Disclaimer: I don't own anything.

Chapter Four

"Kairi. We need your help. Something bad happened."

Kairi's eyes widened yet again. "What? What's going on?" Her intuition pricked.

Donald grabbed her hand and nearly pulled Kairi to her knees.

"Okay, guys, I'll go with you, will you just tell me what's going on?" She demanded.

Donald and Goofy exchanged glances. "Kairi…" Goofy sighed.

"Something happened to Sora, right?" She looked at the bank of clouds. In her peripheral, they nodded. Kairi blinked. "I can handle this."

"There must be some cure, I suppose," Merlin began not long after they'd brought the unconscious Sora to him. "But I can't do much. I'm afraid there may or may not be anything we can do."

"Nothing? You sure?" Goofy asked.

"Darkness cannot be totally stopped, but I do believe there's a cure to Heartlessness."

Donald was simmering in his frustration. Goofy nudged him, in hopes the duck's temper wouldn't boil over. "It's better than nothing," Goofy muttered and raised his voice. "Do you know anything about this… cure thing?"

"I believe that it is known by the Princesses of Light, and it could possibly help Sora, but that is all."

Donald, in his classic, moody way, let out a long quack. "Do you know anything?"

"Donald!" Goofy scolded.

Merlin sighed. "No one knows everything."

"Do we have to have this argument now?" the Captain asked. "This is serious."

The two looked up at him.

"Ah… you're right."

Donald just stuck his tongue out at him.

"So… isn't Kairi a princess of Light?" Goofy asked slowly.

Merlin looked surprised. "Why yes, she is. I nearly forgot. She could be quite helpful."

Donald and Goofy exchanged glances. "We'll go find her."

Though she'd definitely agreed to go with them, Kairi was at a wonder of where'd they be going. She'd barely been to any other worlds consciously.

"Where are we going?" she asked.

"Radiant Garden," Goofy answered in a dead voice.

She'd never seen either of them in such a bad mood. The tension was unbearable. Her feeling of dread just grew heavier as they flew. She snapped out of a trance as she remembered something Sora'd told her.

"Yeah, the boat runs on smiles," he admitted. "The first trip I thought my face was going to freeze that way."

But, in the dark mood, she wondered why they weren't crashing. She glanced over at Goofy and saw a very plastered on grin. It looked more like a sneer.


"We're here," Donald muttered.

"Oh. Wait…" She remembered now. Radiant Gardens was her birthplace. She had no memories of it now, but it was still a stab of happiness to see her old hometown.

But that stab was soon replaced with fear.

"It's me, don't you remember?" The girl pushed back her hood and showed her face.

Sora gasped. The braid, the green eyes, and the delicate way she stood- he recognized it all, but he just didn't believe it. "A-Aerith?"

She nodded gravely.

"W-what are you doing here? I thought you were…?" He trailed off meaninglessly, at a loss for words. "How did you become a Heartless?"

"We're not Heartless yet," she told him. "We're becoming Heartless. And it's not my darkness that made me this way. Sephiroth, he…"

Sora cut her off. "That guy with the really long sword?"

"Yes, him. He and some Shadows overwhelmed me, and he put this thing in my chest."

"…Pete did the same to me… but how are they tied, if they're using the same magic, or if Sephiroth lent Pete his power? Why are they working together? Pete's too much of a numbskull…" Sora shook his head. "Are you okay, though?"

"Yeah… I just don't know what's going on…" she tried.

"Well, that's something we have in common." He looked around into the blackness. Kurayami crouched behind him, looking at Aerith almost in fear. "I just… how… are we stuck here?"

She nodded. "I'm looking for an exit, but I can't seem to find any- it all looks the same. Or at least, I thought it did." Her eyes looked sad. "Sora, do you think it's bad that I'm starting to see things in this darkness?"

He looked at her, startled. "Like what?"

She shook her head. "Trees, grass, a sky. It's all dark and blurry, but I'm afraid… I'm afraid I'm becoming one of them faster than I thought…"

Sora studied her, and saw that she did look a littler darker- her hair, her eyes, even her skin looked grayer. "Don't worry," he said, more out of habit than anything else. "I'll help you. We'll help each other."

"That sounds like a good idea." She caught sight of Kurayami, who was still hiding behind Sora. "Who's your friend?"

"I named him Kurayami. He's a Heartless, and he hasn't tried to hurt me."

"Oh." She held out her hand, and the Shadow went over to her and sniffed it, and then rubbed its head against her palm. "He seems friendly."

"I guess so. Maybe not all Heartless are bad." He looked down for a moment, and then changed the subject. "Hey, where'd you get that cloak? Don't they protect from darkness?"

"Yeah. Some man gave it to me, he said it would slow the process."

"Huh. I wonder where he is. He's been following me, saying he'll help me." Sora shook his head. "If he was of any help, he'd tell me how to get us out of here."

There was a sound like a dark corridor. Sora and Aerith looked up, startled. Kurayami snarled like a dog and sank its claws into Sora's leg.

"Ow! Kurayami, that hurts!" Sora hissed, swatting at the Shadow.

"You rang?" A voice asked from the darkness. The hooded man stepped into Sora's range of view.

"Yeah!" Sora told him, not sure of the point he wanted to get across. "I-if you want to help us, at least tell us who you are."

"Why the hell not?" He asked almost sarcastically. "It's not like you can do anything to me. Don't be surprised, now." He pulled back his hood and ruffled his hair.

Sora gasped again. "How is it possible?"

The man smiled widely. "You're not dead, if that's what you're thinking."

"But I saw you die!" Sora shook his head. "Er… no offense."

"What, you thought Nobodies faded into darkness? So did I. And look!" He gestured around. "Darkness it is. I guess we took it out of the correct context."

"I still don't understand. You're- does that mean you're…"

"Who you think I am? Yup." He glanced at Aerith. "Oh, I'm scaring you, aren't I? I mean no harm." His voice sounded kind of threatening, and Sora put an arm in front of Aerith. The man snorted and caught sight of Kurayami, still clinging to Sora's leg. "I see your pet is still afraid of me." He knelt and offered a hand to it. "Name's Axel. Got it memorized?"

Ahhh! I ruined the suspense for Axel's moment of revelation. I honestly didn't know that Axel was the hooded man until I realized just how close the dialog resembled something Axel would actually say. Heheh.
I'm walking blindfolded with this story, meaning I have no idea what to do with it. The exposition is about set up. Time for the story to really begin.
But I will not continue until I recieve at least four reviews for this chapter alone. Heh, not trying to sound mean or anything XD