The Eleventh Hour
By Lynx (of Organization VI)
Rating: Uh, T for Teen, I guess.
Disclaimer: I do not own Kingdom Hearts or its characters; they belong to Disney and Squeenix, respectively. No money's being made, le cry.
Summary: For Riku, his future was the same as his past.
Notes: Basically, a much more lengthy expansion on a drabble I wrote a month or so back. A lot of the ideas, theories and reasoning I need to credit Rebmakash for, because she's the smart one and thinks up all the cool stuff. I just add a lot of words onto it.
There will be KH2 SPOILERS APLENTY in this fic, so be warned.
Chapter One – THE FIRST HOUR
"Riku, cut that out!"
"Some hero you are, without any manners. Aren't we supposed to be shining examples of light and goodness and all that?"
"Manners don't count! And anyway, you're just being worse!"
"Fine, you win," Riku sighed, passing the jug of lemonade back to Sora. "I'll get a 'please' out of you one of these days."
Sora took the jug and poured himself a generous helping –his second, already- before passing it down to Kairi. Noticing that Sora was too busy chowing down to continue the argument, Riku decided to dig into his own food. After a full day of fighting, the steamed rice, chicken and vegetables looked better than ever.
The food almost distracted him from the pain in his arm. He rubbed at his shoulder, irritated at the reminder. During a brawl around the postern, he'd gotten stabbed by one of those big M... Those big...uh...
He threw a questioning glance at Sora. "Hey, what are those big Heartless called? The fat green ones, covered in spikes."
Sora started to talk around a mouthful of food, but when Kairi waved a chiding fork at him, he paused to swallow first. "What, the one that just spiked you today? How could you possibly forget that! It was..."
Riku waited, but Sora just sat there with his mouth hanging open, as if waiting for someone to put the right words into it.
"Morning Star!" Donald squawked, almost hopping out of his seat with frustration.
Kairi laughed. "We just saw them today! How could you forget what they were?"
"That was weird," Sora mused, scratching at the back of his hair. "I just completely blanked there for a second."
Sora shrugged it off, but Riku found himself staring down at his plate for a moment of stupor. He rubbed at the ache on his shoulder again; the actual wound sealed up with a cure spell. Morning Star? I was using Dark Aura against it, I thought. How could I forget it?
Just as his thoughts began to settle back down into hunger, a brief knock at the door interrupted them. A chorus of "come in" greeted Leon as he strode into the dining room. He responded with an even briefer smile, although Riku could tell underneath he was just as pleased as they were.
"So, another victory dinner," he asserted, nodding at the impressive meal laid out before them.
"Aerith's been treating us so well since we arrived!" King Mickey added cheerfully.
Aerith just smiled back, her face as warm and friendly as ever. "Not at all. It's the least I could do after all the hard work you've put in for us."
"I know you guys'll be busy for awhile," Leon said, his tone less cheerful.
A while. Riku wondered how much longer it would be. How long was it already? Years? At least half a decade. So much time spent slicing through ranks of Heartless; it was easy to forget why they'd started in the first place.
As long as there is darkness in peoples' hearts, there will be Heartless. If everyone's hearts were filled with light, the Heartless would disappear, Sora had said. We can't make everyone have light in their hearts. But we can get rid of the Heartless, and that will help bring back the light.
And that was that. A year and a half after returning home, and they were back on the job again. There were Heartless to destroy, and worlds to save...not from a tyrant or manipulator like Xehanort's Heartless or Nobody, but from themselves.
But even with so much ahead of them, Riku didn't feel that bad about it. He had himself. He had his friends. And he didn't mind if the rest of his life was like this. In fact, it was hard to imagine something better.
Leon knelt down and grabbed a bun off the table assortment, much to Donald's irritation. "S'good," he mumbled as he bit into the bread. "I haven't seen so much good food so often since Cloud came back."
"Back from where?" Sora asked suddenly.
The table fell unnaturally silent once again. Riku stared at Leon, who looked like he'd said something rude in a foreign language without realizing it. "I mean...he disappeared for awhile, didn't he? To fight someone. Three...four years?"
Goofy tapped at his head; a sign that he was deep in thought. "I think I mighta remember him fighting against someone...Surfa...Sefil..." He looked at Donald as if the magician would correct his mistake, but got no reply.
"That's so strange," Aerith sighed, setting down her glass before it reached her lips. "I remember us throwing a really big party for Cloud when he came back. But I can't ever remember him being gone."
The silence returned, and it beat on Riku's nerves even worse than the ache in his shoulder. As usual, Sora was the one to mend it. "Haha, we're all getting senile in our old age!" he exclaimed.
"Who're you calling 'old'?" Kairi shot back, and they all laughed.
Riku laughed as well, but his laughter died when he noticed a silhouette against the blurred-glass window. The figure was tall and armored. A Heartless?
He glanced back to his friends; no one else seemed to have noticed. His eyes shot back to the window. The figure was gone.
Riku ate the rest of his meal in silence.
The sun had set already, but its light still cast long shadows across the balconies of Radiant Garden's castle. Riku mulled along the railing, gazing out at the warm and peaceful streets below. Leon had been right all along...they really had made this world better than it once was.
But he was looking for the armored figure from the window. He knew he wouldn't find the visitor, but he couldn't help but look.
"You coming in?"
Riku smiled as Sora approached, dressed in his bathrobe. He looked a little ridiculous, and Riku wanted to laugh at him. For how much time had passed, it seemed their appearances had changed little. Sora's face was thinner, and his hair jutted up more towards the back than the sides of his head. As for himself, his silver hair stayed long, but it had begun to stick up in places, especially behind his ears. He didn't mind, despite Kairi's insistence that he get a haircut.
"Yeah, I won't forget," Riku answered him. Instead of waiting, Sora joined him at the balcony.
"Heh, unlike tonight at dinner," he joked.
"Like you were any better, Mr. I'm-Getting-Senile."
The brown-haired young man just sighed. His smile seemed a little less genuine than usual, and that bothered Riku. Sora was almost never one to get upset over the little things...or the big things, for that matter.
"So what's bothering you?"
"Hmm, well, tonight just reminded me..." Sora hesitated, twisting his fingers together. "I forgot mine and Kairi's anniversary."
Now Riku had cause to laugh. "Already? Hahaha, I bet Kairi gave you a piece of her mind about that—"
"But the thing is, Kairi forgot it, too."
Riku fell quiet again. For some reason, that seemed less funny. His friend continued, "We both just forgot. We didn't even realize it until the King wished us Happy Anniversary."
The warm night air suddenly felt heavy on them. "Well, we've all been so busy, things like that can just slip your—"
"There's more," Sora interrupted quietly. "Just a few days ago, Jiminy was going over the itinerary with me, and he mentioned going to the Land of Dragons. And for almost an hour, I couldn't remember who I knew from that world. I couldn't even remember visiting it!"
Riku didn't need to see his face to know this really bothered Sora. He wondered how long he'd been holding this anxiety inside. "It didn't seem that big a deal, but then tonight when you mentioned the Heartless and Leon talked about Cloud..."
"It's not just you," Riku finished. "It's all of us. We're forgetting things...important things."
They said nothing for a moment. The sun's glow finally died, leaving only the lights of streetlamps and the indoors to cast their shadows. "So, what do we do about it?" Sora asked.
"I don't know," he replied, and the thought frustrated him. Nothing bothered him more than a problem without a solution. "I think we need to know more first."
"Yeah, I think you're right," Sora responded, smiling again. He stood back from the railing and stretched, yawning with a contentment Riku wished he shared. "Well, Kairi's waiting. I'll see you tomorrow!"
Riku considered telling him of the strange figure at the window, but thought better of it. No need to leave Sora with any more seeds of doubt. He waved goodbye, but didn't leave the balcony just yet. The view of the town offered a warm peace that being alone in his bedroom couldn't quite provide. It didn't have the same feeling of home that the Islands did, but it was close enough. It helped him forget about the questions burning in his mind...what was causing this memory loss? What if they were forgetting something important right now? Did it have something to do with their mission?
Riku shrugged away the incessant tug at the back of his brain. If Sora could get along fine without the answers, then so could he.
He watched the lighted windows of Radiant Garden begin to blink out, and with them went his own sense of uneasy urgency. This world had worked long and hard to pull itself out of the dark and stay in the light. And he had done the same, too. He could not imagine abandoning that now.
He had abandoned it all: peace, security, and most importantly, ignorance. He was Ansem, and he was wise. He would never be ignorant again; he would never be alone again.
He would never be whole again.
Below him, Radiant Garden burned. Its citizens had abandoned their homes in the wake of darkness pouring from beyond the door, and some of the unattended fires had taken to the roofs and hopped from building to building. The smoky sky was cluttered with gummi ships; crude vessels constructed too quickly with too new technology. Many did not make it past the world's walls before their wings clipped off and their engines died.
One large ship was attacked by a massive flying Heartless: it looked vaguely like a dragon, with a mane of streaming black hair and claws like lances. With one slash from its tail, it tore the ship in two. While the Heartless was distracted, a different ship shot for freedom – and made it.
Those denizens not fortunate enough to have a gummi ship were caught in the melee. Mothers attempted to force their children to flee, even as Heartless claws tore into their clothes and skin. A few brave souls attempted to fight back with torches and pitchforks (what other weapons were needed in a world of gardens?) But the largest Heartless got to them...the mountainous one made of rocks, the one that froze their torches over with icy breath, the one that hid in the corners and shot bolts at them from its mouth, the one that slithered up from the ground like a hooded shadow and choked them from behind.
And he watched it all with a smile on his face, but no happiness. There was no happiness to be had in darkness; only pleasure. The pleasure of knowing all, seeing all and having all without really having.
The fool'd been wrong all along. He didn't need his past. He didn't need memories. He certainly didn't need friends. All he could ever want was right here, right now, in the crumbling world.
The only thing he really regretted was discarding his body. He only vaguely remembered the split; something that felt like a tremor before stillness, or like dying. He imagined that the empty shell he'd stripped off would be unhappy with him.
No matter. Hadn't Ansem himself said all important things required sacrifices?
Not like that. He was Ansem now...ruler of the world, and all-knowing. He was no longer just 'another,' the strange one called Xehanort, the one with no past and no future. He had the darkness, and the darkness was his. He wanted to spread it to every world as he did this one; wanted to search even further and pull out a darkness so thick and deep that no light could ever pierce it. All he needed to do that was...
Yes, that was all. After all, he had opened the door to this world. He had always been an opener of doors, a wielder of Keys. But where has my Key gone?
He lifted his arms slightly, and floated out over the balcony, his silver hair whipping in the harsh wind. Since losing his body, he discovered he had no sense of weight...or at least, there was only weight where he saw fit. With no shell to hold him back, his form molded to his own perception.
Where is my Key?
As he coasted along the wreckage, the screams of his followers falling silent on his ears, the memory struck him. The Princess...the pure one! Hadn't he sent her off of the world, into the ocean of stars? He remembered the darkness in her parents' faces when he took her, if nothing else. She'll lead me back to the Key. She'll find the one who will open the last door for me.
He ascended above the rooftops, gazing one last time as his beloved world, and was gone.
His abandoned half woke to the feeling of wet splatters on his cheek. He didn't move for a long time; too afraid that if he so much as blinked, his form would crumble into nothing and he would end forever. But the rain was starting to chill him, and he had to know whether or not he was alone—
He stood, and his vision spun. Beyond the blur of raindrops there was the black brick and steel of a city. Neon lights glowed around the city's edges as if inhabited, but he somehow knew he was alone.
He sucked in breath after breath, wondering if he was panicking. Was he supposed to be lonely? Angry? Why couldn't he—
That was just it...he could feel nothing. And feeling nothing felt like a burning ache in his chest, like weeks' worth of hunger, like a ringing in his ears that he couldn't stop. It was maddening.
It all came crashing down on him in an instant: the years spent in study, the experiments, the dark beings that crawled out of the bottom of the castle, the door and what lay beyond it, the pull of darkness...the men in the desert...
You fool...you wretched fool! Look what you've done to me! To us!
He wanted to cry, or scream, or hate, or mourn, but he couldn't. All there was to do now was think, and plan. If he was cunning enough, if he used his resources or recruited others to his cause, he would get his heart back. He'd know better.
All he could think of first was that he needed to call himself something. The déjà vu of it all made him grimace...he had done this before. He was no longer the shell of another, and no longer even Ansem. Just the shell of a shell...Xemnas.
He stood straighter, facing the menacing skyscraper that watched over him. The neon burned into his tired eyes, but he wished it was brighter. As if it could hear him, the lights glowed brighter. Even in this state, he still retained some control.
I won't stay as the shell of a shell. I'll know everything.
Please send reviews to 'Lynx' of Organization VI. Many thanks!