A/N: Alrighty! This story, both by demand, and also by my own desire, is now under reconstruction. Inside of the summary should be a list of what chapters have been edited and which have not, and I will also try and make a point to mention it inside of the author's note as well. This will make the story even better than it was before hopefully and I'm super excited for it all; I hope you are too! :)

(~**~) (~**~) (~**~) (~**~)

It was chaos. Pandemonium and disorder was alive in the gully as the once-peaceful ravine seemed to be filled with the sounds of clashing swords, heightened yells, and battle cries that rose to combine into one long drone. The Heartless that were down below the cliffs resembled a shuffling wave of black, that, albeit clumsy, were making steady progress forward. The vile things were not on the Organization's side, yet their presence could be used in order to become the perfect distraction. What came across at first as a series of bubbles in a sea of plans, could be now adjusted to work in their favor. If the plan went accordingly, that is.

It was a delicate process; one small misstep and the whole thing could go underway. They had to do it quickly, without commotion, and they had to cover their tracks afterward. There would have to be absolutely no witnesses— if there were any, they would have to be promptly removed. The thought caused a small smile to worm its way over the man's face, the grin containing nothing but malice and a sort of sick humor. Yes; the plan was perfect. And he fully intended to keep it that way.

Footsteps behind him made the man's expression vanishing instantly in order to be replaced once more by a blank, apathetic face. He did not turn around to face the newcomer— he didn't need to in order to know who it was. The man did not speak first either, silent as he merely waited. And sure enough, the person behind him spoke after a moment of clear hesitation. "Demyx failed." The two words were simple enough and yet with the implication that it brought, Xaldin's voice grew dark and grim. The man observing the Heartless below scowled immediately, a flash of anger coloring his vision red as his hands curled into tight fists at his sides. Demyx had failed in his required mission. And that meant that the seemingly-flawless plan of action was now beginning to crumble and give way underneath itself. Being able to clearly see in his mind the boy responsible, his mouth curled back into a deep scowl, and only then did he turn to face Xaldin.

Yellow eyes narrowed into slits, the man spoke, his voice a low snarl. "Then we must go down and do it ourselves," he snapped, fury vibrating in every syllable of his voice it seemed. If you needed something done right, it seemed like you had to do it yourself. Relying on Demyx for such a pivotal part of their mission was obviously turning out to be a badly-thought-out idea. He then turned, his eyes flying back down to the ravine, flickering and scanning through the tide of Heartless as he began to struggle for a glimpse of their target. "We will make sure there are no more failures; we have had far too much of those in the past. …With all of us together there will be no opportunity for the child to weasel out of our grasp." This last sentence came across as little more than a whisper, a thought-filled mumble that could barely be heard over the commotion rising up from down below.

Surprisingly, there still remained a sense of hesitation when Xaldin spoke up from behind him. "But…Xemnas, are you sure that's such a good idea?" he questioned, obviously unsure in what the other was indicating. "The kid has killed halfof our Organization already, and he just added Demyx to his list. What if he actually manages to—"

"Are you questioning your Superior?" The question was asked in a sudden roar, Xaldin stiffening as Xemnas whirled around in order to glower dangerously at other member of the Organization. Xaldin resembled a fish out of water for a second or two, his jaw slack as he seemed to be struggling to answer properly. But Xemnas growled deep in his throat, going on with a shake of the head. "The boy is a mere child, Xaldin," he went on to point out, his voice barbed and sharp. "He's been able to scrape by facing one of us at a time, but with all of us together he will have no chance but to admit defeat. Round up the others and tell them that it's time. We will not tolerate anything less than success today, do you understand?"

Xaldin paused, then nodded once in affirmation. Yet he still did not move, and, growing impatient, Xemnas seethed before: "What are you waiting for?" he demanded in a yell. "We've been waiting for this moment for far too long— your dawdling is going to cost us everything! I said go and get the others!"

Xaldin jerked briefly, then ducked down in a small nod, backtracking as he mumbled something that seemed akin to an apology. Then, turning to the side, the man created a portal of shadow, stepping through and vanishing in less than a second. Once the man did take his leave, Xemnas let out a sigh he did not realize he had been holding, shutting his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose as he willed himself patience. Patience would be key in this plan; without it, the entire thing would not execute properly at all.

After a moment, the Organization leader turned back to the gully, eyes dark now as he surveyed the scene below him. The mass of Heartless, the few sparse hearts that rose up into the air every so often, the rather broken-down castle that seemed to serve as a centerpiece for the entire scene. "Now…where are you?" He murmured softly, eyes drilling through the black as he looked for a flash of brown, a swipe of gray. He came up with nothing, and he felt a small strike of disappointment. But he clasped his hands behind his back, shaking his head. "No matter," he said simply. "You cannot hide forever." And if things went accordingly, then he surely would not be running away any time soon, either. "Enjoy your time now, young keyblade bearer. We'll surely you before the day is over."

Although it seemed like an impossible task beforehand, after months of careful planning, Xemnas had realized that it could actually be possible. The Superior made a face. Possible, and yet he trusted that it would be a very difficult task to upkeep afterwards. Figuring that Xaldin would soon be back with the others, Xemnas turned and made his way backwards, retracing his steps so that he could see the battlefield more clearly. Hopefully it will be easy to get the keyblade bearer isolated. Yet if the situation became less than ideal, the issue could be fixed— the end result would just turn out to cast even more blood onto their hands.

Over-thinking things seemed to make it all much more complicated than it was supposed to be. Shaking his head as if to clear it, Xemnas clenched his hands together tightly, weapons appearing in his hands in a flash of red laser light. Rounding the corner, the man looked up in the sky, telling the time by the sun overhead. But it was as he expected: he still had time to be able to pull it off. He had much more time than he needed, actually.

And then he would have all the time in the world to deal with the keyblade bearer as seen fit.

(~**~) (~**~) (~**~) (~**~)

"Sora!" The scream bounced off the walls of the jagged cliffs around them, breathy and exhausted. At the yell of his name, Sora stiffened, jabbing his keyblade forward quickly and watching as the Heartless in front of him disappeared into a puff of black smoke. When the being vanished, the fifteen-year-old turned, shoulders heaving in his efforts to draw in enough air as his eyes drilled into the only other person with him on the cliff. Yuffie was panting as well with the amount of effort that was being put into this ongoing battle, but as the ninja straightened, her eyes were sparkling and still very much alive as she too finished off her own black shadow.

There was still a mass of the beings around them, but, glancing worriedly to the side over the lip of rocks, Yuffie called out once more. "I have to go find Aerith!" she yelled. The thought of her friend, who wasn't all that great at fighting in the first place, struck a chord with the raven-haired girl, and she found that fighting along Sora, although helpful, was kind of pointless considering the teenager was so skilled in the first place. Leaving her friend wasn't on her list of priorities, but she figured he could handle himself better then Aerith probably was right about now. "She probably needs help! Will you be good here by yourself?"

Sora ducked as another Heartless swiped at him, digging his heels into the ground and giving a sharp jab to the enemy, knocking it back five clear feet. And when he straightened, the boy offered Yuffie a wide smile, raising his arm and giving her a dramatic salute in response. The ninja giggled, mostly out of the fact that even now Sora could make time to be goofy and try to make her laugh. Turning and ducking close to the ground, the girl headed for the edge of the cliff, knocking aside a few Heartless before jumping down, hopping from one rocky outcrop to the other until she hit the bottom of the ravine.

Looking back and forth at the never-ending swarm around her, the girl struggled to hold back a small groan of frustration. They had barely made a dent in the mass— the Heartless sure didn't seem to be on the losing side of this battle. The girl took a sharp intake of breath as she steeled herself, sparing a moment to glance over her shoulder back up to the cliff where she had let Sora, a small pang originating in her chest as she gave a small nod. "Good luck," she murmured, hardly able to hear her own words over the disorder that the world seemed to have turned into.

Turning after the small hesitation, Yuffie drew her weapons closer to herself, weaving and stabbing through every Heartless that got in her way as she started into a sprint. Her breath puffed unevenly, and her legs were screaming at her to stop as she forced them into motion. But she didn't dare stop early, the ninja feeding off of pure anger and fear as she continued to race. The Heartless shouldn't be here; that much was certain. Granted that they shouldn't be anywhereat any time, but the fact that they were here now, in devastatingly-large amounts just pushed her over the edge. Why couldn't Maleficent just realize that as long as Sora was the keyblade bearer, all of her efforts were absolutely useless?

Finally, after what seemed like ages, the Ninja caught sight of her friend. Aerith was fighting by herself, obviously putting as much effort into facing off with the things as she could. Using as much force as she could, the brunette kicked and lashed out at every Heartless, though the enemies were making fast progress in surrounding the petite girl. A gasp choked Yuffie's throat, and the ninja quickened her pace even more if such a thing was possible. Aerith was no fighter— she was more of a healer if anything else. Now Yuffie could feel less guilt in the idea of leaving Sora behind for her other friend. Out of everyone here, Aerith would need the most help.

"Aerith!" she shouted once she neared the girl. "Aerith, I'm here!" Before the girl could even have much time to turn towards her voice, Yuffie had taken lift off of the ground. Pausing for only the smallest of seconds, Yuffie vaulted off of the ground with a giant leap, pushing into the air and clearing the few rings of clambering Heartless. She staggered slightly upon hitting the ground, but she forced herself to recover, her eyes narrowed as she squared off against the advancers. "Hey," she puffed, heaving for air as she turned and offered a small smile over the taller girl.

Surprisingly, the girl looked worried at the sight of the ninja. "Are you okay?" she asked.

"What; this?" she gasped, trying to roll out the stiffness in her arms and back. "Oh yeah. This is nothing— it's just some exercise." Her words were slightly cut off, one of the nearby Soldiers leaping forward to try and dig its claws into her skin. Quickly, a surprised rush went through the girl as she barely managed to block the attack rather sloppily, merely by throwing up one of her ninja stars. The Soldier was immediately thrown back upon the impact, and Yuffie turned to try and respond to her friend. But she dashed forward at the sight of another making its quick way for Aerith's throat. Hissing through her teeth, Yuffie leaned out on one leg and threw her star forward as hard as she could, watching as her weapon cut through the enemy with deadly precision, spinning back around as the black-haired girl snatched it back expertly into her grip. "Maybe it's a little too much exercise," she panted after the thing was killed.

Aerith whirled, obviously having not seen the Heartless as her eyes stretched wide. Then she turned back around, her green eyes rounded out with something akin to guilt. "You can go back, Yuffie," she said, her voice slightly wilted. Yuffie turned an incredulous gaze on her briefly before she turned to hammer through another line of Heartless. "I can handle it myself, I don't want you to feel like you have to do anything for my sake…I can do fine on my own."

Yuffie fought the urge to scoff aloud. She would leave as soon as she would leave Hollow Bastian altogether. "Aerith, that's not—" Her words were suddenly cut off as, all around her, the Heartless suddenly stopped. The girl's eyes went round as, abruptly, a bright blaze of orange suddenly engulfed every inch around them. A wave of blistering heat washed against the Ninja, who was merely a few inches from the blast. She stumbled backwards, a yelp wrenching itself out from the girl's throat as she found herself bumping back into Aerith, who in turned leaned closer, hunched against the shorter girl as she gave a sharp scream.

The inferno lasted for about five seconds, if even that. And then, just as quick as it had come, it came to a sudden stop. The heat vanished, and once it did Yuffie straightened, her eyes blinking open again as she proceeded to turn around wildly. "What was that?" She asked, stunned as she struggled to wrap her mind around what had come to pass. The Heartless all around her and Aerith previously were now gone. Anything within three yards had been burned away by the fire, and, struck with disbelief, Yuffie turned to look at Aerith with round eyes. "Did you do that?" she asked, bemused

But Aerith shook her head, looking just as perplexed. "No," she rasped. "No; I didn't do anything."

"Sorry to show up to the party late." A voice came from behind the two, cold and dryly sarcastic. Immediately the two spun around as soon as the voice reached their ears, Yuffie dropping down into a defensive crouch as she drew her weapon. Her jaw locked backwards and her eyes narrowed to slits as she found herself locking eyes with someone she had never seen before. He was very tall, bright red hair spiked back and odd-looking black marks underneath sharp green eyes. He wore that black coat, and as Yuffie's open show of anger and distress, his lips only twitched up into a crooked smile. "But I can see that I'm still not very welcome in the first place."

Yuffie spared no room for banter. "Who are you?" she demanded instead.

"No need to rush things." the newcomer laughed, folding his arms loosely over his chest as he raised his eyebrows at the girl. Everything about this person seemed to give off the vibe of relaxation, a trait that was wildly out of place in this kind of setting. Yuffie only seemed to grow more agitated over this fact— this guy was definitely not on their side. "I thought it was always the girl who wanted to take things slow, am I right?" He seemed to be trying to make a joke, but Aerith and Yuffie did not allow a single reaction to the man. Instead, they just stayed where they were, Aerith eyeing him wearily as Yuffie only scowled in his direction. So he let out a sigh, almost as if he were disappointed. Then he shook his head and amended the words. "My name is Axel. Got it memorized?"

Aerith started to say something, but Yuffie was speaking before she could get the chance. "You're with the Organization," she all but snarled as she glared at the man's coat, gripping her weapon tighter in her hands with this. "So that means you're part of whatever is making this happen!" Axel only smiled further at this, and the anger that was curling inside of the girl's stomach got even worse. "I'll make you regret it!" she screamed, already charging forward towards the Organization member. Aerith tried to call out to her friend, but it was far too late to try and stop her.

Drawing her ninja stars forward, the girl throwing forward both of the weapons towards her target. Axel muttered out a curse underneath his breath at the sudden attack, and he quickly stepped to the side, ducking out of the way of the oncoming blades just narrowly. It barely grazed his ear, and the Organization member stopped short as he watched the things turn to spin their way back to the girl who had skidded to a stop, reaching up to expertly pluck the stars out of the air and back into her hands. "So close," he remarked, the girl growing furious at the sarcastic tone reverberating in his voice. "You get an A for effort though, truly."

Yuffie growled, wildly throwing forward her stars again with a sharp yell. But this time the man was ready. Instead of ducking away, the man reached out, grabbing the pesky daggers out of the air and grinning at the shocked expression that came over the girl's face as he held them. "Whoops," he snickered. "I guess my fingers slipped," he said, lazily spinning the weapons in his grip as he grinned.

Gritting her teeth together, Yuffie took a threatening step towards the man. "You'd better give those back or—" Her threat was cut off as Axel raised one of her stars in the air with a sudden lean forward. The girl immediately jumped backwards, throwing her arms up over her face as if to shield herself from the oncoming blow. A smile cracked over the redhead's face at the reaction, lowering the things back down to his side as he shook his head.

At Axel's supposed humor, Yuffie turned bright red, trembling with frustration as she looked back at Aerith with a spin. "Do you have a weapon on you?" the girl demanded, looking her friend up and down with a sense of growing panic. Her heart pounded, blood roaring in her ears loudly. The Heartless were getting closer; without any kind of weapon, what was she supposed to do? She could attack them physically like Aerith was attempting to do, but if she was armed, their chances of being harmed would be severely reduced. Yet her hopes were dashed as Aerith shook her head fast, looking a little overwhelmed where she stood. "Drat," Yuffie grumbled, turning back around.

Then she'd have to get it back one way or another. She sucked in a deep breath, seeing another line of Heartless coming up from the horizon. Crouching briefly, the ninja forced herself into a run again, heaving for air as she pinpointed her gaze onto her belongings that were now in the enemy's' grasp. She ran as fast as she could, gaining momentum so that she could knock the man clear off of the ground. A stunning move like that would immobilize him long enough for her to take back what was hers. And then she could fight him off before the other swarm of Heartless got to them. As if the thoughts gave her energy, she pushed off of the ground, soaring forward and lashing out with one leg, aiming to slam square into his face.

But before she could make contact, Axel met her head-on. The man slashed out with the ninja's own weapons, catching her leg with the spikes and striking her with enough force to cause her to fly backwards. The girl let out a sharp scream as her skin was spliced, the raven-haired girl falling back onto the ground and gasping shallowly as she looked down at her leg, which was slowly becoming dyed with blood. She was winded from the fall, struggling to remember how to breathe as she reached up with a deep grimace to cradle her stomach.

"Now, look what you made me do," Axel sighed, as if he had done something along the lines of accidentally spilling milk. Turning, he started towards the now-wounded girl, spinning the ninja stars routinely in his hands, as if he had experience with that type of weapon. Aerith started, dashing forward to try and protect her friend as best she could. However the man was advancing quickly on the girl, and Yuffie's heart plummeted down her feet as she stiffened, her eyes stretching wide with horror and panic.

(~**~) (~**~) (~**~) (~**~)

"Need some help there?" Sora had been hammering through as many Heartless as he could, his blue eyes glazed over with the effort each swipe took. He had killed probably a hundred and one so far, yet the wave of Heartless never seemed to stop, or even get smaller in any other way. He had given Yuffie clearance in leaving, figuring that things would be fine— that he wouldn't need the ninja's help when there was someone like Aerith who probably was counting on it more. But right now he was starting to realize that help probably would have been better. So, when he heard the familiar voice, a brilliant smile wormed over the teenager's face, and he spun around to see Leon smirking his way a few yards to the left. "In a tough situation?" Sora's friend asked, looking around at the horde of Heartless clambering over one another in the attempt to get a swipe at the keyblade bearer.

Sora let out a laugh, half out of frustration, but half out of relief. "Not anymore," he grunted, turning around and giving a sharp jab at a Shadow as it leapt at him. Leon paused only a moment to give a laugh at the boy's response before turning and delving into the fight himself, his large sword taking down Heartless at a much bigger range than Sora could manage with his key.

Gasping, Sora paused for a moment to breathe, one eye closed as he surveyed the enemies that were now starting to close in on him on all sides. Gritting his teeth, the boy waited, digging his heels down deep into the ground. Right before any of them could get the chance to strike, Sora extended his keyblade, pushing off the ground and spinning as fast as he could manage. Making sure his arms were rigid and his hands were glued firmly onto the hilt of keyblade, Sora smirked triumphantly as he felt the weapon strike his intended targets that had been surrounding him in tightly-knit circle. Flinging the Heartless back a good few feet, Sora let himself relax slightly, his muscles starting to burn right about now.

Looking over at Leon, Sora made sure that his friend was doing fine, giving a small nod of affirmation once he saw that the other was, rather predictably, just fine. His line of thought was disrupted as the boy winced, giving out a sharp cry as a Shadow had gotten near enough to claw at his leg. Not thinking, he dropped down to the ground and rolled away from the attack, the wielder tensing as he got closer to the edge of the cliff. Feeling a wave of panic at the mistake he had made, the boy quickly jammed his feet back down, scuffing the ground in a wild attempt to stop himself before he could topple right over the edge. He wasn't sure whether or not he could mimic Yuffie and hop all the way down to the ground, but he definitely wasn't about to put the question to the test right at this moment. A skeleton of broken bones wasn't on his priority list. But thankfully as the boy planted his feet down he managed to stop himself on the very edge of the rock, a weary sigh escaping him at the close call. Putting his hands down on the ground, Sora prepared to jump up, but stopped rigid at the sight he saw below him.

He couldn't help but let out a gasp, loud enough for Leon to hear it even where he was fighting. The man struck the enemy he was facing away with a powerful swipe, knocking the Heartless into the cliff wall as it vanished in a puff of darkness. Rushing over once the thing was defeated, Leon turned and sprinted over to where Sora was hunkered. Openly concerned, the man looked down into the gully, freezing for a moment as confusion started to cloud over his face at the sight that met him. From where they were they could see the small forms of Yuffie and Aerith, Yuffie collapsed on the ground and obviously incapacitated for the moment. Matching against the two was someone clad in a dark, black coat. And they were making their way towards them. It was obvious that the two girls were in danger. "The Organization!" Leon yelled, his voice clenched in anger immediately once the connection was made. "We have to get down there and help them!" he shouted angrily, standing up.

Sora scrambled to his feet as well, his blue eyes locked on the Organization member down below. He was pretty sure he had seen that man before…but…where? He definitely recognized that bright red hair. But…he couldn't seem to remember. The boy's slightly confused thoughts were interrupted as something sharp slammed into the back of his head, the teen hissing at the sudden pain as he started to fall forward with the impact. Leon reacted instantly, reaching over and pulling Sora backwards, away from the cliff's edge. One hand gripping the back of his head, Sora spun around, swiping his key right through the shadow that had attacked him with a muffled curse. "Thanks," he growled through his teeth.

"We can't both go," Leon said tensely, watching as Sora darted forward to try and deal with the other heatless, the teen's blue eyes shining with irritation and frustration alike. "Can you hold things up here?" The question was asked hesitantly; it was clear that the man wasn't on board in leaving the boy alone at all.

Sora turned back, eyes going down to the gully where Yuffie and Aerith were being attacked. There was no doubt in his mind on what had to be done, and his response was almost immediate. "Yeah, sure!" he called back, parrying a blow to his chest with difficulty. "Don't worry about me! You go and help them before anything bad can happen! I've got these guys!"

Nodding quickly, Leon made quick progress in leaping down into the gully, vanishing from Sora's sight as quickly as he had appeared before. Adrenaline pumping through Sora's veins, the boy grounded his teeth together angrily as he turned back towards the other pesky Heartless. He had been doing this for who knew how long and yet it still looked like he hadn't even started! "You guys are so annoying!" he yelled loudly at the Heartless surrounding him. As if in response, three Air Soldiers entered the fight, flying out and diving for Sora in a wild sort of barrel roll. Groaning, Sora sucked in a gulp of air, bracing himself as he raised his keyblade once more.

(~**~) (~**~) (~**~) (~**~)

"Look, I don't want to be violent or anything. I don't want to be the bad guy, here," Axel said, his tone much too light for the kind of situation that they were now in. Yuffie's face turned from panic to slight puzzlement, the girl slacking from her tense posture moments before. Axel sighed. "But, unfortunately I'm under strict ordersto do that…" Axel looked down at the ground thoughtfully for a moment before shrugging. "Ah, well." he said finally, turning back to Yuffie. "At least now you know that it's nothing personal."

But all of a sudden, something slammed into the Organization member from behind, knocking him off balance as he staggered forward. Yuffie made a noise of alarm, pushing herself up to her feet and hopping backwards with a deep flinch as she put weight onto her wounded leg. Axel was knocked right into the place where she had been sitting moments before, jarred forward from the blow. Looking behind him angrily, the man with the red hair narrowed his eyes as he spotted the brunette from before. What had her name been? Her green eyes were filled with anger, and she slammed her elbow into his back a second time, surprisingly very forcefully. "Let Yuffie go!" Aerith yelled loudly.

"Get off of me!" Axel yelled, spinning around and pushing her backwards. Not expecting his own strength, Axel blinked as the girl flew backwards more than two feet, landing on the ground and skidding backwards. Immediately, Yuffie leapt forward, wrapping her arms around his neck and hanging onto his back for dear life, the Organization member bending forward under the additional weight. "What the-" Axel broke off, yanking his hand away as he saw the girl reaching in the effort for her weapon. "Not a chance!" he shouted, leaning backwards and abruptly falling to the ground, squishing the girl underneath him as Yuffie let out a surprised squeak. The girl started to struggle, yelling out insults as she tried to knock him to the side angrily.

If Axel's efforts weren't going in just for pure distraction, he would have considered this one of the most awkward battles he had ever taken part in.

Suddenly, a foot slammed into his side, kicking Axel off the girl and causing him to skid to the side a ways. It was almost as far as he had pushed the other girl. Looking up angrily, Axel clashed eyes with man sporting very spiky brown hair, a – probably excessively – large sword poised and ready for battle in his grip. "What did you think you're doing?" the newcomer demanded in a sharp tone, glaring at Axel as he helped Yuffie back up, the girl looking frazzled and shaken. "Did you think they were the only ones here?"

"Nah, I knew there were more," Axel said, smiling as he dusted himself off calmly. "What do you take me for, an idiot? I think I deserve more credit than that, don't you think?"

"Humph. Maybe," Leon grunted ungraciously. "We'll find out." Raising his sword, he pointed it over at Axel with a threatening air. "You're going to give my friend back her weapon. And then we'll see who deserves more credit." Axel glanced down at the ninja stars he still held in his hands, realizing that he had almost forgotten he had them. Laughing, he looked back up, swinging the things over lazily and watching as they fell at the girl's feet. She instantly reached down to scoop up her treasures, looking thoroughly relieved at their return.

"Fine. We don't have much time, though. I've got a strict schedule to keep," Axel snorted, the Heartless rushing forward behind him. "So I'll have to make this quick."

And with that, the fight began.

(~**~) (~**~) (~**~) (~**~)

Slicing through a runaway Soldier, finally finish off the last Heartless, Sora found himself out of breath, gasping for air that didn't seem to fill his lungs. In the back of his mind he wished that he could just flop down onto the ground, his muscles burning and energy leaking out of his entire body quicker than he even thought possible. It certainly sounded like the perfect thing to do right about now. But Sora shrugged off the tempting thought; he had to keep going in order to meet up with the others. Donald and the king would be waiting for him. Turning around and forcing his legs into a run instead, Sora made for the ridge that would keep him on his required path, already making a plan in his head for what to do if he ran into any more Heartless. But right as he was about to enter the passage itself, he slammed into a wall, getting shot backwards immediately.

Giving a grunt as he was denied passage, Sora blinked, righting himself with a small stagger and looking with confusion at the seemingly-still-clear pathway. A deep frown of puzzlement coming over his face, Sora walked forward, bringing up his arm and reaching out hesitantly. Almost at once, it got rejected, stopping in mid-air from…nothing. The barrier? Sora turned back around, blinking as he scanned the area. He had gotten every Heartless! Why wasn't he going through? Why was the barrier still up if there were none left?

"A little confused, I see." Sora stiffened at once in shock, a chilling, unfamiliar voice echoing off the walls of the rocks. Spinning around quickly, Sora tried to see where it was coming from, but it was in vain. He was in the only one in the clearing. And yet, the voice continued to go on, a tone of voice that, for some reason, caused the boy to back up little by little, Sora gritting his teeth as a strong sense of uneasiness rooted deep inside of him. "That's natural of course. You're used to everything falling into place for you; all you have to do is swing that pretty little key around. It's like magic." The last word ended on a mocking tone, Sora's face immediately scrunching in indignant anger. "But trust me, dear boy, that all will change soon enough."

Sora started, black portals appearing in a semi-circle around him almost in unison. Taking another hesitant step backwards, Sora watched in anxiety as Organization members all stepped out calmly from the portals, footsteps seeming to echo and bounce as they did so. One was unfamiliar to Sora, but others he knew from thumbing through Jiminy's journal. Xigbar, Xaldin, Luxord, and Saix stood among the rank in front of him. He growled in the back of his throat, finding that since they were planted in front of him, he was now backed into the invisible barrier behind him. He was trapped in more ways than one.

Clenching his hands, Sora's keyblade shimmered back into view, glinting in the light of the sun as he crouched down in a ready position. He grimaced determinately, the effort that went into gripping his weapon causing his knuckles to turn white. In the back of his mind, he was screaming at himself the reminder that he didn't have a lot of potions left; he had used up most of them when battling Demyx. But there was no going back. But, like he had realized before, he knew that there was no other alternative. He couldn't go forward with the Organization members in front of him. And obviously with the barrier, he could not even think about retreating.

"Look at that," Luxord scoffed where he stood. "He thinks that he can win this game."

"Five against one doesn't add up, does it?" Xaldin presumed, face blank.

Luxord smiled slightly, a grin that made Sora want to be sick. "That's how you win a game," he stated. "You stack the odds."

"Everything is a game to you, Luxord," Xaldin sighed. "Can't it be anything else?"

"Stop bickering." Sora looked over at the man he had not recognized as he spoke in an authoritative voice, eerie yellow eyes clashing with his own blue ones. "We have a job to finish, and we have to make it quick. Axel can only hold up for so long; and us standing here doing nothing will not help him."

Sora looked the group up and down. "Do you always say random stuff; or is it just always around me?" He spat. It seemed that whenever an Organization person started to talk, and it didn't matter who it was, their words were always lost on him. It was either that they had no sense whatsoever as a whole, or he was just missing something. But he didn't have time to say anything else before the five Organization members suddenly drew their weapons and charged forward.

Gasping in shock at the entirely unwarranted and surprising attack, Sora dodged as Xaldin shot a lance his way, rolling on the ground and watching with panic as the pointed arrow embedded itself deep into the rock wall near where his head had been seconds before. The boy gasped sharply, eyes wide as he wildly tried to figure out what was going on. This had never happened before! Was there motive? Was there a goal? He desperately struggled to wrack his mind for one, but he couldn't. These people were a mystery to him, and he was left reeling with confusion and mounting panic. He had no time to recover before a sharp pain inserted itself directly into his arm, the boy shrieking immediately as he shot up to his feet, eyes wide as he looked down. The skin under the sleeve of his shirt was bright red, a painful welt already etched deep as a large throbbing started to shake his limb. Another laser shot out, striking the same place, and Sora, barely holding back a scream of pain from the pulse of heat, staggered quickly to the side, out of range.

He hadn't faced these people before; he had no idea what to expect from them. He didn't know their tactics, he didn't know any weaknesses he could use to his advantage, and he had no idea what kind of capability that they had. But, stubbornly, the boy told himself that he would be caught dead before he let them win without a fight. Gritting his teeth together tightly, Sora raised his keyblade, doing the same as he did before against the Heartless as he spun in a tight circle, striking at least some blows onto the men that were closing themselves around him. He only struck a few, those who were closest to them, and thanks to the way that it was carried out, it was hardly one of his most powerful attacks. It was a small victory, but at least he got somewhere.

Jumping in the air, Sora dodged a blow from Saix, a large claymore being the man's weapon. He willed himself to remember whose weapon was whose, struggling to at least gain some kind of upper hand. Landing on the ground with a small thump, Sora spun around just in time as to parry a blow from the man he did not recognize, large, laser-swords glowing in the teen's face as he fought to get them away. Grunting, Sora's legs shook as he pushed back on the man's swords, trying to keep them from touching him with all of the effort he could manage. The blades were giving off a soft hum, as if they were vibrating, and the boy could feel the heat coming off from their edges as the locked his jaw backwards. The other adversaries slipped his mind, the boy forced to concentrate on this singular attacker as he did all he could to keep the hot sword from touching him.

But another laser struck, burning a hole through the boy's shirt easily, and making his skin there a blistery red as well. Immediately, he screamed, grip slackening only for a heartbeat as he allowed the severe pain to distract him. But that was all the mystery man needed. Raising his sword, the cloaked figure struck out at the boy, hitting him with enough force to cause the teenager to fly backwards, landing with a painful skid on the ground. Immediately, a large card appeared right behind Sora, the teen having no time at all to react before the card slammed down, immediately crushing the fifteen-year-old with surprising force. As he was slammed down, his head struck the rocks below with shattering force, the hot feel of blood gushing out from his forehead and down into his eyes as he yelled in agony, finding that after the blow he was left winded again. Struggling now, having to focus in order to align his thoughts, he started to push himself up to his feet, wanting to move quicker but only managing slow, stiff movements. His arm was on fire, his chest was aching, he was struggling for air, and his now-bleeding head pounded from being slammed against the ground.

Blowing out a breath of air and forcing the pressing injuries out of his mind, Sora dashed forward, picking Luxord -who was closest- and swiping his keyblade at him with all the strength he could muster. The man grunted in pain as Sora fought blow for blow, managing to shoot out bursts of fire towards him as well, but it wasn't a long streak at all. The unfamiliar man with the yellow eyes rushed forward, knocking Sora away from his target and raining down blows upon the teen. Gasping and yelling in pain, Sora lifted his key to try and defend himself, but immediately, Sora fumbled as yet another attack joined.

Xaldin threw his lances at Sora without a single pause, four lances in total stabbing themselves deep into Sora's skin with a painful burning sensation. Screaming, Sora staggered, the man whom he didn't know knocking him forward like a golf ball with his sword. Falling to the ground in a heap, Sora grimaced into the dirt, digging his fingers into the ground, Sora struggled to keep hold on himself as the pain, livid now, was starting to engulf every aspect of thought he could have. He tried to push himself up, tried to keep going. He couldn't let this stop him— he had to get to Donald and the king! If he could just managed that somehow, maybe he could get some help. His arms shook violently as he attempted yet again to get back up. But another burning burst of fire slammed into his side, digging down into his ribs and eliciting yet another pain-filled screech from the young boy.

Forced back down to the ground, Sora felt all of the energy that he once had vanish entirely. Trembling with pain and the effort of trying to get up, Sora could feel his racing, hummingbird heartbeat roaring in his ears. His vision shook, his mind was fuzzy. He couldn't get up and fight even if he remotely figured that he could win against this force. Looking up, the teenager flinched deeply, a strangled scream wrenching out of his throat as something burned into his side once more; he couldn't even tell what was hitting him at this point.

Blackness played on the edge of his mind, bending forward like hanging curtains that were threatening to fall in front of his face. Thoughts became slurred and panicked, making little to no sense even to the teenager. This was bad. The thought was reoccurring, repeating in his mind over and over as lasers continued to burn every inch of him, as his ankle was wrapped in a sudden tight pain by something, he couldn't even keep track of what, stabbing into it. Hands trembling, Sora's breath came in panicked gasps as he shoved his hand down into his pocket as fast as he could, pure fear and panic giving his failing body the needed speed. His hand shot every way, trying to grasp at the one potion bottle he knew was in there somewhere. And he might have touched it; but his effort was for nothing as Xigbar began to shoot at him with his laser guns once more, Sora being forced to take back his hand as his raised both arms in the attempt to shield himself from the bursts of light.

Teeth still glued together tightly, he felt the lasers slowly recede until they stopped altogether. Closing his eyes, Sora let out a pained whimper, letting his hands fall on the ground with a small thud, the rocks coming into contact with his burn wounds and causing pain to stab through every inch of his limbs in response. Closing his eyes tightly, Sora tried to distract himself from the throbbing that was engulfing him, burning and stinging every inch of his body. But the only other thought that would come to his sluggish, groggy mind, was the thought of Donald and Mickey. They would be waiting for him; what happened now?

"Grab him, we have to leave before anybody sees," somebody said lowly.

Feeling the collar of his shirt being tugged up, Sora tried to will himself to do something in response, to try and move. To break free. But his body wouldn't listen to him; he found that he could not move a single muscle without pure agony flashing through him in response. Feeling himself being pulled backwards, he felt a flash of panic, hot as the lasers that had burned him, or the swords that had slashed open his skin. Where were they taking him? Slowly, he forced himself into motion, biting down on the pain that came as a result as he held the sob building in his throat. Starting to move, he began to struggle away, yanking himself forward as he tried to dig his heels into the ground. His keyblade was gone, he was too weak to try and get it to appear, but he didn't need it.

The grip on his collar tightened, voices muttering in the back fuzziness of his head. His movements got more rapid, stronger. He had to break free. Thrashing and twisting, Sora found strength in his rampant fear. Pushing and pulling, the brunet gasped as he felt hands grab his wrists, yanking him backwards and forcing him to cease movement. His ankles were held too, the boy finding himself hanging suspended in the air, back facing the ground. His struggles would do nothing now.

Panic caused the boy's skinny frame to convulse and tremble, and he realized that nothing would help by now. He didn't know what to do. What couldhe do? Finding himself at a loss and on the brink of either falling unconscious or screaming intelligibly, he did the only thing he could possibly think of in such a situation. Sucking in as much air as he could, Sora raised his voice as loud as it could go, shouting for all it was worth, and hoping it would be enough. "LEON!" He screamed, his voice grating against his throat as he yelled for his friend in a moment of severe desperation.

Immediately, something heavy collided with his head, and everything went black.

(~**~) (~**~) (~**~) (~**~)

"LEON!" The voice echoed over the rocks and bounced off the walls of the canyon, the simple two syllables packed with alarm, panic, and horrible horrible pain. The man halted in his swipes, pausing everything altogether as he froze, his eyes widening to be a million times their normal size. Aerith gasped sharply where she stood, her hands going over to clasp over her mouth, confusion and terror reflected in her green depths. Yuffie stopped as well, turning and looking at Leon as if her heart had just frozen over. Even Axel halted in order to listen as the scream echoed and reverberated for what seemed like ages, although it couldn't have been more than a few seconds if that, until it faded away completely. Whirling around, Leon strained to see the cliff face in which he had left Sora. But he couldn't make out anything; he was too far.

Turning back around, Leon saw that Axel's weapons had disappeared already. The man gave him a sly smirk, turning and looking back at the Heartless that were now just a mere yard or two away. "Looks like I'll take my leave here," he sighed. "Don't want to mess with any Heartless; far too annoying, you know?" Yuffie looked enraged, and she opened her mouth quickly, taking a few steps forward, obviously armed with a question as her hands balled into fists at her sides. But the man did not wait to hear it. Without wasting another second, Axel vanished in a dark shadow, leaving the Heartless to charge forward.

Yuffie turned and looked over at Leon, her eyes as wide as the moon. Leon glanced back at the cliff, thoroughly upset now. Aerith was the first to speak, not even paying heed to the oncoming Heartless as she turned instead to face the other two in their party. "That was Sora!" she yelled, already haunted with concern as her features were drawn back into a worried stare. Neither Yuffie nor Leon responded at first, and she yelled again: "That was Sora! We have to go and find him! He sounds like he needs help!"

The two exchanged a glance, Yuffie questioning and Leon just as. But after a moment, Yuffie managed a small nod of encouragement, gripping her ninja stars tightly as she spun around and sprinted back for the way in which the yell had come. She did not allow her leg injury to hinder her as she raced, and after another brief, stunned pause, Leon followed suit as Aerith took up the rear, casting nervous looks over her shoulder every so often at the line of Heartless on their tail.

As Yuffie came face to face with the wall of the enormous cliff, she didn't hesitate before starting to climb, slightly favoring her injured leg though still managing to make quick progress as she jumped from outcrop to outcrop. Panting, Leon paused in order to help Aerith up along the way, pausing to jab a few Heartless back towards the ground with muttered curse underneath his breath. Scaling the rest of the wall, Leon hoisted himself up as quickly as he could, feet making a loud thump at it made contact with the ground in a small skid. Brown eyes roving around in a panic, Leon searched for the familiar sight of the keyblade bearer who had screamed out.

But he didn't see a single person. The entire cliff was vacant and empty.

"Sora?" he yelled, pushing off the ground and rounding the corner to see if the boy had made it up the ridge. Maybe the yell had been a false alarm and he had gone ahead? But no— that was empty too. The boy was nowhere to be seen. It was empty; absolutely empty. "SORA!" Leon yelled louder, listening for a shout back. But no sort of response came. The place was just…empty.

There was nothing that even signaled the boy's ever being there.