Chapter 13: Choices
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the rights to the Kingdom Hearts franchise
AN: I had trouble figuring out what to do with this story. And then I realized it. Sending Aqua and Vanitas on a journey would be nice, but it doesn't FIT what this story is about. This story is just about their relationship. Sure I throw in hints of how I think KH3 might turn out, but that's not the focus.
So with that I give you this…the FINAL chapter, just to wrap up a few details I had wanted to address for a while.
Sora shivered as he stepped out of the dark corridor. Having used it before, Aqua and Vanitas exited with barely any regard to the change in temperature. Vanitas lifted his head in shock. Long ago, when Xehanort elaborated on how Aqua's homeworld would be completely transformed, he hadn't expected anything like this. The dreary and oddly geometric castle before him looked nothing like the one he had visited years ago.
Aqua calmly approached the castle. Noticing that Sora was about to grab the door handle, she pulled him back.
"No need for that," she assured him. "I have my own way of entering."
Summoning the familiar black Keyblade of her master, Aqua shot a luminous beam at the door. The light outlined the doorframe, and Sora realized she had changed the structure inside somehow.
"This way," she said.
The boys followed her, finding themselves in a long and elegant hallway. Ignoring the slam of the doors behind her, Aqua continued to press forward, determined to see her old friend again. She silently wondered what condition he would be in. Would he be older? Would he have facial hair? Could he possibly be AWAKE even without his heart? If that were the case, Aqua would feel awful for trapping him inside.
Her train of thought came to a halt as Aqua noticed the elegant door in front of her. The familiar symbol of her master was patterned across the door, and the center had two handles shaped like keys.
"Wow, that's quite a design," Sora remarked.
Vanitas continued to stare at it. "So this is where you took Ven?"
She nodded. "Yes. After the battle at the graveyard, I took on the responsibility for watching over Ven. His heart wanted me to bring him here, so I happily complied."
Vanitas glanced toward her, noticing the determination in her eyes. The boy realized then that Aqua would not rest until her friend was alright. Yet deep down, Vanitas feared that nothing would awaken Ven. Feeling helpless, however, he understood all he could do was hope for the best.
The woman opened the door, her eyes now fixated on the backside of Ven's throne. She walked to the other side, and smiled at what she saw.
The boy hadn't changed a bit. Just like the Realm of Darkness, Castle Oblivion seemed to halt time completely. Ven remained in the same position, and even had the same innocent smirk on his face.
"It's as if time hasn't passed at all," the woman stated.
Sora stared in shock. "He looks JUST like Roxas!"
Aqua glanced at him. "Who?"
The boy shook his head. "Never mind. I'll explain later."
Summoning the Kingdom Key, Sora held it towards his chest. He glanced at Aqua for a moment.
"I'm actually new to this," he admitted. "Do I stab myself or shoot myself?"
Thinking of countless jokes he could make at the moment, Vanitas bit his tongue. He was still amazed to see his brighter half sitting beside him.
"Just press the blade against your chest," Aqua said. "If Ansem spoke the truth, both your heart and Ven's heart should emerge."
Obeying her command, Sora stabbed his own chest. His vision began to dim as two bright orbs emerged from his chest. One orb flew into Ven's body, while Aqua pushed Sora forward so that the other sphere would reunite with him. The trio closed their eyes as a blinding flash of light engulfed the room.
As the brightness faded away, Aqua slowly opened her eyes. The girl stared at Ven, waiting for him to move. Confused, she shook his body a bit.
"Ven?" she called out.
The boy still made no response. "Ven? Ven! VENTUS!"
Curious if the transfer had worked, Aqua rested her head against his chest. Perplexed that he had a heartbeat, Aqua backed away slightly.
"This doesn't make any sense," she said.
"Maybe he just needs a little time," Sora suggested.
"I doubt that's it," Vanitas stated.
Aqua turned to him in surprise. "What do you mean?"
"Because the body needs the heart it's used to," Vanitas replied.
Sora furrowed his brow a bit. "Yeah, I know. That's why I gave him his heart back!"
"But he needs more than that to stay awake," the boy explained. "The X-Blade explosion incredibly damaged Ven's heart, pushing it to the point where mere connections weren't enough to support it. That's why his heart fully joined with yours in the first place, Sora."
The boy scratched his head. "So how can we wake him up?"
Vanitas crossed his arms. "There's a few ways.
"Another method would be if you sent your heart into his body…" Vanitas began.
Sora widened his eyes in shock. "Ven seems like a great guy, but I don't want to fall asleep instead."
The woman frowned. "No, you shouldn't have to. There must be another way. We could just wait for his heart to heal on its own."
Vanitas raised an eyebrow. "And how long would that take? A few weeks? Years? Decades?"
"I don't know," Aqua admitted as she lowered her eyes in thought. "But we don't have any other choice."
As something clicked in his head, the dark warrior stared at her. "Yes we do."
The other two turned to him as he sighed a bit. "I can rejoin with him."
Aqua stared in shock. "What?"
"I've never actually had a true BODY of my own, Aqua," the boy stated. "I was born as the darkness extracted from Ven's heart. And even now, I'm merely a sentiment of my former self that was left behind after the battle for the X-Blade."
"But if you combine with Ven, would you be in control?" she asked.
"I might influence him to an extent, but other than that, no," he answered.
Aqua gazed in shock, horrified by the possibility. "No! I won't let that happen!"
Vanitas widened his eyes. "What?"
"Ven has been my friend for years," Aqua said. "I want to see him wake up. But not like this… not if it means losing you."
He held out his hands. "You wouldn't be losing me. I'd just be a part of Ven."
She frowned. "But-"
Before Aqua could finish, a huge explosion resounded from outside the doorway. The trio turned to see smoke covering a figure in the hallway. Rushing outside, they realized it was a strange suit of armor. Standing up, Aqua realized that it had a design similar to a samurai's suit. Besides that, Aqua noticed her master's symbol embezzled on its forehead.
"What is that?" Sora asked in confusion.
Upon recognizing the abdominal plate, Aqua gasped in shock. "My master's armor! He must have designed this as some sort of safeguard in case I had to transform our world!"
The figure stood up, holding out its hand as if it intended to equip something. Aqua felt her Keyblade vanish and reappear in the gauntlet of its true master. The girl held out her hand, trying to summon it back. Sadly, it seemed that since the blade had found its owner, or at least part of him, it refused to return to her.
Vanitas glared as the creature raised its Keyblade toward him. "Doesn't this guy know stealing is wrong?"
Sora stepped beside his dark doppelganger. "I guess not. At least we'll be on the same side this time."
Aqua ran in front of the suit. "Master, it's me! Aqua! Please don't fight my friends! They're here to help Ven!"
Although the sentiment could hear her, it barely registered any words. In fact, the being could not even SEE. All it could do was feel, and at this moment, it felt a huge dark aura coming from Vanitas, which classified him as an enemy. As it stepped to the left, Aqua did too. When it moved right, the female mirrored the actin again. Realizing Aqua refused to move, Eraqus's armor smacked her aside effortlessly to reach Vanitas.
"Aqua!" Vanitas exclaimed in horror.
The girl got to her knees, realizing how helpless she was without the Keyblade. In fact, without her Keyblade, she didn't even have a conduit to perform magic with. Understanding how vain her presence was, the woman rushed behind Ven as Sora and Vanitas as the two took their stances.
The armor continued to glare at them as it slowly shifted back and forth. Finally, the figure aimed its weapon toward them, launching a glowing set of yellow chains towards them. Vanitas cartwheeled to safety while Sora dodged away from it. Just as the dark haired boy landed on his feet, the metallic outfit swung its Keyblade toward him. Vanitas blocked the attack, barely holding his own against the creature as it pressed the blade forward. Suddenly, the armor felt something slash it across the back. Again and again the pain seared through its torso as each strike seemed to get stronger. Shifting its head slightly, Eraqus's sentiment realized that Sora was ruthlessly attacking him. The boy continued rapidly slashing Fenrir and the Ultima Weapon against him. The youth threw all his energy into a final strike, slamming the armor against the wall.
Surprisingly, the suit didn't even collapse. It simply landed on its feet, quickly turning to face its new target. Digging its heels into the ground, the armor began to surround itself with an amber aura. As the flame died out, the armor dashed towards Sora, unleashing an incredibly fast combo on him. The Keyblade Master was barely able to block each strike. Suddenly, each slash emitted a green sphere of energy, and the orbs began circling Sora. Seeing the balls flying towards him out of the corner of his eye, the boy dived to the ground. The energy bursts missed, and instead destroyed part of the wall.
"Let's take this outside!" Sora said to Vanitas.
The boy nodded in agreement, and they both rushed through the hole in the wall. Eraqus's armor followed them, finding itself on a vast floor filled with white tiles. Ignoring the infinite white space, the sentiment faced its opponents, quickly taking a new fighting stance. As a familiar aura illuminated the figure, five shards suddenly emerged from it. The armor leapt into the air, releasing the shards. As they hit the ground, the crystals turned into huge fiery pillars that sped toward Sora and Vanitas. Shocked at the intensity of the attack, the boys ran away from it, hoping it was slower than it seemed. No matter how fast they dashed, however, the infernos continued to catch up to them. Just as the flames were about to tap the dark boy's skirt, Sora aimed his blade at them.
"Freeze!" he shouted.
The boy unleashed a huge glacier of ice, which absorbed the embers as it melted into steam. As soon as relief began overtaking Vanitas, it soon vanished. Both he and Sora realized that the armor had entered the same pose again. This time, eight spikes of energy circled the entity. The spears flew into the air, naturally aimed for the two Keyblade heroes. Tired of running, the two held their ground and took defensive positions.
Sora held his hand into the air. "Reflect!"
At that moment, a Reflega shield covered Vanitas and him. The spears sharply impacted the barrier, slowly cracking it. Finally, the last spear broke through, searing into Vanitas's shoulder.
"AGHH!" the boy gasped in pain.
Sora held up his Keyblade. "Hea-"
Yet before he could even finish saying the word, a string of golden chains had snaked around his body, trapping him. As Vanitas quickly cast Curaga on himself, he noticed the chains send a surge of light and electricity into his ally. The boy fell limp against the ground.
"Sora!" the boy called out. "Can you stand?"
Struggling to his feet, Sora nodded in response. "I'm fine. That attack just took a lot out of me…"
Eraqus's sentiment continued its assault, now summoning a glowing circle behind itself. Nervously awaiting its new attack, Sora and Vanitas saw a group of orbs surround the figure. Beams of light instantly emerged from the spheres, though luckily the duo safely stood between two of the lasers. Noticing that the spheres were beginning to rotate, Sora grabbed Vanitas and high jumped into the air. Glancing down, he saw that the lasers were beginning to angle upwards. The boy began gliding while holding on to the dark youth, trying to avoid the attack. Suddenly, a beam of light struck the pair, sending them plummeting toward the floor. Before impact, Vanitas grabbed hold of Sora, taking him into the ground as they morphed into a circle of darkness.
The armor watched the circle rush towards it, and was surprised to see the two boys emerge from it. As they jumped out, a flurry of fireballs engulfed the figure, scorching and scarring its metallic plating.
Smiling, Vanitas covered himself in a pure black orb. "What's yours is mine!"
As he said this, a shadow copy jumped out at the armor. Eraqus's sentiment disarmed it with a blast of light, and charged towards Vanitas with its Keyblade aimed to kill. The entity began slashing away at the shield as Vanitas's clones continued to emerge, yet the doppelgangers were useless since the armor's attacks were arc motions filled with light. The light began eating away at the darkness, and finally, the barrier shattered. Vanitas fell against the floor, looking up in horror to see his enemy standing above him. The armor brought down its Keyblade, intending to wipe the dark being away from existence.
Before it could even strike, an unknown force sent the armor soaring against the ground. Sora slowly approached, trying to maintain the Graviga spell.
"Give him everything you have!" the boy called out.
Vanitas nodded in compliance, jumping into the air. Three circles began to spin in front of his void gear, and the boy aimed his weapon at the metallic suit. Unleashing all the darkness he could muster in a single shot, Vanitas watched with glee as a ray of blue energy accelerated towards Eraqus's sentiment. The blast hit directly, slowly decaying the armor. Panting from the energy of the blast, the boy crouched against the ground. Suddenly, he noticed something strange. The armored sentiment had quickly recovered from every other attack he and Sora had dished out. But this time… the suit remained still, as if…
"We did it!" Sora shouted.
Vanitas couldn't help but smirk. "I guess so."
The grin on both their faces evaporated as the armored helmet tilted towards them. Not even staggering, the metallic suit got to its feet.
"This is ridiculous!" Sora screamed.
Targeting the loudmouth, Eraqus's sentiment created the familiar set of golden chains. This time, however, they latched far apart on the floor. Sora stared in shock as the armor literally ripped a huge chunk of the floor into the air. Shaking with energy and perhaps even rage, the figure launched the boulder with a fiery aura towards the boy. Realizing no spell could block an object of such size, the boy tried to glide away to safety. Moments after his feet left the ground, however, the tiled boulder slammed into the floor, sending a ripple that struck Sora and brought him down.
Vanitas rushed to his side, casting Curaga on him. As he looked at the lookalike's face, the dark warrior realized he was almost petrified.
"He's insane!" Sora yelled. "There's no way we can stop this guy."
Thinking of something, Vanitas glanced toward the ground. "Maybe not US…"
Sora turned to him. "Vanitas?"
The shadow youth sprinted away. Upon entering the hallway, he aimed his Keyblade at Aqua, causing the girl to stare in shock.
"Stop!" he commanded.
Upon saying so, a powerful Stopga spell was cast, binding Aqua and all her senses in that single moment in time. Vanitas rushed past her, and took a deep breath as he reentered the Chamber of Waking.
Sora traded blow for blow against Eraqus's sentiment, yet it seemed like his attacks still weren't hurting it. The armor looked like trash from the damage it had sustained, yet it still refused to give up. The two locked blades once more, this time pressing against one another in a deadlock. Just as he thought he had lost for good, Sora suddenly saw an unfamiliar white Keyblade smash into the armor. The elegant blade returned to its owner, finishing the strike raid.
The boy turned his head in shock at the sight of the weapon's master. "You're awake!"
Fully immersed in armor without the helmet, Ven stepped forward with a triumphant smile. "And I'm ready to end this. I'm not about to let this cheap imitation hurt you!"
Ven turned to the armor, calmly exhaling. Suddenly, he thrust his weapon into the air, summoning pillars of light that raced towards the figure. Eraqus's lingering spirit launched his chains at the cylinders in an attempt to form a shield, yet the obelisks broke through and knocked him back. Staggering a bit, the armor stood its ground and began to glow green. Extending its arms, the figure began to float into the air as bright arcs began circling it. The sentiment aimed its Keyblade at the ground and released a new set of chains. This time, however, the once amber objects were now green as well. Ven glanced to see the strings of energy surround him, and suddenly, everything began to grow blurry.
The blur grew stronger, and suddenly, Ven saw a huge vortex form underneath the armor of his master. He ran from the whirlwind, glancing over his back to see that it was chasing him. As it passed over the floor, countless tiles flew into the air and began rotating with it. The boy aimed his Keyblade, sending a continuous wave of Aeroga at the typhoon. The twister began to slow until it came to a full stop. The broken pieces of marble fell to the ground and became motionless once more.
Ven turned to the armor, charging his Keyblade. "Darkness can stain and scar…"
The boy smirked as he lifted his head. "But only light can ERASE!"
From the tip of Lost Memory launched a huge beam of light, its aura growing larger as it sped towards Eraqus. The sentiment summoned a dome of golden chains around itself, hoping it would survive the onslaught. Surprisingly, the barrier held its own, not even vibrating from the impact of the attack. Frustrated, Ven poured out all the energy he could into the blast, amplifying its strength tenfold. The beam turned into a huge pillar, and the dome shattered instantly. Eraqus's armor stared in horror as the light overtook him, slowly eating away at its metallic frame.
Unable to scream, the figure slowly evaporated in the blindingly white light. When the brightness faded away, Sora was shocked to see only a pile of ashes in place of where the opponent once stood.
Aqua rushed into the arena, and was surprised to see that the guardian was gone. What truly shocked her was the sight of her once dormant friend.
"Ven?" she cried out.
He turned to her, his eyes lit with joy. "Aqua!"
The two friends rushed towards each other, embracing in a long-awaited hug. Aqua stepped back, happily smiling at him.
"This is unbelievable, how did you-" she began.
Suddenly, she mentally connected the dots. "Vanitas joined with you… didn't he?"
Ven frowned. "Yeah. I mean I didn't see him do anything, but it's like I just KNOW that somehow, like how I knew that armored suit was a threat and wasn't actually our master."
"Vanitas's knowledge must have become part of yours when you fused," Sora suggested.
Aqua felt the tears build up, confusing Ven.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"Ven… I'm so happy that you're back… but I miss Vanitas," she replied.
The boy raised his eyebrow. "Really? I never thought ANYONE would miss him!"
"He's changed," Aqua explained. "In fact he was so different that… we fell in love."
The blonde gaped in shock. "WHAT?"
Ignoring the tears rolling down her face, the woman nodded. "Yes… but now…"
Unable to control herself any more, Aqua felt her sorrow consume her as she began to cry.
Never again would she see Vanitas's face.
Never again would she hear his joyful laugh.
Never again would she hear his voice.
Ven pitifully looked as his friend began to cry. While the girl kept to herself, Sora moved beside him.
"It's sad really," the boy remarked. "In the end, there can be only you or only Vanitas."
The blonde silently nodded, thinking of something as he turned to Sora. "Take out your Keyblade. I'll be right back."
Taking a few steps away, Ven kneeled besides his old friend. "Aqua?"
She turned to him. "Sorry, Ven. It's just difficult to digest this."
"Listen," he started. "I think it's for the best if I bring Vanitas back."
She stared in horror. "What?"
"I don't think I have a choice!" he said. "I've NEVER seen you this upset! And I don't want you to be sad all the time."
"But if Vanitas is recreated, your heart might be even MORE damaged!" she pointed out.
The youth shrugged. "So what? Either way I KNOW my heart will fully recover soon. I can feel it, Aqua. The light is so close to being stable on its own."
The woman stared at the floor as she processed her thoughts. Part of her felt she should snap Ven out of it and convince him to stay. The two had been friends for years, and they now had a chance to make even more memories together. Besides, there were other people like Vanitas out there…
What a lie. Aqua KNEW her love was unique. And without him, the girl truly felt empty and alone. Beyond that, Vanitas had filled a gap that friendship never could. To that end, she desperately wanted him back.
The woman sighed, smiling sadly. "Thank you, Ven."
He smiled, standing in front of Sora as the Keyblade Master raised Oathkeeper.
"I'll wait for you," Aqua assured him. "Forever if I have to."
Ven smirked. "I know you will."
A beam of light shot into Ven, his eyes widening as a dark sphere emerged from his body. The orb began to take form, and the familiar figure of Vanitas landed on the ground.
"Vanitas!" Aqua cried out.
The girl rushed forward, practically knocking him over as she wrapped her arms around him. Relief immediately engulfed her mood, completely dissipating any depressing feelings.
"Ugh… I feel wiped out," he muttered.
She smiled at him. "Then let's head home and rest."
In their bedroom, Aqua and Vanitas faced Sora as he summoned the Kingdom Key.
"So you're heading off?" Vanitas asked.
The boy nodded. "Yeah. My mission's over now. I saved everyone I could."
Vanitas smirked. "Well it's probably better this way. I would HATE to own you in a battle again."
Sora glared at him. "Own me? I wiped the floor with you!"
The dark warrior chuckled. "Then prove it."
Sora shook his head. "I don't have time for this. Besides… I have my own girl waiting for me back home."
Waving goodbye to then, Sora summoned a portal of light, immediately vanishing into its depths.
Vanitas lied back on the bed. "Well, I guess that's it."
Aqua crossed her arms. "So what should we do now? Terra's gone, Ven's asleep… and you're here."
The boy squinted for a bit. "I think we should stay."
He noticed the confusion in her eyes.
"You know, here in Radiant Garden," he finished.
"You think so?" she inquired.
"Sure," he replied. "Seems like a good place to raise kids."
She burst out laughing. "Okay, we're still teenagers technically. I am NOT having a baby!"
"But being a teen mom is the latest trend!" he said.
She furrowed her eyebrows. "No way! And I use the term teenager loosely for me. I'm 18 years old."
He growled. "Oh, cougar."
The woman started laughing hysterically. Somehow he knew just how to make her laugh. The boy soon joined in and lied next to her on their bed.
"You know what I realized?" she said.
"What?" he asked.
"Because of everything that happened in the last 10 years, you're the only thing I have left of my old life," she began.
Her eyes glistened slightly. "But at the same time… if I had to choose between everyone I lost and you… I'd still pick you."
The boy grinned, holding her closely. "I'd definitely pick you over grandpa Xehy any day."
She chuckled, and the two slowly leaned towards each other, quickly kissing.
Darkness is incomplete without light.
Passion is meaningless without kindness.
Yet true love isn't about choosing one part of the spectrum over the other.
It's about finding the right balance in between.