Author's Note: Yeah. I should be focusing on my other multichaps but… I really wanted to do this story ;) Enjoy!
I can… hear myself talking.
Don't stop moving, or the darkness will over take you! Get going!
Do I really sound like that?
I kidnapped Kairi, but she got away from me. After that, Saix caught her.
I think I liked it better when they were on my side.
Well, that's what happens when you put your whole being into an attack.
The words bounce around in my head for a few moments.
Not that Nobodies actually have beings… right?
Mine, and someone else's words, for that matter. But it's only mine that I can hear as clear as day.
I wanted to see Roxas. He… was the only one I liked…
Kairi's in the castle dungeon. Now go.
They're entwined, like a melody. A gentle string of words flowing back and forth, reaching different places on the octave. It's… soothing, but haunting at the same time. Soothing in the sense that, I can relax… Haunting in the sense that, it's my own voice from a few moments ago. A fair few moments ago, when I was actually… breathing. When I could raise an arm, and my hand would be doused in flames. When I could grin, and felt my muscles moving around my mouth. But I was still nobody. I was a Nobody.
If I was nobody then, who am I now? I'm just… nothing.
I'm floating. I'm thousands upon thousands of particles, floating aimlessly through the air. I do not have a body, or a voice. I do not have sight, or breath. I'm just a thought. The last remnants of my conscious, hovering about in Betwixt and Between, drifting from here, to there. Fine, black spots amidst a dull rainbow of colours. Disguised, and unable to be seen. Without a purpose, or a direction, or a say; and now, more than ever, totally useless.
I wonder what's going to happen now. I no longer have a place in this world, or any worlds for that matter. I've done everything I can to ensure that Roxas – Sora gets to the castle, to save Kairi, and to eliminate Xemnas once and for all. With the last of my strength, I cultivated the pathway for him. And as the world around me faded to black, I could barely hear his footsteps, let alone the footsteps of his friends.
My thoughts are stubborn. If only I could let them go, then maybe I'll be free. No more worries, no more concerns, no more… nothing. If my conscious fades away into total oblivion, then I can… relax, for all of time. I can… rest.
I can hear other voices. One's I know, one's that I've heard heaps of times before.
We're… best friends, right?
I… I don't know either. But the heart's not something you can see.
Most of them are gone now.
You really are a hero. A heartless hero.
I'm not going to break the toy, Axel. Just play with it.
Defying me will be seen as treason against the Organisation.
Imbeciles… You would knowingly shackle your heart with a chain of memories born of lies?
I'd rather we just skip the formalities.
You play the game quite well…
I haven't heard some of these lines before. Maybe they're being said right now.
Run! Run away!
Hey, you guys are looking lively.
Or they've already been said, to someone else.
We know all too well how to injure a heart.
Are you angry? Do you hate me? Then take that rage and direct it at the Heartless.
They're all old voices. Old melodies that I thought I had forgotten.
It's such a shame, the Organisation used to be the rope that bounds us together. And now it's full of kinks.
He must oppose anyone who hosts the dark.
Now, stop resisting – and let the darkness in!
This was a fight I should not have started.
But I haven't.
I think an experiment would show if he's really of any value to us.
The memory's wiles are cruel. In its silence, we forget. And in its perversion, it binds our hearts firmly.
I really haven't.
Yes, let your anger grow…
Once Kingdom Hearts is ours, we will exist fully and completely.
Now, do you think that's polite…? Shutting me down like that.
See, that would work if I was just any old dude. 'Cept I'm not.
Perhaps it doesn't pay to be too loyal to one's heart.
Hearts are power. Nothingness… is eternal.
I wonder if I was right.
Was I doing the right thing? Collecting hearts from the unsuspecting and piecing them together, in the hopes of making one of my own again. One that I could just… thrust into my chest, or something, and become whole once more. I didn't want to be hollow anymore, so I made others hollow in the hopes of filling myself up. But alas, look what it did for me? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. All those hearts, wasted. I'm even starting to feel a tinge of regret for what I've done. Not that it's possible, though. I don't have a heart.
I don't even exist anymore. I'm just… a bunch of teeny, tiny little atoms.
And I still can't stop thinking.
I'm still aimlessly floating. But it feels like I'm being pulled somewhere. The… air… The gravity… Whatever, it feels different here. Sure, I can't see and stuff, but I can tell when something's different. It doesn't feel like I'm being… upheld here. It feels like I'm being pushed and pulled, this way and that. Half of what's left wants to go to the right, and the other half wants to go down. It's quite frustrating. I wish I could just gather all of them and tell them to go in the one direction, the one that the conscious chooses – up.
Though I want to fly free, I'm still being pulled back to the ground.
I wake up.
My conscious is back up and running again, mulling over the consequences of my past. Just general thinking, because I can't do anything more than that anymore anyway. I can only take the thoughts I have and either replay them in my head, laugh at them, or just… something. Yeah. Just collecting knowledge, reminiscing. Got it memorised?
Soon enough, I'm humming, and it's then that I stop.
When did I gain vocal cords? I'm nothing, remember? I can't hum.
Perplexed, I clear my throat. Yeah, there's definitely something there. Deciding to test it further, I open (what?) my mouth, and speak. Yes, speak. As in, sound is emitted out of my… throat. Or, what would, should be my throat; and I pull out the most cliché test statement in my disorientation, "Hello…?"
God, it's so… My voice kinda sounds like gravel. It's worn, and it… feels…? Old. Tired. In need of rest, which, thanks to my conscious, I clearly haven't gotten. It feels like I've picked up an instrument, like… Demyx's sitar, or something, and have found my melody. My melody, the one that I play that was specifically mine. Like I lost something, and finally found it. Have I been dead for that long? That my own voice sounds foreign to me? Seriously?
There's a steady sound nearby, like a gentle pitter-pattering. I can hear fleeting clicks, like heels. And there's also thudding, like boots. They move by me swiftly, and I turn, as though following the sound. And I move, following the sound. It's like I've latched onto something – anything – and just want to go along and see what's happening.
I'm tired –
Right I'm starting to freak out now. How can my arms and legs be achy? I'm dead. I don't have any. I'm only a bunch of freaking particles!
I bring my right hand up to where I assume my face is. Low and behold, its there. My skin… With the hand, I rub my face hastily. The friction of my glove and my hand can be felt, let alone my glove and my face. My palm slides over my closed eye rapidly, back and forth, and it hurts from the sheer force I'm using. How is this even possible? And more importantly, what the hell is going on?
I stop the action and thereafter open my eyes, and for the first time I can see everything. I'm standing at the bottom of a stone stairway, and there were two people walking up it. I don't know them, but one is a man with long, brown hair, and the other is a girl in a pink dress. I ignore them for a moment, and look down to the ground, stunned. I can see my feet. I can see the bottom of my cloak.
Am I alive again?
My… My breathing rapidly increases at the prospect. Have I been given a second chance?
Moving quickly, I follow the two people once more. If I run into them and I feel them and they get hit and they fall over and all, then I'm alive. And I hope I am. I really do. There's so much I wanted to do and stuff that… it hurt having it taken away from me so quickly. And with the way things are at the moment, I'd be damned if I was still dead.
With a tiny smile on my face, I conduct my plan and run into them. I close my eyes, bracing myself for the impact of the collision, and run. I run, barely feeling the wind, and so desperate to feel jus that little bit more. Just that little bit more. Clothing on clothing, person on person, head violently bashing against head and giving the two of us a headache – it didn't matter. I want it. I want it so, so badly. Just tell me, please… Tell me I'm alive. Let this one, stupid gesture tell me that I am alive, and that I can keep living.
To my despair, I fall through. Half my body whizzes through the guy, and the other half just tumbles through the girl. I fall to the ground, face smacking into the pavement, and they quite literally walk all over me. I stay there for a while and sigh. I guess it was too good to be true. But if I'm not quite dead, and I'm not quite alive, then what the hell am I? Am I… a conscious and a spirit? A spirit and a conscious? A… sponscious? Conspirit? Some other unusually stupid mix of words?
I lift my head to see the girl having stopped a few feet in front of my head. The guy keeps on walking, his hands in his pockets. It takes him a moment to realise that his friend has stopped. He turns around and tilts his head slightly, looking at the girl. He furrows his eyebrows, creasing a menacing scar that's running down the bridge of his nose, "What?"
She looks around dreamily, clearly in a daze. Her small hand is to her chest, as though she's suddenly been frightened. Her dress moves slightly as she turns. She's acting as though she hasn't heard a thing that the guy said. Clearly, the guy doesn't like it. He's tapping his foot, and it's like I can feel the vibrations from his shoe close by going tap tap tap, through my head.
She's looking for something.
"Aerith?" the guy questions slowly.
The Aerith girl turns wholly, and I can see her. I blink rapidly. Emerald green eyes shine in the sun, darting this way and that. Her long, plaited brown hair reaches for the ground, though it's held back by a little red ribbon. Now, in both my real life and my Nobody life, I've seen plenty of women. And damn, she is cute. Very cute in fact. If not 'cute', then definitely 'pretty'.
And she's looking directly at me.
"Aerith? Is something wrong?" the guy asks once again. There's a hint of annoyance in his authority-stricken voice.
Her voice… It's so sweet, even as she looks away from me, "Someone is here."
Immediately, the man goes to grab his weapon from his side, "Where?"
"No no! Leon… put the gunblade away," she remarks, turning again, raising one hand. He compromises and strolls over to stand next to her. As he moves, she continues to speak, "I mean, I feel a presence here. Definitely a male."
I'm a male! She must mean me!
Okay, wait a second Axel, calm the fuck down.
Leon smirks slightly and raises his eyebrows. Brushing such cockiness aside, and quickly, he speaks. His words sound sarcastic, but he's not trying to be. It's probably just the way he is, "Yuffie did mention you were gifted with ghosts."
Alright, so scar-face over here has given me a… term. I'm not a sponscious or a conspirit – I'm a ghost.
Floating dead person. Casper.
Well… not really Casper… Unless I've had a name change and I haven't realised it.
Aerith's gaze drifts over my body and all around. It's as though she's trying to pin point the origin of the ghost. Mainly, where I am. And so far, she's doing a pretty decent job of it. Not one hundred percent perfect, not a complete failure, but roughly around the middle of the scale. She twists the end of her hair around her finger, "Is someone here?"
"Yeah!" I answer, standing to my feet, hoping to catch her attention. Can she see? Or can she only hear, or feel?
"Hello! Right here!" I wave my hand rapidly in front of her face.
"God dammit woman," I growl, "Right in front of you!"
She stumbles back slightly, and for a moment I can feel… Feel? Well… whatever this is inside of me, it feels like what hope used to feel like when I was alive. Maybe because I'm fully dead now… Maybe I do have a heart again. Maybe what I feel inside, churning in my stomach and in my chest-area is actually an emotion. Maybe I am hoping.
"Did you hear me?" I ask desperately. I move to grab her shoulders, "Hey, did you hear me?!"
My hands fall right through her body, and I sigh, but I still hold onto that thin ray of hope. Aerith looks to Leon and bites her lip slightly, before turning away and walking off again, "I guess… maybe I misunderstood things. There's probably nothing there anyway, or I'm imagining that there is. Oh well, my mistake."
I sigh again and slam my hand against my head, defeated. I was unheard.
But it's her next statement that brings back some hope, "Come on Leon, let's go visit Sora. He, Donald, Goofy, Riku, Kairi and the King have arrived at Merlin's House after they defeated Xemnas. They were brought to Radiant Garden by the new gummi ship. We need to make sure they're okay and everything."
"They'll be fine," Leon drawls, following after his friend.
I stand a little taller and follow after them. Sora's here. And in Sora is Roxas.
Maybe he can help me out here.
"Ah, welcome!" some happy-go-lucky voice chimes.
I look around me, trying to find the source of the obnoxious noise. It's the ninja chick with short, black hair. At the sound of her voice, everyone in the room turns to look at Leon and Aerith entering. Leon leans against the closed door and flicks his head at their company – obviously his form of a greeting. She waves at them all, a gracious smile on her face.
I scan the rest of the company as they begin to interact, looking for the Keyblade's Chosen One desperately. Old man, an even older man, a guy with spiky hair, a chick with… with… with knockers that are the size of Kingdom Hearts!
…Ahem …Moving on.
Three teeny, tiny fairies, a kingly mouse (what?), a guy with silvery hair, Donald, Goofy, Kairi –
And the guy himself.
I make my way towards Sora, who is blushing at the attention and scratching his chubby cheek. He's standing near the back, between the silver-haired guy and Kairi. Both are smiling at him, and soon enough, his voice fills the whole house, recounting his tales of battle against Organisation XIII and the Heartless. Everyone's hanging on his every word, and Donald and Goofy are pitching in where necessary.
These people, they've all lived through the war. They've had to fight to defend themselves, and they've had to watch others suffer. But still, none of them were at the centre of the whole thing like he was. And so they listen, to transport themselves into his shoes, or to ease their own horrors and worries. But no matter how hard they try, they won't truly experience what he's been through. And for that, they feel sorry for him.
For all of them.
Sora and his battles, with Donald and Goofy. Kairi and her capture. Silver-haired guy (whose name is Riku, apparently) and his fight with the darkness inside his own heart. The kingly mouse (King Mickey) who had to hide constantly.
I'm standing beside Sora now, slouching to get closer to his level. I'm near his ear, wondering how I'm possibly going to communicate with Roxas. Roxas is a part of Sora. Sora is a part of Roxas. Roxas is half or Sora, Sora is half of Roxas… I wonder, does Roxas control an arm or something? If I talk in his left ear, will I be talking to Roxas or to Sora? Does Roxas even have a side to call his own? Or has he just been stashed away in his brain somewhere where I possibly can't get to it?
…That'd be fuckin' right.
I raise my right hand and move to poke the idiot. Sadly, my finger goes through him, just like my whole body went through Leon and Aerith. But as it does, it's the first time I actually looked at my hand. At myself. I haven't seen myself at all since this whole charade began. Since… since I became a ghost. I wonder how long it's actually been since I've died. I mean, they're telling the battles and showing their scars so difficulty… Maybe it's not that long.
Back to the point. My hand is see-through. Transparent. And as I look down to my feet, so is the rest of my body.
It's like I've been blacked out or something.
I gather my voice, "Sora?"
No response. Good. Fine. I can work with that.
And I try again, "Roxas?"
And again, "Roxas!"
But Sora stops, and I hold my breath. He cocks his head to the left slightly and raises a thin, brown eyebrow, looking around the small area that encompasses me. I bite my lip fiercely, so fiercely that it stings, and I hope, just hope and pray and want and need and everything else that I can possibly muster in my ghostly mind, soul and… heart?
"Sora?" Kairi inquires.
"Sorry," he says sheepishly, scratching the back of his head, embarrassed, "I got side tracked. Anyway, as I was saying, the three of us got to this funky… purpley… greeny… place, apparently called Betwixt and Between. It was an interesting place, it had all these little Nobody symbols floating around and everything. I was thinking at the time 'this has gotta be the entrance to The World That Never Was'. And whaddya know? It was! But it was so big and endless and stuff. We couldn't see an entrance or anything. And that's when an army of Dusk Nobodies showed up."
Ninja Girl looks alarmed, "What did you guys do?"
"We started fighting them of course!" Goofy says.
"But we couldn't take them. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn't take them," Sora remarks slowly. He looks down to his pockets and shoves a hand in the one closest to me, fishing through his endless assortment of keychains for his keyblades, "And that's when the most unlikely of help came up and started kicking butt. Seriously, I had no idea that he'd rock up and help us out."
And they pulled out the chakra keychain, dangling from his fingers. The one I gave them.
Sora doesn't speak. He just stares at it, a frown on his face. Donald speaks for him, "Axel, from Organisation XIII."
Everyone looks alarmed and shocked. What, did they think that I had gone to drag them into the castle, beat them with what was left of Demyx's sitar and then leave them for Xemnas to kill? I hate Xemnas! I'm not that damn heartless! Just because I didn't have a heart… and because I was fighting Heartless all the time… Shut up.
Sora brings the keychain closer towards him and holds it in both hands, as though it's something precious to him. He looks at it fondly, tracing the edges, "He helped us get rid of all of them, by fire or by just fighting. In the end he had exhausted himself so much that he… died. But it was thanks to him that we got to the World That Never Was. He opened the portal for us, told us where Kairi was… We owe him."
I smile sadly.
"If he was still alive…" he trails off, clenching the keychain in a way that is un-Sora-like, but very Roxas-like.
And for a brief moment, I see Roxas, not Sora, standing there. In Kairi's place, I see Naminé.
They turn to look at me. I remain motionless and stare. They smile. I don't.
They disappear, and both Sora and Kairi have a hand to their head. Aerith looks amongst them, "What's wrong?"
"Blah… Just a headache, don't worry about it!" Sora chimes, laughing it off.
Aerith furrows her eyebrows and looks to Sora's left. If I didn't know any better, I'd say she was looking at Kairi. But, considering where her line of sight is, she's not. Kairi comes up to my waist. She's certainly not looking there. She's looking at me, again, directly where my face is. Her eyes widen slightly, but she drops it and clears her throat, "Continue."
If I didn't know any better, I'd say she knows I'm around.
Maybe my way to communicate isn't through Roxas. Maybe it's through her. Little Miss I'm-Good-With-Ghosts.
Defeated and with nothing else to do, I simply sit on the nearby table and listen to Sora recount his adventures.
It's night time in Radiant Garden. Everyone's gone to sleep, including the visitors. Everyone except me.
I continue to wander around the place, observing it. This used to be the stronghold for the Heartless, hey? Doesn't look like a bad place. There's that giant castle off in the distance, a couple of markets here and there, and it's generally a friendly place. Or seems like it, anyway. There's… nothing really bad here. It's peaceful since the place has been cleansed of darkness. All that does is make me wonder what it was like beforehand.
I look down to the stones, and see a small puddle directly before me. Curious, I squat down and look into it, hoping to see my reflection. And I do, but it's so faint and wavering that I don't really know if it's worth it. But I'm there. This isn't a dream. I'm a ghost. And I can see myself. And I certainly don't look happy. Why would I be happy? I'm trapped between the world of the living and the world of the dead.
Why couldn't someone choose one or the other for me? I'm well aware I'm not pulling the strings on my own existence.
I stand once more and wander away. Just aimlessly wandering, thinking about what the hell I'm going to do to either get me to live again… or to get me to die properly.
I turn the corner, and I see Aerith standing there, looking out towards the castle. I guess she didn't go to sleep after all. I stand next to her and observe her curiously, noticing the black jacket that was snugly on her form. It was Leon's. She must've taken it when he went to sleep, or something. Come to think of it, it is kinda windy. Must be cold for her or something.
Helplessly, I sigh and wave my hand in front of her face, "Hello?"
I jump back.
She turns her head towards me, where the noise was coming from, "Sorry, didn't mean to scare you."
"I thought you couldn't hear me before, or see me," I mutter, frustrated.
"I could hear you," she says, "But I had to be sure. I can't see you though… Hopefully I'll be able to soon. But tell me, who are you?"
"Axel," I say.
She smiles, "I thought so."
"You have to help me," I remark, folding my arms, looking back towards the castle.
"I figured you'd need guidance. Like a compass directing you to one way, instead of standing still between destinations."
She pressed her hands together and looked back towards the castle, silent.
"Can you help?"
"I think I can."