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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 4

We followed the trail straight to a boulder buried in the side of the mountain.

Wolf sniffed and whined at it, then looked over his shoulder at all of us as though to say, "It's not my fault that some inconsiderate goon buried this here."

Rydia translated, as she'd translated for Wolf since the Proving Green. It was a surprising talent, but we'd grown used to it by now. "Someone used a lot of magic, right here. The boulder conceals a cavern. This door is bigger than it seems."

Bart cursed softly. "How the heck are we supposed to open it?"

Harle smiled again, and knocked on the boulder with the back of her knuckles. A brief flash of light appeared, as though she were striking a spark from its surface, and the boulder grumbled. Slowly, it started to shake, then vibrate. Harle shouted, "Duck!" and suited action to words.

Not wanting to be harmed by something I could avoid, I jumped backwards myself, crouching behind my shield. Rydia held up one hand, and something shimmered into being in front of her and the other three of our group, just as the boulder gave one final noise of protest and shattered.

Harle brushed the dust from her suit. "Ah, ze spell protecting it was, 'ow do you say, extremely shockingly strong? I could 'ave done somezing quietair, but zis is an emergency, no?"

Suddenly, something seemed to explode from within the newly revealed cave. At first, I thought it was just an after-effect of the boulder, but then three more explosions followed in quick succession. Rydia paled. "That's the sound of a Flare being cast!"

None of us needed urging into the cave. Harle was the first in, followed closely by Bart, then Donald and Rydia rushed behind them. Wolf and I were the last, the rearguard as it were.

The cavern was lit, albeit dimly, with strange growths along the wall. It curved down and around, until the entrance was no longer in view. I suppressed a shiver.

However, not two hundred feet after it leveled out, the tunnel split into two identical choices. Harle looked at both of them, looked at them again, then frowned. "Tabernac!" She turned around to face us. "We will 'ave to split up 'ere, lest we not find ze sorcerair be'ind zis place. Bart, you go wit' Wolf and Monsieur Donald. Monsieur Goofy and I will go wit' Rydia down zis corridor."

Wolf cast a glance back at me, and whined as though to say, "It's always the alpha bitches in a pack who have to take charge." Rydia put one hand against her mouth, suppressing a laugh, and her eyes were shining as she nodded her agreement to Harle's command.

Bart protested. "Hey, why are you takin' Rydia?"

"Jealous?" While Bart was sputtering, Harle continued lightly, "Do not worry, I am sure zat Monsieur Goofy is strong enough to protect bot' of us."

Soon enough after that, we were sorted out; Harle took the lead again, Rydia walked after her, and once more I was in the rear. I towered over both of them, however, so I had no problem seeing.

Nearly five minutes of walking later, we all saw that a bright light was gleaming from far down the tunnel, and we hastened our pace. When we reached it, I realized that it was a doorway; though the door must have been the twisted slab of metal at our feet. What could have possibly broken that? Judging from the dents in it, the impact must have come from within.

All thoughts of that, however, disappeared when I looked in the room over Harle's shoulder and saw the gummi ship. It seemed to be slightly the worse for wear, and was tilted over until it rested on one wing, but for all of that it seemed intact.

We'd found the ship; now all that remained was to find Sora.

Almost as an afterthought, I saw the toys that were scattered across the floor. Many of them were smashed and broken, burned and crushed, as though this had been the site of a major battle.

I could only hope the broken toys weren't an omen for how we'd find Sora.

Rydia tapped my arm. "Hey, where did Harle go?"

"What?" I looked around, and sure enough she'd disappeared. "What the—"

Then, another explosion echoed from the corridor, this one much closer than before, and just after it came a yell from a throat that I was intimately familiar with. "Sora!" I charged out without another thought for Harle's disappearance, and Rydia followed close on my heels.

Harle watched the two of them leave from her perch on the Gummi ship. "Ah, I am very sorry, but zis cannot be left 'ere, not if ze battle 'appens ze way I see it."

Sora held up the Keyblade, barely blocking another blast of sheer heat that threatened to destroy him from the inside out. His willpower was fraying at the edges, and the blast singed him badly, but he'd run as far as he could.

He'd been cornered in another large cavern, though not as large as the one where his gummi ship had been. Though there were two entrances (or, as he preferred to think of them, exits), they were both close together, on the other end of the chamber, and Terra had flung him away from them with some kind of wind spell before he'd managed to run from one to the other. Now, he was pinned down in the corner, dodging what he could and blocking what he couldn't.

Terra lowered her hand, and for the first time since that scream, a frown flickered onto her face. "Just die. Give in. Please? I know how to restore my children now, I know it!"

Talk, talk, talk is cheap, keep her talking. Cautiously, Sora lowered the Keyblade. "What're you talking about?"

She pointed to the weapon in Sora's hands. "That item. It could, if I used it right, combine my Children with their Magicite." The frown grew wider. "Probably, at least, I think… it's… it's the best chance I've seen, and I won't let you stop me!"

Sora readied himself grimly for her assault, but then—


Terra whirled around at the sudden shout from behind her, stepping away from the entrances, as Donald, a large wolf, and a tall, tan guy with a pair of whips stepped out of it. At first, Sora didn't believe what his eyes told him. "Donald? DONALD!"

"Garsh, I'm here too, Sora. Don't ferget 'bout me!"

Sora had never been gladder to see the overbite behind that shield as Goofy stepped into the same tunnel he'd came from. Standing next to him was a woman that, in a dark alley, might have looked like Terra.

"Not to interrupt the tearful reunion," the tan man said dryly, "but who the heck is this?" He gestured at Terra.

She closed her eyes as if resting for a moment and intoned, "I am your doom." Suddenly, she raised her hands to the ceiling, and blazed with power.

She transformed into a being that seemed to be composed of nothing but energy, her skin glowing brilliantly red, her hair turning into a fiery mane that reached almost to the floor. The Heartless symbol emblazoned on her forehead turned black, a flat, lifeless black that seemed to draw in the luminescence her skin shed, a black that matched the terrible shade of her eyes as she reopened them.

Sora was the first to leap at her. "TERRRRAAAA!!!" Almost absently, she lifted one hand and the boy flew backwards, hitting the stone wall so hard that he left cracks in it. Weakly, he tried to stand up, then collapsed.

Donald and Rydia were next. As though they'd been fighting together for years, they cast their spells in perfect concert; he threw lighting just as flame erupted around the glowing woman in response to Rydia's gesture. For a moment, Terra flinched, then the flame died away. Terra turned her gaze towards Rydia and the very air seemed to collapse in upon my companion, turning the entire room dark for just a split second.

When it lightened again, Rydia had fallen to the ground, and Donald was reeling as Terra's own lightning danced through his body. I dashed at the glowing woman, readying my shield for a strike. I bashed her with it once, twice, again—

It was as if I were hitting the stone behind her. That obsidian gaze turned on me, and I raised my shield in an effort to protect myself.

A futile effort, as it turned out. She reached out with one hand and simply backhanded me, sending me from my feet and skidding me across the ground until my back fetched up against an outcropping of rock.

I blacked out for a moment, perhaps two; when my eyes opened again I saw Wolf at Terra's feet and Bart dueling with her, keeping her at arms' length with the whips while buying some time, hopefully for us to recover.

I tried to stand, but my legs wouldn't hold me. Slipping to my knees, I saw as Terra grabbed one of Bart's whips in midair and used it to lift him into the air, then slam him into the ground so hard that it shook.

He lay still.

Nothing we did had even touched her! I let myself feel despair in that moment she turned away from me and back to Sora, back to the Keyblade that lay next to him. Terra took one step, another, and…

Harle suddenly backflipped out of midair between Sora and Terra. The Heartless-possessed woman stopped in mid-stride for a moment, then with an audible snarl, she struck at Harle. Casually, the jester-clad woman leaned out of the way, then stepped to one side and waggled her finger. "Pardonnez, but I certainement cannot let you do zat twice."

Terra raised her hand, and—

Froze there. Harle jumped backwards and knelt beside Sora. "I cannot do zis for long, mon chou." She bent down farther and, although I could only barely see it from my angle, kissed him lightly on his lips. After Harle straightened, Sora stood slowly, using the Keyblade almost as a cane. Harle helped him up, and, despite the desperate situation, despite the fact that I could see Terra start to move, I couldn't help but chuckle: Harle, the shortest woman I've ever met, was still taller than Sora.

She ruffled his hair casually and said with a smile, "Mon chou, you're as 'andsome as zey say."

Sora tried to brush her hand away and duck to one side, trying to escape. "Aw, c'mon! This is serious!"

Harle nodded and, with the air of a conjurer pulling a ten-gil from a child's ear, produced what looked like a small egg dangling from a golden chain. "Mon chou, you may borrow zis, but not to keep. It iz my most precious possession!"

Realization of what it was hit me. A new keychain?! I gasped, and Harle heard. She half-turned and tipped a wink in my direction, blowing a kiss that hit me a second later, sending healing energies flowing through my body.

Terra finished her swing, breaking free from whatever spell Harle had cast, just as Sora detached his old keychain and put the new one onto his hilt. With a flash, the blade transformed, as I'd seen it do a dozen times before; but this time, its new form was… amazing.

It looked like nothing so much as a long, slender dragon leaping forth from Sora's hand, its tail wrapping around to form a basket-style hilt, its mouth agape as though about to blast flame or tear the flesh from its enemies. The wyrm's foreclaws were gripping what looked like a small blue flame, frozen forever, though it seemed to dance just a bit as I watched. In length, it was even taller than Sora; but he swung it easily one-handed, pointing it at Terra.

It was the dragon's scales, however, that left my mouth agape. For they shimmered, constantly changing colors, from white to black to blue to red to yellow to green and back again, not so fast that the sight of it left me ill, but quickly enough that it was… impressive.

Harle spoke to Terra, and I jumped as I realized that I'd almost forgotten she was there, so captivated was I by the new Keyblade. "Zis endz 'ere. Ze Gems were not meant to be used in zis way, and ze Keyblade iz not for ze likes of you."

Terra closed her eyes again and put her hand out straight, as though gripping a hilt in a guard posture, and a small whirlwind of pure magical energy appeared above that hand, gathering quickly into a sword of her own.

The blade seemed to change as I watched it, flickering from short to long to curved to hooked to heavy to thin and back again, more and more rapidly, the blade glowing with a dark light all of its own, until it suddenly settled on a long, long shape, slightly curved at the end.

What made me feel fear, however, was that I could hear the blade in my mind, singing a soft tune. It sang of bloodlust. It sang of death. It sang of evil. It sang of a gore-stained history. But most of all, it sang its name. ATMA, ATMA, ATMA…

Though it was obviously a two-handed design, she wielded it as easily as Sora did his own. Terra said conversationally, "Now we're on an even footing."

She slashed at Sora, and he blocked with the Keyblade. With an earsplitting crraaackk, the wall behind him burst open, the rock flying outward in a fountain of dust and stone, allowing what seemed like a blinding amount of sunlight into the cavern. I blinked and squinted, trying to see what Sora was doing, and so almost didn't dodge Bart's whip in time.

It cracked heart-stoppingly close to my eye, cutting a line of fire across my muzzle, and I whirled to face him, raising my shield. "What the— whatcha doin', Bart?!?!"

He didn't reply. His eyes were dark and dead, as though something had forced his personality out of them. His movements were mechanical and slow, as though someone else were dancing his puppet strings. I cursed my absentmindedness and dodged another blow.

With the time that I'd spent talking and laughing beside him and Rydia, all the while pretending he was a living, breathing person, I'd forgotten that he was nothing more than a Summon Gem. And, in addition, I'd forgotten….

I'd forgotten that it was Terra who held his Heart.

Sora jumped backwards into the open sunlight, the sheer… power from the Dragonsoul flooding up his arms and into his whole body. He marveled at the feeling, channeling it forth in a fireball that struck at Terra in a blinding blaze of flame. She dodged to one side, and the flame hit the floor of the cavern, exploding so hot that the rock itself melted.

Terra flew out to meet him, her iridescent hair streaking back from her head. Sora landed on the lip of the new cavern entrance and rolled backwards, avoiding another slash from the Atma in her hands. The force of her blow was so strong that the mountainside erupted again, this time in a line from the blade's path.

She slid down the mountain at him, and Sora stabbed the Keyblade up to meet her. Terra knocked it aside and bodychecked him, slamming the boy so hard that Sora bounced even further down the mountain, jouncing off several rocks before he managed to drag himself to a halt.

Sora held up the Keyblade and drew the power of wind around him in a shield, wincing slightly from fresh pains in his back and side. Man, I shoulda done this from the start. He barely finished the spell in time to duck away from another slash, rolling to one side. He turned around to raise the Keyblade into a guard, expecting her next attack, but Terra pointed the Atma at the sky, screamed incoherently— And the sky rained death.

A dark hole opened just above the battlefield, stars falling from it and slamming into the mountainside with such force that Sora was wounded even from the near misses. His shield of wind barely managed to deflect even the lightest of them, and Sora was so busy trying to watch in all directions at once that he didn't notice the meteor until it smashed into him from an angle.

It blasted him from his feet, sending him soaring through the air. Once he hit the ground, he barely managed to stand up, channeling the power of healing into his body desperately, his sight doubling and trebling from the pain. The spell finished quickly and took most of the pain, though not all of it, and firmed his vision enough to see that Terra was still striding towards him, brandishing the Atma.

"TERRRAAAAAA!!" Sora charged her, Keyblade held out, rage finally overcoming his reluctance. Now, he was determined to end this, for his own sake, for his friends' sake, and for her sake.

"C'mon, Bart!" I knocked aside another lash of his whip and spun around, bashing him in the chest with my shield. "Ya gotta be…" He leapt backwards awkwardly, the puppeteer still not controlling him well, and he flicked his whips at me again. I grunted as they slashed into me, but finished the sentence grimly. "Ya gotta be stronger than this!"

Harle, who was battling with Wolf, looked over at me and shouted, "It iz no use! We must defeat zem; zen we can 'elp mon chou!"

I muttered, "No use, eh? YOWWWW!!!" A stray bolt of lightning had flickered from Donald's duel against Rydia and zapped me on the behind — very painfully, I might add. I winced, but I hadn't gotten the worst of it.

Bart had been the incidental target for some three or four bolts, and he was lying on the ground. He struggled to a kneeling position, weakly flicking the one whip he had left at me, but I simply blocked it with my shield and—

Well, I'll admit that it was just an instinct, a reflexive action. I mean, I couldn't let him stay hurt, could I? He was my friend, even if he was attacking me!

So I tossed a Potion at him, healing him, then froze in sudden realization. "Uh-oh…" I cursed myself again for the second time in as many minutes. How could I be such a fool and still be breathing! Surely, this was one of the biggest mistakes I'd made in more years than I could remember.

Only, it wasn't a mistake.

Bart's eyes cleared, and he looked at me with a puzzled expression. "Goofy, what the heck—"

I gaped in shock. The potion had disrupted the control over him! How could that be?

But hey, never look a gift horse in the mouth. Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out a Megapotion and threw it at everyone in the cavern, hoping — nay, praying — that it would have the same miraculous effect.

It did. As everyone's eyes cleared, Harle shouted, "Outside, now! We must 'elp mon chou!" Suiting action to words, she leapt out of the hole that had been ripped in the cavern. Wolf followed her, and I was close behind.

I stopped short as I saw the battle raging between Sora and Terra. They were flying in the air, dodging, slashing, and with each impact of their blades raw magic crackled forth, earthing itself in the mountainside.

It was a clash of titans. I couldn't help but stare, awed beyond all belief, as they strove against each other. Not a thought of going down there to help my young friend entered my head, so hypnotized was I by the struggle.

It ended so suddenly, for a moment I didn't think it was truly over.

Sora stood, gasping for breath, the Keyblade in his hands plunged almost to the hilt through Terra's body. She flickered and the power drew back into her, leaving her a plain human once more… though without the blazon of the Heartless on her forehead.

She stared up at Sora, and smiled sadly, a trickle of blood leaking from her mouth. With a shaking hand, Terra reached to her belt and tore a pouch from it, holding it out to Sora. "Please… my… chi—"

Her head fell forward, and the Keyblade vanished from Sora's hands. Terra sagged slowly to the ground, and with reverent hands he reached down and took the bag from Terra's unresisting fingers. "I promise to take care of them," he said solemnly.

With that, Rydia and Bart, who were standing next to me, looked surprised. Then they disappeared, withdrawing once more from this world. I nodded slowly. With the summoner's death, the Summon Gems no longer had the power to stay in this world.

Donald, who had struggled out of the cavern last of all, looked at Harle suspiciously. "Yhou're not a—"

"Summon Gem? Oui, I am not." Sora leapt up next to us, and she smiled at him. "Mon chou, may I have my keychain?"

"What? Oh. Sure." He reached down and detached it, the Keyblade flicking back to its first form, and handed it to Harle.

The earth began to rumble under our feet, and Harle shouted over the roar, "Now zat Terra iz dead, zis world no longer has ze powair to live on its own! You must flee to your ship, quickly!" She pointed down the mountainside, and indeed, our ship was down there at the mountain's foot.

Sora turned to her and said, almost desperately, "Come with us, Harle!"

She smiled. "Ah, ze way I travel, I need no ship. Worry not about me, mon chou. I will get to where I must go." She leaned in and brushed her lips across his again, adding impishly, "Remember my kiss, and remember me to your Kary." With that, she somersaulted backwards and disappeared.

Sora shook the Keyblade and said, "Her name is KAIRI! Is it that hard to pronounce, Donald?" Belatedly, he added, "Never mind, never mind." He turned and started running down the mountain, shouting, "Come on, guys! We gotta get out of here!"

I followed him closely, but he suddenly slid to a halt next to Terra's body. Looking down at her, Sora wiped at his eyes with one hand and said softly, "Oh, man… she deserved better than this."

Donald looked serious, far more serious than he usually does, as he laid one hand on Sora's arm. "Whe all deserve better than thiz. But… we khan't hope to save everybody."

Sora turned on Donald, suddenly angry, and the ground under us seemed to punctuate his rage as he said, "But we gotta save everybody! That's what we are! We're heroes!"

Donald didn't reply, he only looked down towards Terra's body. I had to look away too, in the face of his innocent optimism. Had I ever been so young?

But looking down at Terra's body was almost as bad, because I could feel that, although Sora was wrong, he should be right, damn it all.

I couldn't just walk away from her without doing something.

I have but little gift for extemporaneous poetry, but sometimes the gift touches even those as insensate as I. It had been a sad tale, I could see, even from the brief moment that I'd been here, and to end it now—

I looked at the sky, which glittered a cheerful cerulean that seemed to defy this afternoon's deeds, and said softly, in epitaph to this world,

"Ah, life, truly 'tis the mad delusion,
its greatest truths merely an illusion;
My faded sanity mourns life's lost solution,
full of sorrow at this waking dream's confusion."

"Yhou say zomthing, Ghoofy?" Donald asked me, giving me the strangest look I could imagine.

"Shucks, nothin' important." I gave him my broadest grin as I turned to the gummi ship, and the next adventure. "C'mon, guys, we'd better get goin'."


Author's notes: Mm. Well, it only took me a year to get around to writing this. At least I did write it. Eventually.


Okay, some might question how I included Porco Rosso in this fic. 1) Disney owns rights to producing Ghibli works in America. 2) Porco Russo is a Ghibli work. 3) This is a fanfic written in America. I suppose that if I were to make a Japanese version of this, I'd have to change the character.

Before you ask, yes, I do happen to like Terra, and I'm fully aware that I gave her the short end of the stick in this fic.

The inclusion of Harle was… a whim at best; she was only meant to appear for a paragraph, but it's just so damn fun writing Frenchie dialogue that I couldn't resist. In fact, I'm changing one of the characters in my Kyouki no Kyanpasu story to French, just because I like writin' her, and she needs something else to make her unique as it is!

Strange, how much Harle took over the last half of the story. But she's just so cool; about the only character out of Chronocross that was truly, 100% worthwhile.

Oh, if you get the feeling that a lot of things were left undescribed (Why the heck did Terra steal the gummi ship in the first d@mn place? What was Harle doing there, other than takin' out Terra? and the most prevalent question, Huh?), the truth is… I answered 'em, but the scenes didn't fit into the format that I had for this story. That's the problem with limiting yourself like I did in here; it's fun, but sometimes it hobbles you and seems to leave holes.

Who was Wolf? Can't tell ya. Figure it out for yourself, chilluns.

Mm. Can't think of much else to answer here, until next time. I should be releasing two more Episodes of Kyouki no Kyanpasu soon. Mwah. I should have gone to sleep a few hours ago, but I suppose a little sleep is nothing compared to writing….

Aaron Bergman

"If you lie wi' ze dogs, you will catch ze fleaz, no?"

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