*So yeah- deadlines and me just don't mix, huh? Sorry everyone for making you wait yet again- hope you enjoy!*

Disclaimer: nothing is minez

Chapter Nine:

Demyx slammed yet another door behind him, which in the silence of the corridor, created a boom loud enough to make the blond jump. Even though he was alone (Sora had vanished to who-knows-where in or outside the castle, thank goodness), a wave of heat passed over his face. "Why can't one of you guys just have the mirror?" Demyx muttered back at the door, gesturing back towards the endless amount of rooms he had already searched through with no obvious luck "Please?"

The door, naturally enough, did not give him any verbal reply. Nor did it swing open of its own accord, revealing the twin mirror in his Hollow Bastion- Ka-Ching, you said the magic words. Now here's your reward behind door number twelve-hundred and thirteen...-

But for a brief, very brief, moment he hoped.

With a sigh, Demyx turned away. Maybe it would be in the next room (although, knowing his luck, it probably wouldn't be). He took a half step drawing to a stop only ten feet away from two Nobodies dressed... interestingly. Yet, despite the huge distinction between styles, they both wore identical gargoyle scowls. Larxene held a sai in one hand (in a brief crackle of light, she soon held its twin in the other hand), and Xigbar's hand was edging not-so-subtley to the handle of his gun.

"Um... hello..?" Demyx asked/said. He caught a bit of movement slightly behind the other two, and found Zexion staring back at him. Something in his stomach twisted. "Zexion..."

The Illusionist's eyes met his briefly and flicked away. He mumbled something to the others, too low for Demyx to hear. Xigbar nodded, for once serious and solemn. Larxene looked like she wanted to skip in joy; as it was, she did let a feral grin loose. "Finally-!"

"...finally what?" Demyx asked, sure he already knew. It didn't exactly take a genius to figure this one out, afterall.

The sniper withdrew one of the guns at his hip "'Finally', it ends."

Oh boy.

"Everything you've done," Larxene added, "all of these wars, destruction, pain-"

"The Organization itself."

"-killing all of the others... -it's over."

"It has to." Zexion's voice, barely heard, cut Demyx the most. He hadn't really expected it, but he was hoping he wouldn't have to face an old friend. Not like this.

The blond couldn't make himself look at Zexion. "...I see..."

"'I see'?" Larxene snarled. "Is that all you have to say to us? What- no taunts? No threats? Actually, I'm so glad I won't have to listen to your arrogant, psychotic voice anymore! I have been waiting for months for this... years. Ever since you killed Marluxia-!" The woman was one step away from losing it; amid the angry screams, the wild gestures, she looked clsoe to breaking into tears... or a frenzied rage.


"No! No more-!"

She disappeared- blink, gone. Where-? A fist, powered with a burst of electricity, slammed right into Demyx's chest. The blond found himself flying backwards, a cry of both surprise and pain bursting out. Flashes of red and gold swept past his vision, too rapidly that he couldn't even be sure they were there to begin with. But he felt the multiple blows nailing his body, over limbs and torso alike, with split-second regularity, all the same as the first.

Darkness flickered fast amid the flurry of Larxene's moves out of the corner of his eye. And just like that, he crashed back down to earth, wounds screaming out all the more at the impact. Vaguely, Demxy which of the other two had decided to jump in: Xigbar? Or Zexion? A high-pitched cry- of both anger and surprise, mostly the latter- broke through the haze; Demyx uncurled his body and looked up.

Zexion stood just in front of him, glancing briefly back over his shoulder at the blond to make sure he was okay. Over the Illusionist's shoulder, Demyx saw Larxene suspended up in the air by what he first took to be snakes but upon longer examination saw to be just Darkness, springing out from the corridor's walls and holding the young woman's limbs still... more or less. Snarls and curses erupted from her mouth with equal frequency amid her violent struggles. Lightning would pierce the inky binds, leaving only temporary holes that soon flowed shut again.

"Zexion-! You back-stabbing two-faced bastard- I am going to kill you, do you hear me?"

Xigbar was a lot quieter; Demyx heard the multiple chain of shoots go off and immediately fell back towards the ground with a yip. It might have been his ears ringing, but he was pretty sure he heard some form of pinging almost directly after he ducked again; but he was sure of the small kick to his side and Zexion's hurried orders, "Get up! C'mon, move it!"

Larxene cried out in surprise as the Darkness tossed her backwards, straight into Xigbar.

"Wh-what-?" The blond stammered out, only getting half-way up before being jerked the rest of the way up.

"Get moving-"

More shots were already following them, along with more of Larxene's shouting and lightning. Zexion gave him a swift push, forcing the blond to start running or trip and fall flat on his face- naturally he ran. The Illusionist's footsteps kept close to his back. "But- but what about-" Demyx started, coming to a startled stop when his caught a flash of movement a few feet ahead and off to their right; a pink laser shot erupted out from the middle of the portal, blocked by a sudden move of Darkness, not quite unlike the ones twisted over Larxene earlier. What-?

Zexion nudged him again. "I got us covered- just keep running!"


Running was good- he could do that.

"Why don't we just teleport?" He called back.

"The castle restricts our ability to- I can't open a portal that will get us anywhere any faster than running-"

The hallway flew past in snatches: between portals popping up in multiple directions around them with lasers (apparently Xigbar's abilities had not been limited any, somehow), and Larxene hounding the back of their heels (he was also pretty sure he spied her appearing on either side of their small group at the same time at least once, possibly several times), there was only so much he could see with Zexion shielding the attacks.

"Go right- through the double doors-"

Demyx followed Zexion's orders without a second thought, crashing through the set of doors as a bolt of lightning curved over his head. The blond spared a quick moment to look around. He couldn't remember seeing this room before (Just how long have we been running for?)- it was far roomier than the corridor, though the same carpet kept flowing through the center under his feet. Statues of armor, fit only to be worn by twisted, horrid gargoyles, lined both sides in intervals. Other bits of weaponry decorated the walls too. At the other end of the carpet, another, larger set of doors stood closed.

He heard Zexion come to a stop behind him and slowed down as well. "No," Zexion gestured him away with a shake of his head, "keep going-! I'll be right there." The blond hesitated, but did as he was told, fetching quick glances over his shoulder frequently. The Illusionist had moved further inside, and he kept moving backwards at a quick walk. Tendrils of Darkness radiated out along the floor from his feet, swimming quickly towards the statues; one receded towards his hand, carrying back a katana blade; Zexion took it in his left hand.

Why hasn't he summoned that Lexicon thing yet? Demyx wondered, glancing back forwards. One of the gargoyle statues suddenly moved with much ear-splitting screeches and creeks. It stepped forward from its post, 'stretching' out its limbs and testing an old battle axe held in its forelimbs. Oh geez- He must have been staring at the statue for too long- his feet tripped up, spilling him down onto the carpet, inches, he saw, from the doors. That was just his luck.

Demyx scrambled up to his feet, glancing back over his shoulder to check on Zexion as he did so.

The latter had made it just past half-way to the doors, walking with quick steps backwards with no apparent concern for the gargoyles. Solid, black shapes- bits of Darkness, Demyx figured- did fly overhead, carrying or propelling various weapons from the walls with them. At the very second Xigbar and Larxene appeared, Zexion gestured towards them with his free hand, muttering some word; the gargoyles and free-moving Darkness immediately zoned in on the sniper and nymph, charging for the attack. They were quickly surrounded, and too busy defending themselves to try attacking.

Yes! The blond turned back towards the door, eagerly grabbing the handles and pulled. We're gonna get out of this alive-!

The doors didn't even budge. Good mood quickly disappearing, Demyx tried again, leaning back on his feet and putting his weight into the tug. Not even an ounce of movement. On the off chance the doors actually opened the other way, he even tried pushing at the handles, with absolutely no success. "You have got to be kidding me-"

Gun shots, lightning strikes, and the repeated crashes of metal started to fill the room.

"What's wrong-?" Zexion's words barely made it through the clatter behind them.

Demyx spared a glance at the Illusionist. "The doors aren't opening-!"

Zexion placed a hand on the door for a second and swore. "Larxene must have put some spell on them before they freed me."

"But there's a way to break through it or something right?"

The Illusionist gave him a short, anxious look.

"Oh don't tell me that-!"

"I didn't say anything," Zexion cut him off, spinning quickly back around. He called a shield up, just in time to catch a stream of laser bullets headed their way. "Crap- they got through all of them already."

Demyx spied a flash of movement off to the man's left. "Look out-" He raised a hand, summoning up a small water spell; large spheres of solid water nailed Larxene, knocking her effectively off balance; she fell to the floor and vanished in a flash of light. Other clones were already rushing towards them; more shots hit Zexion's shield.

"You're going to have to open a portal."

"Wait- I thought you said we couldn't?"

"Yes, I can't, they can't. But you- I mean he could, so it stands to reason that you should be able to as well."

"But I'm not-"

Zexion raised the old katana blade, barely parrying one of the Larxene clones' attacks. "At least try!" Darkness bound around the clone's body and flung her into another one; the shield popped back up in time to catch more laser shots.

Demyx gulped. "O-okay-" He closed his eyes, hoping to block out some of the commotion. The darkness was readily available, though it felt a little different than how he remembered it- a little wilder, more unpredictable. "Where am I creating a portal to?"

"Anywhere... but... here!"

"Um, right." Demyx opened the portal behind him, grabbed ahold of Zexion, and stepped backwards. The last thing he saw of the inside of the castle were three Larxenes rushing in, blue and yellow sais raised and crackling with lightning.

And then they were outside, standing in the middle of what should have been the deserted city outside his world's Castle that Never Was, but was instead the crowded center of something close to Hollow Bastion. People, in various states of filth and poverty, dropped to the broken, dirty street on hands and knees, heads bowed so low they almost touched the ground. In less than a second, no one was standing save himself and Zexion. It was also silent- amid a nearly countless number of people, no one said a word or dared move. Fear was evident: those closest to him curled up on themselves, trying to stay as far away as possible.

Oh boy.

Zexion brushed past his side, katana blade pointing harmlessly towards the ground in a relaxed grip. "If you'll follow me, my Lord- the rebels' hideout was discovered further east."

"Um, right-" Demyx nodded, hoping he looked and sounded something like his double, "Lead on." And walked after Zexion with (something like) purposeful, confident strides.

People scurried out of their way without getting to their feet. The Illusionist ignored them completely, and the blond tried to do the same, but it got harder the longer they kept going.

Finally, finally the numbers of people diminished- and at an even longer amount of time later, they were left to themselves once again. Demyx released a sigh of relief. "Thank god-"

Zexion scowled over his shoulder at the blond. "We're not there yet, my Lord, and the 'rebels' are bound to be on our tails soon enough."

"Huh? You mean Xig-" Demyx caught the second glare and cut himself off. Another few seconds drifted by before he ventured, "So.., where are we headed to anyways, Zexion?"

The Illusionist slowed down until he was walking side-by-side with the blond. "I'm following Axel's scent to one of his hide outs… He's managed to keep clear of both the real rebels and us for months- it should be safe."

Axel? Demyx wondered. But then again why wouldn't the redhead be here? "What if he's already there?"

"He won't be-"

"How do you know?"

Zexion hesitated. "He's scared to death of you. Don't worry," the Illusionist quickly added at the stunned look on Demyx's face, "he has plenty of other places to go to- I caught the scent of several trails leading away from the market. I bet there's a hide-out at the end of each one."

"…Oh." Demyx fell silent, letting these new small bits of information to process. Zexion took the lead again, pushing their pace to a brisk walk. "What about Xigbar and Larxene?"


"They're following us, right? How long is it going to take for them to-?"



"Calm down. The rebels have been on our tails every time we venture out of the Castle- Xigbar and Larxene will have the whole city to search through, with constant distractions thrown at them thanks to the rebels…" Zexion began slowing down the pace. "We have time."

Well, that was a relief.

"Ah- here we are," Zexion announced less than cheerfully, coming to a full stop in front of what Demyx would definitely not call a 'hide-out'. The terrain from the edge of the city on was not forgiving: mostly flat ground at various elevations with little to no scraggly and struggling vegetation. The area Zexion had stopped in front of was yet another example; a haphazard pile of broken rocks broke the otherwise flat monotony. Tall, yellowing weeds grew up out from the edges, apparently unable to grow nearby.

"Uh, Zexion-"

The Illusionist paid him no attention, striding towards the patch of weeds.


He was hushed. "Let me concentrate for a second."



Demyx bit back his most recent apology. Quiet moments passed, making the blond more anxious and edgy; he heartily jumped out of his skin when Zexion suddenly plunged the katana blade into the ground amid the weeds, causing a burst of flames. Over the roar of the blaze, he was pretty sure he heard the other man curse.

The fires died down quickly; to the blond's relief, Zexion was unharmed- although there was a liberal amount of soot and burnt shreds of plant matter sticking to his clothes which he half-heartedly swiped at. "Are you okay..?" Demyx started asking, stopping at the look the Illusionist gave him. "What was that all about then?"

"It was a spell to keep out intruders from finding the entrance- Axel's, apparently… it should be okay, now. And I can replace it later- but let's just go in for now."

"Wha-?" the blond followed Zexion's gesture to the pile on now non-rocks and weeds. The katana blade itself was still buried in the ground, horrifically burnt up and more a study of molten, twisted metal than an actual sword- but the scenery it was near had changed. The pile of rocks had shifted places somewhat, far enough that Demyx could spy the hole in the middle at the center. "…wait… we're going to be hiding in a hole in the ground?"

Zexion sighed. "I imagine it leads to some kind of cave-"

"Oh goody-"

"Would you rather wait for Xigbar and Larxene to find you? C'mon-" Zexion turned away, giving the katana sword a brief, dismissive look, before calmly descending down the hole into the depths beyond.

oh boy. Demyx sighed. He hurried after the Illusionist, though he took the trip down slower and more carefully than Zexion's graceful moves had been. Even so, he still nearly tripped with the last step. The light and air temperature dropped in brightness and heat the further down he went, and as he stood blinking and trying to get used to the darkness of the underground, he figured that the trip must have taken him and Zexion down by about ten or so feet. Oh goody- just as deep as a grave- deeper even… thanks, Axel. Sudden thoughts of being trapped down there threatened his mind.

His eyes quickly adjusted. The grave-cave might have been as far down as a final resting place, but the width was not; it stretched out to about ten feet around, curving out gently from the entrance towards a nearly indiscernible back. No furniture or any other kind of home-y equipment was evident; just a pile of old, blackened and grayed ashes towards the back. Zexion stood by the mound of ashes, kneeling on the ground and considering it.

"I don't suppose you know any fire magic..?" The Illusionist asked. The cave was not all that big, but sounds still bounced lightly around the air, barely making an echo. His eyes' search over the blond's face must have given away some kind of answer, as Zexion turned his gaze away, speaking to himself, "Okay... I guess I can support that spell, too-"

"What spell?" Demyx started, not getting it all out before Zexion waved his hand in a tight circle over the ash pile. Darkness sprung up from his hand, following the moves of his hand as he made another twisty-circle. Another pass later and the Darkness was revolving in a tight sphere by itself. Zexion dropped his hand back to his side, clearly tired. "..um, what is that supposed to do?" The blond asked.

A verbal answer was not necessary: the small sphere of Darkness- no bigger than a baseball- slowly began to expand in diameter, the energies it was made up of swirling faster and faster until the entire spell was roughly basketball-sized and did not look like it was revolving at all. It was also very black- very Dark. In fact, as Demyx soon noted, the darkness of the orb was darker than that of the surrounding cave... which just did not make any sense to his mind. Why would a ball of Darkness make the surrounding darkness less... dark?

Soft shuffles marked Zexion's movement. The blond's eyes snapped back to the other Nobody. In the new non-light, Demyx could see more than just outlines- there were almost colors in the cave now. The Illusionist spoke softly, "It's just absorbing the surrounding darkness in the air... It'll keep going until light hits it or there's no longer any darkness to fuel it." Zexion's eyes considered the spell. "Think of it... as a negative fire."

"Whatever you say... I trust you."

A frown clearly crossed his friend's face. "You shouldn't."

"But, why-?"

Zexion shook his head, effectively silencing him with the gesture. "Nevermind."

"...okay..." Demyx allowed.

Zexion nodded, and then gestured at the blond to come closer. He sat Indian-style on the ground- although it was more of a fall than a voluntary movement- which Demyx followed suit and ended up shifting around on the dirty, cold and totally uncomfortable earth across from the Illusionist.

"We need to talk."

Demyx froze, eyes watching the other Nobody warily.

"About what our next step is going to be," Zexion continued after a split second later.

"Oh, okay." The blond relaxed.

"First, you're not the Demyx we all know here, correct..?"

"No- defintely not."

Something both relieved and saddened passed behind the Illusionist's eyes. ".. I just wanted to be sure... Good. Then, I need to know how you got here."

"That's... kinda've a long story."

"Just tell me the essential parts."

"Um... well, I was supposed to bring this mirror back for the Superior, but I accidentally bumped into it, ." Demyx rattled off the words at a quick pace, not liking the slowly deepening frown over Zexion's face. Usually that look meant 'Demyx, you're not making any sense', and he really did not know how to make the story any less crazy than it was.

"A mirror? You're sure?"

The blond nodded, waiting for it...

"Then we're going to have to find it."

"Wait- you believe me?"

Zexion arched an eyebrow. "Of course- that was the truth, right?"

"Yeah, yeah- but," Demyx forced himself to stop. This was probably the first time someone had simply taken his word without any doubts- even more so, it was Zexion doing it, the guy who seemed to pay as little attention to him as the Superior and Saix did. Might as well enjoy it while it lasted. Which will be how long..? "Nevermind- it's nothing."

"All right... Anyway, what does this mirror look like?"

"Uh, it's big, oval-ish I think, and it has a metal frame. I think."

"That's all?"

"Yeah... sorry."

Zexion shook the apology off with a similar gesture of his head. "No, we're lucky you saw as much of it as you did considering what little time you had to look at it. Unfortunately, I don't remember ever seeing a mirror like that back in the Castle, or anywhere in Hollow Bastion for that matter... And with the amount of worlds He conquered, it could be literally anywhere." He bowed his head, face crunched up in what the blond recognized to be deep thought. He was muttering under his breath: "I might get lucky and have a few days before anyone finds him... and then I'd be able to search through a few locations- but where? Where would He hide a mirror- or would He just have it destroyed..?"

Demyx gulped. Destroyed! Oh no... A cold hand clenched over his chest. To never get out of this nightmare- even if it did have Zexion in it- to never go 'home'... "Why destory some ugly old mirror? That's like, seven years of bad luck..." His chuckle, weak to begin with, petered out after only two laughs.

"For lack of a better reason, like 'it's a powerful magical item and you don't want it used against you', I would guess destruction for the sake of destruction."


"You- he… possesses a nasty temper."

The blond felt sick. So do I.

Zexion must have caught a glimpse of his expression- he smiled slightly and continued, "Don't worry, you're nothing like him."

That did not help. It was a lie: Demyx knew, if no one else did apparently, how many times dark thoughts had run across his mind, how many times he had been close to just letting loose. And so on.

There was no way to tell Zexion that.

"Yeah," Demyx finally replied, "but I could become him."

"No you wouldn't. You're too... jumpy."

"But I could be him-"

"But. You. Won't." Zexion cut over him in a harsh growl. Iced blue eyes locked onto the blond's, glaring. Long seconds passed, the blond too shocked to even react. Had he ever seen Zexion so infuriated before...? He could not remember.

Oh no, I don't want him to leave now too-

That brought in another chilling thought:

What if Zexion turned on him?

Could I really fight him..?

But then the ice melted in the Illusionist's gaze, his whole expression and posture softening. He sighed, "Now please, Demyx, I need to concentrate and just... think without any interruptions."

The blond nodded. "...sorry."

Zexion did not answer.

So Demyx settled himself down as best as possible, biting his tongue every time the urge to speak came over him. He kept himself occuppied, more or less, by studying Zexion. The Nobody's face was the essence of serenity, body poised perfectly still and yet relaxed at the same time. Skin smooth and unflawed, save for a definte red shadow circling around his neck. Eyes, always intelligent and focused, closed for now. He wondered what the Cloaked Schemer would do if he leaned in closer and just ever so gently touched the Nobody's shoulder.

Coppery liquid filled over his mouth as he had to bite his tongue harder than usual in order to keep quiet. Heat flowed over his face. Demyx ducked his head down so Zexion would not see it, focusing on his hands. If he was not supposed to be quiet he would summon his sitar and start playing some chords or something- anything- to stop thinking. Music would calm him down. But of course he said he would let Zexion think in peace... Then again, there was air guitar.

In the middle of threading through a scale on invisible neck and strings, the blond risked a quick glance up at the Cloaked Schemer. He ducked his head back down, fingers moving faster.

...no, I couldn't fight him. Not ever.

The monotonous passing of time found Luxord waiting- always waiting- for the Superior's summons in the meeting room- what Demyx would call the "Throne Room". The gambler had to admit that the room did hold a certain resemblance to such: the thirteen chairs did look a lot like towering thrones. The bright light that filled the rest of the Castle all but obliterated every shadow from the curved walls. Only pale grays delinated the ring of seats, getting deeper in shade when it outlined the semi-raised platform of the floor far below. The Nobody symbol boasted the only color of the room in a medium gray, outlined in thin black.

Luxord ran his eyes unwillingly over the now empty spots where Organization members would sit during meetings. Thirteen chairs to look at (well, technically twelve really). His hands threaded through a deck of cards, turning tricks, shuffling, sliding from thumb to pinky and back again and so on, all on their own. Thirteen chairs, thirteen Nobodies to consider.

First Xemnas: always sitting tall and strong, looking down at them, now planning another's fate.

Then Xigbar, all too alive and well, followed by Zexion, already gone.

Axel, missing.

Himself. Enough said.

Marluxia once upon a time, and then Roxas.

Halfway around the circle now, going into the finishing stretch with Larxene.

Demyx- whatever had happened to him.

Saix, suddenly eliminated.

Ditto Lexaeous.

Same for Xaldin, now.

Then Xemnas, again.

Another trip around the room, and another. One more for old time's sake.

There's far too many empty seats here.

With Axel gone, Demyx probably going to be eliminated, meetings were going to be... pointless. Just three Nobodies, debating... what, exactly? What was left to talk about? Ever since the end at Castle Oblivion, any kind of democracy between the Superior and Saix and the rest of the members had fizzled out of existence. There was the mission, meted out to them through Number VII, and then the wait for the next assignment. Any discussions at meetings were all philosophical at best. Once Xemnas's word was announced, that was it. After Castle Oblivion, you either stood with the Organization or you stood alone. After, you were with Xemnas, or against.

There was no middle ground.

As if there was a lot of it before.

No, there had not been.

But this was not the time to worry over that.

The cards flowed smoothly through his hands. Luxord looked down at them, considering. It was far too tempting to try taking a look-

"Hey, Luxord-" The blond glanced past his hands, past his feet just dangling over the edge of the chair- or should he just give up and call it a throne from now on?- all the way down to the floor below. Xigbar stood in the middle of the Nobody symbol, gold eye flicking up at him, and then away and back again.


"Yeah. He made his decision."

Oh, how nice. That explained why the sniper was here, telling him verbally. Luxord let the cards disappear in mere wisps of smoke, regardless of how badly his nervous fingers would rather have something handy to fiddle with. "He's still at the Altar of Naught, correct?"


The blond nodded, once, curtly. Before Xigbar had the chance to ask, Luxord closed his eyes and concentrated briefly. When he opened his eyes, he was standing atop the Altar of Naught, Xigbar by his side, shaking off a stray wisp of Darkness clinging to a side of his face.

Xemnas stood as he had before, back turned towards the two of them, head tilted back, gaze locked onto Kingdom Hearts. For all the hours that had passed, he might as well have been contemplating the visible craters and rises of the moon's surfaces.

For all that we know, Luxord thought, he did.

Oh, for sure the Superior had been thinking. The question was what had passed through Xemnas's head. How to best deal with Demyx's alarming changes? or, How to most quickly finish this mess and get back to completing Kingdom Hearts?

Luxord had a feeling it was the latter.

Will that even give us our hearts back..? I no longer know...

"Number II.., Number X," Xemnas's sudden greeting broke through the gambler's thoughts, "it is truly... regrettable, but it seems this is what the Organization is to be reduced to. Allowing Number IX to roam free for any longer would only further hinder our goals. Therefore-"

Here's where the debate should begin.. The blond opened his mouth to speak, but a sharp elbow digging into his side shut him up. Luxord glanced over to the side and cast the sniper a glare. Xigbar narrowed his one eye and slightly shook his head. Now what?

Too late.

"-we will search for Number IX and, once we find him, eliminate him." Xemnas turned around. "Any questions?"

"Where should we start looking?" Xigbar asked quietly.

"We will start with Hollow Bastion- in the vale."

The sniper inclined his head in acknowledgment.

"Let us be off." The Superior vanished from sight in a portal. Luxord reached for the Darkness to open his own portal, but he felt Xigbar latch a hand around his upper arm and before he could fight the sniper off, they were drawn into the realm.

Wordlessly the blond shook him off.

"Can we just talk for a minute?" Xigbar asked.

"It would have been more productive to speak at the 'meeting'," Luxord snapped back. "This is a suicide mission- you must realize that. Even Xemnas must know that… it's like he's not even thinking anymore." He shook his head, trying ti reorder his thoughts on the matter at hand. "Why did you stop me?"

"Look, Luxord- about Xemnas.." Xigbar hesitated, then continued, "it's kinda complicated-"

The blond arched an eyebrow at him.

""I-I really can't say what-"

Luxord sighed. "Xemnas will be waiting for us- we should get going." Xigbar was still talking- he shut the words out and opened the other end of the portal for Hollow Bastion.

Xemnas was indeed waiting for them. Luxord smoothed the hood up over his head, not acknowledging the sniper's appearance from the realm. The vale stretched out past the cliff edge before them in an almost never-ending meadow of blue. Something like dread seeped into his stomach and settled there as Xemnas and Xigbar turned and began walking along the edge.

This is stupid…

Luxord shoved his thoughts back and followed.

Five invisibly and silently played songs later, the Illusionist must have reached some kind of conclusion. The Nobody got his feet under him and stood up. Demyx sheepishly stopped the string of chords and followed Zexion's slow steps towards the entrance. "Hey- where are you going..?" he asked when it became very clear that Zexion had no intention of speaking.

I-is he just going to leave me here?

"Assuming that the mirror wasn't destroyed and that He hid it, I think it'll be in one of two places. If it's not in either of those, it will probably be somewhere on this world, and I will search around Hollow Bastion when I return," Zexion replied without ever once slowing down.

"When you return?" Demyx repeated. "You can't go now-! Besides, I got Sora to go look for the mirror here."

Half of the blond's expectations of the Illusionist's reactions came true; the latter's footsteps slammed to a halt, feet half-turning him back to Demyx. His eyes had widened considerably, face paling beyond normal. "You did... what?" Zexion asked around a shaky breath. "Are you insane-? Why are you even going near that kid-?" He stopped himself with a bit of obvious effort. "No.., you just don't know."

Demyx had shrunk into himself during the mini tirade, shaken. Where did I mess up this time? "What's the problem? Doesn't Sora take orders from me (well, Him)...?"

"...in a way, yes... I just hope the mirror isn't on this world- or, if it is, that the kid gets distracted by the rebels..."

The blond blinked, confused.

Zexion sighed. "Do you know why Sora is the best at what he does?"

"...um, he's good at sneaking around..?"

"Partially. He's a great assassin because he's a great hunter. No matter whom his target is, Sora has been able to track down every single one within two days- at most. Usually he reports back to you after a mission before the day is out."

Demyx gulped. "Seriously?"

"Of course."

"Heh, I thought you were the best tracker around with that nose of your's and all..."

"He's better."

Those two words, spoken as a single, acknowledged fact. Coming out of Zexion's mouth, they meant a lot, Demyx knew. He couldn't help it: he gulped again, a little harder this time with such a dry throat. "What about inanimate objects?" he asked. "Is Sora that good finding those?"

Zexion's eyes moved away from his face, clearly thinking. "...I don't know. I don't think you- He- has ever given that kind of mission to Sora before."

"Well, I guess we'll find out."

Zexion blanched. Since first learning of the assassin's involvement, his face had regained some of its color and the rest of his posture had relaxed greatly. Not completely- but enough to show that he could deal with it, that he was currently handling it, in thought at least. Demyx took that as a good sign. "I'd rather not," the Illusionist replied, breaking a part of the illusion that the blond had created himself. So much for Zexion having all the answers.


"I don't know if Sora has already figured out who you really are, or what he will do when he does-"

Not if, Demyx noted, when.

The Illusionist paused before continuing on, "If he wanted to kill you, I don't know if I'll be able to stop him- he's a good fighter and I'm-... I'm out of practice."

"You did really good against Xigbar and Larxene-"

"That wasn't a straight fight," Zexion interrupted him quickly, "and if you hadn't teleported us out, they would have overwhelmed us in seconds. Easily."

"O-oh." That was all the blond could come up with for that. It was really that bad..? Images of the recent escape came back to his head, unbidden. He pushed them away quickly, trying not to visibly flinch. Yeah, it had been that bad.

"Yes, exactly."


The Illusionist let out an exasperated breath, one hand rubbing at his temple. Sure sign of a headache. "Please stop saying that."


What am I supposed to replace 'sorry' with? 'My bad'? 'Oops'? Those don't really work...

While Demyx puzzled over that, Zexion shook his head and turned to go. "Nevermind. I'll be back in a few hours at most... we'll figure something out about Sora then."

"Wait-!" Demyx scrambled up to his feet. Of course his foot was the one to find that tiny patch of loose dirt that nearly spilled him face-first to the ground again, but he managed to regain his balance.

"What is it this time?" Zexion snapped.

"You can't go out there- you're exhausted!"

A frown creased the Cloaked Schemer's face. "I'm perfectly fine-"

"No, you only get headaches when you're tired, and you're getting impatient. And you're going to plan around Sora later? You wouldn't leave a situation unaccounted for if you had the energy to, uh, account for it!" Demyx stopped himself there, before going into a rant with more observations that only a stalker would recognize and pick out. Even so, it was a tough fight. This might not be the Zexion from his world, but this was still Zexion; he did not want the Nobody putting himself into danger for his sake.

"We don't have time for this-"

"You've already been slinging major spells all over the place," the blond interrupted, a little softer this time, "nevermind running around and keeping that dark-eating orb thing alive. You haven't summoned that Lexicon thing yet to help out... so if you're 'out of practice', how are you gonna defend yourself if you're attacked?"

Zexion crossed his arms over his chest. Only Cranky, Tired Zexion did that, but Demyx kept himself from pointing that out. "I won't have to fight as long as I can still run away- which, with my sense of smell and remaining energy, I can do easily."

"What if they," whoever 'they' were, Demyx inwardly added to himself, "stay downwind of you? Or you can't escape them?"


"Let me come with you."

The statement surprised the two of them, but Demyx forced himself not to show it. It was a request- no, demand- he wanted to make, one had had wanted to make for a long time now, and he would not back down now. Not when it was finally out in the air.

Zexion blinked and shook his head. The look of surprise still had not left his face. "N-no, I can't."

"Let me come with you," Demyx repeated simply.



"Why not?" Demyx asked.

"You won't be safe out there," Zexion replied evenly, "You don't know anything about... anything."

Something like anger irked at the blond. "You mean I'll just be in your way. Right?"

Zexion's silence was answer enough for him.

"Okay, I'm no rocket scientist- I get that, and I don't really care. So I'm incompetent at everything I do- so what? I still want to try! I'm not much of a fighter, true, but I can watch your back, you know- or help set up portals, or anything else you need done." Demyx closed his eyes, forcing himself to breathe for a minute. When he reopened his eyes, the Illusionist was watching him steadily with something he could only hope was agreement. "I'm not completely useless."

Zexion was quiet for another few seconds. "That's not what I meant, Demyx."

The blond stared at him, waiting.

"Do you know what it's like to hate a person, a thing, with such intensity that you would risk your life to fight it? Not just to risk it, but to willingly throw it away?"

"What are you talking about?" He had hated- maybe not to that point, but hatred all the same.

"Did you forget Xigbar and Larxene? Or the city and the rebles I mentioned?" Zexion started. "Everyone has been fighting against this... empire we've created for almost seven years now. After a while, mercy and forgiveness is no longer an option to the enemy. The enemy itself becomes just a symbol- a sign of oppression, horror, slavery and so on- a thing and not a group of individuals to fight. If an opportunity presents itself, people will take it and just destroy it as much as possible."

"But," Demyx had to swallow around the sudden desert grating in his voice. He had known that getting caught would come with bad consequences, but still... "I'm not him. You noticed that! Won't others?"

The Illusionist gave him a long, unnervingly steady look. "They'll see that you're different. They'll see that you are now weak and vulnerable. They will see the chance for freedom, for vengeance, and they will see that the time to act is now. You are not you, Demyx, you're the fear they've been trying to defeat. It doesn't matter that you're not really Him. They won't see that."

"..not even Xigbar or Larxene?"

Something in Zexion's eyes softened. Demyx was not sure, but he thought it was probably pity. "Demyx..," Zexion started, paused, and went on, "all they cared about was that you seemed defeatable at long, long, long last. And I agreed with them."

'And I agreed with them'. It echoed in Demyx's mind, stabbing a spot that would be his heart repeatedly.

"As for the rest of the empire, I wouldn't be surprised if they had citizens who'd be willing to kill you as well. The forces he's left there might have turned too."

Like Xigbar and Larxene, Demyx thought to himself. Like Zexion- almost.

"This is the safest spot for you right now. You're not coming with me, understand?"

The blond bit his lip. "But what if they attack you?"

"No one will. As far as any one else knows, I'm still a fully functional and powerful member of your-.. his- choosen elites. They don't want me, anyways."

"You said the rebels are willing to eliminate Xigbar or Larxene-"

"-because they believe wiping out the remainders of your underlings will bring you out. And," the Cloaked Schemer added, "we're part of that symbol, too."

"Then they will attack you! Or they might try to use you to get to me- him! Like, taking you hostage and stuff-"

Zexion let out a short breath- if it had not been Zexion doing that, it would be more accurately described as a snort. "Demyx has not allowed any person to become close to him in any way. Taking hostages is useless against him. He doesn't... care."

"Yeah, well, I do." Another bold statement. It made Zexion start a little, just enough that Demyx found the courage to join Zexion's side without any apologetic hints in his expression. He looked the other Nobody straight in the eye. "I'm going with you."

Zexion's eyes ran over the blond. "And that's your final word on the subject?" he asked, voice low and dry.


"Then I apologize for doing this."

"Doing what..?" Demyx started, blinking and confused as Zexion raised his left hand up to the blond's forehead. The Cloaked Schemer's index finger was extended, tip just barely brushing a stray bit of Demyx's hair to touch his skin. He meant to take a step back- he had not realized just how close he had gotten to Zexion- but his legs felt deadened, as heavy and immobile as pillars of iron.

The sensation spread quickly throughout his body. "He-hey.." Demyx's eyelids thudded closed like gates, forced back up only with sheer will, "... what did you do-oo-?" His eyes shut once more, this time for good. Dimly, Demyx felt his legs just give out from under him. He should have fallen. All the way to an unyeilding ground and the dull pain from impact, and all that jazz. But someone's arms grabbed him before that point, giving him a more gentle landing to the floor- no pain at all.

The same person lifted his head up, working the hood to his uniform up over his head. As a cushion, it only alleviated some of the bumpy ground unconsciousness.

Unfortunately, they left after that.

The blond's thoughts were warbling, not just threatening to stop, but actually starting to short circuit and fizzle into nothing-ness. That... wasn't... fair... Demyx could not help but to fall back into sleep.

Thanks for catching me..., Zexion...

...please come back soon..

Once it was clear that nothing walked the twisting corridors of the castle except a few lone Heartless and some dust bunnies, Axel grew bolder and ventured less cautiously around corners, going further into rooms than he might have otherwise dared. Soon he was past the disorganized office- Someone was in a chaotic mood…- and stood on the catwalk-hallway overlooking the giant room.

Axel whistled a tune at a slower pace, pausing after each note. The echoes caught the noise and threw it about, creating a haunting, circling recording. Who on earth, the redhead thought to himself, would actually want to create a machine that makes Heartless..?

I don't know- maybe they were bored? Something close to Roxas's voice answered.

The whistling died.

Axel turned away from the railing and continued on into the next room. He was staring at the soft glow of a computer screen when another thought hit him: why can't I sense Saix anymore? The second his presence had crossed Axel's notice, he had headed straight for the nearest hiding spot: the Castle. Maybe not the most low-key spot in Hollow Bastion, but it had seemed to work. And now it did not matter anymore.

But just to be sure the redhead pushed his senses out as far as they could go. Crap. All hopes of continuing his search without any hassling soon vanished. What the hell-? The Superior is here? Axel ran a hand through his hair. …If I try teleporting now, he'll know it instantly… Looks like I'm stuck here for the time being- I'll just keep a low profile and-

Axel's eyes widened at the sudden appearance of a portal. "You have got to be kidding me…" he muttered.

"Kidding about what?"

Axel relaxed, as the newcomer- only ditzy Demyx- stepped out of the darkness. He could handle the blond. "..Nothing. What are you doing here, Demyx?"

A smile played over the other Nobody's face. "Oh… no real reason. I was looking for you, actually…"

He tried not to laugh. Not too much, at least. "Yeah right- Saix sending you out in his stead."

"Oh, Saix doesn't give me orders… Not that he'll be giving any out to anyone for a while, either, but that's beside the point. Rest assured, Axel, I'm here of my own volition."

Axel frowned, slightly. "Right…, well, run along Demmy, I don't have any business with you."

A dark cloud passed over the blond's face. "Don't call me that. Anyways, I have business with you. I really hope it wasn't you- I might like to keep as my first pet again."

What the..? "What in the world are you talking about?"

"First things first-" Demyx held a hand out near his side: water flowed over his hand down towards the ground, solidifying into a sword. (When did he get that? Axel wondered.) "-were you the one that killed my Zexion?"

"'My Zexion'?" The redhead repeated. "You're awfully full of yourself today, aren't you?" His eyes ran over the sword again, trying to ignore his thoughts. No one had been there- how could Demyx have known..?

The blond just laughed.

..Something's up. That's it- forget Xemnas, I'm getting out of here. But something suddenly tightened around his waist. Axel glanced down, finding not just the one coil, but several ropes of water looping around his body. "Crap-" He reached for the fire, and muttered another curse when it refused to obey. How did he do that?

The blond's chuckles died off. "So- your answer?"

"Demyx, let me go- I'd hate to have to hurt you."

"Bullshit. You can't do a damn thing and you know it."

"Don't test me."

"No, Axel," Demyx gestured with his free hand0 the water suddenly picked him up completely off the ground by a good foot, "don't test me." He flicked his hand again and then the redhead found himself flying through the air, somehow making it through the opening into the next room rather than hitting the wall. He skidded along the ground, coming to an abrupt stop as his back and head smacked into an unyielding surface.

Out of the corner of his eyes, he spied a sliver of his reflection before cloth landed over his face. Shitshitshit- Axel flailed an arm loose and yanked the fabric off. Demyx's face filled his vision, anger showing in a way the redhead could not remember ever seeing before. Instinctively he pulled back, head smacking into the mirror again-

-and then something was tugging at his head and upper body, pulling him backwards and into something. The last he remembered seeing was the blond's expression change, looking almost curious beyond the rage, and then intense light.

Jeez- now what?

Demyx settled back on his heels, feeling oddly calm as the mirror sucked up the redhead's feet. He cocked his head to one side. "…that's very interesting. Hmmm…"

The glass was moving like the surface of a pond when a pebble hit it, rings radiating out from the spot where Axel's feet had last been. It came to a stop after a few seconds. As an experiment, the blond lifted a hand up, reaching out towards the glass, when light beamed out into his face. Demyx shut his eyes, letting loose a string of curses. Only once he saw dark behind his eyelids instead of red did he dare open his eyes.

"Oh-," the blond felt a smile return, and continued in a near purr, "hello again."

Axel lay huddled in a shivering mass at his feet, long limbs trying to scrunch in tighter to his body, head down. His clothes were in a worse state than the blond remembered: ripped up in shreds and permanently stained with dirt.

Demyx nudged the redhead's shoulder. "I said hello, Axel."

Bright green eyes peered up from underneath long, tangled hair and widened nearly twice their original size. His shivers stopped.

"Aren't you going to say 'hello' back to me? It's only polite."

No movement- Axel did not even blink.

Demyx sighed. "Too bad your other self isn't here… I really would have made him my pet- it was so much fun breaking you the first time." He smiled to himself, enjoying the way it made the fear grow in the redhead's eyes. It almost made him laugh. "Oh don't worry- I'm not gonna hurt you this time. However, I am a busy man, so shoo-!" The word barely left his mouth before Axel obeyed in a flurry of uncoordinated movement. He made a wide berth around Demyx on all fours, and left the closeted room in much the same fashion.

He could still hear Axel as he got back up to his own feet, never turning away from the mirror. At a series of echoing crashes Demyx burst out laughing, turning his head slightly over his shoulder to shout, "Still haven't mastered the art of walking on two legs, have you?"

Axel did not answer, but then again the blond was not expecting him to.

Hmmm… I should kill him the next time I see him… I can't stand slow learners.

He dismissed it from mind, turning his thoughts over to the interesting little device standing oh-so-innocently before him. "So… you're a mirror in this dimension..," Demyx said softly to himself. "Hmm… well, I have no desire to go home anytime soon- not when the fun is just starting, so-" He scooped the cloth up from the ground and threw it over the frame: he was not about to risk sending himself anywhere.

The cloth settled nicely.

Demyx lifted Duer-ik up and stabbed the sword's point straight into the middle of the covered glass. An inhuman shriek pierced the small room. The blond ignored it and pushed harder. The noise grew in volume and pitch - he felt goose bumps rise over his skin from it.

The shrieks fell silent as the glass shattered apart.

A chunk of the frame came off as Demyx shook his sword free. He kicked it, sending it into a dark corner. "And that," he said, "should take care of that."

Something brushed over his senses- ripples of power. The blond cocked his head to one side, almost as if he could hear the three Nobody's presences. He chuckled to himself and opened a portal to Villian's Vale. "Oh, you guys are making this too easy-"

The portal disappeared behind him, leaving nothing but trails of thin smoke reflecting off shards of glass.