Chapter 5- Beings Of The Dark

"I know the dark delight of being strange, the penalty of difference in the world, the loneliness of wisdom among fools..."

-Claude McKay


Considering our predicament, we planned on scouring the nearby worlds in search of my friends first thing tomorrow. Koi explained it was difficult to travel the universe without some sort of vessel. So, there was a positive chance Sora and Kairi wouldn't be able to move far, wherever they were...

Deciding to put trust into Koi's plan, I should tone down and explore the castle. To get a better feel of things here - my new home. The thought nearly made me want to cringe.

Once we exited our room, Koi immediately began stalking down the corridor, thus leaving me to catch up. I soon matched my steps with hers and when she didn't say anything, I sent her an inquiring glance.

"Uh... where are we going?"

"To see Maleficent," Koi replied, pivoting on her heel to enter another adjacent hallway. Narrowing my eyes to slits at the mention of the witch's name, I folded my arms across my chest and scowled indignantly, eyeing with distaste the ugly mess of thorny plants embedding the pewter walls.

"What for?"

"You'll find out." Though a little rebuffed that she wouldn't tell me, I dismissed the matter for now. Patience was never one of my good traits. Taking note of my irritation, she seized my arm and steered me along to follow her. "Let me show you around the castle." Hopefully, touring this enormous building would preoccupy me from dwelling on Sora and Kairi's questionable well-being. "This way."

Koi led me out of the dimly lit hallways and into a bizarre chamber. Then, releasing my arm, gestured to an immobile platform hanging in midair in front of us. "This is a Lift Stop," she explained, "It can carry you throughout the many floors of this castle."

Oh, c'mon. I rolled my eyes. How much simpler could this place get?

I strode forward and expected to reach the platform no problem. However, I clutched my sore nose in surprise when I instantly bumped into something. An invisible wall...? By having rammed into it, caused iridescent ripples to break out and distort the clear surface. I tentatively poked the wall, inwardly awed with this strange new phenomenon while more ripples erupted across the magic barrier.

"As you can see," Koi started, a bit amused of my reaction, "This transportation is comprised of complex magical networking located within the walls of this entire castle. And the mystical barriers prevent you from falling down below." What was down there anyway? I carefully leaned against the wall to peer downwards at the bottomless floor, anxious of the terrifying drop. "So it's safe to assume your carelessness can be... overlooked." Shooting her a glare, I pouted - slightly embarrassed. It's not like I lived here. No need to rub it in...

"How are we supposed to get on the other side, then?" Ignoring my cynical look, she approached this miniature crystal-like pillar crackling with electrical energy. I lifted an eyebrow in curiosity. What exactly was she planning to do? Then, my eyes widened in panic when seeing Koi raise a hand to caress it, as if she were petting a tamed animal. Didn't Koi have any common sense? She could get electrocuted!

Few moments had passed, and all my worries dissipated into thin air. The only thing that transpired was the sudden shift of color from white yellow to indigo blue.

That's it? I twitched, slightly exasperated. What was the point in that? Got me all worried for nothing...

One moment I was glaring at the squat pillar in disbelief and the next, I suddenly appeared on the other side. Whoa... sudden lapse of reaction time. I blinked groggily, worn out from today's endless surprises. It might've been exciting at first, but there's got to be a limit to how much a guy could take in one day.

"Don't be frightened," Koi assured, sensing my unease. "The magical electricity merely teleported us on the platform. Now it will direct us to the next floor up." I nodded, wearily looking around as we ascended this spacious chamber. Minutes later, we exited the bastion and into the great outdoors. We were so high up in the altitude that lavender-tinted clouds roamed the air and blended with the tangerine-pink sky, obscuring our view of down below. Such a soothing blend of mellow colors... it made me feel more lethargic than I already was.

Further did we press on - riding on more Lift Stops and navigating through the maze of dark hallways - the more I cursed this castle, which strangely seemed a lot bigger inside than how it looked outside. And before I was convinced we lost ourselves in this humongous castle, Koi said Maleficent and her company could be found straight ahead at the end of this huge corridor. I squinted my eyes, trying to make out the circle of people whom were crowded around a glowing table.

Snippets of their discussion drifted into my ears.

"Such is the power of the Keyblade... power is not his own."

"...turn him into a Heartless? That'll settle things quick..."

"...the king's lackeys."

"...bilge rats by the look of them."

So they were spying on the Keyblade Master, huh? However, I couldn't see who it was because their dark figures blocked my view of the magical projection. And the closer we got, the clearer the voices became.

"You're no prize yourself."

"Shut up!"

"Enough." Maleficent's icy glare successfully silenced her companions, thus she stole the opportunity to speak once more. "The keyblade has chosen him. Will it be he who conquers the darkness? Or will the darkness swallow him? Either way, he could be quite useful..."

Oh, boy... It seemed like Koi and I had unintentionally eavesdropped on a secret conspiratorial plan about the Keyblade Master. The conversation alone gave me the impression they were the evil villains. All of this spelled bad news to me. Better not get myself involved.

A tall, thin, and apathetic man garbed in flowing robes of black, maroon, and other moody colors tilted his head in our direction, as if sensing our presence. He sneered, the long, twisted goatee on his face shifting along with the small action. "We have visitors," he drawled, distaste evident in his bored tone.

On cue, they all turned to regard us with a diverse range of expressions on their shady faces.

"They are my special guests." Maleficent remarked, dismissing their curiosity with an impassive glance.

"How merciful of you, Maleficent. You went ahead and picked up a stray." Wow, I must really look that obvious, if this wise guy noticed I didn't belong here. My eyes subconsciously rolled at my mental sarcasm. Maleficent dismissed his droll reply and flicked her wrist at the table, resulting in the magical projection to suddenly disappear, leaving little light (except for the blue flame flickering on that one guy's head) to bathe the dark chapel.

"Is everything to your satisfaction?"

I remained silent with a guarded look, but Koi went out of her way to reply. "Yes, but that's not why we sought you out."

"Well, if it ain't the heartless girl." This casual 'car-dealer' voice suddenly sliced through the thick, serious atmosphere. A blue-skinned man clothed in an equally blue toga walked forward to greet Koi. His easy-going smirk revealed pointy, yellow decayed teeth. His chin was all protruded and slender. And his round eyes were a golden, blazing orange. "Give me a high five." Interestingly, she obliged and clapped her hand with his. "My pet Cerberus misses you. There hasn't been anyone who survived his favorite game of fetch since you came along. Why don't you drop by the Underworld whenever you have the time? Being the God of Death is a busy job, you know." He croaked out a few throaty chuckles, next brushing his blue hand through his hair of scorching blue flames. "It'd be totally cool of you to baby-sit. Bring along your friend, while we're at it. What do you say?" The only time I would ever want to visit Hell is when I am already dead. Other than that, I blatantly declined his offer.

And another thing... "'Heartless girl?'" I inquired skeptically. What kind of name was that?

"Hey, never heard of a nickname before?" He shrugged, patting Koi's shoulder in a friendly gesture. "I thought they were supposed to be cute."

"Ooh, she more than fits that category!" someone chortled lasciviously. I snatched Koi's arm protectively on impulse and delivered a hostile glare to where I heard the voice, warning the stranger to back off. Now that I took a good look at him, this guy gave a whole new level of ugliness. He consisted of a set of burlap sacks sewn into a shape resembling that of an anthropomorphic sea star, making his body appear all the more rotund and awkward. The torn piece of cloth, which left a gaping hole on his face, much resembled a twisted smirk.

"Hush, Oogie Boogie! You're scaring the poor child." The woman's sudden intervention sent a chill up my spine, and it wasn't anywhere near pleasant. I watched as she stepped forth into the lighting, her plump ruby lips puckered to form a gruesomely maternal grin. From her waist up, this woman had the body of an overweight purple-skinned, white-haired female human, and from the waist down tentacles of a black octopus. I nearly snickered at the revolting woman, but painfully swallowed when she threw me a suggestive wink. Why was she looking at me like that...?

"Ain't he just the most precious thing?!"

What the heck?

I deadpanned, too stupefied by my own mortification to avoid her evil clutches.

She immediately snatched my face and pulled me towards her, eagerly pinching my cheeks with a coarse tenderness. Okay, that did not tickle. "Hey! Let go of me!" I demanded, tugging at her clammy hands, which were stubbornly glued to my face. She ignored my protests and repetitively gushed about how adorable and feisty I was, like, "My, what energy you have, little boy," and "What I would give to be youthful–," and also, "C'mon, give Ursula a big smile, you handsome devil you!" and some other jabbering nonsense I couldn't fathom. The sharp pain of her manicured fingernails digging into my skin caused me to flinch. "Easy on the face, you– ow!" I hissed in pain, clenching my jaw tightly, seething quietly in anger. And before I could cry Uncle, Koi harshly slapped her hands off my face with startling ease. Cold fury ran deep within her black glare and Koi pulled me close by her side, putting distance between us and the villains.

Relief couldn't even describe how I felt at the moment. Instinctively, I raised a hand to rub at my sore cheeks, welcoming Koi's arm firmly wrapped around my own in pure gratitude. There was nothing to worry about. We had each other's backs.

Though, Koi's protective action compelled the woman to throw her head back, cackling thunderously from amusement. "AH HA HA ha ha ha ha!! We've got ourselves a cold, dark, and handsome boy. The silent type, too. I'd be extra careful if I were you, girl, or else some other beauty might steal him away." Neither of us decided to respond to that insinuation.

Out of my peripheral vision, a blackavised man dragged himself out from within the darkness, approaching us in a cautious manner. His dark hair was dressed in long curls, which at a little distance looked like black candles, and this gave a singularly threatening expression to his handsome countenance. A large feathered hat was perched atop his head, and a scarlet coat along with knickerbockers clothed his lanky body. I perceived him as nothing more than a third-rate pirate.

"Did that Pope of yours send you here to spy on us?" he inquired, his dopey blue eyes glaring at Koi with a mix of trepidation and contempt. "I'm tellin' ya, I did not cross a single line in that territory of yours! I bet me piracy honor on it!" He vigorously waved his left-handed hook to emphasis his loud proclamation, but I didn't quite understand what there was for him to be afraid of, especially from Koi. Was 'His Eminence' really that much of an intimidating individual?

"My purpose here has nothing to do with you," Koi quipped, intolerance grating on her nerves. The only form of entertainment I had at the moment was watching him struggle for the words to unleash a witty comeback, unable to retort anything out of paranoid fear.

"Koi wanted to talk to you about something," I replied, turning to face the witch whom merely quirked an eyebrow in mild curiosity.

"Oh?"

Koi nodded, ignoring the other villains to focus solely on Maleficent. "Riku should be given an appropriate weapon to combat the Heartless." When the storm struck my home, I grabbed my wooden sword at the spur of the moment and was surprisingly still in my possession. If and when I would be forced to fight the Heartless, well... that flimsy sword won't be able to cut it. Literally.

"We shall discuss this after I adjourn this meeting. In the meantime, wait for me in the Grand Hall. I won't take too long."


Regal brown double doors greeted us from outside the narrow passageway and it rumbled - as if sensing our approach. Then, the doors slid open to reveal the Grand Hall, thus allowing Koi and I to enter. A crimson carpet, emblazoned with the peculiar insignia of a black heart marked with a thorny red X, led us out into the room and decorated the stone floor's center.

On either side of us stood cylinder-shaped metal torches aflame with pastel blue flames. I gazed at the flickering fire as I walked by, mesmerized by its eerie energy. Then, looking beyond the fire and flames, I paused to discover upstanding glass cases lodged into the walls - estimating around six in all. Some were empty while others... actually had people in them! Not only people, but girls. Girls were imprisoned inside them, apparently ensnared in a comatose state while wrapped within a painful cage of thorny vines.

Whoever had done this knew no bounds of treachery. Although, I couldn't deny each young woman possessed her own indescribable beauty.

One had long, golden hair and rose-colored lips. She wore a long-sleeved indigo dress over her willowy body and a triangular white collar, which exposed her fair neck and thin collarbone. A golden tiara was nested atop her head, signifying her royal lineage.

The girl beside her also had blonde hair, but styled in a loose bun. A silver headband adorned her head and an equally silver ball gown hugged her slim physique, satin white gloves completely covering her forearms. Her beauty was far more modest and plain, than breath-taking compared to the previous girl.

And the last woman was clothed in an extravagant yellow ball gown complemented with elbow-length yellow gloves. Her chestnut brown hair was pulled back high on top of her head, allowing her thick tresses to gently spill all over her bare shoulders like a chocolate waterfall. Peach lips, curly eyelashes, rosy cheeks - her beauty was warm and exotic in its entirety.

"Are they... dead?" I muttered. They looked so hollow, empty...

"No." Koi answered from beside me. She too was absolutely taken by their beauty; however, her black eyes held a mysterious sadness. "They are in an enchanted sleep." Even her voice spoke of emotional sympathy.

It was then I knew the dark fairy had something to do with this. What did Maleficent plan to do with them exactly? - was what I wanted to ask, but... I had already asked enough questions to keep me up for about a month's worth of nights. I'd rather save that particular question for another day.

"So..."

"Hm?"

"Back there, you said I needed a better weapon to defend myself. Why ask Maleficent?"

Koi adopted a pensive frown, next tearing her attention away from the maidens to face me fully. "Although I'm trained in the arts of black magic, Maleficent's magic is much more potent and vast in degree. It's not beyond her knowledge to be able to craft a weapon of any kind," she explained, idly touching one of her bangs if only to express her boredom.

"How about a Keyblade? Can she make one of those?" If she could, maybe I would get to have the dark Keyblade from my dreams. That would be kinda cool. "I want one..." This escaped my lips before I could even stop myself.

"Riku." Koi warned, narrowing her eyes at the tone of excitement in my voice. "It might be imperative to realize Maleficent cannot be trusted, especially her goons. Be very weary of them." I rolled my eyes at her warning. Gee, I wondered what clue tipped her off? When a bunch of villains get together doesn't mean they want to host a tea party.

"I won't. What do you take me for, an idiot?" She avoided eye contact, fiddling with her hands a bit uneasily. I could only guess her lack of response indicated I hit the nail on the spot. "You really did think that, didn't you?" I teased.

"Not exactly..." Once I caught her guilty, the way she lowered her head shamefully, my signature smirk widened in triumph.

"Liar," I said cheekily, chuckling. Koi mumbled something which sounded a lot like 'Sora,' and it caused me to glare at her playfully. "Hey, Sora might be an idiot, but he's not stupid." I froze, now realizing what I just said was a horribly poor attempt in defending my best friend. Something so right could not have been said so wrong, I chided to myself.

Koi coughed faintly, her lips quirked upwards in silent amusement. "That made no sense."

The sudden teeny smile surprised me since I've rarely witnessed her express emotions, and no matter what the size, smiles are still contagious.

"You should do that more often."

Regrettably, her smile dropped. "What?"

"Smile." I grinned, pointing to my face.

"Ah..." She averted her eyes, shrugging in slight embarrassment. "Dwelling in the darkness for too long can suck the emotion out of you. Since I made you my top priority, I don't have to go back for awhile."

"Do you like the darkness?" I queried, appearing nonchalant, but in truth curious. She whipped her head to stare at me inquiringly.

"Excuse me?"

"I'm wondering because..." I didn't get the chance to finish when Maleficent suddenly appeared into the room via the dark portal. I sighed, exasperated of her interruption. Another question to be saved for another day...

"Sorry to have kept you waiting," she said, her voice devoid of sincerity. "You desire a weapon, you say?" Koi nodded and the two of us walked forward to stand before her. Maleficent hummed thoughtfully, next circling me with a slow step in her walk. I wished she could hurry it up already. Her prolonged staring was beginning to unnerve me. "...let's see what I can do," she remarked finally. Tilting her staff, the green orb began to glow. I felt a strange tug at my heart, like an invisible pressure prodding the darkness dormant inside of me and could feel Maleficent's magic mold it into something solid. I shut my eyes to try and tolerate this nauseous sensation, however I could envision it more vividly now.

In my mind's eye, the black-violet flames swirled and stretched and simmered, the odd plasmatic shape currently indistinguishable. It pulsated... like a heart... calling out to me... seeking its master's touch...

Transfixed by this tangible energy, my fingertips barely grazed the wisps before it immediately latched onto me like a hungry leech, engulfing my hand. Panic seized my heart, causing my eyelids to fly open. I helplessly witnessed the darkness solidify into a crimson, blue, and black weapon, sensuously curving to form a demonic wing. The hilt was cradled in my hand; its decorative aqua jewel gleamed with an aura of spite. And the power captured within this object brimmed in morbid excitement, as if alive...

"This blade's power is equivalent to the darkness in your heart. The more enemies you defeat, the more power you will gain."

Maleficent's profound voice brought me out of the awfully familiar trance, anchoring me back to the present. Koi stood beside her silently, expectantly - concern shadowing her face. The dark fairy flicked her wrist, summoning a Shadow Heartless.

It faced me, defenseless, like a blinking dumb log. Free for me to kill.

Recalling the very night my home was invaded by these same spawns of the darkness, my anger began to boil. Even though I wanted a way out to leave the monotony behind, I couldn't do anything to save Sora and Kairi. I didn't ask for the islands to be destroyed. It was all the Heartless's fault. It was all... those... damn... Heartless's... fault!

The negative thoughts, which accumulated in my head, fueled the raw drive to slash the creature in one fell swoop. I relished the disturbing sound of blade piercing flesh, and reveled how it violently trembled and writhed in sheer agony. Simultaneously, my blade extracted every ounce of its life force, becoming additional strength to my own. Its artificial black skin slowly disintegrated to reveal the innocent heart, which was being held captive. Now no longer bound by darkness, the radiant heart floated away only to disappear up through the ceiling.

The sudden adrenaline rush left me gasping from the experience. Despite this, I eyed the familiar weapon with little apprehension and smiled shakily. "That felt... wicked."

A blade that can suck the living energy out of my foes: Soul Eater.

Koi frowned, a bit troubled with my reaction, whereas Maleficent's lips quirked with a sense of accomplishment.

"I don't see why you weren't chosen to become the Keyblade Master," she exclaimed, ecstatic. The gears which existed inside her evil mind began to shift in motion. "There's no denying you have great potential."

Those exact words echoed forebodingly in my mind, singing a morbid tune of doubt...


(A/N): Whew, finally...

The overall details in this chapter tuckered me out. Although annoying at first, it was fun describing the villains, the castle, and the three princesses that have been captured so far. I can't completely credit myself for most of the details, though, since I scrounged them up by playing the video game and skimming through Wikipedia and other places. However, I improvised the details to fit the flow of my story.

Could you guess which princesses I depicted?

Heh, heh. You guessed it: Aurora, Cinderella, and Belle (in chronological order).

Following the accurate timeline, you'll get to see Alice, Snow White, and Jasmine next time when Riku does a favor for Maleficent, which won't be for awhile. And I hope I described Riku receiving the Soul Eater well enough, because unlike many Keyblades - Maleficent fostered the keyblade from the darkness in Riku's heart with suspicious knowledge on how to craft such a weapon. It's pretty much unique since no one else can use it.

I also have to respect the ambiguous fact that Soul Eater (The Way To Dawn) had existed in the Birth By Sleep game ten years prior to Kingdom Hearts.

Coming up, we'll have Riku and Koi visit Halloween Town to keep up in par with Alice in Wonderland. Gotta tell you now, it is going to be epically hilarious! XDD