Yay, look, it's a chapter! Much love to the few of you that actually reviewed for taking the time to do so. Much appreciated. And I guess this is just going to be one of those stories that I take forever to update…I blame school! And other fanfiction of course…I can hardly pull myself from reading long enough to actually write anything…so very sorry for the update times, but as long as people continue to show interest in this story, I will get it finished.

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Chapter 6: A Battle Worth Fighting

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The battle didn't last too terribly long, and Sora was quite proud of himself for a battle well fought against the thing that attacked him out of nowhere. Sure he was fighting with two others who were obviously much more experienced fighters, but still he felt he deserved some credit. He had, after all, landed the finishing blow that incapacitated the monster once and for all.

Sora leapt back quickly, watching as the newest creature began to shudder, and twitch awkwardly as if it lost control of its limbs. Then, all at once, every detached piece simply fell lifeless to the ground, and seemed to disintegrate into the air. There was a long moment of silence, as all waited to make sure it was truly gone. When nothing appeared, Sora sighed deeply, letting his stance relax. He may be an energetic person, but he definitely wasn't used to the amount of energy required to fight such battles.

Before he could rest completely though, Sora felt the now somewhat familiar energy swirling around his hand. It traveled through the blade before moving to flow through his body as well. Gasping at the sensation of such power, Sora had no choice but to do what the very magic itself seemed to be asking him to do. He raised the blade, and pointed it to the fountain sitting straight in front of him. Then the whole world around him seemed to fade away, but for some reason Sora felt no need to be frightened. He felt comforted by this energy, and closed his eyes as a strong wind picked up from nowhere. He felt more than saw the beam of energy that shot from the tip of the Keyblade.

When he opened his eyes again, he was back in the city, staring at a large…keyhole, in the back of the fountain. Blinking in surprise, Sora turned to Donald and Goofy, who were both staring slightly wide-eyed at the newly appeared door to who-knows-where. Before anyone could say a thing, quick footsteps were heard heading in their direction.

"Sora!" Aerith shouted as they approached, sounding worried. "Are you alright? We felt this huge wave of energy…" She trailed off as she noticed Sora's very perplexed expression, and the keyhole now in the fountain. "Oh." She finally said, seemingly not inclined to say anything else as she looked to Leon.

The brunette man sent a calculating look in Sora's direction, and the boy defiantly stared back, hoping someone might now explain what had just happened. He was already tired of wondering and not knowing what was going on. After half a minute of the staring contest, Leon nodded once and broke the gaze. "It would seem it has begun." He claimed softly to the city, staring at the faintly glowing keyhole.

Sora didn't know Leon well, but he felt those words sounded strange coming from the man's mouth. He didn't look like the type that would start speaking in riddles or storybook style tones. Leon and Aerith made their way down into the courtyard where Sora, Donald and Goofy were. Since it seemed no explanation of events was forthcoming, he decided to fish for one by simply asking. "Xemnas mentioned something about unlocking things. Is that…what just happened?"

The atmosphere suddenly seemed tense, as the group looked worried by the mention of the shadow puppeteer. It was Leon again who spoke. "The Keyblade holds great power…including the power to unlock gateways in between worlds." He said no more, but he didn't need to for Sora to understand.

"So I've just opened a wormhole?" he asked with raised eyebrows.

A small smirk touched Leon's lips, and he nodded. "Essentially, yes. These paths were closed long ago by King Mickey himself after a similar shadow infestation. However that one was unorganized. It was merely a mass of wandering heartless searching for more to make their own. Unfortunately that is why we are unsure of everything going on this time. If we knew what Xemnas was after…"

"You know who he is but not what he wants?" Sora asked, sitting down on the pavement and setting the Keyblade beside him. "Aren't bad guys supposed to be notorious for spilling out their life stories and ambitions to their enemies or something?"

Aerith laughed at this. "If only that were the case, I'm sure things would be much easier."

Sora sighed heavily, and lay back until he was sprawled over the bricks of the courtyard. "This sucks…" he muttered, staring up at the starry sky. If he didn't think about the city around him, he could almost pretend he was back home; it looked like the same sky. That was when it suddenly hit him to ask, "Where am I?"

Everyone seemed to have forgotten he hadn't been told this information. It was Donald who spoke up this time. "We're in Traverse Town."

"Traverse Town…" Sora repeated softly, wishing the name were more familiar on his tongue. Then he looked over at the keyhole, and furrowed his brow. "And there?" he asked. "Where does it lead?"

Unsure glances were exchanged, and Aerith answered, "We don't know."

Another sigh escaped Sora's lips. "Any chance it could lead back home…?" he asked, not even daring to hope for a yes.

He was surprised when Goofy answered. "All worlds are connected, Sora."

Eyes widening, Sora suddenly sat up and stared at Goofy as if seeing him for the first time. "So you mean it really could?"

Goofy scratched the back of his head, and suddenly looked unsure. "Well if that one doesn't…I'm sure one would eventually."

Sora took a moment to revel in the realization that it might not be impossible to get back home after all before speaking again. "But you don't want me to go home." He stated, directing it not at Goofy, but at the entire group. It was Leon, after all, who had said it in the first place.

Aerith smiled sadly and walked over to Sora, kneeling down in front of him. "It's not that we don't want you to go home, just that we need your help here. I would love to be able to send you back home, and not have you get involved, but…you already are, aren't you? I'm afraid that this entire situation is over any of our heads. Please understand Sora, there are many lives –many worlds even- at stake here. None of us know what Xemnas is planning, but we do know that he has an affinity for power, and control. He loves for people to be under his command, and with the heartless gathered under his control…well, I'm afraid of what he could do."

"And I'm the only one that can fight him?" Sora asked more than a little bit skeptically. "Why? I'm nothing special. I'm sure you guys are better fighters than me…so why not choose someone –anyone- else?" He was definitely still having trouble getting over this fact.

A small smile flitted over Aerith's face, and she placed a hand over Sora's heart. "Because of what's in here."

Sora blinked, and looked around at the other three, who nodded in agreement. Leon spoke up again when Sora's gaze landed on him. "The Keyblade always chooses its master, and it always chooses the one with the strongest heart. Believe it or not Sora, it chose you."

Aerith stepped back, and Sora brought the Keyblade in front of him. He stared at it thoughtfully, and ran his fingertips over the length of the blade. He felt the energy thrum within the metal, and goose bumps appeared on his arms because of it. It almost felt as if the blade had a spirit of its own, and he felt oddly connected to it. He thought over Aerith's words, that so many lives could be taken. But apparently, many could be saved…by him. He couldn't just let people die, not if he could do anything to prevent it.

And so, wondering what the hell he was getting himself into, and why he was doing it, Sora sighed and met Aerith's kind gaze with a determined one of his own. "Alright." He said. It was no grand speech, but it was enough. She smiled gratefully, and Sora was sure he even saw a small smile on Leon's face as the man nodded once in approval. Goofy jumped for joy, and Donald grinned as well.

Now, how to pull off this 'saving the world' thing…

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"Do you think Sora's okay?" asked Kairi as she allowed her nails to be painted an odd assortment of random colors by Selphie. The concern in her tone was not missed by either of the girls in the room with her.

"Despite how he looks…Sora is tough. I'm sure he'll be fine!" Yuffie tried to sound convincing, but she only partly pulled off the effect.

Kairi sighed heavily, glancing out the window into the dark sky beyond the safety of the walls of her home. "I feel so useless…" she muttered.

"But…what could we possibly do?" Selphie replied as she switched from a teal to a lemon-yellow polish. This did nothing to change the redhead's attitude, and so she sighed before putting away the polish, having finished butchering any semblance of style on Kairi's nails. "If it makes you feel any better, we'll talk to Riku tomorrow. He seemed to have some lead on what's happening, but you know as well as I do we'll get nothing from him tonight." After her speech, the blonde looked up to find both girls staring at her a bit strangely. "What?" she asked defensively.

"That's possibly the most sensible and/or serious thing you've ever said." Yuffie stated bluntly.

Selphie's eyes narrowed just a bit. "You don't have to sound so amazed by it…" she muttered, causing the other two girls to giggle.

Sora…Kairi thought as she looked once more out the window. I hope you're okay…

"Okay…I think it's sappy romance movie time." Yuffie declared as she walked over to a stack of movies in the corner, knowing they were all in need of a good distraction at the moment. "Sleepless in Seattle anyone?"

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"Excellent." Ansem's tone, to Riku, somehow did not sound as praising as that word normally should.

A soft coughing from behind brought Riku's attention from the golden eyes in front of him, and back to the two women still in the room. Right…he had dragged Sora's mom along…

"Ah yes, I do believe I was in the middle of a session before this interruption." Ansem stated with an obvious hint to Riku that he should leave. He might as well have stated 'get out now' for as cold as his tone was. Then his demeanor suddenly changed, and he seemed like Mr. Nice Guy all over again. "You will be back tomorrow?"

Was that a statement or a question? Riku decided to answer anyway, and nodded tersely. "Excellent. I shall see you here at 3pm then. Good day." And just like that the conversation was over. No checking with Riku if the time was okay, and no further explanations on how Ansem would be helping him to find Sora. With a frustrated huff, Riku spun on his heel and practically stormed from the room. He didn't even bother with a goodbye; surely Ansem wouldn't be too torn over that one.

Looking quite uncertain, Sora's mother hesitated for a moment, looking back and forth between Ansem and Riku, before turning and following Riku back outside.

"Sorry about that, Ms. H." Riku muttered dejectedly as the woman walked out the front doors of the clinic.

"This is more serious than a simple kidnapping, isn't it Riku." She replied softly, staring out across the street, but not really seeing what was there.

Riku hesitated a bit to answer, but he figured he shouldn't lie to the woman about her own son. "Yes."

She sighed heavily, and tears began to well up in blue eyes so like her son's. "Will my baby be okay?"

Riku looked into the woman's eyes, and saw his own concern reflected back in them. "He will be." He said determinedly. "I promise."

The woman nodded, and gathered herself before walking to the car, and getting into the driver's seat. Riku followed, and there was a brief moment of silence as they pulled away from the clinic before Sora's mother spoke again. "I should have listened to him…"


"Sora tried to tell me about Ansem. He told me that he was being intentionally unhelpful, but I refused to believe it. Oh, this is all my fault…what have I done to my baby boy?"

Riku blinked, and stared in surprise at the woman beside him. "Mrs. Hayate, nothing of this is your fault. I won't pretend to know everything, but from what I've seen…we're dealing with something that's over all of our heads. That's why I had to talk to Ansem. Somehow, he's involved in this, and as much as I hate it, I need him to be able to get to Sora."

The distressed woman took a moment to calm down, and sniffed once before glancing sideways at Riku. "What are you planning to do?"

Riku smiled ruefully, and glanced back at the barely visible clinic behind them. "Honestly? I don't know. I only know I plan to bring him back…as of right now I don't know how I'm going to do it. But I suppose that's what I'll find out tomorrow…"

Sabine Hayate looked carefully at Riku, as if seeing him for the first time. He was throwing himself into a potentially very dangerous situation…for her son. She got a sudden desire to ask if there was more to their relationship than just friends, but decided that would be a pretty tactless thing to do at the moment, so she said the other thing that was on her mind instead. "Please be careful, Riku. You've become almost as much a son to me as Sora is. So I want to see you both home safe and sound, you hear?"

Riku smiled as he saw the strength and optimism that both Sora and his mother were known for. "You bet, Mrs. Hayate. And I'll expect some of that famous lasagna when I bring Sora back!" he added with a mischievous grin.

Sabine smiled and nodded, reaching over to pat Riku's hand affectionately before turning her attention back to driving the boy home.

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Riku groaned and rolled onto his side as it suddenly sounded as if his door was being

Pounded with enough force to break it down. "Go 'way" he mumbled, not quite realizing that had not been loud enough to hear all the way through the house and through the front door. As the knocking sounded again, the silver-haired teen was jarred into consciousness, and he sat up abruptly as he actually realized someone was trying to get his attention.

With a great yawn, and stretching till his back popped, Riku stood up and walked to his front door, opening it without caring who might be on the other side to see him in his pajamas. He blinked a couple of times, and finally said " 'lo Kairi."

Kairi raised an eyebrow. "Honestly Riku, it's already noon! How can you still be asleep!"

Riku glared back. "Very easily." He muttered as he opened the door wider to allow Kairi, along with Selphie and Yuffie, inside. "Let me guess, you're here to ask about yesterday right?" Riku asked, wasting no time in getting to the point. It made since after all; he had suddenly walked out on them all the day before.

"Yes, a bit of information would be nice." Kairi answered.

Yuffie walked by and made herself comfortable on the couch in the living room. "You went to see that Ansem guy right? Who is he, anyway?" she asked, laying down and propping her feet up on the armrest.

Riku raised an eyebrow at her position, and she quickly moved her feet so he could take a seat on the other side of the couch. Selphie and Kairi sat down around them. "He was Sora's psychiatrist. I'm afraid I really don't have any more information than you guys do. I'll tell you more after I go back to see him today. How's the situation at school?"

Selphie seemed least surprised by the sudden topic change, and was the first to answer. "You think we know any more than you do?" she asked with a slight smile. "Riku I think school is the last thing on anyone's mind right now."

Riku sighed, and glanced at the clock on the wall. 12:30. "Right…"

"You okay Riku? You seem…distracted."

Riku glanced quickly at Kairi, blinking as he refocused his eyes. "Yeah, I'm alright. I'm supposed to meet with Ansem again at three today." He muttered as way of explanation for his distracted state.

"What about yesterday?" Yuffie piped up, giving him a curious look. "Isn't that what you stormed off to do then, was talk to him?"

"I did, but he basically blew me off, and then demanded I meet him today." Riku muttered somewhat angrily. "With every word he says, I like him less, but if I want to find anything out…I'm going to have to play along." He blew the bangs from his face in a huff, and slumped against the back of the couch. "I'll give you guys information when I have it."

The girls nodded, and a semi-awkward silence fell across the room. "So there's nothing we can do, huh?" Kairi stated after a pause.

It was quiet again for a moment before Riku answered. "I'll tell you after I've talked to Ansem. For now I think the only thing we can do is go back to school and make sure things aren't too out of hand there."

"Ehh…I was afraid you were going to say that." Yuffie whined as she blew the bangs from her face. Riku's only reply was a smirk, and Kairi rolled her eyes.

"Okay then," Kairi stated, standing up, "we'll leave you to it, but I expect you to tell us everything." She pointed a warning finger at Riku in an unspoken threat.

Riku raised his eyebrows, and held up his hands in the surrender position. "Sure thing."

Kairi nodded once and, with the rest of the girls soon following, exited Riku's house.

As soon as the front door closed, Riku's hands dropped, and he sighed heavily, his face taking on a much more serious expression. Now there was nothing to do but wait. With another –softer- sigh, the silver-haired teen stood and walked to the kitchen to make lunch.

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The bell made a soft tinkering sound as Riku stepped through the glass door into the clinic he already hated. The same receptionist sat at the desk, and immediately after she saw him, she puffed her cheeks and sent a half pout, half glare in his direction. Riku only rolled his eyes and strolled up to the desk. "I'm here for my meeting with Ansem."

The glare didn't leave the girl's face as she checked her computer to confirm his appointment, but by the time she looked back up, Riku was already walking toward the back rooms. "Hey--!" she called out, but he didn't turn around. "Jerk" she added under her breath and turned back around to greet the next person walking in.

Riku didn't even pause to knock as he pushed aside the door to Ansem's office. This time there was no one but the man himself sitting in the room. One silver eyebrow lifted as Ansem looked up from the notepad he was writing on. An odd smile crossed his lips as he sat back in his chair, and set down his pencil. "Hello Riku."

"Hello, Ansem." Riku replied, but his tone implied that the words were unpleasant on his tongue. He walked the short distance to the patients' chair, and sat stiffly on the slightly worn piece of furniture.

There was a long pause, and Riku felt distinctly uncomfortable, as the doctor's golden gaze seemed to be evaluating him inside and out. Finally the silence became too much. "You said you could help me?" he asked shortly, happy when he managed to sound only slightly nervous.

Ansem tilted his head to the side. "I can."

Riku blinked. That was definitely not the sort of answer he had been expecting. He waited a moment for the man continue, but was forced to speak again when he did not. "Then…will you?" He had to practically force the words through his teeth, as he was unaccustomed to asking for help from anyone.

"I will…if you will help me in return."

Language is a funny thing sometimes; Riku had never felt so trapped by mere words. He knew he would most likely have to do anything this man asked of him if he wanted to get anywhere with his search for Sora; that didn't make it any easier. With a resigned sigh and a heavy heart, Riku answered. "What do I have to do?"

"Oh come now, you sound simply dreadful!" He laughed almost jovially, seeming to be in lighter spirits at Riku's cooperation. "It's not so bad, really. I only need you…to fight for me."

Riku's head snapped up in surprise. "To…fight?"

"Yes. Enemies are troublesome, but superiors are far worse, don't you agree?"


"Isn't it funny how we are after the same person?"

Riku didn't say anything as his mind tried to process the flow of this man's conversation; a task that might be easier had there actually been one. The last question kept repeating in his mind. They were after the same guy? So then they were on the same side? But why, then, had this man not done anything before now? Through all the questions passing through his mind, Riku was eventually able to voice one of them. "…What?" Oh smooth, Riku…

Ansem chuckled. "No doubt you wonder why I would need you to fight for me. Surely I should have done something for myself by now, yes?"

"Ah, well I…"

"You would be correct. However, I sense a very strong energy in you that could do a lot of good if you are trained to use it properly." He paused, seeming to think something over before speaking up again. "Action without a plan leads only to failure. This is why I have taken no action yet. Xemnas is strong you see; and smart. He wouldn't be so powerful if he were any less. To defy him is a tricky task, but not impossible. I think you could be a great help in this."

Riku's eyes narrowed. "Let's not forget why I came to you in the first place." Finally he had regained his footing in the conversation. It was going to take some getting used to, talking to this man.

"Yes, yes, to find your beloved Sora, of course. But it all ties together in the end you see, for Xemnas is the very man that took Sora away."

A slightly surprised expression passed Riku's face before his gaze became suspicious. "And what do you get from this?"

Ansem smiled –a smile that sent a nervous chill through Riku's body. "That is nothing you should concern yourself with. You've got your business, as I have my own. I'll help you get to Sora, and you help me defeat my enemy."

Riku sighed, and bowed his head so that his face was completely hidden by a silver curtain of hair. "Alright. Just tell me what I need to do."

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Sora stared up in awe at the large building he had been taken to. If asked to describe it, he would say it looked to be a cross between a normal warehouse, and some strange knock-off of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. It looked like a factory at least, but there was no candy here. Instead, everywhere he looked there were stacks of colorful blocks of all shapes and sizes, giving the place a somewhat toy store feel as well. "Gummi Garage…?" he asked his companions as he read the large wooden sign hanging in the middle of the building.

A door Sora hadn't noticed before opened up to the right, and a gruff looking man with blond hair and a somewhat scruffy beard stepped out holding what looked to be a weed between his teeth. He didn't seem all that surprised to find people in his warehouse, and walked up to the odd group assembled at the entrance. "What can I do for yeh today?" he asked, looking over each of them briefly.

Leon stepped forward and spoke up, waving a hand in Sora's direction. "Our friends here need a ship."

The man moved his gaze to look over the three indicated by Leon. "Always straight to the point, aren't ya. And who's this?" he asked as his eyes came to rest on Sora.

"This is Sora, the Keyblade's chosen." Narrowed blue eyes widened slightly as this bit of information was revealed. "Sora, this is Cid. He's the best man around if you're looking to travel."

Cid, quickly recovering from his shock, puffed his chest proudly. "Damn right. So whatch'a need, kid? Something fast? Strong? Or if yer goin' the dangerous route, I got plenty o' weapons too."

Aerith giggled as she caught the expression on Sora's face, which was a mix between fear, confusion, and a reserved sort of interest. She walked over and laid a hand on the younger brunette's shoulder. "I think simply a balanced ship should do." She said to Cid, as it was obvious that Sora had no clue how to answer.

"Bah, always the practical one." He muttered in return, seeming very disappointed that she didn't want a super-sonic mutilation machine or something of the sort. Turning to a computer display a bit off to the right, Cid muttered to himself as he searched through the factory's database. "Ah-ha, this one should do nicely." He pressed a button on the panel, and a conveyer belt nearby started moving, bringing from a room in the back a standard-size ship. "I call it the Highwind. A basic model, but practical in all aspects." Donald and Goofy looked only slightly interested, but Sora was staring wide-eyed at the new object.

"So…it's a ship?" Sora asked aloud, walking slow circles around the Highwind, now proudly displayed before him. Looks like something you'd get in a toy store… he thought to himself, not wanting to say so out loud as it seemed everyone else was quite serious about it.

Cid turned to Leon, and said in a voice that was very close to a hopeful whine, "Sure you don't want a newer model? Something jet-like…better…more weapons? Something--"

"Cid." Leon was quick to cut the man off. "The kid's never flown before, and the other two…well, they're not allowed to fly anymore. Keep it simple."

Sora blinked and looked up in curiosity. "Not allowed to fly? What did they do?"

Leon, with an amused glint in his eye, opened his mouth to explain, but was quickly cut off as Donald jumped up and covered his mouth so he couldn't speak. The explanation came out as a series of muffled noises. Leon glared at the duck, which turned to Sora and said "Nothing! It was an accident, really!"

"Yeah!" Goofy chimed in with a smile. "Not our fault that giant rock was floating in that spot…"

Donald smacked his forehead in defeat, and mumbled something under his breath. Sora stared for a moment before laughing. He took a moment to calm down before speaking again. "So who is going to be flying then?"

Cid smirked, and crossed his arms over his chest. "I'll loan you two of my best engineers to start with. They'll teach you everything you need to know about gummy ships, and how to fly them. Then when you've got it down, bring them back and you're on your own." He paused for a moment before turning to the back and yelling out two names. "CHIP! DALE! GET OUT HERE!"

Sora looked to the direction Cid had aimed his shout, looking for two pirate types, or something else that would be like the other man. What he hadn't expected, were…"chipmunks?" The brunette closed his eyes and reopened them a couple of times, to make sure he was seeing right, as the two small animals scurried across the garage floor to stand beside Cid.

"Yes sir!" They saluted in unison, standing at attention next to Cid.

"Boys, meet your new pupil." Cid told the two, waving a hand in Sora's direction.

Sora gave them a half grin, and raised his hand into a wave. The chipmunks suddenly darted over to him, running up his pant legs, and running circles around his body. Sora laughed, and twisted awkwardly as he tried to follow their movements. Finally they stopped, one on each of his shoulders.

"Hi! I'm Chip!" The one on his left shoulder said, extending a small paw forward. Sora shook it with two fingers.

"And I'm Dale!" Sora did the same handshake with the animal on his right shoulder. The only real distinctive difference he could see between the two was that Chip's nose was black, and Dale's was red.

"Sora." Was his reply, introducing himself.

"So when're we leavin'?" Dale asked, jumping up excitedly. It was obvious he loved flying.

Sora brought a hand to the back of his head, and shrugged. He sent an unsure glance to Leon, the man who had quickly become his guidance in this strange world.

"Don't look at me." The older brunette said at Sora's look. "You're in Donald and Goofy's hands now." He turned to look at the two indicated. "You're heading towards Twilight Town, right? To look for the king?"

They both nodded in reply, and Donald pulled the King's letter from his pocket to check it once more, just to be sure. Suddenly his demeanor changed, and he thrust a hand into the air. "To Twilight Town!"

Sora blanched slightly. "R-right now?"

"Never a better time than the present!" Goofy said with a grin, before walking over to Sora and looping arms with him, guiding him towards the ship.

Sending a somewhat apprehensive glance towards Aerith and Leon, Sora allowed himself to be led to the ship.

"If you need to contact us, you should be able to reach us through the radio." Aerith assured with a smile and a wave.

"Oh! One sec, boys." Cid suddenly said, and ran off towards the back room again. When he returned, he was holding five backpacks. "Here ya go…these are filled with supplies; food, water, and such…should last a few weeks." After handing out the packs, he turned his attention to the chipmunks. "If you run out of supplies, or have problems with the ship, return here immediately, ya hear? Be sure to keep record of your travels."

Dale waved him off. "Yeah, yeah, we know. Make the maps clear, don't do anything dangerous…we'll be good."

Cid snorted, and rolled his eyes. "Just be sure Sora learns everything he'll need to know."

Chip saluted the man. "You betcha'!" he said, and scurried into the ship. Dale soon followed, as well as Donald and Goofy with a couple of simple and quick goodbyes. Sora hesitated a bit longer; he was barely starting to get used to this place, and now was being forced to leave! But with the way things were going now, it looked as if he was going to have to get used to this for a while if he ever wanted to make it back home.

"Well, um…thanks, I guess. For, you know…um…" he trailed off, as he wasn't quite sure what he was thanking them for. The hospitality? Explanations?

Aerith smiled, and gave him a small parting hug. "Don't worry about it Sora. We'll be here next time you come back. Don't be a stranger, okay?"

Sora laughed nervously in response. "Alright…" He turned back towards the ship when he heard Goofy call his name. With one last nervous glance towards Aerith and Leon, he gave a hesitant wave, and boarded the ship.

The ship was somehow a lot roomier than it looked from the outside. There was a separate room for each passenger, one bathroom, and the cockpit. Nothing extravagant, but it was more than Sora was expecting. The hatch closed, and Sora gulped at the feeling of finality that settled over him. This was it…the beginning of an adventure into places unknown.

A sudden command from Chip broke Sora from his thoughts, saving him from working himself into a worried state. "Alright everybody, take a seat! We're getting ready for takeoff! Sora, come up front."

Sora shook his head to get rid of his lingering concern, and walked towards the pilots. It wouldn't do to dwell on things that couldn't be changed. He vowed to himself then to take anything that would come to him from now on in stride. No more questioning; just doing.

There was a large enough seat for Sora in between Chip and Dale's that gave him a clear view of the entire control panel. He watched as they explained the process required to warm up the engine, and prepare the ship for takeoff. Sora's hands gripped the edges of his seat so tightly his knuckles turned white as the ship turned in its spot, and a large garage door he hadn't noticed before lifted. The tunnel behind it lit up, and the seat vibrated beneath him as the ship's engine roared to life.

"Here we go!" Dale shouted as he hit the throttle, and the ship shot forward through the tunnel into its unknown destination.

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"So…we have to leave right now?" Riku asked the silent man walking beside him. They had been walking for near twenty minutes now, and were deep within the trees of the city's park. It was dark outside, as night had fallen two hours before, and only half of the moon's light shone down on them. But even that meager amount was almost completely blocked by the dense trees all around them.

"The less time we waste, the better off we will be." Ansem answered shortly, seemingly very focused on something around them.

"Could I at least tell my friends…--?"

"It will be better if they do not know."

"But they're already involved in this! They're going to wonder why I disappeared."

"They would try to keep you from going."

Riku furrowed his brow in slight confusion. "Why, do they know something I don't?"

Ansem rolled his eyes toward the sky. "Do they care about you?"


"And they don't know what exactly you're doing, or where you're going."

Riku paused for a moment. "Oh…good point…I guess."

Ansem didn't reply, but suddenly stopped, and Riku barely kept himself from running into the man's back. "What is it?" The silver-haired teen asked.

"The best spot."


"To create a portal." He decided to explain before Riku could ask, as he could practically feel the question forming in the teen's mind. "There are some places where the connection to the worlds is weaker, thus making the creation of portals easier. Xemnas is stronger than I, so he didn't have to bother finding the weak points."

"Oh…" Riku had had his mouth open to ask that very question. He stopped for a moment, then a thought clicked in his mind. "Wait a minute."

Ansem stopped, and sighed heavily. "What?"

"If he could do that…then why didn't he just make a portal to Sora's room one night and take him then? If he's so strong…why did he spend a year messing around?"

Ansem turned and studied the boy before him closely with a narrowed golden gaze, deciding how much the boy should know. "To go through a portal created by darkness…one must have a certain amount of darkness in their heart, otherwise the portal will reject them."

Darkness…? "But, wait…--"

"Come. The weak spots do not stay in the same place for too long."

Riku snapped his jaw shut, the question still burning on the tip of his tongue. It was obvious that he would get no answer though. He let out the rest of the thought in a heavy sigh, and decided to just keep his guard up. He didn't like the implications of what Ansem had said at all. But for now he was going to have to just accept it. His thoughts were still focused inward as he was ushered forward through the newly created portal before him.

When he next looked up, it was to see a huge castle before him, across a vast sea that dropped off into waterfalls that seemed to lead to nowhere. He took a moment to take in everything around him, before turning to the man beside him that seemed to look upon the castle with a fond gaze. "Wh-where are we?" he questioned, looking back towards the building.

A crooked smile crept its way across Ansem's lips. "Welcome to Hollow Bastion, Riku."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

A/N I…feel terrible about taking so long to update. Forgive me! T-T And on top of that…it's even shorter than usual. (6500 words…15 pages) This chapter, for some reason, was rather hard to get out. I just kept getting stuck on what to write…

Bleh, well, anyway, um…any suggestions for where Sora should go next chapter? (Honestly I don't have anything planned for the immediate future of this story…)

Also sorry if the flow is ever off…sometimes I'd get stuck at a pretty odd point. Like…mid-conversation half the time. Just let me know if something sticks out as being bad, yeah? I'll read over it again later, but for now I just want to get this posted I guess.

As always…reviews are loved and inspire me to write! (It was usually after getting another review that I would pick this story up and try to finish this chapter, after all.)