"You cannot acquire experience by making experiments. You cannot create experience. You must undergo it."

--Albert Camus

Harvest A New Day

South Clock Town

12:56 P.M.

Preparations were running late for the Festival of Time. The festival celebrated the four guardian spirits that protected the four areas around Clock Town. The regions were in the four compass directions, each special and important to the ways of the world. Delicate, and each recovering from evil plagues that taxed the peoples living within. Now they were in well enough shape to support life again, but no one really knew why. Ecology was unknown to the people of Clock Town.

This year's festival was turning out to be stubborn. So many things were going wrong all at once. The Indigo-Go's, the Zora band that was to play at the festival, had lost their lead guitarist, even though Lulu, the lead vocalist, was recovering from a period in which she lost her voice. The Goron firework supply had been stolen. Kafei, the young man who was to be wed on the day of the festival, had vanished. With all these mishaps, the townsfolk would be lucky if the festival would go on at all.

Work output had tripled since that foul moon monster had left them. The stage in the middle of South Clock Town was the main focus, as some joker had nailed down a treasure chest onto it, and removing it seemed to be a problem. The mailman was sprinting between deliveries. Three Gorons were careening through the town, searching frantically for their fireworks. One of the earth creatures with an unusual growth of white hair on his head crashed headlong into a mailbox just as the mailman was visiting it. The Goron lay on his back and didn't move. He quickly attracted a crowd.

With everyone either tending to the stunned Goron or festival chores, no one noticed the three hooded men standing atop the chest shop.

The centermost one pulled back his hood to reveal a sunburned face, blonde-orange hair, and ocean blue eyes. His name was Roxas, and he clearly looked unhappy with the latest mission given to him by the Superior himself.

He said, "What a backwards world this is. They still believe in gods."

The man on his left laughed. Beneath his hood was a tan face, blondish brown mohawk, and deep blue eyes. He was Demyx, and he said, "There goes your chance at heaven. What about you, Axel?"

Axel, the man on Roxas's right, threw back his hood and aimed emerald green eyes at the sky. His untamable red hair and lean body smelled sickly sweet, like decomposing cinnamon. It was the extremely flammable airborne fuel Axel could control that gave him the occasionally unbearable scent. Roxas referred to it as Axel No. 5.

He said, "I believe in science."

Demyx chuckled and Roxas's upper lip trembled, as if fighting off a smile. Roxas was becoming less cheerful every day, which worried Axel, but Roxas was at a point in his life in which things could change instantaneously and irreversibly. Lacking a heart also made him vulnerable to mood swings. With no heart to regulate memories of emotion, it was easy for Roxas to go from outraged to hilarious in seconds.

Same thing happened to Axel, to Demyx, to the Superior himself. Just another phase in the life of a Nobody. Recently, Axel had developed an overactive superego that spoke in the back of his mind like a dictator over his thoughts.

It spoke now, "You love him, I can feel it, you're remembering love, you're trying to feel but you can't, you can't, it's impossible for a Nobody to love—"

Axel mentally sneered and aimed the image of a landslide at the voice. It was silent. He thought, 'Yes, I love Roxas, but as a brother. A brother I never had. A brother I never will, but hey, I can settle for second best.'

Demyx also looked at the sky. It was rapidly approaching sunset. He said, "Science, eh? What makes that so important?"

Axel looked at him. "Without science, I couldn't battle. If you took your head out of your sitar every once in a while, you'd understand."

Roxas spoke, "Science is always there. Science provides us with an understanding. If you didn't know the science behind your firepower, pardon the pun, you might believe it to be magic, or a god-given trait."

Axel shrugged, his scent becoming slightly more oppressive. "Demyx, what's the mission?"

Demyx said, "We're supposed to intercept some sort of hero. He should be appearing in a few days. Apparently, he has some rudimentary control over time."

"If he can travel in time, then couldn't he know that we were coming and have hightailed it?"

The musician scratched his scalp, thinking, and not coming up with an answer that satisfied him. Then, finally, he said, "I'm complaining to the management."

Axel laughed. He said, "Good luck with that." He hopped off the treasure shop onto the roof of an empty stall. No one paid any attention to him. He continued, "Something tells me that we have time to kill. In that case, I think I'm going to go find one of your gods and prove myself wrong."

Roxas said, "Is that your fancy way of saying that you're going to slack off the mission and go explore?"

Axel shrugged. "You're welcome to come with me."

Roxas shook his head, looking at the huge clock tower that gave Clock Town its name. "I'm staying obedient."

Axel scoffed, rolling his eyes. "Obedient? The Superior's galaxies away from us right now. There's no way that he knows what we're doing."

"We have three days to complete this mission."

"Then you two had better hurry." Giving a salute, Axel leapt off the stall and ran out of Clock Town by the southern exit.

Roxas called after him, "Axel!"

The flame fighter did not respond. Roxas sighed, rubbing his sinuses, then said to Demyx, "So, we have to find a hero, huh?"

To the west of Clock Town lay Great Bay. Great Bay was an area previously affected by a plague that rendered the waters hostile to any forms of life. Now the mysterious problem had left the bay, and the water was once again clear and pristine. Gulls flew overhead and dove for fish. The Leevers, the local cactus-like creatures, were building nests at the shore and were not particularly aggressive over their territory.

Axel had found a place to sit and meditate on the rocky outcrops near the beach. When the area was plagued, the outcrops were covered in toxic seaweed and sea stars. The toxic material was still there, but slowly being absorbed back into the soil to continue on the cycle of nature. The area had even spawned Like-Likes, enchanted blobs made of a mud-like substance that had a tendency to eat shiny things. The creatures were gone now.

Axel, having the element of fire, had a natural respect for water. He didn't mind it so much, having to bathe in and drink it, but staying in the water for any long periods of time rendered him helpless. His airborne fuel congealed in contact with water, becoming useless. Axel left water alone, and vice versa.

He stared out at the horizon, clicking the black and red lighter in his hand. His airborne fuel was barely visible, but to his trained eye, the crimson particles were easy to see against the pale sunset sky. The lighter was empty of fluid. All the fuel needed to ignite was plenty of oxygen and a spark. If Axel so chose, the entire area could go up in flames, but doing so would cost a lot of the fuel, and it took several days for his body to produce more.

He was surprised to suddenly feel cold steel against the back of his neck. It was a perfect fit against the curve of his neck, which meant the sword was curved, and the way it made his blood run cold meant it was a very sharp weapon, and the person who was holding it was certainly someone to be concerned about.

However, he was not expecting a woman's voice to come from behind him. "You must be the beekeeper we summoned," she said, "It took you long enough. Does it really take three days to prepare to remove a single beehive?"

Axel could not see her, and did not want to try to move with a sword pressing into his neck. "For you, madam, only the best, and if you want the best, you need patience. Commit it to memory."

She moved the sword away, allowing Axel to stand and face her. She had dark skin, and bright, golden eyes. Her hair was red, but had a tint in it that suggested it was dyed, and not natural. She wore a small purple tube top and loose, silky pants. If Axel still had a heart, he might've felt attraction to her, but there was nothing but a slight memory of some kind of exotic desert flower, blooming atop a prickly, painful cactus.

The superego spoke once more. "You are pathetic, reduced to feeling only what your shell of a body wishes, your innermost instinct, that is all you are now, only instinct, you can never feel love or joy or sadness or hatred, all you have is inst—"

The strange woman interrupted the superego's frantic monologue. "The best, huh? I hope you mean what you say. Even though I'm at the bottom of the ladder now, I can still take down any smelly old man." She spat as soon as the word came from her lips, as if she held a grudge against the male sex.

She struck without warning, but Axel was used to spontaneous battle. She swung the sword down at him, meaning to hit his shoulder, but he struck back, striking the flat side of the sword with his empty lighter. Shocked, she let go of the sword and it flew into the bay, sinking immediately.

She fumed, pouting like a little girl, trying to contain a huge burst of anger that flew through her body. Axel was amused and a little jealous that she was able to feel emotion, even something like anger. She suddenly turned her back to him.

She said, "I'd make you walk in to the fortress, but, well, you can't. So get in the boat, and I don't want a peep out of you, got it?"

Axel shrugged, setting the lighter into a pocket and showing his hands to prove he was unarmed. He followed her into a small rowboat. She directed him to sit at the front of the boat, and she started up the motor. It came to life with a roar and they followed the rocky coast until they reached a flat wall that shot high above the water. The woman pulled off a piece of cloth that concealed a red button in a depression in the cliff. Upon pressing it, a secret door opened up, revealing a hidden waterway. She piloted the boat through.

The waterway opened up into a large pool at the foot of a huge fortress. They thundered past several other women and their boats. Axel noted that they all looked alike, but not identical. Was this some kind of female-only cult? The huge skull and crossbones that decorated the fortress walls led Axel to assume that these women were pirates.

She parked the boat at a small dock and led him up into the fortress itself. They passed more women, who were whispering amongst themselves and staring at them. She took Axel up into what looked like a storage room. It was lined with huge barrels, each as tall as the Nobody and three times as wide. A large tank filled with water and a very disgruntled clam stood in the corner, and something told Axel that it had once held something other than the angry mollusk.

On the subject of upset animals, there was a large beehive sticking out of the wall about two-thirds the way up to the ceiling. It would be easy to pluck it off of the wall and get rid of it, if not for the bees rampaging around it.

The pirate folded her arms and pointed Axel at it. "You're the expert. Get rid of it."

Axel carefully approached the bee hive and exhaled softly. The insects were angry at the intruder and flying around their home like tiny missiles. Axel made sure his fuel was separated out, so the particles were far away from each other. All he wanted was smoke, not fire. Fire could cause the pirate to become suspicious of what he was, and, despite having no heart, he did not want to kill her.

Smoke began to ooze from his fingertips. The bees, upon breathing it in, began to calm down and retreat into their hive. Axel took the honeycomb and pulled on it, but it hardly budged. The piece that was visible must be attached to a much larger hive inside the wall.

Two other pirates came from another room. They wore the same garments, only white, and crimson leather vests. The way the other pirate flinched at their arrival led Axel to believe that they pulled rank on her. He kept facing the beehive and listened to them carefully.

One of the higher-ranking pirates said, "Enta, where is your sword?"

Enta, the pirate who escorted Axel here, saluted her elders and said, "I lost it, sir. I mean, ma'am, I mean, uh—"

"You lost your sword? Enta! Your sword is your lifeline! What if the Zoras wished to seek revenge and attacked the fortress? You would be absolutely worthless to us! Just looking at you now, I feel a bit of our band of pirates dying."

Enta held a hand over her mouth. "No! I would sacrifice my life for the good of all of us!"

The other pirate spoke. "We do not question your loyalty to the group, Enta. However, we expect great things from you if you wish to ascend the ranks. If you would sacrifice your life to the group, we expect you to take down some of the enemy beforehand."

"But I don't even have my sword."

"And whose fault is that?"

Enta bit her tongue.

One of the elder pirates turned to her companion, cutting Enta out of the picture. "We do need people to hold down the fort while we invade the temple."

That caught Axel's attention, and he listened in while the other pirate said, "Yeah, ever since the mist disappeared from Great Bay temple we've been meaning to go there. Is the offensive tonight?"

"Of course it is! We've only discussed it for the past week! You're as bad as Enta!"

"Oh, yeah? Then how come I'm a rank above you?"

"No, you're not! We're the same rank, bitch!"

"I'm your superior! How dare you speak like that to me! Like some common whore!"

"You're the whore, bitch!"

"Oh, that does it, you—"

She drew her sword, and her companion did the same. Soon a swordfight was brewing, and metal clashed on metal. Insults and sparks flew. Enta retreated to Axel's side. She didn't seem to mind being so close to a giant hive of stinging insects.

She swallowed noisily. "Man, life in an organization is tough."

Axel rolled his eyes. "You have no idea."

"What?"

"Nothing."

Enta leaned against the wall. She could hear the buzzing of thousands of bees within, some of them not yet under the influence of Axel's smoke. She said, "There's something strange about you, you know. I can't put my finger on it, but you're not like the other men I've seen. Hell, you're not even like other people I've seen, let alone your gender."

Axel shrugged and said, "There's some kind of temple nearby?"

"Yeah. Great Bay temple. The Zoras worship there. They say that something cleared up over there, which is why the bay is nice and clean again."

"Think there's a god over there?"

Enta's eyes widened. "A god? What kind of beekeeper are you?"

"Like none you've ever seen before. Brace yourself."

"Brace myself? For what?"

"Well, an explosion, and then a mad dash to the boats, where you're going to have to bring me to Great Bay temple."

"Wha—"

Enta's words vanished as the smoky fuel Axel injected into the wall ignited with a spark from his lighter. Pressure built within the wall until it grew to be too much, and the stone and concrete exploded outward. Axel grabbed Enta by her wrist and held her to him, using his body as a shield against the flying debris. This all happened in milliseconds.

When the dust settled, one of the elder pirates was screaming. Her leg closest to the ex-wall was coated in flaming honeycomb, broken in a few places from flying stone. The other was lying on the floor and not moving.

Enta froze in terror at her fallen comrades, but Axel pulled her by her wrist and they took off down the hallways of the fortress. They emerged into the main courtyard. Some guards threw spears at Axel, but the flame fighter summoned pillars of fire that burnt up the flying objects on contact. They finally got to the water's edge. Axel leapt onto a boat tied to the dock and began to work at the knot holding it in place.

No such luck. The knot was unlike anything he'd ever seen before. Toying with it only made it worse. The guards were gaining ground...

Enta leapt into the boat, making it rock. Axel crawled backwards as she undid the knot with one gesture and revved the engine. The boat took off suddenly and Axel lost his balance, falling on his face and hitting his head on the bottom of the boat.

When he looked up again, they were out of the fortress and quickly heading into deep water. Enta was at the controls, guiding the boat away from her home. Her red hair was flying in the air like the tail of a great dragon. She looked very upset.

She suddenly stopped the boat and Axel nearly fell over again. She placed a foot between her hands up on the stick that controlled the rudder and pushed, threatening to break it. She said, "Because of you, one of my fellows is very hurt, and the other might be dead. You blew up a wall in the fortress that took months to create. I think I'm entitled to an explanation."

Axel tried to shake the stars revolving around his head away, but they lingered. He said, "I'm a treasure hunter with a thing for bugs."

"No you're not. I can tell you're not. You're not a treasure hunter, and while you do seem to have an effect on bees, you came here for a totally different reason. I want you to spill everything to me, or I'm breaking the rudder and we'll sit here until the guards find us. I'll be punished, but you will be put to death. So what's it going to be? Explain yourself, or be executed."

Axel sighed, the stars gently skipping away across the bay. He looked at the sky. It was a strange blend of sun beams and moonlight, changing from day to night.

He began to tell Enta of his identity. He left out crucial parts, like how he joined the Organization and how he met Roxas, but gave her enough for her to make something that resembled a full picture. When he was finished, the sky was slightly darker.

Enta was devastated. Axel's story, though incomplete, was incredibly moving and she found herself trying to cry. She scolded herself. Pirates didn't cry. Especially not the band of pirates she belonged to.

Axel shrugged, feigning nonchalance, but he himself was remembering sadness. He rarely spoke of life before the Organization to his fellow Nobodies, let alone a total stranger. This was something that happened once every eternity: a Nobody speaking peacefully to a Somebody. It was so awe-inspiring, the superego hadn't spoken up once.

Enta drove the boat for an hour more until they reached a large, dragon-shaped rock in the middle of the bay. There appeared to be nothing that resembled a temple anywhere. Axel stood at the front of the boat, scanning the horizon. The sun had gone down and darkness ruled the skies.

The pirate said, "You have to dive down to reach the entrance. You can swim, right?"

Axel swallowed a memory of fear, a fear of deep darkness. He finally nodded, preparing to dive down into Great Bay temple.

Enta suddenly spoke again. "Axel!"

Nobody and Somebody locked gazes for a while, exchanging thoughts. Then Axel dove in with a splash, quickly vanishing into the water that reflected the deep space above. Little hemispheres of a crimson jelly-like substance were floating to the top. It was his fuel congealing, and once it stopped bobbing up to the surface, Enta knew he had made it inside. She looked at the stars and prayed for him.

Axel surfaced in the entrance hall of Great Bay temple. He was floating in the center of a wide pool, built to hold some kind of ship, but he didn't know what kind of underwater ship these people could construct. Four torches stood in the room. Two were unlit, two were.

Sitting at the top of a short slope was a heart-shaped stone resting on the metal floor. It was glowing blue, and had intricate shapes on it. Axel was particularly intrigued by one symbol that resembled some kind of demonic mask...

The superego spoke, but its voice was quiet, almost reverent. 'This thing, this thing, it leads to problems, leads to many problems, leads to darkness.'

Axel responded to it, thinking, 'Does it lead to a god?'

'God, no, god, yes, the answer is blurry. You should go, no, you cannot go, this is not your problem, go away.'

Not his problem? Axel was about to rethink his god-hunting idea when he thought of his friends, waiting for him in Clock Town, wondering where he could be. He thought of Demyx panicking about being stranded, and Roxas...Roxas was remembering sadness, sitting on the edge of a hotel bed, wondering about the mission, and about his friend's recklessness.

Axel remembered guilt. Roxas was the lowest-ranked member of the Organization, and completing missions was the only way to get into the Superior's good graces. By running away to fulfill his own desires, he was jeopardizing his friend's honor. He was risking his almost-brother's well-being to search for something that may not exist.

No more of that, then. No more foolishness. Axel made up his mind. He would find his god, and with its help, they would find this time-wielding hero, whether the deity liked it or not.

Axel stepped into the stone's light. There was a momentary feeling of weightlessness before he opened eyes he didn't think were closed.

He was standing on nothing. Only air held him up. The stone held him up for a split second before gravity took over and he fell down a long tunnel in the floor. There was a platform at the bottom, but if he continued at this pace, the impact would kill him. Throwing his fuel ahead of him, Axel's lighter refused to ignite for a moment, sending memories of terror through him, but then it sparked and the tunnel exploded in light and heat. Axel directed his fire upwards, and the updraft slowed him down.

The landing was still hard, but at least he hadn't broken his neck in the process. As he picked himself up, he found he was standing on a circular platform in the middle of a dark room filled with filthy, murky water. Strands of seaweed were bobbing at the surface of the water. The platform had five lights shining up from it, four in a square, the fifth in the center; Axel was standing on it. Shards of what might have been pottery were sitting on the other four lights.

If a god lived in here, it had to be the god of sewage or something, because it smelled to high heaven. A scent that accompanied piers at low tide. A fishy scent.

Fish.

Axel had a horrible feeling he was being watched.

There was an explosion of movement out of the corner of Axel's eye and he watched, memories of horror almost making themselves reality. The superego let out a blood-curdling scream that hurt Axel's ears, even though it was only in his own mind.

A monstrous fish leapt from the water. It was a thousand shades of purple with bands of white and navy blue, lined with dorsal fins and other appendages. Green eyes the color of rotting foliage turned back in its head to protect them from damage, but to Axel it looked like it was staring at him, its prey. The fish had very sharp teeth coming out of its mouth, as well as two horns between its eyes for spearing food.

It was Gyorg, the gargantuan masked fish.

Memories of fear threatened to overcome Axel and he noticed to his embarrassment his knees were quaking and about to give out on him. He pulled himself together, breath coming in adrenaline-powered gasps. Fuel scattered across the room, blanketing the few feet between the platform and the surface of the water. Axel had his lighter ready to send the whole room up in blazes, but tried to remain calm. It was a fish. It belonged in the water. That huge jump was just a fluke, a bluff.

The second jump clearly was not. Axel rolled out of the way as Gyorg leapt out lower than the first time, scraping itself against the platform, teeth and mouth constantly staying on Axel, even though momentum carried it along its trajectory. Axel ignited his fuel. While the first three feet in the room between the water line and the platform went up in flames, Gyorg's wet skin and speed let it dive clean through without injury.

Beneath the water, Gyorg let out something that, distorted in the transition from water to air, sounded like a growl. Axel felt like quaking again, having never been prey for a giant fish before, but focused on setting out more fuel to heighten the blaze even farther. Gyorg leapt for a third time, and again Axel dodged its jump. This time as Gyorg reentered the water, it gave a howl, as if in pain. There was no movement beneath the surface.

Axel extinguished his fire and carefully walked towards the edge of the platform. Had he hurt Gyorg? The filthy water was nearly impossible to see through.

The only thing that let Axel know Gyorg was coming was a slight flicker of movement, but it was too late. Gyorg leapt again from the water at an almost vertical angle, tipping Axel off the platform. The Nobody was sent flying upwards, and he screamed as memories of terror overwhelmed him and gravity brought him back down into Gyorg's throat. The gargantuan masked fish swallowed Axel whole, and it too fell back into its murky home.

Axel tumbled down Gyorg's esophagus into its stomach, hitting the back of his head on a bright green jar. He moaned in pain and fear, tissue and veins swirling around his eyes and making him dizzy. He reached back and removed a tiny shard of pottery from his scalp. Hardly an injury, but he had much bigger problems at the moment.

He was in a fish's belly, with the limited amount of air Gyorg had swallowed along with him. The green jar he accidentally smashed with his head yielded a refreshing green liquid that Axel realized was a type of elixir, and, since no one knew what it had mingled with inside Gyorg's guts, Axel had to settle on wiping it on his hands. The elixir was strong-smelling and past its time, but it still gave Axel a bit of hope. Gyorg must have swallowed it along with its last meal.

His hope soon vanished as he realized his lighter was gone. He searched frantically for it, patting down Gyorg's stomach lining. He quickly realized that his attempts were fruitless. The lighter was not in here with him.

Gyorg's guts quivered and Axel noticed that stomach acid was quickly rising up into the fish's stomach. If lack of air didn't get him, that bubbling liquid would. Digested by an enormous fish.

This was not how Axel wanted to die.

Traditional fires were out of the question. There was hardly enough air for Axel to breathe, let alone start an inferno. He knew what he had to do now, but he hadn't practiced doing it in a fish's stomach. Failure was always an option. In this case, Axel assumed that this was going to end in failure, but he had to try.

Try for the Organization. Try for his beliefs. Try for Roxas.

Axel created a small orb-like shape with his fuel, which he let harden into a hollow sphere. Into this sphere he put the rest of the fuel in his body. He closed up the top. Inside the sphere, the particles were bouncing around, crashing into one another and creating pressure. Axel could already feel it quivering in his hands. He tucked it in a fold of Gyorg's stomach lining and dove for the corner farthest away from it. When enough pressure built up inside, two incredibly fast particles would collide, setting off a spark, and blasting a hole in the gargantuan masked fish.

Or, if Axel hadn't created his little bomb correctly, nothing would happen. Axel would suffocate and be digested by the monster he was inside. He braced himself for the explosion, or the bitter end, whichever came first.

A minute passed. Two minutes.

And then the bomb exploded.

A huge piece of Gyorg was blown off the fish, leaving its spinal cord and organs in direct contact with the air. It roared in absolute agony, rolling onto its side and seizing up into a series of uncontrollable convulsions. From out of this hole Axel crawled, sinking into the water as his body processed what had just happened. His field of vision finally stopped spinning around and he swam up to the surface.

The first breath of fresh air was like being blessed by an angel. His red hair stuck to his face and wilted down his back, water weighing it down longer than normal. He had a piece of seaweed wrapped around his ear. He flicked it off as he lay on the platform, eyes shut, and just breathing.

Something was moving just by his head. He shot up straight, momentarily panicking, but then he saw what it was.

It was Gyorg, but the masked fish was not gargantuan anymore. It had to be the size of a normal fish now, with a hole exposing its guts and spine. Being out of the water for any long period of time made its scales contract. The fish effectively shrank when not submerged. Now it lay on its side, weakly gasping and beating its tail. Then, with one last attempt to move, it fell limp. Gyorg had died.

Axel almost laughed at the tiny creature. He had been scared of a mutant fish? Even better; he hadn't been scared, he had been remembering fear. He did laugh at this, sweeping Gyorg's corpse into the water.

He stood and looked up at the tunnel he'd fallen down, wondering how to get back up. His fuel was gone and his lighter had probably blown up with Gyorg. It was hundreds of feet upwards to get to the top, but that was the tunnel itself. There was a large space between the platform and the tunnel. Even if he could scramble up the tunnel to the top, he had to get into it first.

Something was still in the water. Axel turned, and he gasped.

Dark tendrils were coming out of the walls. Axel immediately recognized them as Heartless and kicked himself for his stupidity. The Heartless followed Organization XIII members like scavengers following predators. It was only normal that they follow him into the temple, and now their effort was paying off.

They were going after Gyorg's heart. The tendrils lifted Gyorg's tiny body out of the water and slowly invaded its corpse. The fish started growing. Its scales and organs fell off its bones into the water until all that was left was a skeleton. The skeleton was still growing. Some of its ribs were changing into shoulder blades and large fingered hands. Its horns had fallen off with its scales, leaving a smooth forehead.

Now it was twice the live Gyorg's size, tail brushing the bottom of the pool, with four arms and two yellow mindless eyes. Heartless eyes. The Heartless insignia appeared on its forehead in a flash of black light.

The Waterfang Heartless was born.

The Heartless let out a blood-curdling roar, even though it lacked lungs or vocal cords. Axel, admitting he was quite helpless like this, tried to run away from it. The Waterfang Heartless scooped him up in one of its hands, pinning his limbs to his sides. It then thrust him up in the air. The blood leaving Axel's head was almost enough for him to lose consciousness, but when the Heartless jerked his head against the side of the tunnel, Axel's vision immediately turned to nothingness.

The Nobody still in one of its hands, the Waterfang Heartless began to scale up the tunnel, its bony fingers easily finding grip on its rough surface.

Axel woke up with dry blood on his face. He'd hit his head harder than he thought. His head spun when he moved and to his embarrassment, he felt he was going to be sick. He leaned over the side of the platform he was on.

And he gasped.

The Waterfang Heartless had moved him into a huge room. Most of it was submerged in water. Deep within the water were two massive paddles that drove the water around the room. The paddles were connected to a large machine that hung from the ceiling. Pipes snaked around the room.

The Waterfang Heartless swam out from a corridor at the bottom of the room. It was resisting the powerful current quite easily, which only made Axel more worried. Its four arms folded back against its skeletal body, it seemed happy just swimming against the current.

It was hunting for more hearts. All Heartless did. It didn't seem to notice Axel, staring down at it from high above.

Axel knew what he was up against. Nearly helpless, he couldn't face the Waterfang Heartless in its natural element. The Heartless had all of Gyorg's memories, so it knew this place like the back of one of its bony hands. This domain was its home, and Axel was an intruder.

He had an idea, but it meant doing something drastic. Extreme battle tactics were no stranger to Axel, but if he pulled this off without dying, this would be the biggest offensive he'd ever mount.

As he stood, he was suddenly overcome by an amazing pain. He reached down his coat and felt a large gash on his chest. It was deep and soaked his coat in blood. The pain reached each little nerve in his body. That was why the Waterfang Heartless left him alone. It assumed he had died when he hit his head and had searched his body for his heart. Axel didn't have one, so it just abandoned him. The thought of such a vile creature touching his insides made Axel's urge to vomit even greater.

Think of the plan. Concentrating on his idea, Axel quietly made his way to a ladder that led up to a panel in the wall. Removing the panel, he came across a bunch of wires, tightly packed into the wall. Axel dug his hands inside and began snapping them.

The broken wires started sparking as he reached deeper inside the wall. He reached what felt like a button. He had a good feeling what it was. As he tore more wires apart, he felt himself growing dizzy from the blood loss. Soon his actions began having results. The machine above was starting to spark, the paddles slowing down.

Axel stopped when he thought he was done, and leaned out over the water. The Waterfang Heartless was investigating what was happening to the current it enjoyed.

Axel said, "Eat this, you monster."

Then he gave in to what his body wanted to do and he threw up over the side. His vomit was bloody. This got the Waterfang Heartless's attention. It drew itself up to Axel's height, roaring at him as he scooted back towards the wall. Glaring at it defiantly, Axel reached back into the panel in the wall and pressed the button.

The machine uncoupled from the ceiling. The Waterfang Heartless had time enough to look up at it before the machine fell onto it, breaking its skull. The Heartless gurgled loudly before dissolving in the water. Tiny purple bubbles rose to the surface and popped as the Waterfang Heartless ceased to exist.

Axel sighed, shutting his eyes. His chest wound was killing him and his head was pounding. He had a feeling that if he just rested here for a while more...just a little longer, he'd be all better. He'd go to a better place. He'd be free from life as Nobody. He exhaled slowly, feeling detached from this world.

When Nobodies died, their bodies evaporated. Axel cracked his eyes open just in time to see his feet vanishing into black smoke. So, this was dying? This wasn't so bad.

Seconds before Axel's mind shut down, he thought he saw a blue light, similar to the light that took him into Gyorg's lair. As the Nobody lay dying, a blue crystal carefully formed around him, and in a blaze of cerulean fire, whisked him away from the temple.