Back from the Brink

Another revision. YAAY!


(Before the stabbing)

Maleficent. She was impaled by a Keyblade. A dangerous Keyblade meant to unlock hearts. Dark powers she had long staved to the recesses of whatever malady plays a heart in her abyssal chest. Her 'heart' is not the only facade rankling my scales.

Riku. I do not sense the boy's presence as powerfully as I have. Though he stands within inches of Alirah, so close their shoulders practically touch, it is as if the boy is a mere fabrication. A fading shadow. Alirah senses it too. She also senses...the abnormality nesting inside him.

I do not know from what darkness he is spawned, but the man whom My Lady has feared vehemently all these years has robbed yet another. He mocks Alirah, using Riku's body and face to seduce her to his ways. Though clever and strong, I know Alirah will no be able to bear it if Riku vanishes. The boy is fighting. That much is certain. But Alirah. She will not feed the facade for long. And then she will be-HUH? What is this? NO! LET GO! STOP!


Xehanort-Ansem, whatever name he chose to call himself, ripped Hiano free of the Keyblade, trapping him by his neck. Alirah was on the ground, staring in dismay as Ansem manhandled Hiano in his tight grip. He took the snake and tossed him through a portal.

"Hiano!" Alirah shouted.

Hiano was in a whirlpool. Being swished around, thrown in every direction. Perception and senses distorted, spilling into the whirling vortex. Which way was up? Where was down? Was he moving forward or backwards? With every rough curve he thought about Alirah. He worried that, wherever he landed, she may be left defenseless. With that monster returned in the body of one she loves, she may very well be defeated already. He just prayed that, wherever he landed, someone would help him. Help him return to Alirah, so he may return to his Lady's side.


Aerith stretched her arms behind her head, releasing a pleased yawn. It's been a pretty long day. But dinner at the small diner put it to a good end.

"You guys want anything else to drink?" She asked her three friends.

Fairy Godmother put her cup of tea on the table, shaking her head happily. Gepetto also politely declined, but was grateful for the offer.

"No thank you, Aerith. We are quite fine." Merlin voiced their abstain. By the looks of it, Merlin could use a glass of water at the very least.

"Are you sure, Merlin? You seem parched." She giggled.

"Nope. Just this old body telling me it's time for bed." Merlin pat his full stomach.

Aerith giggled. She, Merlin, Fairy Godmother, and Gepetto were at the open diner enjoying themselves. It was a nice distraction from the danger Sora was putting himself into for their sakes. Especially since he was going after Alirah. For a boy so young to be thrown into this mess. It frightened them. A twinge of guilt pegged Aerith. Sora shouldn't have to clean up after them. And Alirah. Who knows what she'll do to get what she wants.

"So how do you think Sora's fairing on his journey?" Fairy Godmother asked the question everyone was dying to have answered..

"He's probably doing fine." Gepetto reassured her. "I'm sure nothing too bad is happening."

"I hope you're right." Merlin polished off his last gulp of water.

Right on cue, a dark hole appeared in the center of the first district. Beings of darkness were about to breach the town again. The four stood from their chairs, ready for whatever may come. They weren't as ready as they thought they were. Something was spit out into the small patch of grass. The hole closed, leaving it behind.

Aerith and company relaxed. Actually they were too confused to really react. Aerith titled her head to see what was left behind. She would get closer until she knew it was safe. A familiar white and gold pattern poked from beyond the grass.

"Isn't that…" Aerith squinted her eyes, taking a couple steps closer. Wobbling, the thing popped its open hood head up. "IT IS! THAT'S HIANO!" She ran to him.

"HIANO!" Everyone screamed. They ran after Aerith.

Hiano shook off the trauma of his ride. He was too old for stuff like that. "HIANO!" Hurried steps drew his attention up, and he saw Aerith and her company. "It is you! But...where's..." She trailed off. Merlin, Gepetto, and Fairy Godmother tensed to the defensive, searching cautiously for Alirah. She was never far behind where Hiano was involved.

"Am I in Traverse town?" Hiano asked groggily.

"Yes." Aerith answered. She and Fairy Godmother knelt down. Merlin and Gepetto kept their distance. For all they knew, he was a ploy to lure them into a false sense of security. "Hiano, what happened? Where's Alirah?"

Alirah's name cleared the haze. Hiano was flooded with horror, remembering the events that led to his and Alirah's separation. "Alirah and I were in this tower at Hollow Bastion!" He began hastily. "We watched as Riku-no." He stopped himself there. "Not Riku. Someone possessing Riku stabbed Maleficent with the Keyblade of Hearts."

"The Keyblade...of Hearts?" Merlin repeated. It sounded familiar.

"It was when we saw his aura that Alirah and I knew…" He trailed off. The name was a bad taste in his mouth.

"Knew what, Dear?" Fairy Godmother massaged his back tenderly, encouraging him to continue. Merlin and Gepetto were on their toes. They wanted to know what happened. Particularly Merlin. What was happening to Alirah.

Hiano licked his lips and blurted, "Riku's possessed by Xehanort." Merlin's eyes shot wide.

"Who's Xehanort?" Fairy Godmother asked.

"He was the apprentice to Ansem." Aerith answered.

"More than that I'm afraid." Merlin spoke up. Everyone looked at him. "If I heard Yensid correctly, Xehanort was the man who possessed Alirah's brother nine years ago."

"I know the man of whom you speak." Hiano said. "And last time I checked he was an old man."

"In our world, Hiano, things change. Even appearances." Merlin stroked his beard. "But why would he reveal himself now?"

"ALIRAH!" Hiano shot. "Alirah told me how Xehanort despised her for always being around. Whenever Xehanort tried to claim Terra, Alirah was never far behind. He nearly killed her once before."

"He's trying to finish what he started!" Gepetto confirmed. Then he shook his head. "But she's strong. She can handle him." The kick she dealt to him radiated.

"Not necessarily." Merlin corrected. "If Hiano is another world apart, Alirah can't use her Serpent's Cry. She'd have to rely on magic."

"And I'm afraid, despite being in possession of Riku's form, Alirah's magic will not work on him. He's impervious to magic." Hiano informed them ominously. "Or rather, Alirah will not possess the resolve to attack someone...she's begun to love."

Aerith, Gepetto, and Fairy Godmother exchanged frightful glances. Merlin was taken aback. Alirah found someone else to love? her heart not beyond her?

"That aside, we have to help her." Hiano implored them. "She's in danger! Xehanort will undoubtedly-ARRRGH!"

"HIANO?!" Fairy Godmother and Aerith cried. Hiano's chest tore open. Gnarly ethereal ribbons darted from the wound in place of blood. He fell to the ground, twitching like an electrified worm.

"NO….HIANO!" Aerith cried. She picked up the snake. "Hiano, what's happening? Talk to me!" She pleaded. Hiano didn't answer. Merlin and Gepetto stood silently. Hiano stopped moving. "HIANO!"


(Moments after the stabbing)

They started their journey from the other side of the universe. One from a tiny island, dreaming of big adventures on the high seas. Traveling to the worlds beyond. The other two lived luxurious lives in a castle, safeguarding their King, and maintaining a certain order. Out of the blue, the trio were thrust into a world for those who lost their way, practically forced on each other. They barely knew one another, yet became great friends. After all their hard work, after everything they went through, four friends the heroes sought were out of their reach. One swallowed by darkness, the other lying dead on the floor, one has lost her heart, and the last was somewhere out of touch.

Sora, Donald, and Goofy were crestfallen. Never in their lives have they felt so disappointed. Failure hung above their heads. Donald and Goofy especially. For eight years they lied to Alirah, barred her from ever learning the truth. Incidentally, at the same time, they grew to care for her. They could even go so far as to admit that they loved her – brotherly love. Seeing her so angry pained them.

When she left a year ago, it was as if a big piece of the castle was taken with her. Disney castle felt as dark as Hollow Bastion. When Mickey ordered them to look for the Keyblade, they thought this as an opportunity to find Alirah. Even if they hadn't admitted it aloud, in the back of their hearts they hoped they'd see her. They wanted nothing more than to bring her back to the castle. But when they saw her in Traverse Town, those feeling of empathy were replaced with fear. She seemed insulted and heartbroken to see them. It was proof she wasn't happy when she choked Donald and put that curse on Sora.

Donald, before they decided to take any more steps closer to the upper platform, took his wand and scanned Sora. No serious injuries were on him. A bright fluorescent yellow glow appeared on his neck. Donald was so shocked, he dropped his wand.

"WAK! No way!"

"What's up?" Sora wondered.

Donald explained that Alirah placed a curse on him. If he or Goofy talked about Alirah, the curse would choke him. It could only be removed by Hiano. Goofy took a moment and apologized to Sora if they had been acting strange lately. But it was because they wanted to keep him safe. Donald apologized as well, but was fascinated by the glows composition. It was in a healing state. The fact that it was yellow meant that Alirah - Hiano - removed it almost immediately after she placed it. Donald felt stupid for not noticing. Alirah would drop hints about the curse. And Donald and Goofy knew Alirah dropped hints by talking about a certain subject an odd amount of times.

"Huh. You know...that may not have been the only time Alirah's lent us a hand." Sora theorized. Jafar, Hook, Monstro, the curse, the Keyblade, the fight – all the times Alirah had confronted them. "In a strange way, she's been helping us." She turned Jafar into a Keyblade. Hook was sent hurtling into the ocean. She dropped the curse. Then, since they arrived at Hollow Bastion, Alirah's been encouraging him to progress further into the castle. Now Kairi and the other princesses were in his reach. Which meant that, since he was always close by, Riku knew about it.

"I don't believe it." Goofy exclaimed in awe. Riku and Alirah were helping them the entire time. And they never noticed. Alirah continued to help and now she was on the floor in a pool of her blood. Her life force slowly slipping out of her body.

"This is all my fault." Sora blamed himself. "Alirah's like that-"

"Stop." Donald halted his self loathing. Sora never raised a hand to Alirah she hadn't lifted first. Neither has he hurt her like others have. But that wasn't the problem right now. Now they had to deal with the cause of Alirah's pain – the cause of her suffering. Their sole mission: Remove the guy imprisoning Riku. Sora was none more prepared than Donald and Goofy. All three were out for blood. They planned to make Ansem pay, and make him pay dearly. It was an oath they took right then and there.


Aerith, Merlin, Fairy Godmother, and Gepetto rushed Hiano back to Merlin's hut. Aerith sat on the bed and held Hiano tenderly in her lap. She ran her fingers along his spine. He was in terrible shape.

"How is he doing, Aerith?" Fairy Godmother asked.

"He seems to be breathing. But just barely." She tapped his head, casting a delicate cure chain along his spine.

"What does that mean?" Geppetto quizzed.

"It means Alirah's breathing." Merlin answered. "But just enough to keep her. For how long? I haven't the foggiest."

"I don't understand." Gepetto whimpered.

"Hiano and Alirah are bound by invisible ties." Aerith summarized. "If Hiano is like this, Alirah must be in danger. Possibly dying."

"When Hiano vanishes, Alirah's death will be finalized." Merlin stated, closing his eyes. Hiano's body glowed bright one second, then he would dim. A few times here and there, he was see through.

"THEN WE HAVE TO FIND HER!" Gepetto screamed. "We have to find Alirah and help her." A startling declaration from Gepetto. The toymaker hadn't forgotten Alirah's assault on him. The blow was fresh in his abdomen. Gepetto was not a vengeful man. No one so young should perish in this way. "For all of her mistakes, she is young enough to make a change. We should help her set her on that path."

"Why should we?" Merlin spat. "Once she's gone, Hiano will go with her!" Everyone dropped their jaws at him. They couldn't believe he was choosing to let Alirah die. "We'd be better off without that bloody snake anyway."

SLAP! Aerith and Gepetto gaped in utter disbelief. Merlin, stunned by the throbbing hand print, froze with his head turned. Fairy Godmother slapped him across the face. "How dare you!" She hissed. "Alirah had never laid a hand on you. She lived with you, helped you. Then you betray her."

"She betrayed us!" He hissed, getting in her face.

"This child-no! This young woman crossed my path when she was but to my knee!" Fairy Godmother reminisced. She could still see Alirah with her pigtails. Her big eyes full of hope. A laugh so charmingly contagious. She was exposed to the evils of this life too soon. "She never meant anyone harm. Her heart wanting to stop everyone's tears. Only for her efforts to be spurned."

"She is dangerous, Fairy Godmother!" Merlin advocated. "She is a danger to all!"

"You're only saying that because she has possession of Hiano. You're blaming her for something that was not in her control."

"Then she should never have trained so hard! She should have remained in the castle and stayed quiet!"

"And be a lamb for slaughter by the enemy that has been pursuing her?" Fairy Godmother had heard enough. She held her wand to his face. Merlin flinched away. "Morgana broke the rules." Merlin's mouth parted at the name. "She broke the rules, and like all others before her, her soul was captured. You're not mad at Alirah. In fact you're proud of her. You're just angry at Hiano for choosing Alirah – which both had no control over." Hiano coughed, black blood spewing from his mouth. Aerith tried to heal him. Merlin sighed. "You care about Alirah," God-mother assured, "You care about her just as much as we do. You and I both met her as a happy child. That child is still alive within Alirah, but is dying at an alarming rate. Can you really stand by and let her die alone? Perish while her heart toils in sadness?"


Donald, Goofy, and Sora took one last look at Alirah. Her skin was getting paler by the minute. Alirah's stiffening hands kept her charm in place, close to her heart. She seemed to pass on with a smile, finally at peace with her aching heart. Donald and Goofy wondered why she was so happy. How could she be smiling at a time like this?

They made their way towards the stairs that lead to the platform. Sora walked onto the upper level. Donald and Goofy followed after him but were bounced back. Sora looked back.


Donald knocked his wand on the first step. A rainbow shield flickered on and off. "It's a force field!" Donald concluded. "Whoever this guy is, he wants to be alone with you!"

Sora dropped his gaze, and then looked up the stairs. "Go ahead, Sora." Goofy urged. "Donald and I will be here cheering you on." Sora didn't want to go on without them. But Riku was in danger. And he won't be fighting alone. His friends would be cheering him on, and fighting alongside him in his heart. He smiled and continued going up.

Donald and Goofy trotted back to Alirah, sitting next to her. Goofy tried not to, but he began to laugh. "What's so funny?" Donald asked, not understanding how he could be smiling.

"Aw….I was just thinkin'." He gushed, moving hair from her face.


"Remember when we did that reenactment of Romeo and Juliet?" Donald nodded. "I was thinking about when Alirah played Juliet. She would always be so dramatic about it."

"Yeah." Donald laughed. "I remember when the play was over, she still laid there as if she actually died. When we poked her, she popped up and yelled BOO!" The two fell backwards, laughing too hard to sit up. When they were finally able to sit up, Donald began to cry again. "That's not going to happen now, is it?"

"Nu-uh. I really wish it would." Goofy whimpered. He put a hand over her hand. "I want to tell her how sorry I am. I never thought something like this would happen."

Donald put a hand on Goofy's. "Me neither, pal. Me neither." They soon heard footsteps coming towards them. They readied their weapons. "WHO'S THERE?!" Donald howled, preparing to launch a thunder strike.

"COME AND GET US, IF YOU DARE!" Goofy readied his shield. No one was getting by them. Not the heartless or whoever lurked in the shadows. For Alirah, Donald and Goofy would fight to their last breath.


"Aerith?" They shouted back. Aerith came running in. Merlin was right behind her. "Merlin?! How did you guys get here?" Goofy cheered. He'd never been happier to see anyone in his life.

"Cid lent us his ship." Merlin answered.

"What are you guys doing here?" Donald's question was answered. He saw Hiano in Aerith's arms. This brought hope to him. "HIANO'S STILL HERE!"

"Wa-what's that mean?" Goofy stammered. Inside praying it meant what he thought it meant.

"It means Alirah's still alive and we can bring her back." Merlin answered.

"YAHOO!" Goofy cheered, springing in the air.

"Don't cheer just yet." Merlin warned. Goofy froze mid cheer. "We may be able to heal whatever wounds internal and superficial," He compared Alirah's and Hiano's thwarted dispositions. Hiano held tiny ounces of resilience within him. Alirah resembled a shell, "But unless she wishes to awaken, I am afraid our efforts will be for naught."

"What do ya mean?" Goofy deflated hopelessly back to solid ground.

"Judging by their current state, Alirah is in a darkened state of mind. Hiano has tried to keep her from steeping too far. But the aforementioned figure has reopened old scars to her spirit." He explained simply, not wanting to prolong his and Aerith's mission. "If she is to awaken, it will have to be on her terms, and hers alone. The best we can do is lend our support."

They all heard clanging coming from the upper platform. Sora and Ansem were battling it out. By the sounds of it, Sora was being overwhelmed. Goofy and Donald were torn between rushing to him and staying by Alirah. The field guarding the next level would only bounce them back. If there is any hope for Alirah, Donald and Goofy would be far more useful where they were.

"We'll give more than our support!" Goofy stated, putting his chest out. "Friends are power. Our hearts will bring Alirah back to us!"

"You bet they will!" Donald placed both hands to his chest. "It may have been a rough road, but my heart will never forget the Alirah we know is inside."

"Then let's get started." Aerith urged. She set Hiano on Alirah's stomach. "Everyone put both hands on a part of Alirah." Aerith sat in front of Alirah and put her hands on her forehead. Goofy put his on Alirah's hands. Merlin and Donald took her legs. "When I count to three, everyone – including you, Goofy – say heal. Ready?" Everyone nodded. "One, two, three!"

"HEAL!" Everyone cried. Their hands began to glow green. Bruising from Alirah stab wound faded. The internal bleeding all but halted. The wound itself gradually closed. Alirah was still an ill coloring. Hiano fading between this world and the next.

"Please, Alirah." Aerith whispered, pleading with all her heart. "Keep fighting."


It was pitch black. Not a single ray of light anywhere. It was an abyss of black and purple swirls that spiraled down but seemed like they were going up. It was an endless darkness. Kind of lonely too.

In the center was a red orb. The orb was floating around aimlessly. "Where am I?" It asked. Its voice echoed. "What is this place?"

"The Abyss." Answered another orb. "This is the Abyss you go to when your heart and soul drift from your body, and the darkness is trying to take over."

"Who...who are you?" Red asked.

"I'm a friend. Someone very close to your heart."

"My heart?"

"For now, call me Beige." He greeted.

"Beige..." Red giggled, loving the tingling of the name. "You know...that's my favorite color. Besides purple."

"I know."

"Okay, Beige..." Red accepted, "Who am I?"

"You don't remember?"

"No. I don't even know what I am."

"I see." Beige breathed. "Well…let's just say you're a temporary resident. You're not meant to be here. Not yet."

"Okay. What happened to me?"

"You gave into your fear. A fear you suppressed for quite a while." He answered, sounding impressed. Beige let out dismal sigh. "I never expected you to come here. You least of all."

"Why's that?"

"You always seemed so strong. So full of spirit. I never expected you to let fear take hold of you. Let alone consume you."

"I'm not scared of anything!" Red's glow blinked. It made a heart pulse sound. "OW! What was that?"

"That's what happens you lie."

"I pulsate?"

"When one comes to the abyss, the darkness consumes you based on your charge for being here. Example: your fear. You keep giving into the fear by trying to convince yourself you're not afraid. The more you do that, the more you slip away."

"But I...what was I afraid of?"

"That's what I'm here to help you figure out." Beige floated closer. "So what do you remember? What's the last thing you felt?"

Red seemed to shake its head. "I'm not sure." It answered. "I remember this cold chill. It felt familiar. Like I had experienced it before. It made me…" Red trailed off. A crystal fell from it. "Oh great!" Red wheezed, cursing itself. "I'm crying like a little girl again." Red caught something. "HEY…I'M A GIRL!"

"That's good." Beige praised. "Keep going. What else? What made - or makes - you cry?"

"I saw….blue."


"I never really liked blue. It was always an evil color to me. Huh."


"I think my hair is blue. But it's a pretty, vibrant blue."

"So what BLUE makes you said.'

"A sickening, pasty blue. Always rippling like its angry. It was everywhere."

"Where is everywhere?"

"A castle. I wanted it gone. It wouldn't leave!" Red became worked up. Her glow gained a little luster.

"What did Blue do to you?" Beige pressed. "Why does sickening, pasty Blue bother you?"

"Blue…cornered me. Made me feel weak. But…that's…not why I cried." Red struggled to remember. She grunted and groaned. Memories would come, then go, then come back. They were running. But she kept drawing them back.

"Why did you cry?"

"People I knew…they left. Blue caused it. Blue made it so….people would disappear. Blue loved it when people left me!" She snarled.

"You seem to hate it when people leave." Beige assumed.

"Because they don't come back! They leave me!" More crystals came from red. "No! No I...I can't cry! I don't want to cry in front of you!"

"It's okay to cry."

"Crying doesn't do anything! It only makes Blue laugh!" Blue, blue, blue - what is it about the color blue?

"Why are you here?" Beige pressured. "How did blue cause this? What were you afraid of?"

Red shook. The crystals fell more profusely. "Blue took people from me! In turn I was…alone." The word echoed. "I'm here because…I'm alone. I'm scared to be alone. I wanted to end that fear. I couldn't stand it. Every time I got close, people disappeared. It always reminded me of Xehanort."

"Xehanort?" Beige questioned.

"He's Blue." Red answered. It fit perfectly "Blue always hurt people. Made them cry. Blue hurt...Master Eraqus."

How does Blue hurt you? How does XEHANORT hurt you?" Beige edged closely to red, calming her down.

"When I was alone, blue seemed to be there. In my dreams, my nightmares. I hear his voice. See his eyes. Sometimes I would see him walking around. I always felt alone."

"And anytime you feel alone…" Beige trailed off.

"Anytime I feel alone…" Red trailed off. Someone once said something like that to her. 'Anytime you feel alone...' "...look at the rose." Her voice, and the voice of the one she can't remember resonated. 'A crystal rose. A promise.'

"Red. Who was the rose meant for?"

"A young girl." Figure kneels, passing on crystal rose. " Ugh! I was that girl. it!"


"So he'd always be close." Red groaned idly, twisting in place. "He...swore...he'd always be there." More crystal fell into the abyss

"What's wrong?"

"He lied to me. He said he'd come back. But...but...he-" The pulse struck her again. "Ow!" Then four more times. "EGH-OW! What's...what's happening to me?!" Shadows streams slipped around Red.

"OH NO! The darkness is trying to take you!" Beige stated alarmingly. "Red, please stay strong. You're almost there!" Red bobbed up and down to nod yes. It was becoming a strain. Pinches of her unstable form was dispersing in random directions, being sucked by the darkness. "Red, tell me, what is your name?"

"My….name? I have a name?"

"Of course. Everyone has a name." Red wheezed intensely. Sparks popped in tandem to her struggling to the remember. It fizzled when she recalled nothing. "Here's a hint. Starts with an A."

"A?" Red sounded it out. A made different sounds. "" That sounded...familiar. "Uh...L...Uh...Lee..."

"Yes, yes. There you go." Beige praised excitedly.

Other letters popped into her head. The name wrote itself, the letters fresh in her mind. But the pronunciation eluded her. For now. 'A...L...I...R...A...H' A pretty name. Unique. "Uh...lee...r...uh...Alirah?" Beige chuckled. "My name's...Alirah." A bright, warm, flash of a light consumed the abyssal space. Alirah in her full form emerged. She opened her eyes to the darkness. She wasn't surprised. She wasn't scared. She was only sad. She groaned miserably, holding her pounding head. A whole set of memories returned to her. However, they were dark, dreary, and full of sadness.

"What is the matter?"

"I've hurt so many people." She curled into a ball. "I treated them cruelly, and betrayed them to a heartless witch."

"Why would you do such a thing?"

"I wanted my friends back. No one else would help me."

"They were trying to protect you. You were too young to save anyone back then."

"That didn't matter to me." She moaned gloomily. "I make him pay. Make Xehanort pay for what he had done. Nothing else...mattered."

"What happened to that goal?"

Alirah was grimaced at the question. She knew what happened. "I turned all of that rage onto those close to me. I hurt them to lessen the pain in my heart." She pressed her fingers to her chest, able to feel her heart weeping. She stared terrified at her hands. "But the pain only increased, and I couldn't stop. Then Kairi and the other princesses got into the mix. I couldn't..."

"You couldn't leave them as they were?"

"I couldn't leave them with Maleficent! She would have destroyed them! They don't deserve that!" She exclaimed shrilly. Shadows of Jasmine, Belle, Alice, Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora appeared around her. Kairi appeared before her. Alirah wavered in their presence, feeling arrows of their stares pierce her. "None of them deserved this. Least of all..." She touched a hand to Kairi's cheek, able to see her as that bright eyed little girl she had met all those years ago. "I never meant for any of this to happen. It's too late to take it back." She shook her lowering head.

"It's never too late." Beige assured her. He swung in the air, conjuring Serpent's Cry to float by Alirah. "Not if you fight." Serpent's Cry. Hiano's prison and the weapon that chose her. Alirah turned her back on the Keyblade. "What's this? You're giving up?"

"I don't deserve it." She cursed her hand that she turned on her friends. "The Keyblade is meant to protect, not harm. I violated that oath."

"Not violated. Lost your way." Beige corrected. Alirah failed to see the difference. "Listen to me, Alirah. Many of us lose our way when in the face of despair. Make no mistake about that." She agreed with that assessment. "But there come times where we are granted a chance to reconcile for our past mistakes. As you wallow in this plane, your chance is passing by."

"Do you really think everyone will forgive me?" She questioned him doubtfully. "That I...can truly make up for what I've done?"

"To be honest, I don't know what will happen. But I do know you don't want to be with Hades in the Underworld just yet." Alirah shuddered at the thought. Being trapped and tormented by Hades for all eternity. She'd rather be possessed. Looking back at Kairi and the princesses, it wouldn't be right if she gave up the ghost before they were returned home. And Aerith. Alirah hated seeing Aerith sad. Oh Aerith.

"Huh?" Her pocket felt heavy. Sort of warm. Rummaging through it, the Wayfinder Aqua made found her palm. A flush of happy memories and feelings tied to the charm washed over her.

All the times she's used her Keyblade to fight for others. How she swore to always protect. The oath she swore when Eraqus welcomed her as a future master. They fed her drive to strive. Alirah stared at her Keyblade thoughtfully. Hiano would give her all sorts of Hell if she abandoned it. That and it wouldn't feel quite right if she didn't have it. She slowly, unsurely, wrapped her fingers to the hilt. A light sealed her ownership of the blade, returning her lost strength. She snickered at it.

"It's funny. I'm not sure what to do now."

"What do you mean?"

"I've been fighting for myself for so long, I'm not sure what to do." The star shined, bringing a picture into view. She saw Donald, Goofy, Aerith, and Merlin. They were crying. "Humph. They missed me that much." She remarked impishly.

"Of course." Beige remarked. "Who wouldn't? Even though you can be a pain." He laughed. Alirah laughed with him.

The image shifted to Sora. "Sora..." An admirable He was fighting Riku. "Ansem. That's what he's calling himself."

"Here's your second chance. Fight for them..." The view zoomed to the false Riku, revealing the heinous blue treating his form like a puppet, "And save the one you love."

"Right!" She grasped her Keyblade with confidence. The princesses, Riku, Sora - everyone who journeyed so far to save her. She was going to return the favor. She stopped and stared at Beige dreamily. The space fading into light. "Thank you…Terra."


Sora was hurtled into the steps at the base of the final door. Sharp pain in his back, robbed the wind from his lungs. He groaned dazedly, leaning up on his elbow. That lump on his head would be hurting in the morning.

Riku, now revealed to be the Seeker of Darkness - Ansem - brought his Keyblade down. Sora pressed his Keyblade head to his other palm. The Keyblade of Hearts locked shrilly with the Kingdom Key. Sora dug in his feet, pushing up and edging Ansem a couple steps. He used the stairs and lunged, shoving Ansem back a ways and struck again. Ansem repelled the attack and went on a raging offensive.

Ansem and Sora had been fighting for the last ten minutes. Both had scratches and bruises, but neither was letting up on the other. Their Keyblades cries echoed in the hall, arousing slumbering creatures to bear witness to a heated battle.

Sora went for the feet. Ansem jumped behind and jabbed. Sora spun and swung at his head. Ansem ducked backwards, kicking the Keyblade up. He flipped onto his feet, thrusting his blade forward. Sora spun the blade down, diverting Ansem's aim. Ansem brought a foot up. It made contact with Sora's stomach. Sora was thrown into one of the consoles overlooking the large hall's lower floor. He groaned trying to lift himself up on his elbows. Ansem walked up and slammed a foot on Sora's chest.

"Try staying down, Boy. It'll make things less painful for you and the princess." He mocked.

"No...I can't...Riku..." Sora stammered incoherently. He was so close. He extended a hand, longing for Kairi to lend him her strength again. He fought so hard to reach this point. Beat every villain who would stand in his way. Now it's over. He can't fight anymore. "Kairi...Riku..." His hand dropped with defeat. "I'm so sorry."

"Riku is no longer here, Sora." Ansem pointed the Keyblade at Sora's chest. "And soon, neither will you." Sora closed his eyes. "Now Princess! Open the final door, AND LEAD ME INTO EVERLASTING DARKNESS!" He raised the blade over Sora's chest, grasped both hands to the hilt, and brought it down.

Clang! The plunge was stopped. Sora opened one eye. One Keyblade, not his, stopped Riku's. Serpent's Cry. Both of Sora's eyes shot open. "ALIRAH!" He cheered. Alirah was holding back Ansem with her Keyblade.

"GET-AWAY-FROM-HIM!" She managed to push him away. Ansem stumbled backwards. "Sorry I'm late. Soul searching is harder than I thought." She winked at Sora. He laughed breathlessly. He'd never been so happy to see her.

"Impossible!" Ansem roared. "How are you still alive?!"

"Dying crossed my mind. But I forgot something very important." Alirah boasted. She flourished her Keyblade. Ansem faltered at the tip aligning dangerously close to his chest. "You have yet another person that belongs to me. Although, unlike before," Alirah shifted into her stance, "You won't be walking AWAY WITH HIM!"

Alirah launched, striking relentlessly. He charged threw Ansem off guard, He flimsily raised his blade, nearly losing it in the parry. Ansem tried his hardest to block. Her attacks were faster, stronger, and more fierce than when he first encountered her. His hand grew numb with every strike. Alirah kicked his knee in. Ansem fell on it. Alirah kneed him in the nose. He fell back. Alirah put her blade to his neck. Ansem froze in dismay with his hands spread out.

"Inconceivable!" Ansem blurted, chest rising and falling hysterically. "How do you possess such strenght?"

"Not so tough now, are ya OLD MAN?" She jeered triumphantly.

"This is...this is impossible!" Ansem frothed. She has been at the forefront of his wrath for years. The foothold of his triumph. The only surviving victim he savored. "I will not be defeated by a lost CHILD!" Ansem tossed his hands forward. Alirah brought the Keyblade down and impaling him in the chest. Ansem, with Riku's face, cried out in agony.

"This may not get you out," She snarled, "Just know that you've pushed me, now I'm pushing back!" She wrenched it from his chest. He faded out of sight. Alirah stood back, releasing a relieved yet disheartened breath. "Forgive me...Riku." She turned to Sora. He was dumbstruck. Alirah walked over to him and punched him on the head. "Stop looking so surprised. I told you I'm not easy to get rid of." She winked, touching two fingers to the side of her head. Sora rose to his feet. Bumps and blows Ansem left on him throbbed. He stumbled to Alirah. "WHOA! CAREFUL!" She caught him under his arms, propping him on his feet. "Easy, Sora. You took a beating."

"Alirah…" He trailed off in amazement. Hiano slithered out as well. "Hiano. GUYS!" Sora suddenly trapped them in a tight hug. "You're alive!"

Alirah was wide mouthed, unsure how to really react. She hadn't expected a hug from him. "Yes…yes we are." She carefully hugged back. A strange fuzzy feeling shared to her. 'This truly worthy. Don't you think, Ven?' Hiano slithered free of the embrace, preferring to supervise from her head. Donald and Goofy came up the stairs, overjoyed to see Sora and Alirah getting along. Alirah, Sora, and Hiano looked over to them. It was like a family reunion. But it was short lived. They still had business to take care of. "Where are Aerith and Merlin?"

"Went back to the falls. They're prepping the ship for departure." Donald informed.

"Okay. Sora, seal that keyhole so we can end this." Sora nodded and went over to it. Alirah went over to Kairi. She knelt down to her. "You've grown so much, Kairi. Your grandma would be proud of you."

"Alirah! We have a problem!" Sora called. "The keyhole isn't working."

Alirah walked over, studying the keyhole closely. "How odd." She sensed the darkness flowing as strongly as before. Normally when Sora's Keyblade is near, the darkness become timid. It wasn't showing the slightest signs of slowing. I wonder...

"Why wouldn't it work? I mean," Sora stared at his Keyblade in failure, "I've been able to lock all the keyholes before."

"Because this one's different." Alirah answered. "There was this all-seeing mirror I ran into a while back. He said, this keyhole isn't complete without..." she looked back, sighing soberly. "Without Kairi's heart, the keyhole won't work."

"Then how do we fix it?" Donald asked.

"Kairi's Heart needs to be returned. Otherwise this world will be swallowed."

Sora touched his heart, closing his hand. "It's inside me." He noticed Alirah look at him strangely. "Kairi's heart has been inside me. She called out to me and saved me from Ansem." Alirah was taken aback. That explains the light she sees in him. It's Kairi's.

"Well we'd have to get her heart out of you." Alirah stated forebodingly. "My Keyblade doesn't steal hearts."

Sora had an idea. It was risky, but it may just work. He walked back to the center of the room. He picked up Riku's discarded Keyblade. "The key to unlock people's hearts." Sora studied. The blade disappeared and reappeared in Alirah's hand. Alirah Analyzed it. 'Heart...and Soul.' Was the mirror talking about this? "Alirah?"

She exhaled resignedly. "I hear you." She walked over to him. The two faced off. "You sure you want to do this?"

"What choice do we have?"

"Sora, I don't know what this will do to you."

"I'll take the risk. Kairi, the princesses - everyone is counting on us." He held steadfast in his decision. His beaming blue eyes resonating with fiery determination. Alirah nodded. The Keyblade chose well. She held the Keyblade at the ready. Sora breathed in, closing his eyes.

"ALIRAH! DON'T!" Donald begged.

WAIT, SORA! HOLD ON!" Goofy implored.

Sora put on a huge grin for them. He wasn't worried. He was terrified. Alirah squeezed her eyes shut. She thrust the Keyblade forward, plunging it deep into Riku's chest. A light shined from him, and from the blade came seven hearts. They fluttered in the air, tasting a freedom stolen from them. Alirah pulled the blade from Sora's chest. He welcomed the release of his heart, for the sake of those who lost theirs. The hearts dispersed returning to their princess. Their eyes fluttered open, locked in a sleepless daze. As Sora began to disappear, Kairi's heart returned to her. She awoke almost instantly, sitting up in time to see Sora disappearing.

"SORA! SOOORRRAAA...!" Donald sprinted for him. Sora's fading figure started to fall for the ground.

"Sora!" Kairi called to him.

"KAIRI!" Alirah gasped. Kairi ran and tried to grab hold of him. But by the time she wrapped her arms around him, Sora was gone. Several balls of strobing lights floating to the ceiling, disappearing into the shadows.

"SORA! COME BACK, SORA!" Donald pleaded. Alirah dropped to her knees, staking the Keyblade in the ground. She watched his particles fade away, vanishing into darkness. She knew Sora asked her to do it. She just couldn't believe he was gone.

Kairi shook her head, unable to understand what had happened. It aggravated her further when she realized she was in a castle she hadn't recognized. Absolutely nothing made a lick of sense. Then she saw Allirah with the heart blade. Bits of Sora's essence fizzled to a snuff.

"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?" Kairi cried. Alirah lifted her head miserably. Kairi stormed over to her. She climbed to her feet, meeting the fuming Kairi. Hm. She's still shorter than me. He jovial comment rattled to the back of her head being shaken by Kairi. "What did you do to Sora?"

"Only what he asked me to do." She replied.

"Well what happened to him?" Kairi asked impatiently.

Alirah shook her head. She didn't have a clue. Sora's light was completely gone. Alirah gently removed Kairi's hands, lowering her head remorsefully. "I'm sorry, Kairi."

"No…it can't be…." She felt light in the head. Unbearable weight pressed on her head and shoulders. She fell into Alirah, burying her hands and weeping eyes in her chest. Alirah wrapped her arms around her. "He...can't be gone. I WON'T LET HIM GO!" She declared.

Alirah wished she could comfort her. Words would only hurt her worse. Alirah just stood there, holding Kairi close. Sora. Wherever you are, get back soon. "Hm!" Her brow knit. She pushed Kairi behind her, summoning Serpent's Cry.

"What is it?" Kairi asked frightened.

A powerful darkness was converging on their position. "DONALD! GOOFY!" Donald and Goofy drew their weapons. They leapt for Alirah. Forming a semicircle around Kairi. Alirah had the Heart Blade and Serpent's Cry in hand. Why the Heart blade hadn't disappeared? She had no idea. For now it was hers to abuse. "Where are you, Ansem? I know you're there!"

"Ever the perceptive child." He answered mockingly. He meandered into view, standing tall and proudly in his true form. Alirah's heart sank. Riku was gone. Wait. A familiar twinge emanated from Ansem. Riku. "You're not the only one with a mission to complete, Alirah. There are far too many plans on my plate for me to let spoil." Kairi stayed behind Alirah. Ansem tilted his head, smirking wolfishly. "So, you have awakened at last, Princess." He commented. Alirah made sure Kairi was protected. Donald and Goofy were ready to pounce as soon as she gave the word. "The keyhole is now complete. You've served your purpose. But now it's over."

"So you think!" Alirah spat. She raised Serpents Cry. Purple streams visible to her snaked the blade in a blink. She smiled in relief. "Technically you aren't human. So my morals don't forbid me from doing this. Riku!" A bright ball shot from the key and hit Ansem in the chest.

Ansem laughed at her pitiful attack. "Don't you remember? Your magic has no effect on me." He boasted. "My soul was cast into the abyss long ago.

"But I wasn't aiming for you!" She smirked. "Lest you forget, the outer husk bears no interest to me." Ansem challenged her bluff and moved in. The ball of his foot cramped on the first step. He couldn't move. Alirah smiled.

"What?! What have you done?!" He hissed, struggling to get free.

"My specialty is souls, remember? Riku's is in you, still kicking!" She exuberantly announced. Kairi's despaired expression brightened. "His body may be gone, but his heart and soul remain!" Gold and purple streams spiraled the length of the blade, fueling Alirah's coming assault. "Those alone will turn you into the puppet!"

"You would use the man you love in such a manner?" He mocked, straining to budge the slightest inch.

"The man she loves?" Kairi repeated dreamily, looking at Alirah.

"Oh I'm only giving him a nudge." Alirah's crooned impishly. "Riku's going to be the one in control here."

Ansem growled venomously through gritted teeth, literally frothing at the mouth. His darkness poured from his body in a dense haze, alleviating the restraints barring his movements. "I...WILL...DESTROY YOU!" He stiffly stepped forward. Then another step.

Alirah twirled her blade, pulling it toward her and brushing her side. Ansem choked on air, lurching to a halt. A bright silhouette materialized. "No! You…won't…use me for this!" Riku emerged in Ansem's path, spreading his arms. Ansem struggled against the restraining boy. Will these children never cease with their foolish resolve.

"RIKU!" Kairi called.

Alirah put a hand in front of her, telling her to stay there. "Riku, you can only be in control for a few minutes. Better not screw this up!" Alirah ordered. Riku would not be coming with them.

"Then take Kairi and run!" He shot back sarcastically. "The heartless are coming!" Heartless began to appear. Windows, doors - all exits were blocked.

"YOU WILL NOT ESCAPE!" Ansem roared.

Alirah opened a portal and directed everyone to jump through. Kairi took one last look at Riku and went through. Goofy and Donald followed after her. "I swear I'll come back for you!" Alirah pledged.

"I'll be waiting!" Riku's strength began to wane. "Don't take too long." Alirah nodded, then escaped into the portal.

"ARRRGH!" Ansem roared. Riku looked at him with a smug grin. "That girl can't keep me from your heart forever!" He declared. "I claimed Terra! I will claim you, and I will eliminate Alirah to do so."

"That's where you're wrong!" Riku spat back. "You've tried so many times to kill her. What makes you think you'll succeed this time?"

"Because I came close tonight."

"According to her you've come close in the past! But all facts point to you never actually completing the task! And do you know why?"

"I'm sure you'll tell me, boy." Ansem laughed derisively.

"Because Terra won't let you." Ansem gritted his teeth. "Terra swore he'd always protect her. He's living up to that vow." Ansem inhaled two deep breaths. Oh how he wished he could hit the boy for his impudence. Riku continued to badger him. "Now I see why Alirah admired him so much. Because even in when he's gone, he still prevents you from carrying out your missions. Looks like you didn't claim him as much as you thought." Ansem squinted his eyes. Riku folded his arms. He felt like he had won the argument.

Ansem began to laugh. It was deep, low, and maniacal. It echoed throughout the whole hall. Riku shivered. "But I bet you wish I had." He said slyly.


"Riku, I know Alirah as well as those from that pathetic Disney castle. Her feelings for Terra burn as hot as they did nine years ago. Blossoming into full fledge love." Riku turned away, trying to hide his blush. "What makes you think she truly loves you?" Riku let out a breath, touching his lips. "I know she kissed you. But was it because she cared about you? Or because you remind her of Terra?" Riku blinked at the dark skinned man. Before he could deny and berate a ridiculous claim, Riku began to fade away. Unfortunately, Ansem saw the heartbreak on his face. Ansem gave him one finally smirk and regained control over his body, inhaling sweet liberty. "Now then, to finish what I started." He faced the final door.

Till next time.