Last chapter. So that little word up top that says 'Complete', once again it is correct. So... this means that I would now implore every last one of you that want to be notified by e-mail message from of the exact date at which I will begin posting The Annals of Darkness: Part III: The War to place me under your 'Author Alert' list. I will also be sending out a mass PM to everyone on the story alerts and story favourites list that doesn't have me on author alerts when I begin, but I can only send out sixty PMs a day, so it may take a few days to get to you. And it is also time consuming on my part, even though I will gladly do it just to give those who are too lazy to click a couple of buttons the opportunity to know when I have begun.
However, I will be ticked when I finally get through it all.
And you will see at the bottom that I have left replies to all the reviews submitted to the previous chapter at the time that this one went up. This will be the format from now on, except for reviews from this chapter, in which I shall continue to use the previous method of sending review replies through the site.
Disclaimer: If I owned this it would either be a game or a published book and I'd have quite a bit of money more than I have now.
A Week of Troubles
Chapter XXIII: Islanders' Memories
Sora awoke in the Pride Lands before the Sun had even considered rising. As such, his eyes were greeted by the darkness of night. He shook his head and yowled slightly in a yawn as his dimly opened eyes began to adjust to the silvery light filtering into the lions' den as it came from the almost full moon and stars. Why did he have to wake up when it was so early?
Close his eyes as hard as he might, Sora couldn't get the afterimage of the silver moonlight reflecting off of the stone purged from his mind, and knowing that it would be pointless to continue trying to sleep, Sora moaned quietly so as to not wake the other sleeping felines, bird, meerkat and warthog that were in the blissful realm to which he could not find the ability to return to.
It was a pity. He'd been having such a good dream about him and Kairi in the Hundred Acre Wood too.
Sora stiffly padded his way out of the den and onto the promontory of Pride Rock, the moonlight shining down on him as too many stars to count twinkled pleasantly above him. His automail foreleg clinked with every step onto the rock, but Sora hardly noticed it now as it had become a part of him. The rest of him moaned at him to stop and rest as it recovered from the fight he'd had the previous day, but Sora ignored the stiff feeling in the areas where the cuts were still healing.
He came up to the tip of Pride Rock and looked over the Pride Lands as they lay bathed in the moon and starlight. Everything seemed so peaceful and beautiful at this time while the moon began to set and before the Sun would even bother peeking her fiery golden head up from her rest.
Excitement slowly rose within Sora to the point where it was all he could do to keep from leaping and bounding and shouting to the heavens in his happiness as he awaited the coming dawn and sunrise. For Simba had told him the previous night that very soon after sunrise all of the animals of the Pride Lands would gather around Pride Rock...
And he would then roar, to declare himself their Prince.
The thought continued to swirl in his mind. Prince Sora. Prince Sora. Prince Sora. Sora: The Lion Prince; Prince of Pride Rock. Princess Kairi, Princess of Radiant Garden.
A prince was a prince, and he would become a prince just after dawn. They could be together for the rest of their lives. Now if only he could work up the courage and determination to propose to her...
Sora shook his head. They weren't ready. The worlds weren't ready. Maleficent still had to be defeated and they still had to pick up the pieces of their former lives before they could even continue on to thinking about the future. That and he needed a ring.
"The moon is beautiful tonight, isn't it?"
Sora frowned and quickly turned around at the voice to look at its owner, a female lion with rosy-red fur that in the darkness made it closer to a very dark red. The lioness wasn't the size of a cub though, it was more to what would be an adolescent lioness, making her bigger than Sora.
"Kairi?" he asked aloud. Sora was confused. The last time he'd been having images like this, Kairi's heart had dwelled within his and he was seeing images of her conjured up by it. But what really surprised him was that this Kairi was so much bigger than him. Her shoulders had to be at least a foot higher than his and her body was two and a half times as long, excluding the length of their tails.
Apparently something of the previous sort was happening again, for 'Kairi' did not answer his question, merely padded her way up next to him softly. Sora perked and strained his ears, but he could not hear her paws fall onto the ground. "But I find it even more beautiful when I'm with you," she continued, still looking at the sky and speaking in a soft and tender voice that made Sora's heart ache in longing for her and wish that she was really here.
Sora nodded at her words and looked up into the night sky. "Yeah, the moon is beautiful," he agreed, "but the only way it could be better is if you were really here Iri." He looked at her phantom and she only continued gazing into the night air.
"But they all share the same sky," he continued, "so as long as you and I are both looking at the moon and stars, no matter where we are, we're never alone."
"But I'm not looking at the moon," said Kairi, looking down and away. "I can't even see its light where I am." She turned and looked at Sora. "You said that you'd be back as soon as you could come. Hurry back to me Sora, because it isn't looking good right now."
"Well you're looking good," Sora countered. "You're bigger than me."
Kairi's head whipped towards his. "Are you saying I'm fat?" she asked.
"No," answered Sora. "I'm saying you're bigger than me. Take a look Kai." It was then that the phantom image of Kairi stared at him for a moment before looking around at herself, noticing that she was in fact larger than him in ever manner.
"How did that happen?" she asked to no one in particular. "Why would I be dreaming myself to be bigger than you?"
"What do you mean dreaming yourself?" Sora asked. "Aren't you some kind of figment of my heart's imagination like last time when your heart was in mine?"
"What are you talking about?" Kairi asked. "I'm asleep in my cell and this is a dream."
"Well I'm not asleep and I know that I'm not dreaming Kairi," Sora said, walking around her and examining her fur with more scrutiny than before. He placed a paw to her side and was slightly surprised when his paw didn't go through it.
"Why'd you do that?" Kairi asked, confused as to Sora's actions.
Sora shook his head. "You're here, but you're not really here."
"Well if I'm not really here, could I do this?" Kairi asked. Sora looked at her inquisitively for a second and Kairi pounced on top of him. Her forelegs connected with his shoulders and he felt the weight of Kairi's much larger form cause him to topple to the stone promontory of Pride Rock.
They looked at each other in bewilderment as Sora struggled to regain the air in his crushed lungs. Kairi noticed this and retreated from a heaving Sora. "How is this possible?" she asked. "I'm dreaming and asleep, but you aren't. I'm still in Radiant Garden, but you're in the Pride Lands, and yet it's almost like I'm here in the Pride Lands with you."
"Could it be our hearts?" Sora wondered aloud. "But, why would this be happening? It's never happened before."
"Is it because I need you in Radiant Garden and my heart is calling out to you?" Kairi asked. "So it's making this a dream to me?"
"If that's true," Sora said, shaking his head and wandering around a bit, "why would it be happening now when it hasn't before. We've needed each other before. I'd dreamed about being with you while fighting Organization XIII, but nothing like this had ever happened."
"I don't know," Kairi answered, moving closer to him. She rubbed her neck over the top of his head, his spiky mane of chocolate hair starting to tickle her nose. "But I'm glad it is happening. I miss you Sora."
"I miss you too Iri," Sora whispered, wrapping his tail around her shoulders. He looked up. "And the night sky is more beautiful with you here."
"What are you doing up at this time anyway?" Kairi asked in interest.
"Couldn't sleep," answered Sora. "Too excited."
"About what?" Sora smiled widely, but decided against telling Kairi right now.
"I'll tell you when I get back."
"Aw," Kairi whined, shoving him slightly with her larger body. "Tell me Sora. You got the keyblade back didn't you? That's it isn't it? You have the keyblade back so you're excited that you're going back to see me and Aiwemon in Radiant Garden and then we can continue adventuring together with Menelmon."
"Well yeah," he answered. He smiled a bit more. Half-truths ruled. Something about remembering Aiwemon and Menelmon in that moment made his mind run back to why it was that Kairi was in jail in the first place, their battle on Destiny Islands.
"I've got it!" he exclaimed.
"Got what?" Kairi asked in interest.
"We'd never shared a paopu before," Sora answered. "That's why this is happening now. Our hearts were already strongly connected, but it looks like that little fruit has a bit more magic than we'd thought it did."
"Ah," Kairi said. "That makes some sense. But when does anything make sense in our lives anymore?" She sighed and looked dejectedly at the marvellous night sky. "Maleficent is out there, biding her time while her heartless build a fortress for her. And she's experimenting on turning the heart of a fallen world into a heartless."
"That's what she's doing?" Sora asked sharply. "When did you find out?"
"When I fought with her," answered Kairi. "That was a horrible night."
"Night yes," replied Sora. "But nights are not so bad when you think about what comes after."
"Huh?" Sora shook his head and looked towards the eastern horizon expectantly.
"I know that the night must end;
And that the Sun will rise.
And that the Sun will rise.
I know that the clouds must clear;
And that the Sun will shine.
And that the Sun will shine."
"That's how I know," he said, feeling a rosy glow within him. "Because no matter how great the darkness, a light shines within."
"Pretty profound, coming from you," said Kairi teasingly.
"Hey, I learned it on my first adventure," Sora replied. "If it wasn't for what I learned then, I would have never been able to beat Xehanort's heartless when he tried to take Kingdom Hearts."
"And then you would have never brought the Islands and our parents back," Kairi said. She suddenly froze and looked at Sora with apology. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to-"
Sora cut her off when he laughed and smiled, looking up at the stars. "It's okay Kairi, I'm fine now."
Sora nodded. "I know that it isn't my fault, and that nothing we could have done would have stopped it from happening. But I can't keep living in the past and have to move forward. And I know now that I'll be able to do that, because my mom isn't really gone after all."
"She isn't?" Kairi asked, bewildered. Sora shook his head and continued looking at the stars, which were now fading slightly as a bit of light began to creep up on the horizon. He placed his right forepaw over his heart.
"She lives in me," he replied softly. "And she'll always be watching over me and will be proud of me so long as I continue to follow my heart."
"And what is your heart telling you now?" Kairi asked. Sora smiled to himself and got out from under Kairi, only to jump up on top of her and rub his paws across her head.
"To keep you close," he purred softly into her ear. And then he licked the side of her face. Kairi smiled underneath him and plopped onto her stomach, causing Sora to wobble off and onto the promontory. Kairi giggled as Sora rolled around and looked off into the horizon.
"The Sun is rising," she said, seeing the first golden-red rays breaking into view she looked sadly at Sora. "I'll see you when you get back here Sora."
"I'll come as soon as I can," Sora replied, inclining his head at Kairi, submitting to her wish. "But I have to do something for Simba first."
"Well my trial won't continue until this afternoon," Kairi added. "Just be quick. I love you."
"And I love you too Kairi," said Sora, coming up to her and straining his neck to lick the side of her face. Kairi giggled slightly at the feel of his tongue and licked the side of his face in return. Sora answered with a laugh and purred as Kairi nuzzled against his neck, purring likewise.
As the first glimpse of the Sun came into view in the corners of both Sora's and Kairi's eyes Sora watched as Kairi faded away in its light. He looked into the sky again and watched as the stars slowly became less and less visible as the sky turned from a mantle of sable into a robin's egg blue.
The keyblade master turned around at Simba's call and followed him back into the lions' den. "You know," Simba said as Sora came back in, noticing that he was smiling broadly, "I must be either mad, or brilliant to have made you my brother."
"Remarkable how often those two traits coincide," said Sora, "eh Simba?" Simba just shook his head.
"Are we there yet?" Tom asked.
Riku, Roxas, and Donald all groaned as one. That was the eighth time the British mutant had asked them that question.
"No Tom," Naminé said in a frustrated growl. "We are not there yet."
"So keep quiet you big palooka," Donald added.
"Hey, could you all keep it down?" Max asked from his seat in the pilot's chair of the Highwind, "I'm trying to fly here!"
"Look out Maxie!" Goofy shouted, pointing out in front of the ship.
Max rolled his eyes and quickly jammed his thumbs down on the triggers on the top rims of the steering wheel. A short burst of blue fire from the ships cannons spewed forth and obliterated the blue and purple heartless ship that had been heading straight for them on a collision course.
"I can handle myself dad," Max said. "We got stuck in a massive fleet of heartless when the Land of Dragons fell, and we made it out alive. Barely," he added quietly to himself.
"Well okay Max," said Goofy. "It's just that the way you fly this feller reminds me of how Sora used to fly it."
"How was that?" Riku asked in interest.
"The first time he took the wheel he crashed the ship in Deep Jungle!" Donald said angrily, apparently still angered that Sora had done an impromptu mutiny against him and took control of the Highwind.
"I take it you took it upon yourself to teach Sora how to fly the gummi ship Donald," King Mickey said with a smile.
"Of course we did King Mickey," Goofy said. "He wouldn't take no for an answer, ahyuk."
"Sounds like Sora alright," said Riku with a smile.
"He caught on fast," said Donald.
"And he's great now too," Roxas added. "Probably the best pilot amongst us, except for maybe me."
"Don't get so cocky Roxas," Riku said. "You haven't seen me fly yet."
Donald grumbled something under his breath.
"Hey what was that?" Roxas asked, looking down at the court magician.
"I said that if you think that you're better than this gummi ship's first pilot then you're asking for trouble!" Donald shouted. Roxas took a few steps back from Donald at the look on the duck's face.
"I said KEEP IT DOWN!" Max said from the pilot's seat. "Everyone go down to the lounge now! I can't concentrate with you all bickering in my ear."
"Okay Max," said King Mickey. "Come on fellas, let's let the boy fly."
"Thank you your majesty," Max said in an exasperated tone, bending his neck over backwards so that he could look at everyone upside down. All those except for Max, being the persons of Riku, Roxas, Naminé, Tom, King Mickey, Donald, and Goofy, left the bridge for the cabin just down the stairs from the bridge.
Tom plopped down on the couch with his chest first and shagged his arms over its ends. "Why the 'ell did we 'ave to get up so early when we aren't even there yet?"
"So that we'll be awake when we get there," Riku answered, sitting down in a chair to the side. He sighed and looked down, but there was a faint smile on his lips. Naminé looked at him curiously as she sat at the end of the couch just in front of Roxas' legs.
"You miss Yuffie," she said.
"Yep," Riku answered in one word. He shook his head. "It's only been a few hours and I already miss her. Damn, how in the name of the worlds can you stand being away from Minnie for so long Mickey?" He looked at the monarch of Disney Castle for answered, but the King just sighed as his ears and shoulders drooped.
"It's hard," he replied. "But as long as I keep the thought in my heart that I will see her again, I can keep goin'."
"And you wrote her letters," Riku said. The King laughed.
"Well, yah, that did help too."
"I wonder how Sora and Kairi are able to cope with being apart so many times?" Goofy wondered aloud.
"It's hard on them too," Naminé replied. "When they were adventuring together aboard the Highwind for those weeks, I knew that the one thing that always drove Kairi to get her lazy butt out of bed every morning was to see Sora smiling at her and for him to give her a kiss 'good morning'."
"Same with Sora," Roxas added. He looked down at Naminé as she sat against his legs that dangled over the edge of the couch and she looked up at him. Naminé smiled and quickly moved to sit next to him, sharing a quick kiss as she sat back down.
"Blarg," Tom said. "Enough romance please."
"Just wait until you meet someone Tom," King Mickey said with a laugh. "And then you won't find it so bad."
"Hey how angry at that Frederick guy do you think Sora's going to be when we get back?" Roxas asked.
"Do you really want an answer?" Riku returned. "Remember how angry we were."
"Yeah, but Sora's going to be at least a thousand times angrier," answered Roxas.
"That's not going to be very good," Goofy said. "He almost went into his anti-form when we found Kairi fighting Maleficent. Who knows what'll happen when he finds out that it was that guy that hurt Kairi so badly?"
Before another could answer, Max's voice came from the bridge. "We're here!" They all looked up to see the dog-teenager coming down the stairs towards them. "Come on, let's go!"
"Right," Riku said, standing up from his chair. "Let's go and find him." The group collectively strode over to where the teleporter was and waited while Donald transformed them with his magic. He and Goofy became their traditional bird and turtle selves, and Max dropped down on all fours as he became a black wolf again. King Mickey shrunk down in size until he was the size and shape of a normal mouse with black fur, and Roxas became a lion cub with white fur and a spiky blonde mane again.
Naminé and Riku also became lions. Naminé's fur was a white blonde in the colour of her hair, and Riku's fur was a lighter shade of yellow, much like Naminé's (probably a mix between the colours on his vest), and a thick mane of silver-lilac hair had grown around his neck. What surprised Roxas and indeed everyone was that they were much bigger than anyone else present.
Tom was a brown-furred monkey with metal slits on his arms for where his arm-blades came out.
"How come you two are bigger than me?" Roxas asked, looking at Naminé and Riku in astonishment. "We're all lions."
"Uh…" Riku said, looking around. "We're older."
"But…" Roxas said. He sighed and hung his head. "I guess that a month and a half's difference means everything doesn't it Naminé?" Nobody answered him.
Donald and Goofy were prominently surprised when the group teleported down into the Pride Lands. They recognized that they were in the savannah, but it had changed so much since they had last actually been in the Pride Lands that they felt themselves at a loss.
"The place sure looks different," said Goofy, looking around with his head poking out from his turtle shell.
"Looks the same to me," Max said, taking a look at a couple of the trees, "Except I can't hear any of the animals like when we made our way through to find Simba, right Roxas?"
Roxas perked his ears up and took a couple of steps forward through the grass. "You're right Max. It's like there's nobody here."
"I wouldn't be too sure of that," said Riku.
"Why?" Tom asked. Riku answered by jerking his head towards a rising cloud of dusk.
Max smiled. "Oh yeah, now I can hear-" his words died in his throat as everyone realized that the sounds that had now slipped into their hearing were very loud and getting very close.
"What do you think this is?" King Mickey asked, feeling the earth underneath his small body shudder alternately.
"I don't know," Roxas answered, lifting the toes of his paws above the ground and feeling the earth beneath them anxiously.
"Should we get out of here?" Naminé asked him, sliding up close to him even though she was the larger of the two. Roxas looked up at her.
"I don't know," he said. "Maybe we should wait and see what it is."
"Why wait?" Donald asked, and he quickly flew above them into the sky. They could hear him jabbering excitedly not two seconds later before he came down. His excitement was not what they had expected, it was really terror.
"Calm down Donald," King Mickey said sternly, trying to understand the incoherent squawks coming from his court magician. "What's goin' on?"
"Stampede!" Donald spluttered out. "A thousand animals are leaving Pride Rock and coming this way!"
Riku's head sharply turned towards where the sound was coming from and his eyes widened horribly when he saw the crowning top of an elephant's grey head crest the hilltop they were by. "Run!" he ordered. "Follow me!" Riku turned tail and fled. Naminé was right behind him, and Roxas was just on her tail. Goofy slid along with unknown agility in his turtle shell with Max by his side, and King Mickey had been scooped up and was riding on Donald as the bird flew after the other five. Tom climbed up a tree.
Riku was surprised at how little he fumbled on his paws as he ran, but maybe that was because he was simply running and leaping rather than trying to walk. It seemed to him a whole lot easier than Sora had made it out to be when he had been talking about being a lion cub. Riku's paws splashed into water and he looked down curiously. He and his companions had just run straight into a…
A water hole?
The elephants behind them trumpeted and the entire group scattered to avoid becoming mere pancakes on the ground, and for Donald it would have been the second time he'd been flattened (except the first time was courtesy of Yuffie and a door in Traverse Town).
"What the heck?" Naminé asked as she panted beside Roxas, both of them with their fur completely drenched by the spray as the pachyderms stormed into the water hole, the liquid frothing and splashing everywhere. A leopard came up next to them and bent his neck down to drink.
"Stupid elephants," he muttered, "they think they own the place just because they're bigger than the rest of us." And without further comment, yet a glare at the giant animals, he began to lap water into his mouth with his tongue.
The group came around Roxas and Naminé, looking inquiringly as other animals like gazelles and antelope and wildebeest began to move past the water hole. Some of the gazelles stayed, while a whole herd of zebras raced past them all.
"What was happening at Pride Rock?" Donald wondered aloud.
"Well why don't we go check it out and ask Simba?" Goofy asked, looking up at Donald.
"Yeah, he might know where Sora is," said Roxas. "Or wait, man I'm an idiot."
Sora it's me, where are you? Roxas smiled when he heard Sora's voice answer in his head.
On my way from Pride Rock to the water hole, came the reply. Where are all of you guys? Roxas looked around and laughed slightly to himself.
We're at the water hole.
Great! See you there.
"He's on his way here," Roxas said.
"So what are we supposed to do while we wait?" Tom asked, swinging in from a tree.
"I'm not sure," Riku answered, "drink water?"
They looked around at the sound of Sora's voice to see him coming down towards them. His automail leg was gleaming in the light of the Sun and he was practically prancing as he made his way towards the water hole. His friends were all surprised when a couple of antelope that had been chatting by a tree noticed his approach near them and bowed their heads in his direction. But so intent on Sora Roxas and Naminé did not notice when the leopard that had been drinking near them lifted his head and looked towards Sora before bowing to him as well.
"You look happy Sora," Goofy said, looking over his friend.
"You could say that," answered Sora, coming down to the water hole. He noticed the leopard and inclined his head towards him in a quick nod before dipping his head down towards the water's surface. His friends stared at him as his tongue lapped up water into his mouth. "What?" Sora asked when he finally noticed their looks.
"Are you sure you want to drink that Sora?" Roxas asked, pointing his paw at the water hole. It was a little brown.
"The water's fine Roxas," Sora answered. "I've been drinking it for a while now, and I haven't suffered from it yet." His eyes then widened when he looked at Naminé and Riku for a second time, finally realizing something. "Hey, you're both bigger than me!"
"Duh Sora," Riku answered, "We are older than you."
"Are you ready to go Sora?" King Mickey asked, scampering onto Donald's bill. Sora looked away from the King as his muzzle dripped a little water. His eyes appeared to stray towards the gazelles that were also drinking. One of them appeared to catch his eye and began to move away, slowly at first, and then its speed increased.
"Give me a minute," Sora said quickly. "There's something I need to do."
"Do we really have time for this?" Naminé asked. "Kairi's position is not looking that good right now Sora."
"I love Kairi Naminé," Sora answered. "But she's not my only friend. Donald, Goofy, can you help me with this?"
"Sure thing Sora," Goofy said. "Of course we'll help."
"Alright," Sora said. "Wait for us on the ship, we won't be too long. Max, prep the engines." Max nodded and Sora dashed away in the direction the gazelle went.
"Do you think 'e got a secret girlfriend while 'e was here?" Tom asked. Naminé struck his head with her paw.
Sora quickly sprinted through the long buffalo grass after Swara. She didn't understand yet, but Sora wouldn't leave without letting her know just who and what he was. Donald and Goofy behind him (and King Mickey as the mouse was still on Donald's bill) were oblivious as to why he was chasing after this gazelle, but figured it had to be important for Sora to delay returning to Radiant Garden to see Kairi.
He caught sight of Swara slowing down in front of him, and called her name. The female gazelle turned around and glared at him as he approached. "What do you want?" she asked harshly.
Sora winced at the tone she was using with him. "Aren't we friends Swara?"
"How can I be friends with a person I do not even know?" Swara retorted.
"Am I allowed to explain myself?" Sora asked. "Can I tell you who I am?"
"I don't know," Swara answered sarcastically. "You've been avoiding telling me about that leg of yours since I met you. Why should I believe that you would tell me now?"
"Swara don't make me order you to listen to me," Sora said angrily. She wasn't making this very easy for him to explain to her. He thought he'd already meddled in the affairs of other worlds enough, but it wouldn't do too well to have his friends angry at him for not trusting them.
Swara froze and looked at him before bowing in submission. "Yes, Prince Sora."
Donald, Goofy, and King Mickey all looked at Sora in surprise. "Prince?" Donald squawked loudly in confusion.
"Yes Donald," Jiminy Cricket said as he bounded out of Sora's mane and onto the bird's bill to stand next to King Mickey. "Two days ago, King Simba took Sora in as his foster brother, which makes him a Prince of Pride Rock. He's not of the bloodline though, so he wouldn't inherit the throne unless some kind of catastrophe struck."
Sora only half-heartedly listened to Jiminy Cricket speaking, noticing that Swara's eyes were now on Jiminy and his top hat and tailcoat. "Swara," he said quietly, drawing the female gazelle's attention back to him. "You don't have to believe me, or forgive me for not trusting you to understand, just hear me out."
"Okay," Swara said slowly, though there was still a little angered hurt in her voice. "Could you answer my questions?"
"I owe you at the least that much," Sora answered.
"Who are you?"
Sora turned his head towards his other friends that were with him and motioned for them to come and stand (or hover) next to him. They did, and Donald, Goofy, and King Mickey all looked curiously at the gazelle. "Swara, these are my friends: Donald, and Goofy, and the mouse is King Mickey."
"That didn't answer-"
"Take a look at Donald, Goofy, and me Swara," Sora said, cutting her off. "You had to have heard tales of us. Zira evidently has, given the way she spat at me when she heard my name." Swara in turn examined the turtle and bird, and it took her several seconds, but then her eyes grew wide from underneath the black bands of hair that surrounded them.
"You're the three that helped King Simba defeat Scar!" she said, taking a couple of steps backwards.
"Yep," Goofy laughed. "That's us, ahyuk!"
Sora summoned the keyblade into his tail, startling Swara as the Kingdom Key appeared within its grasp. "Swara," he said slowly, "you were right to wonder why I'm not able to track as well as a lion should, or that I should want to become friends with you, because even though I take the form of a lion when I'm in the Pride Lands, that's not what I am." The keyblade glowed with a white light in his tail's grasp and there appeared behind Sora a phantom apparition of what he looked like as a human, towering over them in his height. Next to him were a transparent Donald and Goofy and King Mickey, with Jiminy standing on Sora's left shoulder.
"We aren't from the Pride Lands," Sora said to an awestruck Swara. "We're not even from this world. We travel through the many worlds that there are, battling heartless and evil forces that try to destroy everything. Your world was lost over a year ago, and together Donald, Goofy, and I defeated the evil that had taken its heart and so restored it back to what it was, even though it meant that we restored a Pride Lands where Scar was King and Simba was in the jungles beyond the desert wastelands."
"And then Pete came by and helped Scar by giving him control of the heartless," Goofy said as the phantom images of himself and his friends and King vanished.
"Heartless?" Swara asked.
"You've already seen heartless," said Sora. "Those black creatures that had surrounded Kiara and Kovu yesterday were heartless, and the silver ones were known as nobodies."
"Every living thing has a heart, body, and a soul," King Mickey explained, Swara's head now bobbing towards the diminutive mouse. "A heartless is formed when a person's heart is consumed by darkness. A nobody is created by the body and soul left behind."
Sora's tail then moved the keyblade in front of him to show Swara the Kingdom Key. "This is known as keyblade," Sora said. "And it is the only weapon that can truly destroy heartless and release their captive hearts."
"And Sora's the chosen Master of the Keyblade," King Mickey added. "So it falls to him and our friends who are other wielders of the keyblade to travel to different worlds under threat by the heartless and help them out."
"So what are you doing here?" Swara asked. "If you should be out somewhere else, why did you come to the Pride Lands?"
"That's a touchy subject," Donald said. Sora looked down and let the keyblade vanish from his tail's grasp.
"I had stopped listening to my heart," Sora explained quietly. "I couldn't summon the keyblade anymore."
"And we believed that Simba could help him," said Jiminy. "Just like we helped him when Simba was being indecisive about dealing with Scar's ghost."
"And actually it worked," Sora said, laughing slightly. "Simba made me his brother, which made me Kiara's uncle, which really made her family, and so I began to worry a bit more about her than I would have otherwise."
"And that led you into thinking that she was in trouble yesterday," Swara finished, nodding her head as she began to understand. "So when you were fighting to protect her and for us to get away, you were able to summon the keyblade again."
"Exactly," Sora said with a smile.
"All this time…" Swara said slowly, looking down. "I've been friends and playing tag with a hero of the Pride Lands who helped defeat Scar. It's a lot to take in Sora."
"But Scar's not gone," Sora muttered darkly.
"He isn't?" Goofy asked.
"No, he's Xarcs now."
"A nobody?" King Mickey asked. Sora nodded his head.
"How could this get any worse?" Donald asked rhetorically.
"He left to find Nixion," Sora supplied. Donald dropped onto his feet and glared at Sora straight in the eye.
"You weren't supposed to tell me that," he grumbled. Sora shrugged.
"I felt you guys needed to know!" he said in his own defence.
Swara shook her head, her horns waving just above Sora's head and drawing his attention back to her. "This still never answers the first question I asked you about your leg."
"Oh right, the leg," Sora said quickly, glancing down at the automail. "Well, my friend Kairi and I were on-" he froze and his eyes became wide. Sora spun around sharply, King Mickey and the others backing up in surprise.
"Kairi!" he moaned. "We need to get back to help her!"
"What is it?" Swara asked cautiously. Sora quickly turned around again to look at her.
"It all ties in with my leg," he said. "Long story short, we were on another world and had a fight with a powerful enemy of ours, Maleficent. My arm-leg-whatever got hit by an attack of darkness and became consumed by it. I lost control of it and it started to hurt Kairi and two more of our friends that were helping us. Kairi tried to heal it with light, but she accidentally destroyed it. A few days ago some more friends of ours from another world made me this limb and attached it to my body. It hurt a whole lot when they were putting it in, but it's the only limb I have that you can hit and I won't feel any real pain in."
Swara blinked. "I don't get it."
Sora laughed slightly. "It's complicated. But Kairi's in trouble because of what she did, so now that I've got the keyblade back, I can go back and help her out." He began to turn away but then looked back. "Oh, and tell Simba from me that Scar sends his regards. Also tell him that he should watch his back in case someone not from this world shows up."
"Okay," Swara said, nodding her head. "I can do that. When will you be back?"
"Everyone asks us that question," Donald said tiredly.
"We're not sure," said Sora, giving Donald a smirk for his comment. "But when we are back, it'll probably be when heartless are causing trouble."
"Soon," Goofy added. "We like to make trips to check up on everybody."
"Okay," Swara said again, smiling now. "See you soon Sora."
The rest of the crew were waiting for them up on the Highwind, and Sora immediately went to the bridge and sat down in the pilot's chair to relieve Max. He'd already told Donald, Goofy, King Mickey and Jiminy that he wanted to be the one to tell the others that he was now a prince, but that didn't mean that Jiminy wasn't allowed to show them pictures and video he had shot while Sora was in the Pride Lands. This avenue of media included shots of Sora eating bugs as well as the entirety of when he proposed to Shenzi to occupy the hyenas long enough for him to escape on video.
Part of Sora's reason to go to the bridge and fly the ship back to Radiant Garden for the whole trip was to avoid having to face everyone as they took a look at Jiminy's works. His face was red enough already just from hearing their laughter.
The Highwind streaked off into the void, passing by and through the odd formations and pathways made by various rings and structures and landmasses that happened to float in space, few heartless ships in their way to destroy. As Sora activated the gummi ship's warp drive he only hoped that he hadn't used too much time in talking to Swara.
Kairi looked around the courtroom nervously as she was back in it, the bracers from yesterday clamped around her wrists and preventing her use of magic. There was a definite lack of people with absurdly spiky chocolate hair sitting in the benches behind the table where she sat at with Peter. If everything had gone well, King Mickey had left the previous night with everyone and arrived in the morning soon after she had woken from her dream where she and Sora had actually conversed. But the Highwind would still have to blast towards Radiant Garden at as much speed as it had to reach the world in time.
"Where are they?" she wondered aloud, her eyes taking in the lack of even Naminé in the crowd. She caught the black eyes of Asterix and he mouthed something that seemed like 'they'll be here', but she could see in his face that he was disturbed that they were taking as long as they were.
"They'll be here Kairi," Peter said, adding his own assurance to the princess's befuddled mind. "Sora's not going to leave you hanging on this."
Kairi sighed and looked at her hands as she wrung them around one another, trying to keep them warm even when the room itself was warm. She was feeling cold, even through her thicker and warmer clothes, the same she had worn the previous day. "I really hope not," she muttered.
"All rise for the Honourable Judge Ashley Baker." Kairi rose and watched as Judge Baker took her seat from yesterday and motioned and said for them all to be seated. She nodded at the court scribe and Kairi tuned her out as the second day began. Her heart was pounding as she remembered that she would be up on the stand in a minute to be questioned by Peter so that she could be cross-examined by him since he had decided against it the day before.
"Would the defendant please take the stand," Judge Baker said, riveting Kairi from her inner panic. Kairi rose and placed a slightly shaking hand to her chest as she went back up to the witness stand.
"Remember dear you are still under oath," the judge said as Kairi took her seat.
"I remember your honour," said Kairi sincerely, nodding at the judge. It was not likely that she would lie anyway, since she had no reason to.
Peter rose from where he was sitting at their table and looked at Kairi in the eyes. "Princess Kairi," he began hesitantly. "Yesterday you said that you were very angry at the time that Sora's arm was destroyed. Who were you angry at?"
"Maleficent," Kairi replied.
"And why were you angry at Maleficent?" Peter asked.
"There were, are, many reasons," Kairi replied, moving a bit of her hair out of her face to better look at Peter and the courtroom.
"Could you give us some please?"
Kairi took a deep breath before speaking. "For a start, it was under her orders that Cossex attacked and destroyed my home and killed my parents on the islands. She also had used Hades as a means to infect me with darkness and take control of my body, forcing me to hurt Sora and Menelmon."
"And when did this happen?" Peter asked. Kairi looked up slightly as she struggled to remember.
"Last Wednesday was when I was infected, but she didn't take control until that night," she said. "So, September-"
"Seventeenth," Peter supplied. "Ten days ago correct?"
Kairi nodded. "Yes."
"When did you regain control of your body from Maleficent?" Peter asked.
"Last Friday," Kairi answered, "the nineteenth."
"The day that you were attacked on Destiny Islands and you destroyed Sora's arm?" Peter asked.
"Menelmon said that you were trying to heal Sora's arm when it happened," Peter said, "were you?"
"I was," Kairi answered. "But it came out wrong because of my anger at Maleficent."
"Could you describe the battle for us?" Peter asked. Kairi shook her head.
"It's hard to describe a battle like the one we had in words," she said. "Memories would be a better way to tell the story, but Naminé isn't here so we can't do that right now."
"Please do your best," Peter said.
Kairi took another breath. "It started off between the four of us, Sora, myself, Ohtarmon, and Soronmon, against Hades and Cerberus, his guardian of the underworld. But very quickly he called more monsters to fight against us."
"What monsters were there?" Peter asked.
"There was Cerberus, and the Minotaur, the Chimera, and Talos."
"Talos?" Peter asked.
"A giant made of bronze," Kairi explained.
"Ah, please continue."
Kairi shook her head and her eyes lost focus, seeing the images in her mind. "We fought. We fought for a long time. The wind and rain soaked and froze us, except for Soronmon, and it got hard to see sometimes. It took ages, but we finally defeated all four of Hades' monsters and then we fought Hades himself before I used my light to cleanse him of the darkness Maleficent had placed in him." Kairi smiled slightly and looked off to the side. "Funny really, he's the first one we've beaten so far. There are still six more to go before we can take on Maleficent and win."
"After you defeated Hades," Peter continued, "what happened?"
"Maleficent decided to fight us then," Kairi answered. "She took up the sword of darkness Hades had been using and outdueled all of us with her power. She hurt Soronmon and Ohtarmon badly enough that they reverted back to Luinmon and Ninquemon, and then she used the darkness within the sword, the same darkness that she had used to take control of me, to attack me with."
"To attack you with?" Peter asked, doing very well to feign surprise.
"Yes," Kairi said. "But Sora got in its way right in front of me and it struck his arm, which turned black as it absorbed the darkness. We both looked at it in surprise before it suddenly swung around and began to choke me."
"Choke you?" Peter asked loudly. There were a great number of voices speaking behind the barrier now, and some of jurors were muttering to each other.
"We had to wrestle with Sora's arm for a little while before I was able to crawl over and pin him and his arm to the ground," Kairi continued. "By this point Cossex had jumped in and was barely keeping Maleficent off of us. And then I placed my hands above Sora's arm and tried to heal it."
Kairi's hands were clenched in fists and there were angry tears streaking down her face. She hadn't been able to stay looking at Peter for the last minute, her face pointed down and secluded as the memory swirled in her mind.
"No matter what Sora says it's going to be very hard to be able to forgive myself for what I did to him because of Maleficent!" Kairi exclaimed.
The courtroom was silent for a whole minute as Kairi sat in the witness stand, brooding. She wished that she hadn't blown up like that in front of everyone, and wanted Peter to go on to when she had tried to give herself up to Maleficent. She didn't want to talk about destroying Sora's arm anymore, she didn't want to have to talk about that memory anymore.
But when Sora and Naminé arrived, she knew that Peter would use Naminé to bring Sora's memory of that event to life for the eyes, ears, and experience of the entire courtroom. She didn't begrudge him for the decision he would surely make, just wished that it wouldn't be necessary.
"Kairi," Peter said, finally breaking the silence. "What was the deal you were striking with Maleficent when she came to Radiant Garden?"
"The deal was that she would get me to be her prisoner to do whatever she wished with in exchange for leaving the worlds alone and to not go past a boundary agreed upon by her and a coalition of good worlds, as well as sparing the lives of Sora, Roxas, Naminé, Riku, Asterix, King Mickey, and any of their friends and family."
"That was the deal?" Peter asked.
"That was the deal," Kairi said. "Maleficent didn't take it."
"And what did you intend to achieve through this?" Peter asked.
"Well," Kairi said, looking down slightly, "most of me just wanted this all to stop before it got too far out of hand, since I'd given up hope after Sora had lost the keyblade and we'd been thoroughly beaten by Maleficent. That part told me to save as many as I could."
"And the other part?" Peter inquired.
Kairi blushed slightly. "The other part of me wanted me to do it to practically give Sora a kick in the butt to start him up again. It wanted him to come and rescue me again, even though I hated being a damsel in distress after the last few times I've been one."
"Thank you Kairi," Peter said quietly. "I've put you through enough. No further questions."
"You may step down milady," Judge Baker said. Kairi nodded at her and went back down to the table where she sat at with Peter. As soon as she plopped into her seat Kairi laid her head down on the table and heaved a mighty sigh.
"Mr. Mahoney," Judge Baker continued, looking at him now. "Do you have another witness to present to this court?" Kairi opened her eyes slightly and glanced at the prosecution. She was surprised that he hadn't even raised a single objection while Peter was questioning her.
"No your honour," he replied. "The prosecution rests."
"Very well," Judge Baker said before looking at Peter. "Defence counsel, you may proceed."
"As you wish your honour," Peter said as he stood up again. He took a few paces towards the jury. "The prosecution has presented its case to you and we have heard what the defendant has to say on the matter. I shall not be bringing her up further. From my previous cross-examinations and this point onward I shall strive to prove to you that Princess Kairi never intended to harm the love of her life Keyblade Master Sora, and she also never committed an act of treason against Radiant Garden."
"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury I present to you Exhibit A, the remainder of the taped conversation between the princess and her friends when she admitted to destroying Sora's arm." Kairi looked up at the recorder as it sat near her head and Peter pressed a button.
"I did it," he voice echoed back to her. The courthouse quieted again so that everybody could hear the voices coming from the player.
"You did it?" Riku's voice asked.
"Gawrsh Kairi," Goofy said sadly, "why did you do that? I thought you loved Sora."
"I do," Kairi said. "I did it because I love him, but... I didn't mean for it to happen that way."
"Huh?" Donald asked.
"Maleficent channelled the darkness in the sword she was using at the time into a bolt of lightning," Sora answered. "She fired it at Kairi, but I got in the way. It struck my arm, but instead of just hurting me, my arm absorbed the darkness."
"It, absorbed it?" King Mickey asked.
Sora's voice continued speaking, voice beginning to break as it appeared he went further into memory. "After that, I felt my arm in pain, but I couldn't move it. And then it moved on its own. I was no longer in control of my arm! And then it swung me around and latched around Kairi's throat."
"It was horrible," Kairi admitted. "You can't imagine how much anything solely of darkness hurts me when it strikes. It smothered my light and burned my neck. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't scream, all I could do was watch Sora's arm do that with tears in both of our eyes."
"If Ninquemon and Luinmon hadn't bounded into me and broken the arm's grip," Sora choked. "I don't know what would've happened to Kairi, and Maleficent was laughing the whole time."
"And then Cossex jumped in with her axes and started fighting Maleficent," Kairi said. "I crawled over to Sora as he was lying on the ground, pinning his arm beneath him, and tried to cast out the darkness in it. I had been able to cast Maleficent's shadow out of myself, so I thought that I could heal the arm and bring it back to the light." Kairi looked away from the player as her voice continued to speak. Hearing her own voice replayed so many times in a conversation she had believed was private was disturbing. Just how were they able to even get this conversation recorded?
"I started speaking in that strange tongue," she voice continued. "I think what I said was, Kírië noraki umûl. And then the light that was coming from my hands turned into something like a raging cannon, blasting and shredding the arm to pieces."
King Mickey's voice came back sharp. "Kairi, where did you learn Quintessence?"
"Quintessence?" she asked in a confused tone. "Is that the language I've been speaking and hearing Thessaura speak?"
"Thessaura!" King Mickey exclaimed. "You know about Thessaura?"
"Uh," Sora began. "I hate to be a drag here, but just what are guys talking about?"
"Beats me Sora," Riku and Goofy said simultaneously. The recording played a small bout of barely audible laughter from the two of them.
"Thessaura is one of the Gods of the Ancients," King Mickey explained. "They've been here since the beginning of time, before all other Gods and Goddesses. She is the Goddess of Light and Healing, and is the patron Goddess of all wielders of the keyblade. She constantly speaks to the virtue and morality within our hearts, guiding us on our path as wielders of the keyblade to protect the worlds against the forces of evil. Quintessence is the language of those Ancient Gods, and words in that language allow us to perform more powerful magic than we normally could. A single sentence or word uttered while casting can be very powerful."
"So I've been speaking in a language used by Gods?" Kairi asked in surprise.
"Yes," King Mickey answered. "But you have no idea what you're saying, now are you?"
"Not a clue." Kairi replied.
"Welp, the three words you just told me, Kírië noraki umûl, translated mean 'Light destroys darkness'. So that would explain why when you were trying to heal Sora's arm, you destroyed it instead."
"I guess that I'll be a little more careful when that language, Quintessence, comes out."
"It comes out through your heart Kairi," King Mickey explained. "You must have been exceptionally angry at Maleficent at the time."
Peter pressed stop on the player and looked directly at the jury, most of which were nodding and some of them were even half-smiling at Kairi.
"And now I present Exhibit B, the full conversation between Kairi and Maleficent before the battle in Radiant Garden commenced," Peter announced. The screens flickered to life for the second time in as many days and Kairi found her eyes drawn to them again.
"Why did you request this meeting between us, dear Kairi?" Maleficent asked coolly, giving Kairi her full attention as her tone became sharper. "And without any of your precious friends around to protect you? My, my, you are taking quite the risk aren't you?"
"I've called you here on my own initiative Maleficent. None of my friends know about this," Kairi's image on the screen said.
"Really?" Maleficent asked. "How... intriguing. I should have at least expected your lapdog Sora to be here. He always seems to be at your heels."
"Leave Sora out of this!" Kairi snapped angrily. "I don't want you talking about him that way." Maleficent smiled, but held her tongue.
"Very well, Princess," she said, nodding her head slightly. "We shall not discuss the keyblade master." Kairi sighed and dipped her head slightly, moving a hand to wipe a little of the rainwater from her face.
"I've asked you to be here," Kairi said, her voice threatening to crack on her, "to offer terms."
"Terms?" Maleficent asked slowly. "What sort of terms do you offer? Keep in mind, however, that I have already offered your pitiful King and sister my terms, and they were rejected with hostility."
"These are my terms," Kairi began, her voice shaking slightly while it tried to make good on its threat. "That you leave the worlds alone, and do not step outside boundaries that shall be agreed upon by yourself and a coalition of good worlds, and that you spare the lives of Sora, Roxas, Naminé, Riku, Asterix, King Mickey, their kin and their friends."
"And in return?" Maleficent asked, a wicked smile forming on her lips as she noticed a gaping hole in Kairi's terms.
"In return," Kairi held, drawing it out as she glared at Maleficent. Maleficent's eyes flared suddenly, and Kairi wilted and turned her eyes away, falling back a couple steps towards the curb as a hand went to a suddenly wheezing chest. Maleficent quietly began to laugh and Kairi glanced away from the screen, remembering the pain of that sudden blow.
"You get me." Maleficent began to cackle loudly in laughter that rang in Kairi's ears for as long as it did when she had heard it in person. She held her hands to her ears to try and block out the sound. She didn't want to hear that wicked laughter anymore.
"That is quite the proposition, Radiant Princess of Radiant Garden," Maleficent said as her laughter subsided. "But, what would you have me do with you?"
"Imprison me, beat me, torture me, kill me even!" Kairi replied shrilly, her voice an octave too high. "I don't care, just don't hurt them again!"
"Kill you?" Maleficent asked delicately, a finger to her lips. She vanished abruptly, and for a moment the image showed Kairi looking around in trying to locate her while a few persons in the courtroom gasped at the witch's sudden disappearance. Kairi turned as Maleficent appeared behind her, and her mouth and eyes opened in terror as she looked into Maleficent's face.
"You will die a thousand deaths at my hands before I let you pass into the afterlife!" Maleficent roared down at Kairi. Her free hand shot out and grasped Kairi by the throat. The young princess was unable to gasp, unable to breathe as Maleficent's cold fingers were clenched around her neck. Her eyes were closed in agony, her throat trying to force any sound out. Kairi's hands desperately went to Maleficent's single hand, trying in vain to pry the witch's fingers off of her skin. Her hands, so desperately trying to make her free, began to hang onto Maleficent's arm instead as her feet no longer touched the ground, Maleficent raising her above the sorceress' horned head. Kairi began to slow, and her eyes began to dim.
Kairi couldn't bear to watch the next bit and so turned a sad eye away to the judge and jury, all of whom were looking at the recording in horror. Kairi's eyes flickered to the screen again out of curiosity just to see Maleficent fling her across the street in the rain into a streetlamp. She had struck it parallel to the post, which was why Kairi's hand withdrew to the top of her head as she felt the phantom pain of that again.
"You see, foolish Kairi," Maleficent said to the wheezing, pained princess of heart. "I currently have no place to put you, should I even choose to consider your offer." She began walking towards Kairi, her footsteps and the sound of her staff hitting the cobblestone road resounding through the horrified courtroom. Kairi began slowly scuttling backwards onto the curb, not meeting Maleficent's eyes but still watching her approach.
"And, I'm sure that you'd prefer the dungeons of any of my allies over mine," continued Maleficent, smiling at Kairi's retreat. "I, of course, cannot have that. So before I could even contemplate accepting, my new fortress must be complete. As it is, it is barely begun, and even with my entire army working on it, I cannot expect sufficient completion for at least two months."
"But..." Kairi began breathlessly. Maleficent turned her question into a cry of pain with a simple strike of her staff against Kairi's side.
"Do not dictate terms to me, harlot!" Maleficent raged as several people gasped (Kairi thought she heard a few of them faint at the insult to their princess). "You ordered my presence. You demanded that I listen. I have listened, which is more that you deserve, but you forget..." A horrible black shadow began to emanate from around Maleficent, in the shape of a magnificent, evil dragon.
"I have the power here fool!" Maleficent said. "Your light has been strengthened by your crest, but do you think that pitiful words in Quintessence that you do not understand or driving my shadow out of your body mean that you are greater!?" Her hand shot out once more and grasped Kairi's throat again.
The people in the courtroom expected a scream, they expected a cry of anger or of pain, they expected anything and everything except for what Kairi had actually given Maleficent.
Maleficent threw Kairi up into the air and pointed the green ball of her staff at her airborne figure. A bolt of darkness crackled out and struck Kairi in the chest. The force of the strike sent Kairi careening towards the third floor of the brick building on the opposite side of the street. She cried in agony while in the air, and was breathless when her back crashed into the building. She twisted as she fell, and her back connected with both the street and the gutter of the curb, splashing into the water pooled on the ground.
Kairi turned herself onto her knees, coughing and spluttering. Her stomach emptied its entire contents into the rain-filled gutter.
Kairi looked away from the screen again for a moment and at her feet in embarrassment but then realized that she needn't be. Anyone who had not yet already fainted or thrown up from watching on the screen wouldn't begrudge her at all for losing her stomach after that. Well, anyone except perhaps Frederick Mahoney.
Speaking of which...
Kairi looked at the prosecutor, who was watching Kairi now being flung backwards to crash into the building's side again with a calm detachment as if it were only mildly interesting and would be better if he had a bowl of popcorn with him.
"I reject your terms utterly Kairi," Maleficent continued. "But because you so graciously offered yourself to me, I shall take your life now."
Kairi felt as if several people's hearts upstairs had just stopped from the way the thuds on the wood above her sounded.
Kairi crumbled onto her knees, still trying to take in breath.
"This will not be quick, bright Kairi," Maleficent purred. "It will be agonizingly slow and painful. I want to savour this moment, so you might as well fight back." Maleficent flicked her staff to Kairi's left, and the poor girl was flung that way next, her shoulder blades the first part of her to connect with the wall of another corner building, her neck and head hanging out in the air while the rest of her body was pinned. Maleficent waved her staff again, and Kairi soared in the opposite direction, halting just shy of the other building only for Maleficent to alter the direction and slam the princess face-first into the road.
Maleficent calmly came to Kairi's prone form on the ground with a cruel smile on her face, and with one finger she undid the clasp that kept the girl's cloak on. The wind picked up, and the cloak was blown off of Kairi just as another bolt of lightning arched through the sky. Kairi's prone form stiffened as the biting wind and rain now assaulted her vulnerable body. Maleficent looked down at her with disdain.
There was a flash of light and Maleficent flew backwards on a cloud of darkness that formed at her feet. Kairi was on one knee now, her face set into one of grim determination. The Oathkeeper was in her right hand after she slashed at what was now empty space, its white blade matching the white clothes she wore, despite the blood that ran down her neck and knees and mixed with the rain water.
Maleficent smiled widely. "Yes Kairi," she said enthusiastically as her staff glowed with greater intensity. "Come and die."
With shuddering hands, Peter stopped the recording. He looked up at Judge Baker, who did not move her eyes away from the now black screen for thirty seconds before she looked directly at Kairi instead of her defence counsel.
"How did you survive?" she asked in amazement and horror. "Any normal person should be dead if that continued."
"All the more reason why we should not by prosecuting her, your honour," Peter answered for Kairi. "Who are we to hold her accountable for actions on a field of battle that we cannot even begin to comprehend with powers flowing between the combatants beyond our imaginations."
"I am going to tell you a little about myself now," Peter said, addressing the jury. "I was not always known as Peter Banning. No. For many, many years, I was known as Peter Pan. Never-Neverland was my home, and in Never-Neverland, children never grow up. I led the Lost Boys, a group of boys that like myself had left our homes and parents at early ages because we did not want to grow up and get old, because when you get old eventually you die. We fought Captain James Hook and his pirate crew for as more years than I can count. Eventually, I met a girl in London named Wendy, and listened to the stories that she would tell of me and Neverland to her younger brothers. We became friends."
"And then Maleficent and the heartless came," Peter continued, "and everything changed. Wendy was captured and my friend Tinkerbell and I-"
"Objection your honour," Frederick said suddenly, "relevance."
"I do have a point your honour," Peter countered quickly.
"Overruled," Judge Baker said, glaring at the prosecution. "Proceed counsellor." Peter nodded at her while Frederick snarled. Kairi glanced between Fred and the judge and something clicked in her mind. The judge must have seen how detached and unfeeling he was towards Maleficent's actions and words towards her; perhaps he'd fallen out of any favour she'd had for him.
"Tink and I had to rescue Wendy from Cpt. Hook and Riku," Peter continued, "who was working with Maleficent at the time. And I got captured myself and locked in the brig. Then Donald and Goofy were put in the brig with me, and then Sora fell on top of them. All he could talk about was that he'd finally found Kairi. He was so happy even to have just seen her. Then Tink got jealous of the attention I'd been paying to Wendy instead of her and she refused to free us, forcing Sora to do the honours. I wasn't that friendly to him at the time, all I wanted was to get Wendy out of there. But as we fought through the heartless on Hook's ship to free Wendy and Kairi, we became friends and I was able to see just how much Kairi meant to Sora, even more than what Wendy meant to me. After I left Neverland and regained my memories of that time, I see now that it would be impossible for someone to want to throw away a love like that."
Peter paused for a moment as if listening to something before he opened his mouth and loudly spoke, "I would now like to call Keyblade Master Sora and Princess Naminé Talerith to the stand together."
The courtroom doors opened with a loud bang and Kairi wheeled her head around with eyes that now shone with hope and excitement. Standing in the doorway Sora and Naminé stood in the forefront of the small gang of wielders of the keyblade with Donald, Goofy, Max, and Tom behind them like an honour guard.
"We accept," Sora and Naminé simultaneously said. Kairi glanced at Frederick Mahoney as her boyfriend and sister both began walking towards her. His calm exterior had for one instant dissolved into one of panic before returning to its deadpan expression. She returned her gaze to Sora and smiled, seeing him now smiling widely at her.
"Sorry I'm late Kai," Sora was saying as they approached the barrier so that he and Naminé could go to the witness stand. "But I had to-" Sora froze in his spot and his eyes widened considerably as he looked at Kairi. The princess brought a hand up slightly to feel a bruise that was one of several that Sora's eyes were probably fixed upon.
"Who did this to you?" Sora asked in a low key, a keyblade appearing in his right hand. Kairi's insides smiled as she looked at Sora's new weapon. It looked perfectly capable of defeating anything in Sora's hands.
"Master Sora you may not speak to the defendant," Judge Baker said, through she eyed both the keyblade and Kairi with interest. Sora nodded and proceeded through the barrier with Naminé as the bailiff opened it. She could see that he was barely able to suppress his rage at seeing Kairi hurt like that when he was gone.
Kairi lightly brushed Sora's leather jacket that concealed his automail arm from the eyes of the worlds and he looked at her, his keyblade vanishing from his right hand's grasp. Their eyes met and Kairi nodded her head in the direction behind him. He glanced at Mahoney before returning his eyes to Kairi, the cerulean within them asking for confirmation. Kairi nodded slightly.
"Sora please take the stand with Naminé," Peter said, coming up beside him. Sora nodded wordlessly and went up to sit next to Naminé, the two of them together making it slightly uncomfortable in the stand's cramped conditions.
The bailiff swore them in and Peter came up to the stand to look at both Sora and Naminé. "Could both of you describe your relationship to the defendant, Kairi Talerith?"
"I'm dating her," Sora said, "though I still haven't actually asked Kairi out on a date yet." He scratched his head with a confused look on his face. And Naminé and Kairi both smiled at him and shook their heads.
"And I used to be Kairi's nobody," Naminé answered, "but now I'm her twin sister."
"You were her nobody?" Peter asked.
"Yes," Naminé answered. "Just as Sir Roxas was Sora's nobody."
"And how did you come to exist?" Peter asked. Naminé looked at him in confusion for a second.
"In which sense of the word?" she asked. "I ask because nobodies are made of nothingness. So even though we can see and feel and be hurt by or befriend them, they don't exist."
"I'll rephrase," Peter conceded. "How did you come into being?"
"Through Sora and Kairi," Naminé answered.
"Could you elaborate for us please?"
"Sure," Naminé said, nodding her head quickly. "When Destiny Islands had its heart taken by the heartless, Kairi lost her heart, but because she's a princess of heart, her heart had no darkness in it to form a heartless. And since there was no heartless created, no nobody could be formed out of the body and soul left behind, so Kairi appeared as just an empty shell when Riku and Maleficent found her."
"So where did Kairi's heart go if it didn't create a heartless?" Peter asked.
Sora smiled and placed his right hand over his chest. "It went into my heart to be protected from the darkness."
Many people who heard that gave a collective sigh and a few even cooed 'aw'.
"So Sora was adventuring with Donald and Goofy with Kairi's heart inside of him the whole time," Peter said.
"Yep!" Sora replied, beaming at Kairi.
"Naminé you said that no nobody could be formed because there was no heartless," Peter asked, "so how are you here?"
"Because of Sora," Naminé said. "After Sora duelled and defeated Riku in the castle down in Villain's Vale at the keyhole to darkness that had been created, he took the keyblade of captive hearts created by the hearts of the other six princesses of heart and stabbed himself in the heart with it."
"You did what?" Peter asked.
"I stabbed myself in the heart to unlock Kairi's heart," Sora explained. "Kairi's heart came out of mine, but it also caused my heart to fall into darkness."
Kairi looked down and away from Sora, a tear in her left eye. She remembered waking up to see Sora falling before he vanished in her arms after she called his name.
"What happened when your heart fell?" Peter asked.
"I became a heartless," Sora explained. "And because I had lost my body and soul, and there had been two hearts within it, two nobodies were created out of my body and soul. Roxas and Naminé. However, my heartless found Kairi, Donald, and Goofy, and Kairi's love and desire to protect me when more heartless attacked them caused the light in her heart to give me back my body and soul. So I fell into the darkness to give Kairi back her heart, and she brought me back to the light through her heart."
"Sounds romantic," Peter mused.
Sora blushed. "When you talk about it, yes, when you experience it, no. You're more surprised, relieved and grateful than anything."
"But you did hug her when she brought you back," Naminé said. Sora's blush only increased.
"That was before hugging Kairi became awkward," he replied.
"So that was how you and Roxas were created," Peter said, "through the love two young adolescents had for one another."
Sora's face now resembled a tomato and Kairi's cheeks had suddenly turned pink. Peter glanced behind him as Riku, Prince Alain, and Aladdin sniggered slightly.
"So in your mind Naminé," Peter continued. "Would there be any logical reason that Kairi would have to intentionally cause harm Sora?"
"No," said Naminé.
"Thank you Princess Naminé," Peter said, dipping his head towards her. He then looked at Sora. "Sora," he began, "you were present when Kairi destroyed your arm?"
Sora smiled bemusedly. "Why would you even bother to ask me that question?" He pulled back the wrist section of the brown glove on his left hand and revealed to Peter part of the wrist section of his automail.
Peter nodded in interest and looked back up at Sora. "And you remember the incident?"
"Losing an arm is not something you forget quickly," Sora replied. "Yes I remember it vividly."
"And Naminé," Peter said quickly, pointing a finger at her. "You once made everyone forget all about Sora correct?"
"Everyone except Kairi," Naminé said ashamedly. "She could only remember Sora as the boy she couldn't remember. To anyone else, he never existed."
"Could you show us all Sora's memory of the battle and the loss of his arm?" Peter asked. A good number of gasps came from the people within the courtroom, including a couple of the jurors. Kairi and Sora locked eyes with each other.
Naminé this will prove it! Kairi thought instantly.
"Objection your honour!" Frederick said quickly, "a memory is not valid evidence! Memories can be tampered with, especially when dealing with a memory witch like her!"
"I vowed never to fiddle with Sora's memories again!" Naminé retorted.
"Yeah," Axel said from the crowd. "I got her onto the good side."
"Who just said that?" the court scribe asked, his voice a surprisingly rather strong baritone.
"Yo typewriter dude," Axel called, "the name's Axel. That's A-X-E-L, got it memorized? And I'm free all next week unless King Mickey wants me to do anything for him," he added, looking around at any woman that looked to be around twenty and single in a hopeful and rather proud manner.
Judge Baker's gavel banged onto its stand with a crack that silenced everyone. "Objection overruled Mr. Mahoney, I'll allow it." She turned her eyes upon Naminé, who gulped. "I'll allow it, if the princess swears again that she will not tamper with Sora's memory of the incident."
"I swear I won't touch it," Naminé said. "All I will do will be to give the memory in its entirety to everyone within this courtroom, and then to erase it from their minds after the trial is concluded."
"Why would you erase it from our minds?" Peter asked.
"This is Sora's memory," Naminé answered. "Ever since Roxas and I became whole, Sora and Kairi have had a measure of privacy as they can now keep their thoughts private if they want, when before they couldn't. Roxas and I are still able to enter their thoughts and memories if we try hard enough, but Sora and Kairi trust us to not do that. It would dishonour both of us if we broke that trust. To not leave that memory private to Sora would be the worst thing I could do." She turned and looked at him.
"Do you have my permission to share it with everyone?" Naminé asked. Sora shifted his gaze away from Kairi and moved slightly in the stand.
"It's going to take a lot of energy Naminé," he said. "A lot of energy."
"I know," Naminé answered.
"There was something I learned back in the digital world," Sora continued, "That if you try using magic beyond the bounds of your energy, you will die. I don't want you to die just to prove that Kairi's innocent." He stopped and frowned. "I didn't even press charges against her anyway! Who the heck called for this damned trial in the first place?!"
"Sora calm down," Naminé said, grasping his shoulder. "I'll be able to do this, that's what this is for," she tapped the stone in the thin silver circlet upon her brow, "trust me." Sora was silent and grumbled in his throat for a second.
"I trust you and you have my permission," he said, closing his eyes. "Do it."
A fireball crackled as it blazed through the air towards Sora as he hugged Kairi only moments after sharing the star-shaped paopu fruit with her. His eyes widened slightly as it approached, only to be blocked by Ohtarmon's mace when the Champion-level digimon moved to stand in front of them.
"Right," Sora said. "Battle, right…"
"Yeah…" Kairi added, her tone indicating that she'd just remembered as well, "right. Hades, yes." She turned her head and looked at Menelmon. "You ready for this Menelmon?"
"Let me at him," the female digimon replied. "I'll teach him to hurt my partner! Menelmon digivolved to, Soronmon!"
"Well," Hades began saying, looking at the ferocious foursome, "much though I'd like to stay and fight you alone, I have a friend who'd love to meet three of you and say hello to his old buddy." The ground started rumbling, and cracks began appearing in the earth just off of the islet where they stood. The catwalk collapsed and the whole islands shook as a guttural roar of a dog ripped through the howling air. The sky flashed with lightning and rain started to fall. Fires roared into existence from beneath the cracking stone, and the ground abruptly exploded, the dog's howl tearing through the storm once more, and yet it sounded now like it was more than one dog. Through the cloud of dust, shattered rocks, and rain that fell through the sky, and in the light of the fires that raged around it, Sora was able to discern the recognizable shape of a beast of the Underworld that he had fought several times with Donald, Goofy, and Auron. Its black fur shone with the beads of the rain and its massive muscles rippled. The six red eyes of its three heads located Sora and its jaws snapped, recognizing him in anger.
Hades had summoned forth Cerberus, his Guardian of the Underworld.
"Oh great," Sora muttered, his grip on Oblivion tightening. "Why do I have to take on the puppy again? First it was after I lost to Cloud in the first games we were in, then in the first Hades Cup, then when we were escaping the Underworld with Auron, and then in the Cerberus Cup." He shook his head to rid it of some of the rain while the six eyes of Cerberus glared at him. "Hades, why won't you just admit that Cerberus can't beat us?"
"Because this time you little keybrat, Cerberus isn't alone," Hades said, grinning at them as a grizzly and demonic black chariot appeared, being drawn by a pair of black and scary-looking horses.
"What?" Kairi asked, looking at Sora quizzically. Sora saw her glance but shook his head in reply.
"I don't see anything else," Ohtarmon said, holding his mace readily. Sora glanced at his digimon partner but drew his eyes back to Cerberus when he saw a flash of fire erupt from the left head.
"Incoming fireball," he warned, dashing away from the middle of the islet. Kairi raced after him as he and Ohtarmon leapt off of the islet and into the shallow water as it stirred violently in the assaulting wind.
"Let the show begin!" Hades roared from within his chariot as it flew in the skies above them. Sora looked up and saw Soronmon begin to fly after him, but a brilliant flame blazed into her path and she was forced to swerve away. Sora drew his eyes away from her and rolled to his right as he caught sight of one of Cerberus' heads lunging for him, each one of its sharp teeth as long as his arm. He saw Kairi summon Oathkeeper into her hands as he came up from his roll, and Ohtarmon waved Cerberus' middle head away from him with his spiked mace. The Guardian of the Underworld appeared to not want to get close to the six and a half foot digital monster.
Sora tensed his legs and jumped into the air towards Cerberus' left head (the one on the right side that faced him). Yelling loudly, Sora made the Oblivion cut upwards against the cheek of the beast, and his keyblade against the black hide of the three-headed dog's head. Sora landed on the top of the head and examined his handiwork with a harried glance, unable to spot if there was any damage done to the beast's powerful facial muscles before Cerberus roared and began twisting its heads in an attempt to throw him off.
"Sora!" Ohtarmon called as the keyblade master released the Oblivion to grab hold of the ears on his head. Sora looked down at Ohtarmon and Kairi as she stood beside him when he was able to, and his eyes widened slightly.
"Behind you!" he yelled, quickly letting go of Cerberus' head and using the momentum of the last shove of the head to propel himself towards his partners. The Oblivion returned to his hand just as Ohtarmon and Kairi turned around. Sora landed hard on the ground and rolled in front of Ohtarmon, his onyx keyblade coming up as quickly as he was able to bring it up to defend against a very large axe blade that was sweeping for Ohtarmon's legs.
Its wielder snorted, a golden ring in its great nose flapping from the burst of putrid air that stormed out overtop of a chest covered in horrendous coarse black hair. Sora's arms strained for a second, and then the Minotaur's axe's force pushed him to the side and drove him into the sand. But he had bought Ohtarmon enough time to ready his mace against this new opponent.
"Deciding Swing!" the digimon yelled, swinging his weapon towards the Minotaur with a heavy of his powerful biceps. Grunting, the Minotaur brought the flat of its black axe up to defend against the mace, not being perturbed in the slightest by the strength of the attack or the blast and explosion of white light from the inherent magic of the attack.
"You and me ugly," Ohtarmon growled, taking a heavy step into the soft sand towards the mythical beast with his yellow clawed feet. The Minotaur reared its head as it stood in equal height to the digimon and bellowed a loud and wailing challenge that Sora strained to put out of his mind. Kairi's hands were currently full in trying to avoid Cerberus in his three heads as the dog now seemed to be concentrating on her, the one it had decided to be the most annoying of the three since it clearly wouldn't be the most dangerous.
Sora pushed his wet hair out of his face and dashed towards Kairi, the Oblivion already crackling with a thousand volts of electricity that circled its black steel with a vivid white-blue glow. "Thundaga!"
Cerberus turned all three of its snarling, snapping heads towards him as he yelled and unleashed the spell, and the dog whimpered as the lightning stung and stuck into its three necks. It backed up two paces, its mighty legs shifting the pile of rock that was blocking the waterfall, shaking its heads as the electricity numbed it.
"Thanks," Kairi said with the faintest and quickest of smiles before she looked at the three-headed dog again. "So how do we beat him if you've fought him so many times?" Sora stood right next to her and glared at Cerberus, his keyblade held in tightly at his right side.
"We hit him," he answered.
"What?" Kairi asked, glancing at Sora for clarification.
"We hit him, and hit him, and keep hitting him until he's gotten the message that he's been a very bad dog," said Sora. Kairi nodded and looked up towards Cerberus as Sora glanced at her quickly. He frowned as her eyes widened.
"Look out!" she yelled, rushing at him and roughly grabbing him. She dove with both of them towards the slight safety of the little rock wall at the beach's edge and they landed behind it just as a massive piece of wood speared the sand only a few metres behind where they had both stood. The ground shuddered as the wet wood dug into the ground and splashed the raging waters all around it.
"What the heck threw that?" Ohtarmon asked loudly, both his and the Minotaur's legs buckling somewhat from the impact. Sora looked at Kairi and she breathlessly inclined her head towards the area above where Cerberus now stood, growling and not understanding why he could smell the keyblade wielders but couldn't see them.
"Big bronze man," she said. "He ripped it right off from the big tree. Looked like Talos from the myths."
"That's all we need," Sora groaned. "A big bronze guy trying to flatten us."
"I think I also saw a sword."
Sora felt the ground shake again slightly and his ears picked up the sound of metal crunching onto the ground. "I stand corrected, a big bronze guy trying to flatten us, and cut us into pieces." Kairi shook her head only slightly and huffed at his cynical tone, but she didn't say anything as if agreeing with him. Sora snatched Oblivion from the ground where it lay and leapt over the top of the seawall to stand face to face with six crimson eyes and more teeth than he could count.
"Bad doggie," he said, bopping the nose of the middle head with the middle of his keyblade. Cerberus' three heads all reared back up as the middle one looked at and adjusted its nose, the other two heads looking at the middle one in concern. Sora glanced to his left and saw just what Kairi described, a large man made of bronze, probably eight and a half or nine feet tall, with a bronze plumed helmet of black horsehair and a long, thick sword also of bronze construction in his right hand with a thick buckler in the left as its companion. Sora could just see something that resembled a bulging vein running from his neck to his ankle, being sealed shut with a bronze nail. He would have wondered more about it, had Talos not seen him and swung his massive sword at Sora.
Sora quickly raised his keyblade to block the blow and felt himself getting pushed back through the ground a foot as the two blades connected. Kairi circled around him and came up the cracked and broken stone steps to jump into the air on his right to attack Cerberus' heads. Sora only watched her with his peripheral vision as he stayed focused on Talos, who had brought his sword back and was now sending it down straight for Sora's head.
"Reflega!" Sora roared, the magical shield forming a dome around him. Talos' sword smote his barrier with a sharp ring and sparks flashed as it grated against the magical defence. Sora winced. The colossus was strong.
"Feel the pain," Talos bellowed in an echoing, metallic voice, "as I rain blows on your brain!"
Lovely, Sora thought darkly, he rhymes too.
"How 'bout you feel this pain?" Kairi yelled, using one of Cerberus' snouts as a springboard to dive straight for Talos. The bronze man turned his head towards he just as the Oathkeeper slammed into his helmet. Sora let his reflega shield disappear into balls of blue energy that streamed towards Talos. He recoiled as they struck, howling in agony and backing up against the trunk of the great tree that a catwalk had once been built upon.
"Thanks Kairi!" Sora called as the female wielder of the keyblade landed on the ground in a crouch with her white keyblade pointed back behind her. Kairi rose and turned towards him, her hair and clothes plastered to her body with the amount of rain that had been falling.
"You owe me!" she yelled over the wind. Sora laughed and dropped flat to the ground as one of Cerberus' heads came diving straight for his midsection. Sora rolled away from underneath the head and whacked its side with the Oblivion. Cerberus didn't seem to notice as Sora scrambled to his feet. He saw movement out of the left corner of his eye and his head quickly flickered in that direction, but he couldn't react in time to keep the dog's right head from slamming him into a hold between the two heads. His feet no longer touched the ground as Sora wheezed, his supply of air having been squeezed out of his lungs. The middle head reared up in front of him, its jaws opened wide for the bite that would render him into two separate pieces.
Sora shoved the Oblivion into its mouth as the jaws slammed shut, the keyblade keeping the mouth open and unable to close upon him. The pressure lessened slightly in the beast's surprise and Sora clambered out of the grasp of the other two heads and up on top of the middle one as it tried to snap his keyblade in two without further injuring itself. The keyblade reappeared in Sora's hand and the middle head's jaw snapped shut in what sounded like a painful bite down on nothing. The other two heads turned towards Sora and he flew high into the air just a second before they slammed into each other, each head having tried to crush him. The wind blew around Sora as he floated above Cerberus and he quickly wiped his hair out of his eyes.
Raw white energy began to glow from around the Oblivion and Sora swung it in the air twice in an 'X' directed towards Cerberus. From the Oblivion's blade the 'X' formed in the air and sped straight for the Underworld's Guard Dog. Cerberus' powerful legs lost their grip and slid out from underneath the dog as the attack slammed into its shoulders at the base of all three necks. The island quaked as Cerberus lay flattened, and one of its massive paws had stretched out and smacked Kairi away from where she was struggling with Talos and into the rolling waves.
Sora yelled her name and was about to fly to where she had been sent head-first into the ocean, when he felt himself being snatched out of the air by a pair of large claws and a large amount of heat flaring against his legs.
"Watch out Keys," Soronmon said, having grabbed him from the air. "You almost got roasted!"
"By what?" Sora asked, looking back in the direction the flare had come from. Down on the beach below him he saw another monster with one paw overtop of what had used to be the catwalk that reached the islet with the paopu tree. Its body was that of a great lion, with the head and mane of one directly in its front. Its tail was serpentine and a dragon's head bared its fangs and hissed at Sora from the tail's end. Directly in-between these two heads was the neck and head of a goat, smoke coming out of its snorting nostrils.
"The Chimera," Sora remarked in a groan. "As if this beach wasn't crowded enough with just Cerberus, we need another giant monster taking up room." Sora felt his stomach suffer as Soronmon dived suddenly, ducking underneath another jagged spear of wood that Talos had ripped out of the massive tree and thrown at them. Soronmon shrieked and reared her head at Talos as her mane of ice-white feathers ruffled in the wind that whistled through Sora's ears.
"Blizzard's Bite!" she yelled, snapping her neck down towards the bronze man. A blast of chilling white in the shape of Soronmon's head streaked down towards Talos, the image of Soronmon's sharp beak prominent as the rain that fell froze instantly as her attack passed through the air. Talos raised his bronze shield and Sora watched ice and frost form all over it as Soronmon's attack struck the shield and pushed the man of bronze back several feet.
"Put me down!" Sora yelled. Soronmon nodded and flew towards the beach, where Kairi was just fumbling out of the water, and promptly released Sora form him to land without grace in the surf just next to her. Spitting out half a mouthful of water and wet sand, Sora emerged facing Kairi as she laughed at him.
"Not funny Kai," he said, making fake gagging noises as he spat as much sand off of his tongue as was possible. A large axe blade being held back by an equally massive mace slammed into the sand just a few feet away from him, pelting both keyblade wielders with more water and sand.
"I could use a little help with fuzzy here," Ohtarmon said, lifting his mace up and parrying the axe as the Minotaur swung it for his armoured midsection.
"No problem," Kairi said, levitating the Oathkeeper in front of her and making it spin. "Gaira!" The sand around her rose from the beach into a column that stretched in front of her keyblade before being forcefully directed towards the Minotaur's muscled and hair chest. The beast moaned as the sand's constant pressure forced it back into a line with Talos, Cerberus, and the Chimera.
Sora, Kairi, Ohtarmon, and Soronmon formed a similar line against them, looking at the four monsters that they faced with anxiety. Both humans were dwarfed in size by all of the monsters, while Ohtarmon was the equal of their smallest opponent, the Minotaur. Soronmon was close to the size of the Chimera with her wings extended to their full length, and her brethren Cerberus was larger than all the others.
The four monsters leered at the two digital monsters and their partners, who glared apprehensively back. Ohtarmon and Soronmon were already panting from exhaustion just from being in their Champion forms for as long as they had. They were not gaining energy from the world around them, this wasn't their world.
A wave splashed against the back of Sora's legs and he took a fumbling step forward. He shivered and glanced at Kairi from underneath his soaked bangs and noticed her stumbling from the suddenness of the wave as well. Her indigo eyes caught his and she glanced back towards the four monsters in front of them. Sora watched as a bolt of lightning flashed in the dark clouds behind her, lighting Kairi up in a sudden light as she dipped her head in a sigh.
She looked back at him, and Sora saw her eyes and face brimming with determination just as thunder rolled through his ears. He nodded at her and she nodded back. Not giving her a second glance, Sora looked back towards Cerberus, now barking at him.
"These are our islands," he growled, his legs already beginning to carry him in a slow gait towards the four monsters. "Let's send them back to Underworld where they came from!" He picked up speed quickly and he leapt straight for Cerberus' middle head, his eyes boring into the red ones of Hades' guard dog. The head to his left snapped out towards him and Sora felt its teeth tear through the leather of his jacket and graze his left arm, ripping off bits of his skin as their rough edges passed over him. All Sora did was give a quick and sharp exclamation of pain while he continued forward past the offending head towards the centre one. The head barked and lunged for him, but Sora swung his keyblade down and slapped the snout with enough strength to push the head beneath his airborne feet for him to land right between the ears. He flattened himself down on the crown of Cerberus' middle head and slapped his keyblade against the side of the central neck while tightly gripping the right ear in his left hand. He climbed back up onto the head and repeatedly jumped between the three heads of the dog, swinging his black keyblade at the different necks and faces he went up against as they continually barked and snapped at him, occasionally nicking him in the leg or side while the Oblivion thudded against Cerberus' skin.
Cerberus' left head lunged for him and Sora slid off of the central head and onto the neck, the slick black fur feeling like knives as it ran against the side of his left arm. He twisted around and slapped his keyblade against the neck of the head that had just lunged for him and then dropped onto the ground as the other head lunged for him, the Oblivion grating against the neck for a second before reaching windy air filled with rain momentarily before being rammed against Cerberus' knee.
Sora collapsed onto the ground and tried to block the sound out of his ears as the dog howled in pain in stereo. He had just slashed at the creature's knee and struck hard against the bone. Sora yelped in pain as tongues of fire licked and burned his right arm and he instinctively put a shield around himself, the fire now splitting around his defence. Sora forced his jacket off while in the protection of his barrier and struggled not to assess the damage done to both of his arms while his eyes sought the goat head of the Chimera, glowering at him as fire spewed without pause towards his shield.
This won't hold forever, Sora thought putting more of his concentration into maintaining the spell as the fire kept coming at him. Cerberus' left head streaked towards him and bit at the shield, its teeth grinding against the honeycomb pattern that defined the shell.
The Chimera's goat head ceased in its constant fire-breath as watermelon-sized icicles and a barrage of razor-sharp feathers assailed it. Sora let his shield collapse into the blue balls of magical energy and sent them towards Cerberus. The dog reared up, waving his paws in the air and batting the energy away, yelping every time its paws were able to connect with the blue storm. Cerberus came back down to the ground, the dog's massive weight causing Sora's knees to buckle from the shockwave it sent through the ground. Sora ran away from the spawn of Typhon and Echidna as Ohtarmon stepped up to challenge Cerberus and toward Ohtarmon's previous opponent of the Minotaur, the size of the axe it wielded giving Sora slight hesitation in his decision to go toe-to-toe with the beast, especially since both of his arms now hurt. He quickly grabbed some of his heavy, water-soaked hair and shoved it to the side of his head.
The Minotaur bellowed at the keyblade master and swung its axe in a horizontal cut towards Sora's neck. Sora was lucky he'd moved his hair, or he'd have never seen it in time to duck underneath the large axe-blade. As it was, the axe came fast enough that he was still sure that at least a small amount of hair off the top of his head had been cut without his consent. But despite its power, the Minotaur was a slow, lumbering beast, and after Sora had ducked underneath the attack he had the advantage. Sora stayed crouched and ran towards the Minotaur's front, slashing across its chest with his keyblade. He ran past the Minotaur's left side as he finished his slice while the beast gave a guttural roar of pain.
Sora panted and turned around to look at the Minotaur's back, blinking raindrops out of his eyes. It didn't matter which way he faced, the wind blew the rain and sea-spray in every direction with the sole intent on forcing it into his cerulean eyes. The bigger creature turned around and faced Sora, clouds of steam being snorted angrily out of its nostrils as a trickle of dark red liquid seeped out of the wound to its chest Sora had given it.
Bawling in anger at Sora, the Minotaur rushed towards him on stomping feet, preparing its axe to swing it down onto the boy's shoulders. Sora was a step ahead of it, being able to think somewhat clearly even through the throbbing pain in both of his arms, and jumped just above the Minotaur's horns to come up behind it.
He twisted and curled as he went through his jump so that he would stay facing the Minotaur the entire time, and raised his keyblade towards the hairy beast. "Firaga!" A trio of fireballs spiralled out of the Oblivion's tip towards the Minotaur's back, burning the beast and forcing another howl of pain, rage, and surprise from it as it felt the sensation of its back being on fire. The creature ran for the ocean, its axe almost slipping from its grasp as it momentarily forgot about the battle. Sora stared at it as it ran and glanced at his keyblade. He twirled it in his fingers for a second before looking at the Minotaur.
"Strike Raid!" he yelled, tossing the black steel of the Oblivion at the Minotaur's blazing back. The beast still continued to run after the water in the ocean as the seas receded from it, denying the creature the moisture it craved to put out the fire that the rain alone could not quench. Its howl only grew louder when the spinning Oblivion struck into it between the shoulder blades, its black tip gouging its way in deep.
The wind was knocked out of Sora as something heavy flew into him and knocked him back down onto the sand. His eyes strained for a moment in the state of less than normal light caused by the dark clouds before he realized he was looking into someone's eyes.
"Kairi?" he asked.
"Who else?" she returned in what was partially between a moan and an aggrieved grumble. "Would you min-" she stopped, noticing that Sora's eyes were no longer on her; instead they had grown wide in fear.
Sora had just realized as Kairi lay atop of him that when he had thrown his keyblade at the Minotaur that the shore had been receding. That was never good, and he knew it the moment he looked back to the ocean. For one thing, the Minotaur had vanished and the Oblivion was sitting limply on the sandy beach, secondly, there was a fifty-foot wave heading straight for them.
A fifty-foot wave of ocean water, salt water!
Sora tightly bound his arms around Kairi and jammed his eyes shut, exposing both of his arms to the rain that already stung on the wounds he'd been given. He was unsure right now if Kairi had received any injuries, but he at least wanted to have his arms around something before the wave hit.
This is gonna hurt.
Kairi had apparently also noticed the wave, for she dug her arms into the sand underneath Sora's shoulders and tightly bound her arms together behind his back. The wave struck the ground and they felt it the instant before both of them were swept up in its power. Sora bit back a yell of pain, only a slight gasp slipping out. The bites on his arm and side burned as the salt water cascaded over him and Kairi, and he couldn't help wringing himself closer to Kairi as she did as well, the girl giving a cry of pain. So she was wounded too...
Sora's held breath was knocked out of him as the current pounded them against the seawall, his shoulder blades taking the brunt of the blow. The next instant the water's force swept them above the seawall and tossed them against one of Cerberus' legs for a second, Kairi taking the blow this time, most of her air escaping as her back struck against the black fur of Hades' guard dog. The wave's force continued, tumbling the two keyblade wielders against the ground until they broke into the tunnel that led to the Secret Place.
But none of it mattered for Sora, he had no reserve oxygen in his system anymore. He needed to breathe, and he and Kairi were still stuck underneath at least several feet of water. It was almost like the ocean itself was trying to flood the small play island. Sora's eyes opened and he looked at Kairi as her arms were wound around him. Her chest was heaving much like his as she strained to keep the urge to breathe in something that was not air at bay. As he watched her, Sora shook his head, she was either becoming blurry, or the world was fading. Sora opened his mouth, hoping beyond hope that the water that was passing over his tongue was air, and took a breath.
His eyes flew open wide when he found his vision beginning to clear as Kairi came back into focus.
Sora exhaled the water, realizing that his body had simply taken it in and extracted the oxygen from within it. He could breathe underwater?
The answer hit him like the wave had done and Sora laughed. His spell was still working. The spell he had cast on everybody so that they could breathe underwater in order to play the blitz game in the Digital World was still working.
"Kairi, we can breathe," Sora said. Kairi's eyes opened and her chest flattened; a cloud of bubbled flew from her mouth. She drew in the water in like a parched animal, sucking the liquid that contained the air she needed to survive with all of her concentration.
"Thank Poseidon for that blitzball game," she said, unwrapping her arms from around Sora as they still lay at the base of the tunnel into the secret place, the water's level feet above their heads. She winced as the current flowed a little fiercer against them, pushing the both of them further down the tunnel, its size much greater than it had been just a year ago.
Sora looked off to his right as he heard a grating sound and his eyes found a large rock rolling along with them. On the rock there were lines etched into it from the sharp ends of another rock. The lines formed two pictures, one of a head that resembled Sora's, and the other of a head that resembled Kairi's, both of them extending a paopu fruit to the other.
Sora glanced at Kairi and saw her looking at the drawing the two of them had made on the rock when they were little, and then the additions they'd each put on before and after the islands had vanished. She turned her eyes away from the rock and towards Sora, and he saw something in those indigo irises of the girl he loved. They had started off looking at the drawing softly, fondly even, but by the time that they had remained on Sora for a few seconds, they had become as hard as ice.
That rock had been a part of the islands and a part of their lives for a long time. That rock was a part of their home. No matter what world it was that Kairi had been born in, these islands, Destiny Islands, was her home as well as his. And now there were monsters out there trying to destroy them and wrecking their home.
"Let's get them Sora," she said, her feet fumbling on the ground as she tried to stand underneath the water. Kairi suddenly gasped and placed a hand to her left arm as the current pushed against them again, her back curling as her height dipped.
"Kairi, you're hurt!" Sora said, standing and placing his arms on her shoulders in a concerned gesture. She cracked an eye open as he stood over her.
"So... are you," she replied. "But, we have to do this. We can't- we can't back down just because it hurts can we?"
Sora sighed and shook his head. "No, we can't. Just be careful Kai, I don't want to lose you again."
"Same here Sora," said Kairi. Sora felt the current press against them in the other direction as the water began to recede back the way it came. He grasped Kairi by the waist with both of his hands, ignoring her exclamation of surprise, and flipped onto his back, holding her just above him as they floated in the middle of the water.
"Sora what are you-" Kairi began to ask, but stopped as the current swiftly started to carry them out of the tunnel to the secret place and back out towards the beach. As they emerged from the tunnel Sora found his eyes staring through the water up into the dark and stormy sky, a bolt of lightning flashing across it. The light from the static electricity illuminated a fighting Cerberus, Ohtarmon, Chimera, Soronmon, and Talos. The warrior-bird champion level digimon was busy trying to fend off both Talos' sword and Cerberus' heads single-handedly, and Soronmon was weaving through the sky on her white wings, spiralling and avoiding the fire breath from the goat head of the Chimera.
The water was picking up speed, taking them straight for where Ohtarmon was struggling with Talos and Cerberus. Sora's eyes locked onto Talos as the bronze warrior's back was turned to them, and he spotted something.
"Kairi, the nail!" he said, having her look at the bronze nail that bound Talos' single vein shut. Kairi nodded and summoned Oathkeeper back into her right hand. She flipped in the water so that her head was facing the right direction, and Sora felt his face grow red and his eyes stray while Kairi's skirt passed over his head for a moment.
He would have slapped himself, but that would have required too much energy just in moving his hand through the water to make it worth his while for being an adolescent boy. His punishment, had Kairi known that she had just presented him with the opportunity to look up her skirt and that he'd taken it, still came to him as her booted right foot used him to get a better leap towards Talos.
It had connected right between his legs.
Sora sunk like a stone onto the ground again as he became dead weight, his knees and legs curled up around that particular area to prevent it from taking any more harm as he groaned in pain and struggled to recover as quickly as possible.
"Come on guys," he spoke quietly to himself as he lay overtop of his previously discarded jacket, "you don't hurt that much do you?" The water level dropped from being above him to simply being at the level of his ear, and Sora shivered as the wind and rain assailed him once more.
Sora's eyes quickly widened and he rolled out of the way just as one of Cerberus' paws came down where he had been. Cringing, Sora got onto his feet and summoned is keyblade back into his hands.
"Polar Chill!" Cerberus withdrew the paw that had almost crushed him as two-foot-long icicles bombarded the area around where it had been, digging themselves a foot into the ground around the area where they landed.
"Come on Keys!" Soronmon yelled, swerving through the air as one of Cerberus' heads made a move to bite one of her winds. "You need to move!" Sora tried to ignore the pain in his organs as he ran straight past Cerberus, the heads being restrained from moving to bite at him as the Chimera's goat head spewed fire into the air just above Sora's head. His eyes and ears picked up the ringing notes of Kairi and Ohtarmon both battling with the nearly nine foot tall Talos. His shield was towards Ohtarmon, just able to keep the crushing blows of the digimon's mace at bay, and his sword kept coming down at Kairi with agility that astounded Sora. But Kairi was just able to keep out of the sword's reach.
Roaring in a challenging lust for battle, Sora ran straight for Talos, the bronze creation's black eyes turning to look at him as the keyblade master came forth. Kairi rolled off to the side as the colossus' bronze sword fell and Sora's mystical keyblade came up to meet it. Sora glanced at Kairi and she moved into action, heading straight for the bronze nail near the base of his ankle.
Talos bellowed and swung around completely, foiling Kairi on her attempt. His shield came up high to block Ohtarmon's mace before the digimon could begin to swing it down and his sword leapt straight for Ohtarmon's armoured chest. Sora used all of the ability he'd learned while in his Valour form and jumped clear overtop of Talos. The Oblivion came down hard upon Talos' sword, turning it down and away from the keyblade master's digimon partner. But Talos used the momentum Sora had now given his blade to twist around and deliver a cut at a leaping figure that had just flashed by, the figure's white blade cutting right through the base of a nail in his ankle. Kairi cried out in pain and dropped onto the ground as the sword ripped through the white fabric of her shirt and cut into her back.
"No!" Talos roared, watching in dismay as what remained of the nail broke free and a dark red ichor began to pour out of the vein.
"Now take this blow," Ohtarmon said gruffly, the muscles underneath his armour tightening as he gripped his mace with his clawed hands. "Deciding Swing!" Sora ducked underneath of Ohtarmon's mace as it began to glow with white light and dove after Kairi, both of his feet flying over top of the stream of ichor that rapidly streamed out of the hole in Talos' vein. Sora's ears heard the crash of Ohtarmon's mace into Talos' side and the bronze man flew past him and broke upon the trunk of the tree he had ripped chunks of wood out of. Sora glanced slightly at the sight and he saw Talos crumple and lie slouched against the trunk.
"Kairi," Sora called gently, picking her up by the girl's shoulders. His family jewels throbbed in pain as they remembered that this young woman had just pulverized them, but Sora dismissed the agony when compared to the pain Kairi must have been feeling from the gash in her back. It didn't look too good.
"It's okay Sora," Kairi said suddenly, forcing her arms to push her back up to her knees. "I'm fine. You've dealt with worse than this right?"
"Kairi you don't look fine," Sora said sternly. "Here, let me heal it for you."
"I don't think we have time Sora," Ohtarmon grumbled tiredly, readying his mace again as he changed directions from where Talos lay apparently lifeless to where the Chimera was now charging towards them, more fire spewing into the sky after Soronmon from the goat's head in between the front head of the lion and rear dragon's neck and head.
Sora glanced away from the bleeding wound on Kairi's back and quickly stood, spinning the Oblivion around his body while he himself did a complete rotation on the spot. He infused the Oblivion with freezing blizzard magic and brought it above his head as he neared the end of his rotation. The blade then came down in a completely vertical slice to cut a fireball that Cerberus' left head had sent for them, frost and flame breaking out of the contact between the two. Sora glared at the six red eyes of Cerberus, but found his vision of one of the children of Typhon and Echidna being blocked by a suit of wet (and was it also dented?) grey armour.
"I'll hold off the puppy," Ohtarmon said. "You and Kairi help Soronmon with the other one."
"Got it," Sora said, nodding quickly. "Be careful Ohtarmon."
"I'll be fine," Ohtarmon said, pointing his mace at Cerberus with both hands. Sora's eyes noticed that it was with both hands with some worry, Ohtarmon usually only needed one arm to hold up his mace. "Feathered Mace!"
Sora tore his eyes away from his digimon partner. He grabbed Kairi's shoulder and half-picked, half-dragged her up to her feet to combat the Chimera. The beast's lion head roared at them and Sora felt his insides squirming as his nose got a full blast of the monster's breath. Sora's knees buckled slightly underneath him as he felt a shockwave go through the ground; Cerberus must have reared up on his hind legs to avoid the knife-like feathers of Ohtarmon's mace.
The Chimera's lion head snapped towards Sora, her jaws open wide and revealing to him rows of teeth, almost equal in size to those of her brother Cerberus. Sora caught the teeth with the Oblivion's blade and held the mouth there with all of his strength as she tried to bite and break through the piece of metal stuck between her canines. Kairi rushed past Sora on his right, but he saw her stop as the green neck that stretched from the Chimera's back spring out towards her, the dragon head's maw opened wide as well, ready to chomp her in two.
Sora struggled to withdraw his keyblade from the lion's mouth, but the teeth gripped his sword in place tightly. His cerulean eyes looked straight at Kairi to watch her get slightly out of the way, the dragon's scaly cheek grazing her side and ripping away cloth and cutting skin. Kairi collapsed onto the ground from the force of it and rolled around to place her back to the soaked sand, her blood leaking freely from her back and left side as more rain found its way into her auburn hair.
Sora placed his hand against a tooth and quickly unleashed a wave of frigid air against it. The Chimera opened her mouth and recoiled slightly as the tooth froze, a thin film of ice forming around it. Sora broke the Oblivion free and he heard Soronmon shriek as she came in again. The goat's head sent another tongue of flame at the winter eagle, in a direction that Sora knew she would be unable to deke out of the way of.
"Soronmon!" Kairi yelled. "Reflega!" A shield formed around Soronmon just in time to defend against the blast of fire. The fire bounced off of the shield and rebounded right for the Chimera's flank. The creature roared as her own fire struck her side, and Soronmon dove and grasped the neck of the dragon head in her claws. Soronmon's wings beat harder in the wind and she pulled the neck and wrapped it right around the goat head. She flew off then in the direction that placed her directly in path with the lion's head.
"Kairi!" Sora yelled as he watched the champion level digimon begin to fly past the lion's head, "I have an idea! Send a chain of thunder magic at me!"
"What?" Kairi asked. He could tell that she was astounded that he'd actually ask her to attack him.
"Just do it!" he ordered, watching the goat's head closely. It was beginning to open its mouth as smoke poured out of the nostrils.
"Thundaga!" Kairi yelled, pointing the Oathkeeper at Sora. He flicked the Oblivion and caught the lightning she sent at him around it. He looked back at the goat head and saw flames emerge from out of it, aimed straight for Soronmon. The dragon's head screamed in suffering as the fire roasted it through the scales, but...
The flames also had to pass through the lion head's mane to reach Soronmon.
The Chimera screamed as her wet fur on the mane began to steam, the water soaked within it boiling instantly. Sora pointed the crackling Oblivion at the Chimera's mane where the steam was billowing out of and unleashed the lightning. The electricity was much hotter than the flames, but it was also being sent into a nest of fur that had just been rid of the water that would otherwise have protected it.
The Chimera's mane lit up like a pile of dry kindling that had been doused with gasoline.
She howled in fear and agonized pain and the creature forgot all about the battle, spinning around in distress and pain. The Chimera's front paws bowled Sora over, his back and chest hurting as he slammed into the ground again. Sora watched upside-down as she slammed into Cerberus and Ohtarmon barely avoided her raging paws. The black dog was slammed into the tree trunk, all three of his heads crashing into one another. Soronmon gained altitude to escape from the rampaging monster, but the Chimera paid her no mind and dove into the ocean to get put out the fire burning her mane. But the seas swallowed her up as soon as the fires were extinguished and then there was no trace that she'd even ran into the ocean.
Sora rolled back onto his front and glanced to where Talos had been, and he blinked in surprise when he saw that the bronze man was no longer there, but there was a small pool of dark red ichor where he had been laying.
Cerberus growled loudly, but its growl was weak. Sora grinned.
"Come on Kairi!" he said. "Only one left now!" He put one foot in front of him, but waited while thunder boomed in his ears and his body shivered from the biting wind and rain that stole his head for Kairi to come up next to him. It took a few seconds, but then she was at his side.
"I'll take the one on the left," she said, "you take the one on the right. Meet you in the middle." Sora nodded and both of them rushed to the appropriate heads. Cerberus opened the mouths of all three of his heads and a stream of fire belched out of all of them. Sora could see the rain turning into steam before it could even reach the fires, and Ohtarmon took two short leaps out of the way of the advancing inferno.
"Blizzard's Bite!" Soronmon yelled as she came in high from Sora's left. He caught sight of the frozen white blast shaped like Soronmon's head streaking through the path of the inferno, extinguishing the blaze as the cold stole all of its heat. Ohtarmon thundered up next to Sora as the keyblade master ran for the right head and his mace started glowing white.
"Deciding Swing!" he roared, slamming it down on Cerberus' paw. The ground cracked and broke underneath the paw and Cerberus howled in pain. Sora jumped towards the pile of rocks that had broken the pristine waterfall and changed his posture and direction to send him straight towards Cerberus' right head. Roaring, he slammed his keyblade into the cheek of the head. The head crashed into the middle one, which had the other head break into it at the same time as Kairi acted. Both keyblade wielders flipped in the air and brought their keyblades down on the middle head.
Cerberus' knees gave way and the dog fell flat on its stomach, quivering in pain from the pain his limbs that finally overcame him. Kairi placed a white boot on the snout of his yowling middle head and smirked at Hades' defeated guardian.
"Bad doggie," she said in a sarcastically sweet tone. Sora laughed and carefully spun Kairi around to kiss her. Kairi smiled and giggled slightly, her body wincing slightly from the suffering that its wounds were giving her.
"Oh as if that doesn't just take the cake!?"
Both keyblade wielders turned around and glared as Hades appeared in a cascade of burning red fire. Ohtarmon moved slightly to stand protectively in front of both of them, even though his shoulders were heaving. Soronmon hovered near the ground, staying just above and behind Sora and Kairi as they stood over Cerberus.
"Okay, I get it now," Hades said, drawing the brute sword covered in blue fire with pure darkness at its core, "you want a job done right, you've got to do it yourself. So, I'm done being beaten by you shrimpos. That's it!" Hades vanished in a puff of smoke and Sora pushed Kairi out of the way as the Lord of the Dead appeared behind them. He moved Oblivion up to block Hades' sword as it descended towards him.
Soronmon screamed behind Hades and shot her neck down towards him to snap her beak shut on the Olympian. Hades turned around and glared at her as his skin turned from greyish blue to red, his flaming hair becoming true fire. "You're too cold for me babe," he taunted, blasting a fireball into Soronmon's neck from point-blank range. The fireball burned Soronmon and pushed her back until her wing-joints crashed into the rock-wall of the cliff behind them.
"You'll regret that Hades," Ohtarmon said, thundering towards Hades with his mace wound up behind him. Sora shook his head and slashed at Hades while the god's back was turned. The Lord of the Dead turned around and smirked at Sora before vanishing in another puff of smoke. Sora looked around frantically and Ohtarmon paused while Kairi got back onto her feet.
"Feel the heat!" his voice echoed, startling Sora as it came from the exact same place where Hades had previously stood. He gave a cry of pain as more fire struck his back, forcing Sora off of Cerberus' snout. The guard dog vanished in darkness back to the Underworld and Hades disappeared again, now appearing behind Kairi.
"How you doing Kairicheeks?" he asked, surprising her by placing his sword's blade against Kairi's neck, "did you enjoy my company before?"
"You're a bastard," Kairi retorted. Hades chuckled.
"Well sure my Mom and Dad were siblings," he said, "but old Kronie really didn't like it when my dear younger brother Zeusy came home and cut me and the others out of his stomach."
"Do you think I care that your father swallowed you after Rhea gave birth to you?" Kairi grumbled. "Right now you're trying to kill me just as Kronos was trying to do to you and your brothers and sisters."
Hades let his sword press against Kairi's neck, the blade's edge cutting her slightly. "Maybe, but you're a threat to me taking over Olympus with Maleficent's help."
"But I'm a bigger threat," Sora reminded him. Hades turned around suddenly and Sora slammed the Oblivion's key into the god's face. It almost looked comical to see Hades' facial tissues all scrunch up as everything, his eyes, nose, mouth, and eyebrows, were pushed in and his flaming blue hair was extinguished. Kairi dropped to the ground away from Hades' sword and placed a hand to her neck. Ohtarmon came up beside Sora and his mace slammed into Hades' side, forcing the god to fly ten feet away into the base of the tree where Talos had landed not too long ago.
Hades punched the sides of his head and his face popped out again, completely red with his entire body burning in his anger.
"You are going to wish that you were already dead!" he roared, clapping his hands together and pointing them at Sora, Kairi, and Ohtarmon. A column of dark fire sprang out of his hands and streaked straight towards the three.
Kairi sprang in front of Sora and Ohtarmon and a shield of light formed around them, a faint light coming from her crest. The fire smote itself against the shield and Sora feared for an instant that it would be overcome like when Devimon had done the same, but this time the light held fast.
Hades' eyes widened. "Not possible!"
"I'll think you find that anything is possible Hades!" Sora looked up and saw Soronmon flying over them, the small plume of feathers atop her head covered by a casing of frozen rain. "Blizzard's Bite!" Her mane ruffled as the frozen blast stormed towards Hades.
The Lord of the Dead ceased trying to overcome Kairi's shield with his dark fire and switched to blasting Menelmon's attack with a swirling inferno of yellow flames. The two met in the air and the air around Sora itself shook as a cloud of hot steam blew in a flat sheet over them all before dissipating.
But Kairi smirked and she collapsed her shield into a ball of light that floated in her palm. She flung the ball of light straight at Hades, who turned to see it coming for him an instant too late. The ball of light struck Hades in the chest, and crackling bolts of light and darkness began to burst into life all around him as the light slowly began to enter his body.
"No," Hades groaned, his hands going to his chest as the light wormed its way to become halfway within him. "No, no!"
Sora watched as beads of sweat began to appear on Kairi's brow, almost unnoticeable amidst the rain, and he placed a hand to her shoulder in support. Kairi sighed and her body relaxed for a moment, then she crossed her arms in front of her and with a yell thrust them out and back to her sides.
The ball of light completely entered Hades' body and he roared in suffering and collapsed onto the ground. His body was shaking and shivering, bolts of darkness skating over his body. His head was shaking. "This... can't... be... happening!" he roared.
A shadow of darkness leapt out of his body and dissolved in the air. Hades turned his yellow eyes onto them and glared at Kairi in hatred before he vanished completely in a puff of fire and smoke.
Once he appeared in the Underworld, Hades opened his mouth wide and let his voice bellow out. "Persephone! Ready my bath and prepare yourself and the bed! Your husband has had a very bad day today!"
"Um, my lord Hades," the diminutive demon Panic began quietly.
"Lady Persephone is not yet back from visiting her mother Demeter, my lord."
To say that Hades was livid would be putting it in the very simplest of terms. Every volcano in existence could not produce as much molten fire as Hades did.
Sora moved his hands to catch Kairi as she collapsed a little from exhaustion. Their happiness at defeating Hades couldn't even make him worry about any of their injuries, not even the one on Kairi's back that still poured blood between his fingers as he held her up.
We did it, he thought joyously, letting Kairi's body rest against his chest while moving his arms to hug her proudly. We did it!
"Do not be so proud of yourselves." Sora and Kairi froze and spun around as Maleficent appeared a ways behind them in a rush of green fire.
"No!" Kairi cried. "No you can't be here!"
"It's you!" Ohtarmon yelled, gripping his mace and rushing for the witch.
"Ohtarmon no!" Sora roared. "She'll destroy you!"
"We'll take care of her Kairi!" Soronmon yelled, flying straight for Maleficent.
"No Soronmon!" said Kairi. "Get away! Don't try it!"
Hades' fallen sword flew from the ground into Maleficent's right hand, the blue flames melting and turning into the dark of night. She raised her staff towards Soronmon and the green ball topping it glowed sickly. Searing green flames flew out of it and struck Soronmon in the digimon's right wing. She shrieked in pain and another jet of fire blasted her in the chest. Soronmon's anguished cries continued and she became surrounded in a golden glow before she suddenly shrunk and fell onto the ravaged sands, Luinmon.
"Luinmon, no!" Kairi cried, stepping out in front of Sora and looking at her partner with salty tears turning her eyes red.
Ohtarmon roared and his mace fell towards Maleficent. She parried his attack with a swift stroke of her sword and struck his side with the blade. It cut right through the armour he wore and dug into him underneath the brown feathers that covered his body from underneath. Ohtarmon's green eyes jammed shut and the holes in his helmet that revealed them reflected nothing but black emptiness for a moment before he too glowed with golden light and reverted down into his much smaller and weaker form of Ninquemon.
"You evil witch!" Sora yelled. "Leave them alone!"
"But I shall Sora," Maleficent returned with a smile. "They were merely in the way to get at the true prize here." She slashed the sword she held in Kairi's direction, and Sora gasped as he realized that she was going to try to kill her with one swift attack.
The fire on the sword merged at the tip as Maleficent swished the blade through the air, and it crackled into a bolt of dark lightning. Thunder boomed from the bolt itself, drowning out all other sound...
Drowning out Sora's pained yell as the bolt struck his left arm after pushing Kairi out of the way.
Sora jammed his mouth shut to further restrain anymore signs of weakness he'd show in front of Maleficent and looked down at his arm to see it. The limb felt numb.
"Sora what the-!" Kairi exclaimed, examining his arm in horror.
The skin had turned completely dark.
Sora eyed his arm in fear. This was far too familiar, far too real. It reminded him too much of the shadow of himself that Riku had conjured and forced him to fight when he was first in Neverland. He tried to move the arm, so that he would be able to feel more than just a numb sensation.
His eyes widened to their complete extent when he found that he couldn't.
Sora looked up at Maleficent and saw her smiling wickedly at him. She casually loosened her hold on her sword and waved it to the right.
Sora felt himself being twisted around by some other power and his left arm clenched its fingers around Kairi's throat. Kairi's scream pierced him through the heart.
Sora released his hold on the Oblivion and rammed his right hand against his left arm, trying to break the contact. The only thing it did was to serve to tighten the dark fingers against Kairi's windpipe. Sora grabbed his left arm with his right hand, and his face contorted in panicked concentration as he tried to force it away, but the arm wouldn't budge.
Sora sobbed and looked into Kairi's eyes, seeing them shimmering with tears as he mouth was still open wide in a silent scream.
"Keys let go of her!"
Sora felt his arm being jerked off of Kairi's throat as Luinmon and Ninquemon bounded into him, the force that they had both struck him with sending him sprawling to the ground. His left arm started spastically reaching for Kairi again as she landed just a few feet out of his arm's reach, and his ears picked up the sound of ringing metal. For one second he spared a glance to where the sounds where coming from and saw Cossex weaving around Maleficent, the Thought Crusher's axes dancing to and fro as the witch countered with both her sword and staff.
His arm violently sent him towards Kairi again, the girl still struggling to regain breath into her lungs and massaging her throat where it had now been cut by sword and touched by darkness. Her back still bled badly from the gash that Talos' sword had left in her, but Sora tore his eyes away from that and rolled on top of his arm, forcing it to stay pinned underneath him. That didn't seem to stop it however, as the arm began forcing him to convulse, his body spinning around on the sand.
More weight appeared on him and he looked into Ninquemon's green eyes. "Settle down Sora."
"I can't," he retorted, his arm jerking back towards Kairi. "It wants to hurt Kairi and I can't stop it!"
"Maybe you can't Sora," Kairi said quickly, standing over him now. "But maybe I can. I did cast Maleficent's shadow out of me after all."
"Well keep it down then!" Sora shouted as it made a lunge for Kairi's throat again. Ninquemon and Luinmon dove onto the arm and pinned it onto the ground as Sora brought his right hand over to clamp it around the forearm with as much force as he could. He chanced giving a glance at Kairi and saw her looking at Maleficent with hatred.
She looked back and nodded at Sora, a small frown on her face. Light began to pool around her fingertips, shining in the darkness. Sora saw his left arm cringe away from it as he shivered from the cold wind and rain again. More light swirled around Kairi's hands becoming a ball that glowed brightly, almost seeming to flicker with white flames around its edges. Her crest was emitting a very faint, sharp light.
"Kírië noraki umûl!"
Sora's eyes opened wide the very millisecond before the light struck his arm. It did not look like soft healing light, it was far too forceful, far too powerful! His mouth ripped open as he felt the light burning and ripping through his arm, and he couldn't keep himself from yelling in anguish.
Sora came out of the memory panting terribly. There was sweat all over his face, and his eyes were bloodshot red. Instantly they sought out Kairi, who was also panting, having just come out of the experience too. Her eyes caught his and she nodded at him. Sora took that to mean that it compared favourably to her own one.
Naminé groaned next to him and Sora quickly caught her by the shoulders. She shook her head tiredly and moaned a little more in a softer tone. "That took a lot out of me," she said quietly as Sora let her rest her head against the wooden boards of the witness stand. "But you and Kairi went through hell and high water in that battle, almost literally."
Sora smiled faintly at Naminé and she raised her head to look at Peter. He was staring at Sora, awestruck.
"So Ed, do you still not believe in magic?" Winry Rockbell asked smugly, leering at the older of the Elrics.
Judge Baker banged her gavel onto its stand, its echoes becoming the only sound in the courtroom as any who could stared at either Sora or Kairi. She herself had her eyes fixed on Sora, for it was his memory that she had been introduced to.
"Counsellor," she said, her voice quaking as she stared at the keyblade master, "do you have any more witnesses for this court?"
"No your honour I do not," Peter replied, passing a shaking hand over his sweaty head. "The defence rests." Judge Baker nodded.
"Very well," she said. "You may step down Master Sora, Princess Naminé." Sora nodded and nudged Naminé. She mumbled something about not wanting to move and preferring to rest a little longer. Sora sighed and forced Naminé onto her feet so that they could walk down. The going was slow as they passed through the front of the courtroom, and Sora paused as they stopped between the desks for the prosecution and defence.
"If you so much as touch even the air that Kairi breathes the wrong way again," he muttered, glancing at Frederick Mahoney, "I'll kill you." He and Naminé passed through the barrier and into the seating, deciding to sit in the front row right next to Aladdin and Jasmine, with Roxas, Riku, King Mickey, and Asterix sitting just behind them.
"Naminé here," Jasmine said quietly, raising her hands to her head. "Let me help you." Jasmine closed her eyes and placed a darker hand gently on the other princess' forehead. Sora could just faintly see light coming from Jasmine's hand, and he saw the muscles in Naminé's body relaxing and her breathing becoming easier. After a few seconds she removed her hand, and Naminé looked up at Jasmine and smiled, energy returned to her body.
"Thanks Jasmine," Naminé said in a hushed voice.
"Would the counsellors please approach the bench," the judge called. Sora watched as Peter and Frederick approached Judge Baker and the three of them exchanged a few words before the two lawyers returned to their positions.
"The defence and prosecution have agreed to forego closing statements," Judge Baker cited. "Therefore, I now ask the jury if they had already reached a verdict, or if they require time to deliberate." Sora turned his eyes to the jury, realizing that everyone else was also looking at the body of fifteen with apprehension as they began to discuss in voices that were barely a whisper.
Not fifteen seconds after they had begun, a male juror stood and looked at the judge. "We have reached a verdict your honour."
"Then read your verdict."
The juror cleared his throat and spoke in a voice that seemed to be as calm, authoritative, and binding as possible. "We find the defendant, Princess Kairi Talerith, innocent of all charges laid against her."
"Then that concludes this case," Judge Baker said, striking her gavel down to end the proceedings. Peter thumped his fist on his table and all eyes turned on him for one moment.
"I don't care what anybody says," he exclaimed joyously, "even just surviving that battle has GOT to look good on a résumé!"
The entire courtroom erupted in jubilation and Sora vaulted the railing to stand next to Kairi just as the bailiff was removing the bracers that kept her from summoning her keyblade or using magic. As soon as they had dropped to the ground Sora swept her up off of her feet and planted a kiss right on her lips.
Kairi was in no hurry for the kiss to end, but end it did when Frederick Mahoney spoke up behind Sora.
"Empty threat," he growled. Sora stopped and put Kairi down. With surprising suddenness, Sora spun on his heels and sunk his right fist into Fred's face. He could feel the pleasing crunch of Fred's nose breaking underneath his knuckles, and it even felt like he'd knocked a few teeth loose.
Frederick was escorted out of the courtroom a few seconds later by a certain Major Armstrong from the world of Amestris and the great and strong Gaul Obelix.
Kairi placed a hand on Sora's shoulder and turned him around, he looked at her in surprise for a second before he smiled again and she drew him in to give him a very deep kiss in gratitude. "You know Kairi," Sora murmured as they broke apart, his nose nuzzling against hers, "if we skip that one day we had broken up, today is our one month anniversary. Are you busy tonight?"
Naminé and Roxas came up next to Kairi, Roxas practically carrying his girlfriend over to them before she could answer Sora's question. They both looked at Naminé, and both realized that she must have just erased the memory from everyone else's memory.
"Come on," Naminé said, "we have to go to the gardens in the castle postern. All the princesses are here, and it was what I was told to do."
Kairi smiled sympathetically at her sister and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Okay Nam, we'll go." Kairi nodded at King Mickey and the other princesses, and as one massive group, they left the courtroom, and then the courthouse.
People throughout the streets of Radiant Garden were already celebrating that Kairi had been completely cleared of all charges. As they went, random people came up to Sora and Kairi and shouted their praise or belief that she had never been guilty in the first place, or they would cautiously approach Riku or Naminé, and remark that they were impressed with the duel they had had earlier.
None of them could stop smiling. Genie was so ecstatic that he was creating banners and Genie clones to spread the good news and celebrate, causing confetti to cascade in waterfalls over balconies or for fireworks to shoot up into the bright sky.
The flowers were just as beautiful as Sora remembered when they finally had been able to get their way through the crowd to reach the postern of the castle. He looked towards the palace itself, and its white walls gleamed at him in the sunlight.
And then the castle vanished from his view, though his grip on Kairi was still maintained. Sora looked around and saw nothing beyond the many heads of his friends but the black of night, and then he looked down.
They were all standing on a platform that held a shining white star in the middle of a vibrant blue background. Eleven silver thrones circled the platform, but at the moment only one was occupied, by a woman with flowing blonde hair garbed in white and bearing a white staff.
"Thessaura," Kairi, Naminé, and King Mickey said simultaneously, dropping to their knees.
"Haverash," said the Goddess of Light. "I am glad you could bring everyone Princess Naminé Talerith, for there is much to discuss..."
And this concludes A Week of Troubles. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go and sleep, and then spend some time catching up on my book reading, DVD and anime watching, and game playing. I still haven't even started KH Re: Chain of Memories yet! I'll see you all sometime in January. So Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year! Be safe now!
And now for last chapter's reviews, tell me if you don't like this system and I'll revert completely to the old one.
Eragonmetal6: Thanks, it was fun to write about what Kairi was doing while Sora was off in the Pride Lands, plus it needed to be done anyways.
Infinite Freedom: I knew watching JAG would pay off! Otherwise I would not really have a clue at all as to what was going on. Sora being a good witness? (Laced with sarcasm) What on Earth makes you think he'd be a good witness?
Ikaru Kakou: Long would be an understatement, but this one is long too. However I don't make chapters long just for the sake of making them long and I try not to lower the quality of my work, even when I feel rushed like you know all too well.
Mrfipp: Tom would never go out in formal wear now would he? And yes, we do have dubbed Re:CoM here in North America now! The yaoi is why Wartime Battlewatch did not want to play any of it, they found it sick, and so do I! Bobble heads rule! Riku facing Naminé was a very interesting choice, but I already knew from the start that Riku would pull out the win. Go lawyers, at least the good ones and not the pirate lawyers. Sora kicked ass, but I haven't even begun to play Re:CoM yet so I don't know what Marluxia sounds like either.
Darthkingdom: I suppose that I'm still evil then, ending the second story on another cliffhanger. And like I told you, when should you ever go into a battle when I'm in charge thinking that you know how I'm going to write it? This is me we're talking about. I just brought in four monsters from Greek Mythology into the mix, and it took me four days to write that battle out. FOUR!
R-Lord: Twenty-five minutes sounds about right, smeghead. But no, Naminé is not able to show people what is happening between Sora and Kairi when they are on different worlds. Well, Fred did get socked in the face...
Noble Wielder: Thank you, and I hope to see you in The War.
CHEESE PLEASE: He came, he saw, he memorized.
Krystal Lily Potter: I bet you've probably beaten the game by now... And I hope that you found this chapter amazingly good. Naminé and Riku amuse me too; probably why I enjoyed writing the pair of them so much when I wrote the chapter. You are quite right, you are not the only one who is mean to Kairi, and you'll find that I'm meaner when I get back.
PokeRangerArdith: Dislike Fred, but he is a good lawyer and just doing his job. The problem is that he likes his job. Kairi and Aiwemon both got angry at Fred because he called Menelmon 'Menel', and only Kairi calls her that. She did not want anybody but herself calling Menelmon by the shortened nickname she gave her partner, so she snapped. Sorry, but the chapter is almost as long as the last one!
SalanTrong: I thank you for your review all the same. It's nice to just hear someone saying occasionally that I did a good job. I hope you had a good concert.
Lord Moldybutt: I had to at least do my best in making the court sessions authentic looking didn't I? It wouldn't have done well to just made a mockery of a legal justice system. Yeah, the last chapter was chronologically before the other, it just made sense to me. Plus, I liked reminding people that Riku and Naminé did work together while they were bringing Sora back; it gave me something to build on.
Icefire1126: I hope I have exceeded your expectations again, and it is nice to know that you enjoyed it that much, and your pros and cons do make sense. However, I would not crown myself the King of Kingdom Hearts fanfiction. I just know that I'm good. I'll leave the King title to everyone else to determine.
Quartermass: No, you are not a smeghead, but you do know what one is so I shall give you the 'Rimmer salute'. I do believe I pulled a dues ex machina in this one wouldn't you agree? Well, Sora certainly punched his face into next week.
Shinku Ryuuga: You never see court stuff on CSI and I didn't even mention CSI. CSI is Crime Scene Investigation and JAG is Judge Advocate Generals, ergo military lawyers vs. civilian inspectors and analysts. This one is close in length, with the actual chapter being shorter. Yeah, Fred's an ass, but he's not yet dead.
GTA Guy: I'm very glad to hear that you are still interested, but when I was talking about making it up to people it was more of writing more actions scenes. I don't need them, but they help to move the plot along some of the time. However, you don't need battles to keep a story interesting, which is why there are probably a lot of people that never make it through Fellowship of the Ring. Oh yes, Riku and Naminé are entertaining when placed together, and if I had been inclined that way, I could have written a romance between them easily. Bobble heads are cool! And Sora and Shenzi (sighs) too bad it didn't work out...
Blzr: I have bad Cold Lake memories of the word Epic. One of the other staff overused the word and put it in every second sentence when speaking to his cadets. However, I do agree with you that this deserves the words WOW and EPIC without meaning World of Warcraft. I'm positive that I don't want to be a lawyer, I'm looking into accountancy while taking history and writing on the side on my own.
Calovan: A whole lot of people are in awe at the amount of work I put out for this when I'm not making any money off of it. I wonder why I do so much sometimes, and then I realize, oh right it's fun! Well, Sora did punch him in the face.
So, those are the reviews, I'm going to bed now, see you later.
May the Grace of the Valar Protect You