Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy, Disney, and everything else they've managed (or will manage) to stick into Kingdom Hearts!
A/N: I'm back finally, and as you can see I am here with that promised Kingdom Hearts story! Now, for those of you who may not know, this story is actually a third installment to a group of Kingdom Hearts fics that I've been writing. It is the sequel to The Way to the Heart and The Eyes of Twilight. You don't have to necessarily read the other two stories to enjoy this fic, but if you would like to know how Roxas got reunited with the Twilight Town gang, or you want to know what this last visit to Twilight Town they keep talking about is referring to, then I highly suggest that you do read them. They are not long and you'll be able to finish them easily in a decent amount of time.
Now, with the release of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, I am currently rewriting the first two stories in this series to be more in line with the canon of the DS game. Therefore, if you've finished Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, I would suggest you also read the updated versions of my stories because they will fit a little better with this one than the originals. Now, I kind of lied, there will be Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days spoilers in this fic, so if you have not played the game yet and are really sticky about not wanting to know anything ahead of time (like me) then I would suggest you wait to read this story until you are done the game. But, that being said, there won't be any major spoilers as the past isn't as important in this fic as it was for the others. This one focuses more on the future than the past. There will be quotes from Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days in this story, but I won't be revealing any mega plot spoilers. If anything, I'll only be making you even more curious and excited to play the new DS game! Also, there may be quotes from Kingdom Hearts II and Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories in this fic as well.
This installment takes place right after they receive the King's letter.
"If you have a dream, don't wait. Act." (Axel: Kingdom Hearts II)
Chapter 1: Dark Mist
Standing silently in the light of the setting sun, Kairi and Riku hovering on either side of him, Sora gaped at the letter in his hands, almost unable to believe what he was reading. A part of him felt sure he was merely dreaming, and a bizarre dream at that, but the unmistakable mark of the King's seal upon the letter Kairi had pulled out of the ocean earlier proved otherwise, though it did not make him feel any less amazed.
It was something he had been waiting for, though he had never admitted such a thing to Kairi or Riku, though Roxas had discovered his feelings easily enough, and now that the moment had finally come, he wasn't quite sure what to do with himself.
Kingdom Hearts. There's just no way around it. It all comes back to the strength of the heart...
Without warning, Sora suddenly felt a gentle tugging at his heart, and a moment later Roxas materialized next to him, just behind his left shoulder, forcing him to step quickly away from the fallen tree he had been lounging against while talking to Riku only a moment ago.
He felt, rather than saw, the golden-haired Nobody's hand come to rest lightly on his shoulder, and turning slightly he lifted his head to gaze directly into his other half's deep blue eyes.
Studying him closely, Roxas said quietly, "What are you going to do?"
It was a good question; one Sora did not have an answer for.
Only a week ago, the two of them, along with Kairi, Riku, Naminé, Goofy, and Donald had gone to Twilight Town in an effort to reunite the golden-haired Nobody with his friends Hayner, Pence, and Olette; an undertaking that had been extremely successful, but oddly enough, since then Roxas had been strangely quiet.
More so than usual.
The forest. It all started when we went into the forest...
"Whatever you decide, Sora, you know we'll support you," Kairi said softly, interrupting his thoughts.
"We know you'll make the right decision," Naminé agreed, materializing suddenly next to Kairi and giving him an encouraging smile.
Uncertain of how to respond, Sora turned to glance curiously at the silver-haired wielder of the Keyblade standing on his right, and shrugging his shoulders, Riku said dismissively, "You know I've got your back. Whatever you think is best."
If I wasn't so worried about Roxas...
Letting out a soft sigh, Sora scratched the back of his head in confusion, conscious of the warm presence standing just behind him that was Roxas, and unable to look at the other side of his heart, he crossed his arms over his chest and frowned at his feet, thinking over the situation carefully in his head.
Though he had kept his promise and had done everything within his power not to pry, Roxas still had yet to tell him exactly what was wrong, despite the fact that whatever had happened in Twilight Town a week ago had clearly upset the golden-haired Nobody.
Since coming back to Destiny Islands, Roxas had not once mentioned the incident, or even remotely hinted at it, and as a result Sora was growing increasingly worried about his golden-haired counterpart.
He did not doubt for a minute that Roxas would tell him what was wrong eventually, when he was ready to, what worried the Keyblade Master was the possibility that by the time Roxas did get around to telling him what was going on, it would already be too late for him to do anything about it.
Something in the forest...what could it have been?
"Sora?" Kairi prodded, tugging gently on his hand.
That was another thing that bothered him. Roxas still hadn't gotten around to telling Naminé how he felt about her, due partly to the fact that they had not been to Twilight Town again since their last visit, and as a result, Sora had yet to tell Kairi about his own feelings, much to his disappointment.
I could always go first, I guess, but I really want Roxas and Naminé to be happy. They're the ones who deserve to be happy the most...
"Sora, are you okay?" Naminé asked hesitantly, exchanging a look with Kairi.
Sora was about to answer when he suddenly spotted Donald and Goofy racing towards their little group, Chip and Dale riding on the court wizard's shoulders.
Just before Kairi had run up with the glass bottle containing the King's letter in her hand, Sora had been arguing with Riku about whether or not they should help Donald and Goofy prepare for their return trip to Disney Castle, before of course their meaningful discussion concerning the door to the light, but as soon as Kairi had arrived on the scene, he had completely forgotten about the court wizard and the captain of the King's royal guards.
I wonder if they've managed to prepare the Gummi Ship for their return trip yet...
Earlier, the King had given Goofy and Donald permission to remain on Destiny Islands for a while, which Sora had been immensely grateful for, and now that the three of them had had a chance to visit, and both Donald and Goofy had had an opportunity to get to know the rest of the Destiny Island crew, it was time for them to return home.
But, as much as Sora didn't want them to, they didn't really have a choice. He was sad to see them go, but they did have other duties to perform, after all.
Although, from the looks on their faces now, neither one of them appeared ready to head home any time soon.
I wonder what's going on. They look really serious. Whatever it is, it definitely can't be good.
"Donald, Goofy!" Kairi called out, waving them over. "We thought you two were getting ready to leave!"
"We were, but something weird has come up," Donald replied, frowning suspiciously at the two chipmunks occupying his shoulders.
Blinking in surprise, Sora threw his arms behind his head in his usual trademark pose, the King's letter still in his hand, and tilting his head to the side he said in confusion, "Chip, Dale, what are you guys doing here? You don't usually leave the vicinity of the ships all that often, at least not that I've ever seen. Well, since you started traveling with us, I mean."
"True, but this is an emergency!" Chip cried, hopping up and down anxiously on Donald's right shoulder.
"Very true," Dale agreed, nodding his head for emphasis.
"What's going on?" Roxas asked sharply, his expression becoming immediately guarded.
Both Chip and Dale stared at the golden-haired Nobody in surprise, clearly caught off guard by his harsh tone, and glancing at each other they hesitated, looking uncertain of whether or not to continue.
Placing a comforting hand on his Nobody's shoulder, Sora turned to the two chipmunks and said in what he hoped was an encouraging tone, "Go ahead. What's up?"
"Something strange is happening to Twilight Town!" Chip blurted out, eager to continue his story.
"Again!" Dale groaned, covering his face with his small hands.
Frowning slightly, Riku said slowly, "What do you mean?"
Chip opened his mouth to respond, and glancing at Dale, he said sheepishly, "Well, it's kind of hard to explain."
"Just a little," Dale added, trying unsuccessfully to smile.
Growing impatient, Donald quacked, "Will you two just spit it out already?"
Despite the commotion taking place, Sora wasn't paying the slightest bit of attention to the two chipmunks and their bizarre antics. Instead, his energy was focused on catching Roxas around the shoulders as the golden-haired Nobody suddenly sagged against him.
"Roxas!" Naminé gasped, her transparent fingers reaching out to grasp the Key of Destiny's hand. "What's wrong? You look really upset!"
Taking a closer look at his golden-haired Nobody's face, Sora had to agree with Naminé, and feeling a sudden spark of fear in his heart, he said anxiously, "Roxas?"
"Hayner, Pence, Olette," Roxas murmured, his shoulders trembling slightly under the weight of Sora's hands.
For a moment, Sora merely stared at his other half in confusion, trying unsuccessfully to process the golden-haired Nobody's words, but then all of a sudden it hit him. Roxas was afraid that his three friends from Twilight Town were in terrible danger.
Is this because of what happened the last time we were in Twilight Town? I knew we shouldn't have left...
Grabbing onto his Nobody's wrist, whose face despite being transparent had ironically managed to turn a ghostly shade of white, Sora quickly pulled the golden-haired wielder of the Keyblade down beside him on the sand, forcing him to sit, and glancing up at the two chipmunks shifting restlessly on Donald's shoulders, he said quietly, "Tell us what happened."
"Well," Chip began, crossing his small arms over his chest and placing a thoughtful finger under his chin, "we were going about business as usual on our mini Gummi Ships when suddenly this strange aura appeared around Twilight Town, almost obscuring its signal on our radar system."
"Is this the same sort of thing that happened last time?" Kairi asked curiously, sitting down next to Naminé, who had dropped to the sand on Roxas' other side. Giving her Nobody's left hand a reassuring squeeze, she tried to smile, but not surprisingly Naminé didn't return the red-haired female's weak grin.
Shaking his head, Dale said in a rush, "No, this is nothing at all like what happened last time. This time there definitely aren't two Twilight Towns, only one, and from what we can tell it looks like it's been covered in some sort of strange cloud!"
"Strange cloud?" Riku repeated, crossing his arms over his chest and frowning in confusion.
"I told them they were being ridiculous," Donald grumbled, tapping his staff impatiently against his foot.
Scratching the back of his head with the jagged edge of his shield, Goofy said slowly, "Gawrsh, Donald, do you think so? It sounds pretty serious to me."
"Tell us more," Riku demanded, moving over to stand behind Roxas. "What's this strange cloud thing you mentioned?"
Chip and Dale once again exchanged meaningful looks, and throwing his hands in the air, Dale said dramatically, "A cloud of darkness!"
"A what?" Roxas blurted out, lifting his head to give the two chipmunks a startled look.
"A cloud of darkness!" Chip repeated, clearly exasperated by the golden-haired Nobody's failure to respond in the fashion he'd been hoping for. "You know, a dark fog! Almost like a really thick mist. That's pretty much the only way we can describe it!"
"Exactly! It's like there's this thick, dark, foggy mist hovering over the entire town," Dale insisted, hopping frantically up and down on Donald's shoulder. "We have no idea where it came from, but it seems to be growing thicker and darker by the minute!"
"Strange how it kind of appeared out of nowhere, but I guess we shouldn't really be surprised. The same thing sort of happened with Ansem's simulation of Twilight Town," Chip said thoughtfully.
"Sora," Roxas whispered, the name just barely escaping from the golden-haired Nobody's lips.
Tugging on his other half's arm and pulling the golden-haired wielder of the Keyblade to his feet, Sora said quietly, "I know. Let's get going."
"What?" Donald quacked, almost dropping his staff in surprise. "What do you mean 'let's get going?' Where are we going?"
"Where do you think? Twilight Town, of course!"
"But...but...we can't!" Donald protested, glancing expectantly at the captain of the King's royal guards. "We're due to arrive back at Disney Castle this evening!"
"You can't reach Twilight Town without our Gummi Ship, Sora," Chip and Dale said simultaneously, their oh so helpful words electing a snort from Riku and a roll of the eyes from Kairi.
Instead of making up excuses like the rest of the gang from Disney Castle, Goofy said solemnly, "It's at times like this when friends are supposed to stick together, right? I know we're expected to arrive at Disney Castle tonight, but plans can change. Besides, I think this is what His Majesty would have wanted us to do. No, I'm sure of it."
Sora blinked in surprise when he suddenly noticed Goofy gazing in his direction, and frowning in confusion he gave the captain of the King's royal guards a questioning look.
Instead of responding, though, Goofy merely smiled at him and nodded towards his right hand, and all of a sudden Sora realized that the captain of the King's royal guards was not, in fact, staring at him after all. What had truly captured Goofy's attention was the letter Sora still held in his hand, turned in such a way that the King's seal was blatantly displayed where anyone could see it. The unmistakable symbol shone faintly in the light of the sun, almost as if it were pulsing with life.
Donald took one look at the letter, his eyes following Goofy's line of sight, and almost immediately the expression on his face changed, his irritation fading only to be replaced by a look of pure astonishment. Surprisingly, he did not ask questions, nor did he demand to know what was written in the letter. Instead, he merely turned on his heel and said to Goofy over his shoulder, "Come on, slowpoke, let's get the Gummi Ship ready for takeoff."
"Sora?" Naminé said hesitantly, standing up next to Roxas and clasping her hands together in a nervous gesture. "It's getting kind of late. Won't the people of Destiny Islands be wondering where you are?"
"That's right," Kairi sighed, making a face. "If we suddenly disappear during the night they'll start to worry."
Summoning Way to the Dawn, Riku pointed his impressive Keyblade in the direction of the mainland and smiling slightly, he said dryly, "We'll just have to make sure they don't find out, won't we."
"And how exactly are we going to do that?" Roxas demanded, frowning suspiciously at the silver-haired wielder of the Keyblade.
Ignoring Roxas, Riku turned to Kairi and said, "Tidus, Selphie, and Wakka haven't gone back to the mainland yet, have they?"
"No, I'm pretty sure they're still hanging out back near the cave. Why do you ask?"
"Get them to cover for us. Bribe them if you have to, I don't really care how you do it, just make sure they agree to get the word around that we're going to be a little late coming back to the mainland tonight. Don't tell them where we're going, just give them the impression that we'll be staying on the island a little longer than usual."
"They wouldn't believe us even if we did tell them the truth," Kairi laughed, turning on her heels and racing off across the sand. "I'll be back in a minute."
"We'll meet you by the Gummi Ship, Sora," Goofy said quickly, following after Donald and the two chipmunks.
"Sora, are you ever going to introduce Roxas and myself to Tidus and the others?" Naminé asked shyly, looking a little bit uncertain of her words.
Sora turned to see Roxas gazing curiously at him, despite the fact that he was obviously still worried about his friends from Twilight Town, and nodding his head, the Keyblade Master said cheerfully, "Eventually, when they're ready to meet a couple of 'ghosts,' but right now we have bigger things to worry about. Although...if we did introduce you guys to them, I don't think they'd have any trouble believing we're on our way to rescue another world."
"True enough," Roxas murmured, the ghost of a smile slipping almost unnoticed across his face.
They waited a few more moments in tense silence, and spotting Kairi's fiery red hair moving quickly towards them, Sora called out, "How did it go?"
"They were definitely a bit suspicious, but I managed to convince them to cover for us," Kairi panted, coming to a stop next to Naminé and taking a few moments to catch her breath. "So far we're in the clear, but Tidus said to tell you we owe them big time."
Smirking, Riku said, "I figured he'd say that. Come on, let's get going."
Taking Roxas by the arm, Sora said softly, "Hayner and the others will be okay. You'll see."
"I hope so," Roxas mumbled, unable to look at him.
Walking quickly across the sand, Roxas by his side and the rest of his friends hurrying along behind him, Sora quickly raced after Donald and Goofy, his thoughts drifting reluctantly back to their last visit to Twilight Town.
Because, like Roxas, he too had not failed to notice that Riku and Namine were hiding something.
Something very important.
Kingdom Hearts. Like I said, it all comes down to the same thing. What's really important. The strength of the heart. Tell me, Your Majesty, because I don't understand. What am I supposed to do?