The Angel's Parlor

Believe In What You Feel Inside, And Give Your Dreams The Wings To Fly.

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1st basement floor: Castle Oblivion. Empty, Empty, so Empty

Posted by Hinata-Snow on August 21, 2013 at 9:50 PM

Xemnas stands alone at the summit of power. Jason has to defeat the most powerful Nobody alive—while at the same time dealing with the insanity Fate has dumped on him.


Author's Note: What follows may be the longest and most epic chapter I have ever written. You have been warned.


First floor: James, Nicole, and Eileen gaped at the latest development in the life of their young son/brother. Vexen scribbled in a small notebook. "The human seems to be attracting chaos into his life like metal fillings to a magnet," he noted. "I don't know why this is, but I can state that the initial anomaly was when your son met up with Number XII when she was on a mission. The odds of an event like this are 1:1,465,970,212; and yet it happened." James locked eyes with the rest of his family. "All in favor of ignoring everything that comes out of that senile old fart's mouth?" he asked. "Aye!" chirped Eileen and Nicole, along with half the Organization. "Wh-what?! I'm going to remember this!" Vexen blustered. And he would, as the Chilly Academic would later use this incident to guilt trip the Organzation into funding a private lab for him.


The Darkness, two years ago: It all began a year after Sora eliminated Xemnas. The Superior had been floating in the Darkness, wondering to himself: If a teenaged boy could defeat him, what was the point of existing, even if it was as a Nobody? But, one year to the day of his defeat, Xemnas heard a voice: "Is this it? Is this how the great Xemnas is going to be for the rest of his life? Throwing himself a pity party for all eternity? PATHETIC!" The Superior knew two things in that instant: that this mysterious voice was young, and female. "Show yourself!" Xemnas thundered in his best voice, "I, the Superior of in Between, will not let a brat stain my honor!" There was a silence as Xemnas scanned the Dark around him for the source of the voice. And then…


Out of the shadows a person began to form. What immediately struck Xemnas was that the shadows seemed to be intimately hugging every fiber of the person's being. The source of the voice revealed herself as a 22-year-old woman. She had lustrous red hair that reached a little past her shoulders. Her face was calm, serene, regal, with deep-brown eyes peering at Xemnas. Her dress spoke of money, power, and royalty. In fact, the woman's second most distinguishing smell beside Darkness was that of Munny. There was no doubting it. This woman was very powerful, and very, very evil. "I have shown myself," the redhead spoke, "Now what would you like of me?" Xemnas grasped her neck with a powerful hand. "You called me out, brat." Xemnas told the woman as she turned blue, "So tell me why you did so in what remains of your pitiful existence." In a flash the redhead escaped Xemnas's grasp, but she looked extremely impressed. "You are the Superior for a reason," the woman said, "I will give you my name as a reward." The Darkness began to swirl around her. "My name is Emi Hana, the Princess of Darkness." If the girl was expecting Xemnas to bow, she had another thing coming. Emi Hana saw the look in his eyes and pressed on.


"The reason I contacted you is because I believe you have the potential to accomplish your goals if you are given another chance. I am here to give you that second chance." Xemnas had other plans in mind. "My goal is the power in Kingdom Hearts, which is located deep inside the Darkness. And if you are truly the Princess of Darkness, you could take me there." It came as a rather unpleasant suprise when Emi broke eye contact with Xemnas, looking rather sheepish. "I am only the Princess of Darkness. One day I will ascend the throne and become Queen of Darkness. Until then I will not be able to grant such request." Xemnas was curious as to who the current Queen was, but his own ambitions came first. "What help would you be able to extend to me?" he asked. Emi Hana smiled gently, which for some reason scared Xemnas greatly. "As a Princess, I do have some powers, along with natural born powers over memory. With these two powers in my posession I can conjure you back into proper existence, either as Xehanort or the Nobody Xemnas." Xemnas liked where this was going. But this time around he needed some insurance.


"How about…"


The Castle That Never Was, two years ago: The empty rooms of the castle had a haunting quality to them. In the city that the Castle overlooked, the occasional Heartless or Dusk Nobody walked by. Disturbing the emptiness, a shade began to form on the Altar of Naught. Darkness began to fill in the shade, then color, then substance. When the process was completed, Xemnas was standing in full glory. "Thank you, Princess Emi." he said, albeit grudgingly. "I now have another opportunity to claim the power of Kingdom Hearts. But I will need my Organization back." In an onrush of Darkness, Emi materialized next to Xemnas. "You will have to take care of that yourself. But take this as my farewell gift." She waved her arm, and three black coffins appeared in front of Xemnas. With that, Emi vanished back into the Darkness. He opened the four coffins, and inside them were Roxas, Naminé and Xion. This was a pretty neat trick considering that the all three had merged with Sora and Kairi, and Xion had only been an imperfect replica.


During the following year, he regained the remaining members of Organization XIII. With a little help from a reluctant Naminé, whose memory powers had grown, Xemnas managed to convince the all thirteen members(Xion included) to work under him. Missions began soon afterward, and the now wiser Xemnas made sure said missions did not make too much of a blip, lest Sora and crew take notice. Fighting one Keyblade wielder? Easy. Fighting four of them? Even the Organization could not manage that, especially considering that Sora and his friends were familiar with how to kill Nobodies. It took a while, but the new Kingdom Hearts was well underway, and forming pretty fast. A small blip on Xemnas's radar was when number XII(Larxene) brought home a human(Jason) with her. Something more amusing was when Number XII actually fell in love when said human, but as it increased her mission productivity the Superior let it slide. Xemnas likewise disregarded the War, and the boy being hurled off the Clock Tower.


But what perked the Superior's interest was when Number XII requested use of Castle Oblivion, only a few days before the completion of Kingdom Hearts. He granted permission while keeping a secret eye, only to discover XII torturing Number VI (Zexion) while he climbed the floors with a female human in tow. Distracting Xemnas from the developing love story was the enigmatic teenaged-blonde traveling with VI, whom he could not identify. When IV(Vexen) created a Jason replica at XII's request, Xemnas stepped in. He realized that the potential behind the redheaded human was something that could be tapped and used for his own purposes. So once XII had captured VI, the female human, and the redhead, Xemnas placed him into the deepest level of Castle Oblivion and reset the boy's heart before letting the events play out. Truth be told, the Superior had never expected the boy to make it past the puppet Xion. Once he fell to her, it was a simple matter for Xemnas to bathe the boy's being in Darkness to turn him into a Nobody.


But as Jason took down one member of the Organization after another, attracted the most unlikely allies, killed Number X and XI(Luxord and Marluxia), and got ENGAGED to XII, all while allying himself with Light…Xemnas realized that to turn him into a Nobody would be a waste. If the boy's heart kept growing, then there was a possibility that he could become a Keyblade wielder. The Superior almost laughed when shortly afterwards, Sora, Kairi, Riku, Aqua, AND Ventus all appeared around the redhead. That meant that FIVE Keybladers were currently in Castle Oblivion, one of whom Xemnas had spent years searching for in this very Castle. «Fate herself wants me to claim victory.» the Superior mentally crowed. «Come, Jason. And make me the most powerful being in existence.»


First basement entrance hall: For a single tense moment no one moved. Ventus looked around during this moment, absorbing all the people packed into the entrance hall. Despite the years that had passed Ventus had not aged a day. This was because the Chamber of Waking had been sealed, and stood in direct contrast of Aqua, who had matured into an adult in the years she had spent wandering the Darkness.


"Aqua? Is that you?" Ventus gaped at his old friend. Before anyone could answer him Ventus fell on his knees, his atrophied muscles failing him. Selene and Aqua rushed to his side and healed him. "Yes, it's me." Aqua responded. "I wanted to wake you but I couldn't find my way out of the Darkness." Selene looked up to meet the blunette's eyes. "Oh, is that why you latched onto me like some kind of demented leech?" Selene stated coolly. As the two women glared at each other, they both came to the same conclusion: they absolutely hated each other.


Itzal cradled his aching head. Things had been going just fine, but now the timeline was so corrupted that the boy was surprised that space-time hadn't already collapsed. "Must you alienate everyone?" he snapped at Selene. This however did nothing to quell the full-on cat fight between the two women. Meanwhile, Ventus was trying to stand up again but the girls wouldn't let him, insisting that he needed more healing.


Ignoring this spectacle, Sora glared at Larxene. "You know," he began slowly, "I was wondering why Roxas and Naminé stopped talking to us. I should have known you were behind this!" Larxene couldn't help but feel disbelief at the completely illogical assumption. After all, she didn't have that kind of power, or even a reason. At that moment, Larxene realized that the she truly despised Sora as a person. Her past had nothing to do with it. Light began to collect at the edge of Sora's Keyblade. "I'm not going to take any chances with you…"




Larxene and Sora snapped their heads to Jason. The redhead walked between the two enemies and faced Sora. "Don't lay a finger on my fiancée." he growled fiercely. The brunet wielder looked at Larxene…then Jason…then Larxene again. "Ff-fiancée? You're getting MARRIED!" The Savage Nymph smiled at her betrothed. "As a matter of fact, I am. And here you are about to slay me without a second's thought. How could you?" She delivered her finisher with sardonic finesse: "You truly are heartless." Confusion filled Sora's face as he tried to wrap his head around the concept but failed. He staggered around for a bit before his legs failed him and the brunet just sat there, muttering incoherently.


I think we broke him," Larxene breathed out in wonder. Jason looked at her. "When we get out of this you have to tell me what the story is between you two." She winked at him. "What do you take me for?" Kairi still had her Keyblade drawn and she pointed it at the lovers. "Whatever you did to Sora, fix it!" she demanded. "Do it yourself if you care so much," the lovers responded at the same time, blushing a little when they realized as much. Kairi staggered back, suprised, but rushed to Sora's side all the same.


Xion facepalmed as she observed the scene before her. "Five floors of this…I think I liked Jason better as an enemy." she muttered. Riku raised an eyebrow. "Try twelve years with a best friend with A.D.D. At least Kairi reigned that in a little." Xion flinched a little at the mention of her Somebody's name but said "At least your best friends didn't force you to choose sides." Riku studied the dark-haired replica. "You've had a rough life. The least I can do is keep you company before you go back to Sora." Xion smiled at this and Riku couldn't help but wonder: «Its not fair that she has to give up her life again, a life that she never asked to have. But Sora needs the power she contains. There has to be a way to save them both.»


There was a reason that Jason was the leader of the ragtag group, which now consisted of 9 other people. He alone looked at the clock, which read "36hrs37mins". He alone reared his head back and yelled, EVERYONE, QUIET!!. When everyone(including Sora who had his wits back) looked at the redheaded teen he began, "Whatever issues exist, we can sort them out later." Jason pointed at the open door, from which mystic light spilled. "But if we don't beat Xemnas there won't be a later. Everyone understand?" Sora nodded appreciatively. The brunet was a veteran at saving the worlds, whereas this was the first time for Jason and he wasn't even aware of the fact. "Let's go everyone." With that Jason, Larxene, five Keyblade wielders, two half-Nobody pre-teens, and the replica Xion all went through the doors, ready the face the toughest battle of their lives.


At least until Emi Hana decided to crown herself Queen of all Darkness, but that was an entirely different story that would not happen for several more years.


Brief interlude into the future: a seventeen-year-old Selene snapped the journal shut for a brief moment while she considered why she didn't remember these adventures until just now. It had something to do with Naminé, of course. But did Selene herself request the memory wipe so that the timeline could remain stable? She sighed and looked into a nearby mirror. Every year she grew to resemble her mother more and more. The only thing to distinguish her physically were the streaks of red in her blond hair, and maybe a few facial differences. Personality wise, Selene was best known for simply being Selene. But she still felt the itching need to carve her own life path, away from her parents's fame.


Which was why the red-blonde girl was currently living in an apartment complex in Radiant Garden instead of in her home in Twilight Town. "It's too soon for you to be leaving home again, never mind the planet! By yourself to boot. At least with Brinax you had Itzal and Kenta with you, and look how that turned out!" "Hush Jason. If you really have to do this I won't stop you. But be careful that you don't become someone you can't recognize." Her parents's parting words, particularly her mother's, chilled Selene to the bone.


Not that she was living alone. In fact, she had a roommate who paid half the expenses. He was a person who owed Selene his life, so he was more than glad to pay his half. In fact, Selene's roommate would have payed for everything if she didn't insist on shouldering her half of the burden. Selene tucked a strand of bright red hair behind her ear as she reopened the journal. It would be a while before her roommate got home.


Castle Oblivion: "Haha. Hahaha. Hahahahahahahaha!!!" The chilling evil laugh did not fail to disturb a single one of the warriors. Xemnas, the source of the evil laughter, ported in front of the group. Everyone instantly drew their weapons. "Tt-Terra? Is that you?" Aqua and Ventus asked simultaneously. Like Aqua, Terra's body had matured in the intervening years since the friends last met. But sadly, the person known as Terra no longer tried to retake his body and was most likely dead. "I wish I could say yes…but my name is Xemnas, and my goal is to stop him." All eyes were on Jason, and the Keybladers were wondering what was so special about the knife-wielding redhead. "I admit, I did not expect you to defeat my entire Organization," the Superior continued, causing the Wielders's jaws to drop, "But you could not have done it without the help of traitors and your friends." He peered at the disguised Selene and Itzal. "Who are you two anyway?"


The two time-travelling pre-teens looked at each other nervously. How much damage could their names cause? Come to think about it this kind of thing could not be avoided, so they could simply rely on Naminé to stabilize the timeline. "My name is Itzal," the blue-haired teen began. Selene looked at her childhood friend briefly for reassurance before saying, "My name is Selene. We two are orphans that happened upon this Castle and decided to lend a hand." Jason was smart enough to realize that this was but a cover story. The name Selene, though. It sounded familiar…he looked at looked at his fiancée who appeared to be having the same feeling. They could not figure out who the brunet girl was or why her name sounded familiar.


Sora, Riku, and Kairi attempted to slay Xemmas on the spot, only to phase right through him. "Not so fast, impatient little brats," the Superior growled. "My score is with the redhead. Though it doesn't matter how many of you show up…you'll still lose." The apparition vanished. Aqua and Ventus felt despair deep in their hearts. It truly seemed like every last trace Terra was gone. "Don't worry," the two Masters looked at Riku, who had just spoken. "I met Terra…he's still in there. Trust me when I tell you we can defeat Xemnas without endangering Terra." They smiled. "Everyone…lend me your strength." The group didn't even wait a second before agreeing to Jason's request.


Brief interlude into the future: In all legends there were unsung heroes. In the case of Chains of Affection, the unsung hero was someone, or some Nobody, that kept the time-space from collapsing under the weight of various time paradoxes. Well, maybe not completely unsung.


Naminé the Temporal Temptress was the most famous artist among the worlds, almost more famous than her husband Roxas. Despite the fact that she found her title embarrassing, it was well earned. The Temptress half of her title was attributed to the killer figure she matured into, similar to the one of her former Somebody Kairi but more suited to her smaller frame.


The Temporal half of Naminé's title was due to the underlying theme of spiritual awareness and the mysteries of time that existed in her body of work. This consisted of 159 paintings of various kinds, twenty counseling books on themes ranging from dealing with depression to navigating rough marital waters, 221 carefully taken pictures of nature, murals that existed on each of the worlds, 10 sculptures that Naminé created out of boredom, 53 books Naminé did not write but illustrated, a line of clothing revolving around the four seasons, 300 sketches of ordinary objects that somehow seemed mysterious, and five music albums. Three of these albums were of an orchestra playing music that Naminé herself composed, one of them was a romantic album that consisted of Naminé playing a violin while singing lyrics she wrote, and her last album a satirical commentary with music and lyrics by Demyx, who played his sitar on the album as well. To be fair, Demyx, his sitar Arpeggio, and his backing band The Heart Droplets were the most famous entities in the music industry, and as a fellow artist Naminé did not encroach upon his territory. Nor did Naminé have the musical talent to measure up to the Melodious Nocturne.


But Naminé's greatest accomplishment i.e. preventing time-space from collapsing, was known by no one besides herself. Not a soul. This was because no one knew any better. Twenty years ago, after the events at Castle Oblivion ended, the memory witch realized that far too many questions were being asked about Selene and Itzal. So Naminé slowly removed almost every trace of the two children from everyone's memory. As far as everyone was concerned, Selene and Itzal never existed back then. They were born, they grew up, and they most certainly never went back in time. It worked like a charm, though Naminé doctored the journals so that Selene and Itzal could reflect on their actions when they were mature enough not to repeat them.


Well, it almost worked. A single Keyblader broke the memory spell and chased Selene right into the future, er, present. Thankfully, this caused no problems so Naminé left it alone. After all, Selene needed more friends besides Itzal and it wasn't as if a war could erupt between Itzal and Selene's roommate like the war between Axel and Jason. Itzal was better than that, and Selene could squash any smolders because she didn't want to repeat her parents's mistakes. Right? Right?


It was amazing how wrong Naminé was.


The Haunt of Darkness: Each of Castle Oblivion's rooms had a well-fitting name. This room was stuffed to bursting with Neoshadows. "Not these things again," Sora groaned as he fought with the spindly heartless. Faring the worst against these creatures were Jason and Kairi, and doing the best against them were Aqua and Ventus.


The group of ten had split up into smaller groups based on bonds. Sora-Kairi-Riku made up one group, Jason-Larxene-Xion made up another, the Itzal-Selene duo made up a third group, and Ventus-Aqua duo made up the last group.


Jason kept an eye on everyone and issued the occasional order. But for the most he found himself unable to handle the Neoshadows by himself and was forced to rely on back-up from Xion. Larxene kept most of the Heartless away from the two and enjoyed sporadic support from her betrothed. At one point Xion saw the lovers being overtaken by Neoshadows. "Jason! Larxene!" she exclaimed. A Neoshadow swatted the replica away while she wasn't paying attention.


"Come here often?" Riku asked Xion as she collided with him. She smiled shyly before diving back into the fray. Riku glanced at Sora to see him drowning in Neoshadows. "Crap! Dark Firaga!" he exclaimed as he blasted the Heartless off of Sora. "Thanks, Riku!" The silver-haired boy looked around and became alarmed when he could not find Kairi. "She's at your 10 o' clock!" Riku acknowledged Jason's order only to find that Sora was already exterminating every Neoshadow within five feet of the wounded redheaded girl. When Sora was finished he tenderly healed her wounds. "Hmm…about time," Riku mused as he used Dark Aura to kill the Heartless close to him.


Meanwhile, Selene and Itzal were back to back, making sure the Neoshadows didn't get too close. Itzal's arms were blurs of silver as he wielded his Bo Staff with savage abandon. Selene cursed the slivers of steel that were her current weapons. Ok, attaching knives to her arms and legs seemed like a good idea at the time. But to be fair, the journal said that Selene had never been in the Castle. She frowned. At least that's how she read it. «Ahh. Naminé doctored the journals to keep the timeline safe. The longer I'm in the past the more I owe Naminé. Hopefully dad wraps this up before I'm indebted to her for life.» She noticed a crisis out of the corner of her eye. "Gahh. Can't he look after himself?" Selene groaned as she sent a Thundagun spell.


Aqua and Ventus slew the Neoshadows around them without too much effort. Luckily, the Unversed that the two were used to fighting were similar to these new Heartless…not that they knew what Heartless were. "Aqua, behind you!" The blunette heeded the warning and killed a Heartless that was sneaking up behind her. "Thanks Ventus…Ventus!" The boy's muscles weren't fully restored, and had chosen now to fail him. A swarm of Neoshadows converged on him. Aqua hurled her Keyblade at the swarm only for it to be batted away. «I'm not going to make it!» A bolt of lighting came out of nowhere and blasted the Neoshadows from existence. Aqua and Ventus looked for the source of the attack to find remnants of the spell dancing on Selene's fingers. "Try to pay more attention, Sleepyhead." Ventus flushed while Aqua became red with rage.


Itzal facepalmed. "Selene, I'm getting you grounded when we go back home. For your own good." As a direct result of this, Selene would spend two months trapped at home cursing Itzal and Axel. Often in the same breath.


Finally, the room was empty of all enemies. Without so much of a thought, all ten warriors passed out for a while.


Brief interlude into the future: No regrets. He had been taught this since he was a small boy. If you made a mistake or accomplished greatness, you recognized the fact but did not dwell on it too long. The twenty-two-year-old Itzal went over this life lesson. It served him greatly during this war, enabling the man to keep the situation in perspective. «I'm about to fight to the death…with someone I never wanted to fight at all.» Itzal studied this statement and found he didn't care. What would happen would happen.


His parents warned him that Selene may drag him into a situation from which he couldn't leave. And they were right. Zexion in particular had told Itzal time and time again to watch out for himself. No regrets. Itzal became friends with the girl, and did not regret a minute of it. «If anything, this is all his fault. He declared war on me. I had to defend myself.» No regrets.


Itzal was walking through the streets of Twilight Town. His opponent awaited him on Sunset hill. When he got there a familiar shape awaited. "I…really did not want it to come to this." his opponent told him. "Are you giving up on her, then?" Itzal asked him. The man's face hardened with resolve. "Never." Itzal extended his Bo Staff. "Then will you kindly fuck off?" The swear was unnatural from Itzal's mouth but he didn't care. As the two locked in mortal combat a single thought prevailed: «No regrets.»


Corridors of Strife: After the group woke up from their nap, the found that the clock now read, "32hrs15mins". They did not bother wondering why Xemnas didn't eliminate them in their sleep. Instead, they advanced relentlessly through Castle Oblivion, until they came across a curious maze that was built while they were napping. The ten warriors were once again split up.


"Of all the people I had to end up with you," Larxene grumbled as she attempted to navigate the maze. Sora scowled. "I'm not too happy about this myself." An akward silence settled over them, and Sora found himself itching to give the Savage Nymph a second chance. Hey, if Maleficent could change…"You're betraying the Organization again?" Larxene breathed through her nostrils. She could recognize when she was being thrown a bone and couldn't help but feel irritated. "What you must understand is that the world isn't as simple as you think. I stopped caring about Light and Dark long ago and I didn't expect to find you still stuck on it." Sora gave her a look that said, "At least don't make this harder than it needs to be." Out loud, he asked, "What happened? I never expected to leave Destiny Islands again. I never expected to see you again, or to find out you had fallen in love…" Larxene snorted. "That's a rather arrogant and heartless way of thinking," she pointed out. "Just because you're Light you feel you can judge people. I bet it never occurred to you that there could be someone who would love me as I am…" Larxene shut up when she realized she said too much. A grin slowly stretched across Sora's face. "Haha, really? That's amazing!" The sincerity of his statement grated against her nerves. «This is going to a long maze.»


Kairi and Jason chatted amicably as they neared the exit. The two had no real issues with each other, so made an effort to get to know each other. "I swear it's true. Saïx threw me into a giant space whale named Monstro. I wandered around for a good while before Larxene came to get me, and when we got back to the Castle she threw me into the shower." Kairi giggled a bit before turning serious. "You really do love her." Jason managed not to blush. "A lot of people are wondering what I see in her." Kairi patted the fellow rehead on the shoulder. "But what other people think doesn't matter. Only what you feel about her." Jason smiled. "I…I hated her before, you know? But as Larxene and I grew to understand each other, I managed to to look under her cold shell to find someone warm, and witty. Once you earn her loyalty and respect she isn't that bad. And she isn't afraid to stick her own neck out for you. Or have an open ear and some good advice after a bad day." Kairi felt her heart warm as Jason reflected on his feelings. Maybe her relationship with Sora was different than Jason's relationship with Larxene. But did that really matter? So long as they never broke Sora like that ever again. If they did that, Kairi would wipe them both out.


Still somewhere in the middle of the maze were Riku and Xion. "I don't even know how is it I'm alive again. I don't think it's fair that I have to go back to Sora just when I'm getting used to life again, even if I know it's right. Am I being selfish?" Riku thought about it briefly before saying "Quite honestly, yes. But who am I to talk? I sacrificed my home for power." Xion looked up at the silver-haired teen. "But surely you've made up for what you've done? Axel and Roxas made it up to me after the war against Jason ended." There was that name again. Jason had caused quite a lot of trouble in the Organization. But what stuck in Riku's mind was that fact Xion wasn't being judgemental about his past. If only there was a way to keep Xion around while restoring to Sora his powers contained in her. "You three must have been really close friends for you to forgive them so easy." The dark-haired replica sighed contendly. "Almost every evening after work we would eat ice cream and just chat about our day." Riku chuckled. That sounded a lot like his childhood with Sora and Kairi. "Let me guess…Roxas can be clueless about the bigger picture sometimes."


Selene was a lot of things. But heartless was not one of them. She could tell that something was bugging Aqua, something that was causing the blunette lash out on the thirteen-year-old girl. "If you don't mind," Selene interrupted Aqua in the middle of a tirade, "and tell me what's really wrong. How close are you to Ventus?" Aqua's voice died out from suprise. Mostly from the fact that Selene used Ventus's name for the first time. A bittersweet look crossed the Keyblader's face. "Terra and I always treated Ventus like a little brother. Now we both look old enough to be his parents and he hasn't aged a day." Selene decided on the tongue-in-cheek approach: "Well, you certainly look old enough to be my mother. It doesn't sound like much has really changed. When—what's his name?—Riku extracts Terra from Xemnas, I'll bet that things between you three will go back to normal." Aqua felt a little embarrassed to be told this by a pre-teen. Nevertheless…Aqua stuck her hand out. "I don't think we've actually met. I'm Aqua." Selene smirked wryly. "My name is Selene, and I'm sorry I usurped waking your childhood friend." The two enemies now grudgingly respected each other, and in time would become good friends.


Bringing up the rear was Itzal and Ventus. The two boys hadn't even made eye contact, never mind talk. Mostly because Itzal was trying his utmost not to corrupt the timeline anymore than what it already was. Finally, Ventus asked, "Who's that girl? She saved my life earlier." Itzal stubbornly kept quiet. The Keyblader persisted. "I've never seen anyone like her. Those red streaks…and for someone so young to be able to fight so well." At this point the blue-haired boy could no longer keep quiet. The disguises obviously did not work on Ventus and Aqua. "Her name is Selene. She's my childhood friend." Itzal stated, "I met her when I was young." Ventus gave in to the urge to ruffle the twelve-year-old's head. "You're still young, you'll have years with her. I just woke up after sleeping for many years. When I saw my friends for the first time I found out that they grew up without me." Itzal took pity on the teenaged-boy. "Do not concern yourself. No regrets." Ventus looked confused. "It is something my father taught me. If your friends move on without you, cherish the memories but move on yourself. If you live life without regrets, new possibilities will always rise up to meet you." Ventus took these words to heart as they finally came upon the exit.


Brief interlude into the future: The hospital waiting room was mostly empty. Sitting in a chair was a twenty-three-year-old woman that had the look of someone who had not slept well for several days. Her strawberry-blonde hair was a scraggly mess, her face had the splotchy-swollen look of someone who had been crying. Bags under mossy blue-green eyes attested to the lack of sleep. The woman's clothes, a bright-yellow sundress from Naminé's summer collection, was badly wrinkled and looked slept in(as it were). A doctor strode up to the woman to deliver some very important news. "They've both been stabilized. They're going to be ok."


Selene smiled. "Oh thank Kingdom Hearts. And thank you, Kairi. For taking care of them." Kairi looked exhausted. "They're not out of the woods yet. You're lucky we were able to bring them to Destiny Islands, this hospital is the only one that's able to deal with damage so severe. Not even Curagun spells would have reached the deepest levels of damage." The tired and defeated look belied the embers that still burned in Selene, who responded with, "And the fact that you founded this hospital has nothing to do with it. If you insist on being modest you'll just get buried by those with bigger egos." Kairi was not in the mood. "You mean like you?" The redhead backtracked. "I'm sorry. But this war has scarred us all. I can't imagine how you're feeling right now." Kairi spared a glance at her wristwatch. "I have to go check their vitals." She strode off into the hallway.


Selene clenched her fists, her nails digging into her palms hard enough to draw blood. "I'm sorry Itzal," she muttered, "I'm sorry Ventus. We all laughed at my parents, and Axel. "'We'd never repeat their stupid war.' we said. The three of us would strike our own path away from our parents's mistakes." A single tear slid down Selene's face. "Can you recognize yourself?" Selene started. That tone…only one person spoke in such a cold, amused way. Standing in the hallway was Larxene. The strawberry-blonde sank her head in shame. "No, mom. I look myself in the mirror and I see a complete stranger." Larxene walked into the waiting room and seated herself next to daughter. She put her arm around the strawberry blonde and squeezed.


"I warned you to make sure never to become some you couldn't recognize. I'm disappointed in you, little one." Larxene admonished. "You tried so hard to not be like me that you forgot yourself anyway. Didn't you think to call your mom and dad when you saw the signs?" Selene dipped her head lower. "All friends fight. I thought they would get over it." Larxene decided on clemency at this point. Her daughter didn't need any more remorse. "And let me guess. When you did begin to have suspicions, the boys were all buddy buddy again." Selene nodded miserably. "Men do the stupidest things. When I caught Axel and your father trying to kill each other, they stopped. And then made sure they couldn't get caught when they next tried to kill each other." The strawberry-blonde rolled her eyes. "That's pretty much what Itzal and Ventus did." Larxene stood up and walked away. But as she did, she gave her daughter a final piece of advice: "The day those two are discharged from the hospital, do yourself a favor and send them right back in here. Otherwise they will never learn." For the first time a small grin cracked Selene's face. Her mom always knew just what to say.


The Chamber of Empty Souls: "28hrs57mins" the clock read as Jason and his group entered the room. The redhead frowned. "Time has been vanishing in chunks…thank Light we're almost out of here." The door rippled slightly, then vansished. As the group looked around they realized that there was no way out. Suddenly, they heard evil laughter. Xemnas ported into the room. Larxene frowned as something occurred to her. "I've been with Jason long enough for a phantom heart to exist in me. So why is it you're all evil laughs lately?" Xemnas grinned. "Thanks to a comrade of mine, I have Terra's heart in me." He basked in at the shocked look on everyone's faces. "Soon, Kingdom Hearts will be complete and I will absorb all the power for myself! But I needed to make sure I would not be disturbed while doing so. That's why I made sure to have this entire Organization in this Castle, along with the Keybladers. Thanks to you, Jason, I may do this." He waved his arm at the clock on the wall. Everyone peered at it, not knowing what to expect. Jason understood first because the clock had been haunting him since the very beginning. The clock now read, "26hr32mins" Except…


"For every second a minute passes, and for every minute an hour passes," Jason whispered into the silent room. His voice rose as he realized, "Somehow Xemnas is affecting the flow of time in this Castle!" Xemnas clapped slowly, mockingly. "That is correct. In fact I can use to powers of every member in my Organization. After that timer reaches 00hrs00mins, Kingdom Hearts will be complete. And right now I'm the only person that can port out of this Castle. Once I do, this place will collapse into Nothingness…with all of you still in it."


to be continued…


A/N: It's a cliffhanger, I know. But this chapter is long enough as it is. Two chapters left, epilogue included! Next chapter Jason and Co. need to defeat Xemnas…but what does he have up his sleeve?

Categories: Chains of Affection

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