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Chapter 2

"They'll come at you out of nowhere," a male voice called as she left the shop, and Kairi spun to face him.

"Who are you?" she demanded warily.

"And they'll keep on coming at you, as long as you continue to wield the Keyblade." He pointed at the Keyblade with a gloved hand, blue eyes boring into her through long dark hair. She could see a large scar above his nose as well. He was dressed in leather with way more belts than anyone needed, a lion necklace swinging against his chest. "But why? Why would it choose a kid like you?" he put a hand his forehead.

"What's that supposed to mean?" one hand moved to her hip as she glared. So what if she didn't look as dangerous as Riku and wasn't as fast as Sora.

"Never mind. Now, let's see that Keyblade," he said, walking towards her, reaching for it.

"What? There's no way you're getting this!" She moved into a defensive stance she'd seen Sora use many times, figuring she was better off mimicking him than Riku since their older friend was taller and stronger than them both.

"All right, then have it your way," he shrugged slightly, swinging a weapon unlike anything she'd ever seen before over his shoulder before holding it firmly in his strong hands. He summoned a Fire ball somehow and shot it at her, making her scramble to dodge, launching herself at him.

She got in a few hits with the Keyblade before taking a large hit from him, knocking her backward. She ran further away, but the man leapt over and cornered her. The man shot another Fire spell at her, which Kairi blocked, sending it flying back at the man, her arms trembling. She grimaced as he dodged and leapt at her again, blow after blow raining down on her, her arms were shaking as she was driven back until he launched another fire ball at her, she blocked but was knocked back, feeling a brief pain before everything went black.

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"Hey, you found it. Nice going, Leon," Yuffie called out as she walked towards him, hands on her hips as she grinned.

"Still... It looks like things are worse than we thought. A lot worse," he told her, looking back to the unconscious girl, and the Keyblade in her hands. He'd never imagined it would look so…delicate. It was silvery, flowing elegantly, almost like water, dark green spirally around it almost like vines. He leant down and picked the girl up, she weighed so little, how old was she? Too young for what was coming.

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Riku followed Maleficent through the castle, he hated leaving Sora alone in the room, but how could he saw no when she was giving them shelter? What if Sora woke up alone? He'd be so confused, scared; he could easily get lost if he left their room.

"If you are to find your friend and travel the Worlds, then you have much to learn first Riku. Travel is dangerous if you are not prepared."

"How do I do that?" he asked her.

"Do you have experience with a weapon?" she stroked the strange glowing orb on top of her staff.

"We've trained with wooden swords for years, ma'am," he answered.

"Very good," she waved her hand, and Riku barely kept from jumping as green flames erupted between them, solidifying into…a weapon?

He slowly reached for it, feeling drawn to the blade. It was a sword, with a red, purple and blue blade shaped like a demonic wing. There was what looked like a blue eye in the handle, and the handle itself consisted of dark braids. His hand closed around it and he wavered on his feet, appearing to almost be in a trance as he stared at the blade, not seeing her pleased smirk as the Darkness within him increased.

Riku blinked and shook his head, carefully moving into a defensive stance with the weapon to get used to how it moved. It felt…like almost an extension of him.

"Very good, Soul Eater will serve you well."

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"Come on, lazy bones. Wake up," an unfamiliar voice called, and Kairi opened her eyes to find another girl leaning over her. "You okay?"

"I guess..." she sat up shakily.

"Those creatures that attacked you are after the Keyblade. But it's your heart they really want, because you wield the Keyblade."

"I'm sorry, what? And who are you?"

"I'm the great ninja Yuffie," the older teen grinned and struck a pose.

"Okay?"

"I think you might've overdone it, Squall," Yuffie called towards the door, and Kairi tensed as the man who attacked her walked into the room.

"That's Leon," he corrected, arms crossed.

Kairi spotted the Keyblade leaning casually against the wall nearby and eyed the distance.

"Sorry, we had to get it away from you to shake off those creatures. It turns out that's how they were tracking you," the ninja-girl explained, and Kairi hesitated in going to reach for it.

"It was the only way to conceal your heart from them. But it won't work for long," Leon warned, before snorting in disbelief. "Still hard to believe that you of all people are the chosen one." He picked up the Keyblade and swung it in the air. It flashed out of

his hand and back into Kairi's, much to her relief, especially when he moved closer. "Well, I suppose beggars can't be choosers."

"Would someone please tell me what's going on?" she demanded.

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Riku stumbled into the bedroom, utterly exhausted and yet feeling exilerated too. He walked to the bed to find Sora had shifted in his sleep, curling up on his side. Riku reached out to brush wild spikes back from Sora's face. "I'll keep you safe, I promise."

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"So, you were looking for me?" Kairi asked the two who had literally dropped in on her right before the fight had started. She was exhausted but unwilling to show it.

They nodded in unison. "Uh-huh!"

"They, too, have been seeking the wielder of the Keyblade," Leon told her from where he was leaning against the wall, Yuffie nodding along.

"Hey, why don't you come with us? We can go to other worlds on our vessel," the taller one offered.

"I wonder if I could find Sora and Riku..." she murmured.

"Of course," the shorted one answered, and she looked up at them hopefully. They whispered between themselves for a moment before Leon stepped forward.

"Kairi, go with them. Especially if you want to find your friends."

"I guess…"

"But you can't come along looking like that. Understand?" the short one wagged a finger at her. "No frowning. No sad face. Okay?"

"Yeah, ya gotta look funny, like us!"

"This boat runs on happy faces."

"Happy?" she stared at them, were they for real? They smiled and nodded and she felt like rolling her eyes at them. Her home was gone and she'd lost her closest friends, she really had a lot to be smiling about. In the end, she shook her head but smiled widely at them, she'd just have to channel her inner Sora for a while. "Okay, why not? I'll go with you guys." If Sora and Riku weren't in Traverse Town then they had to be in another World, right?

"Donald Duck."

"Name's Goofy."

They each held a hand out to her so she returned the gesture.

"I'm Kairi."

"All for one, one for all," Goofy grinned.

It hurt, how much they reminded her of Sora's silliness.

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"That little brat took down that Heartless! Who'd have thought it?" Hades shook his head as they watched the image. That girl was tiny!

"Such is the power of the Keyblade. The child's strength is not her own. And she was definitely struggling even with the blades help. She should be a relatively easy foe so long as she is dealt with swiftly," Jafar shrugged.

The large woman next to him gazed down cunningly at the image, water dripping off her many appendages. "Why don't we turn her into a Heartless?" Ursula cackled loudly.

"That'll settle things quick enough," Oogie Boogie agreed.

"And the brat's friends are the king's lackeys. Swoggle me eyes, they're all bilge rats by the look of them," Hook sneered.

"You're no prize yourself," Oogie laughed at him, and Hook brandished his hook at him.

"Shut up!"

"Enough," she didn't have to shout to get their attention as she walked towards them, staring at the image. None but Hades would dare to cross her and so they fell silent, waiting. "The Keyblade has chosen her. Will it be she who conquers the Darkness? Or will the Darkness swallow her? Either way, she could be quite useful," Maleficent smiled darkly.

So, this was the girl that completed the little trio of friends. She could work with this.

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"Who are you?" the girl locked in the cage asked.

"I'm Kairi," she smiled at her even as she examined the cage, it was locked.

"I'm Goofy, and that there's Donald."

"Pleased to meet you, though I do wish it were under better circumstances. I'm Alice and I'm sorry you got mixed up in this nonsense."

"Why are you on trial in the first place?" Kairi asked, confused by what they had heard.

"I should like to know the very same thing! Apparently I was guilty from the moment I took the stand!" she huffed.

"That's crazy!" then again that Queen seemed pretty crazy herself so was it that surprising? "So, where are you from?" Kairi asked, keeping an eye on the guards…who looked like weird playing cards of some kind. Were all the Worlds going to be so different to home?

"Hmm, curious. I can't quite remember. You see, I found this mysterious rabbit hole. When I tried to peek inside, I tumbled in head over heels... And I found myself here," Alice explained.

"So you're from another world too!" Kairi smiled, here was more proof that her boys were out there somewhere.

"That's funny. Maybe you don't need a ship, then," Goofy scratched his head. Of course it wasn't needed, she hadn't had one and she'd made it to Traverse Town.

"I don't get it," Donald shook his head.

"What do you mean "another world"?" Alice asked but before they could say anything more a spear dropped between them and the cage.

"Enough! The defendant will be silent!"

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"Very good Riku," Maleficent praised, watching the boy train. He was learning swiftly, that was good. "I have a job for you, to help you learn to navigate the Worlds."

He dismissed Soul Eater and turned to face her, listening.

"In order to unlock the Keyhole here, seven maidens of purest heart are required. Have no fear, they shall not be harmed. Some are already here while others are yet to be found. The next has been located, I simply wish for you to retrieve her. As she is currently locked up and due to be executed for a crime she did not commit, I assume you are willing?" she asked.

"Of course," he agreed, eyes hardening at hearing someone was to die for a crime they hadn't done.

"Then it is time to leave."

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Riku smirked as the covered cage was lifted into the air, right next to where he was hiding. He could not have asked for an easier job. Opening the cage was easy with the spell Maleficent had taught him and before the girl within could give him away, he had her unconscious in his arms. He glanced down at the sound of commotion, seeing three figures fighting…one with red hair and some kind of blade. Kairi? No…it couldn't be, she couldn't fight. He turned away, ready to return to Hollow Bastion.

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Kairi panted, looking around the damaged room, seeing Donald and Goofy sorting themselves out. They'd done it, whatever that massive Heartless had been, it had been an almost impossible fight. She winced as a burn pulled, taking out a potion to heal it with. They would need to return to Traverse Town for supplies, they'd used most of them up in the fights here. She turned at a noise but it was just the doorknob.

"What a racket. How's a doorknob to get any sleep?" it grumbled before yawning widely and she saw a Keyhole inside its mouth.

She gasped, looking down, as a light shone around her Keyblade and it reacted with a will of its own, pointing at the Keyhole and releasing a beam of white light. She heard a locking

sound and the doorknob finished yawning.

"What was that?" Donald demanded as they joined her.

"Did you hear that? Sounded like something closed," she told them, staring down at her weapon for a moment before she dismissed the Keyblade. It made a kind of sense, it was called a Keyblade after all and that had definitely been a Keyhole.

A small green object fell to the ground in front of them, shining. "This gummi ain't like the others. No, sir," Goofy bent down to pick it up.

"Splendid. You're quite the heroine. If you're looking for Alice, she's not here. She's gone! Off with the shadows, into Darkness," the Cheshire cat called from above them on the table before vanishing with a grin.

"No..." she groaned. Poor Alice, she'd wanted to save her, and it would have been good to talk to someone else who had travelled between Worlds.

"Let's go back to our gummi ship. We might find her in another world," Donald told her.

"Gawrsh Donald, we're running low on supplies," Goofy pointed out.

"Traverse Town first," Kairi agreed tiredly.

They headed back to the ship and Kairi was very glad she wasn't the one who had to fly it as she curled up in her seat to nap.

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Run…Darkness…Key…Light….

Whispers ran through his mind, eyes moving beneath closed lids. His fingers twitched, reaching for something, before he went still again, unable to wake.

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Maleficent looked down at the boy sleeping on the bed, for a second it had seemed like he would wake but that had passed and he had settled again. There was something about him that seemed almost…familiar. That was impossible, she had never been to their World and yet… She lifted her hand and his body glowed for a second with dark green fire before it faded away and she smirked. That had been easy enough, his Heart too overwhelmed by the journey to put up a fight. She had no doubt he would resist any further attempts once he woke, but for now he was vulnerable.

Soon, she would have two loyal soldiers to gather the remaining Princesses and unlock the Keyhole. She would rule all of the Worlds and she would even let them keep their little Keyblade wielding girlfriend if they wished.

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Kairi sighed as they left the building. Those trials had been crazy difficult, even with what strength she'd been building up.

"Rather a stubborn old goat, wouldn't you say?" a voice called, and they all turned to see the strangest man…was his hair actually on fire?

"Who are you?" Donald demanded, wand at the ready.

"Whoa, hold on there, fuzz boy," the man held his hands up. "Wait, let me guess. You want to enter the games, right?" he walked over to them, blue flames dancing on his head. He stood behind Kairi, placing his long-fingered hand on her shoulder, and for a second she felt almost dizzy, sick. She pulled away, staring at him with wide eyes, something about him just felt…Dark. "Well, then, hey, get a load of this." A piece of papyrus appeared in his hand.

"A pass?" she asked warily.

"It's all yours," he smirked, tossing it at her. She watched as he walked away. "Good luck, kid. I'm pulling for you, little Princess."

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Hades smirked as he watched the trio head back inside. Princess indeed. Wasn't that interesting? One of the seven Princess' had somehow gained a Keyblade, he hadn't thought that was possible. Live and learn, hey? That would make Maleficent's plans even more interesting.

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Sora blinked dazedly, shaking his head, before recognising where he was….from his dream on the beach. He looked down to find stained glass beneath his feet. The image wasn't of a fancy lady this time but…him? Sleeping, with something strange in his hand and a look to the top showed smaller images of Kairi and Riku and another boy he didn't know, did he? Why was he there?

What had happened? He tried to remember…the storm! He'd gone to the Play Island….Riku's boat had been there…..Riku! He'd been acting so strange, there'd been a pool of something, wrapping around him….he'd reached for him and…Riku had caught him, hadn't he? Then what? He'd ended up here for some reason?

Something felt different though, even more than the image being different and no voice, it felt…colder? It was strange… he shrugged it off, looking around, how did he leave anyway?

"Danger…escape…Darkness…H….R…"

Sora jumped at the sound of a distant voice, barely able to make anything out. Danger? Where? And the way it said darkness...like it meant something else or something. What was happening to him?

"Please wake up Sora," a different voice called to him, and Sora blinked. Riku! That was Riku!

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Riku sat on Sora's bed, seeing he had shifted again, onto his back, one hand flopped limp over the edge. He watched him sleep, and felt a spark of excitement as Sora's eyes moved behind closed lids. Riku took a limp hand in his, grimacing slightly at the idea of holding hands, they were too old for that, they weren't girls!

"Come on Sora, quit being so lazy," he told him, but there was no reaction. He squeezed his hand, hard, trying to get some sign. He waited but nothing happened and he sighed. "Please wake up Sora."

Riku began to let go but then froze as Sora's fingers twitched in his. He held his breath, seeing Sora's eyes moving rapidly behind closed lids. He squeezed Sora's hand and smirked when Sora reacted, twitching again.

"Come on lazy bum," he taunted, and nearly laughed when Sora made a soft sound, head shifting restlessly on the pillow.

Ever so slowly, blue eyes fluttered open, unfocused and that worried him. He didn't seem aware of Riku's presence so he leant in.

"Sora? Hey, come on, talk to me," he called.

Sora blinked slowly, and Riku was relieved to see him focusing more. "R'ku?"

"Yeah, it's me. 'Bout time you woke up," he teased.

Sora struggled to sit up and Riku wrapped an arm around his chest, pulling him up to rest against him. "W're?" Sora asked, head slumping against Riku's shoulder.

"We're safe," he told him. "We're in a real Castle, Sora. There's so much to show you," he grinned in excitement. He reached for the glass of water he'd been keeping beside the beds, holding it to Sora's lips so he could drink. It had been way too long since Sora had had any water, some of his confusion was probably due to dehydration. At least Sora seemed aware enough to know he needed to drink it slowly.

"Riku?" Sora asked once the glass was empty, sounding better already. "What's goin' on?"

"You've been asleep for a long time," Riku admitted as he began explaining what Sora needed to know, he didn't need to know everything, like how he'd kidnapped that girl and watched her Heart being removed before she was placed in some kind of pod. It was necessary but Sora might not understand yet, not when he had just woken up and hadn't seen how things were away from their Islands.

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"That little punk is your next opponent, okay?"

Cloud leant against the wall next to him, arms crossed over his chest even as he watched the trio fight.

"Now, don't blow it. Just take him out."

"The great god of the Underworld is afraid of a little girl? Sorry, but my contract says—"

"I know!" Hades cut him off. "You think I don't know? I wrote the contract! I know it says you're only required to kill Hercules in this tournament. But you've gotta fight that kid to get to him. Come on." He pointed at the girl who was talking to the organiser. "Hey, it's like that old goat says: Rule 11: It's all just a game, so let loose and have fun with it!" Hades punched the air. "I mean, a casualty along the way is no big deal, right?"

Cloud studied the girl, she had potential, something about her kind of reminded him of Yuffie. And he was about to fight her…wonderful. Hopefully she didn't have a Materia stealing habit too. Not that Materia worked anymore, not since they had been set adrift from Gaia so long ago. He hadn't seen any of the old Avalanche gang since then, it was why he'd made the deal with Hades, in hopes of somehow finding them again. He bit back a sigh and straightened, walking towards the ring.

"Geez. Stiffer than the stiffs back home. Still, suckers like him are hard to come by..." Hades muttered behind him.

He smirked slightly, they'd see who the sucker was.

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Kairi stared at the blond man opposite her, she had the sinking feeling that he was way beyond the other opponents they'd faced so far. His face could be carved from stone for all the emotion his showed and…were his blue eyes glowing slightly? She fought back the urge to gulp…yeah, this was not going to be fun at all. She called her Keyblade and got ready for what she was sure would be the hardest fight of her life. She was just glad she had Donald and Goofy as back up. They could do this…they had to.

TBC….