meeting her gaze. He was afraid just one look would leave him spilling the whole story of what had happened in the cavern, but the effect was actually calming. Her hands fell back to her sides, but Riku's stayed put at the sides of her face.
She was a bit closer, almost leaning against him. "I'm happy about that."
"You've grown up since we got here, you know," Riku commented, a note of teasing in his voice.
She smirked. "That may be true, but really, I'm just like you."
He raised an eyebrow, but couldn't stop smiling. "Oh?"
"You like life with a little danger, I think. You act all grown up on the outside, but like to do dangerous things and act like a kid, just like me."
"What have you done lately, besides engaging in a war, that was dangerous?" Riku couldn't resist chuckling. The thought of her doing anything like the things he did was nothing short of absurd.
"Well, you know how we're standing right now?"
Riku bobbed his head in a minute nod, not wanting to disrupt the moment. He was suddenly afraid that she was going to pull away. He wasn't quite ready to let go.
"This is dangerous," she said quietly. "If someone important saw us, I'd be in an unbelievable amount of trouble."
"Oh really." His tone was teasing.
"Technically, I'm supposed to be in mourning for my husband, who you killed," she said, sounding a bit disgusted with the idea.
"Well, luckily, neither of us is afraid of a little danger, then," Riku said, smiling widely.
Riku started to bend towards her, his heart hammering so violently he was sure she could hear it. He stopped inches from her face and closed his eyes, a smile so bitter it was almost a grimace across his mouth. "Kyo is coming. I can hear his thoughts."
She sighed. "Damn."
Screw it, Riku thought, and kissed her swiftly anyway before letting go of her face and stepping back a few strides. Kyo rounded the corner, and was right behind Riku.
"Your Majesty, Riku!" he said in surprise. "I thought I heard your voices. How wonderful it is to see you!"
"Indeed," Yuri replied politely, face the color of a ripe strawberry. Her voice sounded a bit distant, as though maybe she was not particularly pleased that Kyo had chosen that moment to appear.
No more than a few minutes later, Kyo had seated Yuri and Riku at a large wooden table. A maid appeared with coffee for them, which Riku drank gratefully. He could hear Yuri snickering under her breath as he gulped it down. "Thirsty?" she teased.
"You can't even imagine."
Kyo laughed. "You guys are the same as ever. What is it that you needed to speak with me about?"
"We need to go to Earth," Riku told him. "Someone's been killing there."
"Ah, I see the problem," he said with a nod. "You're unsure what will happen if you return to Earth, since that was where you originated."
"Right," Yuri affirmed. "We obviously don't want to go into this situation blindly and end up stuck back on Earth, or get there and realize our magic is no good."
Kyo tapped his chin. "I don't foresee any sort of problem like that. To go back to Earth permanently and be normal again, Naminé would have to invent another spell. Your powers should be fully functional when you get there, but summoning Hollow Bastion as you do may be a touch more difficult, your grace. At least, with any king or queen who chanced a trip to Earth in the past, that is how it was."
"I'm not sure about that," Riku said. "The land even reached out to help me today on its own. I think it might sense that we are close to victory… I think it might be feeling restless."
Kyo froze completely at the word 'restless'. "Are you… quite sure?"
"It's a difficult thing to mistake."
"That it is," he agreed uncomfortably. "Riku, might I have a word alone with her majesty? I assure you, it won't take long."
"Of course," he said, standing. I'll be in the kitchen, he added for Yuri.
She watched him go, the constant knot of worry in her stomach wrenching uncomfortably, as though Kyo had even more bad news. Once Riku was gone, Yuri said, "What is it, Kyo?"
"I'm afraid there's a legend about our land… You must understand, I did not realize the situation was what it is… there is a legend which refers to just this sort of situation that I must tell you. Your safety depends on it."
Favorite part of Sincerely, Nobody: Riku talking about peg legs. XD Hahaha. I really, really enjoyed writing that portion. Anyway, what did you think? :D Leave me reviews!