I really really shouldn't be updating since I'm in the middle of class... but... Enjoy!

Chapter Eleven: An Old Master

The first thing Xion hears when she snaps back to full coherence is Ven's shouting voice asking where the heck they are.

"Just hang on, we're almost there!" Mickey's voice yells in Xion's ear, making her tighten her grip on the glowing star just in time. Her body jolts hard to the left, sending her legs flying almost straight up. "Are you sure?!" She screams back in response, but the mouse King only grabs her wrist and clings to it, as if terrified she might accidentally let go.

"Positive!" is his only answer.

Ven yelps loudly as they bounce again, this time sending his free hand slamming right into Xion's eye. Her head snaps back from the force and she lets out a startled curse as the vision in her right eye suddenly becomes choked with tears. "Sorry! I've never gone this way before-!" The Keyblade wielder apologizes but is quickly interrupted when Mickey's body suddenly flips and slaps him upside the chin.

"This is built for multiple people but it's hard to use, but I don't want either of you going through Corridors of Darkness!" Mickey shouts in explanation and then the little mouse suddenly grins. He flashes Xion a cheerful wink and laughs. His large ears wiggle underneath his hood and he looks almost happy for a minute. "Just enjoy it, we're almost to my master's world!" He exclaims.

Xion stares at him in horror, unable to believe what the King was saying. Was he crazy? Did he seriously think that they would or could enjoy hurtling around in space without anything to anchor them down and keep them from flying off? They suddenly slam to the right, sending each of them barreling into Mickey and then into space.

As Xion whips around, she suddenly feels her hand slipping right off of the star.

"No!" She screams as she starts to fall away from the others. But just as quickly as she had let go, Ven's hand shoots out and grabs hers, sending her whipping right back into the group; she smacks her chin onto the star and immediately tastes blood in her mouth. "I've got you!" Ven shouts back to her, keeping his hand firmly on her wrist.

Not quite trusting Ven not to fall, Xion wraps her arm around Ven's and grabs the star with both hands. "No, I've got you!" She yells out, making the blond cling to her that much tighter.

"Enjoy it!" Mickey says again as Xion's head whips back, forcibly smacking onto the top of her back. For a split second, she sees exactly why the King was so adamantly shouting for them to enjoy the ride.

She could see a thousand, a million stars in the blackness around her. They glow, sparkle at her as she watches them, giving her a strange sense of euphoria as they hurtle through the universe. The light of a thousand worlds watch the ex-Nobody, stealing her breath away from their beauty. She hadn't even realized that she could breathe in space until this very moment, when the universe began to reveal itself.

It was beautiful.

Xion feels another yank on her stomach and then the King's laughter rumbling in her chest. "We're here!" Mickey declares as there is one last yank to the right and then a loud popping noise as they suddenly burst through a world's atmosphere. She hears a loud scream growing louder and louder and barely recognizes it as her own until she smacks hard into Ven and cuts off his own scream.

The two shriek in unison as Mickey's weight suddenly vanishes and their momentum continues, sending them skipping painfully over the ground like two stones over water. From the very edge of her peripheral vision, Xion watches in stunned fascination as the tiny King flips up into the air and lands safely onto the grass. He even has the time to brush off his Organization cloak before jogging toward their general direction.

Ven and Xion aren't so lucky.

The only thing that stops them from shooting right off of the world again is that Ven wraps his arms around Xion's body and screams out a wind spell. A split second after that, the kids fly straight up into the air. The breath is ripped right out Xion's throat as they slam into the ground, smacking each other's head as Ven lands first and drags her down on top of him.

"Ow…" She whimpers softly as Ven grunts beneath her. He opens an eye slowly and she could see that it was hazy with pain. "You okay?" He whispers softly, though he had been the one to take the brunt of the force. Xion nods weakly and gently rolls off of him, moaning as she sprawls out on the lawn.

"Yeah…" Ven groans back, forcing himself to sit up. He clutches at his back in obvious agony, probably having slipped a disc out of place or bruised the majority of his back muscles. "Me too…" Barely noticing when he flashes her a weak grin, Xion rolls to her stomach and forces herself to sit down on her knees.

They had landed hard. Really hard. It's a miracle that they weren't dead.

After letting herself get lost for a bit in a haze of pain, Mickey's pattering feet is what brings her back to full awareness. The mouse King skids to a stop by them, puts his hands on his hips, and looks at them mischievously. "Golly," The King laughs. "I didn't think you'd stop so fast!" He nods in approval at Ven, who just looks up at him in irritated pain. "Smart thinking, using your magic to slow the fall. … Like I said, the Star Shard is a little tricky to use and I guess it was trying too hard for us all to get here!" He explains sheepishly.

"I think I'm going to kill you," Ven and Xion snarl in unison even as the King blinks in surprise and then bows deeply at something behind them.

All of a sudden, the kids hear someone clapping their hands together eagerly. "Gawrsh, that was one heck of a fall!" A voice says in amusement and the next thing Xion knows, someone grabs her by the shoulder and gently hauls her to her feet. When she looks up, she sees a friendly dog-like face staring back down at her with a big smile. She knows that face. "You a'right, miss?" Goofy asks curiously as he carefully starts dusting off her arms and back, helpfully cleaning her off when she is too dumbfounded to move.

Xion can only stare at him in surprise and more than a little bit of shame. Goofy… Sora's friend Goofy… The last she had seen of him, he was sleeping in one of Naminé's egg pod things alongside Sora… The girl suddenly collapses back onto her knees, heaving weakly as the dog grabs her shoulders again and lifts her head up. Tears start trickling out of her eyes and she turns around to grab Goofy by the legs, hugging him tight and burying her face in his knees.

"I thought I'd never see you again, Goofy," She whispers as she clings to him. "I'm glad you're okay." The startled dog stares down at her for a few seconds before putting his hands onto her head, stroking her hair gently and soothingly.

He'd always been good at making her feel better, even when she fought with- Xion jumps up, ignoring the flash of pain that ripped through her body as she tries to stay standing. "Donald! Where's Donald, Goofy, what happened to Donald?" She cries out, terrified for the ill-tempered duck and afraid of what had happened to him.

Had his memories gotten so erased that he could never wake up? Had Naminé broken him like she had Xion? Oh, if anything had happened to her friend, she knew that her heart would just break!

Goofy blinks down at her and lifts her head up to look at her face a little more closely. "You're not Kairi, are you? You're somebody else!" He says in surprise instead of telling her where their friend is. His confusion suddenly makes Xion push him away and walk off. If Goofy was going to play around when Donald could be hurt, then she would find him on her own!

"Xion, wait!" Mickey cries out as Xion takes one step, then another, and then collapses one more time. She smacks headfirst into the dirt, suddenly unable to support her body weight with her legs, even though she had done it all of her life. What's… going on…? She struggles to sit up but even that little bit of movement is denied her and she flops around uselessly instead, unable to truly get up.

As the others reach her, a spew of black liquid erupts from her mouth and splatters onto the ground.

"What's that?" Goofy asks out of concern and he immediately moves the girl away from it, like he was afraid of what it might do. Mickey's eyes flickered toward the fluid and then back to Xion and he shakes his head as Xion gags on the foul taste.

"Goof, I've got no idea, but I think it has something to do with Xion's memories," He says after a moment and then holds his hand out to the side. A brilliant flash of white light sparks across his hand and a small Keyblade decorated with blue and gold stars appears in his grasp. He sighs and looks at the girl thoughtfully. "'Cause every time she remembers somethin', that stuff comes outta her!" He explains. Xion blinks weakly at the sight of it, too startled to comment that King Mickey was also a Keyblade Master.

In a way, it totally made sense. She had seen him with a Keyblade when –

Xion's body doubles over as a second wave of black liquid gushes out of her mouth and she starts to choke on it. Goofy slaps her back hard as he carries her a few steps away from it and then props her body up against his chest. "There, there, no rememberin', okay?" The dog says in her ear, patting her shoulder gently.

The girl wheezes in agreement and leans into him, shivering as Goofy wraps a protective arm around her belly.

Ven frowns and drops down to his knees, looking closely at the liquid. "It's… it looks really familiar, your Majesty," He admits as he looks at it. For a moment, it looks as if the boy might start poking it or dragging his finger through the black goop to test it out. Instead, Ven just rubs his chin and stands up slowly, obviously still in pain from their crash landing. "In fact, I think I've seen it before… but if this is what I think it is…" Ven suddenly turns and looks at Xion, fear appearing in his eyes. He shakes his head and shivers nervously. "No, it can't be what I'm thinking of!" He insists, shaking his head in denial.

"It is liquid Darkness, child," a deep voice says behind them, making the four of them freeze in place from the sheer shock.

When Goofy whips around, he swings Xion along with him, giving her a good look at the man standing before them. He is a severe-looking man with a solemn face, a dark gray beard, and big big white eyes, like he never blinked. The sight of him both frightens and intrigues Xion for some reason, like she was staring right at Xemnas without his Organization cloak. But unlike the solemn Xemnas, this man was much more interesting to look at. He looks like a wizard, a stereotypical one anyway. The man is wearing a blue robe and even a pointed hat. Maybe he had a wand or a staff hidden somewhere, too. As she stares at him, Xion notices that the big blue hat perched on his head was covered in golden stars, a lot like Mickey's Keyblade.

Was this where Mickey learned how to love stars or where he had gotten his Keyblade? Just who was this old man?

"Liquid Darkness? How can it be liquid Darkness?" Ven asks curiously before jumping back, holding his arms out in front of him in surprise. His jaw drops as a flash of recognition suddenly passes through his face and he laughs nervously. "M-Master Yen Sid! It's… it's good to see you again, sir." The boy stammers out as he drops into a deep, respectful bow. Yen Sid blinks at him before smiling and nodding his head at the Keyblade Wielder, giving him permission to stand.

He strokes his long gray beard as he looks at the boy. "I am no longer a Master, my boy, I have long since doffed that mantle… I am glad you made it here without any… further trouble." With that, the wizard glances over thoughtfully at the King, who immediately ducks his head and blushes. The King grins sheepishly and scuffs the ground with his boot.

"Master, why is Xion coughing up Darkness?" Mickey asks instead of responding to the playful jab, pointing over to the silent girl in emphasis.

The man's eyes flicker over to the girl and narrow, as if he had just spotted something he didn't like. Xion tenses up, fighting the urge to snap open a Corridor and run as far away as possible from this stern wizard and his world. Instead, she just lifts her chin up and stares right into his eyes, forcing a big smile onto her face.

"Hey there!" Xion says in a friendly voice and glances over at the others.

Ven's jaw drops again, this time out of sheer shock that she would speak so casually to Master Yen Sid. King Mickey just raises an eyebrow, surprised but not particularly concerned about it. Goofy just looks at her in confusion and shrugs before bending down a little and whispering into her ear.

"You oughta call him Master Yen Sid, miss," The dog informs her patiently and he gives her another friendly smile.

Yen Sid didn't look so pleased. "No, Goofy, I'm afraid that the Replica knows exactly what she wanted to say," He declares in a haughty and cold voice, one very different from the one he had used to greet Ven. Xion flinches as if she had been slapped and she tries to physically get away from him, immediately sensing there was something wrong.

There was something in his eyes, something in the way that he was standing and looking down at her that makes her fear for her life and for Ven's. This man could very easily destroy her and the calculating look Yen Sid is giving her as he looks her up and down could testify to that. He reminds the ex-Nobody of Xemnas, of the way he had threatened to turn her into a Dusk for not being able to keep up with her quotas in the Organization.

After a moment, the harsh look softens.

"You look famished," Master Yen Sid declares softly and in a much kinder voice, as if he had known how frightening he had appeared to Xion. He raises a hand and turns around, beckoning them over his shoulder with a wave to follow. "Come, there are refreshments inside the Tower; no doubt Ventus and Xion are tired after their long journey…" After a moment he pauses and turns to Mickey with a raised eyebrow. "And there are plenty of potions and elixirs inside as well." He states in a scolding but fond way.

The King's lips make a startled 'o' as he realizes the damage that the kids had taken upon impact. He scuffs at the ground again before lifting his hand near Ven and shouting a curing spell. Ven immediately jumps and spins around, laughing as the aches completely vanish from his body. Xion looks up at Goofy but the dog only smiles and drapes her arm around his shoulder, picking her up slightly as he walks toward Master Yen Sid.

He couldn't heal people, but he was a fairly good heavy lifter.

It is with a cup of tea in her hand and a slice of cake dancing onto her plate that Xion finds herself in the Mysterious Tower with a wizard holding a sandwich, three fairies in green, blue, and pink dresses conducting desserts and cups flying into the air, Ven stuffing his mouth with as many sweet cream puffs as he could possibly hold at once, and a dog drawing patterns onto frosting.

She could honestly say that this was one of the strangest tea parties she had ever been to, if not the only one.

Master Yen Sid smiles at her as he puts his sandwich onto his plate and folds his hands neatly into his lap. He leans back in his desk chair and watches the rowdy party as Ven snatches a particularly frosting laden cake out of the air and accidentally sends it splattering into Goofy's mouth. The Keyblade wielder laughs as Goofy gulps loudly and swallows the sweet cake eagerly. He blushes and gives Ven a fond wink, informing him that it was delicious. The three fairies twitter in laughter and the one in pink reaches over to give the blond a fond pat on the cheek, making him blush hard.

Xion quietly stuffs a bite of cake into her mouth and pushes the plate away, gently putting the tea next to it.

"You must be wondering why I invited you in," Master Yen Sid says. Although his voice is quiet, barely more than a whisper even, the entire group freezes in mid-laugh and turns to look at him. The wizard's eyes drift over to the silent Nobody and stay there. "You have committed a great wrong against the worlds, Xion." He says bluntly and he ignores the way that girl flinches.

It feels like like he had just stabbed her in the heart. Instead of answering, Xion just bows her head and closes her eyes. She finds herself reaching for her hood, to hide underneath it, but even hiding wouldn't do her much good now. "Because I killed Sora, the Keyblade Master." She says softly, refusing to deny exactly what she had done. Her hand tightens into a fist, driving her nails deep into her palm. "Because I'm not supposed to exist."

Ven begins to reach out for her, to soothe her, but a sharp look from the wizard stops him in his tracks.

"Explain yourself," Master Yen Sid commands.

"... I don't know how," Xion says honestly, lifting her head up to look at him. When the wizard frowns, she shakes her head. "I don't know what I did. I... I'm a Nobody," She begins but is quickly interrupted by a hand lifting up, wrapping itself around her wrist, and stopping her from speaking because of sheer surprise.

Ven looks at her consolingly for a moment before taking his hand away and folding his arms across his chest. "She's not a Nobody, not anymore," He declares defiantly though he is quick to bow his head respectfully at the ex-Master when he turns to look at him. "I mean... From what I picked up... Nobodies are creatures without Hearts, right?" Ven points to Xion and then jabs his own heart with his thumb. "She's got a Heart, so Xion can't be a Nobody."

Master Yen Sid nods and then turns expectantly again to Xion.

"I'm... a former Nobody," She amends quietly when Ven turns to look at her again. Looking deep into her tea cup so that she wouldn't look anyone in the eye, Xion continues. "In order to wake up Sora, I had to help another Nobody, one named Naminé..."

She touched the glass with a cautious hand, not afraid that she would break it but afraid she might awaken the person sleeping inside. It was a strange fear because she knew that he wouldn't wake up. The boy slept on, too deeply enchanted to break out of it from a mere tap on his Memory Pod. But Xion touched it like that anyway though she did not know why.

Maybe she had been trying to reassure herself that he would be okay.

The girl standing next to her also touched the glass even though her touch was a little more brusque and much more rude. From beneath the white hood that hid her solemn eyes, a very faint smile was on her lips. She was happy. Happier than she had been for a very long time, and both Xion and Naminé knew it. She mumbles something to the opaque glass in a rather loving sort of whisper, like she was reassuring both herself and the boy in the flower-like Pod.

As if in answer, Sora smiled vaguely before his expression turned blank again in his sleep.

She looked towards Sora's friend, toward the Memory Witch that had enchanted him in the first place and wondered whether or not she had done the right thing. Even now, Naminé had been approving of her actions all the way up to when she had defeated Roxas. She clutched her hand into a fist then, marveling at how small the little hand that had killed her friend had felt inside of her leather glove. It felt sick, disgusting even to know she was still alive.

She shouldn't have been the one standing there before Sora.

Roxas had been the superior fighter. He'd been the warrior, the Organization's golden boy and beloved Keyblade Master. … So why had she won? The thought of it had turned her insides into ice, even though she technically couldn't feel anything without the Heart that was still inside of Sora. She may have won the memories, but she hadn't won anything she couldn't give back. And Roxas had known she would give back everything to the person it belonged to, the person that they had both stolen from in order to survive in the Organization.

Sora slept on that day, not knowing what would become of him the moment that the glass doors opened to his pod.

"It's time," Naminé told her quietly as she hid a happy smile beneath her hands. Xion didn't answer her. She knew what she had to do, but even so, she could give herself a moment to think, right? She could give herself a moment to grieve, right? She could have a moment as those moments slowly faded away from her.

Naminé had warned her. If Xion lost the fight, then all memories of her would be erased. No if's, and's, or but's about it. It would be like she had never existed. But she hadn't lost, all because Roxas has suddenly dropped his Keyblade and taken her final attack straight in the chest. She had ripped right through him and out the other side. He had even smiled at her as he crumpled to his knees and collapsed onto the cobblestones of the train station.

Xion ran her fingers through her hair as the lingering touch of her friend began to fade. He had asked her to turn back, to turn back from Sora to his friend Xion, and somehow her body had listened. She had had enough time for Roxas to ask her who he was supposed to have ice cream with now and to whisper his final words.

'Please be happy... Xion... I want my best friends to be happy...'

She would have to deny him his last wish in order to bring Sora back.

"It's time," Naminé repeated impatiently before taking her hand and pressing it hard against the glass. Xion watched as the glass slowly opened, the petals spreading apart as the floating figure inside came into view. The boy was still smiling as he slept, like he was having good dreams. She hoped that he was. It was the least that could happen to him. Xion reached out for him then, grasped the very closest scrap of his too-small clothes as she walked toward him. There was a flash of bright, bright light as she walked toward nothingness.

And then everything went wrong.

She clutched at her arms as she woke up and all she could do was to keep looking at Sora as he slowly bled to death on the floor. Something had gone wrong. She opened the doors, there had been this bright light... she had seen something, someone walking with her to Sora's arms. And then everything went wrong. The boy's eyes opened and he looked at her with the same expression she remembered from his memories. The same look that he had given to his friends on the islands he had given to her. He was supposed to have been asleep.

But no, the Keyblade Master was awake and his blue eyes, so close in color to her own, were beautiful. Like the sky on a summer's day, they had beckoned her to come to him and to give him back what was his. With a gasping breath, Xion remembers that she had placed her hand onto his Heart, had felt it beating between his fingers... and then felt it being ripped out of his chest by something she couldn't see.

Xion could feel his Heart beating slowly within her chest and she knows... that she had just killed the one true Keyblade Wielder in all of the worlds. His dark blue eyes stared back at her as he started to fade away and somehow, somehow Sora found the strength to reach out and grab her fingers.

"I'm sorry... Sora... I'm sorry..." Xion whispered as she held his hand tight and then bent down to kiss his gloved fingers. There was a look of quiet surprise on his face before Sora's eyes closed and it was at that moment that she let go. Then she ran: she ran as far away as possible from the shrieking Nobody yelling at her, demanding to know what she had done to her friend.

Xion ran from the dying Sora, unable to face what she had done.

"I didn't save Sora, Master Yen Sid," Xion finishes quietly. She could feel the frightened looks on the others' faces but she had to finish her story. For him. She had to finish it for Sora. "Instead, I ripped his Heart right out." She taps her chest in emphasis, touching the beating organ that had been stolen. "It's right here inside me."