A/N: For this chapter, there are some spoilers for The World Ends With You, a DS game developed by the same team as Kingdom Hearts- which explains a lot more than it doesn't. Standard disclaimers apply.


III.

The Scramble


Location: ?

"Where…?" Roxas frowned. They were in the middle of a patch of grass ringed by low shrubbery- from what he could see- the only one. Concrete paths crisscrossed around the perimeter of the island, abandoned benches lining them.

"Park," Axel informed, brushing a blade of grass off of his person. "At night."

Riku could see tall buildings just a few feet away, tiny windows of light scattered on the dimmed facades. Neon signs just beyond them and somewhere , the far-off sounds of music, the bass the only thing left rolling into the night in a pulsing fog of sound.

And then something dark leaped for his back.

Roxas swung out, the keyblade barely formed in his hand when it hit the blob like a baseball bat, sending the shadow flying away.

"Nice batting."

A vaguely emaciated-looking man stood in an orange circle of lamplight a few meters away. "But you three aren't from around here, are you?"

"Just passing through," Axel agreed breezily.

The man pushed his shades up his nose, apparently able to see perfectly fine in the evening darkness with them on. "That thing you're holding, kid- that a keyblade?"

Roxas frowned, banishing Oathkeeper-something about how knowledgeable the man was made him a little wary, although he seemed friendlier than most of the other people he'd talked to. Not that it was saying much, considering most of those were Organization.

"Who wants to know?" Axel prompted, subtly stepping between the man and his best friend. Kinda. Still was. He was used to being underappreciated.

"Ah. Hey, I'm not suspicious or anything." He held his hands up, placating. "Name's Hanekoma. People call me 'Mr.H'." The man walked closer, stopping a few feet away.

"Look, I can tell you're from another world. That blob a while ago isn't native, either." He reached into his pocket, making the trio tense, but he only took out a piece of paper, slightly crumpled, with WildKat Cafe written at the back. Smoothing the paper out, he offered it to them.

It was a colored sketch of a shadowy blob, vaguely resembling a concerto, but dark all around with red eyes and stylized limbs where thread-like clawed legs would be and a hat made entirely of jagged swirls, like they'd been crafted from tribal tattoos. It was definitely...

"A Heartless," Riku said definitively. He'd felt the blob coming- if not when, which proved it had a connection to the Darkness.

Hanekoma raised an eyebrow. "Look familiar to you guys? It's nothing like anything we have around here. My hunch is it's some sort of mutation from outside contamination."

Suddenly, Axel had a pretty good idea why tall dark and mysterious here was getting at. "It's been a nice chat, but we were just leaving."

Reaching for the Darkness, Axel tried to find a crack in between worlds. Then, he frowned. He couldn't summon a portal. It felt blocked.

"Problems?" Hanekoma asked, almost innocently.

Scowling, Axel clenched the outstretched hand into a fist at his side. "Keep talking."

"You're probably trapped by the dimensional field around our world. Earth's... all sorts of special. Getting out will take a lot of juice."

"Juice?" Roxas echoed.

"Power. Supernatural power," Hanekoma explained.

"Lemme guess, just so happens you have it?" Axel drawled.

"Know where to find it. My Boss isn't really too keen on the new infestation situation. If you play clean-up team, he might just grant you passes to a world-hop."

Riku stepped forward. "Where's your 'Boss'?"

"Easy there. You'll have to see him tomorrow."

"What? Why?" Roxas blinked.

Mr. Hanekoma shrugged. "You're not the only ones with a favor to ask Shibuya's death god."


"Death god?" Roxas frowned, feeling slightly lost. It had been a while since the confusion had been this bad. In a way, it was more frustrating than when he'd first woken.

Riku, on the other hand, was completely unimpressed. After having met Hades, he was less than awed at the prospect of meeting another one.

If Axel had any opinion on gods, of Death or otherwise, he didn't show it.

Mr. Hanekoma took their lack of reaction in a stride. "We call them Composers. They basically manage the city's creativity and souls. Over here, if you die young, the soul gets entered into a Game where they fight to get another chance at life. Winning refines their souls in the process. And if it's good enough, the Composer revives them."

"Sounds competitive," Axel noted, expression unreadable.

"Gets to be." He took out a sleek gadget from his pocket, flipping it open and holding it up to his ear. "Just a sec, gotta make this call."

Neku Sakuraba was lounging in his room in an old Mus Rattus tank top and shorts, spiky orange hair falling messily all around his head ever since he got out of the shower. He'd just spread his algebra homework on the table, when the call came. His sleek blue phone blared out a techno remix of Underground before he pressed the call button, holding the phone up to his ear.

"Mr. H? What's up?" Neku frowned. It wasn't often that Mr. Hanekoma called him. Neku thought that between being a wildly popular enigmatic artist and playing referee for Shibuya's Game, the man didn't really have much time on his hands.

"Hey, Neku! Listen, got a little favor to ask you. Remember those weird Noise? I got some people who might be able to take care of them. But they need a place to crash until the Game starts."

"... They're going into the Game and they aren't dead yet?"

"Nope, alive and probably prone to kicking. The Game starts tomorrow night and the WildKat is closed- think you could put them up for a bit?"

"...Yeah." His parents were away, as usual, so it wasn't like anyone would know. That and some part of him couldn't say no to Mr. Hanekoma. Probably because he'd discovered the man was CAT, the designer he'd idolized for most of his sixteen years and possibly kept him sane.

"Thanks. Be there in ten. See ya, Neku." The line clicked off.


It was a quarter past ten when Neku heard the knock at his door. He opened it to reveal three black-coated strangers reluctantly behind a wryly smiling Mr. H.

"Mr. H," Neku acknowledged respectfully, letting them in.

Two of the strangers were older than him, but one looked like he was his age. A blonde with large blue eyes and almost ridiculously thick lashes. He was tempted to ask if they were stuck on. But then, the entire group seemed a little... cosplay.

The trio crowded into the living room, looking a little out of place and more than a little like they'd stepped out of some otaku's magazine. More strangely still, they seemed to keep away from eachother, like they were afraid to spontaneously combust on contact.

"We appreciate it, Neku." Mr. Hanekoma greeted.

"Don't mention it. How's he holding up?"

Mr. Hanekoma rubbed the back of his neck. "Willpower. Hasn't slept in days."

Neku snorted. "Serves him right. So who are they?"

"Axel," the redhead said lazily. "These two over here are Riku and Roxas."

From the scowl the silver-haired one had, Neku thought he probably didn't appreciate being introduced. The sight made a corner of his mouth tilt up faintly. It reminded him a little of something he'd done a lifetime ago.

"Neku Sakuraba."

Hanekoma coughed. "Right, I got to go check in with the Boss. I'll pick them up tomorrow, alright, Neku?" And with that, he stepped out of the door, vanishing into thin air.

Neku watched him go, before turning to the three new temporary housemates in his living room. "I've pulled out some old futons for you- you can set them up on the floor." He pointed at three rolled up bundles leaning against the couch.

"Thoughtful," Axel snorted.

Neku shrugged. "There's some food in the fridge, just don't empty it out and don't break anything."

With these wise words imparted, Neku went back up to his room. It wasn't exactly his business who these people were, particularly when they would shortly be for most intents and purposes, dead. As long as the apartment didn't get trashed, he was good.

Just because he didn't hate people anymore didn't mean he loved all of them, either.


"Should we leave?" Roxas asked, as soon as the other boy- 'Neku', he'd said his name was- disappeared into another room.

Axel thought about it, leaning against the back of the couch. "Could."

Riku shook his head. "Dealing with the Heartless is the fastest way to get off this world." His body folded into the couch, muscles almost sighing audibly in relief at being able to sit down after an entire day of searching Oblivion and running from a monster.

Axel turned, leaning over Riku like a tattooed gargoyle. "You're not thinking like a villain, Riku."

"Guess that means I'll win."

Roxas sat on the opposite end of the couch almost tentatively. "Do you think we can trust them?"

"It doesn't matter, " Riku said grimly, staring straight ahead.

Riku woke up breathless, the night pressing down upon him. Fear made his heart hammer wildly, adrenaline pushing him up, the weight thrown off.

"Ow!" Roxas hit the carpeted floor with a small thump, rubbing his nose.

Blinking once before his eyes got used to the lack of light, Riku frowned. "What were you doing?"

After some minutes of discussion earlier in the night, all three of them had decided to turn in, exhausted by the search through Oblivion. Axel had curled himself into a deep settee, his lanky form managing to fold comfortably. Roxas had collapsed into an arm chair—one that rocked, as it turned out from his yelp. And Riku had chosen the farthest corner of the living room from them both while still keeping them within clear sight. It was just a happy coincidence that it was also the patch of floor closest to the exit.

Was Roxas trying to escape by himself?

Glaring at Riku, Roxas stood up. "You were making weird sounds."

"I was… what?"

"Making all these weird sounds and thrashing about. "

"And you decided to check up on me?"

"Why wouldn't I?" Roxas demanded, hands curling into fists by his side, and looking so much like Sora for a moment that Riku felt his blood run cold. Nobody but Sora was supposed to sound like Sora.

"It's nothing." Riku said flatly, looking down. "It just happens every now and then. Don't you ever get nightmares?"

Roxas face seemed to cloud over. "I don't think so. It's just those weird dreams about someone else or nothing."

Riku could say nothing to that. He got up, walking into the kitchen.

It wasn't until he opened the refrigerator that he realized Roxas had followed him in. He was hovering at the edge, with the shadows, like he was trying to spy on Riku, keeping to the very edges of his vision.

"…I can see you."

Roxas flinched.

"I can walk around blindfolded. What makes you think hiding in the shadows would make you any less noticeable?" Riku snorted, taking out a carton of what seemed to be milk- he didn't recognize the brand- and, after a moment's pause, two bun-like things in plastic packaging. He tossed one to the blonde playing hide and seek with the corner.

"…Thanks."

"Not my food," Riku replied, investigating the rest of the contents of the fridge.

He didn't see anything much to make a proper sandwich with- just milk, a lot of soda- some beer- he guessed that belonged to Neku's father- a couple of boxes of what looked like chicken nuggets and a few more bread packets like this one. Neku probably subsisted on the stuff and takeout while his parents were away.

But Riku wasn't exactly picky. Taking out a box of the nuggets, he closed the door shut and ripped the packet open. Roxas followed suit a moment later. Silence fell as they started eating.

"…It tastes weird," Roxas said, a little startled.

"It's a little spicy," Riku admitted. The bun was coated in breadcrumbs and filled with a thick beef curry. It wasn't particularly spicy. Or particularly new. Neku hadn't been shopping in a while.

"You've eaten this before?"

"No, but I've had curry."

"Curry?"

"The stuff that's inside. Just, usually, it's stew."

Roxas inspected it, wondering how the paste-like substance could qualify for stew.

"It's usually wetter," Riku added blandly, interpreting the look correctly. But something was starting to bother him a little.

"…You don't remember much about the everyday things, do you?"

Roxas paused at munching on his curry bread. "… The first week or so, I didn't remember much at all. Not even how to comb my hair or anything like that."

"…It shows."

Roxas glared.

Riku brushed it off, curious in spite of himself. "How did you do anything?"

"Axel showed me. And the others in the Organization. Lexaeus knocked me out to teach me something, once."

"…They were training you?"

"It was more like showing me the ropes. Some of them didn't really do much, though. Zexion and Vexen were kind of really pushy. Larxene was… really impatient. Marluxia kind of just… stood there and dripped rosepetals. Axel told me it was normal, later, so I didn't think too much about it." Roxas paused. "I guess… Axel was the one who did most of it. Telling me what stuff was."

"…You got along well."

Roxas considered this. "…I guess so. I can't even remember what we were really fighting about. Pretty stupid of me, huh?"

Riku didn't reply. It was weird, hearing it from their side. As far as he had been concerned, he had been fighting and trying to kill monsters determined to do pretty much the same to him. But… it was almost like some part of them… some part of Roxas, at least, sounded human..

Even if he wasn't Sora. Looked nothing like him.

Finishing his bread quietly, Riku reached for the box of nuggets he'd set on the counter. And almost unwillingly, he glanced up at Roxas, looking quiet and… forlorn around the edges on his stool with the dim moonlight picking out blonde bits in his hair, but mostly shadowed. Just enough shadow to remind Riku who his Somebody was.

With an inward sigh, Riku tried to form words to sum up just how much he fucked up his own friendships in a vaguely advice-like manner. The idea that he would even have to do this was beyond ridiculous. So ridiculous he refused to think about it and the nagging little feeling he was going to regret it.

"…Best friends always have stupid fights… What matters is what you do about it."

"What I do about it?"

"If you want to stay friends or not."

And that was as far as Riku was willing to go on this little midnight confession, so he took the box of nuggets and started looking for a way to heat it up while Roxas apparently digested his words.

Just as he felt Axel's presence enter the room. "Now what are you two doing?"

Riku tensed, looking towards the redhead.

"Just seemed like so much fun I couldn't keep sleeping. Better make it up to me, Riku."

Riku offered him a fist. "I can knock you back out," He offered cooly. "Happily."

Axel 's eyebrow quirked up. "Keep saying stuff like that and I'll start to think you don't like me."

"I don't."

"Shame, I was going to offer to heat that up for you."

Riku frowned.

In the dark, Axel's grin was cat-like.

"Who do you think I am?"

"I don't want to know."

Neku stared at the blackened remains of substances on the counter.

The white-haired guy looked annoyed, while the blonde seemed vaguely apologetic. The tallest of the three was sitting by the window he'd just opened to let all the smoke out- something they only thought of when Neku came crashing into the kitchen, thinking the apartment was on fire.

The good news was that there wasn't really any lasting damage. Sure the counter was charred and sure he's pretty sure he woke a few neighbors up, but all in all it could've been a lot worse than a bunch of idiots who didn't know what a smoke alarm was (Roxas had frowned. "Why do you need an alarm to tell if there's smoke?).

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Neku wished for patience. "On second thought, tell me what happened."

"Axel set a box of food on fire."

"Hey, don't look at me, you're the one who wanted to heat it up."

"I never said anything about setting it on fire."

"You burned it?" Neku demanded, frowning.

"…Preeetty much, yeah?" Axel said casually, fixing the fit of his glove.

Great. Mr.H had saddled him with pyromaniac rustics in cosplay.

His eyes landed on the luminous numbers on a wall clock, a little above some shelves. It read 6:35 a.m. It was light out. Or would be soon.

"Forget about it. We can just walk outside until it clears out."

Then he remembered something. "You guys…wouldn't happen to have any spare clothing on you? Anything on under there?" Neku gestured towards his chest vaguely.

Axel shrugged, unzipping his coat partway.

"…Guess that's a no." Neku sighed, starting up the stairs. "Come on. I'm not going to walk you three around even Shibuya dressed like that. "

"Dressed like what…?" Roxas asked nobody in particular, after a pause.

Axel shrugged. "I'm guessing the Superior wouldn't have made it big in these parts."

Riku stopped, one boot on the first step of the stair. "He made these uniforms?" The idea of Xemnas sitting with a needle in hand and a coat over lap was somehow disturbing.

"Hell no. I think he got Xaldin to do it."

"…That was more disturbing than I expected."

Axel grinned. "He does embroidery, too."

Neku yanked his wardrobe closet open, wincing when a torrent of clothes collapsed onto the floor. Damn, he had to get Shiki to stop using his closet as storage space. He half-suspected she only did it on the off chance he'd be tempted to use some of it. No time like the present.

Crouching by the pile, he picked a few articles of clothing out at random. The blonde guy would be easy- they were practically the same size- but the redhead was… well he'd be a tight fit for any of these, so he'd have to find one of those oversized shirts they made for Beat.

"Hands out," Neku said briskly.

Roxas stretched his arms out obligingly, figuring it was faster not to ask.

"Ttry these." Neku glanced down. "The pants too, or Shiki will attack you on the streets."

"Shiki?" Riku voiced as Neku piled clothes on top of Roxas' arms. "Is that like the Noise that old man last night was asking about?"

"Mr.H isn't that old." Neku said immediately. "And no, but Noise won't mind getting a claw in you, either. Clothes work like armor once you're in the Game."

"They what?"

Neku sighed, wishing for patience again. He'd forgotten you needed it to deal with people. Joshua certainly hadn't done anything to his reserves. Time to borrow some old advice. "Shut up and take your pants off."

He glared at the other redhead when he opened his mouth for good measure. Not that this seemed to daunt him. "All three of us at once?" Axel asked, the amusement in his tone tipping over into a leer.

"We're all guys here, just suit up and we'll go."

Axel shrugged, stripping first. Riku couldn't exactly hesitate after that, so he unzipped his own uniform, yanking it off his shoulders and accepting the next bundle of clothes Neku thrust at them. Roxas followed suit.

The whole thing would've passed without incident if Axel hadn't whistled lowly. "Not bad, Riku."

Riku scowled, half in a crisp sleeveless white shirt that actually made his skin seem more… well, skin-like and less alabaster. A subtle design of silk embroidery depicted a dragon twisting all over the cloth.

Axel hadn't bothered to put his own on, yet. Lean whipcord muscles were sculpted down onto a tapering waist. He held a black ribbed turtleneck and what looked to be a red leather jacket.

Frowning, Riku buttoned the vest up and reached for the pants, stopping when his eyes fell on the label sticking out.

"This isn't funny." Riku said flatly. He tossed it back into the pile. He could walk around in his current pants and boots just fine.

"What are you talking about?" Neku demanded. At Riku's wordless stare at the label, Axel picked it up, reading the name of the pants' design.

" 'Darkness'. Seems like a perfect fit to me, Riku." He waved the offending article a bit. "Let's see if the pants fit the man."

Riku made a gesture.

"You first, princess," Axel shot back, still sounding amused.

Roxas blinked, poking his head and an arm out of the dark blue and white shirt Neku had given him.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing much, just some unresolved issues Riku's got." Axel smirked, tugging both the thin turtleneck and the much longer dress shirt on. A good thing, if the way the turtleneck kept trying to inch up from his waist was any indication. Neku clearly didn't have anything in over six feet. The red and black went well with his complexion, picking out the same dramatic colors in his hair and around his eyes.

"Your blindfold," Neku said suddenly, having decided not to push the whole pants issue. He couldn't let this one go, though. He was surprised the other boy had managed to keep it on this long, really. He'd even managed to climb the stairs and everything. After a moment's pause, Neku added, "Can you see?"

Riku stopped moving.

"I can look through it."

"You look retarded with it, you mean," Neku scoffed. "Take it off. You look like a ninja-wannabe from an afternoon kiddie show. All three of you are enough of a freakshow on your own."

Axel made a sound that was suspiciously like a snort of laughter.

"Freakshow is what'd happen if I took it off," Riku said.

"Look, if you just need something to hide your eyes, you can use these." Neku rummaged briefly in a drawer and presented Riku with a pair of thin dark shades. "You'll stand out less."

Riku looked at them for a long moment before taking them and exiting the room without a word.

"…He can strip in my room, but he needs privacy to put on shades?"

"Riku's just a deilcate little flower that way," Axel agreed.

Neku sort of thought it was kind of hard to call all those sculpted biceps and triceps 'delicate', but the way Riku almost-but-not-quite stomped out of the room did remind him a little of a huffy girl.

It was almost eight by the time they got to The Scramble, a hodge podge of criss-crossing pedestrian lanes strewn almost haphazardly over a large, fairly open-area road. Several traffic lights- much taller and sleeker than anything like it Roxas had ever seen- dotted the space at strategic places.

Traffic was light. There weren't a lot of people around this early on a Saturday except for the occasional jogger, office workers on their way to work, and early morning shoppers waiting for the 104 shopping mall to open.

"You three aren't from around here, are you?" Neku asked as they crossed.

"We just got to this world last night." Roxas volunteered when nobody else seemed to be inclined to answer.

"…'This world'?" Neku echoed, unsure if the other boy was just being sarcastic.

"Yeah," Roxas affirmed.

"…So you're from another world… does that make you guys Composers, too?"

"Wouldn't know a G clef from a tambourine," Axel supplied cheerfully, working a couple of kinks out of his neck.

"…You don't know about The Game, either?" Neku asked, brows arching in genuine surprise.

"Mister… Hanekoma, right? Told us a bit of it. Not enough to really tell what's in it besides Heartless and Noise." Roxas frowned, tugging on the laces of the light blue hoodie he'd donned over a white shirt with black sleeves and a pattern in monochrome at the hems. The morning was still pretty chilly. He wasn't sure how Riku could walk around with most of his arms exposed like that- but the… guy had somehow produced a piece of white cloth to wrap around his left forearm. Roxas hadn't seen it when Neku was picking out their things. His other arm was bound with a black bandage.

Riku might have switched out his blindfold for a pair of very dark shades, but he didn't seem to want to let go, either. Roxas could just about see a flash of gold and long lashes when Riku turned his head, but most of the time, his expression was just as unreadable as before.

"It's… a game of souls. You have to fight Noise and Reapers in a whacked out ghost dimension of Shibuya. Food and clothes give you strength. It goes on for a week, if you're lucky."

"And if we aren't?" Axel raised an eyebrow.

"You stay dead."

"…We have to die to play the Game?" Riku asked sharply.

"Normally. I don't know about you three if you came from another world, though." He paused. "Just a little tip- if you see a scrawny snot of a guy in a white shirt running toward you, punch him in the face."

"Why?"

"Trust me, it's for a good cause."

"So what's a Composer?"

"The guy who made up the whole Game. Masterminds everything."

Axel snorted. "Sadistic bastard, isn't he?" It sounded like he'd probably feel right at home having tea with Xemnas in The World That Never Was.

Neku smirked faintly. "Mr.H says he exists for a reason. Just don't know if it's a good reason."

The flow of conversation was stopped when all four of them became conscious of an unusual level of noise. Feminine noise.

"Great. Don't tell me that bogus Prince is around," Neku muttered darkly, scanning the grounds in front of 104. Nothing. No crisp-like-silk blond head or impossibly ruffled dress shirt anywhere.

Riku shrugged. "Let's just go."

"Neku? You're up early!" Two girls walked up to the group. One of them had short black hair and glasses, dressed simply in jeans and blouse, but the other was clearly dressed to stand out in a flashy miniskirt, her hair a vague shade of red that reminded Riku of Kairi. But he was pretty sure this girl had dyed hers.

"I had company to tour." Neku shrugged, but something in his voice suggested the girls were his friends.

He got jabbed in the gut for his troubles. "Introduce us," the louder girl hissed.

"These are Shiki and Eri." Neku nodded to first the brunette, then the one who looked like Kairi.

"You'reShiki?" Roxas asked, remembering something.

The girl blinked at him. "Y-yeah. Why?"

"Neku said you attacked people with the wrong pants."


Neku's ear had turned a nice shade of red by the time Shiki was through with him.

"Stop sulking, you big baby," she admonished with a sniff. "And you let all three of them walk out like this?"

Rubbing his ear and rolling his eyes with familiar exasperation, Neku responded. "It was that or fight with them to get the other ones on.

"…Why did she grab his ear?" Roxas asked in a whisper in Axel's general direction.

"Girls do that when they're annoyed. Especially if they're older."

"Oh. Did… Did Larxene ever do that?'

Axel snorted. "We'd be so lucky. What's up, Roxas, the girl scaring you?"

Roxas frowned. " I don't think Larxene liked me very much…"

"That's because you're a squirt who's more important than she is."

Roxas looked at him, expression skeptical.

"Don't get me wrong- she can castrate a guy faster than you could sneeze, but she's no Key of Destiny."

"Isn't she the Savage Nymph?"

"Exactly."


Riku turned away from the duo who had apparently started to patch things up. If Axel thought Roxas' sudden receptivity was strange, he didn't seem to dare comment on it.

With nothing to do, his eyes automatically scanned the perimeter, lingering without thought on the deep shadows between buildings and under awnings, searching for the barest glimpse of golden eyes. This city. Shibuya. It was far from the modest town center they had back in Destiny Islands. But it was dirtier than the Islands had ever been, litter blown against lonely edges of buildings and graffitti and flyers posted everywhere.

"Hey, want one?" A light alto voice asked from his left.

The other girl—Eri, Neku had said- was holding up a canned drink.

Riku accepted cautiously, more to avoid making a scene than anything else. It was iced tea.

"So where are you guys from? Ever do any modeling work? I can't remember ever seeing any of you, though."

Riku tried not to back up a step. Eri, apparently, had no such reservations, stepping closer, hands behind her back and dangling the plastic bag that still held three more cans. The rest had apparently already been distributed.

"No," Riku said, finally, choosing to answer the easy question. There were no models on Destiny Islands. Unless you counted that one time Wakka and Tidus posed for a Blitzball photo contest. They got a prize for it, too- Blitzballs signed by their favorite athletes. Neither of them had let the balls out of their sight for weeks.

"Really? That's kind of a waste, didn't anyone ever tell you?"

"Tell me?"

"Well, you're gorgeous," Eri said blandly, a girl stating a fact. "That's kind of obvious, isn't it?"

"…Not really," Riku shrugged. Selphie had mentioned it once or twice, and Kairi had teased him about being the resident heartbreaker (it was strange, how those silly things seemed so ominously foretelling, now), but it had been a long time since Riku could bear to look in a mirror.

"Well if you're not busy or anything, think you could help us out a bit and model a few outfits?" Eri asked brightly, but there was a strange gleam in her eye that was… well, you didn't grow up with two girls like Selphie and Kairi without picking up when was a good time to run.

"We're not staying long."

"Eri!" Shiki came over, apparently done berating Neku. "I'm sure we can still work on Neku or Beat- we don't have to bother them about this…"

"But look at them! They were made for those clothes you made!"

"Your designs," Shiki said almost absently, apparently used to the argument. "But we don't even know them very well! We couldn't possibly impose…" Shiki pushed up her black-framed glasses nervously.

Riku glanced around surreptitiously, wondering if there was a way out of this. Neku was a little away from them, hands tucked in pockets and smirk very, very amused.


Axel watched Riku fail at normal teenage interaction with a raised eyebrow. You'd think growing up with Sora would've given him better conversational skills. From the snatches of conversation the redhead could hear, the girls seemed to be aspiring fashion designers.

Roxas had lapsed into one of his silences, his gaze locked on the three Shibuyan teenagers and Riku.

"Hey, Axel."

"Yeah?"

"What are nightmares?"

"…What brought that on?"

"It's just something I heard," Roxas said evasively.

Axel looked at the can of coffee in his hands, popping it open and taking a sip.

"It's like a dream you want to escape but never do; because you're too scared and helpless to do anything about it."

"So… it's scary?" Roxas frowned into his own can of what appeared to be chocolate milk.

"Generally speaking," Axel drawled. "Not that we're supposed to really 'feel' fear or anything."

"So what is it like? Being scared?"

"Like you can't breathe and your mind is blank and like you're dying but you can't really die fast enough."

"Oh. Doesn't sound very good."

Axel leaned back against a lamp post.

"Yeah. It never is."

They spent the rest of the day just getting dragged all over Shibuya in the care of Neku and his girl friends, on the logic of familiarizing them with the terrain. Not that the Shibuyan half seemed to be too concerned about forewarned being forearmed. Halfway through, a broad-shouldered guy about Neku's age in a black beanie and a skateboard showed up with another girl- his little sister, apparently. Riku thought she was a little like Namine- something about the quiet knowing air about her. But then, Riku realized, he was probably looking a little too hard for ghosts that weren't there.

So he squeezed his hands in his pockets and tried not to think too hard about time and leads that weren't there.

Roxas had taken one look at the skateboard and was inexplicably drawn.

"Yo, you into 'boarding, too?" The skateboard guy- 'Beat' – said cheerfully, letting Roxas examine the curving lacquered wood on wheels that was his pride and joy.

"It looks like a lot of fun," Roxas admitted, having watched Beat sail in on his board right off a steel handrail.

Beat beamed and proceeded to embroil Roxas in an extensive discussion on his ride.

Axel couldn't remember Roxas ever having shown that much interest in anything that wasn't Seasalt ice cream. Then again, it wasn't like there was much time for anything else, after missions.

All the same, a few memories he had half forgotten stirred restlessly at the back of his mind.

It wasn't long until dark fell, prompting the group to head back to Neku's apartment to meet up with Mr. Hanekoma.

Neku looked back at his strange trio of houseguests as they filed back into the apartment, wondering if he'd see them again.

"Hey," Neku said suddenly. Three heads turned towards him curiously.

"I don't know how you guys will be able to get in, but in case you become Players, I guess I should tell you this." Pressing his knuckles to the furthest reaches inside his pockets, Neku paused a little awkwardly.

"You just have to trust your partner. No matter who it is. You're in it together the moment the Pact takes effect."

"The Pact?"

"It's like a contract. A really flashy contract. Two people enter a partnership and then you… light up like a Christmas tree, basically."

"Why?" Roxas asked, confused.

"Probably because the Composer likes shiny things," Neku said dryly.

Before anyone could say anything else, the doorbell rang.

"Alright, Neku?" Mr. Hanekoma asked cheerfully as he stepped inside, apparently finding the latch unlocked.

A corner of Neku's mouth lifted into a wry smile. "Yeah. They almost burned the house down, though."

Mr. Hanekoma grinned. "Should I ask?"

"We're ready," Riku interrupted smoothly.

Mr. Hanekoma ran an eye over their new clothes, supplemented with a few additions Shiki and Eri had insisted on. "All kitted up, then?"

Axel shrugged.

"Alright, let's go. You guys go first."

Riku paused, but squaring his shoulders, he walked past into the threshold of the door.

He barely felt the chop at the back of his neck, unable to react in time.

When Riku was aware of himself again, he was standing in the middle of a pulsing void.

Axel and Roxas were there with him. So were twenty or so people. All in various states of consciousness, from the blank looks in some of their eyes. It was slightly unnerving, after the tanks at Oblivion.

"… Oldest trick in the book," Axel groaned as he waded into consciousness, rubbing the back of his neck.

"…Think he killed us?" That was Roxas.

Mr. Hanekoma stepped into existence with palms out. "Almost. That was mostly just a little vibe tweaking. You can't see all of the UG the way you were then. Had to up your vibe."

"Is this the UG?"

"Yes and no," Mr. H admitted. "UG's just another plane of existence on Shibuya. You'll still see all the crowds of people and get into some of the shops, but they can't see you or touch you- outside of those shops."

The man looked at the watch strapped to his wrist as he finished explaining. "Looks like the Game's about to start any minute. Good luck. And remember what Neku said. He did win this Game for three weeks running."

"Three weeks?"

But Mr. Hanekoma was already gone.

"Welcome to the Reaper's Game," a boy- maybe fifteen or so- with dust-gray hair in waves around his face walked towards them. He was dressed in plain jeans and dress shirt, the top handful of buttons popped open. His pale face with half-lidded eyes was fixed with an almost whimsical smirk. The expression of a guy who knew a lot and didn't particularly care if you needed it more.

"I've been to happier funerals," Axel observed, though his hands were loose at his sides, waiting expectantly.

The boy chuckled and shrugged. "It'll start soon enough. I heard there's never a dull moment. The price might hurt a bit, though."

"Price?"

"An entrance fee. Could be anything. Whatever is most precious to you."

Riku froze and Axel barked a short laugh. "Yeah? I don't think I've seen mine in years."

The boy smiled, eyes lazily sharp as he swept his glance around the room. "Sometimes the next best thing is just good enough."

And then there was darkness.

Axel woke up on the Scramble with absolutely no recollection of even going to sleep. It was just creepy. Like someone had wiped away a part of his memory. A part of his Not-Life.

On the other hand, he couldn'treally remember the last time he'd slept so much like a rock. If he'd really slept. Stretching out a crick in his neck, he automatically looked to see where his companions were. smoked trembling stomach. ay Riku liked it and liesurely stroking Riku'lly rubbing against air, hips undulating on Roxas'e the

Riku was just beside him, sprawled on his front, the pretty silver hair in gleaming twists all over the asphalt like a princess struck down. After pricking a finger on a spinning wheel.

It took him a moment scanning the immediate perimeter to realize that Roxas wasn't with them. And exactly why that was. Something almost chilly slid down Axel's spine.

"Fuck."

Riku groaned lowly, waking up. "Wha…?"

Axel replied with a line of rapidfire expletives that almost managed to make Riku impressed. If he wasn't pissed off as hell.

When Axel descended into what appeared to be an almost sulky rage- Riku decided enough was enough.

And punched him.

"What the hell was that for?" Axel glared. It was easily the cleanest thing to come out of his mouth in the past ten minutes.

Riku thrust Soul Eater's blunt edge straight at Axel's throat. "Get over yourself and complete the mission."

Axel opened his mouth- possibly to ask very snidely if Riku forgot that Roxas- who quite possibly held all of Riku's fate along with the rest of the world's (but really who gave a damn about them) and was responsible for Axel's possibly impending duskhood- was not here.

Then he saw the look on Riku's face.

And decided to let it slide.

"I can sense Heartless here, too."

Axel scowled, running his fingers in the thick hair at the nape of his neck irritably. Then he closed his eyes once. And gave Riku his most disturbing grin.

Later, Riku would reflect, that he sort of wished Axel was a little less annoying. He might even be halfway likeable, otherwise.

-To Be Continued-


Author's Notes:

Well this was a long time in coming and I have my doubts on the point of it all, but I thought I'd update. o7

I've tried to make this friendly for people who don't know The World Ends With You (though knowing it should make things very amusing), but I know that gets pretty frustrating all the same, so here's a link to the characters. Spoilers for characters are contained therein, of course, but since TWEWY was released some years ago, it'll have to do.

http: / twewy . wikia . com / wiki / Characters

If you're interested in knowing more about twewy, click around the wikia using the link from above (remove the spaces). The summary of the game would be something like "so now you're a dead emokid. time to dress up and kick around monsters and hey maybe you can come back to life!"

For those who /are/ familiar with the game, the following might be interesting for you- concept wardrobe from the TWEWY catalogue:

Roxas

Haramitsu (158)
Togenkyo (163)
Waffle Necktie

Riku

Negative/Positive Polo
White Dragon Tee
Midnight

Karma (J of the M shoulder bag)

Axel
Hip Snake North Wind Concerto
Red Jacket + natural puppy turtleneck or Lollipop's Parka

Everyone: Biker Gloves

Misc:

WB Darkness (223)

Don't forget to review if you like it! :) I'd love to hear from you. And tell me what you don't like, anyway, short of pairings. Nothing I can do about those, I'm afraid.