Welcome, I can't believe I'm in the double digits, yeah!
Thank you to all my loyal readers, and double thanks to those who have reviewed.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything that isn't mine
Back in Riley, Risa, and Artemis' home world a cloud of worry falls over their families. One family member in particular, of Artemis', is learning of his little sister's puzzling condition.
"The MRI showed lots of brain activity," the doctor says, glancing at a clipboard.
"That's good, right?" Jameson asks, shifting his gaze from his unconscious sister to the doctor.
"Yes, it is, but she could be unconscious for days, months, or even years, there's no way to tell."
"What could have caused this?"
"Her classmates have been very nonspecific; they just keep saying they thought she fell asleep."
"So you don't know."
"I would say your sister's case was unique if two other girls hadn't come in today with the same condition."
Before he can finish his query his phone beeps several times in rapid succession. When he sees Artemis' name on the screen he excuses himself and checks his inbox. Thirty-two new picture messages and one video message. Without a word he sits down and begins to go through them, saving the video for last. With each picture his eyes get bigger and bigger.
The girls in Organization XIII coats, taken with the aid of a full-length mirror.
Risa and Riley outside Castle Oblivion.
Riley and Artemis sparring with Keyblades. Artemis and Risa getting ready for breakfast in a large white kitchen.
Axel entering the same kitchen yawning.
All the pictures have the same theme, and each of them dated earlier that morning. Hesitantly he highlights the video message, unsure what to believe.
Do you want to play this message?
Artemis and Riley are the first to appear onscreen, their gazes wandering to their surroundings.
"Is it recording yet, Risa?" Riley asks.
"Um… I think so," says Risa from behind the camera. "Yeah, it is."
"Great, thanks. Hey Jameson," Artemis says with a wave to the camera. "As you can see, at least parts of us aren't in comas, since the video is time coded." She points somewhere toward the bottom right corner of the screen, where Jameson can see the date and time of recording.
"We figured a video might be a good idea incase you thought the pictures were from an anime convention or something," Riley adds.
The camera pivots to show Castle Oblivion.
"I don't think we'd be able to build something like that, do you?" Risa asks, from behind the phone.
"Anyway," Artemis says, as the view shifts back, "you can't do this at a convention."
She and Riley stretch out their right hands as two small black shadows creep across the ground toward their feet. Risa apparently notices this as well, because her voice cries out from behind the camera.
The phone falls from her hand and bounces a few times, blurring the picture. When the image clears it reveals a sideways image of the three girls fighting a handful of Shadow and Soldier Heartless with their own Keyblades. Jameson pauses the video and rubs his eyes making sure he's seeing what he thinks he's seeing. The image doesn't change, so he keeps playing the video. The girls are fairly adept with their blades and they dispose of the Heartless quickly, allowing their weapons to disappear in flashes of light.
"Hey, Risa," Artemis asks, putting her hand on Risa's shoulder. "Where's my phone?"
Risa looks over to where she was standing, trying to find it.
"Here it is!" she yells, running over to it. "Oh, look, it's still recording."
"Huh. Wonder if it caught the fight," Artemis says, taking the phone. Her face comes into view, excitement shining in her eyes. "So, James, now do you believe us?" she asks with a sly grin. At that point the video ends, leaving Jameson virtually paralyzed with disbelief and staring at a blank phone screen. He quickly regains some of his composure and, not trusting his voice, sends Artemis a text message saying, "I believe you. How can I help on this end?"
A day or so later, back in Castle Oblivion. Risa and Riley sit back to back, leaning against each other for support as they try to catch their breath. While Artemis is bent over clutching her knees, also worn out from their three-way sparring practice. "Lets. Stop," suggests Riley, in between gasps.
"Ok," pants Artemis, when they hear the familiar ring of her cell phone. "It's a text," she says, after pulling it out of absolutely nowhere, "from Jameson."
"What does it say?" asks Risa.
"He believes us, and wants to know how he can help."
"Unless, he knows how to navigate through the corridors of darkness…" comments Riley, "tell him to stall."
"Why don't we take a walk?" suggests Risa as she stands.
"Sure," says Artemis, putting away her phone. Both Risa and Artemis walk out of the training room, but stop and face Riley when she doesn't follow. "You coming?" asks Artemis.
"Yeah, I'll be their in a sec" replies Riley, still sitting on the floor. The duo shrugs and begins to walk down the hall, towards the stairs. A second later, Riley warps in next to her friends, a smile spread across her face. "Told you" she states, and her friends just roll their eyes, "What? I need to practice." They walk down the steps to the sixth floor, the kitchen, then down to the 5th floor, the medical room, then finally the 4th floor.
"Pool?" the girls' question. As they re-read the sign, their eyes widen in excitement, "Pool!"
They look around for the women's locker room and after finding it walk in. The room is spacious with only two short rows of lockers. It leads off to a shower room, where a king size tube, big enough to fit ten people, resides, it reminds them of a Jacuzzi. Skimming over the lockers, Risa notices names engraved on them. Walking down the row, she notices they are in alphabetical order, first 'Alexis' then 'Artemis.' She does a double take and re-reads the names. Quickly running to the next row, she skims the 'R's' until she reads 'Riley' then 'Risa.'
"Hey you guys! We have our own lockers!" exclaims Risa. Both Riley and Artemis, search for their personal lockers and open them up to find a huge surprise. A pile of freshly washed towels, a small bag filled with hygiene supplies, and a black swimsuit. The girls quickly get changed into their personal suits. Grabbing a towel, the girls proceed through the shower room and into the pool area. The pool is Olympic length with a short diving board on the right end. Risa automatically throws her towel to the side and jumps into the pool, with Riley and Artemis following suit. They swim a few laps, diving up and down, to get use to the temperature. After a good forty minutes of underwater extrusions and cannonball contests, the girls separate to enjoy the pool in their own way. Riley sitting on the side, letting her legs dangle in the deep end, Risa floating in the middle with her extremely long hair spread out around her, and Artemis shifting through a cabinet off to the side.
"Hey guys, look what I found" says Artemis pulling out two super soakers. She hands one off to Riley before starting to fill her own.
"I bet they're Demyx's" says Risa, as she does the backstroke to keep herself afloat. Riley finishes filling up her own gun, when a familiar presence enters the room.
"What are you three up to now?" asks Axel. The girls find themselves staring in shock at the unusual sight of the Nobody, for instead of the traditional bulky, floor length coat; he's sporting a totally different look. His outfit is his basic attire underneath the coat, mines shoes or a shirt for that matter; with a towel draped over his shoulder.
"Are you going swimming Axel?" asks Risa, shaking off the initial surprise.
"Of course not! I'm a fire elemental," he says, approaching the side of the pool by Riley. "I was about to take a shower when I heard the noise."
Unknown to Axel, Artemis makes her way behind him as Risa continues with the questions. "Do you even know how to swim?"
"Of course I do" he mumbles, just as Artemis gives him one strong shove, and into the pool he goes. The suddenly disturbed water slashes in all directions, as he sinks into the cool pool. He scrambles to the surface, with a look of pure annoyance across his face. His once dry towel off to the side, now soaking wet as it starts to sink and his usual spiked hair laying flat, his long bangs covering his eyes. Before he can get a word in edge wise, Riley and Artemis decided to put their super-soakers to good use. Then to top it off, Risa joins in on the slash fest from behind. Unable to fight back he dives down, and then comes back up, out of the range of fire. Before the girls can react, Axel goes on the offensive by creating waves bigger then their own. As a defensive maneuver both Artemis and Riley jump into the pool, armed and ready. Their combine waves distract him momentarily, as Risa quickly swims to her comrades' side as back up, causing a stalemate between the two parties. The girls' laughter and battle cries echo against the tiled walls, seeping out of the room. Even Axel cannot help, but curl his lips into a smile at the girl's simple pleasure.
"Well, well, well, who knew you had such a soft side Axel," says an unfamiliar voice. In turn Axel freezes in place and as he slowly turns around, all-splashing and laughter ceases. The voice belongs to a man about 26, with broad shoulders and tone muscles but not overly brawny. He has short dark brown hair and matching brown eyes, with a cat-like smile, grinning from ear to ear. Ordinary in every sense of the word; the whole sight makes a shiver run down the girls' spines.
"What do you want Maximus?" asks Axel, climbing out of the pool.
"Getting straight to the point, I see. I was just passing by, don't be so paranoid." He glances at the girls, making sure to make eye contact with each of them before returning his attention to Axel. "Careful not to get too attached Axel. Remember what happened last time you tried to hard to pretend to have a heart." He flashes a wink at the girls and swiftly walks out of the room, without saying another word.
"Who was that?" asks Artemis.
"Yeah, he gave me the creeps," adds Risa.
"A grade 'A' creeper."
"He's Ramses' second-in-command," response Axel, as he heads to the locker room, his fists shaking in anger. "Take my advice, stay away from him." The girls are left alone in the pool, confused at the strange exchange between Axel and this new Nobody, Maximus. Their fun now tainted by the after taste of their brief meeting with the second-in-command, they decide to get out and separate, to enjoy their remaining leisure time by themselves.
Later, in another part of the Castle, the Nobody Ramses is having a little trouble with his research. Shutting yet another book in frustration, he throws it to the side, landing with a thud, knocking over a stack of papers, and he just stares in annoyance at the stubbornly growing pile of worthless information. "Why can't I find anything concrete?" he mumbles to himself, and walks over to his wall, covered with notes. "All the documents I've found only date as far back as the end of the Keyblade wars, but before that…" He sighs at the lack of information, and decides that another trip to the library is in order. Thinking that walking there would help clear his head instead of warping, he walks out into the hall. Instead of the usually silence echoing down the hall, a quite but distinct melody greets him. Out of curiosity he follows the sound to the end of the hall where the girls', Riley, Risa, and Artemis, room is located. Now accompanying the music is a soft famine voice, singing along to the lyrics.
… a winding road
That's taking me to places that I didn't want to go, whoa
He listens a little longer, before opening the door to find out who the singer is. To no surprise, he finds the Oracle of Sound herself to be the source of the bell-like voice. She just sways back and forth, dancing to the music as she sings; so absorbed that she does not even notice the new presence in the room.
Your eyes are the brightest of all the colors
I don't wanna ever love another
You'll always be my thunder
So bring on the rain
And bring on the pain
Your voice was the soundtrack of my summer
Do you know you're unlike any other?
You'll always be my thunder
So bring on the rain
Oh baby bring on the pain
And listen to the thunder
As the song comes to an end, Ramses lightly applauses at the performance, "that was great." Riley jumps at the interruption, and panicky shuts off her ipod.
"R-Ramses!" stutters Riley, her face red hot in embarrassment, "Wha-what are you …um?"
"Doing here? Just passing by," he says, "so, who's the 'you', you were singing about?"
"No one! It's just a song" she quickly response, her face turning an even darker shade of red, "you, you shouldn't eavesdrop like that!"
"So says the queen of eavesdropping," he points out, "but seriously you were great. You have no reason to be embarrassed. Being the Oracle of sound and all, I bet you can even play an instrument or two like a professional, right?"
"The flute … but only because I've been doing it for like eight years," she says, "You're getting off topic. It's still not polite to enter without knocking first."
"Its not like no one has heard you sing before," he chuckles at the irony of her words. Riley just adverts her eyes, to flustered to look at Ramses' face. "Wait, no one has? I'm the first? Not even your family?"
"I don't like being the center of attention …"
"Well, I'm honored that I got to listen to such a beautiful and rare performance," he says turning to leave.
"Wait! We never got to finish our Q & A, during our last encounter," she quickly says, not really wanting him to leave quit yet.
"I think you made it pretty clear last time that you weren't going to tell me anything."
"But you never really answered me." He turns to face her, with an unreadable expression, waiting for her to continue. "What are you looking for? Is it really the source of our powers, or does it go deeper then that? Does it have something to do with the remaining two Oracles?" Ramses slightly stiffs at her last question, but refuses to break eye contact.
"Yes. They're missing."
"They no longer reside in your home world. I don't know where they are or how they left your world. I don't have the power to find them anymore."
"You five have a peculiar scent about you, because you are neither of the darkness nor of the light. So I can track you that way, if I know your general location."
"Riku said something similar in Chain of Memories, …" she whispers to herself.
"Did, did you say Riku?!" he asks, his eyes wide in surprise.
"I didn't say anything," she quickly response, covering up her comment.
"Should've known you weren't going to tell me," he sighs, turning to leave again, "guess it can't be helped."
"Wait!" Riley exclaims not really wanting him to leave on such a sour note, "I was planning on going to dinner with Risa and Artemis. You should join us." She continues trying to think of a reason for him to stay a little bit longer, "They should actually get a chance to meet you, without your mask."
Ramses flashes the girl a smile, saying, "It can't be helped," and walks out.
Risa flings open the kitchen doors, unable to hold in her excitement. Now having the chance to cook in the biggest kitchen she's ever seen, she couldn't help but be over enthused. She all but skips into the room, when she spots a lone pot on the stove, the stove still on, and a half empty box of noodles on the counter. Walking over to turn off the stove she notices whatever was originally in the pot has evaporated. Completely perplexed, she looks around for who could have left the pot, until she spots the suspected Nobody sitting at the other side of the room, head down, hood up. She makes her way over, and carefully lifts the Nobody's hood to discover a mob of indigo hair.
"Naxiar?" she whispers, but he's fast asleep. She gently shakes him and repeats, "Naxiar."
"Nh?" he mumbles, turning his head slightly so one eye can be seen "What…?"
"You're asleep," Risa says.
"Not anymore" he replies, sitting up right, "Why are you here?"
"I'm going to cook. Why are you here … sleeping?"
"I was boiling some water for dinner," he says pointing to the empty pot, "but I got board." She can't help but laugh at the Nobody's ridiculous statement.
"Well do you want to help me make a proper dinner?" Risa asks, trying to stifle the giggles.
"Why not" he says standing up to stretch.
"Really?! That's great! 'cause I'll be needing the help if I'm going to be cooking for … three, five … a lot of people!" she exclaims. "And I know just what to make. My special spaghetti sauce from scratch." She immediately starts taking out the necessary ingredients and spices from various cabinets. While Naxiar, not really caring one way or another, follows Risa's commands, glad to finally have a decent meal to look forward to.
Meanwhile, in the 5th floor's training hall a certain redhead Nobody takes out his non-existent frustration on innocent by standing barrels and crates. The spinning blade of a chakram crashes into a barrel, sending the charred derby flying to only be burned to dust as the weapon makes its way back to its owner. Lighting it again, he throws the chakram once more, destroying two more barrels, an irritated scowl on his face.
"Damn that Maximus, making me look like a fool," mumbles Axel, catching his weapon on its return trip, "how dare he mention ... ahh!" This time he thrusts both of his chakrams setting the remaining barrels a blaze. During his mini-rampage another person entered the fire filled hall, and watches Axel with intrigue.
"What did the barrels ever do to you?" jokes the intruder.
"Is there a reason you're following me around, Artemis?" asks Axel, retrieving his chakrams.
"Believe what you want," she says, shrugging off his question, "are you still upset about what happened at the pool?" Ignoring Artemis, Axel returns to incinerating barrels. "Personally, I find it an honor to be compared to Roxas."
He pauses mid-throw at the mention of his best friend, "You know about that..."
"Yeah, I've got it memorized," he says dismissing his weapons.
"You're done?" Artemis asks confused by Axel's actions.
"You want the room, don't you?"
"I was actually hoping I could see the famous Flurry of Dancing Flames in action," she says summoning her Keyblade.
"Famous, huh" he says, raising an eyebrow "never heard that before." His chakrams summed once again, Axel leaps forward accepting Artemis' invitation. She in turn focuses on blocking his attacks with a smile, happy to have brought the Nobody out of his mood. They exchange blows, switching between defense and offence when needed, moving about the room. Taking advantage of the spacious room, Artemis often jumps from crate to crate in order to avoid Axel's spinning flames.
"What, no pillars of fire?" she asks, a devious smile on her face as she jumps clear of a barrel just before it disintegrates into ashes.
"I thought I was being polite by restraining myself," says Axel lighting his chakrams for another attack.
"You being polite," she responses moving in closer, "never thought I'd see the day." A smirk spreads across his face, as his chakrams begin to spin faster and faster creating rings of fire, and flames shoot up from the ground. The pillars of fire surround the two of them, as they continue to fight. That is until a certain unforeseen incident occurs, between Artemis and the flames.
"What happened to your coat?" Riley asks Artemis, as she and Axel enter the kitchen. Evening had set and the Oracles gathered together for their meal, with three unexpected guests. Sitting at the counter, is not only her comrades, Riley and Risa, but also the Nobodys, Naxiar and Nauxrel, each with there own bowl of food. Artemis throws the scorched piece of fabric off to the side and sits down, just as Risa sets out two more bowls of noodles and sauce.
"Axel got carried away," says Artemis twirling her fork.
"Hey, I warned you," response Axel dipping his own fork into the food, "Its not my fault you couldn't dodge it."
"No fighting at table!" Risa scolds them, as she finishes setting out drinks and bread, "Its an insult to the chef."
"Yeah Arty, listen to mother," teases Naxiar.
"Don't call me Arty!" says Artemis glaring at the Nobody, "What're you guys doing here anyway? I got the vibe you didn't like us."
"You can't pick your family," he mumbles before shoving a fork full of spaghetti into his mouth, passing on the responsibility of an explanation to someone else. Picking up the slack, Risa goes on to retell the story of finding Naxiar in the kitchen, asleep, up until Nauxrel came into the picture. With an indifferent tone, Nauxrel calmly explains her presence, starting with her encounter with Ramses in the library and his reasoning behind the suggestion. All eyes then turn to Riley, as the explanation of why Ramses knew of their get together, falls on her shoulders.
"He caught you singing?" asks Artemis, as the story comes to an end, "That must have been awkward."
"You have no idea," replies Riley returning to her food, unwilling to discus the topic any further. The group eats in silence for a while, with only the occasional 'pass the bread', as the individuals think about a conversation topic. Naxiar in particular watches the Oracles, observing their habits as he tries to decipher them as individuals rather then just the Oracles of Senses. He stares directly across the counter at Risa, as she takes a sip from her soda, and notes how her indigo eyes always either expresses joy or worry. Are some hearts really that restricted? He wonders as his gaze shifts to the more aggressive girl of the group, Artemis. Even without her coat she doesn't have much of a figure. He sighs at the memory of once being able to feel physical attraction to a woman. Finally, he turns his head to the girl sitting next to him. Riley's head is tilted down; her cheeks still tinted a light pink from the group's earlier conversation. Why would someone be embarrassed about something they're good at, I don't get girls. He ponders letting his eyes fall back on his food when he realizes something.
"You three all have purple eyes," Naxiar says, referring to the Oracles. Everyone – minus Nauxrel – gives him a questioning look at his random statement.
"Huh?" asks Risa tilting her head to the side in confusion.
"Is that a common color in your world or are you guys related?" he asks ignoring their strange stares.
"Don't ask ridicules questions, Naxiar" says Nauxrel, "no matter how new you may be." He in turn glares at her for the comment, about to retaliate, but is interrupted.
"Neither," Riley calmly states, answering his question.
"Riley, don't fuel his curiosity," scolds Artemis, and Riley just shrugs a response.
"What do you mean by new?" asks Risa, as she finishes up her bowl.
"Oh! I'm only a few months old," Naxiar says jabbing his thumb into his chest with pride. "It's the only reason I put up with all these gloomy personalities," he mumbles as an afterthought.
"I heard that," Nauxrel says indifferently.
"You know I mean no malice," he grins "can't feel it. Only the memory."
"How can you have memories of emotions, but not of your lives?" Risa mumbles, setting her dishes in the sink. "Oh! That reminds me, Riley filled me in on why Axel joined Ramses and the fact that you're new explains your history, but what about you Nauxrel?"
"I found him," she responses, handing Risa her own empty bowl, "wandering around Twilight Town, not long after he was created."
"Whoa! Back up," exclaims Artemis, "if you found him, why is he in charge?"
"He is very powerful."
"Ramses has a connection to the darkness that could rival Xemnas" clarifies Axel.
"Plus his split personality thing is kind of creepy" comments Naxiar, receiving a smack on the head courtesy of Axel as he walks over to the sink.
"So what's his real name?" Artemis questions, a mischievous look in her eyes. Surprisingly both Naxiar and Axel shake their heads in response, then all eyes land on Nauxrel.
She calmly stands saying, "Thank you for the meal. It was very good."
"Ah, your welcome" response Risa, as Nauxrel warps out of the room avoiding Artemis' question.
"She knows," Artemis says with a smirk and sense of victory. Axel rolls his eyes at the girl's antics, walking back to his seat.
" 'Fraid I'm off," he says, waving his hand idly, "we'll be going to a new world tomorrow, and won't be back for a while, so get some rest."
Thank you again, and remember to review and spread the word. The more readers and reviewers the more motivated I will be to write swiftly. 'Till next time.