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A Kingdom Hearts fan fiction story
by Aaron Bergman.

Disclaimer: Look, we all know what the deal with Kingdom Hearts is. It's a joint Squaresoft/Disney venture, and one company or the other owns rights in some fashion to every character in this story.

Part 2

"We gotta find Sora, Donald."

Donald nodded solemnly. "I know, Ghoofy, I know."

A frown creased my face, exposing my teeth, as a sudden thought occurred to me. How were these people able to exist independently of some controlling force? As far as my experiences with Sora's small collection of the Summon Gems extended, it was impossible for them to be walking about all by themselves.

Of course, I would be the first to admit my ignorance of many things (well, perhaps the second; my dear friend Donald does so enjoy reminding me frequently that I knew very little about the way the worlds worked), so I filed away this thought carefully. It does not do to collate all the data prematurely! Such an act often leads to defective conclusions.

"Awwwh, I just wish we had some clue, Donald." I kicked at the sand, disgruntled, as my mind went from one inconclusive mystery to the next. "If only we had some way of findin' Sora, or even knowin' he was here!"

Without a word, Donald held up one of Sora's collection of keychains. For a moment, I couldn't identify it, then I remembered that it was the one that Sora had received from the hands of that fulsome young mermaid, Ariel. Donald directed a glance at the threesome still chatting with each other at the cove's edge. "Until I sawh this, Ghoofy, I whas afwaid that maybe whe where Summon Ghems too!"

That… was a thought that had honestly not occurred to me. "Garsh, Donald, I shore don't feel like a gem…" I pinched myself, just to be certain there was nothing crystalline about me at all.

Donald sputtered for a moment, apparently angry for some unfathomable reason at my innocent comment, then he waved the hand holding Sora's keychain. "Come on, whe'd better ghet back bhefore those people come up here."

His words made sense, and I showed that by giving him a smile and striding towards Rydia once more. She seemed deep in discussion with Donald's two friends, and I was hesitant to disturb her, but she spotted me and waved me closer.

The young man named Bart was saying, "Maybe we deserved this, and maybe we didn't. I refuse to believe that we're being punished!" His voice was taut with anger, and he rubbed his temple as if he had a headache.

I stumbled a bit as I recalled Rydia's earlier words. Or perhaps it's Purgatory, eternity's holding pen for all of us trapped here…

I suddenly didn't believe the word Purgatory was strong enough for this place. To have strength of self so pure that not even the Heartless could touch it was a laudable thing, something that had always made me want to know the few Summon Gems Sora possessed as people.

But this place made that into a punishment, a torture worse than any I'd ever heard of; and someone or something had coldly chosen to Summon these people, then had the power to keep them here. Someone or something that must derive a sadistic pleasure from watching these souls torment themselves.

"Golly!" I said, the word heartfelt if not exactly eloquent. All four people there looked at me strangely, and in an effort to cheer myself and everyone around I hastened to add, "Well, it ain't as if we got nothin' here. This place is beautiful, y'all seem like nice folks, and at least we got our health!"

The other duck (Darkwing, that was his name), who had been quiet up until now, spoke. "Ah, and what were you in your own world? All of us were heroes—" hesitantly, he added, "—of sorts, and, well, it just grates on me, living here, knowing that I died, wondering if they're…" Darkwing suddenly stopped, turned, and walked away without another word.

Rydia's eyes followed him sympathetically and said quietly, almost to herself, "Mr. Darkwing was one of the first here. Maybe the first. Oh, it was bad enough to wake here, even with the others helping, but to have woken up here alone…"

Bart shuddered, and I felt the urge to do the same as my imagination summoned up the merest specter of what that would have been like. Donald spoke up, providing a dearly welcome interruption. "Whe where heroes too, fighting the Heartless." His voice turned grim. "Whe haven't lhost yet!"

Rydia looked askance at Donald, and even Bart seemed a bit questioning. The young man fiddled with his eyepatch a bit as he asked, "What do you mean, Donald?"

Donald leaned in close. "Whe came here with another person, a person who can fight the Heartless! Whe've already beaten them on sevhen whorlds, and whe'll beat them on more!"

As he continued on, spilling out the words of our tale up to this point, my eyes opened wide. Did he truly mean to tell them everything? Then, my eyes narrowed, and I almost wanted to smack myself. Donald was the paranoid one, not I! But… if he hadn't managed to figure out that there was someone or something out there who had all of these people's Gems and might be looking through their eyes at us right now, then we were sunk.

But… but… looking at these two, I couldn't make myself believe that telling them had been a bad thing. Their eyes were alight with hope at hearing our tale, and for the first time I saw why the Heartless could not touch them.

Truly, they were heroes.

If somewhat trusting, to just believe our words with nothing to back them up… but then again, I've always preferred to trust someone until they do something that disproves that trust.

Bart was the first to speak. "What needs to be done, to find this Sora?"

Sora wandered through the dimly lit tunnels where his benefactor made her home, his mind blank and the world around him seeming to be in a fog.

After that initial jolt of being told that the only two friends he had left in the world were dead, the numbness had gripped him. In a distant way, he thought that it was a good thing, a welcome thing. Without that, Sora… Sora wasn't sure what he'd do.

Quietly, he asked the cavern wall, "What did I do to deserve this? Will all my friends leave me, vanish, disappear?" With a thought, he conjured the Keyblade to his hands and held it up. Even through the numbness, even though he felt so dried up and wrung out by tears that he thought not a drop was left in him, his throat was choked as he asked the last question,

"In the end, will this be the only thing I have left?"

Sora banished the Keyblade with another thought and slumped against the wall. His eyes slipped closed and—

Sora sprinted to where Kairi was kneeling in the sand with Selphie, both of them with sticks in their hands. They'd drawn strange, whirling designs, and were giggling like loons as he skidded to a halt. The moment they noticed him, they tried to swallow the giggles, which only made Sora grin in amusement himself because now the two girls looked like blowfish with their huge cheeks and weird expressions.

But enough of laughter, it was time for business. Sora went to one knee in front of Kairi and formally held the hilt of his sword towards her. "Let me be the first to offer my undying pledge to protect you, my Lady."

Kairi looked at him, an incredulous expression on her face. "What?"

"I'm the knight who's gonna rescue you!"

The girl held up one finger and pointed it at Sora. "Look, Sora, I can rescue myself. I don't need you!"

Rikku dashed up too, out of breath. The first sentence out of his mouth was a growled, "You cheater, Sora!"

Sora lifted his head to grin cockily at Rikku. "Nuh-uh! Tidus was the one that gave the count. Just 'cause you're out of shape—"

If he'd looked mad before, then now he looked furious. "Out of— OUT OF SHAPE?!"

Kairi stood up and placed her hands on her hips in a perfect indignant impersonation of her mother. "What are you two doing?"

Ignoring her, Rikku's face swiftly changed from angry to amused. "Well, if I can't be the good knight who saves her, I'm going to be the… EVIL KNIGHT THAT TAKES HER! NYAH-HAH-HAH!!!" With a ridiculously funny evil laugh, he scooped Kairi up over one shoulder and started running for the cave. Sora, caught totally offguard, could only stare after them for a moment.

"Hey, no fair! You cheater!" he called out after them as he started running.

Despite the burden of Kairi, Rikku still got to the cavern first. Sora had to admit to himself that even if Rikku was a slowpoke, he was pretty strong.

Dashing into the cavern mouth, he followed its twists and turns up to the old cave, burst out onto the sandy floor, and—

Saw Kairi standing over Rikku's body, his own wooden blade in her hands. She looked at him and said coolly, one eyebrow arched at a challenging angle,

"I can… rescue myself?"

Sora nearly jumped to his feet as Kairi's voice faded from his ears, replaced by the lady's who had rescued him, whose tunnels he'd wandered in for hours. "What?" he asked stupidly.

"You were—" she hesitated a moment, her song sliding upward into a questioning note. "Talking in your sleep. To someone named Kary?"

The numbness was still there, thankfully, despite his brief dream, and Sora embraced it willingly. Sora looked up at the lady and said dully, "Her name is Kairi, and I was— I am looking for her."

The lady nodded slightly, her delicate mouth turning up at the corners in a smile. Her song this time was reminiscent, as though recalling something dear to her heart. "She sounds a very strong young woman, to be saying such things as that. I was strong… once."

With that, she turned away from him, the song sliding downward into an earnest warning. "Be careful where you wander in this place, young Master Sora. It could be dangerous if you were to try and open any locked doors you may find."

It was a strange scene, once we returned to the small hut that Rydia shared with several other women. I couldn't tell my new companions of my suspicion that someone might be watching us (such a comment might have led to revelations about Summon Gems), but it wasn't necessary to do so.

They both separately came to the conclusion that someone must have seized Sora and our ship, after Donald and I finished describing them. Of course, they saw that whoever did that could mean no good in doing so… and they both immediately assumed that the person who did it could be anyone from their little village.

Hence, Rydia had politely asked the other women to leave, and waited for them to do so before we got to any planning.

The only problem was that we didn't know what to plan for!

Donald had been out to this Welcoming Green where we'd been found and had seen no tracks, no trails whatsoever, which might have indicated the gummi ship being dragged away. It had been there, for certain; he'd found the small crater where it had crashed, and glass from where I'd rather abruptly exited through the windscreen, but… no ship.

"Someone musta picked it up and carried it away," Bart said, disgruntlement showing in his tone and his face. "The only question is, was it done with magic or with muscle?"

"There are far more questions than that." Rydia frowned as she continued. "If someone took it, and took this Mr. Sora, why didn't they take you?"

I shrugged and contributed my notion. "Garsh, maybe this person just picked up the ship, and just didn't notice that poor li'l Sora was in there! The only reason we didn't get taken too is 'cause me an' Donald weren't in there, ya think?"

With a nod, Rydia said, "That does make some sense, but…" she seemed reluctant to speak, but carried on. "Would they have any reason to keep… your friend alive?"

Donald's eyes opened wide and he spluttered incoherently for a moment. Slamming his wand into the roughly made table's surface, he nearly shouted, "Whe'veh gotta dho zomeking!"

"Ah, pardonnez moi…"

All of us turned to the doorway, and it was a statement of how tense we were that the slender woman standing in the doorway blinked and smiled slightly as we readied weapons. "Ah, I can zee that you are, 'ow you say, deep in discussion, no?"

I took a moment to study this newcomer closely as I lowered my shield. She was short and slight, her body clothed in a garish, tight outfit that seemed a blend of harem dancer and King's harlequin. The image she presented was highlighted with the stark white facepaint that covered her features, her enormous eyes outlined in black and blue tears that sparkled in the afternoon sunlight were painted as though sliding down both her cheeks. However, her lips were painted a dark red and were curved up in a smile that seemed to defy her tears, to defy the tears of everyone here.

She bowed to us and said, "I did not mean to over'ear, but it seemz you need ze services of a trackair, and I may be able to, ah, provide 'er?"

Rydia said softly, "Harle…"

The newcomer — Harle, that was her name — shook her head decisively. "Non, non, non! I will not 'ear any wordz of not 'elping you."

"Can we trust her?" Bart asked, looking at Rydia. She gasped in shock at his bluntness, but Harle nodded, appreciating his honesty.

The green-tressed woman twirled a strand around her finger as she considered Bart's question. With some confidence, she said simply, "Yes, we can."

After a moment of waiting for her to elaborate, Donald shrugged and said, "Awh whell. Mohre hands make lhess work."

Harle clapped once, a broad smile across her face. "Ah, but it was not ze 'andz I am going to bring to zis dance, it is ze nose." She laid one finger alongside her own delicate nose, her smile, if anything, growing wider.


To be continued.

Chapter 3
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