A Tale of Renewal and Rebirth

Dark Lady Devinity

Ten

A long, long time ago, they were just children: blind to the things around them and concerned with only their own persons and desires. They had been lost. But children live in perpetual hope and that dream can be shared.

They may not have had the same everlasting faith as their childhood selves but that does not mean that the children of today cannot save them.

XxX

There are times when the only way to move forward is to trust someone else.

XxX

It wasn't long before Sora heard from the king. The boy did not know that Merlin and Yen Sid were communicating through magical means and thus rapidly ferrying information between Radiant Garden and King Mickey. Yet Sora was not surprised to see another message bottle bobbing in the ocean merely one day after the first one arrived.

The brunette quickly leapt into the cool water and swam towards the bottle. He contemplated waiting for Kairi and Riku. But Kairi was at home looking for her grandmother's old photos of Radiant Garden. Meanwhile, Riku was somewhere nearby but Sora did not have the patience to wait for him or to go look for him. Sora didn't even bother to return to dry land before he popped the bottle open and removed the letter that lay inside.

Sora could be a pretty imaginative kid when he wanted to be. But he had not even begun to imagine anything like what he read in the letter. King Mickey's neat, familiar handwriting formed a clear, short narrative of what he knew. The nobodies of Organization XIII had somehow been reborn with their hearts intact. And they were involved in the trouble in Radiant Garden although apparently it wasn't their fault. Sora blinked when he read that some of the Organization members were on their way to see him. Frowning, Sora noticed another letter had been attached to the first. The keyblade master scanned the beautiful flowing script and saw Aerith's name signed at the bottom. The flower girl provided much more detailed information on the recent happenings at Radiant Garden as well as mentioning that Merlin had given her letter to Yen Sid so that she could explain everything to Sora.

Sora grinned, sensing an amazing adventure in his future. Then he ran off to find Riku and share the news.

XxX

"Of course I'm going with you! You may need my help. Besides, Radiant Garden is my home world!"

"Kairi, it's going to be really dangerous." Riku tried to explain to the insistent girl. Riku was confident that Kairi could take care of herself as she could summon her own keyblade but she had never been in any real battle situation before. He didn't want to take any chances with her safety. It was bad enough that Sora was so keen on going.

Kairi hugged an old photo album to her chest and shook her head. Then she smiled brightly and said, "As long as we're friends and we're together then we'll all be safe."

"At least you're not as hot-headed as Sora." Riku said, laughing. "Although you're just as stubborn."

"Hey!" Sora yelled.

The three friends were sitting near the shore on their favourite island. They were expecting the former nobodies to show up any time now and wanted to be ready for their arrival. Riku had brought supplies while Kairi had taken her grandmother's photo album and journal. Sora just came as he was, uncertain as to what he should actually bring with him. The boy was used to falling into adventure without any preparation and thus did not know what to do when he had advance notice.

A blazing orange sunset washed over them.

"How long does it take to travel to Radiant Garden from Destiny Islands?" Kairi asked.

"Not that long." Sora said. "But I'm not familiar with the world that they're actually coming from."

Kairi shifted and frowned. "I wonder if I should have made something for supper. Do you think that they'll be hungry?"

"Even if they are, there's enough fruit on the island to make a good meal." Riku replied.

"I'm a little nervous." Kairi finally admitted. "The few nobodies I saw were a little frightening. I wonder what they'll be like with hearts. Still, I'll do everything I can to treat them fairly."

Riku smiled at the girl. You could always count on Kairi to be fair and non-judgemental no matter what you did to her in the past. Perhaps it was a trait of all the Princesses of Heart: to be loving and kind to anybody and everybody. The pale haired boy thought about the best way to assure his friend even though she most likely didn't need any assurance. Kairi was stronger and more courageous then she let on. However, there was never any time for assurances for Sora had seen something in the distance and had interrupted Riku's thought processes.

"I think they're here." Sora said. "That sort of looks like a gummi ship."

Riku was confused. "It looks kind of small. Aerith said that there should be eight people on that ship right?"

"I guess it's not going to be a luxurious trip then." Sora said.

The three friends watched as the flying object in the distance came closer and closer. It didn't take long for the object to take on the clear, solid structure of a gummi ship. No one said anything as they watched the ship gradually come closer and carefully land on the soft sand. After ten minutes had passed and no one emerged from the ship the friends started to become worried.

"Aren't they going to come out?" Kairi asked.

"Maybe it's not them. Maybe it's another ship and they're beginning to realise that they're on the wrong island." Sora suggested.

"I don't think that's the case." Riku said. Then he got up and walked towards the ship. Sora was about to call out to the other boy and ask what he was doing when Riku knocked firmly on the ship door.

And still nothing happened.

XxX

"They're waiting for us!" Larxene hissed.

"Maybe we should greet them then?" Axel asked sarcastically. He was promptly shushed.

The former nobodies weren't expecting the keyblade bearer and his friends to be waiting for them when they landed. The three children were staring at the ship expectantly but with no particular emotion on their faces. They certainly didn't look hostile. If anything, the children were looking more and more confused the longer the nobodies stayed in the ship.

"Perhaps they were given warning about our arrival?" Saix suggested. "It would explain why they don't seem to be surprised that we're here."

"Yes, but were they told that it was Organization XIII members coming to get them or do they think it's members of the Restoration Committee?" Marluxia added. "Hell, they probably think we're that loud duck and goofy dog."

"I don't wanna get into a fight!" Demyx whined.

"If the point of this trip was to enlist the help of the keyblade bearer then we'll have to talk to him sooner or later." Luxord reminded everyone.

Zexion frowned. "I wanted more time to think about what I was going to say."

"Why'd he bring the other two?" Xigbar wondered aloud.

Axel sighed in frustration. He knew these kids. Sora could be a little hot headed but he had a good heart and Kairi was an intelligent, kind girl. He couldn't vouch for Riku as he was more familiar with the replica but the silver haired boy looked mature. As he was thinking about him, Riku had walked up to the ship and knocked on the door. The other ex-nobodies cringed. Then they started arguing about what they should do in whispers.

After five minutes passed in that manner, Axel decided to just get the whole thing over with and pushed his way past the others and towards the door. He ignored the protests behind him as he pushed open the door and stepped down onto soft golden sand.

"Don't worry guys. They're good kids." Axel called back to his companions.

"Axel!"

Riku quickly stepped aside as The Flurry of the Dancing Flames smiled at the bright, happy tones in Sora's voice. The boy ran over him and slapped him on the arm. Axel took in bright blue eyes, a cheeky grin and saw that Sora had grown since the last time he had saw him.

"I got a letter from the King that you were coming. I just didn't expect it to actually be you." Sora said. "I'm glad you got your heart back."

"Thanks kid." Axel replied. "Listen. Are your friends planning on coming with us? Cause it's pretty cramp in the ship. There're seven more former nobodies back there and we only have six seats."

"Oh, they're coming. I couldn't get them to stay behind even if I tried." Sora said.

Axel laughed. Then he turned sombre as Sora's pretty female friend joined them.

"Kairi, I'm sorry." Axel said to the girl he had kidnapped.

"There's nothing to be sorry for. Everything's forgiven. I couldn't stay mad after you helped Sora, right?" Kairi said.

Riku shrugged. "We're on the same side now. That's all the matters. I'm more concerned with why no one else has emerged from that ship if there's really seven other people in there."

Axel knew that these were good kids. "They're nervous. The past isn't quite in the past for most of us yet. No one has been alive for much longer than three weeks."

"That's it? But some of you guys died forever ago!" Sora said.

"We don't know why we're alive again." Axel said. "Although maybe that has something to do with you, Sora. I don't know everything the keyblade is capable of."

Sora looked like he wanted more elaboration on that point but there were things that had to be done first. King Mickey and Aerith had been able to explain a lot but there was only so much that could fit in a message bottle. Axel told the children everything that had happened since he had woken up with a heart. He couldn't provide much information about what was currently going on at Radiant Garden but he talked about everything that was in Xaldin's emails. After he was done Riku asked for more information on Axel's childhood and everything he knew about Xemnas and Ansem's research. Axel mentioned everything he thought would be relevant. It was all interesting but Riku and Sora weren't sure how all of it fit together. It was better to have too much information than too little though. Kairi seemed to have found some value in the stories for she suddenly had her photo album open and was flipping through the pages.

"Is this the castle where Ansem and his apprentices worked?" Kairi asked, showing Axel a photo.

The photograph showed Ansem's castle in all its former glory. The day the photo had been taken was obviously beautiful for there wasn't a cloud to be seen in the captured sky. Sitting on the castle steps was a tiny Ienzo and a small red headed girl. Axel thought that maybe he had played with that girl a few times as Lea.

"Yes, it is. Where'd you get that photo?" Axel asked, shocked.

"My grandmother took it. I'm from Radiant Garden. But we fled when the darkness came and that was so long ago. I don't remember it at all but I thought that these pictures might be helpful." Kairi said.

"Hey, can I see the rest of those?" Axel asked. "Might even be a few of me in there."

Sora, Riku and Kairi all wore identical expressions of surprise. It was cute. Axel briefly wondered if Lea and Isa had been cute at age fifteen.

"Are you finished yet?"

Axel and the children jumped when Luxord's voice suddenly came out of nowhere. Axel turned and found the British man standing right behind him, along with Marluxia.

"Don't do that!" Axel said.

"You've been out here talking for over an hour." Luxord said. "Don't we have places to be?"

"Has it really been that long? I was just explaining everything that happened." Axel said.

"Hello, Sora, Riku… Namine?" Marluxia said, looking at Kairi with a bemused expression.

Axel was about to point out that Namine was nowhere near Destiny Islands when he realised that Marluxia was staring at Kairi. And the girl did look a little like Namine. They had the same eyes. Indeed, she looked as much like Namine as she did Xion. Axel had suspected the connection between Kairi and Namine from the moment he saw Kairi.

"Kairi, actually. Although I suppose I'm a little bit of Namine too. She's in my heart just like Roxas is in Sora's." Kairi responded.

Axel nodded. So Sora and Roxas had met and come together as one person. That pleased Axel greatly. He was also happy to know that poor, abused Namine was safe in the heart of her somebody as well.

"So shall we return to the ship and continue on to our destination?" Luxord suggested.

"Yeah, we probably should." Axel said.

"I wonder what everyone is going to be like now that they're not interested in using me anymore." Sora wondered aloud.

Axel wondered what the meeting was going to be like as well. Sora seemed to be fine with the whole situation but that might have been because he was confident in his abilities and those of his friends. It would be another thing entirely to be trapped on a ship with his former enemies.

XxX

It turned out that the kids were great. Kairi and Sora had both jumped on Riku's lap the moment he sat down in a chair and then started to ask everyone a million questions. Riku didn't seem bothered by it and spent his time asking the more relevant questions about the current situation. Sora had been more interested in how different the former nobodies were now that they had hearts and Kairi wanted to know everything about her homeland. The old photo album was passed around and Xigbar, Marluxia and Larxene teased Zexion mercilessly about his younger self. Demyx had not helped by pointing out what a cute little boy Ienzo was. Zexion had been torn between trying to die of embarrassment and trying to ask Kairi questions about her youth. He had remembered playing with a small Kairi although he had long forgotten her name.

It had been a bit awkward though. Larxene had curled up in Marluxia's lap and Demyx had sought protection with Luxord. It was true that everyone needed to share seats but it seemed that most of the former nobodies were doing so as more of a protection against the three children. Axel was sharing with Saix and his friend was extremely stiff. Although that wasn't too unusual for Saix. Xigbar and Zexion, as pilot and navigator, didn't seem to mind being alone in their seats but Xigbar wasn't afraid of anything and Zexion was more intrigued by Kairi than wary of her friends. Sora was a natural charmer and his friends were extremely sweet. That meant the tension did not last long and before they knew it, they had arrived in Radiant Garden.

Kairi and Sora were out of the ship and racing through Radiant Garden before the ship had even finished landing. Riku shrugged and smiled like he was used to that kind of behaviour.

"They're excited." He said by way of an explanation. Then the boy attempted to rub some feeling back into his legs.

When the rest of the group finally caught up with the two energetic teenagers, Sora was in the process of giving both Aerith and Yuffie a big hug and Kairi was looking about the city in wonder.

"I can't believe I used to play here. I wish I could remember it." Kairi said.

Sora grinned. "I'm so glad to see everyone again. Where's Leon?!"

"I'm coming!" Leon called from the distance. He rounded a corner and came into view. Cloud was behind him, as well as Xaldin and Lexeaus.

"Wow! There are so many people here now." Yuffie giggled. "We should have a party after we beat up Xemnas."

"Totally." Sora agreed.

"Has anyone seen Xemnas lately? What about Vexen?" Xigbar asked, reminding the others that they were there to do work.

"Not since that last confrontation I emailed you about." Xaldin responded. "We still have no idea what he's planning. Lexeaus and I have been working with the assumption that Vexen is still alive. He has to have more use alive than dead."

"No one has reported sightings of anyone unusual anywhere else in the city?" Riku asked.

"There really isn't anyone else here but us and Cid, Tifa and Merlin." Yuffie replied.

"The only time Xemnas has been sighted is when he comes to the castle." Leon replied. "That may mean that he hasn't gone far but there are many places to hide in the area. We haven't finished renovating most of the ruins yet."

"Lexeaus and Xaldin help us when they can and we assist in searching all the likely places that Xemnas could be staying." Aerith said. "But there are not enough of us."

"There are more of us now." Saix pointed.

"I'm concerned that if any of you go off searching by yourselves that Xemnas may come and kidnap you. You'll need to travel in pairs or, better yet, let one of us go searching with you. But that severely limits our resources. That's one of the reasons progress has been so slow." Aerith said.

"Our magic is linked to how long we've been awake right? So Lexeaus, Marluxia, Zexion and I should be much stronger than Xemnas." Larxene said.

"Xemnas seems to have all his magic." Lexeaus said. "Yuffie and I weren't strong enough to fight him by ourselves."

"How is that possible?" Zexion said. "I don't remember anything special about Xemnas when it came to matters of power or magic when we had hearts."

"Well, maybe he spent too much time in the darkness." Sora suggested. "Maybe it wasn't possible for him to completely regain his heart. I wouldn't worry about it though. Everything always works out for the best."

XxX

Damp coolness seeped in through his shirt and into his skin. Vexen groaned and opened his eyes to the dark room. He had been trapped in that windowless room for days now and had come no closer to finding out what was going on. Xemnas usually ignored Vexen and only came to visit him long enough to drop off some food. Vexen felt grimy and he wasn't sure if he'd ever get the smell of urine out of his nose. There was no bathroom in the dank room and Vexen had been making use of a bucket in a corner. Every night he made use of the bare concrete floor as a bed. Every day he practiced his magic.

Vexen was determined to attempt an escape as soon as he felt he had enough magic to accomplish it. He used to be able to freeze things so solidly that if you hit them, they would shatter into hundreds of little pieces. He had every intention of doing that to the locked door of his room. At the moment, he was too malnourished and weak to attempt it but as his magic grew his health was less detrimental to his abilities. He could only imagine how strong the others were with enough food and proper sleep to feed their growing capabilities.

"Good. You're awake."

Vexen was violently startled and winced when, in his sudden movement, he slammed his head back down against the concrete floor. Apparently Xemnas had taken to watching him sleep.

"What do you want Xemnas?" Vexen asked, grimacing. The blond scientist sat up and rubbed his head. There wasn't any blood on his hand when he removed it so he hadn't cracked his head open on the hard ground. Small miracles.

"Is that any way to greet your superior?" Xemnas asked. He didn't wait for an answer. "Your fellow apprentices have been kind enough to bring the rest of the Organization here. They even brought Roxas and Namine. I haven't decided what use the witch has but I'll find something to do with her."

Vexen frowned. "Why would you want with all the members of Organization XIII? Especially Sora. He's very dangerous."

"I know. But it has to be thirteen, you see." Xemnas explained. "I could always make new nobodies but it would be quicker to work with the ones I had been using all this time."

"Thirteen?" Vexen asked.

"Thirteen warriors fighting for the darkness. It has to be thirteen in order to defeat the light." Xemnas said. "I will control the worlds."

At last Vexen knew what Xemnas wanted him for. But the scientist had no intention of ever losing his heart again. However, he was suspicious. Up until this moment Xemnas hadn't spoken more than two words to him.

"Why are you telling me this?" Vexen asked.

"I've barely told you anything. I just wanted you to know that you won't have much longer to spend in this room. You should prepare for company though." Xemnas said. Then the silver haired man took his leave of Vexen.

He would wait for about an hour. That should give him enough time to summon up the necessary strength. Vexen was going to attempt his escape sooner rather than later.

XxX

But to trust in others, one must also be able to place trust in themselves.