It took a lot for the Keybearer to actually feel exhausted. He'd caught up on that year he'd spent dozing off on the beach waiting for some kind of interesting occurrence, so now it came down to lots of battles and lots of running.
And, to put it mildly, Sora was pooped.
Although, the past week he'd been feeling a little lethargic for reasons he couldn't explain. The Keyblade felt heavier in his hand than it used to, and he wasn't sure why. 'Course the exhaustion could date back that far pretty easily; with the Heartless amassing so thickly of late, new techniques had to be learnt. Heartless surfing would almost be a new hobby if not for them nipping at his ankles if he did it for too long.
So he, Donald and Goofy had decided to take a pit stop, and Sora had left the two bickering somewhere in the marketplace to go for a walk. Donald was yapping on about how the item prices were ridiculous while Goofy kept trying to suggest other alternatives in the hope of getting the duck to agree. So far, no such luck.
He'd ended up strolling out to the reconstructed bailey, relishing the feel of the cool wind on his cheeks as he stretched, looking out over the edge. It was a fine day, the temperature balmy, and he was looking forward to resting up and talking with the Restoration gang.
It took him a few moments before he realized he wasn't alone. Someone from inside the Bailey was glaring at him; he could feel the heat of their gaze on his back even without turning around.
He knew that voice.
He instantly whirled around, a half-swallow becoming stuck in his throat the moment he saw the spiky mess of blonde hair.
"Rox-" he started, before he was rushed, heart and head, by the feelings and emotions the Nobody had given him in the dream realm- all the sadness, the lonely days and the feeling of being lost, the misery…
But somehow, namely, that feeling of dark, raw hate, that he kept well contained in the pits of his heart. All of it, rushing out at once, and all directed at the blonde glaring angrily at him.
Their keyblades were in their hands almost at the same time, and in an instant the sound of steel against steel was ringing throughout the bailey, as the brunette forced the blonde back further into the structure, out higher into the open areas.
His mind was trying to tell him something- don't care- something important. Something he was missing. But it doesn't matter.
The blonde seemed slower than usual- his problem- like he hadn't been fighting in a while. He struggled to block the ferocious blows coming from the brunette, easily being forced backward, though sometimes his rebuttals were enough to knock him back.
A sudden combo from the brunette Keyblade wielder had the blonde struggling to block a blade almost in contact with his face, the edges of the weapon dangerously close.
Sora saw the movement but didn't react fast enough; in a sudden gust of magic energy he was thrown back and blinded by light. He only just managed to defend against the blonde's follow up onslaught.
He wasn't in a state to be doing this, but if the blonde had been fighting the way he'd been when they'd clashed at Memory's Skyscraper he would've gone down in the first few minutes. Something was- it doesn't matter! Who cares if he's gotten lax?!
Sora grinded his teeth, pushing up against the block before side-stepping quickly and launching into a combo, forcing the blonde right up the stairs and into the open air.
The blonde was getting desperate, his moves wider and more obvious and far easier to block than they should be- ignore it.
Or maybe it was a ploy?
The thought struck him at the worst possible moment, giving the blonde the perfect opportunity. He was directly in position to be forced into a lengthy combo streak, and that was exactly what the blonde had intended, not skipping a beat as he began to strike hard and fast with the greenish-brown keyblade.
He was taking the upper hand as quickly and as fast as he could, as though he knew the brunette was more than capable of recuperating if he wasn't fast enough. He was quickly being forced back down into the bailey, and even if falling down those stairs wasn't damaging enough, it'd give the blonde the ultimate upper hand.
He needed to do something. He needed a way to get out of this combo, now.
He'd seen it done a million times. Waiting until the last strike of a combo and using the reprieve to slip behind and strike hard in the back. He just needed the opening…
One moment the brunette was stuck in the blonde's combo, and the next moment, before the blonde had remembered enough to react, he was behind him striking fast enough to send the blonde flying into the side wall of the bailey, stunning him.
He walked over to the now-injured blonde, the thick and blinding anger still swirling in his mind. He placed the keyblade next to the blonde's neck, tilting his head up to face him. The blonde's blue eyes were full of the same seething anger, the same glare he had been giving him earlier.
"My win" said Sora shortly, dropping the keyblade back down, and the blonde stared for a few moments, his face instantly dissolving into shock.
"You're not going to kill me?" he asked incredulously.
Sora blinked, and the question somehow instantly dismissed the dark cloud that had been filling his head through the battle. "Kill you? What the heck are you talking about, Rox-"
"Ventus! Are you around here?!"
Sora turned, recognizing the voice- Riku's- as the silver-haired male came tearing up the bailey stairs, his shoulders instantly sagging the moment he saw the two of them.
"Oh man, I knew it" he said, shaking his head. "The three seconds I leave him alone and he ends up going head to head with Sora."
"Sora?!" spluttered the blonde, looking up at the brunette, before pointing at him. "You're telling me he's Sora? The Sora? Sora, Sora?!"
"Who did you think I was?!" Sora asked, putting his hands on his hips. "And who's Ventus?"
"That's Ventus" said Riku, indicating to the blonde with his thumb. "I thought you'd think he was Roxas so I wanted to be there to…mediate…your meeting. Yeah, I know, the resemblance is weird, but he's definitely not Roxas."
Ventus shakily stood up, rubbing his hair. "I should've realized that he was using the keyblade wrong…" he muttered, as Sora realized the same thing. Heck, Ventus wielded it back-handed! And he only had one Keyblade!
Sora facepalmed, hard.
"Sorry about that, Ven" he murmured, before recognizing the name. Ven. Ventus.
He was the other boy. The one who had been sleeping inside his heart.
"How…" he suddenly said, looking at Riku, and the silver-haired teen smiled.
"We found the chamber in Castle Oblivion, and I woke him up the same way I did with you. Can't say I was entirely ok with his appearance…but I got over it eventually."
Ventus was looking worried, his jaw clenched while he bit his lip.
"Are you alright?" Riku asked, looking at him. "It looks like Sora gave you a pretty bad beating…"
"Yeah…it's just…you're sure he's Sora?" he said, glancing over at the brunette.
"Yeah. Known the bozo my whole life" said Riku, folding his arms.
He still didn't look entirely convinced, and a shout from down outside the bailey caught Riku's attention.
"Oh, damn. You two, don't kill each other for five seconds" he said, dashing back down the stairs. Ventus watch him leave, waiting until he was entirely out of earshot, before spinning back on his heel, storming over and grabbing Sora's collar.
"I know you're in there" he hissed, looking him right in the eyes. "That move you pulled to get out of the combo, I'd know it anywhere."
"I have no idea what you're talking about" said Sora, grabbing the blonde's wrist and trying to pull him off. "And I don't like being manhandled."
Ventus sneered. "After all I did to get rid of you, you're still clinging on like the friendless lech you are."
Sora's jaw clenched, anger flashing in his blue eyes as he gripped the blonde's wrist tighter, the anger and hate from earlier flaring back up.
"Who are you calling a friendless lech?" he hissed, his tone darker than usual. "From what I've heard nobody you knew is still around…at least not in any way you'd call 'friend'."
"Knew it. You don't fool me, Vanitas" he retorted, and the brunette froze, instantly letting go of the blonde's wrist and swallowing hard.
"I don't know who that is, but I'm not him" said Sora, his insides churning. Something about this blonde gave rise to the purest, most unrestrained form of hate he had in him, that he didn't even realize he was capable of. The senseless jabs and the hateful eyes just made it worse, and if he was honest he wanted to get away from the boy as quickly as he could.
The blonde snorted, his eyes cold. "You might fool everyone else. You might even have Sora fooled, I don't know" he said, anger lacing his tone. "But I know how you move, I know how you speak, I know how you look. A few tone changes and a higher octave won't disguise you. I know you for who and what you were now, and I can see you as clear as day, like some kind of relentless parasite."
Sora kept his hand at his side, but it clenched tightly, his hand curling into a fist as he willed himself not to just hit the guy. He was beginning to really push his luck.
"And if it comes down to it, I'll do everything it takes to see you destroyed for good this time."
He bit back a retort. Because the retort didn't feel like his own words. They weren't his own words. Just like the thoughts from earlier- the ones telling him to ignore the fact this wasn't Roxas- weren't. What did Ventus see in him that no one else could, not even himself?
"Well, you're not killing each other" said a voice with a sigh, two strong arms pushing them away from each other. Riku was back, looking a little peeved with the two of them.
"Honestly, with the stories I've heard, you'd think you two would be getting along better."
"I get along fine with Sora" said Ventus, his voice completely devoid of deceit. No, he was being honest there. The emphasis was on the Sora.
"Well, good. Mickey said it might be a good idea if you two trave-"
"He's not coming anywhere near the gummi ship, me, or my friends" Sora said, his tone dripping with vehemence that took Riku by surprise.
"How is it that you're the one causing conflict?" he asked, looking confused, and Sora frowned.
"I'm not. It's this idiot" he said, indicating to Ventus. "And I don't want him around. I have Donald and Goofy, I'm set. They're probably looking for me by now."
"He really does grind your gears…" said Riku, muttering awkwardly.
"Oh yeah. I'm sure I grind his gears all the way to the void and back. You could call them Void Gears, almost" Ventus hissed, and Sora looked about ready to punch him.
"I'm done here" he said shortly, turning on his heel and heading toward the stairs.
Riku stared at the retreating figure of his friend, mildly stunned.
"You actually managed to piss Sora off. I don't know how you did it, but don't go spreading the information around or it could get into the wrong hands."
"I don't think Sora's the one I pissed off" Ventus muttered, before they both headed back down the bailey.
And despite his attempts to ignore it as he walked through the streets of Radiant Garden, Sora knew that this was not going to end here. Ventus wouldn't be satisfied until he knew whoever he was after was gone; and as far as Sora could tell, that goal could very well end with him gone, too.
He wasn't about to let him do that.
Not this time, Ventus.
A/N: I actually do have a minor continuation to this but I wasn't planning on posting it- the order is quite jumbled for this story and I feel it'll get confusing fast (it's headcanon KH. What do you expect?) If it does generate enough interest (i.e favs/reviews) I'll post the next part and hope for the best ^^;