I walked over to one of the podiums and picked up the book that was lying on it. "A book?" I asked, looking at it incredulously. "I get a book?"

"It's the power of knowledge. It will help you hold the wit and quick thinking needed for surviving in the world that faces you."

"Okay…" I said, nodding as I opened it and felt a bit of the books' power filling me.

It was an amazing feeling. It was as though all the answers were just being placed in front of me. And they were all so simple. It was amazing that I'd never thought of them before. But as soon as I shut the book they vanished. I couldn't recall a single one of them.

Setting the book down, I walked over to the next podium and picked up the silver chain lying on it. Attached to the chain was a beautiful heart shaped jewel. "A necklace?"

"It's the power of courage. With it you'll be able to conquer any fears that stand between you and you goals."

"But can't fear be helpful sometimes? Aside from holding you back at times, it makes you cautious about walking into situations that could be potentially dangerous."

"You'll still feel a bit of fear. But the courage within the jewel will help you push past it and continue on with your journey."

I nodded and set the necklace down, going to the last podium. I picked it up. A small ring with a heart on it, weather it was glass or an actual diamond I wasn't sure. It was gorges. And the power it held was tremendous. Just sitting in my hand, it was leaking it energy and power into my very being. I couldn't even imagine what it felt like to actually wear it. "That is the power of heart. With it you'll never feel the urge to betray or give up on anything. All darkness within you will be gone. You'll find troubles to be non-existent on your upcoming journey."

I quickly set the ring back down and looked at it with a longing expression. That ring… it was so tempting. It would make the whole experience so much easier. But it was too much power. I couldn't handle that type of power being within me. I wouldn't allow myself to take it.

And the necklace. It was a tempting offer as well. To be able to push past the fear I would be facing so much more easily… it would be amazing but I couldn't let myself have it either. I needed to conquer my fears on my own. Not with the help of a necklace.

Then there was the book. It would solve everything, wouldn't it? It would give me the answers as I needed them. But wouldn't that be sort of cheating? It was like a giant book of cheat codes for my life. I didn't want that. Well… I did WANT it, but I wasn't going to give into the want.

Maybe I was being slightly prideful by not allowing myself to take any of the help. I was definitely being stupid for it. But it was I felt was right. And that was what was most important to me in the situation. Hopefully it didn't end up being my downfall.

"I'm not taking any of them," I said finally.

"Really?" the voice asked, its tone sounding surprised yet slightly impressed. "You're sure about this decision?"

"Positive."

"Well then… all that's left is for you to choose something from the podiums behind you then."

I looked back and saw that there were three new podiums. One held a sword. The next one held a staff. And the third held a shield. Strength, magic, and protection. It was just like the beginning of the first game. Or was it? "Are they the same?" I asked, looking up even though there was nothing but darkness to be seen.

"Exactly the same," the voice responded.

"So… I'm going to have to get through more podiums and… and fight that… that... that thing?"

"Yes."

"And if I can't defeat it?" I asked, my voice barely above a whisper.

"You'll have to find that out for yourself."

Tears began filling my eyes as what the voice had told me sunk it. "B-but… what if I die? I'm not ready for this type of thing! I'm not ready to die! This is real life! Not a video game! If I die then I really die! There aren't any second chances when it comes to life and death in this world! There aren't any restart buttons! I have so many things I still want to experience! I haven't had the chance to really live yet! I'm not ready for this!" I screamed, all the fear I was feeling bubbling out of me.

Fear had filled every inch of my body and tears were rolling down my face. I was beginning to really wish I'd grabbed the necklace when I'd had the chance. So much was happening and none of it made any sense whatsoever.

"The fear you're facing about everything you're going to have to face, use it to your advantage. Let it help you make the right decisions."

I glared into the darkness as the tears continued to cascade down my face. That was easy for some disembodied voice to say. It wasn't going to have to face the life and death situation I was. "Well… what if I refuse to go?"

"Then you'll just stay here."

I blinked before looking down. I was going to have to do this weather I wanted to or not. Just sitting here forever would get me nowhere. I'd have to try at the very least.

I quickly wiped the tears out of my eyes and nodded. "Okay… so I have to pick one of these?" I asked quietly.

"Yes," the voice said, its calm tone somehow helping to sooth me.

I looked at the sword, staff, and shield. Immediately I went for the shield, wanting the protection that it would provide me with. I stepped back as the shield faded into my grasp. "You can now continue," the voice said, a door now appearing.

I nodded and opened the door, doing my best to ignore the fear that still filled me. I stepped through and saw that there were four podiums I'd have to travel up. I looked down and saw that the floor bore the image of two friends I'd made on this journey thus far. "Zack… Cloud…" I murmured, staring at the glass.

I slowly made my way up to the next podium and saw an image of fourteen figures, all of them wearing black, hooded cloaks. The ones I'd personally met had their hoods down. "Organization thirteen."

Making my way up to the third podium I summoned my keyblade. It felt strange and foreign though, as if it belonged to somebody else's possession. "What… what if I'm not meant to do this? What if this is someone else's job?"

"Don't doubt yourself. Believe you can achieve it and you will."

"And you're absolutely sure about that?"

"Yes."

"Okay then…"

The third podium was black, as though I hadn't met who was supposed to be on it yet. It was like a canvas that had yet to be painted on. And then I was at the fourth podium. On it was the image of Sora with circles that bore the images of Riku, Kiari, Goofy, and Donald.

I lightly smiled before noticing my shadow take the form of a Heartless and begin standing up in front of me. I jumped back, staring in fear as it grew to an enormous size. My throat was going dry. "P-please don't let me die…" I whispered as the only way off of the podium, aside from falling, disappeared.

The Heartless stepped towards me, causing me to quickly begin backing away. I gasped, finding myself at the edge of the podium and almost falling off. I was suddenly lifted off of the ground, trapped in the Heartless's grasp. I began struggling; doing everything I could think of to be released from its enormous hand.

"Let go of me!" I shouted, relinquishing the keyblade from my hold and managing to get my arms above my head.

I quickly summoned the keyblade and brought it down onto the hand that was holding me. The big yellow eyes that were looking at me seemed to hold a sense of pain in them. I looked and saw that my keyblade was lodged deep in the hand. I winced, a steady flow of black liquid seeping from the wound and beginning to cover me.

I pulled the keyblade out, this causing the bleeding to increase as the Heartless dropped me. I began hitting its chest as I fell towards the ground. A strange sound suddenly emitted from it, as though it crying out in pain.

It reached out its uninjured hand for me, attempting to smash me into the ground. Squeezing my eyes shut, I found myself crashing into the ground and gasping for air, barely hanging onto the thread of life that was still within me. So I was going to die. This was how it was going to end for me. Well, at least I'd tried.

The heartless stared down at me, seemingly waiting for me to do something. But I was too weak to do anything. I couldn't move at all, my body was broken and giving out from the force of the fall. My breathing was shaky and shallow. My entire being was in pain. I was so close to death.

The Heartless brought its hand up, looking as though it was going to bring it down to crush me. I shut my eyes and waited. But nothing but a cool, goopy, liquid ever hit me. A horrifying sound filled my ears. I opened my eyes and saw that my arms had moved on their own and stabbed the hand as it had come towards me.

My keyblade had gone clean through the Heartless's hand. The Heartless continued its cries of pain and lifted it hand, my grip slipping as it did so, and backed away. Before I could even react it had toppled off of the podium.

I blinked, the keyblade reappearing in my hands. Had I really managed to survive the entire experience. "H-how-"

Before I could say anything more I found myself falling as well, quickly losing consciousness along the way.