Hello people of the internet!

Oh sweet mother, we're only on chapter 8! Well, that means that the first arc is almost done! I'm about half way there! For those wondering, there are twenty six arcs (with varying total chapter numbers in each one) and about twenty three worlds that we're going to go through in this story. Holy mother, this is gonna be a long one. We're easily going over the hundred chapter mark; if this is not your idea of a good fanfiction, please leave now. It's going to be long and lots of fun stuff will happen. If you like one shots, I have a one shot collection.

I'm also trying my very best to make the chapters nice and long (but not too long!) so that you lovely reviewers/readers don't storm my castle (er... email) and demand more rapid updates. Without further comments from me, please enjoy chapter eight.


Chapter Eight: A Flurry of Flames

She fell down, down, down into the Darkness...

Blurs of memories – memories that weren't hers – pass along the corners of her eyes as she fell deeper and deeper into the Darkness. The same boy keeps appearing alongside these visions, a taunting reminder of just who they belonged to.

S...o...r...a...

The girl tumbles headfirst into the darkness, deeper into the memories that weren't hers. So many people rushed against her, a thousand memories of worlds she had once visited – or maybe she had never seen...? – but had long forgotten.

Aladdin, Alice, Ansem, Beast, Jiminy Cricket, Donald Duck, Snow White, Riku, Kairi... the names don't mean anything to her... but they mean something to the boy. They were friends... allies... and his enemies.

'Who are you...?'

The wind picks up, driving her further and further down inside of the boy's memories, past the ones she truly wanted to see. She is forgetting them all... forgetting completely what it meant to be him.

"Xion?"

The voice comes from just above her, right by her ear. The girl winces at the sound, feeling the whisper thunder in her head like a gong, ringing and ringing and ringing inside her skull and causing that much more of a headache.

What was going on? Where was she?

"Xion?" The voice insists as she feels a hand on her shoulder begin to shake her forcibly, trying to make her to wake up. "Xion, are you awake?"

She knows that voice. Xion opens her eyes weakly, blinking hard against the bright light of the room. Slowly, images come into being and focus. Ven stares at her, still clutching at her shoulder and shaking her in order to wake her up that much faster.

"I'm 'ight..." Xion slurs before touching her mouth, feeling a trickle of blood dripping down between her lips. She stares at the drops of red on her fingers for a moment before allowing Ven to drag her into a sitting position. The boy carefully maneuvers her into leaning against him, putting her head into the crook of his arm even as she winces and clutching at her now aching ribs.

"You sure don't look alright," Ven scolds her as he presses his hand onto her forehead, probably checking for a fever. She just closes her eyes against the pressure, moaning softly as he runs his hands up to her ribs. A jolt of white hot pain flashes across where he put his hand and she screams out loud, stopping only when Ven lets go of her ribs and slaps his hand onto her mouth.

Tears trickle down her cheeks as she howls in agony, muffled by her friend's palms.

"Xion... I think... one of your ribs is broken. … Or maybe it's a lot of them." Ven tells her weakly as he keeps her gagged. The girl shivers violently in his arms, making his own body ache in sympathy. A vague look of amusement appears in her eyes as she reaches up and wraps her hand in his, pulling it away from her mouth. "Hey... I thought... you..." She pants weakly, chuckling softly even as she winces hard against the pain the movement caused. "... Were... the one... batted around... like a ball..."

Ven scowls at the gallows humor, smacking the little girl lightly between the eyes before gently putting her down on the floor. She moans again and starts to stir, getting ready to get up on her own and probably cause a lot of damage to herself just moving.

The resulting glare is exactly enough for the ex-Nobody to shut up and lie on the floor motionlessly. Ven resists the urge to smirk and crow to Terra that at least someone listened to him, even though Terra was nowhere near him. Instead, he removes his jacket and wads it up into a makeshift pillow. Xion smiles slightly as he lifts her head and stuffs it under her, even reaching up and patting his hand with one torn gloved hand.

"So... what now?" They ask in unison, startling each other before snorting in laughter. Ven waves his hand and starts to shrug before stopping, a surprised expression appearing on his face. He runs his hands onto his shoulders, rubbing the sore but not aching muscles in confusion. He had been, as Xion put it, 'batted around like a ball' by that freaky gun guy, but he wasn't feeling like he had been.

In fact, he feels great. Even better than he had been when he had been woken up by Xion.

Why wasn't he in pain? He had barely been able to walk when he last woke up, but after a few hours sleep – had it been only a few hours? – he was suddenly fine? It didn't make sense. It didn't make any sense at all. Even if they had been asleep for the same amount of time, Xion is still horribly injured from her fight from Xemnas. His wounds had been just as bad, if not worse because of how poorly he was able to fight.

Why was Xion still injured and why wasn't he in the same condition?

Xion opened an eye and sighed softly. "You know," The girl told him in a solemn voice. "If you keep making those faces, it's gonna get stuck that way." Ven stared at her for a moment before slapping his hand onto his face, groaning loudly. Xion chuckles. "That's what Axel said anyway." She admits, adjusting her head on Ven's jacket.

A low curse erupts from her mouth as another stab of pain flashes across her ribs, making her eyes water from how badly she wanted to scream.

They glance at each other when the episode of pain was over, knowing that neither of them had enough magic stored up to heal all of Xion's injuries, if any of them.

At her concerned face, Ven puts his hand on her least injured shoulder and pats it gently. "Don't worry, it'll be okay," He says automatically, even though he was pretty scared himself. Xion nods once, though not without considerable effort.

They stay silent, each one contemplating their limited options.

Ven could run off to go find help, whether in the form of another person or a machine that dispensed potions and ethers. But if he did, he would leave Xion behind in an extremely vulnerable state. They had only just managed to defeat the Organization members that had attacked them; if they got into another fight, she wouldn't be walking out of the arena at all. On the other hand, if they waited for their magic levels to go back up, Xion would be spending days in horrible pain and would have to remain completely still for all of the time. There would be no point in saving up magic if she just ended up puncturing a lung with a broken rib by moving.

And there was the matter of Ven's unwieldy magic... would it even be able to heal someone, or would it simply sputter out like his wind spells did during his battle with Xigbar?

After a few moments, Ven just lies back down with Xion and they stare up at the ceiling together. Her labored breathing is the only thing that they can hear, like they were the only ones in this wing of the strange Castle. For some reason, they would have been content to lie there forever and forget about the entire world, perhaps a strange effect of the memory altering Castle.

But Xion eventually spoke.

"...V...en?" She says softly, making the older boy turn to her in surprise. He hadn't expected her to try to speak again so soon. Xion smiles a little. "Who... were... the people whose names you called out?" She asks a little timidly, realizing that the topic would most likely make Ven react badly, maybe even angrily. "You... mentioned them before..."

Ven closes his eyes, a clear sign that he didn't know what to say about his mysterious friends. He sits up and rubs hard at his blond hair, spiking it up that much more messily. "They're..." He begins in an unsure voice, continuing to rub at his hair in deep thought. "... Well... they're Keyblade Wielders like I am. … We had the same teacher."

His voice, Xion notices, is growing sadder with each bit of information he was giving up.

"Our teacher... was struck down by... my best friend," Ven says in a hesitate voice, putting his hand on his own shoulder. He clutches at the piece of armor on it tightly, like it would bring back his teacher. The pain is very obvious in his eyes and she knows that he was reliving the moment in his head. How many times had he relived it, how many times he had been filled with guilt over the loss of his master?

"You weren't angry when he did?" Xion asks next, surprised at how calmly he was able to say it. Ven just shakes his head no. "... Soon after that... I lost the rest of them. Both of my friends. I never saw either of them again after that last meeting. I don't have anyone now... except for you, Xion." He directs a smile in her direction but his expression remains far away and sad, obviously on the friends he had once had.

After a moment of silence, he seems to snap back to reality because Ven turns back to her. "Do you have someone like that? A best friend?" He asks curiously, his voice soft and a little lower than usual. He sounded close to tears.

Xion nods once before answering. Her smile was a little sad too, as if she hadn't seen her friend in a very long time. "His name's..."


"Axel."

The eighth member of the Organization looks up as Saïx drops down from above, apparently having broken through a floor to get to him again. "Geez, don't we need this place for uh... mind wiping or somethin'?" Axel asks in an amused voice as his partner brushes the plaster off of his black coat.

If he could feel amusement, this would be the point where he would be laughing.

Saïx gives him a disapproving look before shaking his head. "That would not work without Naminé," The Nobody scolds him. "As she is the only one with the ability to 'wipe' memories among us all. The only power that Castle Oblivion has on its own is-"

"Getting us completely lost, I know." Axel interrupts on purpose, grinning when Number VII gave him the same angry look that he would have given him if they had had Hearts. Some things never changed, and apparently Isa's annoyance at him is one of them. "So if we're going to get really lost, how come the Keyblade Master knew where to go?" He asks next.

Saïx shook his head again. "He didn't. He was guided by the others, especially the memory witch." The way that the Luna Diviner said the fifteenth Nobody's name was almost angry, as if the girl had done something besides run away. Even though she was never part of the Organization, the seventh member seems to be taking her disappearance personally.

Axel rubs at his mane of flaming red hair. It didn't make sense. Why would Saïx take it so personally? "Hey... she's a Nobody like us, right?" He asks curiously. His companion gives him a curt nod, a barely distinguishable look of curiosity appearing in his golden eyes. Axel snaps his fingers dramatically. "Then why isn't she one of the Organization?" He demands with a shrug, like he wasn't very interested in the answer.

"Because she is not suited for combat," Saïx retorts immediately in a particularly snooty voice, as if his own abilities raised him above the normal Nobodies that each of them were able to command. "And the witch is far too loyal to the Keyblade Master to be of any use."

Axel pauses, a sudden thought hitting him. "... Loyal to the Keyblade Master..." He mutters out loud and rubs his head hard, thinking about it. Just who was the Keyblade Master? He couldn't even remember the name of the kid, let alone his face. He knows that he had fought against the kid, beaten him up and gotten pounded by him a couple times. He should have known that face... Axel shakes his head. The only other Keyblade Master he knows is Xion, and they were still looking for her. So why couldn't he remember this other kid? "Xion... Just where are you?" Axel says to himself before feeling something tug hard on his sleeve.

He froze before looking down, fully expecting to see some sort of Heartless about to try to claw his face off. But there was nothing, not even a Shadow. Instead he feels himself being pulled forward, toward one of the doors that Saïx had already searched before him.

Of course, this is Castle Oblivion.

Axel glances over his shoulder at his partner but walks forward anyway, knowing that the Castle might have changed in the few minutes that VII had been wandering around on the floor above. But Saïx hadn't noticed his walking away; Axel shrugs. It was just as well.

He didn't want his two friends to try to rip each other apart the moment he found her.

'A...x...e...l...'

Just how long would it be until he found Xion?


Hun... gr...y...

So hungry...

Burn, pain, so much light...!

The creature bares his fangs against the light, shielding his eyes from the pain. It was so bright here, it was so bright in this white colored room. He huddles against the corner of the room, doing everything in his power to physically remove himself from the light. He couldn't remember how he had come to this room.

Where...? Where... am... I...?

Light... so much... light...

The boy buries his face into his hands, shielding his golden eyes from the pain.

I... remember... who... that girl...

The girl who had taken everything away...

A vision of a small girl, the girl who had ripped out something precious from inside of him begins to grow clearer and clearer, until it was almost like she was standing right next to him. He knows that girl. The boy begins to laugh, his voice growing higher and higher in his hysterics. The shadows around him begin to shift and contort with his laughter.

I remember... that girl... took my... heart... away...!

He could remember her so clearly now.

A hand drops onto his shoulder, startling him from his thoughts. The man in black stares at him for a moment before dropping down to his knees in front of him. "Are you okay?" The man asks him quietly, as if afraid that talking too loudly would send the boy running.

The boy grimaces once before shaking his head slowly and covering his eyes again.

"Okay..." The man says before pulling the black cloak off of his body and pulling it around the boy. Before the boy could react or try to pull away, the man had already pulled the deep hood over his head and his eyes. The relief was almost immediate; now he could look up at the man and not scream from the light. "Where's Xion?" The man asks next as he finished adjusting the cloak.

The boy blinks a few times as he processes the man's appearance. He has bright red hair, something that made him want to recoil for some reason. The man's dark green eyes are better, but still too full... still too full of the light that made him want to claw his eyes out.

"Where's Xion?" The man repeats and he shakes the boy's shoulder, obviously trying to get his attention. The boy blinks hard and shakes his head.

"Not here..." He whispers, unable to speak any louder. "She's not here..." Xion... the name... sounded... should he have known that name...? The man sighs and shakes his head. "Shoulda known it wouldn't be that easy to find her... She's missing." He clarifies for him.

The boy frowns. Missing? He was missing, too. He didn't know where he was. "... Help... find her?" He offers weakly, though he wasn't sure why. The man laughs and shakes his head. The boy frowns; it sounded fake. "Nah, it's alright. You look like you wouldn't be able to get up anyway. And we'll find her in the end... but why are you here? Where'd you come from?" The man says curiously.

From the sound of his voice, it sounded like he shouldn't be here at all.

The boy shrugs. He didn't know.

The red haired man holds out his hand and gently clasps the boy's gloved palm. The kid blinks and tries to pull away at first but then relaxes. His hand is warm, like he had just held it to a candle or a campfire. It's soothing. Slowly, he wraps his fingers around that hand. The man smiles at him, obviously trying to reassure the boy for some reason.

Maybe there was something in his appearance that made the man want to help him.

"My name's Axel. Why don't you come with me?" Axel asks. In response, the boy reaches forward and wraps his arm around Axel's shoulder. The man hoists him up, ignoring the boy's grunt of pain and his own efforts.

The boy smiles. "I'll get that memorized."