Chapter VI: A Time to Save the World
"Never tell a young person that anything cannot be done.
God may have been waiting centuries for someone
ignorant enough of the impossible to do that very thing."
~John Andrew Holmes



"Sora! Sora, wake up!"

Sora Akari Taiyou slowly cracked open his eyes before quickly closing them again. No way was he getting up yet. Whatever it was that he was getting up for, he was sure he could squeeze in just a little more sleep...

A painful whack on his knee from some hard object and an angry "Sora!", easily jarred him back into reality. Sora's eyes flew open and immediately he nearly screamed—he was in a room so white that it essentially blinded him-at least, he guessed it was a room; the white made it impossible to really tell. His eyes burned and he felt tears begin to flow. He stumbled forward, tripped, and threw his hands out to catch himself before he realized that someone else had caught him instead.

"Gawrsh, Sora, y'gotta be more careful!"

"I, uh..." Sora took a much slower approach to opening his eyes, allowing them to adjust to the room's painful white. As everything came into focus, Sora found himself staring into the large eyes of his friends, Donald and Goofy. Sora smiled, content, and with a mischievous yawn, relaxed into their grip, beginning to drift back off into sleep. He could hear Donald snort, and then felt the duck's grip release, sending Sora tumbling to the floor.

"Ouch!" he rubbed his back. "C'mon, Donald, I was only joking!"

Donald shrugged and examined the area around them. "You've fallen asleep in stranger places."

"Well, does anybody know where we are?" Sora sat up and finally took stock of his surroundings. With his eyes adjusted, he was definitely sure they were in some kind of huge, ridiculously white room. In the center, from where he had come a few minutes ago, he guessed, was what looked like a giant, unfolded, glass flower.

"I think we were asleepin'!" Goofy suggested.

"Yeah, that's what it felt like." Sora agreed, "But how did we get here? This doesn't look anything like the Gummi Ship's bunks..."

"Let's see..." Donald thought back. "We defeated Ansem..."

"Yep." Sora continued. "We restored peace to the worlds, found Kairi..." Sora felt a twinge of sadness at the thought of the redhead, so far away on Destiny Islands, but he was sure he'd see her again soon. He just had to-ohyeah! "And then we went to look for Riku and the King!"

"Then what happened?" Goofy asked.

"I..uh..." Sora thought hard, but he couldn't seem to pinpoint how he and his friends had gotten to where they were now. It didn't even feel as though he had known, but forgot-his memories just completed stopped at that big, endlessly green field that they had found themselves in after closing the door to Kingdom Hearts. "I can't remember..." he finally said.

"Neither can I." Donald added.

"What about Jiminy's Journal?" Goofy asked. "He musta wrote down what happened!"

"Right! Great idea, Goofy!" Sora congratulated and reached back into the hood of his red jacket, where Jiminy normally stayed. Scooping up the small form in his hand, Sora shook the small cricket a little, who lay fast asleep in his palm. "Hey, Jiminy! "Wake up!"

"Huh? Wha..what's going on, fellas? And why is it so bright in here?" Jiminy sleepily rubbed at his eyes.

"That's what we're hoping you can tell us." Donald replied.

"We're not sure where we are, Jiminy, could you check your journal and see if there are any clues there to...well, anything?" Sora asked.

Jiminy smiled, and reached into his little backpack. "Sure! I'm happy to help! Just gimme a second here..." from within, he pulled out a tiny little leather book and started flipping through it. "Huh. The last entry was from the first or second night we spent in the Endless Fields...and then there's nothing." he flipped a page. "Oh wait a moment! There's a message here! It says: "Thank Naminé."

"Who's Naminé?" Goofy asked, scratching his head.

All four friends gave a "Who knows?" shrug. "I'm sure we'll figure it out sometime, when it comes up." Sora finally said. Whoever Naminé was, they'd have to keep an eye out for her. Sora double-checked himself when he realized he had referred to this "Naminé" as a "she". Why had he done that? It wasn't like Jiminy's Journal gave any hints...oh well, he figured, it must just be that Naminé seems more like a girl's name.

Donald sighed. "Some journal that is..."

Jiminy ignored the jab, used to Donald's typical pessimism. "Well, whaddaya you fellows say to figuring out where we are?"

"A-yup!" Goofy replied, positively. "Me n' Donald came outta big clear containers like you, Sora! 'cept ours were just out in a hallway out there-"

"Guess we weren't as 'important' as Sora..." Donald mumbled.

"-and what's more, there's another door out there!" Goofy finished.

Sora nodded, excitedly. "Alright! Let's see where it goes!"

As group moved through wherever they were, Sora had to nearly be dragged forward by Donald, as he was so intent on searching and investigating every corner and door of every room they went through. After the hallway where Donald and Goofy had awoken, they entered into highly technical, electrical rooms with cables and paneling covering every wall. After a room or two like this, the group found a smaller room with just a computer, all six monitors completely dark and shut down, along with a staircase leading up. Unanimously agreed, after Sora poked at the computer for a few minutes, the three friends headed up the stairs into whatever lay beyond. Sora did not expect, however, to push through a door and enter into a run-down and trashed Mansion.

"Man!" Sora exclaimed. "This place is so cool!" he looked up to the high, vaulted ceilings, impressed even at where the light broke through in several damaged holes. He couldn't help but wonder about the history of this place, and what had led it to be abandoned in such a condition.

"I don't know 'bout you two," Goofy started for what looked like a front door. "But I'd just like to breathe some fresh air right about now!" The Knight creaked open the large, wooden door, Sora and Donald close behind him. Immediately, warm sunlight poured through and bathed the three in its glow. Sora smiled, he had to admit, for some reason, the fresh air felt particular novel and fresh right now. Stepping out of the Mansion, the three entered into a severely overgrown and neglected garden, filled with tall grass and huge, twisting plants and trees. Through the overgrowth, they could see a tall stone wall run all the way around the Mansion, and a run-down gate that opened fully to the world beyond, holding onto the wall only by its hinges. In the distance, Sora could hear a train whistle, long and powerful. Something inside Sora leapt at the sound. There was something so familiar about it, something so welcoming. He couldn't help but feel his heart drag itself toward it.

"Hey! You! How'd you get back there!" Sora turned toward the gated entry to the Mansion, through which a boy about his age stood, with two other heads of two others persons peaking out over his shoulders. The boy who spoke sported tousled, unkept blonde hair and glared at Sora suspiciously with his dark blue eyes.

"And, ah, what're those things with you?" a boy with brown hair overflowing around a headband asked with wide eyes from beyond the blonde's left shoulder. Behind the right shoulder, was a girl with brown hair twisted into braids and bright green eyes.

"Um, hi!" Sora waved awkwardly, Donald and Goofy doing the same behind him. "We're not trying to cause any trouble or anything...we just, well, kinda woke up." he grinned sheepishly and rubbed the back of his neck. "We're not really sure what's going on or how we got here."

"And those, ah, guys with you?" The blonde gestured.

"Oh! These are Donald and Goofy!" Sora responded, gesturing. Goofy still waved, even going so far as to offer a friendly "howdy!". Donald just gave an acknowledging nod.

"But...what...are they?" The girl finally spoke up.

Sora paused. What were they-oh! Sora snorted a laugh. Of course! Donald and Goofy not-being-human might not go over easily with some people! He wondered why they'd never run into a problem before, but he figured it was just because almost every world they had visited had had its own "strange" quirk to it, and most people there probably considered it normal to see a duck and dog like creature. Well, Sora shrugged, guess it wouldn't fly everywhere.

"They're friends of mine!" He explained. "They're just...different. They're from far away."

"And if you've got a problem with it, you can talk to my wand!" Donald added, brandishing his weapon. Sora chuckled nervously and sidestepped in front of Donald.

"Ignore him! He can be kinda extreme sometimes!"

The blonde still gazed at the group strangely, but offered a potentially friendly nod. "Well, I'm Hayner."

Following suite, the two others, who had been standing behind Hayner, stepped out and introduced themselves. The girl's name was Olette, and the brown-haired one was Pence.

"My name's Sora!" Sora offered."Sorry if we freaked you guys out at all!"

"It's alright, we'll live." Hayner shrugged and crossed him arms. Pence walked forward shoved the remains of the gate out of the way. "I actually think all this is pretty cool! The world full of weird-ass stuff and we just found some of it wandering right out of the mysterious Old Mansion!"

Olette smiled. "I agree, but unfortunately, the whole rest of the town might not be so...open minded as us. If you're planning to come into town at all, I could go get some cloaks or something to make Donald and Goofy less conspicuous?"

Donald started to speak up, but Goofy interrupted. "Gee, Olette! That'd be just fantastic! Thank you!"

Olette smiled and nodded, turning back into the forest that lay beyond the Mansion's clearing. "Oh! Hayner! I just remembered!" she suddenly started and turned back. "They said their names were Donald, Sora and Goofy, remember? That guy we met?"

"Right, I'll tell them." Hayner nodded and Olette disappeared into the forest.

Pence shook Sora, Donald and Goofy's hand each, examining them closely. "Yeah, you guys weren't exactly our first... "different" experience today."

"You got that right." Hayner said. "There was some guy looking around town for you. He had a black cloak on, so we couldn't catch a face-"

"-but he had giant ears! Like this!" Pence placed both hands on the sides of his upper head, mimicking ears that Sora, Donald and Goofy knew too well.

"The King!" All three startled in unison.

"So you know him?" Hayner asked.

"He's only someone we've been looking for for ages!" Donald replied. "Where'd he go?"

"Well, he said to to meet him at the train station-"

"Take us there!" Donald demanded. Not angrily, though, just in his Donald way.

"Please?" Goofy added, smiling.

Twilight Town, as Sora learned the name of the world they were in to be, was a quiet and unassuming city. The way the sun's rays fell throughout the day lent to the sky an orange glow that permeated every corner and open lot of the brick and stone town. None of the residents gave Donald and Goofy a second glance as the group moved through the town, headed to the station as directly as possible. The town struck Sora as very...up. Many of its roads were an ascent, and its buildings were built seemingly atop each other at times. The rails for the railways were raised many, many meters off the ground to avoid the sprawling town at all points that it might cross it. Occasionally, it seemed, the railways would meet the town's brick ground, such as at the train station, but mostly the rails twisted and turned into directions unknown, far above the ground. The train station itself could constantly be seen above the city's skyline—a tall, tower-like building with a huge clock on its face and twin bells extending on arms from both sides of the building's top-most levels. As they got closer and closer, the building revealed itself to sprawl out into a huge ground-floor complex, housing dozens of small, single carriage trains. Across from the building's entrance, its plaza extended to a short brick wall which overlooked the majority of Twilight Town—as easy feat, as it seemed that the station was built at the top of what could be considered the "hill" format of the town.

"Whatta view!" Goofy admired, looking out towards the glistening orange sun.

Hayner, Pence and Olette nodded and looked out themselves, smiling. Olette spoke. "It really is."

"It's rare to get a sight this clear." Hayner noted. "You're lucky its not rush hour. Most people are at work at this point."

Suddenly a dark form fell across the view of the sun and crashed into the ground. The group jumped back in surprise, as the form slithered about on the floor and slipped into a standing position. Olette gasped, and Hayner swore, both in surprise. As the thing took a step-except not at all like a step, more like a squirm—Sora summoned the Keyblade and brandished it. Encouraged and comforted by its familiar form in his hands, and the dangling Oathkeeper keychain at its end, Sora took a step forward in front of the group.

Two more forms suddenly plopped to the ground and slithered up beside the first, followed by more. Double. Triple. Donald and Goofy summoned their weapons and took places beside Sora.

As Sora got a good look at the creatures against the sun, he felt revulsion in his stomach. This things moved unnaturally, twisting in ways that shouldn't be, never moving as much as slithering and contorting. They were completely colored a dark white, ridiculously slim and stick-like, with faces that were cut across the middle with a zippered opening, revealing a row of something resembling silver teeth with nothing else behind them. Their arms were unnaturally long, reaching almost to the ground, tapering into five long fingers, each almost as long as the rest of its arm, which were all wrapped together by two black strands.

Sora looked back over his shoulder and gestured to Hayner, Pence and Olette. "Run!" just as he ducked below one of the creature slithering through the air at him. As it passed above him, Sora thrust the Keyblade straight up and through it. The creature withered around the Keyblade and faded into white nothing. As another one moved along the ground at Sora, like a snake, he jumped into the air and stabbed Keyblade down at the monster, dissolving it before leaping off from the Keyblade and slashing another creature into nothing. Beside him, Donald and Goofy fought off the monsters as well, spells and shield working in tandem. Sora slashed at another one of white creatures, but it moved at an unrealistic angle, twisting itself at ninety degrees to avoid the strike.

Surprised, Sora didn't react to a backhand from the monster in time, which sent him tumbling across the stone. As he fell, he aimed and tossed the Keyblade, decapitating another creature before the Keyblade returned to his hand as he regained his footing. Standing, Sora watched one of the monsters fall back to laying along the ground and stretch itself across the dozen feet to Sora before its lower half caught up with its upper half and its body sprang back to life in three dimensions, inches in front of Sora. It's arms snaked out toward his torso like a spear, but Sora dodged to the side and blocked it nimbly. Through the Keyblade, it felt to him like the creatures fingers were made from metal. With a quick return slice, he removed the long tendril-like fingers and soon after, he removed the creature's torso. What were these things? Weird new Heartless?

The battle against the creatures warred on for ages. They never seemed to stop falling from nothing-they just kept coming and coming and coming. Dozens. Hundreds. Donald had already collapsed from the mental exhaustion of so many spells, and so Sora and Goofy, both also tiring, had to stay near him to defend him against the creature. Sora felt his limbs burning and the sweat pouring from all the exertion. He didn't know how much longer he could hold on. He wasn't surprised when a white twisted leg slid along the ground and swept his feet out from under him. Collapsing to the ground, Sora looked up at more gathering creatures. He raised his Keyblade weakly to defend, but the creature before him suddenly vanished, as did the one beside it and the one beside it. Sora wiped the sweat from his forehead and watched as a copy of the original Keyblade, but with a golden blade and a silver handle instead of vice-versa, cleave through another creature. Attached to the blade's handle was a small figure in a black cloak with large ears—the King!

Donald mumbled, "Your majesty?"

The King slashed at another creature with a smooth flip. He looked over his shoulder at Donald, Sora and Goofy. "You've gotta board the train and leave town! The train knows the way!" The King reached into the folds of his cloak with his free hand and tossed a small pouch to Sora. It was heavy, and made out of a worn velvet. Inside was a pile of gold munny, along with a crumpled piece of paper. In the corner, Sora could make out one word: "Ansem." Another Ansem Report?

"Go! Quickly!" The King rushed toward the end of the plaza and leapt off of the stone wall into the city below. The white creature slithered and slid after him and disappeared, leaving Goofy, Sora and Donald to breathe. "Was...was that really the King?" Goofy asked.

"Looked like it." Donald coughed, his mental fortitude only just returning. "Good to know he's alright!"

"and no longer in the Realm of Darkness!" Sora's eyes widened, all feeling of pain gone. "Which probably means Riku got out, too!"

"I know that look." Donald snorted and pushed himself to his feet on his wand. "We're gonna be looking for Riku and the King now more than ever, right?"

"Of course!" Sora responded with a resounding affirmation. "That's all we've got left to do! Then we can go home!"

"And the King said the train was our next stop! We'd better skeddadle!" Goofy turned and marched toward the train station, Donald and Sora behind.

"Hey wait!" Sora turned to see Hayner, Pence and Olette running towards them. "What in the world were those guys?" Pence gasped when he reached the three, leaning over onto his knees.

"To be honest..." Sora replied. "I don't have a clue."

"Should we, you know, like, call the police or something?" Olette asked, concerned.

"Olette, what could the police do against those things!" Hayner gestured to the edge of the plaza, where some people were watching in horror. Goofy shrouded his cloak around him some more. "Besides, I'm guessing someone must have already."

Sora nodded. "Probably."

"Well...we heard what that guy in the cloak said." Pence started. "So I guess this is goodbye?"

Sora nodded again. "Thanks for all your help! We'll come back to visit!"

Inside the station, a whistle blew.

"Sounds like the train is leaving soon!" Hayner nudged Sora toward the doors. "You guys should be headed out!"

"Yeah..." Sora looked out at the sun again, now moving further down in the sky.

"What is it, Sora?" Goofy asked.

"I...it's like...I've just got this feeling like I'm leaving someplace that's...really special..." Sora responded, quietly and thoughtfully.

Sora thought he could almost hear Donald think that he was being too sentimental.

"It's alright, Sora! Like ya said, we'll come back soon!" Goofy patted him on the back.

"Yeah, I guess you're right..." Sora nodded and started toward the station.

"Hey, Sora!" Hayner called out. Sora turned. "You...sure we haven't met before?"

Sora paused and thought. "Positive. Why do you ask?"

Hayner shrugged and looked to Olette and Pence. "I dunno, just 'cause."

Sora nodded and waved goodbye. Pence, Hayner and Olette returned the farewell and Sora, Donald and Goofy entered the expansive station. Goofy gestured at Sora's face. "Sora, are you okay?"

"What-?" Sora wiped at his cheek, surprised to see a single tear end up on his hand. "How'd that...I don't know where that came from..."

Donald chuckled, patting Sora on the knee, who continued only to study the tear, "C'mon, Sora, pull it together. You can't be that much of a sap..."

With another whistle, and the disappearance of Sora, Donald and Goofy into the station, Olette, Pence and Hayner turned and walked back into town. Pence and Hayner started discussing the weirdness of the day, and how life seemed to be getting crazier and crazier, while Olette couldn't stop thinking about the little pouch Sora had held in his hand. It looked exactly like the one she had in her pocket right now, which was weird, because she had made it by hand, from her own design. It was impossible that there were two of them...statistically speaking, and otherwise.

"Hey!" Pence took on a voice of excitement. "Speaking of craziness, I've heard some -terrific- new rumors about Sunset Hill..."

There had only been one train in the station—a simple yet elegant engine car. No one seemed to be around the platforms, and the man selling tickets simply encouraged Sora to enter the train for nothing. After they had boarded it, and without any apparent conductor or obvious start, the train had starting moving and, for at least thirty minutes, had not stopped-even when the tracks ended and Twilight Town's sun disappeared, and Sora found himself gazing out into an endless space, similar to the space between worlds. This space was slightly different, however. It seemed deeper and more compacted, as if it were much smaller. The train continued to chug away, connected to no rail or anything else that Sora could see, and Donald was starting to get impatient.

"When are we gonna be able to get off this thing!" he groaned, tapping at the windows.

"Huh, what?" Sora glanced over to Donald, looking away from where he was trying to see Twilight Town in the distance. "I'm sure it'll be soon."

"Uh, fellas, I think that's our stop comin' up now!" Goofy pointed out the nearest window to the front of the train, out towards a tiny spit of land floating in the space. Dotted with several bushes and trees, most of the island was taken up by a huge brick tower, twisted and angled, that seemed to create shapes that looked impossible to have been built by human hands. Several, smaller, offshoot towers extended out from the main tower at different points, each stark against the dark, colorful sky.

When the train slowed to a halt, the three stepped out onto the small island of land. Through a small garden of trees, Sora noticed a large creature standing in front of the door to the tower, completely blocking the wide doors with its bulk.

"Hey!" Goofy gestured. "Donald, d'ya think that's-"

Donald smiled craftily and walked toward the creature. Disguising his voice as well as he could—which Sora noted, to his amusement, wasn't very much—Donald asked, "Hey, what's going on?"

The creature chuckled with a deep, rough voice. "I sent some of my mooks inside to see if the master of this here tower's as much of a big shot as they say." the creature spoke without turning. "They say he's a real powerful sorcerer, which would make'im the perfect bodyguard for me, see? It don't matter how tough he is, 'course-once he's a Heartless, he'll be singin' a different tune!"

At the mention of Heartless, Sora silently called the Keyblade out and crept forward behind Donald. Who was this guy?

"Yup, with all them heartless, me'n Maleficent are gonna conquer everything! This Heartless'll be a present, special for her!" the large creature snorted. "What am I doing talking to a pipsqueak like you, anyway?" still, without looking, he gestured Donald away. "Go on, scram!"

Sora raised an eyebrow at the mention of Maleficent, now extremely confused as to who this guy could be, considering that Maleficent had died way back at Hollow Bastion.

Goofy walked up past Donald, "Gawrsh, you oughta find something nicer to do, Pete!"

"Aw, says who, anyway?" The creature, Pete, turned to finally get a view of who he had been talking to. A look of shock passed over his extremely large face, great hanging jowels shaking and two ears perking up above slanted black eyes that angled down to a round, black nose. All together, his face resembled a bull dog's. He wore a bulging red and blue jumpsuit, zipped up the middle, that looked about a size too small for a large frame. To Sora, it looked like this guy came from the same world as Donald and Goofy: Disney Castle.

"You two!" Pete gestured wildly at Donald and Goofy. "What are you two nimrods doing here?"

"We could ask you the same question!" Donald waved his wand menacingly.

"So you guys know each other?" Sora asked.

"Sure we do!" Goofy responded, glancing over his shoulder at Sora, his shield still defensively held in front of him. "Pete's been causin' trouble back home for ages! His Majesty finally banished him to another dimensional-thingy a long time ago!"

"Speaking of that..." Donald took a step forward, suspiciously."How'd you escape, Pete?"

Pete chuckled and cracked his neck. Sora thought that his laugh sounded like molasses. "You wanna know, eh? Well, Maleficent herself' busted me out, that's how! And now your world-" Pete paused. "No, no, no, ALL worlds, are gonna belong to yours truly!" Pete grinned wide, and added almost as an afterthought, ""cause, ah, Maleficent's gonna help me conquer 'em!"

"Hate to break it to you, Pete!" Donald smirked. "But Maleficent's gone! We took care of her a long time ago!"

Pete took a step back in shock and shook his head. "What! Whaddaya talkin' about?"

"We defeated her." Sora shrugged.

"Yeah! She's toast!" Donald added, egging Pete on.

"What?" Pete roared "How dare ya!"

Sora watched small tendrils of darkness leak from Pete's giant hands, to the stone steps and dribble down them. As the darkness slid along the ground, small yellow eyes formed and, around them, a small Heartless grew. Before Sora knew it, at least a dozen of the smallest-variety of Heartless had appeared around he, Donald and Goofy. Their bodies jerked and swayed, while their twisted black antennae twitched in response to sensing a heart,. "Now you'll know that nobody—and I mean nobody!-messes with the mighty Pete!" Pete gestured the Heartless forward, and Sora had to admit that this guy had at least a tiny influence over the Heartless.

Easily dodging the small creatures and dispatching them, Sora couldn't help but feel his fighting rhythm return. He felt connected to the Keyblade; he felt his style return. The Keyblade, Oathkeeper chain attached, swung gracefully and accurately, sending Heartless back into darkness in perfect unison with Goofy and Donald. Soon enough, the entire legion of Heartless were gone, and Pete watched, flabbergasted.

"I...ah..." Pete mumbled.

"So, 'mighty' Pete..." Sora grinned and rested the Keyblad over his shoulders. "Who lives in this tower, anyway?"
"Ya don't know, eh?" Pete puffed himself up. "Well, it's old Yen Sid. Anybody who's anybody should know that. 'Course..." Pete glanced upward at the tower and simultaneously created a dark portal beside him. "He's probably a Heartless by now..."

"Master Yen Sid lives here?" Donald gasped and, with a quick lightning bolt that knocked Pete—roaring about his revenge—into the dark portal, rushed through the tower's doors.

"Uh, who's-?" Sora started.

"Yen Sid was the King's teacher!" Goofy responded, slowly following Donald. "He's one of the greatest Sorcerers to ever wave a wand!"

Sora raised his eyebrows, impressed. As he followed Goofy into the tower, though, he couldn't help but wonder why there were still Heartless around-hadn't they stopped the Heartless when they defeated Ansem? And what was the deal with this Pete guy?

To Sora, the tower made no sense. It followed no straight pathways, and some halls were longer than the building had appeared wide from the outside. Some doors led to some rooms, while other times, those same doors led to different rooms. Even if the Heartless that Pete had sent were in here somewhere, Sora was sure there was no way they would find their way out.

Somehow, Donald finally opened a door that led into a perfectly circular room, lined with alternating bookcases and windows that looked out into the night. Seated in the center of the room, behind a large and ornate wooden desk, sat a man in blue robes and a blue, pointed hat covered in stars. He had a dark gray beard that was so long it disappeared below the desk. Bushy eyebrows, curved above large eyes, almost reached the man's pointed hat. The man reminded Sora of Merlin the Wizard, although Merlin was far more grandfatherly, while this man was...far more intimidating. He showed no reaction to the sudden entrance into his sanctum, in fact, he had been staring at the door when they had entered. Sora figured that their appearance was no surprise to this wizard, whose eyes told Sora everything he needed to know about this man's immense power. Immediately, Donald and Goofy bowed their heads

Donald spoke quietly with reverence. "Master Yen Sid! It is truly an honor!"

"Hello!" Sora greeted pleasantly.

Donald and Goofy flinched, and Donald shot Sora a glare. "Sora! Show some respect!"

Sora cringed and inclined his head as well, looking up only when Yen Sid began to speak, each word measured and spoken with great deliberation.

"Donald and Goofy...it is always a great joy to finally put faces to names. And you-" his dark eyes fell on Sora. "Are Sora." he didn't so much ask for confirmation on Sora's name, as he sounded as though he had simply just declared it to be. Sora felt a chill go down his spine as Yen Sid looked at him—didn't glare, didn't stare, just a look. Shortly, Yen Sid continued. "Have you seen the King?"

"Yes, we sure did, Master! But we didn't get the chance to talk to him." Goofy looked up, his head having still been bowed.

"Yes...the King has been quite busy as of late. Therefore, it would seem that the task of instructing you three has fallen upon my shoulders." Yen Sid gazed at each in turn. "A perilous quest lies before you. You must be well-prepared."

Sora felt his heart sigh. "You mean...this is another quest? It's just...I was looking forward to finding my friend Riku and going back to our Islands!"

Yen Sid acknowledged Sora's sentiment with a nod. "Yes, I know. However, everything in your journeys is connected, Sora. Whether you will find your way home to the Islands...whether you will return alone or with you friend..." Sora's heart dropped at Yen Sid's possible future. "or whether or not the Islands will even exist to return to...the Key that connects them all is you, Sora."

"What..are you talking about? Why wouldn't the Islands be there?" Sora exclaimed, worry and concern evident in his voice.

"All possibilities, everything that could potentially occur, are what you must come to terms with, Chosen Wielder of the Keyblade. You are the Key that will open the Door to Light, and that door could lie along many roads."

Sora wondered where he had heard that phrase before—that he would open the "door to light". It felt familiar... "But the Islands, Riku-"

"Are each potential paths that your course may take."

"But-" Sora started again, but Donald interrupted him.

"Excuse me, Master Yen Sid-why do the Heartless still appear?" Donald shot Sora a quick look that clearly said "stop questioning the Master", before swinging back to Yen Sid, eagerly.

"Bearing your past endeavors in mind, you three did prevent an immense effusion of Heartless from the great darkness, without which our universe would be forever extinguished-waiting to be slowly devoured by the Heartless." Yen Sid steepled his fingers. "However, the Heartless are a natural byproduct of this universe. Until darkness is eliminated in every heart, it would be impossible to stop the Heartless. They will continue to the slip through the cracks, and take more hearts for themselves."

Sora sighed and rolled his eyes. "Is there any good news?"

"There is a light to this knowledge." Yen Sid acknowledged. "Without the Great Darkness, the Heartless will have a much more laborious time devouring worlds and their Keyholes."

Sora was glad for that, at least. While he had been really hoping his previous adventure had stopped the Heartless once and for all, at least something good had come from it.

"Now, it is time to speak of the enemies you will encounter, for there are far more beimgs in this world than just Heartless." Yen Sid gestured across his desk and small Heartless appeared on it. Sora jumped and summoned the Keyblade, before Yen Sid waved him off. "It is simply a projection, Keyblade Master. You may lower your weapon." Sora did so, while Yen Sid continued to explain. "A being is made up of three parts: The Heart, the Soul—some may call it the mind- and the Body." Yen Sid created an image of Donald beside the little Heartless. "When one such as you, Donald, yields to the darkness in their heart, they become a Heartless."

Yen Sid waved away the projection, just as the little Heartless leaped at Donald. "You already know this well, though. What you do not know is that, at times, when one becomes a Heartless, be they evil or good, the empty shell, the body, that is left behind can begin to act with a will of its own. These empty vessels, spirits that go on even as its being fades-" Yen Sid again waved, and before Sora stood one of the weird white creatures that had attacked them in Twilight Town. It bobbed back and forth, its body swinging, but it did not move otherwise. "For you see, Nobodies do not truly exist at all. These Nobodies may pretend to have feelings, beings, but this is a ruse-they only pretend to have hearts. You must not be deceived."

Sora felt his heart sink looking at the creatures—now tragic and horrifying beyond words to him. Empty bodies, the byproduct of a Heartless.

"The type of Nobody you see before you is known as a Dusk. They are the most common form of Nobodies. There are, though, many, many others—some with frightening and unique powers. Be vigilant, Keyblade Master, though they are naught but empty shells. However..." Yen Sid waved his hand again and three men in black cloaks appeared, hoods drawn up as to shadow their faces. Sora's eye widened in shock, and he heard a sharp intake of breath from Donald and Goofy. These were the same cloaked men from his first journey! The man in Deep Jungle! Or Agrabah when they fought that giant Heartless! Or the Unknown in Hollow Bastion! These were those guys!

Yen Sid smiled at Sora's understanding and continued."The beings you see before you now...are different. There are powerful Nobodies, and these ones have formed a group called 'Organization XII'. It commands the lesser nobodies."

So all those cloaked guys were one group? What had they been trying to do? Aside from the last guy in Hollow Bastion, they seemed to have been helping him. Why did this Organization care about him at all?

"While the Heartless act on instinct, the Nobodies function in a higher man. These humanoid Nobodies, Organization XII, can think and plan, and they seem to be working towards a goal." Yen Sid sighed. "What that goal is, we do not know. The King sensed the danger, and journeyed forth to fight it. He found the dark realm's Keyblade and with it, helped you to close the door. Now he is on the move from world to world, fighting the Heartless as he seeks the answer to the riddle of Organization XIII."

Sora was relatively interested in this "Organization", but he couldn't really understand why it was so important. Sure, that one guy had beaten him and the Beast up pretty badly, and he would love to know why, but it seemed that those two others had actually helped him; by leading the way through the Jungle and defeating the giant Heartless. To Sora, the more important issue here was, still, to find the King and by finding the King, to find Riku.

"Gee, Master Yen Sid," Goofy started. "It seems to me that you talked about the Hearts and the Heartless, and them Nobodies and their bodies, but what about that there third part of a person?"

"Ah, Goofy, excellent question." Yen Sid replied. "Even I do not fully understand the soul. It's working are intricate, and its connections complex. Some might say it is more involved in the Heart, some might say it is more at work in that of the body—it is, truly, a mystery that has no answer as of yet. The inner workings of a person: the heart, soul and body, are an ocean of mystery we have only just arrived at the beach of."

"So we should be searching for the King, Master Yen Sid, and figure out what we can about Organization XIII along the way?" Donald asked

"Precisely, Donald." Yen Sid confirmed. "But before you three leave, I believe Sora could use more suitable traveling clothes. His current dress appears a bit too small for him."

Sora looked down at his red jumpsuit with his bright yellow shoes, which, oddly didn't seem quite as big as they used to appear. He pulled at the jacket across his chest, noticing for the first time how tight it seemed to be. His sleeves and pant legs, as well, seemed to stop further up his arms and legs than they used to. Weird, when had that all happened?

"Gawrsh, Sora, you sure are growing fast!" Goofy marveled, chuckling.

Yen Sid waved one of his long, bony hands over Sora, then the other, then both together. A swirling cloud spun around Sora, starting around his feet, and twisted its way up his body until it completely covered him. Aside from the wind whipping around him, Sora felt nothing as the small storm started and subsided. After it dissipated, however, he saw Donald and Goofy look at him in awe and saw the look of pride on Yen Sid's face.

"Wow, Sora, you should get a good look at yourself!" Goofy grinned and pointed behind Sora.

Sora turned and found himself staring into a full-length mirror that reflected a whole different Sora. Instead of the bright red jumpsuit, Sora now wore a black and dark blue one with a hooded jacket and matching gloves. The pant legs and jacket sleeves were large and freeing, just as Sora liked it, as well as the gloves being fingerless. Along with the black and dark blue, the new outfit also incorporated dark reds and yellows into with, with red pouches on the legs held up by criss-crossing yellow straps. Sora's shoes as well, which he had to admit had started to become a little embarrassing, had been changed to be more well-fitting, with yellow and black as their colors. The new clothing was not the only difference to Sora, though, as he also noted with surprise that he seemed quite a bit taller than the last time he has seen himself. His face seemed leaner and his hair, as well, seemed longer—now starting to finally obey gravity and fall at the very tips of his many spikes (which, though, were still as spiky as ever, much to Sora's continued pride).

Sora had to admit, he couldn't have picked out a better outfit. Not that he was ever really that could at picking fashion, or so Kairi had always told him. If only he could be like Riku and just...automatically know what cool clothing to wear...

"Thank goodness the shoes are gone.." Donald mumbled.

"Hey!" Sora responded quickly, still defensive of his choice. "Me and those shoes went through a lot together!"

Yen Sid smiled deeply. "There is so much more to you, Sora, Keyblade Master, than even you can comprehend. I am imbuing you with the ability to tap into your deepening heart even more. You'll soon understand what I mean." Yen Sid waved his hands once more, arching his fingers at Sora. A simple, seconds-long white glow was all that resulted. "It is only fair to warn you, though, that this power also derives from your friends and their hearts. They come together to form the foundation that supports your own heart, therefore, the powers you will unlock may require a merging of sorts between you and your friends. Fear not, they will return once the energy releases itself. You will come to know this energy as 'Drive Forms', for lack of a better term."

Sora raised an eyebrow at the wizard, still stretching out his new clothes. "O..k..?"

"In time you will understand." Yen Sid gestured toward a crescent-shaped window behind him. "For now, I do believe you lost this:"

Through the window, the familiar form of the Gummi Ship appeared, floating up from the ground below. "Aha!" Sora laughed, excitedly, seeing the old ship again.

"I found it floating in the vastness of space. The walls of the worlds are hopelessly gone due to the travels of Organization XIII and the machinations of the Heartless-you should have no trouble traversing the spaces between." Yen Sid sighed. "Now, that is all the information I can give to you. Go forth, Sora, Donald and Goofy. Everyone is waiting."

Donald and Goofy saluted Yen Sid and ran from the room. Sora kept eye contact with the sorcerer's dark eyes for a moment longer, before saluting him himself. "Thank you, Master Yen Sid, for all your help!" he said, meaning it, and he scurried from the room after his friends, heading towards another adventure. As the heavy door closed behind him, Sora heard Yen Sid chuckle and murmur to himself:

"What a choice it made in him."

"Uhhh...Maleficent? Maaallefficceeentttt?" Pete called throughout the broken down towers. This ancient castle was where Maleficent had told him to the find her if something had happened to her main headquarters across the planet at Hollow Bastion. Since those stupid do-gooders were now in control of it, Pete supposed he had no choice but to find his mistress here in this crumbling mess of an old war base Maleficent had referred to as "Villain's Vale". It was a mass of towers, ramparts and connecting passageways, very similar to the look of Hollow Bastion, all now slowly falling apart.

"Mallefficeent?" Pete called again, swallowing nervously. Had those dumb guys been right? Had they really done off with Maleficent? What would happen to their plan now?

Pete quieted as he walked through the long passageway that led to the center tower. He was too afraid of the creepy echo in the tunnel to make a sound. As he emerged out of the other side, he noticed that the upper floors, walls and ceilings of the middle tower had collapsed since he had last been to the Vale, leaving just a mid-level floor, set in a circle, with low, jagged, uneven walls open to the night air. The evening moon illuminated rubble and collapsed masonry, as well as a single figure in black standing in the middle of the large room. He stood, back turned to Pete, in front of a round stone table. Terrified, Pete held back in the shadows of the tunnel and watched the mystery figure. Within minutes, several other figures in black cloaks emerged out of the darkness, six in all, and gathered around the table. Silence blanketed the open room. Pete could barely breathe. One of the figures approached the first and spoke to him quietly, in a deep, monotone voice.

"Number VIII has not yet joined us, my Superior."

"His influence is negligible. Continue, VII"

The one who had approached the first produced a round shape, covered in a black covering. Pulling back the covering, the shape was revealed to be a cage. Inside, a raven began to squawk angrily, interrupting the silence. Pete cowered back further, recognizing the Raven as Maleficent's favorite pet.

Without direction, five of the six figures placed their hands on the stone table, as the original figure took the raven from the cage, gripping it in his left hand. The raven ceased to screech and squirm. The black figure moved the bird over the table and placed his right hand over the bird's beak. Suddenly, and without warning, a bright blade of red light lit from the figure's hand and shot straight through the raven. Pete gasped, covering his mouth with his hand to quiet himself, and felt his legs tremble. The figure let the raven's body drop to the table, where it began to ooze darkness that ran off the table in waterfalls. The figure turned, in unison with the five others, to face Pete and Pete felt his blood run cold and his entire being fail him. Faceless creatures, covered by cloaks all stared directly at Pete. At length, darkness still flowing from the raven, the original figure spoke.

"We leave this in your hands."

With that, the figures, one by one, disappeared back into the darkness they had come from. From the stone table, Pete watched in fear, and some strange comfort, as the darkness took on a long, silhouetted form he recognized. The darkness crept into a long, shimmering black cloak that led to a pale green, elegant face with two devilish horns.

"Hello, Peter." Maleficent greeted smoothly, looking down at the body of the raven below her. "It appears as though my plan of connecting my heart to that of Diablo was not one born in foolishness." She stepped down from the table, and called forth her long, green tipped staff through an explosion of green fire.

"Tell me, Peter, what has happened in my absence?"

Pete felt his legs give out and his eyes roll back in his head as his poor consciousness, thoroughly overwhelmed, ran in fear.

Axel gazed out at the orange sun visible from Sunset Hill, as he leaned over the wooden railings. The real sunset appeared even more beautiful than the one from DiZ's world, and if he had had emotions, he was sure he would be moved to tears or some BS. He wondered for a moment if he could even understand the concept of "beauty" before he decided to finally go back to listening to what the man-in-the-other-black-cloak-who-definitely-wasn't-part-of-the-Organization was saying.

"As I said, I want no part in DiZ's selfish revenge scheme. I cannot believe he would use so many just for the sake of sating his own darkness." The cloaked man gestured toward the blonde in the white dress who currently sat beside Axel, drawing absently in a sketchbook. "That's why I've brought her to you, Axel. You're not like the rest. You're different, I know. I'm willing to bet on you."

Axel snorted. What a sentimental idiot. He wasn't making very good choices here. Naminé

on the other hand...Axel gazed down at the girl he hadn't seen since Castle Oblivion. "You have no place to go, do you?" He asked her. "No place to go back to either..." he looked back out at the sunset in the distance, absently thinking about the sun's heat. "Those places don't exist for us..."

Naminé looked up from her drawing. "Maybe there isn't a...place I can go back to, but-" she looked back down at her sketchbook. "There are places I want to go to..."

Axel smirked out toward the sunset, knowing neither of the others could see his face. "Yep...places to go, people to see..." he gazed with one eye over his shoulder at the not-Organization cloaked guy. "Well, how about you let us leave? Unless DiZ wants you to eliminate me too?"

"DiZ...told you to eliminate me?" Naminé asked quietly, surprise evident.

The cloaked didn't respond. He turned and created a black portal and walked towards it. "Go. I owe you two."

"You do...?" Naminé asked.

"Yes...from Castle Oblivion." the black cloak walked into the portal and disappeared.

Axel grinned, and yelled to the sky. "Then I'll accept your offer, mystery man! C'mon, Nam..." Axel grinned all the wider. "We've got big plans!"

Secret Ansem Report 2:

I have made a grave mistake.
My study of the "darkness of the heart" began with a simple psychological test and quickly snowballed.
Spurred on by my youngest apprentice Ienzo, I constructed a massive laboratory in the basement of the Castle. Unbeknownst to me, my six apprentices then began collecting a large number of subjects on which to perform dangerous experiments into the "darkness of the heart"

As soon as I found out, I called my apprentices together and ordered them not only to cease their studies, but to destroy the results of their research thus far. What on earth was happening within the hearts of my six beloved apprentices? While pursuing the mystery of the darkness of the heart, could they themselves have strayed into its depths?

Yet, I remain the most foolish of all, for having begun these experiments. We are not meant to interfere in the depths of another's heart, no matter what our reason for doing so...and this, my error, plunged me into despair.

A visitor from another world soothed my dejected soul. A diminutive king named Mickey came wielding a legendary Key-the infamous "Keyblade," said to bring both chaos and prosperity to the world. He was very knowledgeable on many topics, and we deepened our friendship as we conversed companionably. Upon his advice, I decided to review the data obtained at my basement lab. That is when I discovered the "Ansem Reports"

Though they bore my name, the only one I had written was number 0. Apparently, he had gone on to pen the rest himself, so far.
Yes, the first subject in my foolish experiments.

~Ansem the Wise