The unrest grew to irritation, then to anger, and then despair. When a hero wishes to die, how can he protect humanity's will to live?

Chapter 9: Things Can Always Get Worse

"I am a Shadow... The true self..."

"That interference was completely unnecessary. Minato would have transformed no matter what. Why do you believe this Nixatom decided to intervene?" Yen Sid asked the comrade in his tower. Philemon smiled as he leaned against one of the walls.

"The mask is dangerous indeed, but if Nixatom forces the transformation before the mask does, then he causes Minato to lose any hope of controlling himself. It's a simple plan to make sure everything goes wrong," Philemon replied.

"I see..." Yen Sid responded as he looked back into his crystal ball. Minato's transformation was almost complete.

"Do not worry for them. I believe they can handle this. Minato is one to do impossible things," Philemon said cheerily. Yen Sid sighed.

"I hope you are right, old friend."

"Gawrsh... I don't suppose that's supposed to happen," Goofy said as he stared at the mass of ever-changing darkness.

"I aM FReE! i AM mE! YoU woN't CaGe mE AgAiN!" A loud voice screeched before the mass of darkness finally took a form.

It sucked into itself solidifying, condensing, becoming one being. Writhing darkness converged on a singular point, forming legs, a torso, arms, and a head.

And then all was silent.

The final form was a humanoid made entirely of the black material, with a plain white mask with no holes for the eyes, nose, or mouth. A circle of masks slowly revolved above its head in the shape of a halo. For a weapon, the creature had a seven-foot tall black cross made of the same material that composed its body. It wielded it with one hand from the shorter part of the main rod of the cross, waving the massive weapon around as if it were nothing but a small sword made of paper.

"Minato? Are you... okay?" Sora asked, hoping to get an answer. He knew it was dumb to ask, but he needed to know! He needed to know that Minato hadn't turned into a monster. Maybe the evil voice thing was just... well...

Actually, Sora was pretty sure Minato was a monster now. The monster tilted its head slightly.

In an instant, the monster crossed the room to attack Sora with a wide horizontal swing. Sora, reacting only on instinct, dropped below the attack and came up with a well-aimed kick, trying to catch the monster in the chest. The monster grabbed Sora's foot with its free hand and lifted him up, bringing him down to smash him into the ground. The impact hit Sora's back hard and he cried out in pain after hitting the ground and forming a small crater. The monster let go of Sora's foot.

The monster then grabbed its cross with both hands and attempted to slam it down into Sora's face, but Mulan intervened, deflecting the cross to the side with her sword. The monster tried to bring its weapon back up to attack, but Mulan held it in place with her sword using all her strength, trying to stop the creature from finishing off Sora.

"Minato! Wake up! You're not a monster!" She yelled as she frantically tried to keep his sword in place. The monster tilted its head slightly and effortlessly moved the cross with incredible speed, sending Mulan flying across the room. However, her military training kicked in and she managed to land on her feet. But there was no time to rest. The monster pointed at her and one of the masks floating over its head flew over to her. Some black material flew out of the monster's finger and hit the mask.

It was a blue mask. The mask of the Magician.

The shadowy material hit the mask and soon it began to writhe and take shape as well, growing larger and larger by the moment. In but a few seconds, there was now a creature in front of Mulan, possessing many arms and hands that held multiple copies of the mask and many swords that were just the blade without any sort of hilt attached. Was it a Heartless? No... This was something else. Minato had said he was a Shadow... If this was a part of him, then that meant this too was a Shadow.

"What.. is that?" Mulan asked in awe, before quickly refocusing. She couldn't charge stupidly into fighting this thing. It would slice her to ribbons in an instant. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning slammed into the Shadow, causing it to scream in pain. Donald ran up beside Mulan, his staff in hand.

Sora kicked up at the monster after finally recovering, landing a good hit and sending the creature back a few feet. As Sora got to his feet, Goofy ran between the two of them with his shield, blocking the monster's next attempt to dash at Sora. The monster's cross hit his shield hard, sending him skidding back with his shield still up.

"We'll handle this monster! Sora, get Minato to snap out of it!" Donald called out as he launched another bolt at the Shadow. The Shadow recoiled in pain, giving Mulan an opening to rush the Shadow. It refocused right before she reached it, however, and launched all of its arms at her, hoping to stab her with over twenty of its swords. Mulan jumped, sending herself over the Shadow. The arms overextended, lining many of them up to be cut in one slash. Mulan flipped herself in midair to slash horizontally across many of the Shadow's arms, severing almost all of the ones that had come after her.

She landed on the other side of the Shadow. Unfortunately, the Shadow had arms on all sides, and it attacked her as she landed. Mulan managed to dodge the majority of the attacks, but received a deep cut on her left arm and several smaller cuts on her legs.

'...I've had better ideas,' Mulan thought as she readied her sword again. Suddenly, a lightning bolt slammed into ground underneath the back of the Shadow, sending it flying into the air above Mulan. Mulan took the opportunity to attack as it fell towards her.

She swung her sword so many times that it became a blur as she sliced the Shadow into hundreds of pieces. The masks, now destroyed, turned into a shadowy mist that flowed into monster that was once Minato. Hundreds of fragments of the Shadow fell to the ground as Mulan turned to face Minato.

Meanwhile, Sora and Goofy had barely been able to hold the monster off. It grabbed Goofy's shield and forced it back, hitting Goofy in the face with his own shield before ripping it away from him and throwing it like a frisbee at Sora. The shield spun fast as it flew through the air, and Sora could only barely raise his Keyblade in time to block it. The shield kept spinning as Sora tried to stop it with his Keyblade. The shield continuously pushed him backwards and it took all his strength for Sora to stop himself from getting pushed off the ground.

The monster then appeared behind Sora and swung its cross at his legs horizontally. Sora reacted by simultaneously jumping and twisting in midair to be parallel to the ground, letting the shield finally fly past him and hit the monster in the face. The shield knocked the monster to the ground, but the monster started rolling once it hit the ground and was back up on its feet in only a few moments.

"Minato! This isn't you! Do you remember when we first met? You were a Heartless, yet you still saved the lives of those three kids! You aren't defined by what you are Minato, but by what you do! You showed me that! You did!" Sora yelled at the monster. It stopped for a few seconds, looked at its cross that it was holding, and then dropped its head.

It then sent another mask at Mulan.

This time it was the mask of the Priestess.

In a place without light, there was a man freely floating, lost amidst the darkness. He had no control. He had nothing.

"Minato, aren't you paying attention? You've become a rather frightening monster," Elizabeth said as she appeared next to him in the darkness. She was dressed like she always was, with a book that she always had. A book that she clutched to her chest as if it meant more than anything else in the world.

Minato laughed dryly.

"I can see all my memories in here. I didn't just become a monster. I've been a monster for a very long time. I'm sorry, Elizabeth. The things that I did... the crimes I committed after I left the Great Seal... They are unforgivable. When Nixatom and I become one again, we'll be Makoto Yuki. We'll be the monster that you should hate more than any other," Minato said, his voice completely devoid of any emotion. Elizabeth hugged him from behind, letting herself float with him. Her touch sent cold shivers throughout his body that worked their way through his spine and straight to his eyes. He blinked away tears as Elizabeth began to speak.

"No. I see in you the good man you were before everything happened. You aren't a monster, Minato. Don't lose yourself. Don't let yourself be consumed by the monster. Consume the monster instead, Minato," Elizabeth whispered tenderly in his ear.

"I... you know what I've done. You watched as I did it. How can you just... forgive me?" Minato said, the tears freeing themselves from his eyes and floating upwards. Elizabeth hugged him closer and put her head on his shoulder. Quietly, she whispered to him once more.

"It wasn't you. You aren't the monster. That monster is this "Nixatom". You're the hero, Minato. There's nothing for me to forgive. You are the man I love. Go out there, greet the world, and consume the monster before it consumes you," Elizabeth said as she kissed him on the cheek.

"I'll just forget that you forgave me when all this is over. I'll forget everything you've told me..." Minato said solemnly. Elizabeth giggled.

"Then I'll tell you it all when you remember again. I'll tell you as many times as you need me to. Now go on. Stop this monster," Elizabeth encouraged.

Minato, however, still couldn't make himself move.

"But that's impossible..."

The giant Shadow woman that had appeared from the mask of the Priestess was easily defeated by Mulan with a single slice. Mulan cut the Shadow in half with ease. Donald's lightning had also weakened the Shadow before Mulan had even got close, so it only made the job even easier.

The monster, meanwhile, had decided to stop fooling around.

All the masks floating around its head slammed onto its face one at a time.

"W-What is he doing?!" Sora asked aloud.

The monster began to writhe as all the masks combined into its plain white mask. The cross it held began to change as well. The smaller portion that crossed the large beam of the cross sank into the larger beam, forming one straight rod. The mask on Minato's mask began to tear in several spots, allowing eye holes to finally form. Minato's golden eyes shined dully through the holes of his mask as it began to rip and tear, forming a jagged line along the lower section of the mask.

"'He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.' That was how the quote went. You all look at me and I know what you see. A monster," the monster that was once Minato said as it it continued to change. The cross became a scabbard containing a sword. Another cross suddenly manifested, but this one appeared on the monster's back. Chains that came out of nowhere secured the cross to his back. Another link of chains tied the monster's hand to the hilt of his sword as he grabbed it.

"...You're not a monster. You're a person, just like me," Mulan said as she sheathed her sword, not wanting to fight Minato. He needed her words, not her actions.

"I am a monster. A hero that saves the world should just die afterwards. I should have died... But I didn't. When a hero is in danger, when he needs help... Who saves the hero? Why is the hero the only one who must suffer while all the others live free?" The creature's body began to gain a white coloring that colored its hands and legs. The mask finally tore wide open vertically, forming a jagged mouth through which Sora and the others could see the creature's... Minato's expressionless face. His hair, from what they could see, had become a stark white. The blackness that formed the majority of his body began to harden and solidify into black plate mail.

"No... You're wrong! You have us! We're your friends! I have my friends! We all go through it together! We save each other! You don't have to be alone, Minato. You don't have to suffer alone," Sora said, still keeping his Keyblade up. Minato wasn't normally like this. The Minato he knew was a bit of a jerk, but he still helped Sora learn a little about combat. Minato was never this... depressed...

"It is so easy for friends to say they will share the burden. But they never will. Nobody ever will. They can't handle the burden of the hero. So I cast off my bonds. Unbreakable bonds? What a joke. Then there's you," Minato said as he looked at Sora, "You, Sora, are a hero. You think friendship and bonds will help you. But I know the truth. In the end, you will be alone and you will become a monster like me. I am me. The Shadow, the true self. A monster. Let me do you a favor. I'll kill you before you become a monster too!" Minato screamed the last part as he rushed Sora with his sword. Sora raised his Keyblade to block the blow, but the blow was so powerful that it sent him flying all the way through the far wall of the Palace and out into the streets.

Donald and Goofy rushed in front of Minato, hoping to stop him from pursuing Sora. Donald fired a lightning bolt at Minato, but it had no effect on him whatsoever. Goofy attempted to charge into Minato with his shield, but he only bounced off of Minato. Two orbs of light appeared near Minato, one over each shoulder.

"Megidola," Minato said in a monotone voice. One orb slammed into the downed Goofy, knocking him deeper into the ground with enough force to create a crater. Another orb went straight at Donald, who, having seen what happened to Goofy, proceeded to start running.

"Nonononoquackmhauduvdaiugavdgvagfvd!" Donald garbled as he ran around in circles, the Megidola orb chasing him until it finally stopped and Donald ran into it. The resulting explosion knocked Donald towards Minato, where he fell into unconsciousness next to Goofy.

Minato stepped over their bodies and began to walk towards the hole that Sora had been sent through.

However, Mulan stood in his way now. She had her sword still sheathed, but she still stood there resolutely.

"You can't hurt me. Move," Minato said. There was a tiny voice in his head, telling him to not finish off Donald and Goofy. Telling him to not hurt his friends.

But they weren't his friends. Minato had no friends.

Mulan shook her head and looked at him with determination. After hearing all that, she wouldn't let Minato go.

"No. I can't do that. I won't let you destroy your friends. I won't fight you. It won't solve anything. But if I can help you realize just how wrong you are... I think I can save you. It's not a solid theory. I have no proof that it will work, but I know that you are a good man. I don't know what that mask has done to you, but this isn't you I'm seeing. The real you is somewhere inside you," Mulan said.

Minato laughed.

"I am the true self," Minato said. In an instant, Minato was in front of her. He whispered in her ear, "Run away, little girl. You have no place here." Minato then pushed her aside with minimal strength, sending her flying only a mere five feet.

Minato approached the hole Sora had been sent through and scanned the horizon. He saw a hole along one of the outer palace walls that Sora had been sent through, but, oddly enough, Sora was not there any more. Where could he have possibly have go—

A quick strike came from behind Minato, knocking him into the air. He flipped in the air to see that Sora had reappeared behind him, his clothes now oddly red. Goofy's unconscious body was now gone and Donald seemed to be waking up now. Was this some sort of special form?

Wielding two Keyblades, Sora attacked Minato in quick succession, not even giving Minato time to draw his sword. Minato couldn't even see most of the attacks Sora had made with his swords. Minato could feel every hit, though. Even though all the other's couldn't hurt him, Sora's Keyblades could. Was it something to do with how they were made? It didn't matter right now. The Keyblade was a threat to Minato.

Sora finished by spearing Minato with one of his Keyblades, sending it straight through him. Minato smiled. There wasn't anger in Sora's eyes. There was sadness. He knew there would be no talking this out, so Minato would gladly meet his expectations. Minato grabbed Sora's arm that held the Keyblade impaled into him and pulled Sora closer, letting the Keyblade go deeper into him.

"Good. Let's see how you hold up in round two," Minato said with a smirk. He backhanded Sora across the face, sending him and his Keyblades back to the ground. Free from Sora's attacks, Minato finally fell to the ground. He pushed off the ground powerfully, sending himself straight at Sora with his sword raised. Sora raised both of his Keyblades in a cross formation, this time fully blocking the blow without being sent flying.

"Minato... do you remember one of the first things you taught me?" Sora said through grit teeth as he used his Keyblades to stop Minato's sword. Minato cocked his head to the side. What had he taught Sora again? It must have been something abou—

Sora's leg came up from the below and hit Minato right in the crotch.

"'If you can, kick them in the balls'," Sora said with a smirk. It didn't cause Minato to cry out in pain, but it made Minato's concentration slip enough for Sora to drop his Keyblades and slide past Minato's sword, letting the blade hit the ground with a heavy thud.

Sora slashed upwards with his Keyblades in the form of an X, slicing Minato from two different directions. Minato took the hit, and was even sent staggering back, but he did not fall. He was still standing.

And Sora was running out of time for Valor form. With one last push, Sora charged forward and stabbed both his Keyblades into Minato right in the center of the X-shaped gash in Minato's black plate mail. Both Keyblades came out on the other side of Minato.

Minato spit up a some black blood as the Keyblades entered his body. He was nearing the end of his rope. If Sora was using any other weapon, if he had full and complete control over his actions...

Wait... full and complete control?

He didn't have control?

No, he was free! He was strong, stronger than he had ever been before!

Minato grinned at Sora, black blood dripping out one corner of his mouth.

"Minato... stop. Please. You're dying. I don't want to fight you anymore. Just come to your senses!" Sora shouted in his face, tears pricking the corners of his eyes. Minato laughed. Sora's red clothing turned back to normal and Goofy appeared behind him. Goofy was conscious for only a moment before he collapsed. One of the Keyblades stabbed into Minato disappeared as well.

"Too bad. I still want to fight you more," Minato said with a smile. Maybe he was holding back. Maybe he wanted to be killed. Maybe that was why he was losing.

Minato didn't know.

But the hero had to kill the monster.

Minato pushed Sora away with his remaining strength. Sora's Keyblade left his body and the holes left behind by the damage didn't recover. He didn't know how much longer he could keep fighting. At this rate, he'd die soon. But Minato didn't care.

Minato raised his sword once more, but something grabbed his arm. He turned his head to see Mulan holding his sword arm. He tried to lift his other arm, but Donald had grabbed it. He could easily break free from them, but something inside him was forbidding him from doing so. It was that same whispering voice that told him they were his friends.

He couldn't break away.

"Minato, I barely know you... I know that. But still, I can't explain it well, but... for me... you accepted me. You encouraged me to do what I wanted instead of what tradition wanted. You don't know how much that means for me, Minato. And I accepted you for who you are and what you are. I don't want to see you like this. Look at yourself, Minato! Has all this fighting done any good?!" Mulan said, shouting the last part.

Minato felt a small flicker of warmth somewhere deep inside him.

"Minato, you're strong. One of the strongest people I've ever met. However, you're fighting with abandon. You're not even trying to block my attacks. You may want to die, Minato, but that doesn't mean you can just go off dying. You have responsibilities! You have friends! Yen Sid said your Journey is different from mine! Don't you want to find out what your Journey is?! Are you just going to give up, Minato?! Fight this monster! Win!" Sora shouted as he pointed his Keyblade at Minato.

The flicker burst to life, becoming a flame.

"Yeah! What he said!" Donald coined in, unable to think of anything nearly as convincing as what Sora said.

"This might help," Mulan said as she swung around his sword arm to get directly in front of him, still holding onto his arm. She began to blush bright red, but she still pushed open the mouth of Minato's mask. Then she leaned forward, tilted her head to the side, and kissed him.

"Thou shalt have our blessing when thou choosest to create a Persona of the Temperance Arcana."

And the flame began to roar.

"But that's impossible..."

"Minato," Elizabeth said with a smile. "Nothing is impossible for you. Don't you remember?"

A rush of memories and emotions flooded Minato, causing him to realize that, well...

He wasn't alone.

Minato chuckled.

"...You're right. How could I forget?"

An explosion of light.

Light bathed the area, blinding everyone present.

The light faded.

And everyone saw that Minato, who had become a monster, was now a person once again. He was wearing his school uniform once more. His outfit Shan Yu had given him had disappeared, most likely destroyed when he transformed. With one hand, Minato removed the mask from his face and tossed it aside, letting it clatter to the ground. Mulan and Donald let go. Sora dropped his Keyblade down to hold it by his side.

Minato smiled.

"That Nixatom guy is a real bastard. Anybody else want to kick his little smug ass?" Minato asked cheerfully.

"You're back!" Sora's face broke out into a smile as he rushed forward and hugged the older boy. Mulan's grip on his arm also turned into a hug and so did Donald's. Minato was now being hugged on three sides.

"Thou shalt have our blessing when thou choosest to create a Persona of the Sun Arcana."

"Thou shalt have our blessing when thou choosest to create a Persona of the Fool Arcana."

A group hug...

"Guys... I just pretty much almost killed you all. I mean, if I didn't hold back and had stabbed you guys instead of hitting you, you all would be dead. Why are you hugging me?" Minato asked.

They didn't respond. Why do they have to touch him? Physical contact was not necessary! Why the hell was everybody so damn clingy?!

Minato sighed. Did nobody ever listen to him? Maybe if he... Yes, that could work.

"Where's the Emperor? You know, the person we were trying to save?" Minato asked. Everybody's eyes widened as they let go of Minato. Minato inwardly fist-pumped. Mission Accomplished!

"Gawrsh, I think he passed out when the fighting starting," Goofy said as he pushed himself to his feet, finally awake enough to stand. Using Drive forms, the special technique of Sora's clothing, had drained him considerably.

Everybody breathed a collective sigh of relief when they saw the Emperor slumped against the throne (except for Mulan, who ran to check on him).

Minato fell onto his back, finally losing the strength to stand.

What the hell just happened? He remembered having access to his memories earlier, but he couldn't remember anything about them. The time when he went berserk was a blur too. He could only remember snippets and pieces. Now... he was so injured... He didn't want to ask anybody what happened, though. He could pretty much figure most of it out on his own.

Sora really gave him no mercy...

'I'm proud of the kid. He fought hard... And Mulan... we kissed, didn't we...' Minato thought as he lost consciousness.

While he slept, his memories of Bebe of the Temperance Arcana and Mutatsu of the Tower would return to him...

Bebe had sent him a letter saying that he would return to Japan... Would he miss not seeing Minato? And Mutatsu... Minato always wondered what happened to the old monk...

"I think he's fine now," Sora said with a smile. He didn't fully understand what happened, but it was all Nixatom's fault! Suppressing the anger that he felt, Sora walked over to Shan Yu's sword. It was glowing now and floating a few inches off the ground. Sora could use this to open a path to a new world!

While Sora was doing that, Mulan was attending to Minato. She kissed him. She actually kissed him. He was not himself, but she still... Mulan sighed.

'He deserved that kiss. He's different from everybody else in this world. Sure, saving the Emperor could make it so people would have to accept me, but, in the end, it would only be superficial. It wouldn't change anything except how people treated me while others were watching. They still wouldn't know who I am. Girls would still be subjected to what I have,' Mulan thought. For once, she thought of not just leaving her home, but her world. Would he let her travel with them? Maybe if she left, maybe if she saw other worlds, she could somehow change her own. She could bring knowledge to people and make China a place of equality.

Donald and Goofy were off to the side talking about how to wake the Emperor. Some ideas, especially ones involving the words "anvil" and "falling" sounded particularly painful and unrealistic.

"Hey, everybody! What did I miss?" It was at this point in time that Mushu entered through the main doors of the palace. Donald scowled. Mushu had hid during the entire battle! What a coward! Mulan snickered. So much for her "guardian dragon". He really didn't do much.

"Well, "great guardian dragon", you miss—"

Mulan was cut off as a foot slammed down upon Mushu before pushing off him. The person who had stepped on him flipped in midair as they flew towards Minato. The person landed a quick roundhouse kick on Mulan, hitting her right in the chest and sending her flying five feet away from Minato. Donald, Goofy, and Sora were all frozen in shock, unable to say anything as the person knelt down, scooped up Minato in a bridal style carry, and then smiled.

"Mine," Yuffie said, holding Minato's unconscious form. She then began to sprint towards the hole in the wall that had been created when Minato had knocked Sora through the wall earlier. Mulan, now coming to her senses, began to chase her.

"Come on, guys! She's kidnapping Minato!" Mulan shouted as she ran past them. Yuffie leapt out of the hole in the wall, touched the ground for only an instant, and then leapt again onto the rooftops of the nearby buildings that surrounded the palace. Mulan, unable to pull off such a stunt, merely jumped out and chased after her, running in the streets alongside the buildings.

Meanwhile, the others were still frozen in shock.

"Yu...ffie?" Sora said, unable to comprehend what the heck just happened. How did Yuffie get here?!

Sora then noticed something else. Lying on the ground was Minato's mask. From what Sora had seen, it was currently the source of Minato's powers. Unfreezing from the shock, Sora picked up the mask and then began to chase after Yuffie, bringing Donald and Goofy with him.

Mushu, unable to move fast and having just been stomped, laid still.

"O-Okay! Alright, you guys go on without me... I'll catch up!" He said, really debating if he could possibly move at the same speed as these people.

"Target acquired! H.E.E.S. Team, pull the Highwind Mark III around!" Yuffie said into her earpiece as she ran with Minato. She took a moment to look down at him as she ran. Yuffie couldn't believe she was actually doing this. Of course, her original plan had been to say goodbye to Minato as he left Hollow Bastion and then sneak aboard his ship, but he left without telling her goodbye! So now she decided that she'd bring him along with her! They could go world hopping together without Sora, Donald, and Goofy! Of course, H.E.E.S. was now with her, but she still had a very private cabin aboard the ship...

Yuffie smiled as she brushed aside a lock of his hair. He looked so cute when he was sleeping... And he was so light. He weighed almost nothing... Was he eating properly? Was he okay?

"Hey, give me back my friend!" Mulan yelled from below, breaking Yuffie's trance. Yuffie glared at the other black-haired girl. Did she fall for her Minato? Yuffie knew he was attractive, but she always thought his rough exterior could keep the other girls away.

What Yuffie didn't know was that Minato's exterior had only been at its roughest when she was around.

"I got him first! Get your own handsome man!" Yuffie shouted down at the girl chasing her. Luckily for Yuffie, all the Heartless had left after Shan Yu died. The majority of the population had also gone to the Emperor's palace to check his condition after the fighting died down, so the streets were empty.

Mulan then jumped onto a nearby cart. She jumped off that and landed on the canvas forming the roof of a nearby stand. The canvas held her weight long enough for her to jump again and land on the rooftop Yuffie was running on.

"You're kidnapping him! And he isn't yours! You don't own him!" Mulan shouted as she chased after Yuffie. Yuffie looked behind her to see Mulan closing the gap between them at a considerable pace. Yuffie may have been a ninja and she may have had a knack for speed, but Mulan was very, very determined.

"Shut up! I bet you haven't even kissed him!" Yuffie exclaimed, going with the assumption that Mulan had, like Olette, fallen for the man. Mulan blushed bright red at her words, but still kept chasing after her.

"I just did!" She shouted back as she continued to run. Yuffie suddenly stopped and turned around to face Mulan. The look on her face was unreadable. Mulan couldn't tell if her words made Yuffie angry or said...

"Did... he kiss back?" Yuffie asked her quietly. Mulan stood there facing Yuffie with her sword drawn, yet she couldn't move forwards. There was something in Yuffie's voice that made her stop. What was this girl's connection with him? Were they... lovers? Mulan didn't think so, but still...

"N-No. He wasn't himself, so I had to bring him to his senses..." Mulan admitted embarrassedly. Yuffie's face broke into a wide grin. She was standing right at the edge of the rooftop. The next rooftop was pretty far away, but Mulan had seen Yuffie leap that distance earlier. She just needed to stop Yuffie from making the jump.

"Ha! I still have a chance! Take that! The Great Yuffie Kisaragi, greatest ninja and thief alive, is stealing Minato's heart!" She declared as she hopped backwards, barely leaving the rooftop and not making the huge jump that Mulan had been expecting. Still though, Mulan threw her sword in an attempt to stop the girl. Yuffie deflected the sword with a well-aimed kick, sending it right back at the rooftop as she fell from sight.

Mulan ran to the edge of the rooftop to see if she could see Yuffie down below, but was surprised as Yuffie suddenly came flying up past her, holding onto something invisible with one hand. Minato was hoisted over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes.

"Yuffie! Mulan!" Sora exclaimed as he finally reached Mulan, Donald and Goofy right behind him. Yuffie winked at the three of them as she was lifted into the air.

"I hope you don't mind, Sora, but I'm stealing him!" Yuffie exclaimed with a laugh as the ladder she was a holding onto became visible. It was a black, steel ladder that was coming out of the bottom of a large, black Gummi Ship. Sora's eyes widened in awe as the ladder was suddenly pulled in, bringing in Yuffie and Minato. The ship then angled itself upwards and and the thrusters on the back glowed blue for a moment before the ship blasted off at a ridiculous speed, leaving Sora and the others awestruck.




"...Sora... can I ride with you guys? I want to help get Minato back," Mulan asked.

Without saying a word, Sora nodded. He knew Minato would not be happy when he woke up. Minato chose to go on a journey with Sora. Being taken away from them like this, and by Yuffie of all people, would seriously piss him off.

Sora was actually quite glad he wasn't on that ship.

"Yuffie, this ship has orbital drop pods for safe exit and entrance! Why the heck did you insist on making us drive the ship to drop you off and pick you up?! We need some stealth, you know!" Hayner's voice exclaimed through the intercom system, mainly upset that Yuffie kept ordering him around. He was the leader of H.E.E.S., damn it! He wasn't her minion!

"It made for a very good exit, okay! Seriously. You guys are on my case more than everybody back home combined," Yuffie said as she carried Minato through the decontamination room. The spray lasted only a few seconds, and then she was on the main lobby area of the ship. Since Sid had designed this to be a transport ship for a large number of people, the lobby area was quite large and was circular in shape, with couches lining the circumference and fish tanks built into the walls. The room was made of steel and there was a large holographic display in the center of the room that showed their location. There was a large disk of light on the ceiling that lit the area and was meant to simulate the sun.

The whole was meant to be a calming place for passengers during a long voyage so that they could peacefully get to locations without any major incidents. The intended passengers were mentally scarred refugees who lost their homes, after all.

Yuffie placed Minato upon the couch and sat down next to him. She lifted up his head and placed it on her lap, enjoying the feeling of victory. Now they just needed to stop by the closest world for some fuel. They couldn't head back to Hollow Bastion because it was too far away, but the world labelled "Beast's Castle" on the map was very close. They should be able to refuel there and then they could go wherever they wanted.

"I'm not on your case, Yuffie," Pence said as he entered the lobby. Yuffie sighed at her inability to have any alone time with Minato.

"You're never on anybody's case, Pence. You're smart. You stay out of it. That's why you're SO MUCH BETTER THAN HAYNER AND OLETTE!" Yuffie shouted the last part, making sure the others heard. They needed at least two people to drive this thing. Yuffie, with her speed, could count for two people for the short trip to Twilight Town, but she couldn't make it any further. Hence the need for more people.

"I heard that! Just remember that we're Minato's friends! We have the right to talk to him and help him out too!" Olette's voice came over the intercom. Yuffie grunted as she leaned back, relaxing against the couch cushions.

"Okay, okay. Sorry. Just feeling a little territorial. I found out this other girl kissed Minato," Yuffie said, sounding a little depressed.

"Was he... did he..." Olette asked over the intercom.

"Nope. It was all her," Yuffie said. And then the both of them, Olette and Yuffie, sighed in relief. They had another rival, but at least that rival didn't win. Besides, there was no way Yuffie would see that girl again. What were the odds of that happening? Sora would never just take somebody from their home world with him.

...Would he?

"Sure, I don't see why not," Sora said, shrugging. She could only help them right?

What the worst that could possibly happen? Donald suddenly pulled Minato aside.

"Sora, we can't bring her with us! It'll throw off the balance. Remember! We can't bring her with us," Donald whispered to Sora. Sora blushed in embarrassment. Donald was right, of course. Sora was exempt from this after his world had been previously been destroyed and Donald and Goofy were sent on a mission from King Mickey originally. The three of them could move freely as long as they didn't disrupt the worlds. The only reason they let Minato come with them was because he most likely wasn't a resident of the world they found him in. As a Heartless, Minato had freedom to go anywhere he wanted.

But Mulan... she seemed actually important to this world. There was no way they could bring her with them. Sora sighed.

"Sorry, I can't. We have rules we have to follow," Sora said, trying to bring across the message gently. Mulan, however, wasn't one to be so easily denied.

"I need to go with you guys. If not to help Minato, then to do it for myself and my people. There are things I can learn that I can bring back to China. Let me go with you. You guys know I can handle myself. I can make myself useful. Please," Mulan asked, trying her biggest puppy dog eyes.

"Sorry, Mulan, but it's, you know... Gawrsh, we can't take ya' with us 'cuz that's what the rules say," Goofy explained. Mulan dropped her head.

"Okay. I understand," she said, backing down suspiciously easy.

But Sora and Goofy were trusting. They believed her.

Donald, on the other hand, was skeptical, but he didn't say anything. No point in calling her out without proof that she was up to something. Donald would just have to keep watch twice as much to make sure they didn't end up with any stowaways.

And so they decided to leave then and there. They didn't want to be found with the unconscious Emperor. It would only complicate things.

Luckily, their Gummi Ship had been repaired by now.

Naminé watched as the ship took off. Axel was beside her, a small smile on his face. Naminé had her hand against her chest, clutching it weakly as she smiled brilliantly.

"I was right. I was right, Axel. He can change everything for the Nobodies. He can save us all," Naminé said, unable to stop her smile. She had somehow formed a bond with Minato. And now, their hearts were connected... but Naminé didn't exactly have a heart, did she? She was a Nobody just like all the rest.

However, Minato's bond with her had changed her. She could feel the faint beating against her chest. She could see the world in colors and lights she could never have imagined before. She could feel things she never felt before.

This was just the tip of the iceberg. As she deepened her bond with him, she knew she would feel more and more. Naminé needed Axel to form a bond with Minato. She needed all the Nobodies to form bonds with him. Because somehow, for some reason she couldn't quite explain, she had gotten a very small piece of a heart.

It wasn't complete, but it was hers and only hers. If all the other Nobodies got hearts of their own, then they could all change. They could make the world better. They could stop this ridiculous chase for Kingdom Hearts. The answer to all their problems was right here.

Minato could change everything.

He could save all of them.

"The hard part is convincing him to do it. Didn't he want to kill all of the other Nobodies? Last I checked, he built a bomb for them," Axel said with a smirk. Naminé laughed softly.

The Minato she knew of was a hero. She just needed to help Minato remember that he was one.

A Few Hours Later

Minato opened his eyes groggily. His vision was blurry and he couldn't make out any distinct shapes at first, but the pain from his wounds was now gone. He must have healed in his sleep.

Where was he? He'd been with his friends, Shan Yu had died and then he lost consciousness somehow. Was he back on the Gummi Ship? Did the Gummi Ship have pillows this soft? No, wait. It didn't. The Gummi Ship Sora had sucked. It was small, cramped, and had horrible sleeping arrangements.

So... where was he?

"Minato? You awake?" A familiar voice asked. Come to think of it, the pillow he was using seemed rather warm...

Wait. He knew that voice. His vision cleared up, showing that familiar face smiling down on him.


No way.

It couldn't be.

How the hell did she...?

"Yuffie. I'm going to give you to the count of three to run away. After that, I can't be held responsible for any permanent damage that may ensue. This is your only warning," Minato said in a monotone voice. Yuffie giggled.

"Oh, come on. Don't be angry. I brought Hayner, Pence and Olette. You know, your friends? I mean, sure I kidnapped you, but now we can go on adventures together! Isn't that the greatest?" Yuffie said, cheerfully.

"One," Minato said, completely ignoring her words. Yuffie sighed heavily.

"Honestly, Minato. You'll be in better hands. I went in there and you were unconscious and covered in wounds! With me, you'll have somebody who can back you up. Remember all the times we spent together? When we worked on the bomb together?" Yuffie asked gently.

"...Two," Minato said, hesitating slightly. Yuffie began to sweat a little, but she kept on talking. It was like trying to defuse a bomb. She couldn't hesitate. If she didn't defuse Minato's temper, she didn't know what would happen. However, she saw the damage done to that palace. She had the sinking feeling that the hole in the wall she had escaped from was Minato's doing. After all, this was a person who could teach Sora, who had already saved the world before, new tips on fighting.

Was bringing him against his will really the best decision?

"Dar— I mean, Minato? Hey. It's me, Olette. Don't be mad, okay? You kind of left us, after all," Olette chimed in as she entered the lobby. Pence and Hayner were piloting now.

Minato looked at Olette and, seeing her dressed in the ridiculous H.E.E.S. outfit, smiled. Olette started running. Then he looked up at Yuffie and his smile grew wider still.


Hayner and Pence easily drove the ship, completely muting all the cries for help that echoed throughout the ship. They weren't exactly willing to go back there. They couldn't go back there. It was too terrifying. Then, all of a sudden, the cries for help stopped. And all was silent. Minato's chilling laughter pierced even the steel doors of the bridge. His pants wet with fright, Pence moved to unbuckle his seat belt. He couldn't stand not doing anything anymore!

"Don't go back there, Pence. For the love of God, if you value your life, just don't move. We'll remember their sacrifices. Just keep your eyes on the ro—"

The cold sound of the door to the cockpit sliding open cut Hayner off. Hayner kept his eyes on the road and his mouth shut. A good strategy.

"Hi, guys. Nice to see you again," Minato said cheerfully.

"...What did you do to Yuffie and Olette?" Pence asked, feeling very, very scared. They could hear the smile in Minato's voice as he spoke.

"Olette ran, but Yuffie got what she deserved. As I really can't justify hitting her, I tickled her... into unconsciousness," Minato said.




"What...?" Hayner and Pence said simultaneously. How the heck did he accomplish that?!

"Have you ever laughed so hard that you couldn't breathe?" Minato asked sinisterly. Pence gulped down his fear. So that was how... It was by far the oddest form of torture Pence had ever heard of, yet it was still quite frightening. Minato then moved past them to look out the front window. They were passing through a cloud, but they should be seeing Beast's Castle soon.

"So. we're going to Beast's Castle?" Minato asked. Hayner nodded, now no longer as scared. Tickling? What kind of "horror" was that? Hayner wasn't ticklish!

"Yeah, man. We run on a pretty loose form of biofuel, so he just needs to offer our ship some food. She eats just like us. Isn't that right, Jessamine?" Hayner asked lovingly as he stroked the ship's central console. Minato raised an eyebrow and looked at Pence. Pence shrugged.

"What can I say? He gets stuck with steering duty the most," Pence said, now feeling slightly more relaxed because of Hayner's casual way of talking with Minato.

They continued forward, finally breaking through the clouds to see Beast Castl—

"N-no... I know that place. I-I remember that place. Turn back! Turn back, dammit!" Minato screamed as he saw the worst sight in the world. The thing that was in front of them wasn't Beast's Castle. No, it had swallowed Beast's Castle.

"I-I can't turn back! We don't have enough fuel!" Hayner exclaimed. Even he was scared. Minato being scared was somehow much scarier than earlier.

Minato fell back into one of the vacant seats in the cockpit, his eyes at the thing outside their front window.

It was impossible.

It was illogical.

Yet here it was.

Under a green sky stood a tower that extended far above the clouds, its twisted floors each fitting into a separate block of the gargantuan structure.

This was Tartarus, the dungeon Minato had spent so long climbing and had fought so hard to destroy.

And it was back.

Meanwhile, aboard a Gummi Ship that recently had taken off, Mulan hid. Who knew it was so easy to sneak past Donald and get onto the ship?

She was going to find Minato and see the other worlds and how they functioned.

What was the worst that could happen?

In a corner of a far away base, Aigis bowed to the masked figure and his freedom fighters.

"Thank you very much for the hospitality, Zero. I do hope that you will be able to free Japan," Aigis said with a smile. The Black Knights here were fighting against the country called Britannia in order to free Japan from its rule. They'd been rather kind considering she had suddenly appeared in her base. Their leader, Zero, had done a rather odd thing where a part of his mask slid open a bird shape appeared in his eye when they first met. Aigis, of course, had questioned his health and suggested an optometrist. Oddly enough, he didn't seem to take too kindly to her recommendation. Was he afraid of eye doctors?

When she was able to learn of their mission, Aigis had fully agreed to help them, though she couldn't kill humans. Instead, she destroyed monstrous Knightmare Frames and had quickly earned the trust of the Black Knights.

"And I wish you luck on your Journey as well, though I do not understand how you plan to leave. There's only a blank wall behind you," Zero said, honestly curious about the mysterious girl. She was obviously machine, but seemed so human and lifelike that Zero thought for certain she was at least part human.

"I have to question that too. I've always found you odd... How long have you been searching now?" C.C., the green-haired advisor of Zero asked. She was rather beautiful, but Aigis and her always knew there was more to the other than meets the eye.

Aigis smiled as she summoned the Velvet Gate.

"Due to the differences in time between worlds, it has been 459 years," Aigis said with a smile before jumping into the portal.

She didn't stick around to hear them all gasp.

A/N: Hi. Did you like the chapter? I liked it.

...I have nothing to say...

...Hail Hydra?

No? Okay...

Anyway, I have a few announcements. First of all, thank you Yuuji Narukami for recommending Aigis going to Code Geass over a year ago. I'm sure you remember. Second, there is a poll. On my profile. I kind of want to make a forum on this site so that you guys can talk to each other and me and, you know, talk about my fics and try to unravel their mysteries of even talk to me and suggest ideas. Hell, I'll put in a chat thread so we can all just randomly talk. Vote yes in the poll if you want this. If not, then vote no. Simple.

Also, I'll now be posting progress updates on my profile! You can now check to see how much the next update for a particular story is done!

Finally... Hey... you guys ever hear of a podcast called Fandom Flux? Well, you know... I'm on it with Casey W, Kenchi618, and Slicerness... and stuff. We give writing tips, talk about funny/embarrassing stuff, and it's a lot of fun. You can ask us any questions and we'll answer them. Link is on my profile. Check us out!

Review Reply Time!:

Fier66: Clap clap. :D

ConstantCutie: UPDATE IS HERE! :D :D

salman21: She will be ridiculously OP and you will love it.

aznxa21: I look forward to reading more too... I just need to write more in order to read it.

bamafelix: DBZ? I might have to do that, actually...

i'm too lazy bro: I actually planned something like that already :D

Peruch: Aigis... on a dragon... YES YES YES!

Aerosylph: :D I must do midnight stuff now... And monthly events ;D


Mr. Haziq: ...I saw Shang's death coming. Too soon? Well, Minato and the crew screwed up that entire world. There certainly won't be any ramifications to deal with... will there? And I've been thinking about the whole Teddie style of becoming his own person... I might do that... Maybe...

adsgvf: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH! That's a great idea!

ultima-owner: Indeed it was.

Will: War sucks. It had to have some gore to reflect that. And Shang is a sexist whose romance with Mulan makes no sense. Sora couldn't beat Minato. He just had to hold him off long enough for Minato to regain control. And, to be honest, Minato was keeping himself from killing Sora.

KO: This story is, in Kingdom Hearts fashion, complicated. However, if you are really lost, then please do ask some questions in your next review or make an account and PM. I'd be more than happy to help you understand what's going on. :D

Guest: Oooooh! Good idea... This could work.

deaththewolf32: Sorry for the wait again!

Have a Little Feith: It could be Ikutsuki... or it could not be... Muahahaha! Oh, and I saw the first few episodes of Trinity Soul. Then abandoned it. It was boring.

BloodTrinity: Thank you, sir, for that quote. And yay for Shadownato! Trust me, he has more tricks up his sleeve than you saw and we'll be seeing more transformations as this story progresses.

llat-2: She already appeared, remember? Chapter 2? And then again in Chapter 6?

SEESWildCard: I think I replied to yours via PM. Can't remember though...

Question of the Chapter: Which character in this story would you like to be best friends with?

REVIEW, FAVORITE, FOLLOW! Pretty please with... Tartarus on top (is that some kind of toothpaste?)?