Usual disclaimer here, please. Oh, and just to clarify: Lots of Organization members are currently looking for Xion. This all takes place AFTER Days and Chain of Memories. Hope the length is better!
Chapter Four: Within the White Walls
Xion stirs slightly, her fingers automatically curling around the warm pillow she was lying on. She buries her face into it again, groaning sleepily. "Axel, no... we don't have to go to Wonderland until tomorrow..." She says quietly, quietly telling herself that she had a couple more minutes before she had to get up.
You know, for real.
A low, weak chuckle suddenly echoes into her ear as someone's hands slowly pat her back. "Okay, you don't have to get up yet..." She hears someone say quietly as a sudden weight crashes down onto her forehead, the weight of someone pressing their head against hers. Xion instantly freezes in place, stuck between a warm bed (actually someone's body, now that she realizes it) and dignity.
Dignity it is.
Xion leaps up, shrieking her head off as the boy smiles weakly at her from his throne, beginning to sit up a bit. He shakes his head, groaning as he attempts to move slightly towards her. "Could you please shut up? You're making my head hurt." He whimpers, touching offended body part in emphasis. As if someone had suddenly flicked off her volume switch, Xion stops screaming and instead just stares at him with her mouth gaped open, like she was going to start up again.
The boy's dark blue eyes flicker in what seems like an amused expression but he only lifts his head up, looking around at the room cautiously. It was almost like he expected to be attacked by something... or someone. When he finds out that the room was completely clear, he turns to the young Nobody, his expression beginning to pierce through her heart as easily as a knife through flesh. She winces under its intensity, dropping her gaze to the floor.
He continues to stare.
Xion's cheek flush scarlet as she fidgets nervously, startled by the suddenly awakening of the boy. After what seems like an eternity, the boy finally drops his gaze from her face, instead focusing on his own hands. He wiggles them slightly, a cheerful little grin slowly spreading across his lips. He looks back at her and he reaches one towards her. Xion can see the small wristband on his wrist – a black and white checkered one – slip down his arm slightly as he leans his hand towards her.
Like a child discovering their mother after a long period of separation, the boy giggles softly.
He tilts his head at her, grinning. "I'm awake!" He announces in a proud voice, saying it as if it was a great accomplishment. Xion glances around the dust-covered room and smiles back at him, nodding. "Uh huh. You are." She says softly, not knowing what else to say. Secretly, her mind begins to race. What exactly had happened? Why had he woken up? From the look of the dust... he had been asleep here for days, months, maybe even years? She rubs her chin in deep thought, unknowingly looking at him with the same intensity that he had had. Decades could even be possible. … Castle Oblivion had been abandoned for years before the Organization came in and took possession of it.
Her eyes trail up toward the ceiling as she thinks, wondering what the – as Vexen would have said – change in the equation had been. She hums softly to herself, mulling the thoughts around in her head. Well, Castle Oblivion had been abandoned before the Organization came here. It had been empty for years or so they thought. She looks back at the smiling boy for a second before going back to her pondering. If he had been here the whole time, and they had never found him, then the Castle itself must have been – she pauses, frowning.
The Castle changed its appearance daily, even hourly at times. It all depended on what you were doing. If you stayed on the same floor, you could wake up in a new room or even in a hallway if you slept through the night. In this way... it was more than likely that the boy could have remained hidden for so long. The Castle itself was way too tricky and too unpredictable to not allow him to hide. But... why was he here? Xion's eyes suddenly widen as she remembers something that they had told her long before, one of the reasons why they never went to the Castle after the defection of the neophytes.
The memory echoes through her mind as she looks back at the boy.
Axel looked at her suspiciously, as if wondering what the heck she was up to with her question. "Castle Oblivion?" He asked her, taking a suddenly chomp of his sea salt ice cream. With his mouth full, she could tell he didn't exactly want to answer her.
She nodded anyway, looking at him hopefully. "I just want to know how you guys found it. … and why... it feels like I belong there." She added that last part under her breath, but from the startled look on Axel's face, she knew that he had heard her. He sighs, leaning back slightly against the tower, closing his eyes to think about it for a moment.
When he finally spoke, his voice was soft, even sad in its tone. It made her sit up straight, looking at him as he told the story. "That place... it just suddenly appeared one day," Axel said quietly, looking out into the sunset with a solemn expression. Although he was looking right at it, it didn't look like he was actually seeing it. "Xemnas found it. It was like he knew where it was... and that day, when he found it, it was like he suddenly found home again," The older Nobody said as he smiled, and with that slight twitch of his lips, Xion knew he was also thinking about his own home. "If Xemnas had found his home, then why'd he abandon the Castle and leave it as a research lab?" She wondered to herself out loud.
Axel took another moment to answer her.
"He had us all searching the whole Castle, looking for something he didn't even know existed, Xion. We never did find it. All we did was get lost. … Xemnas was angry, real angry, as angry as a Nobody can be when we couldn't find it. He just left it, saying that the Castle was useless. … Whatever it was... he really wanted to find it." Here, Axel took another bite of his ice cream, his eyes closing slightly in a rare moment of sympathetic sadness for their leader. "It must have been important to him."
The boy. Xemnas... must had been looking for him. That had to be it! Even the Superior had been looking for this boy!
The boy grins, looking at her curiously. "You look like you've had a revelation." He says thoughtfully, smiling brightly. He rubs at the side of his face, obviously curious on what she had been thinking about. Although she didn't know it, Xion had been on his thoughts too, more specifically on the bizarre resemblance between her and his friend. And from the way she kept looking at him, it was clear that she had figured out something about why he was in this place.
Besides, her concern was kind of cute.
It wasn't until she scowls at him, taking back a step that he realizes that he said the thought aloud. "Excuse me?" She asks curiously, sure that she had misheard him. This time, the boy flushes scarlet and he jabbers a few seconds before falling silent, turning away from her in embarrassment. As he thinks about what to say to the girl (and how to word his apology), Xion chuckles to herself.
He sure was weird.
Instead of allowing him to answer, Xion walks up to the throne, holding her hand out to the boy. He blinks at her, staring in confusion at her outstretched palm. It's almost as if he had never seen a black leather glove before... or maybe he was just surprised. He stares for a moment longer before Xion speaks quietly. "It's Xion. Not the girl. Xion. … It's nice to meet you." She says to him, flashing him a brief but friendly smile.
The expression in his eyes suddenly turns dark as he looks at her, a strange look of misery appearing on his face. For a moment, she can see right into him and whether it was into his soul or into his heart she didn't know. All she knows is that once, he had had friends, people just like her maybe. And they left him all alone here in this Castle.
'You... were abandoned too?'
The boy hesitates for a moment longer before curling his fingers around hers, gripping them gently and then tightly when he realizes she wasn't going to flinch out of his grasp. "N...Name's Ventus," He says softly, smiling weakly at her. "Ventus?" She asks curiously. He nods and suddenly, his cheerful grin appears on his face. "But you can call me Ven, Xion!" He declares with a laugh, rubbing his cheek with his free hand.
In response, Xion sits down on his throne and laughs. As she curls up besides him, her legs pressing up against her chest, Ventus immediately begins to ask a thousand questions. Continuing to laugh, Xion tries her best to answer each one of them, striking up the conversation whenever the wind within Ventus's chest falters or whenever he demands a particularly odd question. Ventus quickly finds himself on the defensive under her razor-sharp questions and the children's laughter echoes cheerfully through the space that had been silent for so long.
Even without them realizing it, the two lost souls had found each other. … And once more they had a friend.
"Xiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiooooooooooo n!" Axel shouts at the top of his lungs, cupping his hands around his mouth in an impromptu bullhorn. "Xiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiooooooooon ! If you can hear me, please come back down! We're on the second floor!" He yells loudly, making Saïx's ears flinch with annoyance as he keeps telling Xion instructions to come down and almost complete-hearted attempts to convince the girl that she was going to be safe with him.
The Luna Diviner shakes his head, his golden eyes rolling up to the ceiling in a gesture of 'please help me, Kingdom Hearts, I'm with an idiot.' He turns to Axel, suddenly interrupting his yelling by clapping his hand firmly over the red-head's mouth. "If she was here, Axel... your yelling is going to frighten her," He informs him quietly, shaking Axel's head slightly in emphasis. "She's most likely terrified that the Superior is going to punish her, maybe even transform her into a Dusk if she comes back. … She's our only Keyblade Master. We need her to come quietly and without force on our part." Axel grunts softly under his hand, shaking his head fiercely in an attempt to get free. Saïx only squeezes his jaw, making the man flinch that much harder under his grip. "Is that clear?" He demands quietly, looking his former best friend in the eye.
For a moment, it looks like Axel was about to do something stupid, like lick his hand to make Saïx let go of him and then run off screaming hysterically to Xion that the big bad Saïx was here and to open up a Corridor so they could run off into the sunset together.
But even he wasn't that stupid.
Axel nods once, his green eyes darkening with rage as Saïx drops his hand. He rubs his jaw for a moment before muttering something softly under his breath. "Did you chop onions or is that the way your nasty glove tastes?" He asks irritably, turning away from VII immediately. Saïx doesn't answer him and Axel becomes quiet, even down right hostile to his new little partner.
Even Saïx couldn't ignore the way that the slightly younger Nobody was glaring at him from behind him. It's really quite disturbing, after all, knowing that the person you were working with wanted to kill you.
In response, Saïx only stays silent. Even for a Nobody and even without his Heart, Axel was highly emotional when it came to that little girl. That little puppet had managed to find him in a way that even he hadn't been able to when they had been Others. Saïx scratches at the long thin scar at the bridge of his nose, thinking for a moment as they walk forward throughout the Castle. The scream had stopped, and so either Xion was safe and had stopped being startled by whatever had frightened her... or she was dead and/or critically injured.
Personally (and rather pathetically), he hoped it was the second one.
Axel glowers at him as the emotionally blank Nobody turns to look at him, knowing that the hostility was due to him being unable to find the poor child. Axel wants nothing more than to simply run up and find his little friend, to keep her safe and all that emotional Other garbage. Even so... Saïx couldn't help but allow the faint smile to cross his lips, albeit briefly.
"Axel," He says softly, clapping his hand onto the Flurry of Dancing Flames' skinny shoulder. Axel flinches at the touch, even downright glaring at him as he squeezes it gently. "We'll find her soon. … And if she's hurt... when she recovers, we'll take her to the Tower. The ice cream'll be on me." Saïx informs him quietly.
As if he had suddenly been slapped, Axel jumps, staring at him in sheer shock. Slowly, a very eager grin stretches his lips and he lets out what sounds like a happy laugh before he strolls after his former... and current friend.
Ventus looks at Xion curiously, obviously wondering what she was doing. Ignoring him, she continues to carefully line up the bottles of potions and elixirs on the floor besides his throne. She lines the small bottles up first by color, then by type and then finally by size.
When she finishes rearranging them for the last time, she slams her fist angrily on the floor, making Ven flinch slightly. "We don't have any food. … We're going to have to leave here, Ven." Xion explains softly, pointing to the dozen bottles of strengthening agents that she had lined up. In that instant, they both understand that the meager supply might have been enough for about a week for Xion... but together, it was not enough for even four days.
Ven wilts, knowing that the shortage may very well be his own fault. However, he still nods and looks out at the doors he hadn't approached... or remembered approaching in years. "Yeah... I want to know where I am." He says softly, more to himself than her. There's a solemn look in his eyes, something that seems out of odds with the cheerful smile stretched across his face.
She stares at him, confused at his sudden grave nature. "But... we're in Castle Oblivion. Didn't I tell-?" Xion starts to say when Ven shakes his head. He turns his gaze to hers and laughs softly. If she didn't know any better, she would have called it a bitter laugh. "There's a difference between knowing the name of the place... and knowing the place, don't you think?" The boy says in an honest voice, though Xion had no idea what the heck he was talking about. Either way, when Ven stretches out an arm for her to hold, she still takes it, hooking the proffered arm around her throat.
With her firm grip on him, Ven stands up weakly, having to force all of his weight onto Xion's shoulders because he couldn't support on his own. She grunts slightly with the effort, struggling to keep him standing for a moment before she simply grabs his belt in a mock fireman's hold. With the odd position in place, they both grin at each other. They both knew that starting a new journey might be hard or maybe it was so easy that it had already begun.
Ven looks around everywhere, surveying nearly every part of the hallway with solemn, but somehow eager blue eyes. Xion, too focused on carrying him, doesn't notice where her feet are taking them. "So, what was this place used for? You never explained that." Ven says curiously as he begins squinting at a small sign in the distance, trying to see what it said. The Nobody girl blows her bangs out of her face with a well-aimed breath and squints herself. If she was right...
"This place is a research facility, our Superior found it." She finds herself saying quietly. "Most of the Replica project was done here, and so was the Memory project." Ven stays silent for a moment before asking his next question. "Your 'Superior' guy isn't exactly creative with names, is he? It sounds like something pretty straightforward. How can you study memories? … And what's a Replica?" Xion nods, stiffening slightly under his body. It was going to be painful to say this... but... Ven deserved to know.
"I'm a Replica. I'm No.i. I was one of the first Replicas they made; I'm one of two successful ones. I don't know about the other one, but I was created from the heart of a boy named Sora." The words flow out of her uncharacteristically quickly, making her tremble in fear. If Ven was smart, he'd probably abandoned her at first chance. She wouldn't blame him, either. Ven listens without saying a word, too intent on what she was saying to speak. "My friend and I... were created to become that boy. Or rather, I was. He was his Nobody and that's where the memories to make me came from. They figured out how to make clones of people out of their memories. The Memory... and Naminé projects led into that." She finishes quietly, continuing to drag her friend in silence now.
Ven looks at her for a moment, staying silent for just a bit longer. When he did speak, it was only very quietly. "It sounds... lonely. Really lonely, Xion," She freezes at the word, her eyes widening as a thousand emotions fly through her heart, each one piercing her to the very core as the boy speaks. "Not knowing if you're real... or not. Or if it's all a dream. Or if anyone likes you for being who you are, rather than what you are. It sounds so lonely, Xion." Seeing the hysterical tears beginning to trickle down her cheeks, Ven hugs her with the arm she had slung around her shoulder, patting her back with a soothing caress, one that she had never really known before.
"It's okay, Xion. It's not bad to cry." He tells her as she cries, crying for the very first time for herself. He slowly lowers the miserable girl to the floor, kneeling with her as he continues to comfort her. She buries her hands in her face, allowing herself to wail as loud as she wanted. "But I killed Roxas! I killed Sora, I killed them both and I didn't even have the courage to die myself!" She screams, slamming her now clenched fist into the ground angrily. There's a loud cracking noise the instant that her knuckle hits the floor, but neither of them notice. "They both died to save a girl they don't even like! Someone who's not a real girl, someone who's not real at all!" Xion wails, mourning for the loss of her dearest friends and of the boy she could no longer remember.
At that moment, Xion learned about heartbreak and that hearts could shatter. She collapses into Ven's arms, screaming softly for her friends to come back. Ven just hugs her, remembering another pair of friends that had done the exact same thing for him. He looks up toward the sky, up toward where they had once seen the Heart of all Worlds displayed in the sky. He closes his eyes, vowing silently to himself.
'Aqua... Terra... I promise. I promise I'll take care of this girl. When we meet again, I'll be sure to bring her home. Just like you did with me.'
The sad thing about crying with someone, Xion discovers, is that you never exactly know what to say when you stop. With a flushed face, she continues to walk down the hallway, having left Ven behind for a bit while she searched for something for him to eat. She feels bad about just leaving the poor helpless guy behind, but she needed a moment to compose herself... and possibly figure out what the heck to do now.
She opens up the sliding door, automatically wincing as she slips into the laboratory and closes the door behind her. She knew this place. This was where she had been born. Xion rubs at her suddenly aching temples, knowing that it was no good trying to remember this stuff anymore. Anything before Sora's death hurt her now for some reason. Every memory with Roxas, Axel, the Organization... all of it caused pain now.
All she had now were the memories of Ven.
She blushes harder, shaking her head in embarrassment. It was an odd way of putting it, actually. But the memories of that boy were all she had so far. She shakes her head again before focusing on her task. Food. Lots of it. She picks up a pile of books from one of the desks scattered around the room, briefly focusing on the titles and recognizing them as indexes to much larger files. There are bookshelves cramped onto the walls and even in the middle of the room, no doubt the files that these indexes belonged to.
Suddenly feeling a rebellious urge to mess everything up, Xion throws the pile of indexes to the floor, smiling as they land heavily with a satisfyingly loud thump. She moves onto the next table, picking up a small box and opening it up carefully. She squeals at the sudden reek of rotten fish and slams the cover back on as fast as possible, choking slightly on the smell. Vexen sure had a sick sense of humor, if that's what he had eaten for lunch!
She chokes on the lingering scent, gagging as she pulls her jacket up to cover her nose. She continues to look around the room, continuing to cough under her breath. As she wanders around the room, the vague memories of her being in this room begin to crowd in her mind, as much as she ignored them. She could feel the breathing tube down her throat from the Memory Baths and she immediately associated the name with the large tanks in the corner of the large laboratory. She closes her eyes, shaking her head slightly.
It wasn't the time to remember.
Suddenly, the vague memory of watching someone crouch down underneath one of the desks comes to her mind. Being so vague, it doesn't cause any more pain than a slight twinge in her temple. She pauses, thinking about it for a moment. The man had been Vexen... the long blond hair testified to that... and she remembers that he had hit his head on the bottom of the desk, screamed out a loud curse and something about 'respect' before he turned to look at her. She remembered that he looked angry, maybe because he realized she had been awake. Xion giggles quietly, hiding her amused face underneath the black hood. It had been so funny, even back then. He had had to open up the tank and adjust her breathing tube, she had been laughing so hard.
…. And in his hand when he opened it up was a can.
Xion's eyes widen and she ducks underneath one of the desks, now knowing that Vexen had kept all of his food in there. A small row of cabinets, none much higher than her knee, greet her gaze and she smiles at them, her stomach beginning to rumble excitedly. She ignores the small combination locks on them and immediately turns the dial to read the number four. It clicks open, allowing her to swing it open and start grabbing as many cans she could carry.
Ven looks at the small tin can in his head, a big smile threatening to spread across his face. Even so, he manages to lift the can in the air and say with a completely serious face: "Peaches?"
And in exact unison, as they had had done for the last three times he had said that word, they bust out laughing hysterically. Xion falls to the ground besides Ven, quite literally rolling around on the floor laughing. It was so strange, that moment of 'we don't know why we're laughing but oh my goodness, it's just so funny' he kept causing. From the first startled "Holy- that's a lot of peaches!" that he had spouted off when she brought him the food, they couldn't stop laughing.
It was just one of those moments.
In a few minutes – during which they did not look at each other or at the fruit they started munching on from the can – the two Keyblade wielders slowly make their way through a few tins of peaches. "Hey, Xion?" Ven asks as he sips the peach juice from the can. Xion glances up but continues to focus on her meal, not saying much. Of course, this doesn't faze Ven. He was too used to being ignored. "Just how long have you been here? … And... how long have I been here?" He wonders out loud, scratching at his cheek a bit.
Xion stays silent for a moment, mentally counting the days herself. Let's see, there was the day she fell here. … A few days of unconsciousness... then the two days before she found Ven asleep... and then... She frowns. Another day or two of being unconscious. And then today. She sighs softly before putting down her tin of peaches, the metal making a soft clinking noise as it meets the tile floor. "A few weeks, I think. For you, Ven..." She pauses, not sure how to say it. "I think you've been here for at least two years."
At the sound of 'two years,' the boy flinches hard like he had been slapped. His jaw drops and he lets out a wild cry. "Two... years?! You got to be kidding!" He wails in disbelief, shaking his head violently. Xion notices the now panicked look in his eyes and instinctively grabs him, pressing him down just as he tries to stand up and run. He struggles against her violently, trying to run off and do goodness knows what.
After a moment, Xion slams him to the ground, holding his throat in such an obvious threatening way that Ven glares at her angrily. He looks at her hopelessly before the tears start falling, and he begins to sob. "My... friends.. they could be dead!" He says in a heartbroken and quiet voice, fear edging the tone. Xion nods, continuing to hold him down. "Master Xehanort could have gotten them! What if they lost the battle against the Darkness? What if something happened to them?" He sobs, clinging to the younger girl desperately. He knows his own weakness now, and he knows that he couldn't possibly help them in his current condition.
Xion smiles before lightly knocking Ven on the head with her knuckle. He yelps slightly, startled. "Then we'll find them together! Any friend of Ven is a friend of mine." She says in a simple voice, meaning it with everything that she had. Ven smiles back before scowling. "That hurt." He says calmly, allowing her to help him up now. The moment she outstretches her hand towards him, he grabs it.
There was no way for him to the Darkness now.
A low chuckle emerges from the shadows, making the two teenagers jump and spin around to look. "Well. Is this not a touching scene?" The deep voice says quietly, forcing a cold shiver to run down Xion's spine. She knew that voice. Her voice cracks in fear, knowing that she would soon get an answer.