Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy, Disney, or anything else related to Kingdom Hearts, which all belong to companies like Disney and Square Enix. Also, I don't own some of the lines in this chapter, (and others to come) which were taken from a game you should recognize. And if you don't recognize the lines, shame on you!
A/N: Well, as promised, here's my next Kingdom Hearts story! For anyone who doesn't know, this story is actually a sequel to The Way to the Heart, so if you haven't read that one first, I would be very happy if you did, though you don't actually have to read it to be able to understand this story. But, if you'd like to know how Roxas got reunited with the Twilight Town gang, I would recommend that you do read it.
Now, like The Way to the Heart this story takes place after Kingdom Hearts II but before they get the letter from King Mickey. This story doesn't really have much of a plot to it, though it's a bit of foreshadowing towards what could come in the future if Square Enix ever decides to make a Kingdom Hearts III. This story deals mostly with the relationship between a Nobody and their original self, specifically between Roxas and Sora. Also, just to let you know, there will be a third story in the series that will be a sequel to this one. All of them are basically stories telling the events of what could have happened in between the time they got back to Destiny Islands and the arrival of the King's letter, though the third part of the story I believe will take place just after they get the letter. Also, once again I apologize for the lack of an accent on Namine's name. If my computer can do them, I haven't figured out how yet! (But I'm sure it can't.)
Also, though I wouldn't call some of the things I wrote spoilers, if you know absolutely nothing about Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days coming for the Nintendo DS then I suppose you could call a few small parts of this story spoilers, but I wouldn't call them that, though I am placing a warning here for anyone who is really sticky about wanting not to know anything before hand. So, there you have it. Slight spoiler warning, though truthfully I know next to nothing about the game myself as of yet (and I don't want to know because I want some surprises if it comes to North America and I get to play it). So, therefore what I perceive to be canon at this point in time may in fact turn out to be completely, utterly wrong. I wouldn't be surprised if that were the case. Enjoy!
The Eyes of Twilight
"Fading memories, reconstructed memories, and a dream. A dream of you, in a world without you." (Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories)
Chapter 1: The Twilit Road Between
Tram Common, Market Street
Standing in the shadow of a tall building on Market Street and gazing fondly at the group of young teens gathered around him, along with Goofy and Donald, former member of Organization XIII, Roxas, once known as the Key of Destiny in the eyes of his old companions, lifted his peaceful face to a pale orange sky that could only be found hovering above the sleepy atmosphere of Twilight Town, and he smiled softly to himself, the sound of Hayner's sarcastic remarks, Olette's scolding, and Pence's laughter washing over his transparent body. Had it really only been less than fifteen minutes ago when the three Twilight Town teens had once again accepted him as their friend, despite having never truly known him personally in the real Twilight Town? When he had been a part of the Organization, he had never had the opportunity to introduce himself to Hayner and the others, nor had he received a chance to get to know them on a more intimate level, much to his disappointment. Basically, it was pretty safe to say he had never met them, as he had told Sora earlier, although he had received an occasional glimpse of the three teens on his visits to Twilight Town with Axel, and occasionally with one or two of the other members of the Organization, as well.
I was jealous. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be with them, and Ansem had used my feelings against me...
To the real Hayner, Pence, and Olette, he had never existed, and yet somehow their hearts had still been able to recognize him from Ansem's simulation of Twilight Town. He truly felt like he was living in a dream, but deep down inside, he knew this time what he was experiencing was very real.
And it's all thanks to Sora.
Roxas turned to look at the Keyblade Master, who was leaning casually against the red brick wall beside him, and smiling at his other half, he contented himself with a soft, happy sigh before turning his attention back to the conversation at hand. He wasn't quite sure what the hold up was, especially since Kairi had been so insistent about wanting to indulge in a nice tangy bar of sea-salt ice cream, but from the little that had reached his ears before he had let his mind wander off into the realm of dreams and happy thoughts, seemed to suggest that Donald was still rather reluctant to allow the two ghostly teen figures to wander around Twilight Town in plain sight.
Like he's one to talk.
So far, Roxas was sure the residents of Twilight Town had not yet spotted either him or Namine, but as Donald kept insisting, as soon as either he or the female Nobody stepped out from behind the shelter of their hiding spot, they were bound to send the people wandering around the Tram Common into a bit of a panic.
I guess that's the price we have to pay for looking like a pair of ghosts. I suppose we could always merge with our other halves again, but if we do, I might miss an opportunity to get my revenge on Seifer. I still need to get him back for the way he treated Sora earlier, and I haven't forgotten what he said about Hayner. If there's a disadvantage to being whole again, it's having to settle for a transparent body. Then again, I guess I could have a lot of fun pretending to be a ghost!
It wasn't that he didn't like merging with Sora, quite the opposite actually, it was a surprisingly good feeling, but there were also times when he liked to move around on his own, especially since being transparent didn't hinder him from engaging in physical contact with other people. He could still put his arm around Hayner's shoulders, tug on Olette's braids, hold Namine's hand, and fight against Riku and Sora with the Keyblade, and in turn, they were able to feel him, just as if his body were as real as Sora's, which according to Sora, it was. The main advantage, though, to being apart from Sora was the fact that he could actually look at the Keyblade Master when they were talking to each other, instead of within Sora's head, or more accurately within Sora's heart. It was a nice change, actually being able to look into the Keyblade Master's eyes.
But being apart from Sora can also be a huge disadvantage because it's when we're together that I can hear his thoughts, instead of just making a guess at what he's thinking, even if my guesses are almost always right. Like Namine always says about Kairi, being a part of Sora is something that feels so amazing, there really aren't any words to describe it.
Which was why both he and Namine spent as much time within their other halves as they did on their own. With equal time spent in both positions, they weren't missing out on anything no matter what they did.
Now if only someone could convince Donald to lighten up a little. And Sora's always telling me I act too serious all the time. Not that I can help it. It sort of comes from having a past like mine, and I've never been as outgoing as Sora is. But still, even Riku isn't objecting, and he usually acts more along the same lines as I do. Like me, he definitely doesn't have the same carefree personality Sora has. Personally, I could care less if anyone in Twilight Town sees me as long as I get to spend time with Hayner and the others.
Not surprisingly, seeing as how quickly Hayner had become a fiercely loyal best friend, taking the responsibility of his new role quite seriously, the blond struggler was refusing to listen to any of Donald's arguments, much to the court wizard's annoyance.
"I told you," Hayner insisted, waving his hand at a group of young children who were crowded around the moogle shop for emphasis, "the people in this town have seen weirder things than Roxas and Namine! So what if they look like ghosts?"
"They might be a little freaked out at first, but I'm sure they'll get used to Roxas and Namine soon enough. They got used to you, didn't they?" Olette pleaded, clasping her hands together and giving Donald a hopeful look.
The court wizard frowned and he crossed his arms over his chest. "I don't know..."
"The longer you take to decide the longer you'll have to go without sea-salt ice cream," Riku said calmly.
"Gawrsh, what do you think, Sora?" Goofy asked hesitantly, turning to gaze expectantly at the Keyblade Master.
"We'll do our best not to scare anyone," Namine pleaded, exchanging a quick smile with Kairi.
Sora threw his arms behind his head in what had fast become his trademark pose and he grinned sheepishly at the court wizard. "Come on, Donald, it's been a while since Roxas and Namine have had a chance to spend some time in Twilight Town. Besides, we have bigger things to worry about."
"We do?" Kairi asked curiously.
"Yeah, you see...we kind of spent all our munny on the train so...we don't have enough left to buy any sea-salt ice cream."
"What?" Donald quacked indignantly, forgetting all about the ghostly forms of the two golden-haired Nobodies.
Roxas shook his head in amusement and he permitted himself a small smile. "That's right. I almost forgot."
"Awww man, it's always the train," Hayner grumbled, making a face.
"Don't worry about it, Sora," Pence interrupted, elbowing Hayner in the side. "Hayner, Olette, and I didn't spend our munny."
"That's right! Hayner can pay for our sea-salt ice cream!" Olette said enthusiastically.
Jumping in surprise, Hayner glared at the female resident of Twilight Town and he shouted, "Hey! Why me? What about your munny?"
"I'm sure you have enough to pay for all of us."
"Well, now that that's settled, let's go get some sea-salt ice cream!" Kairi cheered, pumping her fist in the air.
"Hey, wait!" Donald shouted. "What about-"
"Forget it, Donald," Riku snorted, grabbing the court wizard's arm and dragging him out onto the street. "You heard Sora. Roxas and Namine are coming along just as they are."
"Even so, we should still exercise a little bit of caution," Pence warned.
Shaking his head, Roxas quickly fell into line behind Hayner, and together the group began to inch its way along the edge of the buildings towards the ice cream stand. Somehow, they managed to make it to the other side of Market Street without being seen, and with the ice cream stand in sight, they quickly huddled close together in the shadow of another tall, rusty-coloured building to plan their next move.
Crouching next to Sora, Roxas gazed at the cheerful faces of the people moving in and out of the buildings on the opposite side of the Tram Common and shopping leisurely down the circular street, their laughter ringing like musical chimes clinking together in the wind. Frowning slightly, he turned slowly to look at his other half and he tugged slightly on the Keyblade Master's arm. "Hey, Sora? There's something I don't understand. Why are all Nobodies born in Twilight Town? What is it about this place that attracts them?"
Sora scratched his head in confusion, and smiling at the small group of people who had just hopped off the tram, he turned slightly so they were facing each other, his blue eyes sparkling in the dusky light of the sun. "Actually, I have no idea."
"Maybe you don't, Sora, but I might have an answer," Riku said quietly.
Jerking around in surprise, Roxas grabbed Riku's arm and he stared at the older boy in shock. "You mean...you know?"
"I don't know for sure, but I can make a good guess. This place, Twilight Town, exists in what His Majesty calls 'the realm of in-between.'"
"The realm of...in-between?"
"That's right. Twilight Town resides in neither the realm of light nor the realm of darkness, but somewhere in between the two realms, just like the Nobodies, which would explain why they have a special attraction to this place. In other words, Twilight Town holds a perfect balance between light and darkness, and as a result it exists somewhere between the two."
"So...the Nobodies come here because it feels like a place where they belong..."
"I guess that's one way of putting it," Riku said slowly, watching him closely. "Light and darkness. In Twilight Town, neither of the two forces is stronger than the other, although...even though Yen Sid technically lives in Twilight Town, the Fabled Countryside is actually closer to the realm of light than the rest of Twilight Town. According to the King, there are only three other places in all the worlds he knows of so far that exist in the realm of in-between. At least, he suspects that's where they reside."
Unable to look into Riku's bright green eyes anymore, Roxas quickly ducked his head and he gazed uncertainly at his feet. "These three other places...what are they?"
"Traverse Town, Castle Oblivion, and The World that Never Was."
"That's why I felt so connected to this place when I was in Castle Oblivion," Sora interrupted, reaching out to put a hand on his arm. "Even though I had never been to Twilight Town before, it still somehow felt important to me because it was important to you. Those feelings were real. Your memories are like the other half of my heart, but at the time I..."
"You didn't even know what Nobodies were. You can't blame yourself for something that was completely out of your control."
Sora nodded slowly and the Keyblade Master gave him a grateful smile. "Thanks, Roxas."
"No wonder this place is stuck in never ending twilight," Donald grumbled, pointing his wand at the pale orange sky for emphasis.
"Gawrsh, Donald, I think it's kind of nice," Goofy said cheerfully.
Brushing a stray strand of silver hair out of his eyes, Riku's gaze followed the path of Donald's wand, and surprisingly, what looked like the ghost of a smile suddenly slipped almost unnoticed across the older boy's face. "I guess there's more than one way to stare at the sky. This place looks like it's shrouded in twilight, but to me it's no different than the light of dawn. Either way the sun is still waiting just around the corner for you, even if the one path means it just might take you a little bit longer to get there."
Gazing silently at the older boy, Roxas couldn't help remembering a rather interesting conversation Riku had told them about earlier back when they had been in the process of explaining Sora's story to Hayner and the rest of the Twilight Town gang. Just outside of Castle Oblivion, what could have been considered an unforgettable conversation had taken place between Riku and Ansem the Wise. It was a conversation Roxas believed had truly changed Riku's fate.
"What are you making me choose now?"
"Will you take the road to light or the road to darkness?"
"Neither. I'm taking the middle road."
"You mean the twilit road to nightfall?"
"No...the road to dawn."
The road to dawn...The road to a new beginning...
Lifting his deep blue eyes to the sky, his gaze coming to rest on the sun's fiery orange surface glimmering serenely in the distance, Roxas suddenly found himself at a loss for words. It was almost as if he were seeing his place of birth in a new light. Instead of threatening to slip out of sight, the sun appeared to be on the verge of rising, almost like an elusive dream taking its first small steps towards reality. It was a beautiful sight, and Roxas could almost feel the warm rays of the sun seeping into his transparent body. Never before had he felt so alive, and the way the sun seemed to be peeking at him from just over the horizon made him smile. Despite hanging suspended in the air between light and darkness, the sun still shone brightly in the sky, its sleepy golden glow hovering over the tranquil streets of Twilight Town in a state of eternal gloom. No longer did the twilit streets around him feel like a symbol of imperfect knowledge, nor did they represent a lack of understanding. To him, his sleepy little town had become the symbol of a new beginning. To him, Twilight Town was the start of a new dawn.
"Even if you take apart the chain of memories in my heart, the links will stay there. This memory will always be inside me somewhere..."
"What do you think, Roxas?" Namine asked quietly, taking his hand and giving his fingers a gentle squeeze. Surprisingly, she looked quite serious, and yet at the same time the corners of her mouth were turned up in a beautiful smile and her sparkling blue eyes were shining brightly in the pale light of the sun.
Blushing slightly, despite his ghostly cheeks, Roxas quickly looked away from the female Nobody, and once again he reached out to put his hand on Riku's arm. "I don't think anyone else has ever seen Twilight Town the way you do, but..."
"You think I'm wrong?" Riku asked mildly, his expression unreadable.
Shaking his head, Roxas murmured, "No. Actually...I like your view of Twilight Town. It feels...right. I've always felt like I belong here. It might have taken me a little longer to reach the end of my road, but I got there in the end, just like you."
"It seems all our roads lead us to you, Sora," Kairi said softly, beaming at the Keyblade Master.
"And I guess there's no other place we'd rather be. Just don't let it go to your head, Sora," Riku smirked, punching the Keyblade Master lightly in the arm.
Frowning indignantly at his best friend, Sora elbowed Riku in the ribs and he crossed his arms over his chest. "When have I ever let anything go to my head?"
Without thinking, Roxas said, "Well, sometimes you do try a little too hard to be a hero, but I'm not complaining. That's what I like about you. If you didn't act like that, you wouldn't be you."
Sora stared at him, and turning to look at Hayner, the Keyblade Master said accusingly, "And you tried to tell me he didn't have a heart."
"Do you really have to keep bringing that up all the time?"
"Roxas, when you first woke up in Twilight Town, you didn't remember me, right?" Sora asked, ignoring Hayner.
Roxas felt the Keyblade Master fling an arm around his shoulders and frowning in confusion he quickly shook his head. "No, I...I didn't remember anything. It was only after what happened in Ansem's simulation of Twilight Town that I finally discovered the truth."
"You couldn't remember being Sora because Sora wasn't a Heartless long enough for you to have any memories of him," Riku agreed, but despite his neutral tone, his bright green eyes had grown dark and stormy.
"Exactly!" Sora said triumphantly. "Unlike the other members of the Organization, Roxas couldn't remember being his original self because I hadn't been a Heartless long enough for Roxas to have any memories of me. There's no way he could possibly remember what it felt like to have a heart, which means there's no way he can fake his emotions, not like Xemnas and the other Nobodies. He means everything he says. Right, Roxas?"
Roxas stared at his other half with his mouth hanging open, and to his complete surprise, his whole face lit up. "I've never thought about it like that before, but...you're right! I don't remember what having a heart is supposed to feel like, so...how can I fake something I never had the chance to experience?"
"Kairi's right, we do have hearts!" Namine said happily, clasping her hands together beneath her chin. "I feel it. It has to be true!"
For once, Roxas had to agree and for the second time since coming to terms with being a Nobody, he was truly starting to believe.
"Vexen was right about one thing, you're the other side of my heart and I don't mind sharing at all," Sora suddenly said softly in his ear.
"Then recall that this place was made from another side of your memory. Yes, the other side of your heart knows this place. The other side remembers..."
His heart was truly the same heart as Sora's, but perhaps instead of merely existing within the Keyblade Master, they both carried one half of that heart within themselves.
It's not so bad being me. Nobodies are supposed to be insignificant, overlooked, and pretty much forgotten, and yet when you're a Nobody, everyone wants to find out who you are and where you belong.
Gazing directly into the Keyblade Master's eyes and hoping the others couldn't overhear him, Roxas smiled at his other half and he said quietly, "Me either. I thought it would bother me, but now I know just how wrong I was. But...I wouldn't want to share with just anyone."
Sora looked like he wanted to say more, but before the Keyblade Master could open his mouth again, Hayner suddenly hit him hard on the back of the head. Roxas felt Sora's nose smack painfully against his shoulder, and he caught hold of the Keyblade Master's arms just in time to stop both of them from falling onto the hard, paved street.
"Hayner!" Olette scolded, frowning disapprovingly at the blond struggler.
"A-hyuck, that looked like it hurt!" Goofy piped up, concern on his face.
Letting out a soft groan, Sora rubbed the back of his head and he glared indignantly at Hayner. "Hey! You don't have to be so rough!"
"Why didn't you tell me Roxas couldn't fake emotions earlier when I accused him of not having a heart?" Hayner demanded, punching Sora in the shoulder for good measure. "If I had known that..."
"Is that what this is about?"
"Quit trying to change the subject!"
"Well," Sora said slowly, apparently lost in thought, "I didn't actually think of it at the time, and besides, I sort of wanted you to trust Roxas all on your own."
Hoping to get Hayner's attention, Roxas tugged on the other boy's arm and he gazed uncertainly at his feet, unsure of whether or not he should speak. "Listen, Hayner, I'm kind of glad Sora didn't tell you. I...it makes what you said to me more meaningful..."
"Really? Well, if it means that much to you then I guess I'm fine with it."
"Right," Donald muttered.
"I don't know what the big deal is," Sora said nonchalantly, shrugging his shoulders.
Glaring at the Keyblade Master, Hayner attempted to smack the other boy on the back of the head again, but this time Sora was ready for him. Summoning Oblivion, Sora held the dark Keyblade over his head, and unfortunately for Hayner, before he could halt the speed of his arm, his hand collided spectacularly with the Keyblade. Letting out a yelp of pain, the blond struggler quickly snatched his arm back and he cradled his injured hand against his chest, a small pitiful whimper that nobody bothered to pay any attention to escaping quite loudly from his lips.
"Um...Riku?" Olette asked hesitantly, her cheeks turning a delicate shade of red. "If Twilight Town really does exist in the realm of in-between then what does that mean for us, the people who live in this town?"
Riku glanced over his shoulder at the female resident of Twilight Town, and although Roxas was sure the older boy had caught the blush on Olette's cheeks, he gave no sign that he had seen it. "If you think living in Twilight Town makes you any different from those of us who live on Destiny Islands, or anywhere else in the realm of light for that matter, it doesn't. Your choices are what make you who you are. Where you live doesn't change what you feel inside. Both light and darkness exist inside of all our hearts."
"Unless, of course, you're a princess of heart!" Sora joked.
"Hey, I have my moments!" Kairi laughed, her fiery red head coming to rest gently against Sora's shoulder, much to the Keyblade Master's surprise.
"Even Nobodies have their moments of good and evil, whether they realize it or not," Namine said quietly, her bright blue eyes growing distant and thoughtful.
To Roxas, it looked as if she had lost herself in some memory that up until now had been neither meaningful nor significant to her in any way, shape, or form, but thanks to Riku, it looked as if she was starting to view the past in a whole new light.
Just like me...
"Hey, Riku, even if what you say is true, we still exist in Twilight Town," Pence said slowly, shaking his head. "Doesn't that mean, like with all the Nobodies who are born in Twilight Town, that we too exist in neither light nor darkness?"
"What, you have a problem with being the same as the Nobodies?" Hayner demanded, glaring at Pence.
"You have a problem with being like Roxas?"
"What? No! That's not what I meant!"
"If you ask me, being a Nobody isn't so bad, especially if you get to be one like Roxas," Hayner said loyally, acting for all the world as if he hadn't been the first one to accuse the ex-member of Organization XIII of being an evil, heartless Nobody.
Shaking his head in amusement, Roxas threw an arm around Hayner's shoulders and he smiled at his three friends from Twilight Town. In the past, being referred to as a Nobody would have bothered him more than he would have ever admitted, but now he hardly noticed because it felt so natural. Every time Hayner would call him a Nobody, it never sounded like an insult, and the same was true for Pence and Olette. Even when they joked about his true nature, they somehow had a way of making it sound like being a Nobody was something to be proud of. Sora was the same way, though Roxas knew the Keyblade Master disliked the term and would refrain from calling him a Nobody as much as possible, despite his reassurances that he didn't mind and he wasn't going to hide from his past. In those unavoidable moments when Sora did have to call him a Nobody, like Hayner and the others, the Keyblade Master never made it sound like an insult.
"You exist wherever you want to exist," Riku said simply, startling Roxas out of his thoughts. "The same is true for the Nobodies. Only you can decide which path you'll follow. No one else can make that decision for you, not even your other half. Isn't that right, Roxas?"
Roxas turned slowly to look at Sora and the two of them smiled at each other. "That's right. Wherever you are, in order to even end up there in the first place, you have to want to be there. The path you follow is the one you choose for yourself. My road led me here, right to this very moment. Call it the realm of light, the realm of in-between, or the realm of darkness, it doesn't matter. This is where I am and this is where I want to be. Nothing else matters."
Blinking in surprise, Pence grinned sheepishly at him and the shorter boy scratched the back of his head in embarrassment. "You're right, Roxas. It's just...for a moment there I was starting to wonder if maybe the real Twilight Town...well...I was starting to think it might be just as fake as Ansem's simulation of Twilight Town."
"I wouldn't worry about that. You look and feel real enough to me."
"Maybe, but so did the simulated Pence!"
"Will you stop being such a dork?" Hayner snorted, nudging Pence in the ribs. "We're real and so is Roxas. Get used to it."
"You're one to talk," Olette muttered, shaking her head.
"Hayner's right. Darkness can be pretty deceiving sometimes," Riku warned. "I found that out the hard way. It can also hide what is good, but if you learn how to use its power the right way, it can also be your friend."
"Kingdom Hearts," Goofy said solemnly.
"Does Kingdom Hearts really exist in the realm of darkness?" Olette asked hesitantly.
Crossing his arms over his chest, Sora nodded slowly, and frowning to himself the Keyblade Master gazed solemnly at the Keyblade resting in his lap. "Yes, but like Riku said, it's what's on the inside that counts. Kingdom Hearts isn't what Xehanort thought it was. I know. I've seen it. Kingdom Hearts is light."
"Know that the darkness is there, but don't give in," Kairi and Namine said together. "Do that, and you'll gain strength unlike any other. You'll be able to escape the deepest darkness-"
"And see through the brightest light," Riku finished, smiling at Kairi and Namine in acknowledgement of their words. "Maybe Kingdom Hearts is a little bit of both."
Staring at Riku in surprise, Sora's face suddenly softened into a smile, and dismissing Oblivion with a wave of his hand he nodded in agreement. "Maybe it is."
"Who cares? I thought you guys said we were going for ice cream!" Donald complained, tapping his staff impatiently against his foot.
"A-hyuck! Nothing gets between Donald and his stomach, not even Kingdom Hearts!" Goofy said cheerfully.
"Who asked you?"
"Wait, before we get ice cream, there's one last thing I want to know," Hayner interrupted, glancing around first to make sure there was nobody near enough to spot them before lowering his voice to a whisper. "Now that Xehanort, Maleficent, Xemnas, the Organization, and all the other bad guys are gone, does that mean...What about all the Heartless and the lesser Nobodies? Whatever happened to them?"