It's been a while, no?

Disclaimers: Kingdom Hearts and its characters in no way belong to me and any resemblance to real life people or events are purely coincidental.

I don't really have an excuse for why this one took so long, other than I have insanely weird writer's block and I finally more or less finished the college process. Whoop, holla atcha girl!

Ahem. With that in mind, please know that to make up for it taking so long, this several months piece of writing is fairly lengthy. I hope you enjoy!


Chapter Seven: Battle Wonders

As he raises the Wayward Wind up to protect his face, seeing that the crazy old coot with the gun was about to fire off a couple shots, Ven knows that he has no chance of winning. His entire body is shaking, though if it was from hunger or from sheer exhaustion he didn't know. Even so, his arm moves slowly, painfully slowly as he lifts the weapon to shield himself for the next barrage of arrows that would be coming his way.

Xigbar's lips curl up into a grim sort of smile, though he stills looks pretty damn pleased at seeing Ven. There is a strange familiarity to the guy, as if he had seen Ven before... and Ven knows him from somewhere. But where? The boy grimaces as the man twirls his two purple arrow-Guns in his hands with the same skill of an expert gunslinger and nocks them with his thumbs, getting ready to fire. There is a moment of hesitation in the older man though, as if he was actually thinking over whether or not shooting Ven was a good idea or a bad one. As if he was wondering just what the consequences of harming one of the worlds' remaining Keyblade wielders was, if it was a good idea to harm someone who was already badly injured and exhausted from his long sleep and at the limits of his sapped stamina. Xigbar's eye focuses onto Ven's and he continues to smile at him for a moment.

Then Xigbar just shrugs. Oh well.

Ven's eyes widen in a way that would have been comical if this was any other circumstance and if he hadn't been almost dead from exhaustion. Xigbar raises the Guns and starts firing, vanishing into a little black portal as Ven blocks the first few arrows, sending them back to their owner in a flash of purple light.

"Hey, Ven! Looks like you've gotten a bit rusty since the last time I've seen ya!" Xigbar's voice, coming from somewhere on the ceiling, says in a teasing way, further infuriating the young Keyblade wielder.

The sound of more arrows being nocked in the Guns is the only thing keeping Ven from letting out his own barrage of curse words fly. Instead, Ven just grits his teeth and tightens his grip on the Wayward Wind, clutching it behind his back as he scans the ceiling for his opponent. Even as he does so, Ven can feel his limbs shaking from pain and from his exhaustion, making him want to just collapse and allow the arrows to make him into a makeshift pincushion.

But he has a mission and he needs to protect his friend.

Ven shouts out a spell just as another dozen arrows jet out from one of the corners of the room and, like the one spell he had managed to do before, the wind manages to catch the Gunslinger off guard. Blue tendrils of wind swirl around the boy and make the arrows virtually useless, scattering the shafts of violet light harmlessly at his feet. A low grunt emerges from the ceiling then and Ven crouches, getting ready.

He had one shot.

Ven's eyes narrow as he spots the tiny black dot on the wall and he runs for it, swinging his arm up as he slips through it, bringing down the Keyblade on a startled Xigbar. "The hell-!" Xigbar manages to say before Ven slaps the Blade across his mouth and shuts him up, sending him flying across the small hallway-like room they were in. Feeling his body begin to give up on him, Ven leans on the Wayward Wind for a moment, allowing him a chance to catch his breath before he tried to get out of the corridor.

As Ven rests, the darkness in the room calls to him, mocking him and offering him power that he would otherwise never gain on his own. Its teasing and powerful call is almost irresistible, at least if you were someone other than Ven. As it was, the room makes him remember and he cannot stop the tears from trickling down his pale cheeks.

Aqua... Terra...

He remembered running for it, his rage, the need to attack his former Master too strong to allow even Aqua's concern for him stop him. He had had him where he wanted him, at the mercy of his Wayward Wind, about to bring it up and to strike. He had almost rid the world of Master Xehanort, almost rid the world of the monster that ripped his very soul in two, almost rid the word of the person who would have hurt his friends.

But he had failed. Instead of killing Xehanort, he had been captured and encased in ice instead. He doesn't remember much after that, only Aqua holding him and telling him that he would be alright. She had protected him, like she and Terra had always done. And he had dishonored her sacrifice once again.

The boy's world weary eyes close for a moment as he hardens his heart against the Darkness calling for him. The power that it offers him, the very power that had probably given Xigbar and Xemnas their strength, doesn't really mean anything. Not after what he had been through.

He would not be dishonoring his friends again.

He smiles grimly. "Sorry. But I'm not a customer for you." Ventus tells the shadows moving around him, hoisting the Wayward Wind up to his shoulder in order to keep from falling down. He hears a muffled moan behind him and turns, steadying himself against the wall as Xigbar starts to pick himself up. Ven's hand tightens on the hilt of the Keyblade and he begins to ready himself for another attack. Even as he moves back into a fighting position, he feels his knees knock against each other. Another sign of his sheer exhaustion.

He wasn't going to last at this rate.

"Damn!" He hears the scarred Gunslinger shout in grim amusement, the sound of his voice echoing loudly against the glowing walls of Darkness. "You got me! You actually got me!" Xigbar calls out with a laugh, obviously not hurt enough to damage his sense of humor. Ven grimaces. He had just given everything that he had to attack Xigbar, and it made him laugh? He definitely is not on his best game today. Ven crouches as he slowly backs away from where the voice was coming from, moving toward the small crack of light at his back in order to jump back into the room where Xion and Xemnas were fighting.

Xion.

Ven grimaces, suddenly remembering the girl he had left behind to fight another one of those weird guys. He doesn't really know what they are but he knows they're most definitely bad news. He tosses the Wayward Wind to his left hand, holding it behind his back in the Reversal Grip that was so unique to his fighting style. He takes another couple steps backwards, watching the Darkness ahead of him suspiciously as his steps begin to grow longer and longer. He is almost to a run but he still watches the darkness, his blue eyes beginning to water.

The pain in his legs is growing worse now, the tear and wear he had inflicted during the battle becoming all too clear. Ven's legs begin to tremble, his knees knocking together as he continues a now very slow path back to the room. What had he done to himself? He had barely even been awake for a few hours and he had charged into a gun fight armed with what was essentially a knife. Xigbar had the advantage, he'd always had the stupid advantage of being able to snipe with his weapon rather than using the running based attacks that Ven was forced to use with a Keyblade. He could almost hear Terra's voice mocking him about how stupid he was being... how he should run. The breath catches in his chest, heaving weakly as he makes it to one more step.

Just one more step to keep him going. He just needed one more step.

Ventus blinks in surprise as the edge of his boot suddenly slants, the heel skidding slightly on the slippery tile floor of the Castle. He had actually made it? He actually did it! A goofy grin immediately crosses his lips, a happy childlike giggle that was completely out of character for him emerging as he finishes that last step and plants his foot firmly on the floor. Behind him, Ven could hear startled yells and muffled grunts of effort as the blades of two different sets of weapons clash against each other. The fight?

Whatever it was, it didn't matter. He had to keep going.

Ven grips the wall as he begins to take a step forward, lowering his weapon as he starts making his way out of the Corridor. Ventus freezes as the air around him suddenly turns icy cold, the hairs on the back of his neck standing up at full attention. Behind him!

"Don'tcha be forgettin' me, tiger!" Xigbar jeers as he slams his full body weight into the small of Ven's back, sending the boy sprawling head over heels from the force of his kick. Ven's entire body flips in a one hundred eighty degree angle, his feet briefly leaving the sanctuary of the floor in order to loop around the airspace where his head normally would be. He looks like he was doing a hand stand, albeit without any hands. Crack! Ven's head slams against the floor with a jarring smack that made his entire body shake like he was being electrocuted. A wave of vertigo rushes through him, making the Keyblade wielder close his mouth tightly and try not to throw up.

A thousand thoughts rush through his head, all of them more or less on the same three main ideas.

The battle was going too quickly, Xigbar moved too quickly and Ven could barely even stand. Xigbar peers down at him and smiles, holding up the purple weapon up to Ven's forehead, placing the muzzle right between his eyes. Ven finally understands. He isn't in any shape to fight and he couldn't exactly deny it with him lying on his back and staring up at a guy holding a loaded gun to his face.

He had gotten his butt kicked.

Xigbar cocks the gun again, the click of the of the trigger echoing especially loudly in Ven's ears. The boy struggles to try to get up, to try to get up and away from the crazed gunslinger, but his body refused to cooperate, having done too much already. His entire body just plain hurt, his limbs were shaking from all that he'd put them through. He shouldn't have fought. He shouldn't have even tried, he should have left it all to Xion.

For the first time in his dazed state of mind, Ven notices that his opponent was sticking to the ceiling like some sort of demented spider. Ven doesn't bother to process this. He just closes his eyes instead, getting ready to be shot. His body automatically tenses in preparation for the final shot.

But it does not come.

Instead he hears a loud shriek come from Xigbar's mouth, the sound of a man who had just gotten very badly hurt. Ven's eyes fly open to see the blood trickling down the injured Gunslinger's arms and sharp shards of something bright red sticking out of them. The fragments were shards of something strange, it looked like... Xigbar screams again, staring in shocked horror at the blades of light embedded in his arms. They buzz with a fierce intensity, making the Nobody's entire body shake violently and bleed that much more. Ven's eyes immediately go to the small figure that had thrown the blades.

The thrower doesn't bother glancing back at her handiwork, instead simply turning around and readying her Keyblade one more time. Xion doesn't even bother to look over her shoulder to check on Ven, instead just charging forward at the one she had called Xemnas before. Ven lets out a sharp gasp as her form suddenly flickers, changing slightly. He blinks, sure that he was hallucinating from sheer exhaustion. But he sees it again.

As Xion's Keyblade connects with the red saber-like blades of light in Xemnas's hands, there is a bright spark of silver light from the weapon. It elongates in her hands, shifting rapidly as she fights with it, seemingly without her control. For a brief moment, Ven sees someone else in Xion's place, someone else aiding the fight against the Superior. Her speed increases immensely, making her fight in a slightly different style than the one she had been battling in. It wasn't her fighting style, but it was close enough that Ven knew that the boy in her place was to blame.

The boy in red was familiar, so frighteningly familiar...

And then the fight was over. Xion now had the gasping Xemnas pinned to the wall by the throat, and she is almost completely unharmed. Her gasping breaths are loud enough to be heard over the screaming Xigbar and Ven can't help but let out a very inappropriate laugh out of the sheer shock of being alive and not impaled on the wall by purple spikes. His friend looks over her shoulder, giving him a big smile with the same sort of relief.

They had made it. They weren't dead.


Xemnas wriggles violently beneath her Keyblade, attempting to escape as long as he still had some breath left in his body. But Xion only has to press slightly harder with the weapon to keep him pinned and to make him stop moving, probably out of the fear that she would kill him. At least, that's what Xion thought he would be doing if he was someone normal. She feels her hand tighten around the Keyblade's hilt, the knowledge that she could kill him making her shiver with an intense hatred.

He had ordered her creation, this was the man who ended up destroying entire worlds as a Heartless, he was the one who forced her into wielding a Keyblade solely to hurt Sora, and Xemnas was the one who had threatened her so many times with becoming a Dusk. She presses that much harder on his throat, feeling the soft tissues press in with the force. It would be easy. It would be so very easy to kill him. He had made her life a living hell just to have one more pawn on his chessboard.

A furious snarl emerges from her lips as she remembers the treatment she had endured at Saïx's hands because of Xemnas, the way that the older Nobody had treated her like garbage just because she wasn't a real creature. Her hand shakes with the need to destroy this monster before he dared try to hurt her again or attempted to scar Ven the same way that he had had her scarred. It would be easy. So very easy. Hate and rage surge up in her stolen heart, making her shiver with their intensity.

The hot and bitter emotions rise up on her tongue, burning her lips with the acidic taste of her own fear and greedy revenge. She closes her eyes for a moment before placing her hand onto the man's forehead. Xemnas flinches away from her touch but Xion only has one word to say to her former Superior.

"Sleep."

The instant that the spell leaves her lips, the Nobody ruler slumps over on the wall, his golden eyes shutting with their invoked unconsciousness. The girl turned human looks over her shoulder and simply flashes a weary smile to Ventus, giving him a thumbs up as she removes the Keyblade from Xemnas's throat. Ven lets out an equally as exhausted whoop and waves from Xigbar's still writhing body. Her time of indecision had only taken a few seconds.

As she walks towards the exhausted Keyblade wielder, Xion feels something strange emanating from the silver Keyblade in her hand. She glances at it for a moment and it flashes one more time, giving her a message that she couldn't quite read. But she has no time to worry about it now. As Xion turns her gaze back onto Ven, she is just in time to see him smack Xigbar hard in the head.

"That's what you get for... messing... with me. And... for... Aqua..." He tells the now unconscious Freeshooter weakly, collapsing back onto his knees in exhaustion. He breathes heavily, like he had just run a marathon through a lake of sand. Of course he was tired, he had just woken up a few hours ago. Xion almost wanted to slap herself across the face. He had had no right fighting!

Ven slaps his Keyblade weakly on the floor, mumbling to himself. "That one's for Terra..." Xion hears him mutter as she reaches him and slips her hands underneath his arms, lifting him back to his feet. Terra... and Aqua... For a moment, the former Nobody wonders who they were and why he had said their names with such pain in his voice. But the moment passes and she automatically turns her mind back to first aid. Ven lets out a shallow breath, looking up at her as she pulls his head into her lap. "Did... we... win?" He asks her in a quiet voice, his eyes not quite focusing on anything at this point. She touches his forehead, checks for a fever, and nods.

"Yeah, we won." Xion informs him with a smile, laughing when Ven grins and cheers again, albeit much more quietly.

"Just making sure, Xion!" Ven says in an amused voice before his eyes rolled into the back of his head, immediately making him pass out in her arms. Xion stares at him for a moment, startled by how easily he had been able to sleep. A wave of exhaustion then flows through her, the adrenaline from fighting her longtime foe and boss cutting off in an instant. She collapses, drifting back into the unconsciousness that had taken her when she first arrived.

Its contents now safely asleep, the room begins to shift slowly around the pair of Keyblade Masters, each white color brick painstakingly plopping into place around them as the tile floor they lay on began to sink into the ground.

The Castle had a job to do.