Hey guys, I'm not dead. And neither is this fic. It just took a lot longer than I thought it would. Sorry 'bout that.
There will be references to stuff, and quite possibly some crossover world-based missions in the future. This IS an AU, after all. The main story will still be pretty much solid KH, though.
Now then, a quick foreword: some of the Days up to this point, and even in this chapter, have had comprehensive coverage. From this point on, however, you probably shouldn't expect every single Day to get that much attention. Partly for the sake of my sanity, partly for the sake of keeping things quasi-relevant. So again - some Days will be covered in a lot of detail, other Days will get kind of glossed over.
With that, enjoy the show.
Reviewing the Basics II
Opening his eyes, Roxas was mildly alarmed to find that it was three in the morning. 'Damn, that's what I get for letting myself go to sleep so early.'
Softly grumbling to himself, Roxas mused that trying to get back to sleep now would be useless, so he instead resolved to go down and get some training done.
Once he got to the main hall, however, he came to realize that he was not the only Organization member active so early this morning.
"Roxas, may I ask why you aren't in your quarters asleep?"
Turning to face Zexion, Roxas replied, "I went to sleep too early last night, and woke up a few minutes ago as a result. So I'm going to go train for a few hours until it's time for my mission."
"While your drive to improve is commendable, the Organization doesn't need you wasting your strength now and beginning your mission exhausted."
Scoffing a bit, Roxas turned back to the training area and replied, "Big deal. It's not like Larxene never made me fight with a handicap over the past week. Wearing myself down to my limits and then pushing myself beyond that point is the only way I can get stronger, right? Besides, I can't get back to sleep, and it's not like I can just sit around doing nothing for the next five hours or so."
Quietly musing about XIII's aggressive behavior, as well as wondering what precisely Larxene had done with him during that first week, Zexion eventually replied, "If you have that much energy that you need to burn off, then I suggest you go to the library and read. I'm sure you still have a number of questions, and you can find some answers there. This way, you can still improve, but you'll have most of your energy to devote to the mission."
Pausing a few moments, Roxas finally asked, "All right then, where is it?"
Smirking a little, Zexion got up from his alarmingly comfortable chair, and led his junior to The Silent Library.
Having left Roxas to peruse the nigh-innumerable volumes in The Silent Library, Zexion decided that he would have to ask the Savage Nymph a few questions when she returned. While Number XIII's drive to become stronger was indeed commendable, the reckless attitude he approached it with – which nearly seemed to border on suicidal – was a flaw that had to be remedied.
Just then, the Cloaked Schemer detected a Corridor of Darkness opening near the base of the Castle, and he smirked to himself as a familiar scent made itself known.
'Well, well, well. Speak of the devil and she's sure to appear.'
The Savage Nymph looked like death warmed over - apparently, things had gone south and she'd spent several hours in battle.
Stifling a yawn, she said, "Whatever it is, Zexion, I'm pretty sure it can wait until I'm awake sometime tomorrow."
Standing in her way, Zexion said, "And I'm quite certain that your sleep can wait a few minutes until after we've had a short conversation, Number XII."
Really too tired to think straight, Larxene nevertheless asked, "Zexion, it's okay if I call you an arrogant, trolling son of a bitch, right?"
Snorting, Zexion replied, "I couldn't care less."
Deadpan, the Savage Nymph said, "Great, because I was gonna say it anyway. Now what the hell do you want?"
Narrowing his eyes a bit, Zexion said, "It's about Roxas. Had a short talk with him earlier. And while his drive to improve is certainly commendable, I fear that you may have done too well with him. Unless you can get him to better pace himself, it's quite likely he'll end up burning himself out, and then he'll be of no use to anyone. I trust you can infer where I'm going with this?"
Her left eye twitching, Larxene allowed the silence to hang in the air for a moment before sighing as she asked, "So let me get this straight. First, you senior members shove the brat on me just to make me suffer and threaten to kill me if I don't turn him into a freaking badass. And now that he's getting to the point where I can move the fuck on and not waste my life on the goddamn shrimp, you shove him back on me again to make me tone him down a little? Am I right so far?"
Idly wondering what Larxene planned to do about it, Zexion merely nodded.
And wasn't the least bit surprised when she punched him in the face and sent him skidding across the floor.
"Fine, I'll talk with the damn shrimp sometime after I get some damn sleep."
While not at all pleased about it, Larxene allowed herself only a few hours of sleep. Pulling her black cloak back on and not bothering to re-dress beneath it, Larxene opened a Corridor of Darkness and teleported herself to the Grey Area, just in time to find Roxas coming down the staircase.
Looking at his face, she saw that he appeared to have a number of questions, but upon seeing Larxene his expression immediately changed to a vibrant smile.
The hell's he smiling at me for?
"Roxas, Zexion says we need to have a little chat."
With a worried expression, XIII asked, "Did I get you in trouble?"
Wait, he's worried about me? The hell's wrong with this kid?
For some reason, Larxene felt just a little warm in her chest. Or maybe she was getting sick from running around the drafty castle in nothing but the Cloak.
"Not yet, kiddo, but Zexion told me you've been pretty much threatening to overwork yourself. Since I'll be punished if you burn yourself out and become even more useless, don't. Got it?"
Roxas seemed to process that for a few seconds, before nodding. "Understood, I'll try to pace myself more from now on."
Still rather exhausted, Larxene couldn't bring herself to fake much emotion. "Great. Now go get your mission and do whatever. I need some more friggin' sleep."
Filing away Larxene's advice to not overwork himself, Roxas saw Zexion waiting for him further into the Grey Area.
"Greetings again, Roxas. I trust your stint in the library was productive?"
The boy nodded. "Yeah."
"Good to hear. I shall be joining you on your mission today. If there's anything else you'd like to take care of before we set out, then do so. Otherwise, go ahead and report to Saïx."
Not really having anything else of concern, Roxas did as he was told, after which he and Zexion departed for Twilight Town.
As the dark duo strode into the Tram Common, Zexion explained, "Your mission today is to eliminate a set quantity of Heartless. The Organization may call upon you to meet other objectives-perform recon, for example. But regardless of the task you have been given, your primary orders still hold. You and that Keyblade of yours serve us best by collecting Hearts."
Roxas thought about that for a moment. "So in addition to doing my specific missions, I should make it a point to hunt down and kill everything in sight?"
Raising an eyebrow at Roxas's choice of phrase - and also noting the slight eagerness in his tone - Zexion rather hastily clarified. "Unless otherwise specifically stated, you should only target the Heartless. Remember that we must remain covert at all times."
Roxas tilted his head to one side. "Covert?"
Zexion nodded. "Our activities must remain a secret, and we need to keep the populace ignorant of our existence."
"So... I should hunt down every Heartless I can find, annihilate them all, complete my assigned objective, and do it all without anyone knowing I did it?"
"In layman's terms, yes."
Roxas nodded. "Gotcha."
With that, Zexion pointed Roxas towards the center of the Common, where they could see some Dire Plants and Yellow Operas.
Roxas summoned his Keyblade and took a deep breath, before running at the group of enemies with a violent shout.
As the Keyblade wielder slaughtered the Heartless around him, Zexion hung back to observe for the moment.
So far, his fighting seems remarkably similar to that of Number VII, as both have a berserker streak. Where Saïx uses the moon to trigger a mindless rage, however, it Roxas appears can enter his berserk state at will. And unlike Saïx's artificial fury, Roxas doesn't seem to be showing much emotion at all, even if it's fake. Though he does seem to derive a particular enjoyment from battle, overall it's just... some kind of frenzy.
Zexion suddenly realized that he'd forgotten to tell Roxas that he was only required to target a specific number of Heartless, with 'extracurricular work' being optional but encouraged.
Then, before he could make it a point to explain this, he realized that Roxas was already heading back toward him. The younger Nobody was slightly tired, but not particularly wounded.
Just staring at the surprisingly bloodthirsty newbie, Zexion eventually spoke up.
"While I applaud you for your... zeal, Roxas, you might consider waiting until your mission objectives are fully outlined next time. Any questions?"
Roxas paused for a moment, before shaking his head.
"In that case," Zexion said, "let's go ahead and RTC."
Roxas stepped into the Grey Area, and was immediately 'greeted' by Saïx.
"Today, we expect you to attempt the use of magic instead of pure reliance on the Keyblade. You'll meet your partner on-site. Now get out."
Roxas was rather confused, but did as he was told.
As he emerged from the Corridor of Darkness into Twilight Town, Roxas heard his favorite voice in the world. Slightly less insulting than usual, she said, "Nice of you to show up."
The Savage Nymph almost visibly recoiled from the force of Number XIII's smile, but she hid it well.
After a minute or two of incoherent grumbling, Larxene said, "Anyway, I'm sure that bastard Saïx told you to use magic today instead of the Keyblade, right?"
Roxas nodded, but then asked, "Um, why is that? I mean, I thought only the Keyblade released Hearts into Kingdom Hearts. Wouldn't using magic, then, kind of... defeat the point?"
Larxene raised an eyebrow and - with what might have been pride in her voice - remarked, "I see you're not quite the idiot you were before. Normally, that would be true, but in your case magic works just as well as the Keyblade. This is because magic is chanelled through a focus, meaning that any magic you use will have the same properties as the Keyblade, regardless of whether it's in your hand or not."
Roxas nodded, as if expecting such wisdom from the Savage Nymph.
"Anyway," she continued, "as it stands now you're pretty much nothing without your Keyblade. For the sake of argument, assume there will be situations where you can't use your Keyblade for whatever reason. This magic training is to make sure that, in those events, you're not totally helpless."
At that time, a Dire Plant appeared.
With a decidedly viscious grin, Larxene muttered, "Perfect timing. See that Heartless? Kill it exclusively with magic. You remember how I taught you fire spells, right?"
"Well, I figure that you've got enough power to cast three of 'em without resorting to restorative items like ether."
Then, gazing imperiously at him, she continued, "You can expect the same as usual, Roxas: perform poorly, and be punished. Do well, and... who knows? I might even reward you this time."
Roxas nodded, before recalling what he'd learned about the use of magic.
Focusing his energy, he waited until he was at point blank range before unleashing a fireball directly at the Dire Plant's face, instantly incinerating it.
Larxene nodded at him, before two more Dire Plants and a trio of Yellow Operas appeared.
Roxas glanced at Larxene for instructions, since he didn't have enough magic to take them all out.
"Oh, for the love of God, you can fight however the hell you want for this part."
Roxas nodded, and screamed as he leapt at the first Yellow Opera, first punching it in the face before doing a front-flip and slamming it into the ground with the Kingdom Key. As he landed, he deflected a seed that the other had shot out and killed a second Yellow Opera with it, before turning on his heel and killing the offending Dire Plant with a Fire spell.
Just as soon as he cast the spell, however, the other Dire Plant shot Roxas in the back. Stumbling forward in pain, he suddenly found himself blinded.
Turning around, the screaming swordsman lunged at where he thought the second Dire Plant would have been, and was rewarded for his insight as he tackled it to the ground.
If he wasn't angry, then he was doing a supremely fine job of faking it as he used his last fire spell to torch it with a vengeance.
Roxas was about to relax and wait for the blindness to leave him, when he recalled that there had been a third Yellow Opera.
The smart thing to do would be to run around in the hopes of not getting hit until the blindness wore off, and then kill it.
Roxas, however, was not prone to being smart.
So instead, he let the flying Heartless tackle him, and then grabbed it by its spindly dangling leg before it could get away.
Target secured in one hand, and his Keyblade in the other, Roxas slammed the Yellow Opera against the ground, stomped where its face ought to be with all his might, and then mauled it with the Kingdom Key.
Roxas was brought back to his senses by the sound of slow, deliberate applause.
Sounding genuinely impressed, Larxene said, "Not bad, Roxas. As far as a rookie goes, I'd actually say you're competent now. I'm in a good mood today, so I'll get you a treat. Just don't get used to it, shrimp."
Roxas happily nodded as his vision began to return. At that moment, a Corridor of Darkness appeared beneath him and sucked him in, before depositing the Key to Destiny at a dock overlooking the ocean.
A moment after, Larxene appeared next to him, each hand bearing a saucer with cake.
Handing Roxas a saucer, she said, "Savor it, you little punk. I didn't have to do this, y'know."
The boy nodded. "I understand, and... thank you. Not just for the cake, but for teaching me, as well."
Wondering why the boy's gratitude made her feel strange, she muttered, "J-just shut up and eat your damn cake!"
Listening to the sounds of the ocean, the dark duo settled into a comfortable silence as they consumed the cake.
When Roxas trudged back into the Grey Area after his first recon mission with Vexen, Demyx briefly paused in strumming his sitar.
"So how'd it go, tiger?"
Roxas stared at the Melodious Nocturne for a moment, until he said, "Before, I never really understood why nobody could stand being around Vexen."
"Now, I understand all too well."
In the Sandlot, Lexaeus asked, "Do you know what a Limit Break is?"
Roxas nodded. "Yeah, Larxene said it's our most powerful ability that can only be used when we're, well, pushed to our limits from injury or adrenaline."
Lexaeus smiled. It was very unsettling. "Very well-said."
At that moment, a Mega-Shadow appeared, and Lexaeus knocked Roxas across the Sandlot with his Axe Sword.
Blood running down the side of his face, Roxas screamed, "What the hell was that for?!"
Lexaeus explained, "Now you're pushed to your limits from injury. You can see the target, right? Then show me what you can do."
Roxas's first impulse was to go berserk like he normally did, but quickly realized that it would be poor-decision making in this instance.
Instead, he allowed the Mega-Shadow to charge at him, before quickly rolling out of the way and raking the Kingdom Key along its back, earning a roar of agony for his efforts.
Then, Roxas turned to face the huge Heartless and flung three Fire spells at it, killing it.
Lexaeus frowned, "You were supposed to attack the enemy your Limit Break."
Roxas twitched, before turning to the Silent Hero with a mad look in his eye, and a distinctly Larxene-like smirk.
"... Roxas, what are you doing?"
The Key to Destiny was suddenly enveloped in a veil of Light before he declared, "I'm going to attack the enemy with my Limit Break, of course."
Roxas screamed like a maniac as he dealt Lexaeus a barrage of speed-and-power-enhanced attacks; thanks to his Limit Break, Roxas's blows even had enough force behind them to bruise Lexaeus's arms.
Then, before Number V had a chance to speak up, Roxas bit down on his own arm, the intense pain triggering another Limit Break.
When Roxas entered the Grey Area, he was met with an unfamiliar face.
"So you're the new guy who showed up while I was out. Name's Axel, so memorize it. Anyway, I'll be your partner for today. I'm sure you know the standard drill, so report to Saïx when you're ready."
The redhead turned to leave, before he apparently remembered something. "Oh yeah, I'm supposed to give you this Morph Gear. As you'd guess from the name, it's a piece of gear that allows your weapon to morph into different forms, reflecting your state of mind and your power level. Hook it to your belt, and let's see what happens."
Roxas accepted the trinket and hooked it to his belt like a buckle. As he did so, the Kingdom Key was enveloped in a flash of light before it reappeared as the Missing Ache.
"That wasn't so hard, right? Today's an actual mission to see how well you've learned so far. You might even call it a graduation."
Roxas nodded. "Okay."
The boy at first planned on just going to Saïx, but saw Number IX deep in thought.
"Something wrong, Demyx?"
The mullet-bearing Nobody looked up and asked, "Roxas, have you ever thought about doing something stupid...and AWESOME? I had an idea last night, but now I can't remember what the devil it was..."
Deciding to leave the Melodious Nocturne to his musings, Roxas went on to accept his mission.
Appearing in a Side Street of Twilight Town, the two went on the hunt for Heartless.
Unable to take what was - for him - becoming an uncomfortable silence, Axel joked, "Jeez man, don't talk my ear off."
"I just don't have much to say."
At that moment, they stumbled upon a broup of Possessors and Yellow Operas.
Axel ordered, "You take care of the Emblems - I'll keep the Purebloods off your back."
Roxas remembered reading about the distinction between them during his time in the Silent Library, and nodded. "Got it, let's kill 'em all."
Axel noticed that the younger member was starting to grin a little, but Roxas himself didn't.
Several minutes later, the pair had cleaned out the town of Heartless, and were heading back to the Corridor of Darkness.
Axel was, quite frankly, unnerved to have a mini-Saïx running around, but chose not to comment and instead asked, "So, Roxas, got any plans?"
"... Do you know... where I could get some cake?"
Axel's eyebrow went up a bit, before giving Roxas the address of a local confectionary.
The two Nobodies then parted ways.
Stepping into the Grey Area, Roxas asked, "So what's the mission today?"
Saïx, impassive as ever, explained, "You've been doing well so far. Today, your endurance will be tested in order to determine your suitability for future missions. Report to the Hall of Empty Melodies and be prepared to fight for your life."
A bit confused, but nontheless obeisant, Roxas stepped into the Corridor of Darkness provided for him...
And found himself standing before a smirking Larxene.
With a slow and deliberate clap, she drawled, "Congratulations, shrimp. I've got five minutes to do everything I can to make you suffer."
A gleeful spark in her eyes, the Savage Nymph asked, "I don't care if you fight or flee, but more pain for you means MORE FUN FOR ME!"
Roxas stared at her in surprise for a second, before grinning himself. Missing Ache in hand, he charged Larxene, intent on fighting with everything he had.
Listening to the ocean waves, Roxas and Larxene quietly ate their cake. After a time, Larxene spoke.
"Well, you're definitively competent now. Any problems doing your job?"
Roxas shook his head. "No, not really. Actually, I'm... kind of starting to get into it. When I'm in a fight to the death, and even when I'm bleeding and exhausted, my body feels lighter than normal, almost like I can go on forever. And that mission fight where you put me in the infirmary until today... It was amazing."
Larxene snarked, "Yeah, amazingly stupid on your end. It's almost like you wanted the stabbing to continue."
"Well, it's like I said - I was having the time of my life with that fight. And I could tell you enjoyed hurting me, so it wasn't exactly a problem to get back up."
Roxas turned to Larxene, and found her openly staring at him in surprise. He asked, "So, um... what about you, Larxene?"
Shaking herself out of her stupor, Larxene quickly composed herself. "I guess you're better at reading others than I thought. Yeah, I enjoy making other people suffer. The more they hurt, the better. And killing Heartless is one thing, but targeting people? It's in a league beyond. Watching the light go out of their eyes when they die... just thinking about it gives me a chill."
"So to summarize, you enjoy causing pain and death?"
Glaring at him, Larxene demanded, "Do you have a problem with that, Thirteen?!"
Attempting to placate her, Roxas raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. "No, no, not at all. I'm... kind of glad, that I'm getting to know you better, is all."
Shocked at what she was hearing, Larxene realized she felt blood beginning to pool in her cheeks.
I am NOT blushing because of this little punk! I'M NOT! I AM NOT!
"Just stop talking, brat!"
Roxas and Larxene strode into the Twilight Town Station Plaza, with the mission of eliminating a singular type of Heartless.
"Ugh, I hate working in Twilight Town. Just so much I could do, and our damn policy of remaining unknown won't let me show off at all. So, what was our target again - that giant Watcher subtype, right?"
Roxas accepted Larxene's complaints without comment, before giving her an affirmative. "Yep, the Guardian."
"Nice to see you've been paying attention. Well, let's get this over with. Who knows? Maybe we'll get some cake again if I'm in a good mood."
The main streets had been blocked by a barricade - apparently, the Organization's spies had observed high civilian traffic.
This meant that the dangerous duo had to go through the Heartless-infested tunnels. Which, granted, wasn't a problem - after all, Roxas got some more fighting experience and Larxene had the opportunity to inflict violence on something.
Before too long, they emerged at a deserted side street that led into the Sandlot, where their objective would be.
Without bothering to ask if her 'student' was ready, Larxene summoned her set of knives - Foudre - and entered.
As if on cue, the Guardian appeared with a small squadron of Watchers.
Immediately, the Guardian began charging a powerful laser blast, while the Watchers coordinated in an attempt to keep the Nobodies off-balance in the meantime.
A number of laser shots heading at him, Roxas twirled the Missing Ache and deflected them all, before roasting each of the Watchers he could see with a Fire spell.
Meanwhile, Larxene had casually teleported to evade each bolt sent her way, before flinging a knife in just the right spot for an instant kill. Sadist she may have been, but pathetic Heartless like those surrounding her were too boring to bother with torture.
That said, she did enjoy the impunity with which she erased them from existence.
Soon enough, the Watchers had all been eliminated. Roxas then turned to the Guardian, just in time for the massive Heartless to blast him into the wall hard enough to crack said wall and burn away a considerable amount of the skin on Roxas's face.
Panting heavily at the unexpected display of power, Roxas muttered, "This is new."
Excitement creeping into his voice as his mouth began to form a grin, Roxas's eyes lit up. "An enemy... no, a... challenge..."
Roxas promptly pushed off of the wall with a fierce shout, and lunged at the Guardian.
Mid-leap, it powered up enough to blast him again, but Roxas weathered the assault with minimal difficulty, before leaping up and shoving his Keyblade through its eyes, permanently blinding the large Heartless.
Going berserk, the Guardian rammed itself against the nearest surface, attempting to either crush or dislodge Roxas and succeeding in the latter.
The Guardian then ascended into the air, before blindly raining lasers downward in an attempt to blast Roxas.
The Organization's No. XIII dodged and weaved through the bulk of the mass fire, but some of it still hit him.
Ducking behind a wall for some momentary cover, he turned to Larxene and asked, "Can you teleport me on top of its back? I could drag this out, but getting my face melted kinda hurts a little."
Incredulous, the Savage Nymph demanded, "Kinda hurts? A little?"
Totally missing the incredulousness apparent from her tone, Roxas nodded. "Yeah, just a little. So, Corridor of Darkness, please? You know I haven't got the hang of 'em yet."
Silently complying, Larxene just shook her head as Roxas dropped through the Corridor.
"I swear to God, that kid is insane."
The Guardian felt the pulse of energy signalling a Corridor of Darkness, and attempted to re-orient itself to attack.
Instead, Roxas leapt out of the portal, kicked the Guardian where its eyes used to be, then stabbed his Keyblade completely through the same area.
Then, to make sure it died and stayed dead, he chugged an Ether - while the two were plummeting back to the ground - and then blasted its 'face' at point-blank range with a series of Fire spells.
The Guardian continued to squirm, at which point Roxas just went crazy stabbing it through its 'face'.
By the time they hit the ground, the Guardian had half-melted back into the darkness from which it came.