Chapter XXXIV: Princess vs. Pretty Boy

Nightshroud: Hello all! Ok so this took forever to do. I've never lost interest in this story, but I've just been up to my neck in work for forever. Fortunately in two weeks my freshman year is over (Drexel University has a weird schedule) and I'll be free to update whenever I want. Yay! But till then don't expect anything new. I'm going to be insanely busy with finals till then. Anyway, I think I've kept you all waiting long enough. Read on!

"Hey, rise and shine, Sleeping Beauty."

Mina opened her eyes to see Valon grinning in her face.

"Give her some air, Valon," Yuffie said, putting her hand over his face and shoving him away.

"You guys came," Mina said, smiling. Yuffie nodded.

"We got your message right before it cut off. You're lucky that Rex was able to pinpoint your location and give us the nav coordinates."

"And that I was here to help heal you all," put in Merlin, who was resting in a chair opposite Yuffie.

"Where are we?" Mina asked.

"We got you aboard the Highwind, since our ship isn't meant for overnight travel," Valon explained.

Mina sat up and looked around. "Where are Sota and Jax?" she asked, turning to look at Yuffie. Yuffie's face fell a little.

The noise of the door sliding open startled Sota from his thoughts. He looked up to see Merlin, Yuffie, Valon, and -

"Mina! You're awake!"

Mina smiled and hugged him. She pulled away after a moment and looked at the bed.

"Jax...he's still-?"

Everyone's gaze drifted to the metallic floor. Mina walked over to Jax and knelt down next to him.

"Jax..." she said softly, her eyes brimming with tears. She drooped her head, and her shadow charm rested gently on his chest as she began to cry. One tear managed to land directly on her shadow charm. Instantly the room grew darker as the shadow charm glowed white.

"The shadow charm!" Merlin gasped.

Around Jax's head a dark aura appeared, brought out by the charm. Then in a burst of light the aura shattered, and the room returned to normal.

"Ugh, what...what happened?" Jax moaned, opening his eyes.

"He's awake!" Sota said, smiling. Mina brushed away the tears and looked at Jax, to find that he was looking...down her shirt.


Sota and the others sweat-dropped as Jax picked himself up off the ground.

"Have you no respect for the sick?" he whined, holding the glowing red handprint on his cheek.

"Well I guess you're good as new," Mina said, crossing her arms and glaring.

"Umm, guys?" Sota interjected. The others looked at him.

"Do you mind if...I have a minute with Jax alone?"

"No, of course not. We'll be by the cockpit," Mina said, and she and the others left. Sota swallowed nervously.

"Uh, Jax...I'm-I'm sorry...I didn't..." he began, then turned to see Jax standing right behind him smiling.

"Huh? Aren't you...mad at me?" Sota asked. Jax shook his head.

"Past is past. What matters is that everything is settled and back to normal."

Before Sota knew what was going on, Jax had him in a bear hug.

"You're one of the only friends I've ever had, Sota. I just want it to stay that way."

Sota smiled, but at that moment the door slid open and Mina stuck her hid in. In a flash, Jax shoved Sota away, who fell into a chair and flipped over.

"What's going on?" Mina asked with a sly smile, who had seen enough to guess what had happened.

"Sota's just clowning around," Jax lied with a grin. Sota looked up from the ground and frowned.

"What? But you-"

Jax quickly slid his leg over and planted his foot in Sota's face before pushing him backward again.

"Well the others have to get back to Radiant Garden, so they want to know what are plans are."

"Coming," Jax said running after her. "Come on, Sota, no time for games!" he called back. Sota growled and picked himself up.

"I guess things are back to normal."

"I really think you ought to get some rest," Merlin said, adjusting his glasses. "You've all taken some heavy damage. Healing magic can only do so much though."

Sota shook his head. "We really need to stop the Tainted before they get the last princess of heart. They could already be at her world."

"Besides, it's not like we're at death's door or anything, unlike someone else in the room," Jax said, crossing his arms and smirking at Merlin, who growled.

"Remind me again why we had to wake him up," the old wizard said, glaring at Jax. The others sighed.

"Sota's right. We have to do what we can to stop the Tainted. There's no time for a break," Mina said. Yuffie and Valon nodded.

"You guys take care of yourselves," Yuffie said as they got into their own ship.

"And crack some jaws!" Valon called as they shut the door. Sota, Jax, and Mina waved as the Radiant Garden crew departed.

"Well, let's wrap this up," Jax said, taking control of the wheel and steering them toward their final destination.

"Hey, we actually made a successful landing!" Sota exclaimed as they stepped out of the gummi ship into woods of some kind. Jax crossed his arms.

"Hmm, you're right. You think that's a bad omen?"

Mina rolled her eyes and walked forward, Sota and Jax following. They suddenly heard a cry from a short distance away.

"Hey, someone needs help!" Sota said. They ran until they came into a clearing, where a teenage girl, a little younger than Mina, with short black hair and a pink bow matching her pink outfit, was battling a group of Shadows and Soldier Heartless.

"Hey, we'll help you!" Sota said, summoning his keyblade, restored again to Brave Soul. He, Mina, and Jax formed a ring around the girl, protecting her from the Heartless.

"Take them out!" he yelled to the others as he ran forward, slashing through a Soldier. It didn't take long before the Heartless were defeated. But as they were turning around to walk back to the girl, one Shadow materialized behind Sota and leaped at his back.

"Yuki-chan!" the girl cried. Sota sensed something wrong and turned just as a giant snowman landed on the ground behind him, smashing the Shadow.

"Waah!" he cried, falling backward. "Where the heck did the giant snowman come from?"

The girl laughed and said, "I summoned him. I hope he didn't scare you too badly."

Sota sat up, and the others looked at her. "How did you do that?"

The girl held um the necklace around her neck, on which hung a little snowman.

"With this Guardian ARM,," she said. She noticed their confusion and pointed to their weapons.

"Aren't those ARM?" she asked. Sota rubbed his neck and grinned.

"Sure. We'll go with that."

The girl giggled and extended a hand. "My name is Snow."

"I'm Sota, and this is Jax and Mina."

"Nice to meet you," Snow said, smiling cutely.

"You're not going to try to hit on her?" Mina whispered to Jax. Jax raised an eyebrow.

"I'm not a pedophile, geez."

Mina scoffed. "She's not THAT young."

Jax shrugged. "Well she looks it. Besides, I need more...mature women," he said with a grin. Mina looked unamused.

"Oh no! I've got to get back before the final round starts!" Snow gasped, and started running.

"Wait for us!" Sota called, and the three ran after her.

"So what exactly is going on around here?" Mina asked Snow as they ran. Snow sighed.

"This world, MAR Heaven, has been attacked by a group known as the Chess Pieces. It's their goal to annihilate all the inhabitants of this world!" she said.

"That's tough luck," Jax said.

"Well fortunately they have to win a tournament known as the War Games to take over," Snow explained.

"Is that where we're headed?" Sota asked. Snow nodded.

"Our team, Team MAR, has made it to the semi-finals against them. And the next round is about to start! If I'm not there then I'll miss the chance to fight."

She picked up the pace and ran faster, and the others hurried to keep up with her.

"And the number is five! So will five contestants please step forward from each team!" a little creature with a round head and lizard tail announced.

"Wait! I'm here!" Snow said, running up to the group standing there. There was a guy who looked to be in his thirties, a young man with long blond hair, a woman with long pink hair in a witch's outfit, a short boy with buzzed black hair, another boy with spike black hair and tattoos on his arms, and another boy with spiked blonde hair.

"Snow! Where have you been?" the eldest looking of the group asked. He had brown hair in a ponytail and a goatee.

"Don't worry, Alan. I got stopped by those Shadow creatures, but these guys helped me out," she said as Sota, Jax, and Mina ran up.

"Hey, thanks for taking care of Snow!" the one, a short kid with spike blond hair said, shaking their hands.

"Sure thing...?" Sota said.

"Oh, the name's Ginta," the boy replied. "This is Alan, Nanashi, Dorothy, Jack, and Alviss." (in the order I described them, but hopefully you know who they area already)

"Don't forget me!" another voice said. They looked down and jumped back with surprise as a floating metal ball attached to a hammer by a chain jumped out from behind Ginta. The ball had a face, complete with a mustache to boot.

"And this is Babbo!" Ginta said, introducing the living ARM.

"Hey, is this the time for a reunion?" one of the cloaked figures, standing opposite to Team MAR said.

"Oh, you're right," Ginta said. "So guys, whose going?"

The others took a step back, all looking nonchalantly to the side. Ginta sweatdropped.

"I'll go!" Snow volunteered.

"We'll help too," Sota volunteered. Ginta smiled.

"That makes five!" he said. Dorothy, the witch, jumped on Ginta and rubbed her head against his.

"Oh, Ginta! Be careful for me, okay?"

Ginta sweatdropped, and Snow looked as if she were going to burst a blood vessel. Nanashi and Jack sighed.

"Why can't she like the available guys?" the whined to themselves.

"Then it's settled!" Pozun, the little creature announced. He held up his finger, and the ring on it glowed.

"Andata! Take us to the mushroom field!"

Sota and the others blinked and found themselves standing in a area filled with mushrooms as far as the eye could see. They were standing on a tall one, and about fifteen feet below them was the fighting arena. On the mushroom opposite the arena stood the Chess Pieces' team, all in black cloaks.

"So who's up first?" Ginta asked.

"I'll go!" Snow said, raising her hand to volunteer.

"The first match of the Sixth Round will now begin! Team MAR, Snow!"

"Go get 'em, Snow!" Ginta shouted. Snow smiled and jumped down to the mushroom in the middle. One of the robed figures jumped down from the other side and landed opposite Snow.

"The Chess Pieces, Aster!"

"Begin!" Pozun said. The robed figure grabbed his robe and tossed it into the air with dramatic flourish. Snow, Mina, and all the women watching from Reginleif leaned forward and gasped. The disrobed figure was a teenager about a year older then Sota. He had short black hair that was spiked into a short faux hawk and tanned (slightly lighter than Jax) and flawless skin. He wore a black, form-fitting, v-neck shirt, a light gray and white jacket that only came half way down his torso with the sleeves rolled up, gray fingerless gloves, and light blue jeans tucked into tall gray boots with white tips (like Converse style).

"Let's not keep the ladies waiting!" he said with a grin.

"Aah! He's so cute!" Dorothy squealed, eyes pulsating like hearts, as she pushed down on Nanashi's shoulders to see past him. Alan and Alviss sighed as Nanashi yelled up at the witch in protest.

"Dorothy, what about Ginta?" Jack asked. Dorothy's eyes returned to normal and she thought for a moment.

"Ginta?" she said, putting her finger to her chin. Her eyes drifted back up to the floating orb and focused on Aster.

"Aster…" she said dreamily, her eyes becoming hearts again. The guys all sighed.

"What's the big deal?" Jax asked, huffing. "He's not that good looking."

Aster looked up at him and laughed. "Don't be jealous, monkey boy."

Jax's face grew red, and Mina and Sota had to hold him back for he jumped down into the ring.

"Come and say that to my face, pretty boy!" he yelled. Aster just smirked and looked back at Snow.

"Are we going to start this match or what?"

Snow blushed as she realized that she had been staring and nodded her head.

"Nature ARM: Iced Earth!" she said as the ARM hanging from her right hip glowed. She lifted her hand and shot a dozen razor sharp icicles at him. Aster ducked and balled his hand into a fist. It became coated with dark energy and he punched forward.

"Aura Fist!"

The energy released from his hand in a fist-shaped blast and hit Snow in the stomach, punching her backward.

"Snow!" Ginta cried out. She staggered back up and held her stomach.

"She's okay," Sota said with relief. Ginta calmed a little, but the others could tell that he was on edge.

Snow ran at Aster and clutched at the snowman-shaped ARM around her neck.

"Yuki-chan!" she cried. Aster looked up in surprise and backflipped in time as a gigantic snowman smashed into the ground where he was standing. Just as he regained his footing Snow came at him from the side.

"Nature ARM: Iced Earth!"

But before she could activate the ARM, Snow suddenly found herself suspended in midair with her arms and legs held up by black energy bonds. Aster smirked as she noticed the black energy around his hands.

"Oversoul Binding!"

He pushed his hands forward and Snow shot backward before coming to an abrupt halt, snapping her neck back. Then he pulled his hands back and Snow came flying toward him. Just as she came up to him he put his foot out and she slammed into it. Aster released the energy hold and she flew back from the kick to the ground.

"What a ruffian! A true gentleman would not treat a lady like that," Babbo protested.

"You jerk! How can you treat a girl like that?" Jax yelled. Aster looked up at him and smirked.

"Try to do something about it, monkey boy."

Jax growled, and Mina had to try to hold him back again. This time Sota didn't help. He was too busy studying Aster.

"There's something different about him. But what's his game?"

Snow staggered up and panted. Aster turned away from the group on top of the mushroom and directed his attention to the princess. She looked pretty beat up, but there was a fire of resolve in her eyes.

"Still resolved to go on, huh?" he asked. Snow nodded solemnly.

"We'll just have to fix that," Aster said with a smirk. Snow held up a ring in her hand and smiled.

"A ring?" Mina asked. Ginta smiled.

"The ARM she got from Caldia, where they are created."

Snow threw the ring into the air and shouted, "Guardian ARM: Undine!"

A burst of water errupted from the ground and a nymph-like water spirit stood next to Snow.

"Hello, Snow," she said. "What do you need me to do? Take out that guy over there?"

Snow nodded, and Undine summoned a large sphere of water in front of her.

"Aqua Needle!" she called, and held her hands out. The sphere exploded outward in a powerful stream of water. Aster was so surprised he almost didn't have enough time to react.

"Oversoul Barrier!" he said, holding his hands as they glowed with darkness. The he brought them down, leaving a trail of darkness as they went, creating a shield that curved inward toward the top. The water from Undine's attack smashed into the barrier, errupting outward on both sides of it. Aster was concentrating his power there, when suddenly he felt something wrong. He looked up to see Snow falling through the air at him, her arm covered in ice like a sword. He didn't have enough time or the magic to direct two shields at once.

"She's got him now!" Jax said.

Snow swiped at him with the sword. At the last second there was a flash of light and everyone's eyes widened with shock as they saw Aster holding something in his hand, blocking Snow's ice sword.

"What is it?" Ginta asked.

"It can't be!" Mina gasped.

"It's-" Sota started.


"Hey, what happened to Sota and the others?" Sandy asked from the computer as Yuffie walked into Ansem's computer room and stood next to Rex.

"A lot. I guess back in one of the worlds that they went to Sota got some mark placed on him by the Tained. I guess he became jealous of Jax and Mina's growing relationship and the seal fed on that, causing him to fall into darkness. He fought Jax and Mina, but Mina managed to bring him back by telling him that she loved him. I guess that was enough to shatter that mark's power."

"Mark, huh? What was it called?" Sandy asked. Yuffie put a finger to her chin thoughtfully.

"Hmm...oh! I know! It was the Mark of Scath!"

"Scath..." Sandy's green eyes widened. "Scath!"

She whirled her chair around and began to furiously type into the computer.

"What is it?" Yuffie asked. Kai, Valon, and Chaser walked in.

"What's all the hubbub about?" Chaser asked. Yuffie shrugged.

"It would appear that Yuffie's mention of 'The Mark of Scath' has given Sandy an idea," came Rex's response.

"An idea?" Sandy said, turning to look at them. They saw that she had typed 'Scath' onto the computer screen. "Better than that. It's given me the password!"

They all leaned forward in shock as she hit the enter key and the long-awaited file opened before them.

"We're in!" she said triumphantly.

"He's the other keyblade wielder!" Sota gasped. Sure enough, Aster held a keyblade backhanded (His style alternates between the two, using mostly normal style, but that's just the way he summoned it to block. I just though it would look cooler that way 8D ). The hanguard was black and shaped like a heart, and that shaft was red, but had creeping tendrils of black winding along it. The teeth were two curved black spikes and one straight one in between them.

Aster mentally chided himself for being careless enough to have to reveal his keyblade. He pushed his keyblade to the left and threw Snow to the side (Remember she was still in the air. This all happened very quickly.) As Snow started to get up, Aster charged his hand with darkness and shot a variation of his Aura Fist, this one open-handed.

"Stay down."

The energy hand grabbed her and pinned it to the ground. Aster was about to come at her when a giant column of water errupted from the ground in front of him as he jumped back.

"I guess he forgot about Undine," Ginta said with a grin. Undine drew water to her hand and froze it into a icicle spears, then threw them at Aster. Aster charged his hands with darkness and moves them across the air. The darkness trailed behind and became a solid shield in the air for a moment, blocking the icicles before they could hit (In case you don't quite understand the description, have you ever seen the show Teen Titans? Well Aster creates force fields and barriers like Raven does, so think of it like that).

"Iced Earth!" Aster heard Snow call. Snow, who had freed herself, shot icicles throught he air at him, but he swatted them away with ease using his keyblade, Tainted Soul. Snow, however, was using the attack as a distraction, and had made it over to Undine.

"Hey, brat, quit fooling around!" one of the cloaked figures yelled down at Aster.

"Oh keep your shirt on. I'm just having some fun," he yelled back.

Mina frowned when she heard the little spat.

"That other voice was a girl's, and it sounded familiar..."

"Come on, Princess Snow! Finish this guy!" Babbo cheered. Mina, Sota, and Jax all froze.

"Wait, what did he call her?" Sota asked, desperate. Ginta looked at them strangely.

"Princess Snow," he replied. "She's the heir to the throne of Lestava."

"She's a princess!" Jax exclaimed.

"Then..." Mina said, looking at Sota, who had turned very pale.

"This is bad! Ginta, we have to stop the fight!" Sota said.

"We can't do that!" Babbo said. "Then we'd lose the match!"

"Snow's in danger! That guy's here to take her!" he said, pointing at Aster. Ginta's eyes widened.


"Let's wrap this up!" Snow said to her guardian. Undine nodded.

"I couldn't agree more," Aster said, smirking.

"Aqua Needle!" Undine called, shooting another intense blast of water at the keyblader. Aster de-summoned his keyblade and created another darkness shield.

"Oversoul Barrier!"

The water smashed into the shield, but couldn't break through, though Undine continued to pour more power into the attack. Aster had his arms up to hold up the shield, and now black flame-pattern symbols covered his arms up to his elbows.

"Look!" Jax said, pointing. "It's-"

"The Mark of Scath!" Sota gasped.

Evidently Aster had better control of his and could activate it exclusively to certain parts of his body. He charged his hands with darkness and shot it into the shield, blasting it forward toward Undine and Snow.

"Oversoul Charge!"

"Snow, move!" Ginta yelled. Snow was too shocked to be able to react, and the shield exploded into them. Everyone braced themselves as the wind from the explosion blew at them. When it cleared, Snow was laying in a heap on the ground, battered and unconscious.

"Are you crazy?" the cloaked female said, throwing back her hood. "You almost killed her, brat!"

"Iselia!" Mina gasped. The cloaked figure next to her shrugged.

"I guess the jig is up."

Sota narrowed his eyes as he looked into the eyes of Vesper, Iselia, Marsilio, and Rolan, all smirking at him.

"Looks like you lost another one, hero-boy," Aster said, throwing Snow over his shoulder. "For the last time!"

"SNOW!" Ginta yelled as Aster carried her into a portal and disappeared. Sota, Mina, and Jax all jumped from the mushroom and ran toward the other Tained.

"Later, assholes!" Iselia laughed as she and Marsilio portaled away. Rolan grinned and set his eyes on Mina. "Soon, little one, soon. I'll taste your blood yet!"

He licked his lips and gave a maniacal laugh before jumping through his portal. The only one remaining now was Vesper. He snapped his fingers and a portal appeared next to him. He turned to walk in it, but stopped and cast a sideways glance at Sota.

"Coming?" he asked, then stepped through.

"Sota!" Ginta called down to him.

"We'll get Snow, I promise!" Sota called back. He nodded to Mina and Jax.

"This is it, guys."

"Let's do it," Jax said.

"And put an end to all this!" Mina finished. They all rushed then into the portal right as it closed. The time had come for the final clash, and only one group was going to make it out alive.

Nightshroud: How was that? 4,844 words. Not too shabby. I hope the wait was worth it. I haven't wirtten in two months, so I hope I'm not too rusty. Well in the show MAR, Snow was kidnapped by the Chess Pieces in the semi-final round, so you can see what I based it on, with a little spin, of course. So apparently the final mystery member is not only a keyblade wielder, but has the Mark of Scath too! Wondering what the heck is going on? Well that will be answered soon. I hope you guys liked Aster. He's my favorite character. 8D I wanted him to be a foil to Jax, so I made him a ladies' man as well. The difference is that the ladies come to him haha. He has a serious side though, which you'll see soon as well. And now they're headed into the final confrontation with the Tainted! The next chapter will be Mina vs. Rolan! This is going to be one awesome grudge match. On a side note, I though of a great theme song for Jax: Womanizer by Britney Spears hahaha. I think it fits him perfectly. 8D Anyway drop a review and let me know that you don't hate me for taking so long and how good the chapter was. Thanks!

Next chapter: umm...ideas for a name? I'm a bit brain dead haha

Nightshroud: It's time for another round of "time to get to know you're favorite characters!" This time we have Karashi, the guy nobody seems to like!

Karashi: Hey!

Aster: Don't sweat it. Everyone can't be as charismatic as me. Isn't that right, monkey boy?

Jax: Oooh I hate him.

Nightshroud: grimace. Do you guys mind? (pushed Aster and Jax off screen) Now where were we? Oh yes, Karashi has no element, and his weapon is the Windmill Shuriken, rather self-explanatory. His spell is Protect. His abilities are Shadow Shuriken Hailstorm and Shadow Shuriken Windmill. And...I guess that's it.

Karashi: sighs

Jax: pokes head from behind curtain Don't worry, I'm sure someone out there like you.

Karashi: Really?

Aster: No.

Karashi: slumps in chair

Nightshroud: ...and that concludes this segment. Next up is Aster! Look forward to that!