Shadows of Reality: Final Mix
Chapter Twenty-Six – For A Moment
"Are you sure this is what you want, Mickey?" Sora asked the mouse, hesitation in his voice. Everyone was leaving that day, Queen Minnie and Daisy taking all of the servants and people that they brought with them back to Disney, and Sora continuing his journey to round up the Keyblade Bearers before the oddly quiet Xehanort did something horrible. It set him on edge, having such a subtle and skilled enemy. Even when it was Ansem, Xemnas, Maleficient or even Crysita, all of them paved the road to their goals with pure destruction and horror. That wasn't the case with Xehanort. Most of the time it seemed utterly pointless to take anyone else away from their homes, but it had to be done. They had to be trained at some point of time.
"Yes," Mickey said with a nod. "The council is here to help run the world while you're gone, so you don't have to worry about that. I will be present at the meetings to make sure that they don't try to go above your head for anything, though I doubt they will. In the mean time, Yen Sid is going to take charge in training Mulan, Peter Pan, Hercules, Stitch, Aladdin and Emiliana, and I'll would step in to help from time to time. Lea, Ienzo, Donald and Goofy will be around to help as well. We'll be fine."
Sora slowly nodded his head and said, "I wish Kairi would stay here to help you, but I've tried. She's so stubborn. She won't even be coming down to most worlds with us."
"She just worries about you, Sora," Mickey told him with a smile. "I traveled around even more before I married Minnie, and she aways worried a lot. In a way, it might have been easier for her to actually be with me, but she had a world to run." He smiled slightly. "Did you know that she's the one who's actually royalty, not me?"
"Yeah. I mean, Walt, my adoptive father did create Disney Castle itself, but he didn't actually adopt me until just before he died so that no one else like Pete could try and swoop in to take over. He took care of us since we were only young, but Minnie was actually born to royalty. Pete's cousin was the Captain of the guard there, and Donald, Goofy and I disguised ourselves as Musketeers to save her. That was in another part of Disney."
"I didn't know that," Sora admitted. "I actually don't know that much about you, Donald, or Goofy, when I think about it. I had no idea that Goofy had a son until I met Max before. I don't know much about your pasts or how Pete fits into it or anything like that."
Mickey patted his arm and said, "There'll be time for that later. The past is unchanging, and we can look it over when we have the time. The future is always in motion though, and that's what we need to be prepared for now."
"If I went back and told my fourteen-year-old self that the best advice he was ever going to get came from a giant mouse, I'd probably send myself to the crazy house."
Mickey laughed again and shook his head. "The gummi ship is probably finished being stocked. Chip and Dale wanted to talk to you and a few others before you left too. You should probably go check with them and then round everyone up."
Sora nodded his head, leaving to go find everyone else.
Roxas' eyes were unfocused as he stared out over Twilight Town, his legs dangling over the edge of the clock tower on the train station. It was so odd to see the islands in the distance, and the castle itself stood out in a sheer contrast of his memory of this place. It was all different now. Everything was different. He glanced down at his own hand where, instead of his white and black rings, there was a single wedding band. Yeah, a lot changed, and he hoped it was for the better, but he couldn't be sure.
"There you are," Lea's voice said from behind him, and Roxas looked around to see the older man sit down beside him, looking out at the world along with him. "It's been a while since we've been up here like this, hasn't it?"
"The others are looking for you, saying that it's time to go. Sora told me to look here for you."
Roxas smiled a bit at that. "He probably knew I was here. We can still feel each other if we try. If he wanted to get a hold of me himself, we can speak through our minds, kind of like we could communicate when we were still both in his heart. I could come out and talk to him, or just speak into his mind."
"So why'd he send me up here?"
"Why wouldn't he? Sora has my memories, I have his," he shrugged. "He knows what this place meant to me, and to all of us." He frowned slightly. "Us and Crysita, that's who used to sit up here, right?"
"There was someone else with us," Roxas told him. "Midori's Nobody...well sort of Nobody, was Crysita. She was the fourteenth member of the Organization. It had to be her up here, right?"
Lea stared at him with confused green eyes before shrugging and saying, "Must have. I can't see who else it could have been. Memories are strange things, especially when they can be manipulated so easily by some people." He paused. "Did you know I was friends with Ven too?"
"You were?" that honestly seemed to surprise Roxas.
"Yeah. I met him in Radiant Garden, that's where I'm from. Isa and I were friends there. It was only briefly, and he kicked my butt, but I decided that we were friends."
Roxas was silent for a moment before saying, "Maybe that's why you let me stick with you so much at first. You didn't seem all that happy about it, but you still did."
"It's just strange that you look and even sound exactly like him. Like a broody, moody version of him. You'd think you'd look like Sora," Lea said thoughtfully.
Roxas and Sora had a solid theory on why that happened. They were both almost positively sure that Ventus' heart, maybe only a small piece, or maybe all of it, had taken refuge Sora's heart after he died. The theory was that, when Sora released his and Kairi's hearts to save her, that Ventus' heart fled into the body that was created for Roxas, hence why he took on that physical appearance. He wasn't Ventus, but he had been the holder of his heart for nearly a year. That was something that they were keeping between themselves for a while, but he knew that he could trust Lea.
"His heart is still here," Roxas said suddenly. "Ven's."
"What do you mean? He died, didn't he?"
"Yeah, his body did die, but the theory Sora and I have is that his heart fled just before his physical body died."
"Fled? Fled where?"
This made Roxas smile. "Into Sora's heart. Then when I was created as his Nobody, it came with me. That's why I look like him. I look like I do now, because I saw myself as how everyone remembered me, and Naminé looked like she did because that was how everyone remembered her, and that's where our physical appearances came from when we got our own bodies."
"So, Ven's heart is in Sora?"
"We think so."
Lea looked up at the sky. "Wow. So he's not really completely gone then, is he?"
They'd both thought about that before, but neither really had an answer. Roxas just shrugged before saying, "I should probably get going. Wouldn't want to put up behind on our missions anymore than normal."
"Yeah. I have to help whoop those other Keyblade Bearers into shape too."
They both took one last glance at the world beyond the clock tower before making their way inside to walk down.
Sora's cerulean blue eyes stared intently at the controls in front of him. This gummi ship was more up-to-date than the one that they were using before, luckily fixing the problem of having the warp gummi block somewhere it could be easily destroyed, something that happened to them so much that it wasn't even funny as a running joke anymore. It was more like the universe needed an excuse to say a lot of time passed between chapters of his life. Or something like that.
Max and Midori were both with him, each looking over the new, highly advanced technology before them. Max was going to be the primary pilot, though a majority of his time would be spent monitoring everything else since the autopilot was supposed to be the best of the best. There was always a chance that emergencies could come up that needed an actual pilot though, and having only one person who knew how to use the new ship was a stupid idea, so Sora and Midori were learning everything about it too, just in case.
Chip jumped up onto the controls and pointing at a gauge beneath him. "This one is one you're going to want to pay attention to, Sora. At least before going to worlds."
"Okay, why?" he asked curiously.
"All worlds have magic in them," Chip explained to him, "you know that. You also know that too much, or the wrong kind, of magic can really hurt Kairi and the baby. So we put this in here for her specifically."
"It reads the magical levels of a world before you get there," Dale said. "That way you'll know if it's safe for her to go down to the world or not."
"Yup," Chip agreed. "That's not all it does. See this one here?" He pointed to a digital display. "This one reads the amount of darkness in a world, so you should be able to estimate how strong the enemies are there. It'll display a number. If it's about 25 or under, then she'll be fine to go. 25 to 50, she'll probably be okay but there will be more enemies. Anything over 50 means trouble, and if it's a hundred...well I'd only send down the most experienced people you have."
"This one is the one that reads general magic, like we mentioned earlier" Dale said, pointing at the one beside Chip. "It's easier to read. If it's green, it means that it's okay. Her clothes or a costume may change, but she'll be fine. Yellow means she should only go there in emergencies, and red...well...you should probably keep her away from that world."
"Right. For example, a red world would be Atlantica. Too much physically changes there. A green world would be Radiant Garden, and a yellow one would be Halloween Town."
"But we change in Halloween Town," Sora pointed out. "Quite a bit. Donald even loses his stomach, and I mean that literally."
"Mickey told us about that world," Dale said. "He knows you have to go there, and he said something about how Kairi may want to go to Christmas Town? I don't know. He said that it's a special world because...umm...because..."
"You big dummy!" Chip scolded his brother. "It's because Halloween Town and Christmas Town have very strong connections to both life and death. When the heart of the world changes a person, it takes their own magical powers, auras and physical changes into mind. That's why a costume can change while going there. The baby will be taken into consideration, especially in Christmas Town where children are so important."
"Wow," Midori said in awe, "Mickey really looked into that one, didn't he? I wonder why."
Sora knew why. He knew that Kairi would want to go and see Mrs. Claus and Santa again to show them that she was okay. That was the world Sora took her to immediately after she was tortured and raped, where she stabbed herself badly enough where the scarring left behind in her womb was going to be something to really watch out for when it came time for the baby to be born. The place where Jorix took her didn't exist any longer, but Christmas Town was the place where she woke up after it all, where she broke down.
They talked about it only a few days ago when she saw Sora planning out where they were going to be heading. She wanted to go there for real closure, preferably before the baby was born. Kairi insisted that she needed it, and maybe, to a lesser extent, he did too.
Max looked up from the controls and asked, "So, are we heading out soon?"
"Yup," Sora clapped him on the back "Glad you're coming with us. You're a better pilot than even I am."
"My dad taught me. For such a goof, he's pretty good," Max shrugged. "That and I just did the opposite of what Donald did."
Midori snorted with amusement at that.
Sora chuckled and shook his head. "I'm going to make sure everyone who's coming is ready. Oh, right...there's something else I forgot too." He quickly ran off, leaving behind four slightly amused beings.
"Well, we better get going too," Chip told Max and Midori.
"Yeah. Wouldn't want Queen Minnie to leave without us."
"Right," Midori nodded her head. "We have the communication number if we need to reach you guys."
"Good luck!" The two chipmunks chorused before they left through the same door Sora had moments before.
"Master Yen Sid!"
The old wizard looked up from the place he had taken up as his own personal study, surrounded by more books than he could imagine. While, at times, the old man found himself longing to return to his own home just a little (most powerful sorcerer in the worlds, and former Keyblade Master or not, he was still human), he quite enjoyed the vast amount of knowledge held within the castle. He knew that he could be of more help where he was at the current time as well.
"Sora, come in."
Sora walked in, always the casual one, though he did know how to act respectful around others. There was no big smile playing on his lips today though, instead he looked rather serious. "Master, I was wondering about Riku and Roxas."
"Ah, yes, I was curious if you'd come to question me about your friend's progress."
Sora nodded his head. "I just...I guess I'm a bit worried that I'm doing too much and not giving them a chance. I'm just so used to going on this crazy missions either alone, or the one that's kind of in charge. They're being tested though, not me. I just feel like...if I back off a bit, everyone will think I'm slacking off."
"It is a dilemma, isn't it? Especially in your situation," Yen Sid folded his hands together on the desk. "That is part of your own test."
"You may be a Master by birth, but there is much you need to know. This has been a test for you as much as everyone else. A test as the leader you always have been, but are now being forced to be on a greater level. Your test will be balancing your duties to one world with your duties to all worlds, and your duties to your family. It is not something I would have wished onto someone your age, but destiny has a way of giving us more than it seems we can handle."
Sora looked down at that, before a look of realization passed over his face. "You're not the one judging Riku and Roxas. I am, aren't I?"
"I've been watching, listening to the hearts of the worlds," Yen Sid said with a nod. "But yes, it is you. It is a duty of a Master to know when an apprentice is ready or not." There was a pause. "Do you think they're ready, yet?"
Sora thought about how Roxas was a bit distracted and flighty, especially after his wedding, while Riku had locked himself in a drama with two young women. He sighed and shook his head, feeling a little bad, like he was the one holding them back. "If I had to judge though, I don't think I'd make myself a Master either though."
"In another time, another place, I might not have either," Yen Sid agreed, "that is out of both of our hands though. Do not dwell on what you cannot change."
Sora slowly nodded his head. "And you and Mickey are okay with training everyone else while we're gone?"
"I would prefer it," Yen Sid admitted. "With so many Keyblade Bearers appearing, it is slightly alarming. I would prefer to gauge their power myself." He paused for a moment, and if possible, looked slightly amused, if only for a split second. "Now, I believe a certain young lady is in need of your help with her mother right now."
He laughed a bit. "Yeah, they're probably arguing about her going again. Thank you, Master Yen Sid." He have a very quick bow before turning and rushing away from yet another person, since he seemed to be needed everywhere that morning.
Yen Sid watched him go before saying, "I hope that you were right, old friend, and that they can handle this."
"Not alone," a disembodied whisper said, "but soon they will have the help they need. She is awakening as we speak."
"Let us hope her guidance will be enough."
"I'll be fine, mother," Kairi snapped, gritting her teeth together as she glared at Suzu Yamada, who, like always, completely ignored her statement.
"You should not be going," the woman snapped back, equally as irritated. "I don't understand you. It's not the proper way of doing things."
"No, the proper way of doing things is laying down like a slob and being useless, isn't it?" she growled, cheeks turning red from anger. Kairi wasn't sure if she wanted to scream, cry, or slap the woman before her.
"You are pregnant, young lady! I know what's best for you, and you should not be going!"
"Stop talking to me like I'm five!" Kairi said, her voice becoming slightly shrill. "This is my baby! I'm not just some surrogate carrying yours! I'm not going to let her get hurt! It'll be worse for us here!"
"Yes, because you've gone through this before," Suzu replied sarcastically. "I'm sorry, I forgot that, at 18, you were all-knowing."
With narrowed indigo eyes, Kairi just folded her arms in front of her and said, "And you have gone through this?" It was a low blow, pointing out her adoptive mother's infertility, but she was in a spiteful mood. Ever since the woman found out she was pregnant, Kairi rarely had a moment to herself. She almost expected Sora to be a little smothering after he decided that he was all-in too, but that wasn't the case. He seemed to give her enough space to keep her happy, and maybe that had to do with the connection between their hearts. He would know if she was in any sort of danger or needed him, he didn't need to be at her side a hundred percent of the time. Her mother didn't get that though. She harped on her eating habits, her exercise, the time she slept, how she slept, even what she wore.
Yen Sid, using his magic, had given them all a gift that Sora had gotten long ago: armour to protect them. The piece on her arm took a bit to get used to, but she knew that, in the worse case scenario, she could use it to encase herself in armour that would mould to her body, taking everything, even her extended stomach, into account. There was also rather comfortable armour under her shirt that came out underneath it and above her skirt, moulding to the shape of her stomach so it'd be comfortable. It was an added layer of protection, and she liked it.
Her mother thought it was ridiculous and demanded that she take it off. She pointed out that Naminé, suddenly perfect Naminé who couldn't so a wrong, didn't have any visible armour, and neither did Riku or Midori. Kairi just pointed out that Sora and Roxas did. It was a stupid fight, but her mother harped on her for everything. If she had it her way, Kairi would probably be wearing a moomoo, on permanent bed rest until the baby was born, and after that, her mother would probably take the baby as her own. That was the impression she got as Suzu made plans. She was getting so sick of hearing what her baby was going to be doing without having a say in it.
She felt relief as Sora came over to them, no doubt having felt her distress. She turned away from a glaring Suzu, curling as close to him as she could, and burying her forehead against his neck. Sora hugged her, looking up at Suzu almost warily. He knew how much her mother was driving her crazy lately, having heard all about it when she ranted at night.
"I can't believe you're letting her go!" the woman snapped. "It's dangerous."
"I'd rather have her with me," Sora admitted. "It's a bit selfish, yeah. But I also know that she'll go stir-crazy here. Don't you think that added stress and worry for long periods of time, because that's what she'll do, will be worse for her than staying on a stable, perfectly safe gummi ship with the most up-to-date shields and comfortable furniture, is? Given that the most powerful sorcerer around said it was perfectly safe for her." He could feel Kairi smiling against his skin. "I'm not going to let anything bad happen to her."
"I know you mean well, Sora, but you've made that promise, if only to yourself, before." She didn't say it, but there was a linger accusation in the air. The lingering 'smack' that echoed in the now silent room seemed to reverberate on forever, Kairi's hand held up still and a red mark appearing on her adoptive mother's cheek.
"Don't you ever," she shrieked, "ever accuse him of anything involving that you...you..." She was shaking, she was literally that angry. "You are not having anything to do with this baby or my family! So get out!"
"Kairi..." Sora said softly, but she shook her head violently. She grabbed his arm and pulled him towards the gummi ship, causing everyone in their path to almost leap out of the way, not wanting to invoke her wrath. She pulled him up the ramp and into the room designed almost like the interior or an airplane, with large, comfortable seats that had seat-belts to keep them safe during take-off. She sat in one of them, pulling Sora into the one beside her as she folded her arms in front of her.
Max peered into the room from the bridge, which was just through the door. Midori, who was going to be with him during the first little while of flight, also looked out, but both (wisely) returned back into their seats in that room.
A little bit later, a rather rattled Riku, Roxas and Naminé appeared, all strapping themselves into their seats silently. When Kairi didn't move to do up her own, Sora got up and did it for her before sitting back down beside her and strapping himself in. "We're all good to go, Max."
"Alright! Lets go guys!"
They were all silent as the rather large gummi ship took off from Twilight's Destiny. The silence in the room was almost suffocating, and the second that Midori yelled at them that it was okay to get up and walk around, that they were stabilized, Roxas practically leapt out of his chair, gave Kairi a fearful look (out of the group, he usually did get the nasty end of her hormones fired at him), and rushed out of the room to check out the rest of the ship. Naminé just sighed and followed him while Riku moved into the bridge.
It took Sora a second to register the sniffle, and looked over to see Kairi in tears. He tried to spring up, only to realize that he was still buckled in, and quickly tried to undo himself while moving to her at the same time. It didn't work out all that well, and he ended up landing face-first on the floor.
Kairi let out a small giggle despite her tears, and he was glad that his pain accomplished something. Sora pushed himself up onto his knees in front of her and asked, "Are you okay?"
"I can't believe I did that," she said miserably. "I just—she's been driving me crazy and—and I've been having dreams that she was going to try and take the baby and I don't want that."
Sora sighed and unbuckled her from the seat while saying, "She wouldn't try to take him. She's just worried, that's all."
"Do you think she'll forgive me?"
"I think she will," he nodded. "It might take a little bit, but she will. Now calm down." He put his hand on her stomach that was protected by her armour and her clothing. She jerked up quickly, causing him to pull his hand back. "Are you okay?"
"She just kicked," Kairi said in awe.
"You said he's been doing that for a while," Sora pointed out.
"No, I meant kick, kick." She grabbed Sora's arm and pulled him out of the room, down the hall to where they were supposed to be staying. Once they were inside the room, she magically removed the metal off of her body like Yen Sid showed them how to, and then took Sora's hand and put it against her stomach. "Wait for it."
They were silent for a moment before he felt it. His eyes went wide with surprise as he felt the baby kick against his hand several times. He pulled his hand away in shock before guiding Kairi to the bed and making her sit down. Kairi watched with confusion as he pulled her shirt up above her belly, and then saw what he was looking at. They could see the baby kicking. "Okay, that's a bit freaky to see," she admitted.
"If I didn't know how they came out, I'd think it was trying to alien-explode out or something," Sora said with a laugh, and put his hand against her bare skin as it kicked again before stopping. He frowned. "Is something wrong with him?"
"No, she probably just got tired," Kairi said as she flopped back. "Where are we heading to first?"
"Atlantica," Sora explained. "We decided to start from the farthest and work our way in. It'll probably take about three days to get there. Not bad, considering it would have taken us at least a week, going as fast as we could in the other gummi ship. Why?"
"Just curious," she admitted. "I wish I knew which worlds I could go onto."
"We can know that though!" Sora said happily as he removed his own armour away, not wanting to accidentally hurt her with one of the edges as he moved up from where he had been kneeling on the floor the entire time to seeing beside her. "Chip and Dale put something in. It's pretty cool. We should even be able to get a reading on how dangerous a world is." His smile vanished just as quickly as it appeared.
"What's wrong?" Kairi asked him, frowning a bit.
"Well...there is one world I know you can go to, but I'm not...I know we talked about it, but do you want to go there?" Sora asked, hesitating slightly.
"It'd help if I knew where."
"Christmas Town. Well, technically Halloween Town, but if you want, Christmas Town too."
Kairi tensed up a bit at his words, going completely silent as she rubbed her stomach. She paused when she felt the baby kick again against her hand and slowly nodded her head. "I said before that I think I need it." She shifted her hand over her heart and added, "I think you do too."
"Maybe," he said before jumping up. "I'm going to find Riku. I'm putting him in charge of Atlantica since he was there more recently than we were."
"He's gotta become a Master somehow," Sora said, knowing that, while Yen Sid had the ultimate say, the old wizard wouldn't say anything until he thought that his friend and brother were ready. "I'm going to give Roxas a chance in another world."
She slowly nodded her head and looked at the ceiling. "You think Naminé, Midori and I will ever get the chance? We're going to be so busy with other things soon, and I can't really show what I'm made of now, can I?"
"You'll get your chance," Sora assured her. "I promise you. Even if it means that you get to wander the worlds on your own and I have to stay home with him." He didn't sound very pleased at the prospect.
"Her," Kairi argued with a grin.
"I dunno, Roxas and I both agree on a him."
"And you're outnumbered, because everyone else says her. It's mother's intuition."
Sora just shook his head, an amused smile on his lips.
Sora was sure that it would have been a nightmare trying to sort out who was going to go to Atlantica and who was going to stay on the ship if everyone else was with them instead of back starting their training. As it was, a small team was less likely to draw any attention. Max told him that the magic level for Atlantica was incredibly high, but that didn't surprise him in the least. Their systems said that there didn't seem to be too much darkness on the world, but there was always the possibility of other things going wrong. He just prayed that Ursula was truly gone now, since his enemies that he defeated tended to come back with a vengeance.
"Okay," Sora said, looking at everyone else one at a time. "To keep things easy, only three of us are going to go down. That way we won't draw as much attention to ourselves, but worst case scenario, the others, except for Kairi, can come down. Riku, Naminé, you guys are coming down with me. Roxas, Midori, you two are going to stay here with Kairi and Max."
Midori eyed the world below them, taking note of how most of the surface was covered by a vast ocean. "I'm okay with that."
"I'm not," Roxas grumbled. "Why can't I go?"
"If you haven't noticed, we tend to split off, you with Naminé, me with Kairi, and Riku with Midori," Sora pointed out, "it makes complete sense, since you're married and Kairi's my girlfriend, but we have to learn to work in different groups. I know we've done it before, but still, we need to learn to work together with what we've got."
"Sora's probably right," Naminé agreed. "It's okay Roxas, we'll be fine."
"Right," Sora said with a nod. "Besides, you're taking the lead in the next world."
"I am?" Roxas asked with surprise.
"Yup," Sora nodded his head before turning to Riku. "Once we get down there, you're in charge, okay?"
"Sure," Riku said with a shrug. There was never an actual agreement that Sora was the boss, but it was always implied, since he had the most experience with the Keyblade. Riku figured that there was a reason Sora was backing off, and had the distinct feeling that it had something to do with Yen Sid watching both him and Roxas.
"If the rest of this things are right," Max piped up, motioning to the monitors around the room, "then we should be able to track you guys down there, so if something does go wrong, we'll know."
"It locks onto your magical signatures," Midori added from where she sat. "That also means that we might not be the only ones tracking you that way, so keep an eye out. Just because things aren't bad there, doesn't mean that it can't get worse."
"Alright, you guys ready to go?" Sora asked, looking at Riku and Naminé.
"Lets do this," Riku replied confidently, and Naminé nodded her head.
"Remember," Kairi said sternly, "you're getting Ariel, and coming back. None of this insane shenanigans I've heard of before."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Sora said quickly.
"Yes, because playing annoy the shark is the best way to spend your time in the ocean," she deadpanned.
"Annoy the shark?" Riku mouthed to Sora as they moved over to the warp spot in the ship.
"Long story," he replied, "Naminé dug through my memories, she knows it. She can share sometime."
There was a flash of light, and all three of them were gone.
"So," Roxas said after a moment, looking around at everyone else. "What now?" He wasn't used to being stuck on the gummi ship with so few people, at least not while they were just idling in orbit.
Kairi's eye lit up and she said, "Lets play Apples to Apples!"
They all just stared at her until he said, "That's pretty much the most random thing ever."
"Are you kidding? I love that game!" she cried out. "We can even play it in here so we can keep an eye on everything. I'll be back!" She took off with a swiftness that Roxas didn't expect, but he didn't comment on it, instead choosing to sit down.
"What's Apples to Apples?" Max dared to ask.
"Basically word association with cards," Midori explained, looking quite eager to play. That wasn't surprising though, she took everything as a challenge.
Roxas just shook his head and said, "All the girls here are crazy, Max. Just accept it and move on."
The anthropomorphic dog just shrugged. As strange as these people were, he was glad that he was able to help like his father had for so many years.
"I'm a mermaid!" Naminé literally squealed with happiness, causing Sora to look up at her with mild alarm. It always took him a minute to get used to transformations, though he was usually the first to snap out of a daze since he was used to it more than the others. Right now though, Naminé was gliding through the water gleefully, her white fin standing out in the water along with the blue clam-shells covering her chest.
"How did you learn how to swim so quickly?" he asked with confusion as he swam over to her, looking down at his own familiar, blue tail.
"Umm, I was a part of Kairi's mind when she learned? Plus your memories?" Naminé suggested.
"Oh, right," Sora said sheepishly before turning to face Riku, who was getting used to his golden-coloured fin again, though the process went pretty quickly. "So, where now?"
"Huh?" Riku blurted out before remembering that Sora wanted him to take charge in this world. "Oh, right. Well, the last time I was here, Ariel was on the land, so that's where we were transported. Think she came back to the sea and that's why we're here?"
Sora thought about that for a moment before saying his head, "No, I don't think so. Ariel is stubborn, and if she was on the land I doubt she'd come back for much. Does time move the same here as the other worlds?"
"I actually think it's a bit slower than most worlds," Riku said after thinking about it. "You said that Ariel was pretty much the same between the times you visited her first, right? Like a year hadn't passed for her like it did for almost everyone else."
"That's just confusing," the brunet complained.
"Well, we should go and ask around," Naminé suggested as she swam around the two young men in circles. "I'm sure any one could tell us about her." She eyed a little fish that was swimming close to them and suddenly darted at it. "Hi! Have you seen Ariel?" The fish screamed with surprise and darted away from her.
Sora and Riku laughed loudly needing to lean on one another to stay floating where they were. She turned around and glared at the two, but it just made them laugh harder.
"We should check Atlantica, as in the city," Sora said to Riku, though his amused smirk didn't leave his face. "If anything, Flounder would know where she is."
"That's an idea," Riku agreed. "Which way is it?"
"Umm..." Sora spun around in a circle, before coming to a stop and saying, "Well, we can follow what looks like a path down there, or we can let Naminé ask for directions again."
"Shut up," she grumbled, crossing her arms in front of her chest as she glared at them.
"Path it is," Riku said with a nod. He caught sight of the sea path that Sora was referring to and started following it, his two friends trailing behind him. There wasn't much to see for a while, just rocks, shells, seaweed and the occasional starfish that completely ignore them, everything else was dark blue as far as they could see.
"This is boring," Naminé whispered to Sora. "Why is it that the most exciting things seem to happen to you when you're alone? Something needs to happen."
"Don't jinx it," Riku mumbled, his green eyes keeping an eye on the area around them. Though there was nothing, in sight, he knew that their visibility only went so far, and sharks could appear out of nowhere.
Sora and Naminé were talking quietly behind him when Riku came to a sudden stop. They both swam into him since they weren't paying attention. "Pay attention! Do you guys hear that?"
Sora strained for a moment before a huge smile appeared on his face and said, "Singing."
"Okay, so I'm not crazy. Someone's singing?"
"Not just someone, a lot of people if we can hear it from here," he said, still grinning. "That's good, that means we're almost to Atlantica."
"Merpeople like music," Sora said with a shrug.
"Well, lets go!" Naminé said happily, shoving both of them out of the way and swimming past them, eager to see Atlantica. From Sora's memories, she knew it was beautiful, but over the years she was separate from Kairi, she realized that seeing a memory and seeing something herself was a completely different experience. She could hear the music now too, and was following it through the crevices in the rock before her.
Finally, she reached the other side and came to a stop, her mouth falling open in pure awe as the golden city of Atlantica came into view.
"Naminé!" Riku scolded her as he and Sora finally caught up. "Don't do that, you could—holy crap. That's Atlantica?"
"That's Atlantica," Sora echoed, tilting his head to look up when he realized that he could see a bunch of small figures in the distance swimming up towards the surface. "But I doubt we'll find anyone there."
"Why's that?" the silver-haired young man asked as he scanned the area around them.
Sora pointed upwards with his thumb, and Riku looked up, only now noticing that other merpeople were swimming up towards the surface. He stared for a moment before saying, "Might as well follow them. Come on."
Naminé hesitated a bit. She wanted to explore Atlantica, but she had to remind herself that they had a job to do. She would have to get used to putting what she wanted to do on the back-burner, so she shrugged off the want and followed after her two friends.
"Up from the sea we rise, up to the world of skies, there's never been not ever before a child of sea and shore. Up to the world of skies, forever to be, together we sore, under the sea and under the sun."
"Can everyone in this world sing?" the blonde asked as she caught up to her friends.
"Most merpeople can, I think," Sora said with a shrug. "Ariel mentioned something about a silent law that was in place for a long time, so merpeople really got into music when the law was removed. She didn't really explain much about it. What I'm wondering about is why the hell everyone's going to the surface."
"The last time I was here people seemed to know about merpeople," Riku explained. "Maybe because Ariel married Eric?" He quickly changed his train of thought. "We should come up behind everyone else, just in case."
"Aye aye, Captain," Sora saluted and Naminé giggled a bit at Riku's dry glare.
The three of them made their way up to the surface, splashing above the waves behind a large group of mermaids. They were all surrounding a large, rather magnificent ship. Sora tilted his head slightly as he stared at it before looking at his friends and saying, "Wonder what's going on?"
"I don't like it," Riku said suddenly, green eyes narrowed a bit. "The monitors said that there was some darkness here. If there is, this is exactly the type of place it'd strike."
"Great," Naminé muttered as she squinted her eyes at the ship. "Ariel! And it looks like…she's holding a baby!"
"Huh?" Both boys looked up, and Sora impulsively swam into the group of merpeople to get a closer look. His cerulean eyes went wide with surprise when he saw that there was, indeed, a small, black-haired baby held securely in her arms.
"This is your world, my darling. One world, the land and sea. My hope for you for always, is that your heart will hold part of me," he heard Ariel saying in a sing-song voice to the baby. He watched as Eric joined them, smiling at the baby, and he suddenly felt bad.
Sora looked around as King Triton rose up from the water, and suddenly jerked backwards. "Oh, sorry," he said quickly to the person he ran in to before hurrying back to Riku and Naminé.
"What happened?" Riku asked with alarm when Sora swam back to them quickly. "Did you see something?"
"How can we ask her to come with us?" Sora asked them, his eyes darting back to the boat where King Triton was looking at his granddaughter. "That baby's probably only a few months old."
"Aww, are you feeling sentimental?" Naminé asked him teasingly, but Sora just sent her a sharp glare.
Riku ignored the two of them, his eyes narrowed slightly. He shook his head and said, "Something doesn't feel right here. I don't mean like Heartless or Endless. But there's something dark here."
That shut both of them up as they looked around.
They whipped around at Ariel's scream and watched as a different type of creature rose out of the water, the baby, Melody, wrapped in one of her tentacles.
"Ursula's alive, again?" Sora asked with a groan, but didn't wait for an answer as he started shoving himself past other merpeople.
"And she found Weight Watchers," Naminé added to Riku.
The eldest of the group frowned and said, "That's not Ursula. I don't know who…but she's not that witch. Come on, we have to make sure Sora doesn't do anything stupid."
Sora surfaced again at the front of the crowd of merpeople, his blue eyes focusing on the creature before him.
"Ursula's crazy sister!" Sebastian (it was easy to recognize his voice) cried out, and for a moment, Sora had to wonder how someone could be crazier than Ursula, but shrugged that thought aside. Though he kept it hidden, he summoned his Keyblade below the water.
"I didn't miss the cake and ice cream, did I?" she asked, staring at Triton and Ariel.
"Morgana!" Triton raged, his trident glowing with power as he pointed it at her. "Surrender the baby at once!"
"Nah ah ah," Morgana said, shaking her finger as she brought Melody in front of her, and even Sora had to cringe as Ursula's sister gave the baby a kiss on the cheek. Once she saw that Trident was backing down, she moved a bit away from the boat and said, "Ursula simply would have loved to come, but…oh what was the problem? Oh right. You all shishkabob her!" She was using her tentacles to throw Melody up into the air and back down again as she spoke, and Sora could see the anger radiating off of Ariel, watching as he right hand flexed a little. She was forcing herself not to summon her Keyblade, he realized. "One minute you're on top, the next your sushi. How is that fair?" She smirked a bit. "Then again, who said we have to play fair?"
Sora felt it a split second before they appeared. He heard screams as merpeople scattered around him at the sight of a giant shark with glowing yellow eyes. He moved out of the way, not sure if this was a Heartless or an Endless. If it was an Endless, his single Keyblade would be useless, and he always found it difficult to use large amounts of powerful magic such as drive forms or other special attacks in certain forms, his merman one being a particular example.
"Sora," Riku hissed from behind him, startling him a bit as he spun around to look at his friend. "Get that baby. We'll deal with Jaws."
"Now hand over the Trident and the Keyblade, or your granddaughter is shark bait!"
"Huh?" Morgana looked around just in time to see two flashes of light. The next thing she knew, her shark was forced under the waves by Riku and Naminé.
Naminé let out a small scream as the Shark Endless (since it definitely wasn't a heartless), snapped in her direction, almost catching her arm in its fearsome jaw. Riku slammed Way to Dawn on it's head, forcing it's mouth shut, but it did very little damage. "What?"
"It's skin is thick, like a real sharks!" Naminé said as she swam behind it. Without uttering a word, she pointed Chain of Memories at the shark, a spear of ice growing around it. That didn't hold the shark for long though, it's sheer body size and strength shattering the ice. "Damnit!"
"Th—nope," Riku quickly changed his mind, realizing that letting lightning out under water was probably a bad idea. "Bludgeon to death it is!"
Above the water, while Riku and Naminé fought off the single Endless. Ariel was quick to summon her Keyblade. She pointed it at Morgana and yelled out, "Water!"
Morgana didn't expect the attack, letting out a yelp of surprise as she was thrown back onto the stingrays that she road up to the surface. It was at that precise moment that her grip on Melody went slack, and the baby went flying.
"Melody!" she screamed, and was above to dive into the water herself, but the shark was thrown out of the water by a powerful wave, blocking her view.
Sora was sure he'd never moved that fast in his life. Between those few seconds that he saw little Melody being tossed into the air, and just before she hit the water, he shot forward and managed to grab the baby. His first reaction was panic, but then he heard a bit of giggling and looked down at the baby in his arms. Her blue eyes glinted up at him happily as she reached up and tugged at his spiky brown hair, and he let out a sigh of relief. It was impossible for him to keep her completely out of the water as he made his way around the flailing shark (who was pulled back under the water by Riku), over to the boat. Once he was close enough, he called up, "Ariel!"
The frantic redhead looked down at the water, uncomprehending blue eyes staring at his for a moment until they shifted, locking onto the child in his arms. "Melody!"
There was a frantic splash behind Sora, and he held the baby closer to him as he looked around. Morgana appeared above the waves, looking at them all furiously. "This isn't the end! Mark my words! No amount of power from any of those weapons will stop me from getting what I want!"
Riku and Naminé appeared to Sora's right side, and the three of them gave the sea witch defiant looks while Triton yelled, "After her!"
The laughter that rang through the air sent shivers down Sora's spine. It sounded the exact same as Ursula. Yes, crazy definitely ran in their family. In a spiralling pool of dark water, Morgana vanished, leaving behind the words, "You will never find me, but I'll find you! And your granddaughter!"
"We shall not rest until that mad woman is vanquished!" Triton roared angrily, his trident glowing as he spoke to the merpeople around him. "Find her!" They all quickly scattered at his words.
Sora was jerked away from the scene when a rope ladder unravelled beside him, he looked up and saw Eric scaling down the ship towards him, Ariel waiting on the deck with her Keyblade, Mysterious Abyss, clutched so tightly in her hand that it was turning her knuckles white. Melody let out a happy garble as she saw her father coming towards them.
Sora waited until Eric was sure he had a firm grip on the ladder with one hand and his feet before putting Melody into his free arm. The young man let out a sigh of relief, a strained smile on his face as he said, "Thank you, Sora." The smile might have been strained, but his words were honest.
Sora, Riku and Naminé stayed below Eric until his feet were firmly placed on the deck of the boat. He was barely there for a moment before Melody was snatched out of his arms by her frantic mother.
"She won't be safe here," Riku said grimly. "Ursula was evil, but it was calculated. You could smell crazy off that freak."
"So what do we do?" Naminé asked. "I doubt we'll be able to get Ariel to leave her."
Riku looked over at Sora, who was staring at Eric, Ariel and the baby as they spoke to King Triton. Ariel looked so sad as she passed him a golden, shell locket. Sora just sighed and shook his head sadly. The brunet looked back at Riku and shrugged.
Riku, however, no longer looked grim or clueless. His green eyes flickered from Sora, up to Ariel and back again with a calculating expression.
"You have an idea," Sora said to him.
"I have an idea," he said with a nod. "I'm just not sure how much everyone's going to like it."
Ariel hugged Melody to her as she sat at the edge of the water on the soft, white sand of the beach. After what happened earlier, Eric was surprised that she was willing to go so close to the ocean, especially since she already told her own father that he'd never be able to see Melody again, at least not while Morgana was out there.
Ariel wasn't just anyone though. She was unique in many different ways, and he knew that more than anyone else.
"Ariel, you and Melody should go back inside," he suggested to his wife.
She slowly shook her head negatively, her long red hair once again loosely flowing down her back, swaying with the movement of her head. Her bare feet were in the water, and to most people, it would have been freezing, but water temperature never bothered Ariel.
Movement in the water suddenly got both of their attention. Eric stepped forward, his hand on the sword at his waist, but the tension vanished when he saw familiar, spiky hair appear, followed by two others. Though Eric knew who Sora was, having met him briefly before, he was much more familiar with Riku, who came to their world two years prior to stop the Heartless and Nobodies there.
Ariel, on the other hand, knew Sora better. She watched as he and the two others came into the shallows, and she motioned for him to come closer. Sora pulled himself up onto the beach, leaving his blue fin in the water a bit. "Hey Ariel. Guess this was a bad time to stop in, huh?"
"No, not a bad time," she said with a shake of her head as she ran a hand through Melody's hair. "You and your friends saved her."
"Right, you guys met Riku, before, right? This is Naminé," he motioned towards his other two friends. Melody perked up a bit at his voice and held out a hand, latching onto his spiky hair again.
"Melody," Ariel scolded the girl.
"It's okay," Sora assured her, wincing only a little.
"Why are you here?" Eric asked. It may have been abrupt, but it was important.
While Sora made funny faces at Melody, who happily giggled at him, Riku took the opportunity to explain. "We've been traveling world to world to find the other Keyblade Bearers."
"There's this insane, evil guy out there somewhere," Naminé added. "He's got some kind of plan, and sends around Endless, like that shark, to different worlds. As of right now, the only clue we have is that he attacks or helps others attack people with Keyblades. Not like an invasion of the world or anything like that either."
"His name is Master Xehanort, and the problem is that he is a Keyblade Master too," Riku said grimly.
"The bad guy has a Keyblade?" Ariel asked, sounding stunned. She'd never known that a person who had a Keyblade could be an enemy too.
"Worse, he's a Master. The only Masters we have are Mickey and this goofball here," Riku said, motioning to Sora, who was still making faces at a madly giggling Melody.
"So why are you here exactly?" Ariel asked.
"We want to prepare every Keyblade Bearer as best as we can. So what we're going is picking everyone up and bringing them to our world, Twilight's Destiny, for training," Naminé explained.
"No," Eric said quickly.
"Before you say anything, here us out," Riku said quickly while holding up his hands. "Triton said something about you planning to put up a wall."
"Yes," Ariel said with a nod, bringing Melody back close to her. "We need to protect Melody from Morgana."
"But those walls won't be up for a while, right?" Naminé said. "That'll leave you exposed."
"Ariel and Melody were going to go to one of our vacation homes inland," Eric explained.
"You'll leave them stranded where Xehanort can attack," Riku pointed out. "My proposal is that both Ariel and Melody come with us. Xehanort can't get into Twilight's Destiny. Ariel can train to use her Keyblade and both she and Melody will be safe." He turned his attention from Eric to Ariel. "Not only is it impossible for Morgana and Xehanort to touch Melody, but you'll be learning how to use your Keyblade to the best of your abilities to protect everyone in the future."
Ariel looked away from them, but then looked down at Melody in her arms. Eric was about to protest again, but she held up a hand to him and asked, "Will it be safe for her? To go through those warps or whatever they are?"
"She'll be fine. Kairi's gone through them and she's pregnant," Naminé said in an offhanded way.
Ariel shot Sora a quick look, but stayed focused on the matter at hand. "Eric, I think they're right."
"What?" he asked, sounding stricken.
"I know that you don't want either of us to go, but it won't be long. I'll be able to use my Keyblade, and no one will be able to hurt us again." Ariel stood up and looked out over the ocean. "Maybe it'll mean I won't have to give up the rest of my home for that long too."
"Eric," Sora spoke up, "I know it'll be hard to let them go but isn't their safety worth it? It's just for a little while. You can even rush to get that wall up."
Eric looked at everyone one by one until his eyes landed on his wife and daughter. He let out a sigh and said, "Give us a little time?"
"Take as much as you need," Riku answered for them, knowing that Ariel was going to come with them. Ariel and Eric left, going back up to the castle as the three of them sank back into the water a little more.
"Good job, Riku," Sora said to his friend.
"I didn't do anything," the elder of the two replied.
"You got Ariel to come with us. I didn't think that we'd be able to," Sora said with a small shrug.
"It was smart idea," Naminé agreed, nodding her head. "Who knows, maybe you'll get to be a Keyblade Master sooner than you think."
Sora didn't comment on that, he just stared out over the ocean. "You know, I'm gonna miss the ocean."
"We live by one, Sora," Riku pointed out.
"Yeah, but how often will I get to enjoy it? The world just came back together fully. People are confused and scared." For once, Sora didn't sound all that bitter about the fact that his life was changing so quickly. "It's okay though. I had time to talk to Mickey and Yen Sid, and it'll be hard but it'll be okay. I'll still miss just sitting by the ocean though."
"I'll miss home too," Naminé said with a nod. "Radiant Garden was where I was born, but Destiny Islands is home."
"I'm glad I'm not you guys," Riku said, trying to lighten up the air around them, which was odd, since Sora was the one that usually tried to do that.
Sora and Naminé both chuckled at his words. It wasn't really funny, but they'd take any way to laugh.
Ariel returned a little while later with Melody in hand. She had two bags over her shoulder, one for her and one for her daughter. She changed from her dress into pants and boots, and her hair was still down loose. Eric wasn't with her though.
"We agreed that it'd be easier to say goodbye inside," she said, explaining the absence of her husband. For her part, Ariel looked like she wanted to cry. "And you're sure you don't mind Melody coming? She is only young and still cries a lot."
"It's okay," Naminé assured her.
"Right, Sora's going to have to deal with a crying baby in a few months anyway," Riku agreed. "Maybe you can even give him and Kairi some tips and tricks."
"We should go," Sora interrupted them, glaring at Riku a bit. "We have a few other places to stop before we can go back home."
I think it's been close to a year since I updated this. I don't really have anything to say about that, I am sorry though. Things happen. Thank you for everyone who reviewed, and a special thanks to all the people who sent messages asking if I was ever going to update and assuring me that they'd still like to see the rest of this. I can't promise when the next chapter will be out, but I can promise it won't be a year from now.
Krystal Lily Potter