A/N: Just a note I want to make, Kadia and DarkGuitarGoddess are the same person, it's just that between the time I started this fic and this chapter she has since changed her username and changed her keyblade from the custom Cutting Note to the in-series keyblade Oblivion. So, yeah, just had to say it to avoid bringing on confusion.
You may be left a touch disoriented by the first half of this chapter. This, too, shall pass.
Chapter 9: Deductive Reasoning
"Thunder!" she cried, and a bolt of lightning spontaneously formed to strike a Hollow. Kadia kept up her momentum, stringing together several bolts into a combo. She swept her keyblade around at high speed, fending off a clawed creature with four arms. She parried a blow, and knocked it backwards. "Souldude!"
"On it!" TL's right arm glowed with a rose-colored aura, and the energy turned solid as his aura arm thrashed outwards, grabbed the Hollow from where it lay dazed, and slammed it down into the ground. He grabbed it again, and threw it upwards.
Kitten Hachi-chan extended both hands toward the airborne Hollow. "Ice Bomb!" A brief wind rustled her clothes and hair, and a ball of ice flew at the Hollow. Her aim was dead-on; the projectile put a layer of ice over the creature and sent it flying even higher.
Bang! came the sound of a shot being fired, a spiraling pale blue bullet moving at untraceable speeds. Hurricane's Quill smoothly blew the smoke from Dragon Breaker's muzzle, and grinned as the bullet made contact. "Hey, batter batter, hey, batter, swing!"
Kadia held her sword like a baseball bat and moved into position. As it descended to just the right place, she swung as hard as she could, slicing through the Hollow and shattering its mask. "Home run! And the crowd goes wild!" She shrieked as a wormlike creature dove for her, and she inelegantly darted to the side to avoid its five rows of sharp teeth. "How is that thing supposed to jump if it doesn't have legs? Fire!"
Despite her age, Kadia's skills were undeniable. Though she lacked the raw power her sister had, her period of actual training more than made up for it. No movement was wasted, every spell cast hit its target.
She slashed, ducked, and seemed to dance as she avoided a cluster of needles. She charged at the worm that had tried to bite her head off. She sidestepped its initial lunge and dragged the tip of her keyblade along its back, slicing straight through the mask on the back of its neck.
In the corner of her eye she picked up movement. Kadia whirled around and prepared to stab at whatever was trying to sneak up on her. It was covered it white, but it certainly was not a Hollow.
Kadia's expression quickly turned to confusion. "..Fee? How...you're you again, but how?"
Phoenix's expression, meanwhile, was nervous, her eyes focused on the tip of Kadia's keyblade less than a foot away from her chest. Her arms were up in the air in a gesture of surrender. Along her inner left forearm was a jagged cut, still soaking through her duster. "Um. Could you..."
"Huh? Oh, right." Kadia shook her head. "Here, give me your arm. I'm not very good at healing magic, but I can keep it from bleeding too much more." Phoenix extended her left arm for Kadia to examine. The younger sister carefully examined the injury by touch. Phoenix winced. Kadia ran a finger down the length of the cut, and whispered a word. A green glow touch the line, slowly mending the laceration through magic. "What happened? You...and your arm..."
"Phoenix, you're back to normal!" Kitten said cheerfully as she approached, as TL and Quill finished off the last of the Hollows in the area. She caught sight of Phoenix's arm, and paled. "Oh...that's a lot of blood..."
Phoenix brought her arm down and covered the bloodstains with her other hand. "Sorry," she mumbled.
"No, no, it's okay, don't apologize, I'm okay," Kitten said, slowly recovering from her faint spell. "So, then, where's-"
An explosion went off, courtesy of Quill, and Hollow guts dripped on the ground with a plop, courtesy of TL. "And there's the last of them," TL said. He slid the UFO blade back into its sheath.
"So, finally back to normal," Quill said, approaching Phoenix, Kadia, and Kitten.
"Yeah, thank god." Phoenix smiled weakly.
"I meant to ask-" Kitten cut in. "Where's X gone?"
Phoenix flinched. "Ah...I don't..."
"Went off to fight on his own, probably," TL said. He tucked his hands behind his head while he caught his breath.
"Did he have something to do with your arm?" Four pairs of eyes went to Kitten. "I mean...when I said his name, you flinched, and you keep on covering your arm, and that cut's fresh and the way you're talking it sounds like you were just separated..." She trailed off, her gaze going to the ground.
Three remaining pairs of eyes went back to Phoenix. She hesitated for a long moment before she spoke. "I...I..." She gritted her teeth. "I said I wouldn't talk about it, he was just angry, and the separation was traumatic, and I know it was my fault." She rubbed her eyes and tried to think of the words before talking again.
"There was...a guy, in a black helmet. He had the Substitute Shinigami Badge-" She babbled a quick explanation of Yoruichi Shihoin's idea "-we were put right, just like she said. And X, he just came after me!"
"I don't know! He kept on criticising me, I know it was my fault this happened to us, my fault that all of this happened, and he-he did this." She put a hand to her arm. "He stormed off, he wasn't himself, I thought maybe it was just the rush of anger, that I wouldn't have to say anything..."
TL shook his head. "Hold on, hold on, back up. What's 'all of this' that happened?"
Phoenix's hands clenched and unclenched. She seemed to look off into the distance. "All of this. I couldn't let go of my grudge against X, so we wound up fighting so much. And the Hollows. That guy in the helmet...he was working with some 'Xehanort'. Xehanort is the leader of an organization that wants...they want my..." She froze in mid-sentence.
Quill was the first to turn in the direction Phoenix was looking. He pulled back the hammer on his revolver. The others quickly turned to look the same way.
Across the square, X Prodigy stood. Every weapon was sheathed, but he had stopped in mid-stride. His posture was straight, muscles in his hands tight. For a moment, the only sound was that of breathing.
Kadia stepped in front of Phoenix. "What do you want now, X?"
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Quill demanded to know.
"Apologize, or at least say something!" TL snapped.
X was silent for a moment more. He tilted his head to the side. "What's going on here?" There was no reply, only accusatory stares. "Hmph. Well, fine, TL, sorry. What am I apologizing for this time?"
"Are you crazy or something?" Red sparks danced over his left hand. "Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, that's no excuse to try and chop somebody's arm off!"
"Thank you, Mr. Moral, I'll try to keep that in mind." X's hand dropped, and reached for a gun holster. Quill was faster.
"Hands up, X, before I do something we'll both regret," he said, aiming Dragon Breaker at X's chest. He took several steps forward.
"You wouldn't shoot me," X said matter-of-factly.
"Want to wager a lung on that?"
X reached for the holsters on his back, and had them halfway free before two people shouted out "STOP!"
Everyone froze once again. TL and Kitten looked at each other, and TL started first. "Hold on, this isn't helping anything! Why don't we all just calm down and-" He brought his arm forward like pitching a softball. A sphere of crackling white energy flew at X. The Hollow Devil threw himself to the side, but the sphere clipped his arm. He grunted in pain. When he had stopped moving, his arm was drooping, unmoving. He could feel pins and needles all the way up his arm.
"So that was the neural disruption blast?" X closed his eyes. "Some peacekeeper, resorting to an attack to keep the peace."
"Works better than a gun," TL said, shooting a glare at Quill. He prepared to fire another nerve-numbing blast, this one aiming to knock X unconscious.
"Would you all just STOP IT!" Kitten shrieked. Every eye went to her.
Phoenix had yet to say a word since X's arrival. Under her breath, so quiet nobody could hear her, she said "Oh?"
Kitten tried to gather her composure. "I...this...and X...her arm...this doesn't add up. I mean...
"X, I know that you're an amazing swordsman, and really strong. But your sword is massive, it's almost four feet long. And the edge of a sword can't be too fine, or it'll chip, right?" She gulped. In a slightly softer tone, she said "The cut on Phoenix's arm...it's only about three inches long, it's straight as an arrow, deep but thin, and avoided every major vein."
There was dead silence. Phoenix reached to her sister, and put a hand on her shoulder. Kadia barely noticed it.
Kitten looked to X. "You didn't attack Phoenix." It was a statement, not a question. "You couldn't have. Hardly anyone could have."
"..." X looked from Kitten standing stoically, to Quill slowly lowering his gun, to TL dispersing the energy around his fist, to Kadia gaping in disbelief, then to Phoenix.
X swore loudly.
"Not bad, Kitten. You're so good at solving riddles, why don't you try this one: two people here are wearing a mask, but only one of them is a liar." Phoenix grinned madly. "I'll give you a hint: X isn't a liar."
Phoenix tightened her grip on Kadia's shoulder, and made a quick movement forward. Kadia froze, and nearly collapsed as a knife entered her back. It withdrew, and Phoenix wrapped her arm around Kadia's neck. She raised the blood-stained butterfly knife to eye level. "Move or say anything and I'll cut off your blood supply."
Kadia was breathing heavily as life drained out of her in crimson droplets.
"Back it up, " Phoenix spat. "Or else who knows what'll happen to this pretty little face." She lightly traced Kadia's skin with the knife, smiling like a child playing with a doll.
Each of the other Authors took several steps away. Kitten, Quill, and TL had been struck dumb with shock. X's teeth were ground tight.
"Ha." Phoenix's eyes shined. "Shouldv'e looked at the eyes." Deep scarlet, like a pool of blood.
TL gasped. "No way...you can't be-"
"Took enough clues." She chuckled lightly. "You fools."
9:02 P.M: 42 minutes earlier.
Vanitas opened his palm, pulled his arm back, stepped forward, and slammed Ichigo Kurosaki's Substitute Shinigami Badge into her forehead. Phoenix staggered back a step as she was met by the sudden sensation of being torn in two. For a moment, everything became crystal clear, every sensation heightened to a point she could barely stand.
Just as quickly, everything went numb. Phoenix tried to summon the keyblade to attack the boy, but the Flicker of Hope would not come. She tried to create a wave of high air pressure with the manipulation of gravity, but that sixth sense was gone. Her mind intended to go diving for him to tackle him to the ground, to fight him hand-to-hand if need be, but her arms only trembled lightly.
She tried to take a step backward, to turn around and run away from the threat. Her legs were stiff.
Her jaw felt like it had been nailed shut. A small voice in the back of her head said: please, just let me scream. I need to scream so badly, let me scream.
She looked down at herself, and saw the infinite void beneath her. Shackles bound her wrist and ankle to the intangible ground.
"Sayonara, Warden." There was a pause. "Though...I suppose this makes you the Prisoner, doesn't it?"
The darkness had begun to creep up over her feet. Her wrists had begun to bleed from pulling so hard at the shackles. Brown hair hung a curtain over her features. From chest-down she could no longer see herself. Her breathing was rapid, eyes wide, skin pale.
Phoenix was consumed by darkness, and the Prisoner came into the light.
She rolled her shoulders. "Ah..." She searched for a hairpiece, and rolled her eyes upon finding absolutely nothing. No wonder she didn't see that one coming-she can probably barely see anything with her hair in her face. She did her hair up in a messy braid, enough to keep it out of her face for a bit. Now then, for my grand premiere.
She ignored Vanitas, and turned to X Prodigy. Well, he's not a complete idiot, at least. He knows something's up. "What was that boast? I wasn't exactly paying attention."
"You." Every nerve was on edge, the initial burst of adrenaline following separation gone and replaced with a fierce intensity. "What did you do?"
The Prisoner looked at him innocently. "Me? I didn't do a thing! That old man provoked the two of you into synchronizing so well, then he-" She gestured vaguely in Vanitas's direction "-punched your soul out of this body. Your minds were so tightly intertwined, your mental barriers had to be torn down just to pull them apart. She couldn't put up any kind of resistance, it was like she was asking me to take this body for myself!"
"You're disgusting, Prisoner."
For the first time, the mad smile left her face. Her eyes narrowed, while her mouth became a thin line. "That 'title'...it's so foul, don't you think?" She did not expect a reply, nor did she receive one. "Deprecating. Some attempt of hers to feel superior to somebody. No, I'm no longer a Prisoner, so why should I be referred to as such? I need a name, a real name. Let's see here..."
She thought for a moment, then snapped her fingers. "I've got it.
"Born from the shadows, I am the darkness that would blot out the light. Call me Eclipse."
Kadia coughed out a few words. "Let her go."
"Let her go? Ha!" Eclipse tightened her grip. "Let who go? Your precious big sister is nearly gone. I'm destroying her memories as we speak. Soon enough, Phoenix of the Darkness will not exist." She put the tip of the butterfly knife just beneath Kadia's right eye and slowly pulled upwards. A drop of blood welled from the cut. Kadia shook madly, her eyes focused tightly on the knife, her expression one of growing horror.
"Bah! All of you... You just fell for the oldest trick in the book. I just had to get here faster than him-" She nodded in X's direction. "-slice open my arm, and play up the sob story for all it was worth. After all, if you find a lion next to a wounded gazelle, what would you assume?" She flicked the tip of her knife upwards, putting a cut three inches long up Kadia's face, just barely skipping over her eye to slash through her eyebrow.
Eclipse released her grip on Kadia, folded away her knife, and made a windmilling motion with her arm. "Gravity Slam." She brought her arm forward to release a high-pressure burst that knocked Kadia ten feet across the ground. Kadia grunted in pain as she tried to push herself up. Her arms wobbled from the strain. Somebody put a hand on her shoulder. X's grip was strong, but gentle.
"Don't-you'll hurt yourself worse."
"Now, I know what you're thinking!" Eclipse said loudly, uncaring of Kadia nearly fainting. "'She calls us fools, but the jokes on her! Now she doesn't have a hostage!' Well, what about this one." She pointed at her chest with a blood-stained hand. "You Authors-you would do anything for your nakama. You would sacrifice the world to save a friend. I should know-it took that girl months and months to work up the nerve to knock off the Bully-Hunter Alchemist when she knew he wasn't ever coming back. And it was the guilt of doing that that made me. You wouldn't dare-"
"Hell's Fang." With a single stroke, X Prodigy unleashed a wave of demonic energy that nearly scorched the Prisoner to ash, had she not made a flying leap to the side.
Eclipse was twitching slightly. "OI, WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH YOU! WEREN'T YOU EVEN LISTENING TO ME?"
"Certainly." X cracked his neck. "But here's another fact that brings your whole argument crashing down: you wouldn't dare do anything to that body that would potentially cripple you. Sure, you could use that knife a bit more, but you wouldn't chop off a finger or break any bones too badly. The only reason I didn't attack you earlier is because I was hoping to get any possible hostages out of your grip. So, care to try for another reason I can't attack you, Eclipse?"
Eclipse clenched her fist so hard it shook. "You...you're really pushing it, Hollow Devil."
Electricity and disruptions of the air surrounded Eclipse's hands. Just as X charged for her, she threw her hands forward. "Gravita Spark!" A shockwave erupted outwards, charged with electrical sparks that turned it into a miniature stormcloud. There was a crack of thunder that came with the superheating of the air, and the storm struck. Sparks swept along his skin, and spots along his arms and legs went numb. Dust and dirt was kicked into the air by the shifting pressure, forming a makeshift smoke screen.
"Later, suckers!" Eclipse's footsteps grew fainter as she ran, and it finally grew silent. The dust settled, and the last few sparks of electricity met the ground and dispersed.
X swore, and sheathed his blade. "I'm going after her. The rest of you-"
"Are coming with you!" TL interjected. "You think we're going to sit around while Phoenix is in trouble? No way!"
Kadia was standing shakily. "What he said. That's my sister!" She grunted with the effort, and put an arm across her stomach as she was stricken with a jolt of pain.
X gritted his teeth with irritation. Every second he was delayed, the trail grew colder. "For the love of God, think! What if she pulls another wounded gazelle gambit? 'Oh Dawn, help me, the others have gone crazy and attacked me!' 'Thank God I've found you, Loony, some Hollow made the others go after me!' You need to find the others and tell them what's going on, before even more people get hurt!"
He did not wait for an answer. X turned, and ran as fast as his legs could carry him. That crazy cowardly thing I'm gonna knock her silly!