Chapter XXIII: A New Leaf

Well, my wonderful readers… it is time for the final Chapter of this story. But guess what!

I have a little surprise in store for you, at the end of the story! Make sure you R&R!

Much thanks and gratitude to all of my loyal watchers and reviewers! I can't thank you enough for all of your kindness and support of this story.

And still thanks to those who read my story but don't review it. You are still special to me. I don't expect reviews, of course. I just like them and appreciate them very much.

Thank you all! -KtD

Day 358 and Day 1

A thud shatters the silence as one of the powerful fighters drops to their knees, vanquished.

Suddenly the room fades into a world of black and silence. Only two reside in the dark world of nowhere… Xathe and Saix.

Xathe stands in silence as he watches Saix kneel down in tiredness from the long fight. He grabs his chest in pain and stares up at Xathe with much shock in his eyes.

"I… I underestimated you…" Saix gasps slowly.

Xathe crosses his arms, "Well, you wouldn't have done that in the first place… had you not been lied to…"

"How did you know that Xemnas lied?" asks Saix.

"I could tell. Xemnas always pointed me out to be a weakling and a pest. I think you've figured it out, though."

Saix smirks with a weak chuckle, "It matters not… you cannot terminate Project XV… its progress is far too close to completion. Even if you killed me, here and now… it wouldn't make the slightest difference."

Xathe raises an eyebrow and glares suspiciously, "Is that so? I wonder if your tone would change if I did decide to kill you…?"

Saix shakes his head, chuckling. "You've changed. You're not that naïve little brat, that I once knew, anymore…"

Xathe uncrosses his arms and snarls, "What? What are you hiding from me, Saix?!"

"Like I would actually tell you? Let's just say that… we've met somewhere else… a long time ago…"

"That tells me nothing! The only Saix I know is a selfish jerk who only wishes harm on others! I would never be friends with someone like you," Xathe spits.

"So ironic… you said the opposite to me, last time we met. Perhaps your memory wipe didn't benefit our plan as much as Xemnas thought it would."

Xathe exasperates in defeat, "I will find out eventually. But for now… we're going to have to save this for another time. And even though I hate to admit it… I hope we meet again…" Xathe pauses. The next thing that he says comes out subconsciously, "…Isa."

Saix closes his eyes with a half-smile, "Maybe so… but next time, you will be the one to bow…"

Xathe smirks, "Whatever…"

A silence lingers between them. But soon enough, Xathe gets fed up with it.

"In your miscalculation…" Xathe's voice suddenly changes to the voice of Vanitas, "… you made this fight a waste of my time."

Xathe turns around… and simply walks away.

Every step that he takes away from Saix, the world of black fades away more and more.

Saix glares at him as he walks away, silently. "You may have changed, Tahe`… but you're still as much of a fool as before…"

And with that, the world of darkness around them fades into disappearance. The light of the physical world swarms into their vision once again.

Xathe opens his bloodshot eyes and spins around to see Saix drop to his knees and then onto his face. The battle was over…

"Great job, Saix!" Xigbar shouts angrily, aiming his arrow-guns up and preparing to open fire upon Xathe and the unknown man.

"You think that your pathetic little toys are going to-" Xathe feels all the energy in his body leave him suddenly. "-damn it…"

Xathe timbers over but is quickly caught by the hooded man and he picks him up into his strong arms.

The man quickly turns around and uses one hand to summon a barrier around him and Xathe. Xigbar's lasers slam against the barrier over and over again as Xigbar teleports to different angles in trying to destroy the dense shield.

"Come on, Xathe. Let's go. I think I've fetched enough Nobodies by now…" The hooded man grumbles, lifting Xathe up and carrying him under the pit of the man's arm.

A dark corridor opens in front of them and Namine` quickly rushes out to help the hooded man.

"Thank you so much, Riku… I can't thank you enough for this!" Namine` gasps, pulling Xathe's arm around her shoulders and dragging him into the dark corridor.

"It's fine… just make sure he doesn't get away again.'Cuz I'm not going after him a third time…" The hooded man, Riku, growls.

Namine` pulls Xathe in and Riku follows them in as well, letting the barrier fall behind him. The corridor then closes in sync with the spell's end.

Xigbar watches the dark corridor disappear and he curses under his breath. "I almost had them, too…"

He drops down from the air and lands gracefully on both feet.

"Man… what am I gonna tell Xemnas?" Xigbar mumbles.

"You needn't tell me anything…"

Xigbar turns around to see Xemnas walking past Saix, who is now picking himself up from the floor.

"Superior, I-"

Xemnas holds his palm out to Xigbar and interrupts him, "No need to explain yourself. You and Saix played your parts nicely. This was all the final stage of Project XV…"

Saix gets to his feet and holds a hand on his ribs, "What? But did you not say that Xathe was to remain imprisoned here? He escaped, Xemnas."

"Indeed, that's what I said. But… that was never the plan. I lied to you so that you would fight Xathe in an effort to stop him," Xemnas explains.

"What?! So you were trying to screw us over?" Xigbar gasps.

Xemnas glares at him, "Of course not, you fool. Through you and Saix… you forced Xathe into a situation where he could not hold it back anymore…" Xemnas pauses. "He let the power of Darkness fill him. He is no longer a Nothing… he is one with the Darkness…"

Saix and Xigbar stare in surprise of Project XV's true plan.

"Now that Xathe has accepted the Darkness… we don't need to break him. Vanitas will fulfill the rest of our plot for us." Xemnas laughs.

"But Xemnas… why did Vanitas fight with Xathe, against us? Wouldn't he take that chance to control him?" Saix asks in confusion.

A smirk crosses Xemnas' lips, "Vanitas has his own agenda in mind, for now. He is willing to be half of a heart for the time being… but eventually he'll want to find where his true counterpart sleeps…"

"You mean…-?"

Xemnas nods slowly. "He feels at home in my son's body… but he needs the other half of his heart if he is going to truly stay in existence."

Saix and Xigbar smirk deviously.

"Project XV has succeeded. Now we must continue our work. Patience will be needed if Vanitas is to be released from Xathe. For now… we resume our conquest for Kingdom Hearts…"

"Yes, Superior…" Xigbar and Saix exclaim, nodding and disappearing into dark corridors.

"Xathe, my son… we may never meet again… but I know that you were not meant to exist. That makes this plan more worth it on your end of the deal. But it's okay… you're not alone…"

Xemnas looks down with slight guilt and remorse.

"I should not exist either…"

Xathe opens his eyes again, letting in the light of the physical world around him. He didn't like the light… but it pleased him to know it wasn't the dull light of The Castle That Never Was.

He felt… comfortable.

Xathe sits up from the floor, which he was lazily laid down on, and looks around him in confusion.

He sighs in relief to see that he's in the Old Mansion again. The place had a peaceful nature to it that Xathe always felt comfortable in…

Xathe slowly gets to his feet, rubbing the back of his head in slight pain. If only Vanitas didn't have side-effects to his abilities…

"I need to go. There's places I need to be; things that need to be taken care of," Xathe whispers, looking around for two specific things: paper and pencil.

And as he expected, he found them on the table where Namine` usually sits at.

Xathe walks over to the table and picks the pencil up in his right hand, holding the sketchbook down with his left. He then begins to write.

'Dear Namine`…'

Namine` walks into her room in the Old Mansion, making sure that Xathe was sound asleep.

"Xathe?" she gasps, not finding the mysterious Nobody anywhere in the room. "Oh no! He must have woke up, just a little while ago."

All the panic that goes through her head fades as two words on a small, folded-up piece of paper catches her eye.

"Dear Namine`…" Namine` whispers, walking up to the table and picking up the note to read its unknown contents. Anything could be contained inside of the note. A journal entry, a letter to Xion, a testimony, a death note… it could be a letter from Organization XIII for all she knew!

She unfolds the letter… to find none of those things that she thought it might be. It was simply… a letter to her, alone.

'I know you might be worried… or maybe not. But either way, if you are reading this letter… I'd like to say, Thanks.

Thanks for everything you did for me. I should probably be mad at you for taking away my memories… but you did it out of fear, so I can understand that.

Not the fear part, mind you…

But anyways… I've done a lot of wrong over the past couple years. I plan to make it up to you for that. You and that one girl that I can't seem to remember. Either way, I made an oath to you before I defeated Xetah. An oath that I plan to keep…

An oath… to change my path…'

King Mickey slowly walks across the dead, sandy ground of the Badlands.

Reliving old and painful memories was not an easy thing to do. Especially not for this mouse…

He stops at the sound of alien footsteps… ones that are following him.

"How did you find me…?" Mickey asks the unknown stranger.

The man remains silent.

Mickey turns around, his black cloak swaying in the gust of wind. "You've followed me for this long now. I think I deserve an explanation as to why, don't ya think?"

The stranger looks down and slowly reaches his hands towards the rims of his hood. Ever so carefully… he removes the black hood from his head.

"You… but… I thought you were gone…" Mickey gasps.

The stranger smirks, "If I'm gone… then how am I here?"

Mickey crosses his arms and raises a brow, "Well… we are in the Badlands. This is the last place I saw ya. For all I know, you could be a ghost!"

This makes the stranger chuckle lightly. "Not quite… but close enough, I suppose. I'm a Nobody now."

The King sighs, "That would explain the outfit. So… have you been sent from the Organization to destroy me?"

Mickey tenses up, hoping that his old friend hasn't strayed that far away from his original path.

"Of course not. But just for the record… your Organization get-up isn't fooling me. I could see those ears a mile away. You might fool Demyx… but the others aren't as stupid."

Mickey is taken aback and pulls down on his ears to make him look more normal.

"Still kinda obvious…" The stranger laughs, casually.

The mouse gives up and lets go of his ears, in defeat. "So… what brings you here, then? You've come an awful long ways from home…"

"Home… haven't felt the meaning of that word in… I can't even remember, now." The teen pauses. "Anyways… I want to make an agreement with you…"

"An agreement? What kind of agreement, Tahe`? Or… I guess you don't go by that name anymore, huh?" asks Mickey.

The teen smirks, "No… but you can call me Xathe. Funny… I can't remember your name or anything about you… but I do remember one thing…"

Mickey looks up at him.

"That you can be trusted…" finishes Xathe.

Mickey smiles, "So about this agreement…?"

'My oath comes at a price though, Namine`.

I need you to promise me that we'll meet again someday. Before I fade… I want to have the comfort of knowing that your smile was the last thing I got to see in my empty life. I always loved your smile after all…

I'm making a gamble… one that will put my life on the line. One that I hope will erase my existence.

I miss Tahe`. I feel like he's the thing missing in my life. His heart should be the one beating in my hollow chest, not Vanitas'. Vanitas needs to find where he belongs as well.

It's a sad and lonely search… to find where we belong…

But we all find it eventually, right? I'm honestly not sure where my place is anymore. Half of me wants to be sitting with you. We could laugh about crazy stuff and share memories together. But the other half knows that I shouldn't be existing and that my body should belong to Tahe`…

Who knows… maybe when I get my heart back, we can be friends as humans again. I really hope so…'

Axel walks down the hallway of the Castle That Never Was. His duty was to find Roxas and bring him back, no matter the cost.

He only wished that things could be easier. He really enjoyed that one day… that day when he, Roxas, Xion, Demyx, and Xathe all arm-wrestled. They didn't do it for any real reason. It was just for the heck of it!

That's what made Axel happy… the small things.

He once heard from someone… probably some wise, old guy… that you enjoy the simplest things in life the most. Those tiny, insignificant memories are usually the most enjoyed and the most memorable.

"If only things could be that way again…" Axel sighs, almost sadly. But of course… he was a Nobody.

He couldn't feel sadness or any of those emotions… right?

Saix stares at the floor of his room in silence.

He's always been cold and ruthless. He had no heart after all. Who else could he be, besides a terrible monster? He was Tahe`'s worst nightmare… yet Saix just won't let it go!

What was it about that meaningless friendship that he once had that is making him so… so… distraught?

It doesn't make sense.

Isa… Lea… Tahe`… all three of them are dead. All that remains is fragments of that threesome. Xathe hates Saix, Saix finds humor in tormenting Xathe, Axel is ticked off at Saix, Saix is ticked off at Axel, and Axel is trying to restore his friendship with Xathe.

Why isn't Saix trying to do the same as Axel?

Because he didn't need any pathetic impediments to keep him from achieving his goal. His old friendships will only distract him. Or at least… that's what he keeps telling himself.

"I can worry about such things later. When I have my heart back… then I might see if I can forgive those two idiots. For now, Axel and Xathe are on their own. I want no part in that false friendship that they desperately search for…" Saix affirms.

He then returns to his duties… pretending that Axel and Xathe never existed.

Demyx strums the last note in the sad song that he wrote for Xathe. He decided to get Xathe off his mind the old fashioned way… saying goodbye.

He was never good with speeches and all of that… but he's always been good at making music!

Okay… yeah… Demyx left the door to Xathe's cell open on purpose… but nobody has to know about it, right? What did Demyx do anyways? Riiight?

"Seeya, Xathe. Hmm… maybe I'll see ya again, real soon. Yeah, that would be awesome! I'll look forward to that! I should go mark it on my calendar!" Demyx shouts enthusiastically.

He jumps up from his bed but then trips and falls on his face dramatically.

Demyx just lays there for a moment in complete silence…

He lifts his face from the floor, "Oh yeah, I forgot! We don't have a calendar, do we?"

'Friendship has always been the most important thing in the world to me.

And for a long time… I thought that I had no friends. I felt like nobody cared. But now I've opened my eyes. I was living in a world where everything was shrouded by a dense fog.

That fog was my blindness, my arrogance, and my selfishness.

But now I see my friends. I've got Axel… Roxas… Vanitas… that one girl… and you.

They say that we Nobodies always return to Darkness once we fade… but I believe that there are so many more possibilities. They're countless, even!

But I want you to remember, Namine`…

If I ever have to face Organization XIII again, in my life…

I will not be afraid… I will stand my ground… because I'll know that I'm not alone. I will turn to you…

When I seek my sanctuary… I will turn to you…

-Sincerely, Xathe'

Namine` gently lays the note back down on the table.

"Thank you… Xathe. I'll keep my end of the deal. I promise… we will meet again… soon."

A tear slides down her cheek as one of Xathe's precious smiles spreads across her lips.

Roxas walks steadily towards the opened memory pod. This was him… Sora.

It's time to make things right.

Yes… Roxas was very angry at the chain of events that have been taking place, lately. There just… wasn't much he could do about it though…

His fate has been decided; his destiny intertwined with Sora's.

This was his purpose… to become one with Sora again. He knew it…

"You're so lucky…" he pauses, his smile wavering to sadness. "… It looks like my summer vacation is… over…"

With that… Roxas continues his slow pace towards the giant memory pod… mere feet away from joining with the dormant Sora…

Mickey nods, "I'll keep that promise. You'll keep yours too, won't you?"

Xathe chuckles, "But of course. I promise."

Mickey holds out his pinkie and grins. Xathe smirks in response and bends down to stick his pinkie out as well.

Their two fingers interlock and they both say in sync, "Promise."

With that, Xathe gets his cold glare back onto his expression and he pulls his hood over his head.

The two new friends turn away from each other and walk away. In so, they leave behind their happy reunion to fade into the loneliness of the Badlands.

Meanwhile, a masked boy watches the scene from afar. He stands straight and strong, dressed in a black and white organic body-suit. The suit is made to look like muscle tissue and the white symbols on his chest resemble veins of ivory. A strange symbol is engraved on his mysterious face-covering helmet.

"The time is drawing near…" he whispers, his voice deep with a monotone. Though it was just a whisper… his voice carries through the empty gusts of wind.

And as fast as it seemed he had appeared… he fades away into the wind…

Xathe stands at the clock-tower of Twilight Town, a cold glare plastered to his face.

"I've gone through so much over the past year… from my awakening at Castle Oblivion… to my encounter with Xetah… to the death of that one girl… to the end of my career. So much has come and gone… so much has been achieved and rediscovered…"

Xathe pauses. The wind blows dramatically against his black cloak, making the hood and bottom of the coat float with the breeze.

"… but I don't think this is over, yet. Not by a long-shot…"

He looks up at the sunset, just one more time. A dark corridor appears around him as he prepares to disappear.

"No… this is only the beginning. Xemnas… Saix… Xigbar… pray for salvation… because a new kid is in town… and he's coming for you."

Xathe smiles deviously as the dark corridor surrounds him.

"My journey will begin anew as well… but this kid is the hope of the worlds… the Keyblade master…"

The eyes of the Keyblade master open as he is reunited with Roxas. His body now awakened and filled with the warmth of life…

Xathe smirks one last time, his body disappearing into the dark corridor.

"…Sora…"

The End

Bam!

How was that for a last Chapter?! :D

Read and review, everyone! Do you want a sequel? Do you want more answers? Tell me, yourself!

Again, I can't thank you all enough for your support! You made this thing from a little plot bunny to a complete story!

Thank you all, and Fredrick says thanks as well!

Special Thanks For Ideas/Suggestions Goes to:
Godskeybladewarrior
Diabowserker
XIIIXV
The Legendary Dragon Master
and all my friends who took the time to read and review!

Disclaimer: I do not own Kingdom Hearts or anything associated with it. Only Xathe and all the OC's in this story. Please support the original owners. Thank you.

~The Key To Darkness~