Sora and Neku finally made it to the familiar Third District, with Neku's lookalike avatar trailing along behind and the two Spirits ranging ahead, Neku's remaining loftily aloof from Sora's, which insisted on sniffing everything and trying to play with it.
"I remember here," Sora mused half to himself. "This is where Lee and I met Donald and Goofy. Well, he did anyway, then got him," he jerked a thumb toward the avatar, "to alter it so it was as if I went with him."
Neku glanced back, but the avatar pretended to be completely oblivious.
"Don't know why you're telling me this," he said instead. "Not as if I asked."
"Well if you'd actually talk about something..." Sora left it hanging.
"Like what? It was your idea to tag along, I was fine on my own until you kicked up a racket."
"You know, just stuff. Like friends do."
"I thought I told you. We're not friends. We're just... in the same place at the same time."
"Whatever you say, Neku," Sora laughed. "Why'd we come here then?"
Neku didn't answer, following his Necho Cat down into the large open space where we'd once fought the Guard Armour. Sora hung back somewhat as Neku moved on ahead, pausing to pet his Meow Wow absently, giving the area a look over as he recalled it.
Meanwhile the avatar caught up with him, leaned over and murmured, "Something's changed here. Don't ask me what, I'm not going to tell you."
"Tell Lee," Sora replied. "He's the one who knows how everything's supposed to turn out, right?"
"You know I'm not going to answer that, Sora," he sighed. "Go catch up with him."
Neku had paused not far from the fountain, frowning, giving Sora only a momentary glance before turning back to a high ledge.
"He's not here," he muttered.
"Who? Your partner?" Sora asked him.
"No. The guy in the black coat. He was interested in you, so I said I'd find you and bring you to him. That was my part of our deal."
'Black Coat' is one of the words that instantly registers with me, Riku and both of the twins, because with a few known, minor exceptions, anyone wearing one is almost certainly up to no good.
Sora, while even he'll admit if you're careful how you put it to him, that he's not exactly the brightest, was at least sensible enough to exercise some caution.
"I wouldn't put any faith in what people in black coats say," he said, carefully casual about it. "Even if they do show their faces, they've only been trouble when I met them. Did he give you his name?"
"No. I didn't ask him for one. He said he was the only one of his Organization in town anyway. Sounded young, if that's any help."
Organization is another one of those warning words that also wasn't lost on Sora.
"I'd definitely steer clear of them and their Organization, Neku," he warned, more seriously this time. "Trouble doesn't begin to describe..." he trailed off, stumbling slightly. Neku glanced to him, but true to his rather unsocial ways, simply watched. The avatar also did nothing, but he understood.
"Why am I so sleepy?" Sora mumbled, falling to the ground into sleep.
Riku, unlike Sora touched down in the Third District of Traverse Town, right beside the fountain. Moments after he'd touched down softly from his dive, Demyx flickered into being beside him.
"So this is old Traverse Town, eh?" he said, looking about. "Never got to come here myself. Vanished before I got the chance, you know."
"Not now," Riku told him. "You're supposed to be watching and keeping notes, remember? I wonder if Sora and Xion ended up here too?" he added, musing to himself.
"You know, talking to yourself is supposed to be the first sign of madness," a voice told him, though it wasn't Demyx. Riku turned quickly, his hands both instinctively curling as if to grasp the Keyblades as they came, but stopped, spotting the boy sat above the fountain, casually leaning against it.
"I guess you can't see me then?" Demyx asked. The boy didn't even react. "Yeah, thought so. Guess Neku made it that way so I can't interfere in your test."
Riku pretended not to acknowledge Demyx due to this, instead straightening and looking thoughtful.
"I don't remember you," he said eventually. "This is Traverse Town, to the detail, but I don't recall seeing you here before."
"That's because I'm not from here," he answered. "I came here using a portal. Just like you probably did."
"Portal? You mean... no, I used something else. Now who're you?"
"That's not exactly nice you know."
Demyx carefully concealed his amusement at this. Riku gave him only the briefest of glances.
"Alright. I'm Riku. Now, you are...?"
"I'm Joshua. Looks like I'm here to meet you just like someone was to meet him."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You really don't know?" Joshua seemed surprised. "Let me see, how can I put this? We – that is, my friends and I, from Shibuya – came here by a portal when our world vanished. I used their dreams to find and shape it. Dreams have form here, surely you've noticed that?"
"I'm trying to care, Joshua, but you're really not answering the question."
"Impatient, aren't you?" Joshua chuckled. "Alright. This world you and I are in right now? There's three copies of it. We're in this one, and who knows who's in the other two? We can use portals to travel between them – if we have a key."
"And this 'him' you mentioned?"
"I understand you call him Sora. Or Xion. They're very much alike, you know. I can't tell for sure, because they're in a different copy of the world to us."
"Ask him how there can be more than one of a world," Demyx nudged him.
"I can hear you, you know," Joshua said. "I just can't see you. Anyway, here in this dreaming world, the world becomes whatever it needs to be. Even a copy of itself. Everyone has their own view of the world, so there is no one world – there's one for everyone who's there. Now, I've got a little errand for you, Riku."
"Go run your own errands," he replied shortly. "I've got other things on my mind."
"Like your test?" he laughed. "Yeah, I know. I know a lot of things, before you ask. All I want you to do is help me find a girl named Rhyme. She's the key to the Portal, and who knows – maybe we'll find one of them on the other side."
"So what do you need me for?"
Joshua leapt easily down to join Riku and spread his arms. "Look at me, Riku. Do I look like a fighter? Anyway, they can't see me. The Nightmares can't see you if you're not a dreamer. Which, y'know, is kinda funny, since I've got a lot of dreams. But even if they can't see me, they can still affect me. I can't get through where they won't let me, even if they don't know."
"So you need me to distract them." Riku stopped, thought, then gave a short laugh. "I wonder if this is what Sora and Lee used to feel like? Getting given the run around in every world they went to? Now I guess it's my turn too. C'mon then Joshua, we'll poke about here, see who we find, then we'll head over to the Second District."
"Not the Fourth?"
"There's only three Districts to town," Riku said, too quickly.
"That's odd. I've seen at least five, and that's not counting the maze that's called the post office." He shrugged, then, "But what do I know? Maybe this is Traverse Town as you remember it."