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Sword art online: Hollow Heart

Chapter1: the world of swords swallowed by darkness.

I was sitting at a local internet café browsing the web on my computer. doing my daily routine of looking at the latest news in gaming and listening to the local news on the television. My name is Kazuto Kirigaya, my friends call me Kirito. I'm a 17 year old boy living in japan in the year 2026. I live with my aunt, uncle, and my cousin Suguha. My parents died when I was little and I don't remember them. For a while I thought they were my parents and I still think of them that way and of Sugu as my little sister. I've always been fascinated with computers and when I was 12 I built one out of parts from a junkyard. The first thing I did was hack into Japan's national registry and locate my birth record. I was surprised to say the least. After that I distanced myself in the virtual world. In the year 2022 the nerve gear along with it's first and only title sword art online was released. It was the first ever full dive system. In layman's terms it was like you were inside a video game and sword art online was the first ever virtual reality massive multiplayer online role playing game or VRMMORPG. I was one of the games beta testers and I couldn't have been more excited when the game was released to the public. Little did I know of the nightmare awaiting the 10,000 players in SAO. The system and game creator Kayaba Akihiko turned what was supposed to be a gamer's dream come true into a death game. When someone died in the game the nerve gear would scramble the player's brain with microwaves and if someone tried to forcibly remove the helmet the same thing would happen. For two years everyone fought for their lives trying to escape that world of swords. Eventually my friends and I made our way to the 100th floor and defeated the game's final boss. In the end 6,000 players survived the SAO incident and I met the best friends I could have imagined. But that's enough of a history lesson.

The reason I'm at a café is because I promised my girlfriend Asuna Yuuki that we would meet here for a date. She's another SAO survivor and former commander of a guild called the knights of the blood oath. Needless to say she's fearless when she wants to be. We were married in game and we wanted to continue our relationship in the real world as boyfriend and girlfriend. Just when I was about to wonder when she'd arrive there she was dressed in a yellow sweater, brown skirt and knee high boots. It reminded me of her casual clothes in SAO. "Hi Kirito, sorry I'm late I was looking for a hat to wear and I just couldn't find one." It's not like Asuna to be fashionably late, but I didn't think too much of it. "that's okay you look better without a hat anyway." It was true a small portion of her long amber colored hair was tied back in in her usual braid and the rest just flowed down her back. She smiled at the compliment "Hehe thanks. By the way have you heard what's on the news recently?"

"I'm not sure what you mean. Are you talking about that recent murder on Kat Street?"

"No, but that's horrible. He was just a kid like us after all. Anyway I'm talking about those reports of strange creatures lurking in alleyways. It sounds like some kind of scary story and it gives me the willies!" I forgot to mention Asuna is terrified of things like ghosts and horror stories. Our friends think it's fun to bring up a ghost story related to a quest we were doing. They're all made up though. At that moment a little girl with long black hair decided to make her presence known on my computer screen. "don't worry mama I'm sure daddy will keep you safe." This is Yui she used to be a mental health counseling program in sword art online. But when Kayaba trapped all the players in the game she and her fellow MHCP Straea were restricted from interacting with the players. Those two years of watching thousands of players die and not being able to do anything caused errors accrue in their programming and they both became a sentient artificial intelligence. When we first met Yui we thought she was a young player who had somehow wandered onto the 22nd floor. She had no memories at the time and when she called us mama and papa we just couldn't say no. I managed to store both Yui and Strea's data on my nerve gear's memory and then I transferred them over to the games me and our friends play. Asuna and I love them both very much and they're as much of a family to us as our real ones. "I don't know I'm not as strong here as I am in the virtual world. Hehe" I scratched the nape of my neck as I said it. Yui pouted and I started to worry I made her mad. "but I'll be sure to do my best!" then she smiled "now that's more like it!" I was played. Asuna began to laugh at our antics. "what's so funny?" I asked. "it's nothing." She then latched onto my right arm and we began to walk down the street having placed my laptop in my bag so we'd have no more interruptions. "I know your my knight in a black coat." I smiled and just enjoyed the moment.

Night had fallen and we were walking back to my house when strong winds started to blow. It was strange because the weather predictions didn't call for gale force winds or storms. Asuna and I made our way into the house and I turned on the t.v. and changed channels to the weather station and a breaking news bulletin was broadcasting. "A strange storm is striking japan as we speak. From the reports we've received it is breaking records and is likely to be the single largest storm anyone has ever seen. Scientists say it has to do with a large sphere of some sort in the earth's atmosphere. We have a live video feed of it right now." Asuna and I were sitting on the couch watching the news intently. She looked scared and so was I. The screen then changed to show a dark red sphere of swirling energy I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it. It was like something out of movie. I thought it was some kind of practical joke but this was a live feed with no special effects. "The sphere appears to be made of some type dark matter and is growing larger by the second! As it grows the storm intensifies and it draws everything into the vortex! It shows no signs of stopping and I fear not only for Japan but-"static, we had lost the signal and whatever hopes we had of this being some sick joke. "Kirito…" I looked at Asuna's frightened expression and with a face of grim determination I grabbed her hand. "We have to go down to the basement. It's the safest place in the house when dealing with storms."

"What about Suguha? We should bring her with us."

"She and my parents are out of town for a kendo tournament. It's just us along with Yui and Straea on my laptop." That seemed to calm her if only a little bit. She was still terrified though. "Okay." We were about to get off the couch when suddenly the house began groan and cracks appeared on the walls. The house was being torn from its foundation. We double timed it to the basement when the ceiling was torn away along with the roof. It was too late. The storm sucked us into the air and we were screaming, trying desperately to hold onto each other for dear life. As we swirled into the darkness I wondered is this it? After everything we went through the world just ends? It just wasn't right. There was so much more I wanted to do with Asuna, Yui, and all of our friends. I managed to grab hold of Asuna securing her in my arms. I didn't know what was going to happen to us, but I knew with absolute certainty that we didn't want to die yet! As we entered the darkness I struggled to remain conscious. just when I was beginning to lose hope we found a light within the darkness. It was warm, welcoming, and it drew us towards it. As I passed out I felt relieved, the light had saved us.

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Chapter 2. Traverse town.

I woke up with a yawn and stretched as I did so. When I looked around I noticed that I was in a red room with an eastern design. Just where was I exactly? My eyes widened as I remembered what happened. I looked around for Asuna, but she was nowhere to be seen. I found my bag at the foot of the bed and was relieved to see that its contents were undamaged. "Oh you're awake." I turned to the voice and saw a woman in a pink dress. Her hair was tied back in a long pony tail with a ribbon at the base. There were so many questions I had to ask and I blurted them all out. "Who are you? Where am I? What happened to my home? Where is Asuna?!" She sat at a nearby table and began to pour something from a pot. It smelled like some kind of herbal tea. She offered me a seat at the other side of the table and I sat there. "My name is Aerith. Your friend is sleeping in the room next door." I breathed a sigh of relief. Thank god I don't know what I'd do if something happened to her. I drank from the cup she poured and I felt revitalized. I guess I didn't know how tired I was until I felt my strength return. "As for where you are this is an inn in world called Traverse town." I had never heard of such a place before. I was about to ask where on earth this traverse town was when she continued her explanation. "Traverse town is a world that shelters people that lost their own worlds to darkness and the heartless that inhabit it."

"Heartless? Are they some kind of monsters?" she nodded in affirmation. "The heartless are the darkness in people's hearts made real. They seek the hearts of people and the worlds we live in hoping to drag everything into darkness." What she said was a lot to take in but the pieces all fit together perfectly. The reports of strange creatures in the shadows and that thing that sucked in everything around it. "So if these heartless consume everything around them then why are Asuna and I still alive?" it was a logical question. If the heartless and this darkness devour everything in sight then how did we survive? Did that light have something to do with it? "Who knows? Maybe you were just lucky. Or maybe you have strong hearts." A man had entered the room he had brown hair that went passed his neck and a scar that ran diagonally across on his face. He was tall and looked like he had been in more than a few battles. "Leon" Aerith said. The now identified Leon leaned against the wall "either way your world is gone and there isn't anything you can do about it." I stood up suddenly and slammed my hands against the table. What he said angered me. "I'm not buying it! There has to be some way to get back there!"

He continued to speak nonchalantly "And What Is a kid like you gonna do? You have no ship to explore the lanes between worlds and you don't have weapons to defend yourself. The heartless would defeat you in seconds." I didn't respond because I knew he was right. Asuna and I don't have swords in the real world to fight with. We were easy prey. And even if we did we knew next to nothing about fighting heartless. "Tell me something. Do you really believe it's possible that you'll find your world again? Is it worth fighting for a world lost to the realm of darkness?" the door of the red room was slammed open and on the other side stood Asuna. "Of course it is!" She said emphatically "we have friends and family members all waiting for us to come home again. And there's no doubt in my mind they would all say the same thing if they were in our place!" and just like that Asuna's words snapped me out of it again. She always knows exactly what to say to make me hope again. I looked at Leon with a smile on my face completely determined. "I think you have your answer Leon." He smiled as well glad to see the fire in our eyes "so I do."

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Chapter 3 fateful encounter

In the first district of traverse town two strangers and a dog were walking aimlessly. One was short in stature and had the appearance of a duck wearing a blue outfit with numerous zippers. The other was tall and wore yellow cargo pants, a green turtle neck sweater and a black vest. While he looked like a dog he wasn't like the yellow canine following them. In order they were Donald duck, Goofy, and Pluto. They journeyed from their home world of Disney castle on a quest to find their king Mickey mouse and a person with a mysterious key. Mickey had left them a letter entrusting his court wizard Donald and the Captain of his royal knights Goofy to find Leon in the hopes of locating this key. But they were totally lost. As they searched Donald developed a grumpy expression. "Where's that key?" goofy on the other hand was more cheerful "hey, ya know, maybe we ought to go find Leon." As they passed an accessory shop Pluto wondered down an alley way separating from Donald and goofy. "Uh you know Donald, I betcha that uh…" Donald waved off what he said "Aw, what do you know ya big palooka?" "Uh what do I know? Hmm… come on Pluto!" he then followed Donald. However he failed to notice that Pluto hadn't followed them. Instead the dog stumbled upon a boy in the alley way. He had spiky brown hair and was wearing red overalls, yellow shoes, a black and white jacket with short sleeves and a chained necklace with a crown shaped pendant. The dog then proceeded to wake the boy from his slumber. When he awoke he noticed that he was not in his home world of destiny islands. He entered the accessory shop because it was the closest building and he wanted to find someone who could tell him where he was. "Hey there how can I… Aw, it's only a kid." The shop was run by a middle aged man with blonde hair and an average appearance. He looked more like a mechanic than a haberdasher. "I'm not a kid! And the name's Sora!"

"Okay okay simmer down. So why the long face, Sora? You lost or somethin'?" "No! Well, maybe. Where are we?" the man looked at Sora like he had been living under a rock. "Huh?" Sora tells Cid about the islands he and his friends grew up in and cid tells him the name of the world he's on now. "Traverse town… so gramps is this really another world?" "Don't call me that! The name's Cid. Anyway… Not sure what you're talkin' about, but this sure ain't your island." "Hmm… guess I'd better start looking for Riku and Kairi." Sora left the accessory shop and went to explore his new surroundings. As soon as he entered the second district he saw a man collapse terrified as he lost his heart and his body faded away. Soon the heartless appeared and the boy fought them off with the key shaped sword he acquired on destiny islands. After failing to locate his friends in the second district he returned to the first district. "They'll come at you out of nowhere." Startled Sora turned around expecting an attack. "Who are you?" the stranger acted as if he hadn't said anything. "And they'll keep on coming at you as long as you continue to wield the keyblade." He said while pointing to the weapon in Sora's hand. He then pinched his brow in confusion. "But why? Why would it choose a kid like you?" "Hey what's that supposed to mean." "Never mind. Now, let's see that keyblade." He walked towards him arm outstretched in an unspoken demand to hand it over. Sora was ready to fight.

"What? There's no way you're getting this!" Leon then grabbed his own weapon. A large sword with a gun shaped hilt, it had a keychain with a lion's head medallion at the bottom of the hilt. "Fine then. Have it your way." Leon started the battle by casting a fire spell that shot a ball of flames towards Sora. He dodged out of the way and charged towards Leon. Sora's attacks were fast and furious, but untrained. Leon was slow and deliberate waiting for openings where he would land powerful blows. But Sora's speed made those moments few and far between eventually Sora won their little duel and collapsed his energy spent. "Aw, you're slipping Leon!" he turned to see a girl in rather revealing attire. She wore a head band, green sports bra, a yellow scarf, netting that covered her arms up to her shoulders, orange gloves, khaki short shorts with a blue belt, stockings that went above her knees, and orange shoes. Kirito and Asuna were just behind her. He turned back to the boy who defeated him. "I went easy on him… looks like things are worse than we thought. A lot worse." Asuna spoke up. "Did you really have to attack him?" Kirito agreed with her. They hadn't known these people for very long and while he was thankful for giving them a place to stay, mugging kids in the middle of the street wasn't exactly building trust. Leon turned to them. "I know my methods look extreme, but the weapon he carries is key to defeating the heartless and protecting the worlds." Kirito looked at the keyblade and took it from the boy's hand. 'This is what's supposed to save everybody?' Leon spoke again, "hold on to that. If the keyblade is separated from its wielder the heartless won't chase after him." He walked towards Asuna and handed her an envelope with a mouse shaped seal on it.

"Take that to the item shop and ask for whatever weapons and equipment you and your boyfriend need. It's a onetime thing though. After this you'll have to buy things with munny. Asuna blushed at being reminded of her relationship with Kirito in such a blunt manner. 'We haven't even told them about it yet. Was it obvious or was Leon just fishing?' his smirk told Asuna that her expression gave him the information he wanted. She grabbed the envelope in a huff and walked towards the item shop. "Come on Kirito. Let's leave Leon to carry this guy back to the inn." Not wanting to make her angry I did as she said. When we entered the item shop we saw that it was run by three little boys and they looked like ducks each wearing a different colored shirt and cap. These were the brothers Huey, Dewie, and Louie. "Well hey there. It's nice to see new customers in town. How can we help ya?" Asuna showed them the sealed envelope. "We were told you guys could help us out if we gave you this. We need weapons, armor, potions, and the like can you help us?" they looked surprised "Wak! That's the king's seal!" "How did you get this?" it was Kirito's turn to speak "A guy named Leon gave it to us. Are you saying Leon is a king?" he sure doesn't act like it. And why the mouse seal? "No, no, no that's king mickey's seal." "If ya got it from Leon then he must've gotten it from king mickey." That made sense. Because there was no way Leon of all people could be a King. "So can you help us get what we need?" Kirito asked. "Sure. This place has everything, just tell us what ya want and we'll get it for ya."

after an hour of trying out different swords and perusing the all the stores items and clothes we finally looked ready for an adventure. Asuna was dressed in a white and red ensemble with a leather corset around her waist. The short white skirt and red pants allowing freedom of movement and white heeled boot as per her preference. Her weapon of choice the rapier was an elegant weapon with a long thin silver blade and gold jewel encrusted hilt. The rubies were smooth and shaped to look like the mouse sigil on the envelope. Kazuto was dressed in black. He wore a black shirt with a grey plate covering his chest. There were two belts holding up his black pants. And he wore a long black coat with a pauldron on his right shoulder the straps connecting to the plate on his chest. Black fingerless gloves on his hands and on his back were two long swords. The one on the right was an obsidian black color with a leather binding on the hilt a green jewel on the cross guard. The other sword was of a similar design but different in color the blade was silver and the cross guard was a gold color with a blue jewel. Their weapons were enchanted allowing them to be stored away in a pocket dimension and called upon at will. In a flash of light the swords disappeared. Satisfied with their new gear, Kirito and Asuna thanked the duck triplets. But before they left the item shop Kirito noticed something was missing. The keyblade had disappeared! Before they could search for it they heard screams coming from the town square. The missing key would have to wait. They hurried outside to see what the commotion was. They found Cid in front of the accessory shop and Kirito asked him. "Hey gramps what's going on?" "Don't call me that! My name is Cid!" he snapped. "And to answer your question the heartless are attackin' the third district. There's a group of them and I reckon they're waitin' for the boss to show."

Kirito and Asuna knew that this was their chance to fight the heartless. Without a word they ran towards the third district. When they arrived they saw the boy from before in a dogpile with another duck and some humanoid dog. Kirito spotted the keyblade in Sora's hand. He must've been able to call it back somehow. "The key!" shouted Donald and Goofy. At that moment the heartless appeared shadows and soldiers surrounding them. We all drew our weapons and attacked. The shadows were tricky and flattened themselves to the ground to avoid damage, but they were open when they stood back up. Kirito blocked an attack with one sword and attacked with the other. With lightning speed asuna took out the shadows as they stood back up. Sora was taking a page from Leon's book and waited for the perfect moment to attack. Donald defeated multiple enemies with his thunder magic. And Goofy was somehow spinning fast enough to float in the air and hit the soldiers like a tornado with his shield. There was an eerie calm as we defeated the last heartless. And then from the sky fell pieces of what was a giant suit of armor. The pieces assembled themselves the armor giant stood headless until the last piece fell directly on the armor giant. The completed heartless unleashed a variety of attacks using its floating limbs. We focused our efforts on attacking the arms and legs hoping the torso would be defenseless without its limbs. However the Armored heartless was able to separate itself and attack us all at once. The torso thought to be defenseless was actually the most deadly as it copied goofy's tornado attack to cover a large area. It was a hard fight, but one by one we destroyed the limbs and everyone attacked the torso. Sora leaped in to the air and dealt the finishing blow cleaving the giant heartless in two. As its body faded a heart was released into the air. I noticed the soldier heartless released hearts when they were defeated as well. I wonder where they went.

"So you guys were looking for me?" sora asked. Donald and goofy both nodded affirmatively. "That's right. They too have been seeking the keyblade." Leon said walking in to the third district with Yuffie in tow. 'WHERE THE HELL WERE YOU?!' were mine and Asuna's thoughts. "Hey, why don't you come with us? We can go to other worlds on our vessel." Sora then closed his eyes "I wonder if I can find Riku and Kairi…" Asuna and I felt for Sora. We lost our world and all our friends to. But we had each other and Yui and Straea. Sora was alone and since he was the only one that could use the keyblade, the fate of the world was on his shoulders. It was a lot of responsibility for a kid his age. "Sora, Kirito, Asuna. Go with them. Especially if you want to find your friends." Leon said. Of course we were going with them. We needed them as much as they needed us. "Yeah I guess." "But you can't come along looking like that. Understand?" Donald said wagging his finger at sora. "No frowning. No sad faces okay?" "Yeah, ya gotta look funny, like us! A-hyuck" "this boat runs on happy faces." "Happy." Sora lowered his head for a moment and when he looked up he had a huge grin on his face showing of all his teeth. We all laughed so hard I was holding my sides while Asuna was rolling on the floor. "Now that's one funny face." Said Goofy. Sora seemed to cheer up "okay, why not? I'll go with you guys." Donald raised his hand "Donald duck." Goofy put his hand on top of Donald's "Name's Goofy." Asuna went after goofy. "Asuna Yuuki." Followed by me "Kazuto Kirigaya. But you can call me Kirito." Sora placed his hand on mine. "And I'm Sora. I'll go with you guys." "ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL!"

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Chapter 4 down the rabbit hole.

As we were sitting in the gummi ship more introductions were being made. Accompanying Donald and Goofy was a tiny little guy called Jiminy Cricket. He is very polite and said that he would be keeping track of our journey in his tiny little note book. Kirito pulled out his laptop to introduce Yui and Straea. Yui looked to be no older than ten and she wore a White dress, black garters to cover her legs, brown shoes, and a pink shawl on her shoulders. Straea looked about the same age as Asuna. She had short pale pink hair that was almost white and her red eyes were very striking. Her outfit was purple and had a gothic lollita theme to it. Straea was flirty to say the least but she was very mature. Overall the two psychiatrist AI's were polar opposites of one another. However they got along very well. On the ship's communicator there were two chipmunks named Chip and Dale they were the gummi ship's engineers. How chipmunks put together a spaceship I have a no idea, but Donald and goofy traveled here safely so the ship must be good. As we traveled the lanes between worlds we discovered the heartless had ships of their own but, they were no match for the high wind's fire power. We soon arrived at a new world we prepared to disembark. "Aw, I wish we could go with you guys. Exploring new worlds sounds super fun!" Straea said. I had to admit traveling through space and discovering new worlds was exciting. My hands were twitching and ready for action. Jiminy hopped on Sora's shoulder "Now I know seeing a new world sounds like a day at the amusement park. But there are rules ya have to follow. And the heartless are in every world that has darkness." This piqued our interest and Sora was the first to ask. "There are rules?" to which Jiminy responded "That's right. We can't go meddling in people's lives. And we can't tell folks that we're from another world. It upsets the balance of things." What he said made sense. The heartless invading was bad enough, but if someone with bad intentions came to another world and took over, it would be chaos. The ship was equipped with a teleportation apparatus and as it began to light up Yui was waving at us. "Good luck! And come back safe okay!" the light intensified and we were transported off the ship.

When we rematerialized it was in a hole and we were falling while goofy was screaming "YAAA HOO HOO HOO HOOIE!" It was the strangest thing I had ever heard. I thought were all going to splatter on the ground, but as we neared it our descent slowed and we landed safely on our feet, although goofy fell flat on his face. It looked like we were in a building of some sort. The walls were pink and the decorations looked tacky. I looked up at the hole we had fallen from and noticed I couldn't see where it began. "How far did we fall?" Asuna asked. I shrugged "who knows but maybe next time we could teleport on the ground." Asuna laughed "yeah maybe next time we should take the stairs." Before goofy got up a white rabbit with a large pocket watch sped by. "Oh, my fur and whiskers! I'm late, I'm late, I'm late! Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! I'm here, I should be there. I'm late, I'm late, I'm late! The queen, she'll have my head for sure!" We decided to follow the frantic rabbit as we had no idea how to navigate this weird place. We came across a door behind which was another door and another door… We entered a bizarre room and saw the white rabbit enter a door too small for us to enter it appeared to be the only way to progress. Asuna crouched to inspect it. "How are we supposed to fit through here? Can we shrink or something?" to our surprise the doorknob answered "Why yes that's exactly the solution." "WAH!" Asuna fell back on her bum. The doorknob yawned and said "Must you be so loud? You woke me up." Goofy waved at the door knob and wished it good morning. The door knob was sleepy and said good night. But we still had questions. "Do you know how we could shrink ourselves?" "Why don't you try the bottle over there." As soon as he said that a chair and table with two elixirs appeared in a puff of smoke. Asuna stood up and sat on the bed. "I don't think I can take much more of this." The bed magically flattened itself revealing an exit and Asuna fell on the hard floor again. "ooowwwww." I helped Asuna up from the floor and she hoped she'd be done with this world's hijinx. We each drank from the blue can and we shrank until we were small enough to fit through the door.

We entered another room with tall green hedges and the walls were painted with mountain scenery and castles. There were card soldiers armed with axes and lances each colored and shaped to their respected red and black suit. The card soldiers parted and stood at attention before their ruler who was standing as judge over what appeared to be a trial over a little girl with blonde hair and a blue and white dress. The queen was rather portly and wore a crown on her head and a black and red dress with a high collar in the back. The white rabbit climbed a stair case to a podium next to the queen's stand carrying a bugle. He panted in exhaustion, but managed to play the horn to signal the start of the trial. "Court is now in session." The girl on the defendant stand gasped. "I'm on trial? But why?" the white rabbit bowed before the judge "Her Majesty, the Queen of Hearts presiding!" whatever was going on had to be serious if a Queen was involved. But what could this girl have done? In deep disciplinarian voice the queen spoke. "This girl is the culprit. There's no doubt about it. And the reason is… because I said so that's why! " she was charging a child of a crime with no evidence?! This queen was a dictator and far from regal or noble. "This is so unfair!" the girl exclaimed. "Well, have you anything to say in your defense?" "Of course! I've done absolutely nothing wrong! You may be queen, but I'm afraid that doesn't give you the right to be so… so mean!" The girl clearly didn't acknowledge the queen's authority. She may not have done anything, but speaking to the queen so plainly didn't help her defense. The queen was furious. "SILENCE! You dare defy me?" none of us liked where this was going. "Hey guys maybe we should help her out."

"Uh yeah, but wouldn't that be muddling?"

"Meddling!"

"Oh, yeah. And that's against the rules."

The queen had reached her verdict. "The court finds the defendant Guilty as charged! For the crimes of assault and attempted theft of my heart…" our eyes widened at the charges we knew that could only mean one thing. It was the heartless that attacked the queen, the girl was innocent. "Off with her head!" The cards turned, ready to strike the girl down. The girl pleaded for her life "no, no! Oh please!" we charged in obstructing the trial. "Hold it right there!" shouted Sora. The queen looked perturbed at being interrupted "Who are you? How dare you interfere with our court?!" I chose to spoke carefully as saying the wrong thing would likely mean she'd want our heads as well. "Excuse me. But we know who the real culprit is! She's not the one you're looking for." The queen scoffed and was tapping her hand on the stand. "Nonsense! Have you any proof?" the guards locked the girl in a cage. "Bring me proof of Alice's innocence! Fail and it's off with all your heads! Bring as much or as little evidence as you need." We had earned Alice a stay of execution, but we had to act quickly. There was no telling if the queen would keep her word or not.

As we entered the lotus forest we came across a floating bouncy head that disappeared and reappeared in different spots eventually its body appeared to pick up its head and reattached itself. "Who are you?" Asuna shrieked at the striped pink cat. "Who indeed? Poor Alice. Soon to lose her head and, she's not guilty of a thing!" "Hey if you know who the culprit is, then tell us or the queen!" "The Cheshire cat has all the answers—but doesn't always tell. The answer, the culprit, the cat all lie in darkness." The Cheshire cat disappeared again "wait!" his disembodied voice echoed throughout the forest "they've all left the forest I won't say which exit. There are four pieces of evidence in total to find. Three are easy to find, but the fourth is tricky. Big reward if you find it." "Do you think we can trust him?" asked Asuna. The Cheshire cat appeared behind Asuna "to trust or not to trust I'll let you decide." A chill went down Asuna's spine and she screamed!

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Chapter 5 wonderland panic.

After Asuna had calmed down from our encounter with the Cheshire cat we began our quest to clear Alice's innocence. Saying wonderland was like a maze would be an understatement. As we searched every nook and cranny were up the walls both figuratively and literally. As the Cheshire cat said the first three clues were easy to find, but the fourth seemed difficult as we were standing on a water faucet looking at the pink box separated from us by a 10 meter gap and a 50 foot drop. Surprisingly it was Goofy that found a solution by using his tornado attack to hover safely across like a human helicopter. In his own Goofy way he was actually pretty smart. As Goofy returned with the final clue the Cheshire cat appeared once again. Asuna hid behind me glaring it the grinning feline as if she were willing it to spontaneously combust. "Well, look what you've found. Nice going." Sora was beaming at the compliment and our achievement "Now we can save Alice." But the cat wasn't done with us yet, not by a long shot. "She may be innocent, but what about you?" "What do you mean?" Asuna asked the Cheshire cat. "I won't tell. But I'll give you something. I promised a reward and I'm a cat of my word." In a puff of smoke a glowing blue sphere appeared and it floated towards us. It split into three and entered Sora, Kirito, and Asuna. It filled them with arcane knowledge as they learned the power of ice. With his purpose seemingly fulfilled the Cheshire cat vanished once again.

We proceeded back to the courtroom ready to make our case. Asuna, Sora, Donald, and Goofy were sitting at the jury stand while Kirito occupied the defendant stand Alice was in before. When the four pieces of evidence were lined up and offered to the queen she presented her own evidence and added it to ours. However the queen was impatient and forced us to choose only one. The boxes were shuffled so we didn't know which was which. The queen's evidence was surely unfavorable, but the odds were 4 out of 5 in our favor so he was confident Alice would be saved and that they wouldn't be losing their heads. He picked one at random hoping his choice was correct. When the box opened a soldier heartless appeared and then vanished. The queen gasped at the sight "What was that?" she exclaimed. "Your real attacker. Alice is innocent." The queen pondered the quandary she was in. just when we thought things were starting to go our way the worst case scenario occurred. "SILENCE! I'm the law around here. Article 29: Anyone who defies the queen is guilty!" Donald was hopping mad "that's crazy!" the queen ordered her card soldiers to capture us. The stands and hedges disappeared from the court room and a miniature tower with 2 wheels rose from the ground. A ten of spades turned the wheel to raise Alice's cage out of reach and close the curtain around it. This farce of a trial was now a brawl between us and a deck of 52.

We formed a perimeter around the tower with Sora and I lowering Alice's cage while Asuna, Donald and goofy were fighting the card soldiers. Asuna seemed to take enjoyment in fighting off the queen's troops. Perhaps it was therapeutic after being subjected to this world's madness. A large group of the cards were charging at us lances poised to skewer our little group. Asuna decided to try out the new blizzard spell we had learned and froze the ground below the card soldier's feet. The platoon unable to stop careened into the tower knocking it over and smashing it to bits. With the mechanism destroyed the cage plummeted towards the ground, but when the curtain was pulled back it was revealed that Alice was no longer in the human sized bird cage. Naturally the queen of hearts was seething "Oh you miserable fools! I'll have all your heads!" everyone wanting to keep their heads decided to run away from the murderous monarch including her own men.

We vacated to the lotus forest once again and we witnessed a large red flower shoot a boulder from its petals. And in typical fashion the Cheshire cat appeared on top of the boulder no doubt ready to impart another of his riddles on us. "Have you seen Alice?" Donald asked. "Alice, no. Shadows yes!" he wouldn't have said that unless they were connected somehow. Maybe the heartless were responsible for Alice's kidnapping. When I asked him I didn't get much of an answer. "This way, that way does it really matter? Left, right, up, down! All mixed up thanks to the shadows! Step deeper into the forest to the deserted garden. You might find shadows in the upside down room." And with that he vanished once again. With no other leads we headed to the garden he spoke of. The garden was decorated for a tea party but there were no guests. There was a portrait of an old man with a large top hat standing next to a hare in a red waist coat. Next to the painting was a wooden sign that read "merry unbirthday" not knowing what it was and not wanting to know we entered the house. True to its name the room was upside down when we looked up we saw that the bizzare room was now above us which meant we were literally upside down. The Cheshire cat was standing on the banister as he instructed us to light up the room. Sora hopped up to each of the lamps and used a fire spell we had learned back in traverse town to light them. We noticed a wall that had a latch on it and as we unlocked it a new exit was revealed. It was a short cut back to the courtroom so we booked it to the bizarre room again.

The Cheshire cat was waiting for us on top of the table. "The shadows should be here soon. Are you prepared for the worst? If not too bad!" he pointed to the ceiling and we saw that a giant jester like heartless with multiple face on its cylindrical head. Its long paper thin arms were carrying juggling pins. The heartless might have been easy to defeat at our normal size, but in our miniaturized states it was hard to reach and we doubted it would give us time to drink from the growth elixir. Sora hopped on the table and used it as a vantage point for attacks the trickster was stunned and as it collapsed we began our assault. It was short lived as the trickster got up again and slammed the table back into the ground eliminating our advantage. The pins it carried were now lit on fire and it unleashed a torrent of flames towards us. Asuna used her ice magic once again to create a protective barrier around us. She was really good at using magic maybe even as good as Donald. When the heartless stopped its attack I used what was left of Asuna's barrier as a spring board for my own attack against the flaming jester. My forward momentum was enough to knock down the heartless again. Sora and the others held down the trickster by its limbs so it wouldn't get back up. With the heartless restrained I stabbed my blade in it and ran across its body dragging the sword along as I moved. When I reached the crown of its head I leaped off the trickster and it disappeared releasing another crystalline heart as it did.

Our battle won we turned to the door knob as it awoke "what a racket. How's a door knob supposed to get any sleep?" it let loose a huge yawn and as we looked in its mouth we saw the glowing outline of a keyhole. Sora's keyblade glowed as stars gathered around it and as if it had a mind of its own pointed itself at the keyhole and fired a beam of light towards it. there was a clicking sound that sounded like a door being locked and the light faded away as the doorknob went back to sleep. A little green gummi blocked was dropped from the keyhole and Sora picked it up. According to goofy it wasn't like anything on our ship so we decided to hang on to it. The Cheshire cat appeared once again with his ever present grin "nice work. You're quite the heroes. If you're looking for Alice, she's not here. She's gone! Off with the shadows, into darkness." Despite all our efforts we had failed to protect Alice.

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Chapter 6: a familiar face.

Since wonderland was a dead end we decided to board the gummi ship and head to the next world on our journey. Asuna was glad to be leaving the strange world while Kirito was pondering their next move. Alice was clearly no longer in wonderland, but did that mean she was lost to us? Donald hypothesized that she was taken to another world. If that was the case then perhaps not everyone from his world was trapped in the realm of darkness. Maybe they were transported to other worlds like he and Asuna were. With this in mind they returned to traverse town to rest and resupply for the next world. There was also the matter of the mysterious gummi block we had found. Maybe Leon and his gang knew what it did.

We arrived back in the first district and proceeded to the accessory shop. After our encounter with the trickster Asuna said we should buy some items that could ward off fire attacks, but she really just wanted to shop. We entered the store bell ringing as the door opened and were surprised to see that instead of Cid behind the counter it was a large muscular man with dark skin. He was bald and had a small goatee on his chin. He was dressed in a green shirt and black pants. The man was looking at a clipboard with a list of items when he looked up to see who had entered. We immediately recognized him as Andrew Mills or Agil as we called him in games. "Kazuto? Asuna?" He was as surprised to see us as we were to see him. If Agil was here then maybe there was hope for everyone else as well. "Agil!" asuna exclaimed as she immediately tackle hugged him. "Friend of yours?" sora asked. "Yeah. Agil is a survivor of sword art online like Asuna and I." Sora just looked confused 'is that the name of their world?' he thought. Upon seeing the 14 year olds confusion Kirito realized he hadn't told Sora, Donald and Goofy about the three year old death game. "I'll tell you about it when we leave for the next world okay?" satisfied with his answer Sora watched the reunion unfold.

It turns out that Cid had found Agil and his wife Cathy shortly after we had left on our journey. Had offered to let them stay at the accessory shop in exchange for work. Agil explained that running the store wasn't Cid's day job and that he was only running it because the original owner disappeared after an attack from the heartless. Cid was actually an engineer who specialized in building gummi ships. We told Agil about how we arrived in traverse town and how we were now exploring with Sora, Donald, and Goofy looking for a way home. "Man you guys are adventurous. I'd offer to come with ya, but I don't wanna leave Cathy again." "Hey it's cool. You have to protect her incase the heartless show up." "Ha ha! I'm more worried about what she'll do to them than what they'll do to her!" everybody had a good laugh after that.

Sora was helping Asuna peruse the store, which mostly involved being her pack mule when Agil wanted to speak with me in private. "So this Sora kid, do ya think he can do it? Help us get home again I mean." He looked at Sora as he was handed bag after bag by Asuna. "He has a lot to learn, but he's got spunk. He'll rise to any challenge. I guarantee it." Agil was surprised at his praise. 'It wasn't every day the black swordsman gave someone his vote of confidence. Maybe this kid was special after all.' He looked at sora as he held all of Asuna's bags on his arms and flexed like he was super strong or something. 'Or maybe not…' Agil thought as a bead of sweat rolled down the back of his head.

Kirito and his friends soon departed the accessory shop promising Agil they would return and keep him up to date on their progress. Their next objective was to find Cid and ask him about the gummi block they had found in wonderland. They wouldn't have to look far as he was standing adjacent to the second floor entrance of the place they were just at. "Well if it isn't Sora and the gang. What can old Cid do for ya?" "We were hoping you could tell us what this is." Sora showed Cid the unknown gummi we had obtained. Once he got a good look at it he looked at us like we lived under a rock…again. "You folks are travelin' the cosmos and ya don't know what nav gummi's do?" we all shook our heads no and waited for him to elaborate. "Well basically there are some worlds ya can't reach without nav gummis. If ya tried without one you're liable to get lost or crash into an asteroid field." We definitely didn't want that so we asked if he could install it for us. "I'd love to, but this particular gummi is part of a set ya see. Without its mate it won't do squat for ya." "Then how do we get to other worlds?!" sora asked. "Simmer down sora. You can still reach the worlds in this quadrant. And who knows? Chances are you'll find the other half of this here gummi when you're out and about. Now skedaddle you five in case ya ain't noticed I've got a business to run." And just like that we 'skedaddled' as the old timer put it. with our business in traverse town done we went back to the gummi ship ready to see the next world.

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Chapter 7: thinking of home.

As the ship was drifting through deep space our heroes were sitting at the dinner table awaiting the meal Asuna was preparing. Normally all hands would be on deck incase the heartless attacked, but they were strangely absent. Seeing the opportunity Donald left the ship on auto pilot and goofy suggested we eat to pass the time. Sora and Kirito were waiting anxiously because it felt like they hadn't eaten in ages. Asuna soon presented each of us with a bento boxed lunch each containing chicken, rice, sushi, and assorted vegetables. We thanked Asuna for the food and began to chow down. "That sure was yummy Asuna." Said goofy. Donald patted his belly satisfied with the meal as well. "Yeah we never had anything this good back on destiny islands." Sora said. Asuna took a lot of pride in her cooking skills so hearing their praises made Asuna happy. Kirito was curious about the worlds Sora, Donald, and goofy hailed from. And he did promise to tell Sora about his and Asuna's world so now was as good a time as any.

"What is your world like sora? You say it's an island." Kirito asked. Sora nodded "That's right. Me, Riku, and Kairi all grew up there. The big island is where we all lived and went to school. And there's this smaller island where we all played together." Sora smiled recalling his childhood home. "We had this little cave where we all drew pictures on the walls. We called it the secret place. And we always hung out at the paopou tree looking at the sunset." The place Sora had described sounded like a tropical paradise. Kirito and the others wished they could see it. "It sounds wonderful. Kirito we should take a vacation there one of these days. Just the two of us." Asuna said. I wanted to see the world sora grew up in as gave us another reason to save the worlds. "Yeah. We'll go there some time. Just you and me."

"AHEM." Donald decided to interrupt the moment before it got to mushy. "Oh yeah what about you guys?" Sora asked referring to Donald and goofy. "You said you live in a castle?" "A-yup. The world we come from is called Disney castle. Donald and I serve under his majesty king mickey." Donald continued after goofy. "Goofy is the captain of the royal knights and I'm the king's magician." "HUH?!" Sora exclaimed. I had to admit I was surprised to. I didn't think Donald and Goofy of all people carried such high status. I guess you can't judge a book by its cover after all. "King Mickey wouldn't happen to be a mouse by any chance would he?" Asuna asked "yeah that's right. He's about the same height as Donald and he has two big round ears like this a-hyuck" goofy said as he gestured with his hand in an imitation of the king's appearance.

"How'd you know king Mickey is a mouse? You haven't seen him have you?" Donald said while looking at us suspiciously. "We haven't Asuna asked because Leon gave us a letter of requisitions from him. These three little ducklings running the item shop told us about him and helped us with our gear." Kirito explained. Donald's suspicions were set aside at the mention of Leon and the boys. "Those three are my nephews. They didn't give you any trouble did they?" Asuna I shook our heads no. they were very helpful after all. "Phew that's a relief. Those boys have a tendency for mischief and pranks." "Well they were very well behaved I assure you." Asuna said. Donald dismissed what Asuna said and asked his own question. "Alright it's your turn now. What world do you two come from?" Sora was interested as well. He wanted to know about all kinds of worlds and he wanted to know where Kirito and Asuna learned to fight the way they did.

And so Kirito and Asuna told them about their world. About how the country they lived in was a small part of a much bigger world. They told them about cities and skyscrapers hundreds of feet high and their advances in technology. Their eyes widened when they heard about sword art online and how the creator had killed thousands of people who were just looking to have a good time with friends and loved ones in his death game. And how we and our friends fought and lived in the virtual world. "Wow… but wait a minute how does learning to fight in a video game translate to fighting in the real world?" Sora asked. "I'm not sure myself, but Kirito thinks that because the nerve gear was connected to the player's central nervous system, our bodies retained the knowledge of our fighting styles." Asuna explained. "That's the gist of it." Kirito continued "But there are some things we can't do without aid from the system and some of our in game attacks would be downright impossible in the real world. If I had to guess I'd say you, me, and Asuna are all about the same level in terms of power."

Asuna looked surprised at Kirito. For him to admit something like that so freely must've meant he thought highly of sora and his potential. "Do you really think so?" Sora asked expectantly. "Well I say that, but I bet you still can't beat me. Maybe if I used only one sword it would be fair." There's the level of competiveness she expected from him. "Oh yeah?" sora retorted. Well maybe we'll see who's stronger when we get to the next world." "Is that a challenge?" Kirito replied. "Yeah, bring it!" Sora exclaimed. "No fighting on the ship!" Asuna said. "Yes ma'am!" Sora and I hurriedly replied. After that sora, Donald and goofy went back to the pilot's cabin to check our progress leaving Kirito and Asuna alone.

"This is nice. Even though we're lost far away from home we can still sit down and have dinner like regular people." Asuna said. "Even though two of them are a dog and a duck." I replied. She laughed at my silly joke. "Yeah. Who would believe us if we told them? Then again after seeing the world disappear I suppose anything is possible." "We could ask Yui to copy Jiminy's journal for us. If nothing else we could post it on the internet or show it to a publisher." "Hey that's a great idea!" Asuna said. "When we get back to our world let's take it to seven so she can publish it as a mmorpg. You did say you want to be a game creator after all." Kirito's eyes widened at Asuna's proposal. It was brilliant, their journey sounded like the perfect basis for a video game. With newfound vigor Kirito took Asuna in his arms and laughed as he lifted and spun around. He sat her back down and had a smile as big as Sora's. "Yeah let's do it. We'll save the world, find our friends, visit sora, Donald, and Goofy's worlds for a vacation, and then we'll make a new mmo for everyone to enjoy." With their new dream made they went back to join Sora and the others ready to see what awaited them.

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Chapter 8 gods and monsters

The world we arrived in looked like an ancient Greek pantheon. There were giant gold statues depicting warriors with their swords crossed over the entrance to an arena. The large wooden doors had lightning bolts carved into them in reverence to the thunder god Zeus. Kirito liked this world. It was clearly a place where strong warriors gathered and he was eager to test his own might against them. As they entered the coliseum they saw a short chubby satyr propping up a sign. "Good timing. Give me a hand, will ya? Move that pedestal over there for me. I gotta spruce this place up for the games." He said while not looking to see who had arrived. The pedestal he was referring to looked more like a building block than a pedestal and since it was solid stone it was probably at least a ton. Of course that didn't stop Sora from trying to move it any way. It didn't move an inch and he told the satyr it was way too heavy. "What? Too heavy? Since when have you been such a little- -" he cut himself off when he turned around and saw us "Oh. Wrong guy. What're you doing here?" he hopped off the actual pedestal he was standing on before and walked towards us. "This here's the world famous coliseum- - heroes only! And I got my hands full preparing for the games. So run along pipsqueaks."

Sora looked at the satyr indignantly as he didn't like being talked down to like he was a little kid. "Look it's like this. Heroes are coming from all over to fight ferocious monsters right here in the coliseum." Kirito didn't like how the chubby satyr wrote them off so easily. They had already fought their share of monsters and it wasn't easy getting here. "You got heroes standing right in front of you." Donald said. "Yup. He's a real hero chosen by the keyblade!" goofy said while placing his gloved hands on Sora's shoulders. "And we're heroes too!" Donald said while pointing at himself. The short, chubby, red haired satyr's eyes widened in disbelief and amusement. "Hero? That runt?" he laughed and guffawed at us. "What's so funny? I've fought a bunch of monsters!" Sora said "Yeah you tell him Sora!" Asuna cheered. "Hey if you can't even move this." He began pushing at the cubed rock fairing no better than Sora. "you can't call yourself…" he said while turning around pushing with his back and tiny goat legs as Sora crossed his arms unimpressed. "A hero!" he soon fell to the ground winded from his efforts.

"Okay, so it takes more than brawn. Well, well, let's see what you can do." 'Finally!' Kirito thought. Soon the satyr who introduced himself as Phil showed us an obstacle course. The objective was to destroy all of the barrels within the time limit. Needless to say we each made short work of it. "You know, you ain't bad kid." Phil said as we returned to the lobby. "Looks like we're headed for the games." Sora said with his large toothy grin. "Afraid not." Phil said placing his hands on his hips. "HUH?!" was the collective response. Phil held up two of his fingers. "Two words: You guys ain't heroes!" "You're wrong!" Sora said "Yeah that's four words." Kirito said. Asuna just stared at her boyfriend's attempt at humor. While accurate the joke was kind of flat.

We left the coliseum lobby ready to leave this world when we were approached by a man with a black toga held up by a skull shaped pin. He had blue skin, a rather long chin, and oh yeah his head was on FIRE! "Rather a stubborn old goat, wouldn't you say?" "Who the hell are you?!" Asuna exclaimed. "Language young lady. A little girl like you oughta speak properly. Especially in the presence of HADES, LORD OF THE DEAD!" he raised his hand skyward and pillars of flame rose from the surrounding cisterns. The display was intimidating if he wanted to he could incinerate us on the spot! The flames soon disappeared at the snap of his fingers. "But hey I'm a nice guy. I come bearing a gift with no strings attached." In a flash of blue flames he produced a slip of paper and presented it to us. It was decorated with the coliseums cloud and thunder motif and we saw that it was a pass for us to enter the games. "It's all yours. Good luck, kiddies. I'm pulling for ya." He then disappeared in a plume of smoke. Kirito knew this was a trap. This guy had godlike powers and all he wanted from us was to fight in the games? If we refused we would likely be burned to cinders. With no other options we returned to the coliseum lobby. We gave the pass to Phil and we were soon in the preliminaries.

In the first round and the ones after that we fought more of the heartless. There were heartless we hadn't encountered before like little wizard like heartless that were different colors and let loose different magic depending on said color. And there was a large blob of a heartless that was impossible to attack from the front, but was weak to attacks from behind. We were given a momentary reprieve and Phil came over to coach us when we saw a man with spiky blonde air dressed in black with a tattered red cape swaying as he walked. From his muscles and the way he carried himself he looked very strong. "He looks tough." Sora said. "Yeah. We're probably gonna have to fight him sooner or later." Asuna replied. We soon worked our way up the bracket and while we were celebrating our victories thus far, Hades was giving his own special pep talk to said blonde man. "Those little punks are your next opponents okay? Now don't blow it, just take'em out." Cloud looked at the kids skeptically "the great god of the underworld is afraid of some kids? Sorry but my contract says- -" "I know! You think I don't know? I wrote the contract!" hades said perturbed. "I know it says you're only required to kill Hercules in this tournament." He pointed at them to illustrate his next point "But you've gotta fight those kids to get to him. Come on." "Hey it's like that old goat says. Rule 11 it's all just a game, so let loose and have fun with it! I mean a casualty or two along the way is no big deal, right?" cloud headed to the arena wanting this sordid deal with the devil to be over with. "Geez. Stiffer than the stiffs back home." Hades said when Cloud was out of earshot. "Still, suckers like him are hard to come by…"

the finals began and as Asuna predicted it was between us and Cloud. He carried a sword that was roughly as large as his own body. The oversized single edged blade was covered in bandages and he was holding it with two hands and a broad stance to support its weight. Despite that he was able to leap high into the air and came down towards us. Everyone dodged out of the way as he came down. He wasn't down for long as seconds later he had pulled his blade from the stone floor and charged at Kirito with a thrusting attack. He tried to block it with his twin swords, but clouds momentum knocked him to the ground. Asuna ran to cover kirito by assaulting cloud with her own speedy attacks. Donald cast a healing spell on kirito and he soon got back to his feet. 'This guy really is strong. His attacks would give people like Strea and Genisis a run for their money.' Sora soon switched places with Asuna and began his own assault against Cloud. Soon a pattern began with Sora, Kirito, and Asuna switching out after each of their assaults with Goofy covering us with his shield and Donald using his magic to heal us and occasionally striking cloud with thunder magic.

Cloud crouched on one knee his sword on the ground defeated by the team of five. He stood up and was about to leave the arena accepting his loss when he was crushed under the heel of an enormous thee head hound with razor sharp fangs and beady red eyes. Hades watched as his guard dog was set loose to take care of cloud and his targets. "Oh, right, there was one other rule I forgot: Accidents happen." Believing his prey would soon be sent to the underworld hades walked into the darkness of the pit Cerberus was released from. Just when the heroes believed they would be devoured a man stepped in holding off Cerberus with nothing but his bare hands. Philoctetes recognized the man and called out to them "Herc!" Hercules was struggling to hold back the beast and told Phil to get us out of there. We were soon evacuated back to the coliseum lobby. "Whew, that was close! That was Cerberus, the guardian of the underworld. Herc can take care of him. But then again maybe not." We couldn't just leave Herc and Cloud to die at the hands of that monster. Asuna gave each of us a red ring that we had bought at the accessory shop. We slipped them on our fingers and immediately felt the ring's protective charm take effect. "Hey what's with the fancy rings? And where are you going?" "We're going to help Herc and Cloud." Kirito casually replied. "Are you guys crazy?! There's no way you can beat Cerberus!" Phil remarked. "You can decide if we're hero material or not." Sora said "either way we can't just leave people to die. That's not what heroes do." Asuna said Phil conceded "alright you win. But be careful ya hear!"

When we entered the arena we saw Hercules was carrying cloud, but he was backed into a corner by Cerberus. The dog was about to attack when it turned its three heads to see we had entered the arena ready to fight. The hell hound turned its attention to more fresh prey and gave Hercules a chance to escape with cloud in tow. Phil held the door open as they retreated and shouted "kids, I got two words of advice for you: Attack!" despite his counting problem we took his words to heart and moved in on the three headed goliath. Cerberus acted like we little more than fleas and shot fire balls that homed in on each of us. Those rings came in handy as their magic mitigated the damage and we weren't severely burned. Seeing its first attack fail the guard dog lowered its three heads to devour us. We waited after each head's attack to make our own on the beast. With its weakness found the dog soon reared back its three heads and released a torrent of dark energy into the earth. The darkness sprouted from the ground and chased after each of us as we were forced to run away while Cerberus let loose more fire balls to attack us when the darkness missed its mark. However the hell hound had a short temper and tried to eat us again providing another opening. Asuna stabbed her rapier into the right head's snout, Kirito slashed at the left head's muzzle and Sora dealt the finishing blow to the middle head knocking the beast unconscious. With Cerberus defeated we returned to the lobby to rest.

After we recovered we stood before Phil and Hercules as Phil read from aloud a scroll. "Thus I do hereby dub thee junior heroes. And confer upon thee full rights and privileges to participate in the games. Further- -" "hey what do you mean "junior heroes"?" Donald said angrily 'Donald's right. After defeating a giant three headed hell hound I wanted a gods damned parade damnit!" Kirito thought seething. "You rookies still don't understand what it takes to be a true hero." Phil said. "So what does it take?" goofy asked. "Well that's just something you'll have to find out for yourselves. Just the way that I did." Hercules told us. Sora took their criticisms in stride "no problem. We'll start by proving ourselves in the games." Kirito looked at Sora and how calm he was after everything they just went through. He was touched by Sora's humility and resolved to follow the boy's example.

They left the lobby ready to head back to their ship when they saw cloud sitting on the door step to the world's exit. Asuna approached him and asked if he was alright. "yeah." He replied. "So why did you go along with hades anyway?" Sora asked. "I'm looking for someone. Hades promised to help." As he stood up he told us he tried to exploit the power of darkness and how it backfired. "I fell into darkness, and I couldn't find the light." Kirito felt a connection to cloud. After the death of his friends in the moonlit cats he felt lost as well. Cloud hadn't found friends like Kirito had yet. But he felt that maybe he was just looking in the wrong place. "You'll find them. I'm searching to." Sora said referring to his friends Riku and Kairi. "For your light?" Cloud asked. Sora nodded in the affirmative. Cloud walked towards to the coliseum and handed something to Sora as he did. "Don't lose sight of it." as he proceeded to the Arena Kirito asked if they could have a rematch. "How about it? Fair and square, no dark powers involved." "I think I'll pass." Cloud said nonchalantly as Kirito was standing rejected. "Come on Kirito!" Asuna said as she practically dragged Kirito to the ship.

As they left the sun soon set on the coliseum as Hades was standing outside holding a figurine of Hercules. "He's kind. He's always there for you, and he's handsome to boot. He's perfect. Perfectly infuriating! He makes me crazy! He said as his skin turned red and he released another pillar of flames. He soon calmed down and rethought his strategy. "Wait a minute. What are you doing relax. All the pieces are in place. Here's what you do. Let Hercules train the kids. In the next games, I'll take care of all of them." He said as he tightened his fist. He felt a dark familiar presence behind him he didn't need to turn around to know it was that witch maleficent with her pale green skin and black horns. "Who invited you to the party? Stay out of this. This is my show." His tone implied he wanted no arguments. "As you wish. Fight to your heart's content." Maleficent walked away her heels and staff clacking against the ground as she left."

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Chapter 9: welcome to the jungle

"How did we get in this mess?" Asuna asked Kirito. "Are you asking how we wound up traveling through deep space fighting heartless every day? Or how we crashed in a jungle in the middle of who knows where?" it all started while we traveling to the next world on our journey. Sora was arguing with Donald about piloting the gummi ship. Sora being Sora, messes with the ship's guidance system and and causes the ship to go out of control. The chipmunks initiated an emergency teleport and we were all sent to separate parts of this deep jungle. "Oh ha ha." Replied Asuna. We soon came across a camp in a thicket of bamboo. It seems that whoever made camp here had only recently arrived as there were a large number of unopened crates and brief cases.

We entered a large yellow tent we found not only Sora, Donald, and Goofy; but also three natives of this world. The first was a muscular man with long brown dreadlocks wearing only a loin cloth and carrying a spear. Sora introduced him as Tarzan. He didn't really talk much, but he didn't seem hostile or barbaric aside from his appearance. The other two were known as Jane and Clayton. Jane was hear on an expedition to study gorillas with her father while Clayton was a hired gun. Although Clayton was more interested in hunting gorillas than studying them. Clayton soon left to "patrol" and Jane welcomed us to their camp. Jane explained that Tarzan was raised in the jungle by the gorillas and that he was interested in where Jane came from since he had never seen humans other than himself until they arrived. Jane thought that if she told him about human society than Tarzan would be willing to share the location of the gorillas. She asked us to find slides for a projector they had brought with them to show him. We were happy to oblige her.

As we scoured the camp we found not only slides, but recipes for brewing potions and ethers. Asuna made sure to copy the formulas so we could make them ourselves. When we returned to the tent Jane started up the slideshow. The first picture showed a western styled castle. Sora stared at the castle feeling as if he had seen it before. It was strange because he had never left the island before. The rest of it was rather uninteresting, but Tarzan seemed fascinated by it. "Well, Tarzan?" Jane asked. "Where are my friends, Riku and Kairi?" sora asked. Kirito wasn't aware that Sora thought they were place seemed devoid of heartless, but there were still a lot of dangerous animals in the jungle. If they were then there was no telling what might have happened to them.

When Tarzan shook his head we could tell he hadn't seen them. "Then that just leaves one place." Clayton said upon his return. "Young man, we've been in this jungle for some time now. But we have yet to encounter these friends of yours. I'd wager they're with the gorillas. But Tarzan refuses to take us to them." His theory was farfetched at best, but it was their only lead at the moment. "Really, Mr. Clayton. Tarzan wouldn't hide- -" Jane tried to defend Tarzan, but was interrupted. "Then take us there! Take us to the gorillas. Go-ril-las." Clayton said as if he was speaking to a foreigner that didn't understand him. Tarzan looked at Sora contemplating whether he should reveal the gorilla's location or not. He decided to help sora as he had promised to do so earlier. "Tarzan go see Kerchack." "Kerchack?" Jane questioned. "He must be the leader. Perfect. I'll go along as an escort. After all the jungle is a dangerous place." He said with a sly grin.

After an hour of climbing trees and swinging on vines over a hundred feet from the ground we finally found the gorillas. Tarzan wanted to take a more scenic route in the hopes of losing Clayton along the way. It seemed to work as we hadn't seen him in a while. The leader of the apes was a large silver back gorilla. Tarzan pleaded with Kerchack asking them to aid us. However the gorilla seemed distracted by something and left before giving Tarzan an answer. Sora believed he was heading towards a tree house he had crashed into before. After more tree climbing we found a large two story tree house it was large enough to be considered an actual house, but it was old and had fallen into disrepair. "This place Tarzan's home." Tarzan said. "What happened here?" Asuna asked. This place looked like there was a lot of effort put into it. There was no way the owners just left. "Tarzan's parents… killed by sabor. Kala found me as an infant. And raised me as her own." Tarzan said. From the way he spoke it sounded like he didn't want to talk about it. Not that anyone could blame him.

We saw Clayton was there as well, pointing his rifle at a gorilla ready to mount it on his wall. Donald intervened by letting loose his usual angry scream at Clayton causing him to miss his target. The hunter made up a lousy excuse about aiming at a snake and how he was heroically saving the gorilla's life, but nobody believed him. When we returned to the camp and explained what happened with Jane she was livid. "How could you do such a thing!" "Now, Miss Porter, as I told you, I was not aiming at the gorilla." The researcher wouldn't take anymore of Clayton's excuses and forbade him from going near the Gorillas again. Seeing no way to escape his current predicament the hunter angrily left the tent. It was less than a minute before we heard the sound of Clayton's rifle being fired when we went to investigate it.

We entered the bamboo thicket where Donald and goofy had landed upon our arrival to this world and found a tobacco pipe belonging to Mr. Clayton, but nothing else. We heard a rustling in the bushes and soon a leopard pounced to attack us. "Sabor!" Tarzan exclaimed. Seeing the leopard that had killed Tarzan's parents was now aiming to kill us we were left with no choice but to battle for our survival. Seeing it was outnumbered, the leopard used the surrounding foliage to its advantage and used hit and run attacks whenever it felt threatened. When it was out in the open again we surrounded the big cat preventing its escape. Tarzan brandished his hand made spear and dealt the killing blow to the big cat. Satisfied with his kill, Tarzan took a fang from the beast and offered it to us. "But that's the thing that killed your parents. Why would you give it to us?" Sora asked confused. "Tarzan hate Sabor. Sabor gone now. Tarzan give reminder of Sabor to friends, so that Tarzan is not lost to hate."

He was asking us to share the load with him. Tarzan had only known them for so long, but he had grown to trust us enough to share his struggles with us. "Okay. We'll help you carry this burden." Kirito said. Asuna what Kirito meant when he said that. He knew what it was like bearing other people's negative feelings. He proved it when he made himself the focus of resentment towards the beta testers in SAO so that he'd be the only one targeted. He always tries to bear the weight of the world on his shoulders. The best thing Asuna thought she could do was be there to support him. Tarzan handed the white fang to kirito and he stuffed it in his pocket.

We returned to the camp and gound several monkey like heartless making a mess of the place. Their movements were hard to predict as the orange and yellow ones jumped around scratching wildly at whoever was near, while the pink ones with bows carried sling shots to shoot at us and oddly enough banana peels to make us trip. After dispatching the heartless we went back to the tent to see if Jane was okay, but she was missing. Tarzan suspected they had taken her to the tree tops and we followed him. Tarzan's hunch proved reliable and we found Jane and a gorilla were trapped in a cage of vines. There was a large black fruit and Tarzan told us to destroy it if we were to save them. When we smashed the fruit to bits the vines imprisoning Jane had receded. To our surprise Jane told us that Clayton was leading the heartless on a one man hunt for the gorillas

. We hightailed it back to the bamboo thicket and saw Clayton was indeed leading a pack of heartless and had gorillas trapped between himself and a cliff. Sora distracted Clayton by telling him to stop and gave the gorillas enough time to escape. His prey gone, Clayton turned his attention to us. "Clayton?" sora said confused as to how he had suddenly gained control over the heartless. "Not Clayton!" Tarzan said. He then said something in gorilla that we couldn't understand. "*&&x%!" "Not Clayton!" soon the battle began with us fighting off the heartless while avoiding Clayton's gunfire. Clayton leapt from vantage point to vantage point shooting at us whenever he could. However his anger made him a terrible shot and we soon defeated him. But that wasn't the end of it as the cliff behind him was blown to smithereens by an unknown force. Clayton was then floating in the air as if carried by an invisible mount. Tarzan tried to attack Clayton, but was knocked back by an invisible arm. The real fight had just begun.

We attacked Clayton's invisible mount until it revealed itself as a huge chameleon. With its cover blown the creature bucked Clayton off its back and onto another platform and he supported it with covering fire. We copied their change in tactics by splitting into two groups of three. Sora, Donald, and Goofy took on the Heartless while Kirito, Asuna, and Tarzan went after Clayton. Clayton wasn't tough to beat without his mount, but the Chameleon proved to be a different story as it fired beams of light from its eyes that chased after us. And when we got to close it let loose a blast of razor sharp wind from its mouth. It let loose a loud cry and Tarzan took the moment to leap into the air and thrust his spear straight down its gullet. The spear pierced the creature's stomach and stabbed into the ground affectively pinning it. The chameleon's eyes spun around wildly as its body faded and the heart it captured was released and Clayton's own body disappeared with it.

Sensing the danger had passed the gorillas returned to the thicket and looked at their saviors. The silver back gorilla Kerchack, approached Sora believing the boy could be trusted. He grabbed Sora by the arm and then tossed him high into the air so that he would land on top of the cliff near the waterfalls. The gorilla looked ready to do the same to us. "Um no, no, we're good, we'll climb." Kirito said, but the gorilla grabbed him anyway. "We'll CLIIIIIIMMMMB!" Kirito screamed as he too was thrown into the air. He landed on the cliff with a hard thud. "Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow." Kirito said as he was about to get up. However he was soon on the ground again as Asuna was thrown and she landed on top of him and he screamed in pain when she did. "Are you okay" Asuna asked? "I think my back is broken." Kirito replied. "Are you saying I'm heavy?" Asuna said in a teasing tone. "Could you please get off already?!" Kirito asked. "Fine." Asuna replied and left her position atop Kirito.

They had entered a cave that led directly behind the waterfalls. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous as they made their way across the series of vines and rock formations. At the top of the hidden cavern they found an entrance that led to a chamber deeper inside. The small cave was covered in moss and was home to a large number of blue butterflies. The insects departed from their position on the tree to reveal a keyhole like the one we found in wonderland. Knowing what to do this time, Sora used his keyblade and once again discharged another beam of light towards it. In similar fashion there was a locking sound followed by another nav gummi. "Sorry about what I said." Sora apologized to Donald. "I'm sorry too." Donald replied. Goofy laughed and placed both hands on the two. "All for one huh?" when Sora and Donald settled their argument a gorilla entered the cave and cozied up to Donald. "I think someone has a new admirer." Jane joked. Soon everyone was laughing at Donald as he shook his hands frantically. "No, no, no! Daisy would kill me!" his pleas went on unheard as they all continued to laugh at his expense.

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Chapter 10 whispers in the dark.

In a world far away from our heroes a group led by a certain horned witch was using magic to spy on them. "What drew the heartless to that world?" asked Jafar. The world Sora and his friends were just at remained untainted by the heartless until they arrived. He wanted to know if it was the boy chosen by the key or if it was another outside force. "The hunter called them there. It was his lust for power that was the bait. But it seems the bait was too tasty for his own good." Maleficent answered. Another entity cackled at her answer. "Yeah, he got chomped instead!" the strange figure was known as Oogie Boogie. A resident of Halloween town and local pest. He was a literal bag of bugs. "A weak-hearted fool like him stood no chance against the heartless. But the boy is a problem. He found two of the keyholes." Jafar said as he approached the opposite side of the table where Maleficent stood. "Fear not. It will take him ages to find the rest. Besides, he remains blissfully unaware of our other plan." Maleficent spoke as she conjured an image of the group of five. "Yes, the princesses…" Jafar answered. "They are falling into our hands, one by one." Maleficent said. "Speaking of which." She looked to see their latest captive had wondered into the chapel. It was Alice the young girl was terribly frightened by the band of villains and she soon passed out in fright.

Meanwhile Sora and company were on their merry way back to traverse town. Now that they had found the other half of the nav gummi they were ready to have Cid install it. We also wanted to ask Leon if he knew anything about the keyholes we had found in the worlds we had visited. We soon returned to the first district and immediately went to find Cid. As usual he was near the entrance to the second district behind the accessory shop. We showed him the completed gummi and he offered to install it in exchange for a favor. He gave us a tattered old book titled "Winnie the Pooh" and asked us to return it to an old man in the third district. He told us to look for a wooden door with red fire insignia. He said it would take a while to install the gummi anyway so we agreed to help him out. Lucky for us the first district was also connected to the third district so we didn't have to go very far. The door Cid mentioned had no knob or handle and appeared to be locked. Seeing the fire insignia on the door Sora thought using a fire spell would unlock it. He launched a fire ball at the door and surely enough the door slid upwards allowing us passage.

As we entered the mysterious door we saw an old stone house with a straw roof sitting on a small island in the middle of a lake. The only way across was by hopping across the floating stones between the shore and the lake. When we reached the island and entered the house we saw it was completely empty. 'Was Cid trying to play a prank on us?' Kirito thought. Meanwhile, sora seemed to be in a kind of trance. "There's something about this musty place." Sora turned around surprised to hear the familiar voice. Standing there in this seemingly abandoned house was his friend Kairi. She had short red hair, blue eyes, and she wore a white tank top and a short pink skirt. "It reminds me of the secret place back home. Where we used to scribble on the walls. Remember?" Sora couldn't believe the person he was searching for was standing right in front of him. "Kairi?" Sora asked reaching out to her. "Sora?" he was broken out of his trance when he heard Goofy call his name. "Are you alright Sora?" Asuna asked concerned. "Uh, yeah. It was just a daydream." He tried to play it off with a laugh.

"Well, well. You've arrived sooner than I expected." An old man had entered the house. He wore a blue robe with a long pointed hat and was carrying a wand and a brief case. His long white beard flowed down to his slipper covered feet. "You were expecting us?" Kirito asked. "Of course." He replied. "My name is Merlin. I am a sorcerer and I spend much of my time traveling. It's good to be home. Oh! I just recalled your king asked for my help." "King mickey?" Donald asked. "That's right. Donald, Goofy, and who might you three be?" Merlin questioned. Sora did the introductions "I'm Sora. This is Kirito and Asuna." "Ah, so you're the one with the key." Merlin remarked. Merlin opened his brief case and with a wave of his wand item after item filled the room until it looked like a proper home with a bed, study, and piles of books. He then told us that the king asked merlin to instruct Sora in magic. Asuna asked if merlin could teach her as well. "Of course. The more the merrier as I always say. We can start anytime you like." "One more thing. Cid asked us to deliver this book to you." Kirito gave the book to merlin "he said he repaired as best he could, but I think there are some pages missing." Kirito told him "I see. Merlin placed the book on a desk so it wouldn't be lost in his other ones. "This book leads to a special world. I'm afraid in my clumsiness, I cast a spell that scattered its pages across the many worlds. I hate to trouble you, but could you please look for the pages in your travels? It would mean a great deal to me." He asked. We promised we'd keep an eye out for them.

When we told him we were going to see Leon he said that they he was in the waterway beneath his house right now. Merlin said he could transport us there right now. He waved his wand once again and the floor we were standing on began to lower to the caverns below like an elevator. Surely enough Leon was there practicing his swordsmanship while Aerith watched. He noticed us approaching and stopped to talk. We told him about the worlds we went to and the keyholes that the keyblade locked up. "That's good. Every world in the stars has a Keyhole. And each one leads to the heart of that world. There's one in this town as well." Leon said. "According to Ansem's report, the heartless enter unlocked keyholes and do something to the world's core. Eventually it disappears." Aerith said. "So that's what happened." Kirito said upon hearing their explanation. "That's why the keyblade is so important." Asuna realized. "It's the only thing that can keep the worlds safe. And Sora is the only person that has one." Leon finished. Sora looked at the keyblade as if he was looking at it for the first time. Only now realizing the responsibility he carried.

Before we left leon told us to meet him at a small house in the third district and gave us a stone of some kind. He said he carried it around for luck and thought maybe we could use it. We then returned to Merlin's house so Sora and Asuna could start magic training. Kirito opted to sit out since he felt he would be fine with just his two swords. As Kirito put it a jack of all trades is a master of none. He knew magic might help him later, but he opted for sword training instead. After practicing the sonic blade technique they had acquired from cloud Kirito returned to the house and sat on the bed casually tossing the stone Leon had given them as he waited for Sora and Asuna to finish their lessons. "Oh, my dear boy, you musn't be so rough with him." A voice spoke out of nowhere. Kirito looked around to see who it was when he saw dozens of sparkling blue lights come together and formed what appeared to be an old woman. She was dressed in blue as merlin was, but in place of a hat she wore a hood and her wand was a small white baton whereas Merlin's was large and made of wood. "What do you mean him? Do you know what this is?" Kirito asked. "That, my dear, is a summon gem. Summon gems are made when someone with a strong heart has lost their world to darkness. Even if they've lost their body, their will lives on in that stone. I can teach you how to summon them forth and they will be your allies in battle." the old woman said. "You can do that?" Kirito asked. "Indeed. I am the fairy godmother. And I exist to make dreams come true. Bippity Boppity BOO." With a wave of her wand and her magic words the summon gem glowed and filled Kirito's head with arcane sorcery and the image of a lion standing atop a rock formation. The clouds parted and light from the sun shined down as he roared. "Simba." The name floated in Kirito's head as the image faded away. "Woah…" Kirito said after feeling the power from the new spell in his arsenal. 'Maybe magic was a skill worth learning after all.' Kirito thought.

When Asuna and Sora returned from their training upstairs we left for the third district. Upon arriving we saw a soldier heartless that was quickly dispatched by a boy with short silver hair. He wore a yellow vest and blue cargo pants held by straps on his belt. Similar straps were also on his vest and formed an x across his chest. The sword he carried looked more like a large bat's wing and it had a blue eye where the hilt connected to the blade. "There you are Sora. What's going on?" "Riku!" sora exclaimed. He then walked up to Riku and proceeded to mess with the boy's face to make sure he was real. "Hey cut it out!" Riku said. "I'm not dreaming this time, right?" Sora asked. "I hope not. It took forever to find you." Riku stated. "We see him too if that helps." Asuna joked. Honestly they were glad Sora had found one of his friends. But he was such a goofball that it's hard not to mess with him. "Wait a second, where's Kairi?" Sora asked. "Isn't she with you?" Riku responded. From Sora's despondent look he could tell that wasn't the case. Riku tried to cheer up his friend. "Well, don't worry. I'm sure she made it off the island, too. We're finally free. Hey she might even be looking for us now." Unknown to Riku there was a shadow heartless rising from the ground behind him. "We'll all be together again soon. Don't worry, just leave everything to me. I know this- -" Sora drew his keyblade and defeated the heartless in a single strike.

"Leave it to who?" Sora boasted as he held the keyblade. Riku was surprised to see how strong Sora had gotten since they left the islands. Kirito was more impressed by how much stronger sora became in the short time they journeyed together. "I've been looking for you and Kairi, too with their help." Sora said. "Who are they?" Riku asked. "Ahem. My name is- -" Donald was about to say before he was interrupted by Sora. "We've visited so many places and worlds looking for you." Sora stated. Riku looked skeptical. "Really? Well what do you know? I never would've guessed." "And guess what? Sora's the keyblade master!" goofy proclaimed. "Who would've thought it?" Donald said sarcastically. "What's that supposed to mean?" Sora asked. As the two were about to get in another argument Kirito and Asuna intervened by hitting them on the head and telling them to knock it off. Sora dropped the keyblade covering his sore spot and Riku picked it up to examine it. "So this is called a keyblade?" Riku asked. "Hey give it back!" sora demanded. He tried chasing after him, but Riku was too quick. After he was done looking at it Riku tossed the keyblade back to sora. "Okay. So you're coming with us right? We've got this awesome rocket. Wait 'til you see it!" Sora said. "No, he can't come!" Donald said. "What? Why not?!" Sora asked. "There's no room!" Donald stated. He wasn't wrong. The gummi ship only had enough room for five people. Even if Asuna and I shared a room to make space for Riku, his weight would slow us down. While Sora and Donald were arguing Riku disappeared. While sora was mad at Donald for forbidding Riku from coming with him he was glad Riku was okay.

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Chapter 11 truth and Lies.

Leon and the others were waiting for us at the small house. It was a modest place to say the least. Although it wasn't taken care of if the wall paper peeling of the walls was any indication. Leon and Cid explained that someone named Maleficent was in town. Apparently she was a witch that could call upon the heartless. She was the reason traverse town was filled with heartless and why Leon, Cid, Yuffie, and Aerith left their world nine years ago. Leon believed that she acquired the ability to control the heartless by studying Ansem's report. According to Aerith, Ansem was the leader of their world and he was dedicated to studying the heartless. Unknown to them, Maleficent was standing outside with riku at that very moment spying on them.

"You see? It's just as I told you. While you toiled away trying to find your dear friend, he quite simply replaced you with some new companions." Riku simply watched sora believing annoyed by the fact that he was just being lazy and hanging out with his new friends. Rather than looking for Kairi like he was, Sora was just goofing off like he always does. Riku thought. "Evidently, now he values them far more than he does you. You're better off without that wretched boy. Now, think no more of him, and come with me. I'll help you find what you're searching for…" Fine. If Sora couldn't get off his butt to look for Kairi, then he'd just have to find Kairi himself. Riku left with Maleficent returning to her lair in Hollow bastion.

Soon after the bell there was a small quake as the bell in the second district rang. "What was that?" Sora asked. "What was the bell tower in the second district." Aerith answered. "Rumors say if you ring the bell three times then something happens." Yuffie said. "You should check it out before you leave." Followed Leon. With nothing else to do we went to the second district. To reach the top of the tower we went through a brightly colored room filled with gizmos and other mechanical contraptions. After that it was a simple matter of climbing the ladder to the roof. When we rang the bell the first time the fresco in the fountain plaza rotated revealing another fresco. As it turned the fountain displayed light show and sprayed mist as it rotated. The same thing happened when we pulled it a second time. But on the third chime the fresco turned and revealed Traverse town's Keyhole right in the middle of the fountain. As we made our way to the fountain plaza a magical barrier was raised to protect the keyhole and in the same manner as before the guard armor heartless fell from the sky as if seeking revenge. This heartless was no stranger to us and we knew how to fight it this time.

We fought it in the same pattern as before when the Armor heartless showed us a new trick. The torso turned until it was upside down and now its hands were acting as its feet and vice versa. As it floated in the air its mask opened to reveal a shadowed face with glowing yellow eyes. Its new method of movement made it faster than before and its attacks became unpredictable. However the Odd armor shared the same trait as its counterpart and split itself to attack us individually. This proved to be its undoing as each of its limbs were quickly destroyed once again. Instead of its tornado attack, the head and torso floated in the air and fired blasts of energy at us like a cannon. Kirito thought it was time to use the new spell he had learned. "Appear, King of pride rock, Simba!" in a flash of light the Lion from his vision appeared on the physical plain. Simba and Kirito began charging their magic energy and as it reached its peak Simba released a mighty roar that rebounded the armor's magical blast back at itself. The armor exploded from the force of its own attack combined with Simba's, releasing a captive heart upon its defeat.

Sora and the others stared in awe at the power of Kirito's summon. "Just when and how did you learn that?" Asuna asked kirito. He pulled out the summon gem Leon had given them. "He came from this." Kirito said. "while you guys were training with Merlin, this woman calling herself the fairy godmother told me this was a summon gem and taught me how to use it." they all stared at the gem in wonder. "Wow. Do you think we could learn how to summon him to?" Sora asked. "I don't see why not." Kirito replied. Asuna just laughed "And you said you weren't interested in learning magic." "It's not that." Kirito defended. "I just think I'm a better swordsman than a magician." Said Kirito. "I take it that means you'll be hitting the books with me and Sora then?" Asuna joked. "There's books?! Aw, you've gotta be kidding me!" kirito complained. We all had a good laugh after that.

Soon Sora sealed the keyhole of traverse town and we returned to the first district to see if Cid had finished upgrading our ship. When we arrived we saw Cid was waiting for us with Kirito's laptop. Kirito trusted Cid, but he didn't like it when people messed with his things." "Um, Cid why do you have that?" Kirito asked hoping that he hadn't tampered with it. "The chipmunks told me about your little scuffle out in interspace." Cid said gruffly. "So I installed a few programs on your two little AI's here." He said. "YOU DID WHAT?!" Kirito and Asuna shouted. Kirito grabbed the laptop from Cid and immediately opened it up to check on Yui and Strea. When he saw them yui was wearing a pink suit with black boots and white gloves and she wore an old fashioned flight cap with goggles. Strea was wearing a similar outfit, but the color was purple and the zipper on her jacket was unzipped a little bit to show off her cleavage. "What did you do?" Kirito asked.

"I just installed some flight routines for your ship. And a calculation system for the warp gummi I installed for free by the way." Cid scolded. "It's alright Kirito." Strea assured him. "Cid didn't change our programming at all. He just added to it." "Yeah. It was like going to flight school. It was super fun." Yui said. "And the outfits?" Asuna asked. "We made them." Strea said pointing at herself. "It's pretty easy for Yui and I to alter our clothes and even our avatars." "It's just like customizing your avatar in the character creation engine in SAO or Alfheim online." Yui said. Kirito was relieved that Cid hadn't caused any permanent damage to them. "So you two are going to be flying the ship from now on?" Sora said. "Just when the auto pilot is enabled." Strea said. They then showed us a digital presentation of them flying in and old fighter plane with two sets of wings stacked on top of eachother. The plane had two seats and strea was sitting in the back manning the guns while yui was in the pilot's seat. "It's pretty simple. Strea handles the weapons system while I do the flying." Yui said as the presentation showed them doing loop di loops and shooting down other planes.

"But what if the ship gets damaged? Will they get hurt?" Asuna asked concerned. "Ain't no need to worry about that little lady." Cid said "the laptop has to be manually connected to the ship for them to fly it. And even if they are their programs'll stay on that there computer. So there's no risk to them at all." Asuna was relieved that their safety was guaranteed, but she shuttered at the thought of Strea being in charge of the weapons system as she imagined hundreds of people fleeing in terror of the bubbly girl shooting lasers at them. She then shook her head to rid herself of the idea. Strea wasn't like that after all. "Okay that checks out." Kirito said as he examined their individual data matrices. But could you please not mess with my daughter's programming again." Kirito asked. "Whatever floats your boat." Cid said. With their business in traverse town concluded, the five of them returned to the gummi ship ready to explore the worlds beyond the first quadrant.

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Chapter 12 one thousand and one nights.

In a land in a faraway place there were two ominous figures walking the streets in the desert city of Agrabah. The horned witch Maleficent, was accompanied by the sultan's royal vizier Jafar. Jafar was a tall thin fellow that wore black and red robes made of silk. His turban was black and bore a red feather attached to a red jewel at the base. He carried a magic scepter shaped like a cobra made of solid gold. Maleficent had come for a report on the location of Agrabah's keyhole. According to Jaffar, the heartless were still searching for it. Then a red parrot came flying to Jaffar's side. This was Iago, Jaffar's most trusted henchmen. Together the two of them plotted to overthrow the royal family for quite some time. Of course that was before Maleficent came to his doorstep and proposed the alliance they and other villains of the various worlds now shared. Iago had been sent on a scouting mission to locate the sultan's daughter, princess Jasmine. However despite Iago's bird's eye view, he had failed to locate her.

"The girl is more trouble than she's worth." Jafar sneered. "You said you had things under control." Maleficent scolded. "Agrabah is full of holes for rats to hide in." He spoke. "But why worry about princess Jasmine? With her or without her, surely this world will be ours when we find the keyhole." Jafar questioned. Maleficent had yet to let him see the bigger picture. "We need all seven princesses of heart to open the final door. Any fewer is useless." She spoke. "Well, if the princess is that important, we'll find her." He then summoned a group of humanoid heartless wearing desert garb and turbans to cover their faces. Jafar ordered them to locate princess Jasmine and bring her back to him. The heartless followed Iago on the hunt as they wielded their scimitars like bandits. "Don't steep yourself in darkness too long. The heartless consume the careless." Maleficent warned. Jafar laughed at her warning. "Your concern is touching, but hardly necessary." He said as he left to join the search. Little did they know, the woman they were searching for had been spying on them the entire time.

Upon their arrival to Agrbah, our heroes were set upon by the heartless once more. The bandits came with scimitars swinging in an effort to defeat them. The heartless of this world seemed to be stronger than the ones they had encountered before. But they persevered and managed to fight them off. After their victory they took shelter in a nearby storage room to escape the sweltering heat. "Is it just me, or are they getting harder to fight?" Donald asked. "Sure seems like it." Goofy said. "That must mean we're getting closer to whoever's controlling them." Sora said. "It makes sense. The boss would probably want the best minions with him." Kirito said. "Maybe if we find someone, we can ask them what's going on." Asuna said. After they explored the Bazaar they searched the Alley ways of Agrabah. As soon as they entered the alley way, a woman dressed in blue. She was hiding behind a couple of crates so clearly she didn't want to be found. But she asked for attention so she must've thought it would be safe to talk to us. She told us about how the royal vizier commanded the heartless to dispose of the sultan and how she escaped with the help of her friend Aladdin. "Aladdin? Where might I find this street rat" a voice spoke seemingly from nowhere. We looked upwards to find Jaffar standing above us. "Jasmine, allow me to find you more suitable company, my dear princess. These little rats won't do, you see." Jafar said mockingly.

Sensing a fight was coming we each drew our weapons and Asuna told Jasmine to escape. Jaffar looked at Sora as he had yet to meet the key bearer in person. "Ah, the boy who holds the key." He said. Not wanting to dirty his hands, Jaffar summoned more heartless to attack us while he left to find Jasmine. They appeared one after another in an attempt to keep us busy. It was clear that jaffar had left them as a distraction for us. After we defeated the heartless, we left the city to search for Aladdin. We knew the princess would be able to hide from Jaffar, but Aladdin was in danger since Jaffar knew he had helped her. As we walked through the harsh winds of the desert wondering which way to go, a magic carpet came flying towards us. It acted like it was alive and from the gestures it made, it wanted us to get on. With no other options we decided to trust it. We flew out into the desert until night had fallen. The carpet had taken us to circle of rocks in the middle of nowhere. In the middle of it there was a man and a little monkey struggling to escape a pit of quicksand. Even if they managed to escape though, the heartless surrounded them. 'The heartless had no reason to be out so far away from the city. The man in the pit has to be Aladdin.' Kirito thought. So Sora and the others rushed in to save him.

Sora, Donald, and Goofy fought off the heartless while Kirito and Asuna reached out for Aladdin. Kirito held Asuna as she reached for Aladdin. The struggling man reached out and managed to grab her hand before he was completely submerged. The two of them managed to pull Aladdin and his pet monkey from the pit. However the heartless were still present and saving Aladdin had exhausted them. Seeing no other choice Aladdin pulled out his trump card. "Genie! Get rid of these guys!" he said as he rubbed the old oil lamp. Soon a trail of blue smoke was released from the lamp as the genie appeared. He had blue skin, pointy ears and was bald with the exception of a pony tail in the back and a beard on his chin. He wore gold bracelets and a red sash on his waist. His top half looked human, but from the waist down he had only a wispy pointed tail. "Wish number one coming right up!" he said enthusiastically. With a snap of his fingers the heartless all disappeared in displays of pink fireworks. With the threat abated, we all flew away on his magic carpet and explained what was happening in Agrabah while Aladdin was away.

"I see… thanks you guys." He said. "So what were you doing out here?" Sora asked? "Same old stuff. Hunting down legendary treasure. Just paid a visit to the cave of wonders." Aladdin reminded Kirito of his friend Philia from back home. In their little group, Philia was the treasure hunter and she always had dibs on cracking a lock on a door or treasure chest when we found one. She also knew how to spot dangerous traps and told us how to avoid them. You could say she's an expert on the subject. 'I wonder if she wound up in another world like Agil and his wife did? Maybe she's here? This place would be perfect for her after all. A treasure hunter's paradise.' Kirito thought. "While I was there, I found this magic carpet. And this magic lamp." Aladdin said. "Legend has it, that whoever holds this lamp, can summon the- -"

"Please, kid, leave the introduction to the professional. The one and only GENIE OF THE LAMP!" The genie loudly interrupted. He then grabbed the lamp and rubbed it. "Rub-a-dub-dub the lamp and have your dearest wishes granted. Today's winner is… Aladdin! Congratulations." he said as he rained confetti on him and shook his hand. "Any wish?" Donald asked. The genie wagged his finger at him. "Patience my fine feathered friend!" he then split into three duplicates of himself with each of them holding up three fingers. "Any three wishes! A one wish, a two wish, a three wish. Then I make like a banana and split!" as he counted down each of the duplicates including himself disappeared. "Our lucky winner made his first wish- -" he then poofed next to sora and held up his hand as if they were speaking privately. "And let me tell you, what a doozy that wish was- -" he then floated back to back with another duplicate. "So he has two left." "So, master, what'll you have for Wish Number Two?" he said while using his tail as a microphone and putting the spotlight on Aladdin.

"Hmm, how about making me a fabulously wealthy prince?" Aladdin asked. "Ooh! Money! Royalty! Fame! Why didn't I think of that?" the genie said as if he'd granted that particular wish before. "Okay, you asked for it! A hundred servants and a hundred camels loaded with gold!" he then pressed his fingers like he was dialing a phone. "Just say the word and I'll deliver it in 30 minutes or less or your meal's free." The enthusiastic genie then threw his arm around Aladdin's shoulder. "Hey I'll even throw in a cappuccino!" "No thanks. I think I'll put that wish on hold until we reach Agrabah." He said. "Uh, why a prince?" asked goofy. "You see, there's this girl in Agrabah named Jasmine. But she's a princess. And I'm… Aw, she could never fall for a guy like me." "Oh! We gotta get back to Agrabah! She's in trouble Aladdin." His eyes widened at the news. "What? Well, c'mon, let's get going!" Aladdin said. In a sense Kirito was in the same boat Aladdin was. Asuna came from a wealthy family and her mother wanted her to marry a wealthy man. She only tolerated Kirito because Asuna loved him and the last choice Asuna's parents made for her potential suitors was into some shady business and got arrested. Sugou was a lot like Jaffar now that Kirito thought of it. They had the same mannerisms and spoke the same way. Hopefully they could save Jasmine in time and help Aladdin see that he didn't need things like money and status to get Jasmine to like him.

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Chapter 13 a promise to keep

As we flew back to Agrabah on Aladdin's magic carpet, which was sort of cramped with all of us on it by the way. Genie was enjoying being out in the world again. "Ah, Fresh air! The great outdoors!" Genie said while flying through the air. "I take it you don't get out much?" Sora joked. "Comes with the job kiddo. Phenomenal cosmic powers. Itty-bitty living space. It's always three wishes, then back to my portable prison. I'm lucky to see the light of day every century or two." Kirito and Asuna thought that was pretty sad. Even though genie was an immortal cosmic being they couldn't imagine being isolated from existence for centuries at a time. They could barely handle SAO for two years. "Say, genie, what if I use my last wish to free you from the lamp?" Aladdin asked. "You'd do that?!" Genie exclaimed. He couldn't believe his pointy blue ears. "Genie, it's a promise. After we help Jasmine."

When we arrived in Agrabah, Aladdin took us straight to the palace suspecting she might be there. His hunch was confirmed when we saw Jasmine standing outside the palace gates. Unfortunately Jafar was there to. With the Princess cornered with nowhere to escape, Jafar turned his attention to Aladdin. "Setting your sights a little high, aren't you, boy?" he questioned. "Back to your hole, street rat. I will not allow you to trouble the princess anymore." He sneered. Jafar believed he had the upper hand. Jasmine was captured and the six of them couldn't contend with the heartless and his magic. Seeing no other choice, Aladdin held the lamp behind his back and used his second wish to have Genie rescue Jasmine. The genie then appeared behind Jasmine and swept her away from Jafar's clutches. "One wish left! You're making this really easy you know? Genie said in his usual tone of optimism. But Jafar was clever, he knew Aladdin possessed the lamp and as he predicted, brought it straight to him.

"So sorry boy. I'm afraid your second wish has been denied." Right on cue Iago swooped in and pilfered the lamp from Aladdin's grasp and gave it to Jafar. Now that the lamp was his, the genie would do what he commanded it to do. "I'm sorry al!" genie said as he was forced back into the lamp. With her rescuer gone Jasmine fell straight into a red pot. But this was no ordinary pot. It sprouted insect like legs and revealed a yellow eye inside it. Jafar commanded the pot spiders to attack us and left with his prize. Two centipede like heartless burst free from the confines of their pots and the pot spiders lined up between them and acted as a body for the creature. As it tried to escape we could here Jasmine's cries for help. Fortunately for us pottery was very easy to break and a poor choice for body parts. Even with the pot centipede's feelers and antennae brimming with electricity to keep us at bay they weren't so quick without their precious pots. However when the fight was over Jasmine was nowhere to be found.

Believing Jafar was no longer in the city, we headed back to the desert where we found Aladdin. As soon as we arrived the ground shook as a stone lion's head rose from the desert sands. According to Aladdin this was the entrance to the cave of wonders. We entered the lion's gaping maw and descended down into the dungeon below. As we progressed through the cave of wonders we encountered not only heartless, but numerous traps as well. There were boulders rolling down ramp ways and fixtures that sprayed water geysers from their mouths. It seems the point of the traps was to force victims to fall into the chasm below. But like all dungeon traps they had a pattern to them. The boulders were slow and released one at a time, while the geysers erupted at timed intervals. Once the heartless were taken care of we carefully navigated each obstacle and advanced to the next room. The next room had more traps and once again more heartless. But this time there was a stair case leading to the caverns depths while the way forward was blocked by a stone pillar in the door way.

"How'd you get past this Aladdin?" Kirito asked. "This wasn't here before when I was searching for genie's lamp." Aladdin said. "Either Jafar's changed things, or there's more to the cave of wonders than I thought." Either way it seemed that their only option was to follow the stair case in to the depths. As we descended into the cavern Aladdin told us more about the cave. "There used to be a curse here. If anyone touched treasure other than the lamp, the cave would trap its victims and burn them alive in magma." He said. "Sounds like one heck of a booby trap." Donald said. "Is that why the entrance was buried when we found you?" Asuna asked. "More or less. Abu couldn't keep his hands off this ruby. It was nearly as big as he was." The fez wearing primate screeched offended at his friend's statement. "Well you did." Aladdin scolded. "Anyway as soon as that happened carpet flew us out of there. But he wasn't fast enough and me and Abu got stuck in that sand." Aladdin said. "Didn't you have any friends to help ya out?" Goofy asked "There was somebody else with me. But she go blasted off by one of those water spouts while I was chasing Abu." The monkey cooed sadly knowing it was his fault. "She saved me from falling down here. I don't even know if she's okay or not. I didn't even know her for long, but she chose to help me anyway."

When we reached the bottom of the stair case we saw a network of underground rivers connecting to various other caves. From the looks of things it seemed that no matter where you fell from the top you would always fall into these rivers. "Abu, no!" Abu had scampered off towards a stone statue of a monkey holding a large ruby. When Abu touched it the ground shook and various pathways rose from the water, connecting each cave. "Maybe the curse was lifted when you found the lamp Aladdin." Sora said. "Maybe…" Aladdin said. As we explored the underground network of rivers and caves we found a large pillar protruding from the water and rising to the floors above. Part of it was misshapen and looked fragile. "I bet if we hit that with magic then the door would open up." Sora said. "Worth a shot." Donald followed. "Hey fellas, I think ya might wanna look at this."

Goofy said. Goofy pointed to a figure curled up in a corner. Her clothes were damp and she was shivering from the cold. "It's you!" Aladdin exclaimed. He ran up to her relieved to see that she was alive. "You're freezing… Kirito hand me your coat. Everyone else make a fire." Everyone did as he instructed. Soon were all sitting around a fire while we waited for her to regain consciousness. After a few minutes the hooded girl in Aladdin's lap woke up. "Aladdin? You came back for me?" she asked. "It's a bit more complicated than that. I'm just glad you're okay." He said. "Whose coat is this? It looks like it's more than you can afford. Did your magic genie wish it up?" She asked. "Hey the genie's real!" Aladdin countered "but the coat belongs to one of my friends here." He said. "Is that so?" the girl then turned to the alleged friends and was surprised by what she saw. Aside from the spiky haired boy and the dog and duck she recognized two of them.

"Kirito? Asuna?" she asked. 'We hadn't introduced ourselves yet. How could someone from Aladdin's world know our names? Unless…' Kirito thought. The girl lifted up her hood and lowered the mask covering her face. She had blue eyes and short blonde hair. It was Takemiya Kotone, or Philia as we knew her in SAO. "Philia!" we exclaimed. "It's nice to see you again. I'm glad I'm not the only one who survived that weird storm." Philia said. "How did you meet Aladdin?" Asuna asked. "It's kind of a long story. See I was walking around Agrabah trying to figure out how I got here when this little monkey pilfered the apple I um… Pilfered." Abu grinned bashfully as he recalled that particular instance. "When I chased after him I found Aladdin. He scolded Abu for getting caught and gave back the apple." Philia explained. "That's when I told Philia about the Cave of wonders. Not everyone can keep up with Abu as well as she did. I thought she'd come in handy." Aladdin said. "Oh you thought huh? Where was that thought when I saved your butt?" Philia said. "Hey, I'm sorry okay!" Aladdin apologized. "Hehe. I'm just pulling your chain. I know you would have done the same thing for me." She joked. "So if you don't mind me asking, who are these weirdos?" she asked. "I'm Sora. This is Donald and Goofy." Sora introduced. Philia looked at Kirito and Asuna for an explanation. "We'd like to tell you everything, but we don't have much time." Kirito said. "We've gotta help Aladdin save Jasmine and genie from that mean old Jafar." Asuna said.

"About that." Aladdin spoke up. "Philia's too weak to fight right now. I think it would be best if you guys helped her get out of here." He said. "I'm not that weak!" she said. But she nearly fell over as she stood up. Aladdin caught her before she hit the ground. "He's right. We'll use the carpet to fly you back to the city." Kirito said. "Fine…"she acquiesced. With their new plan made the group of six split up. Kirito and Asuna helped Philia back to the cave entrance while Sora, Donald, Goofy, and Aladdin went after Jaffar. While Kirito saw Aladdin's logic he was disappointed that he wouldn't get to fight Jaffar with the others. But Philia's wellbeing came first so he'd suck it up. When the three of them made their way outside Asuna helped Philia on to the carpet. He was about to get back on when Asuna stopped him. "Carpet will fly faster if he's just carrying the two of us. And I know you really want to fight Jafar. Just promise me you'll come back." Asuna said. Of course she wanted Kirito to come with her, but Sora and the others would need all the help they could get against Jafar and the Genie. And the faster she and philia made it back to Agrabah the faster carpet could come back for them. "You're sure about this?" Kirito asked. "Yeah." She then kissed him briefly. "For luck." She said. Asuna then flew off with Philia and carpet while Kirito went back to the cave of wonders.

When kirito made his way back to the room with the staircase he saw that the pillar blocking his way to the next room was now lowered until the top was now part of the floor. When he went to the next room he saw it was filled with piles of gold coins, jewels, and other treasures. As he made his way through the room he pocketed a hand full of coins and jewels and grabbed a dagger with a gold hilt and hand guard. A ruby was embedded in the hilt. The blade was a shiny silver color and had an eight pointed star etched into the blade. It even came with a scabbard. He knew how much Philia loved treasure and she would hate it if they came back from their excursion with nothing. Satisfied with his small plunder Kirito went to the next room. When he arrived he saw that the floor of the final room had collapsed. Sora and the others were in another room beneath him. It was filled with magma and there were platforms rising and falling as they chased after Iago while avoiding the attacks of a big red genie. "I must've missed a lot." Kirito said. He looked around the rest of the room and to his surprise he saw Riku carrying princess jasmine like a sack towards a dark portal of some kind. "Hey! What do you think you're doing? RIKU!" The silver haired boy simply ignored Kirito and walked through the portal with jasmine in tow. The portal then disappeared and all that was left was genie's lamp.

A plan formed in Kirito's mind and he made his way towards it. He rubbed the lamp and genie was released from the lamp once again. "Kirito! Boy am I glad to see you! Jafar used me to show him the keyhole. Then he made me fight sora and dear, sweet, Aladdin. And then he made me turn him into a genie like me! It's just so CRUEL!" He said while crying literal rivers and blowing into an oversized handkerchief. "So that's Jafar down there." Kirito said "Bingo! Sora and the others are after Jafar's lamp so they can suck him back in, but he's giving them a hard time of it. Seeing my precious Aladdin dodging lasers and fire balls makes me oh so worried. And the fact that it's that no good Jafar makes me so mad. Oooo I just wanna give him a good old one two!" he said making boxing gloves appear on his hands. "Well it's your lucky day Genie." Kirito said "my wish is for you beat up Jafar 'til your hearts content!" he said holding the lamp. "With pleasure!" Genie zoomed towards Jafar, his fist raised to hit Jafar in the face like a Rocket. And with a satisfying Ka-blam, Jafar's attack was interrupted by the blue genie. "What is the meaning of this?!" Jafar demanded. "I got myself a new master Jafar! And his first wish was for me to beat you like a drum!" He then summoned a pair of drumsticks and beat them on Jafar's head. Jafar quickly moved away from him. "Insolence! I am an all-powerful genie!" he shouted "News flash bucko! I've been at this Genie gig ten thousand years longer than you have! And I know exactly where to hit!" genie then grabbed Jafar by his tail and spun him around like a top and when he built up enough momentum, he tossed him like a log and sent him crashing into the stone wall. "Jafar!" Iago screamed dropping the lamp. "Uh-oh!" before Iago could retrieve it, Sora grabbed the black lamp and pointed it at the red genie. "Okay Jafar! Back to your lamp!" the lamp unleashed a swirling red vortex and it sucked in both Jafar and Iago. After that intense fight the cave was ready to collapse. There was no way the carpet could get to them in time. Kirito used his second wish. "Alright genie, take us back to Aladdin's house!" Kirito said. "You sir, on a roll today!" with a snap of his fingers the Genie teleported us to Aladdin's small apartment.

Unfortunately they had failed to save Jasmine. As they sat in Aladdin's apartment wondering what to do. Aladdin wanted to come with us, but we couldn't take him with us. We weren't allowed to just take people to other worlds. And even though philia wasn't from Agrabah, we couldn't take her since it wouldn't be fair to Aladdin. "Uh, earth to al. Hello? You still have one wish left. Look, just say the word. Ask me to find Jasmine for you." Genie told him. He wanted his freedom more than anything, but he was willing to give up another 10,000 years to that lamp if it meant Aladdin could be happy. "I…I wish…for your freedom genie." Aladdin said. "Al!" genie said shocked. As if on cue, a pink light show appeared beneath genie and a vortex swirled around him. He screamed and when the vortex disappeared he had two legs clothed in baggy blue pants and brown shoes. The golden cuffs on his wrists unlocked and clattered against the floor.

"A deal's a deal genie. Now you can go anywhere you want. You're your own master. But if you can, it'd be great if you could go along with them and help Sora find Jasmine." Genie crossed his arms and turned his back to Aladdin. "Sorry, Al. I'm done taking orders from others. But… A favor, now that's entirely different. I guess I could give that a try." He said with a smart Alec grin. "After all, we're pals right Al? Just leave it to me." He said with his usual enthusiasm. "Thanks Genie." Before they left Kirito gave Philia the treasures he collected from the cave of wonders. All save two, which he kept for himself. The blonde treasure hunter squealed in excitement and thanked Kirito with a big hug. "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you! I swear I'll repay you somehow!" "It's a gift Philia. You don't have to do anything." Kirito said. But she wouldn't hear any of it. "Nonsense! You don't give someone a bunch of gold, jewels, and a fancy dagger. And not expect anything in return do you?! I owe you big time and that's that!" Philia said. Seeing no way to argue with her Kirito just agreed to it. With their mission in Agrabah concluded, the group of five promised to find Jasmine and returned to their ship.

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Chapter 14 the belly of the beast

In the far off world of Hollow bastion Maleficent and her gathering of villains were discussing how to proceed with the loss of Jafar. Hades merely sighed in disappointment. "That smarmy vizier could have had'em. If someone had stuck around to give him a hand." The fiery god said. Of course he was referring to how Riku just left him there to fend for himself. He didn't really care about Jafar, but he'd take him over Maleficent's little protégé. "Hey, I did my part. I brought the princess didn't I?" Riku rebuked. "Yeah, and ya got caught by that little gamer twerp. Now he's gonna tell your little friend key boy, that you're working with the bad guys." The god argued. "It matters not. The boy was bound to find out eventually." Maleficent spoke. "As for the royal vizier, he was beyond help. Consumed by his own hatred. One should beware of letting it burn too fiercely." She jabbed at the hades' own tendency to erupt. "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Lighten up. I'm as cool as they come, okay. By the way, kid, have we got something special for you." He said to Riku. "Huh?" Riku asked. Sure they had given him a room and board, but he didn't feel like these people were the gift giving type. "We had a deal yes? You help us, and we grant you your wish…" a magic green circle appeared in the middle of the table. Maleficent's magic produced an image of Kairi as she slept. "Kairi!" he exclaimed. At last his efforts had born fruit.

"Go to her. Your vessel is waiting." Maleficent ordered. Soon a man entered wearing a red coat, a feathered hat. And a cravat. He carried a cutlass at his side, but his most noticeable feature was the hook in place of his hand. "Just remember, this is no pleasure cruise. It won't be a pleasant voyage." Said Captain Hook. Something was off. "Why are you doing this for me? What's the catch?" he asked. "Catch? What's the catch? Silly boy. You're like a son to me. I only want you to be happy." She said in a sickly sweet tone as she held her hand up to his cheek. Riku slapped the hand away and took a few steps back. "I seriously doubt that." He said. Riku knew a trap when he saw one. He wasn't going to succumb to Maleficent's magic. "Believe what you wish. But lest we forget, I kept my end of the bargain." Maleficent said. Seeing her point, Riku opted to walk off and not say anything. As he walked off with captain hook, the pirate told him how Kairi had yet to wake up and how maleficent believed she had lost her heart. This troubled Riku. If Kairi had lost her heart, then how was he supposed to wake her up? Apparently Maleficent had offered a solution. In the belly of a whale, there was a puppet that had grown a heart of its own. If he could take that heart and give it to kairi, then it was possible she would awaken from her comatose state. Maybe the darkness was getting to him, but Riku felt that the ends justified the means. He didn't care what he had to do, so long as Kairi was safe.

Meanwhile, our heroes were traveling through interspace once again. The second quadrant was vastly different from the first quadrant and much more dangerous. Unlike its counterpart there were many more asteroid fields and rather than stars there were many variations auroras and gaseous formations that created all kinds of colors. Honestly it looked like someone had sprayed the universe with tie dye, but it was truly magnificent. The flight routine Cid programmed for Yui and Strea worked out surprisingly well give that their primary programming was for psychology. Perhaps Cid knew more about artificial intelligence than Kirito believed. "Hey look at that!" Goofy shouted. When we looked, we saw a whale was somehow swimming out in the vast reaches of space completely unaffected by the lack of air or water. "That's Monstro!" Jiminy said. "You know him?" Donald asked. "He's one mean whale of a whale I'll tell you. Monstro has sunk many ships and killed many a sailor in the world I come from." The cricket said. "So we should stay away from it." said Kirito. "He's so big. He could probably swallow the entire ship if he wanted to." just as Asuna said it, the whale turned around and charged towards us. "Thanks a lot Asuna, you jinxed us!" Sora said. "How is this my fault?!" she asked. "Well you did say it could eat us." Kirito said. "Et tu Kazuto? I thought you were over the fishing incident." Asuna said "You left me to die woman! And I thought we agreed to never speak of that!" Kirito exclaimed. "Um guys, it's getting closer." Sora said. "Oh, don't be such a baby. I killed it didn't I? And you even got to eat it." Asuna argued. "Mmm, that was good. And the soy sauce you made really brought out the flavor." Kirito said drooling as he remembered how delicious that giant fish was. "You're thinking about dinner at a time like this?!" Donald shouted. The whale was at ramming speed and its mouth was raised, ready to devour its prey. It was too late to escape it. We braced for impact as the large sea creature devoured us.

When we came to, we found ourselves in the jaws of the whale. Its teeth were massive and razor sharp. Inside its mouth there was a large body of water and dozens of shipwrecks piled on top of one Another. Jiminy wasn't kidding. To our surprise we found a little boy searching through a chest on top of one of the wrecks. He wore a yellow shirt and red overalls along with white gloves and a yellow hat with a red feather. The boy carelessly tossed items out one after another Jiminy recognized him as his friend Pinocchio. The puppet pulled out a large green gummi block and headed towards a ship that was mostly intact. At Jiminy's request we followed the little wooden boy. He brought the gummi block to an old man and said that it could help get them out of the whale. He wasn't wrong, but they would need more than that single block to build a ship. "Oh, my. So the whale swallowed all of you too? My goodness." The old man said. "Yeah, looks like it." Sora said. "My name is Geppetto. I'm Pinocchio's father. When we got separated, I traveled all over, looking for him. Thank goodness we're together again." He said happily. "So Pinocchio's your son? So why is he… you know?" Sora asked. "A puppet. It's quite alright my boy." said Gepetto.

"You see I used to be a puppet maker. I put on shows for all the little girls and boys. It brought me great joy to see the smiles on their little faces. Then one day I made my dear Pinocchio. At first he was like my other creations, but when I went to sleep, a blue fairy brought my Pinocchio to life and I was so happy." Jiminy hopped off Sora's shoulder and onto the deck of the wooden ship. "Ya see, there's more to the spell that Pinocchio to life. If Pinocchio's a good boy, then he'll become a real flesh and blood boy just like you sora, or even you Kirito." Jiminy explained. "But that Pinoke doesn't know right from wrong. So the blue fairy made me his conscience. He's a good boy, but he has habit of telling tall tales. And a lie is just as plain as the nose on your face. Especially in Pinoke's case. And he's always wondering off." Said Jiminy. "So we should probably go after him right?" sora said pointing to Pinocchio as he went to explore the whale's insides. "Pinocchio come back!" Jiminy shouted.

Luckily Pinocchio hadn't gone very far when we found him. "Come on Pinocchio. Gepetto's worried about you. This isn't the time to be playing games." Sora said. "But I thought you liked games sora? Or are you too cool now that you have the keyblade?" from another cavity inside Monstro, Riku appeared standing behind Pinocchio. "Riku! Wh -what are you doing here?" Sora asked. "Just playing with Pinocchio." Riku said casually. "You know what I mean! What about Kairi? Did you find her?" he asked again. "Maybe. Catch us and maybe I'll tell you what I know." Riku then grabbed Pinocchio by the arm and ran off with him deeper into the whale. "I'm starting to not like him." Asuna said. "You don't know the half of it." Kirito muttered. And so began the search for Pinocchio and Riku inside Monstro's belly. The whale's insides were all mazelike and squishy. The walls were purple and spotted with a litany of cells and other microbes. And of course there were more heartless to fight. Maybe Monstro's violent nature attracted them? Or maybe he had simply swallowed them out in space. Either way the heartless were in our way and had to be dealt with.

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Chapter 15 friend or foe?

"Why do you still care about that boy?" Maleficent asked. Riku's behavior disturbed her. She believed that Riku would prioritize capturing Pinocchio's heart to help his precious Kairi. So why was he toying with that meddlesome key barer and his lackeys? "He has all but deserted you for the keyblade and his new companions after all." "I don't care about him. I was just messing with him a little." He said nonchalant. "Oh really? Of course you were." Maleficent teased. "Beware the darkness in your heart. The Heartless prey upon it." she warned. "Mind your own business!" Riku snapped. 'It's always the same warning with her. What does she know? I'm nothing like Jafar. I'll do whatever I want.' Riku thought.

Sora and company had managed to track down Pinocchio again. But the boy just wouldn't go with them. They chased him into what they believed was the whale's stomach when they found Riku again. "Riku. What's the matter with you? What are you thinking? Don't you realize what you're doing?" sora asked. "I was about to ask you the same thing Sora. You only seem running around and showing off that keyblade these days. Do you even want to save Kairi?" Riku said. "Why don't you drop the act already?" Kirito said. "Huh? What do you mean?" Sora asked confused. "I know you're working for Maleficent. I saw you kidnap Jasmine back in Agrabah." Kirito accused. The others gasped at the news. Sora was beginning to feel doubts about Riku. And Kirito to an extent. He wondered why he didn't say anything earlier. "There's still one I just can't seem to figure out though. Why did you do it? Sora always speaks so highly of you. So why would you betray him like this?" Kirito demanded. Riku simply scoffed at him. "Tell me something. Would you hurt one friend if it meant saving another?" before Kirito could answer they heard Pinocchio scream.

When they found Pinocchio, he was trapped in the maw of a heartless. The big pink monstrosity had attached itself to the whale's organs like a parasite and held Pinocchio prisoner in the cage that Kirito assumed was its stomach. Including Riku, everyone began to attack the parasitic heartless. It attacked with the tentacle like arms on its head and in the tiny room were all in they were hard to dodge. This thing clearly had the advantage in territory. But we had the advantage in numbers. While it was attacking one of us, the others were hitting the sides. We were on the verge of defeating it when it made a hasty retreat. The spot it was standing in before opened up to reveal a large hole. The parasite cage spat out Pinocchio and retreated further in to the bowels of the whale. When Pinocchio fell into the newly opened hole, Riku jumped in to catch him. Knowing he was up to no good and that we wouldn't have enough time to back track, we jumped into the hole to.

Surprisingly enough the hole led back to monstrous mouth. The water had receded and revealed more shipwrecks the whale had swallowed. "Pinocchio! Pinocchio! Please! Give me back my son!" Geppeto pleaded. Riku stood atop one of the wrecks and held the unconscious Pinocchio with one arm. "Sorry old man. I have some unfinished business with this puppet." Riku said. "He's no puppet! Pinocchio is my little boy!" Gepetto stated. "He is unusual. Not many puppets have hearts. I'm not sure, but maybe he can help someone who's lost theirs." He said. "Wait a minute. Are you talking about Kairi?" Sora asked. "What do you care about her?" Riku said. But he didn't wait for an answer and simply walked off.

The group of five used the surrounding shipwrecks to their advantage and climbed to the vantage point Riku had previously held. The exit Riku used was directly above the entrance to the maze of monstrous insides. We were starting to wonder if Monstro wasn't an ordinary whale or if marine biologists had simply never been inside an actual whale before. As we made our way up various organ like plat forms we reached a hole similar to the one that brought us back to Monstro's mouth. We could tell the room it led to was Monstro's actual stomach since it was filled with the noxious fumes of stomach acid. Luckily there were more than a few platforms for us to stand on. And Riku was standing on one waiting for us along with Pinocchio. "Let Pinocchio go Riku." Sora asked. "A puppet that's lost its heart to the heartless. Maybe it holds the key to helping Kairi." Said Riku. The silver haired boy then held out his hand towards Sora. "How about it, Sora? Let's join forces to save Kairi. We can do it together." He said as he walked towards us. Sora wanted to help Kairi more than anything, but he knew the way Riku was doing things was wrong. He knew Kairi wouldn't forgive them if they saved her at the cost of someone else's life. So Sora drew his keyblade, ready to fight if he had to.

"What? You'd rather fight me? Over a puppet that has no heart?" Riku asked. "Heart or no heart, at least he still has a conscience." While sora was talking Jiminy cricket hopped to the ground and ran towards Pinocchio as fast as his little legs would carry him. "You might not hear it, but right now it's loud and clear. And it's telling me that you're on the wrong side!" Sora said. "Pinocchio! Pinocchio!" Jiminy said frantically. "Jiminy… I'm not gonna make it." just then, pinocchio's nose grew longer. According to jiminy it only did that whenever he lies. So it must not have been as bad as they thought. "Oh! I guess I'm okay!" Pinocchio said. Jiminy was literally jumping for joy now that Pinocchio was fine. But the celebration was interrupted. Before the fight with riku could begin, the parasite cage fell directly in front of Riku on the center platform. Since his mission failed, Riku took the opportunity to escape in another dark portal.

The fight with the parasitic heartless was different this time around. Since it had effectively taken center stage, we were forced to use the platforms on the walls to launch magic attacks and jumping strikes to avoid being burned by the stomach acid. And to make matters worse, its two tentacle like arms were able to use that very acid to launch an acid spray at thing that had changed since then was that after taking a certain number of hits, the cage that was its stomach opened up to reveal it's weak point. A small black sphere served as the monster's core. Asuna seized the moment by leaping in the air and thrusting her rapier through the heartless the dark sphere. The orb solidified and shattered like a glass vase and the heartless began to fade away like the others. The whale's stomach then began to violently convulse and we knew we had to get out of here and back to the ship. Since it was on the way we managed to get Gepetto, Pinocchio, and their cat and goldfish. We boarded the gummi ship and braced for impact as Monstro spat us out.

"Look at that father! We're free! "Yes Pinocchio. We've escaped the belly of the beast thanks to our new friends. We can't possibly thank you enough." Gepetto said. "We're just glad we could help." Asuna said. "Yup. Any friend of jiminy is a friend of ours." Sora said. "I see. So does that mean you'll be going with them Jiminy?" Gepetto asked "Well gosh. I'd like to, but I'm Pinocchio's conscience it's my job to take care of him until he becomes a real boy." Jiminy said. "You should go with them Jiminy!" Pinocchio said. "What do ya mean Pinoke?" Jiminy asked. "After watching you and Sora help out me and father, I know right from wrong now. You never gave up on me even when I was following Riku. I know I might make mistakes along the way, but I won't give up on fathers dream. Because that's my dream to." Pinocchio said. "Not a single fib. Why Pinoke, I think you just might be starting to grow up." Said Jiminy.

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Chapter 16 Family

Since we couldn't take Pinocchio and Gepetto with us, we decided to return to traverse town since it was the safest place for them. The warp gummi Cid installed for us saved loads of traveling time allowing us to travel to worlds we had visited before in seconds. When we entered the gates of the first district we headed for the accessory shop to catch up with Agil. "Yo, Kirito. Haven't seen you in a while. I was begging to think you had kicked the bucket." He scrunched his nose offended by a bad smell. "Although ya do smell like it." He said. "Well we were close to being digested a few times." Sora said. "Do I even wanna know?" Agil asked. "Giant whale swallowed our ship. Marine biologists are wrong." Asuna said. "Noted… I'm sorry, but you guys need a bath." He said pinching his nose shut. "Know where we can find one?" Donald asked. "As a matter of fact, Aerith told me she runs a bath house in the second district. Said she took a part time job so they can stay afloat." Said Agil. "That reminds me. We picked up an old guy and his son and they need a place to stay. We were hoping Leon could set them up." Kirito said. "Is that right? Well Leon and Yuffie left for some tournament that's being held. But I'm sure Aerith or Cid can move get them settled. There's even a new house right here in the first district that no one's bought yet." Agil said. "That's perfect. You're a life saver Agil." Kirito said. "You know it." after the two of them fist bumped the group of five left for the second district intent on finding the Bath house. They really needed it.

The bath house was a traditional onsen with natural hot springs and a bamboo wall to separate the men and women's sides. Upon Aerith's insistence we used the showers first so the bath water wasn't contaminated. After a quick shower the boys practically ran to the men's side while Asuna and Aerith went to the womens. "Aaaah. I haven't bathed in so long." Asuna said. "I can imagine. It must be difficult when you're the only girl in the group." Aerith said while Scrubbing Asuna's back. "Well, there's Yui and Strea, but they're inside a computer." Asuna said. "I Suppose." Aerith said. Asuna became lost in thought. 'It's too bad Kirito and I didn't have our Amuspheres with us before we lost our world. I wonder when we can go back to the virtual world.' "What are you thinking about?" Aerith asked. Startled out of her doldrums, Asuna realized she had been quiet for a while. Maybe it would be alright if she told Aerith what was troubling her. "It's just… I've been thinking about Yui and Strea. I know I can see them on Kirito's computer whenever I want, but I want more than that. Without them, our family just isn't whole." Asuna said.

Meanwhile on the other side of the fence. "Your family?" Sora asked. "Yeah. Yui is our Daughter and Strea and Yui are sisters so she's part of the family to." Kirito said. "How did that happen?" Sora asked? "Well it was over a year ago. Asuna and I were still on our honeymoon in SAO. We found Yui unconscious in the forest and brought her back to our house. When she woke up she had lost her memories." "How did that happen?" Donald asked. "The details would go over your heads. Anyway, she had no memories from before we found her, so she thought that we were her parents. So we took her in. and we were one big happy family." Kirito said. Back on the other side.

"That's so sweet." Aerith said. "Yeah. Strea's more of a friend than a daughter, but I'm glad she and yui have the bond that they do. I just wish there were some way we could visit them. I want try using magic, but I don't know how it would affect them and I have no idea where I'd start." Asuna said. "Maybe you could ask Merlin for advice?" Aerith suggested. "I thought about that, but I know Kirito will want to make some virtual or augmented reality device instead. And I think that might be the safest option." Asuna said. "Hmmm. If only Ansem the wise was here. I'm sure he could help you." Said Aerith. "Ansem? I thought you said he studied the heartless?" Asuna asked. "He studied other things to. There were even rumors that he developed a device that could deconstruct a person's molecular structure and digitize them." Asuna couldn't believe it. That sounded like something from science fiction. Then again sci-fi and fantasy was starting to become the norm for her. "Do you think if we found your world, that we could find that device?" Asuna asked. "It was just a rumor. And our world is teeming with powerful heartless. But if it does exist, it would definitely be in Ansem's laboratory. But only Ansem would know where it is. And he disappeared when our world fell nine years ago." Said Aerith. "Oh... well a slim chance is better than none at all. Thank you Aerith." Back on the men's side.

"And that's how Yui and I saved Strea and how she became part of the family." Kirito said. One could practically here the gears grinding in Sora, Donald, and Goofy's heads as they tried to comprehend what they just heard. "Computers are weird." Sora said as Donald and goofy nodded in agreement. "So um, why don't ya build one of those gizmos so you can see them again?" Goofy asked. "Normally that would be the first thing I'd do. But now that I know magic exists I want to see if there's a way I can bring them to the real world." Kirito said. After he summoned Simba for the first time, Kirito had been pondering a way to do the same with them. But he could only summon Simba for so long and he didn't know if he could handle two summons at once. "Then you should ask merlin. He knows all kinds of stuff." Goofy said. "Yeah. And I'm sure that the fairy god mother knows more about summoning." Kirito said. "You'll figure something out." Said Sora. "Yeah, cause you're a smarty pants. A-hyuck." Goofy joked. "You're smarter than Sora at least." Donald remarked. "Hey!" Sora then splashed Donald with hot water. Naturally a water battle ensued with the three of them while Kirito just watched.

After their much needed bath, the quintet of heroes decided to rent rooms at the inn. Sora, Donald, and Goofy rented the green room while Kirito and Asuna were in the red room. The bed felt so comfortable after spending so much time on the gummi ship. As Kirito and Asuna lay down on the bed they were both wondering how to broach the topic of Yui and Strea. "Listen I-" they both said at the same time. Of course this caused the both of them to laugh and forget about their stress. "You first." Asuna said. "I've been thinking about Yui and Strea." Kirito said. "So was I. It really sucks that we didn't have our amuspheres with us when we got sucked up into that vortex. I want to hold Yui in my arms again so badly." Asuna said. "I know. I do too." He said. "Do you think you can rig up a full dive system in the gummi ship we can use?" Asuna asked. "The thought did cross my mind, but I want do more than just build a vr system." Kirito said. "What do you mean?" she asked. "I think we should talk to Merlin and the fairy godmother. I want to bring them to the real world. And I think we can do that with summoning magic."

Asuna was surprised by his words. After all he was so tech savvy. Surely making a vr device wouldn't be a problem for him. "Do you think it's possible?" Asuna asked. "I think so. If what fairy god mother said about summon gems is true. Then I think the same principle applies to summoning Yui and Strea from my laptop." In theory it made sense. If summon gems were containers for their summons, then the laptop was a container for Yui and Strea. "But if you do summon them, it would only be for a few minutes right? If you built a vr system then we could see them whenever we want." Asuna said. "Well I would, but then we'd be leaving Sora, Donald and goofy alone on the ship. And I do not want to crash or get swallowed again."

That got him a chuckle from Asuna. "You make it sound like they're totally careless. Sure Donald has a short temper and Goofy is clumsy, but Sora has a good head on his shoulders." Asuna said. "That's only one out of three. And sora gets caught up in their shenanigans to." Kirito argued. "Don't act like you don't like it. Getting mixed up in messes with them is part of the fun." Asuna joked. "I guess. But I still want to do more for Yui and Strea. They should get to see the worlds to. And I know Sora and the others would get along great with them." Kirito said. "I know they would." Asuna yawned. "It's getting late. We should get some sleep." "Fair enough, we'll talk more tomorrow." Kirito said. "I love you." Asuna said going to sleep. "I love you to." Kirito said. And with that the two of them drifted off into slumber.

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Chapter 17 awakening.

Kirito found himself in a very strange place. The sky and everything around him was pitch black. He could only see the circular stain glass floor beneath him. The back ground was mostly blue and depicted Himself along with the floating castle Aincrad. Next to Kirito's face there were four other people each depicted in a circular frame. There was Asuna, Yui, Strea, and Suguha. An ethereal voice spoke from seemingly nowhere. "So much to do… so little time… Take your time. Don't be afraid." glowing lights appeared one after another each creating a pedestal that bore a weapon. The first pedestal had a staff, the second a shield, and the third had a sword. "Power sleeps within you. If you give it form. It will give you strength." It seemed like the voice wanted him to choose one of the items. For Kirito the choice was obvious. He walked towards the third pedestal and picked up the sword. "The power of the warrior. Invincible courage. A sword of terrible destruction. Is this the path you choose?" the voice asked. "Yes." Kirito said. "No hesitation. A fine quality in and of itself." In a flash of light the sword disappeared. "Your path is set. Now what will you give up in exchange?" Kirito wanted to prioritize offense over defense so the shield was the obvious choice. "The power of the guardian. Kindness to aid friends. A shield to repel all. Do you choose to give up this power?" the voice asked. "I can still protect my friends with the sword. And I need magic to accomplish my goal." Kirito said. "Very well." The shield vanished from his hands and the pillars each disappeared. Then a winding stair case made of stain glass appeared on the edge of the enormous column he stood on.

Kirito walked along the stain glass path until he reached another column similar to the one he was on before. The only difference was that the shades of blue were replaced with Golden yellow and red borders. And standing in the middle of it were three people he recognized. A girl with short dark hair dressed in green that wore glasses. This was Shino Asada. The second was a man with spiky redish brown hair dressed in red samurai styled armor. His name was Tsuboi Ryoutarou, but everyone calls him Klein. And the third person had brown hair and wore a lab coat this was Akihiko Kayaba. The person who created sword art online. The last person Kirito expected. The first person to speak was Shino. "What are you so afraid of?" she asked. Thinking back the most terrifying time for Kirito was when he lost his friends in the moonlit black cats guild. If he had just told them his level sooner, then maybe they would still be alive. "Being indecisive." Kirito said. After he answered, Shino vanished and Klein asked a question of his own. "What is it you care about most?" Klein asked. "My friends of course." Klein smiled and vanished just like Shino did. Now Kayaba was the only one left. "What do you want out of life?" Kayaba asked. There were many things he wanted. He wanted to be strong enough to protect his friends. He wanted to see new worlds and rare sights with Asuna and his friends. Maybe there was a way he could have both. "I want to broaden my Horizons." With his answer received Kayaba vanished just like Klein and Shino.

Soon another path appeared for Kirito to follow. Knowing what to do, Kirito followed the path until he reached another Column. This time the stain glass back ground was midnight blue and dotted with stars. Standing in the middle of it was a man in full armor. The metal was white and outlined with gold with the exception of a blue chassis around his midsection. The helmet had two curved spikes on the sides of his head and one on top. A visor like mask hid his face. On top of the visor was a gold heart shaped emblem. The most notable thing however was the long Key shaped sword that he carried. Kirito immediately recognized it as a keyblade. The rectangular hand guard shined like silver and was connected by magenta colored rods that were used in the cross guard. The key chain at the end was entirely black and carried the same emblem that was on the man's helmet and midsection. The blade was black and cylindrical and the teeth of the key was thin and shaped similarly to the letter E.

"Who are you?" I asked. The armored man raised his keyblade ready to attack. "Who I am doesn't matter. What matters right now, is if you have the strength to resist the darkness!" he charged in blindingly fast leaving afterimages as he did so. Kirito barely had enough time to summon his sword to block it. It was a struggle for kirito to hold off the attack. "You must give darkness no quarter in your heart! Lest it consume you!" Kirito used the weight and force of his attacker to slide away from him. He leapt into the air and summoned his second sword knowing he would need it. As soon as he landed, Kirito ran towards the armored stranger while dodging blasts of light fired at him. But just as he was about to attack, he was ensnared by chains. "You still have much to learn." With Kirito restrained the Keyblade wielder was able to swiftly defeat Kirito with a single strike.

Kirito gasped as he woke up, breathing heavily. He was still in bed at the red room and Asuna was still asleep next to him. 'What was that? A dream? It felt so real though. Like I was in another place. And who was that guy? He had a keyblade. I thought Sora was the only Keyblade master. And he was even stronger.' Kirito thought. "I need some fresh air." kirito said as he got up and walked towards the balcony in the alleyway.

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Chapter 18 Repayment.

When Asuna woke up, she was surprised to see that Kirito wasn't in the room. She inspected the room's perimeter and saw that the door to the balcony had been left open. She got up from the bed and walked towards the balcony to find Kirito. He was standing at the edge and his hands gripped the railing. "Good morning Kirito." She said joining him at the balcony. "Good morning Asuna." He said. "You're up early. Guess that means you're excited." Asuna said. "That's one word for it." Kirito muttered. "Huh?" she couldn't make out what he said. "I just really want to get to Merlin's as soon as possible. See if my theory works." He said. "Okay…" Asuna said "Is something wrong?" Kirito asked. "It's just, you have that look on your face right now. The one that looks like you're about to fight to the death." Kirito took a deep breath and sighed. "I guess I was a little tense." He said. "More like a lot. Did something happen?" Asuna asked. "I just had this weird dream. I was in this dark shadowy place and I was fighting someone." Kirito said. "Was it laughing coffin?" she asked. Laughing coffin was an assassin's guild in sword art online. Kirito and Asuna had fought them more than once. The guild was made entirely of players. Some of them didn't believe that people died for real when someone was killed in game. Some of them didn't care and joined anyway because that was how they preferred playing. And others saw it as an excuse to murder people and get away with it. It was a video game after all. The courts could argue that the killers weren't aware of the consequences of what they had done. "No it wasn't anyone from SAO. I don't know who he is. But I do know one thing. He had a keyblade Asuna." Kirito stated. "A keyblade?!" Asuna said shocked. "Yeah. He was really strong to. He beat me faster than I could blink." Kirito said.

"What do you think it means?" Asuna asked. "I get the sense that he's someone I'm supposed to overcome. That if I defeat him then, maybe I'll learn some new power. But it feels like I'm lightyears from reaching it." he said looking up at traverse towns ever present starry sky. He was about to go into another one of his doldrums when he felt Asuna hugging him. "I know you wanna beat that guy as fast as possible. But if he's as strong as you say, then I don't think it's something you can do right away. You just have to be patient. And who knows? Maybe fighting isn't the answer at all. There are other ways to be strong you know." She said. "How is it that you always know what to say?" Kirito asked as he hugged Asuna back. "I'm your girlfriend, that's my job. And it's your job to listen to me." She replied. "Yes ma'am." Kirito joked. Suddenly there was a loud thud coming from right behind them. They turned around to see the door was open and on the ground were Sora, Donald, and Goofy in a dog pile. "I told you we should've just used a glass." Donald complained. "Well excuse me for wanting to actually hear them." Sora remarked. "Um, fellas..." Goofy said pointing at kirito and Asuna.

"So why were you spying on us?" Asuna asked. "Well you guys were kinda taking a while." Sora said. "Uh-huh. We thought you were being all lovey-dovey, a-hyuck." Goofy said. The two of them blushed and separated themselves from each other. Which in hindsight they probably should've done when they heard the crash. "And you just walked in?" Asuna said rhetorically. "I told them not to do it." Donald tried to convince. "You liar!" Sora said indignantly. "Shut up!" Asuna said giving each of them a whack on each of their heads as comeuppance. "Next time, wait outside the door politely." Asuna said walking back into the red room to get her things. Soon the five of them were at Merlin's house again. Not only did they have to train, but Kirito needed to speak to the fairy god mother to confirm his theory. "Good evening Sora. I trust you and your cohorts have been cohorts have been keeping up in your studies?" Merlin inquired. "Sure have." Sora said. "Good, good. And I trust sir Kirito has caught up to you and dear Asuna?" he guessed. "More or less. Is it alright if I talk to the fairy god mother? I need to ask her something." Kirito said. "Well of course my dear boy. This is after all, a place of learning. And as your tutors, it is our mission to answer your questions to the best of our abilities." Merlin said while stroking his long beard. "So where is she anyway? Sora asked. "Why in that tiny little stage coach of course." Merlin pointed out.

On the floor was a small white horse drawn carriage. Blue sparks appeared above it and the fairy god mother stood in its place. "Hello again Kirito. Ah, and you've brought friends with you. Have you found any more summon gems? You haven't been rough with them have you?" she greeted. "No ma'am. I haven't found any gems yet, but we did meet someone who's agreed to let us summon him." Kirito said. "Oh goody. May I see him? It's nice to know you're making friends. Such a good boy." She said while pinching Kirito's cheek. "h-hey cut it out." Asuna and the others laughed at his embarrassment. "Well he's kinda big. So we should probably go to the practice room." Sora said. "Of course. Lead the way." A panel from merlin's ceiling floated towards us and we all hopped on it. The panel floated to back to its place and we were in a room with mostly orange carpeting and a lot of furniture. Maybe if Merlin moved his books up here then some of this could be moved. But he is a wizard so who are we to judge? "Alright let's see him then." Merlin ordered. "Alright, it's show time genie!" Kirito's sword released bolts of pink light that swirled together and created blue smoke, and from that smoke came the Genie. "My, my, he looks like a strong one." Said fairy god mother. "You are too kind. Would the lovely mademoiselle care for some assorted chocolates?" genie said making a heart shaped box of chocolates appear in his hands. "And quite the charmer to." She said taking one of the chocolates from the offered box.

"So fairy god mother, there's something I want to ask you." Kirito said. "Yes what is it?" she asked. Kirito told them about their predicament and his theory about summoning magic. "Do you think it will work?" Kirito asked. "Hmm. Hard to say. Historically it's never been done before. And magic and technology usually don't work well together." Merlin said. "Yes. And the risk is far too great to consider. If something were to go wrong, then Yui and Strea would be lost forever." The fairy god mother said. "So you're saying it's a bad idea?" Asuna asked. "I would love to reunite you with your friend and daughter, but even if it were within my abilities to guarantee their safety, my magic is only temporary. I can make dreams come true, but all dreams end." Said the fairy god mother. "There is another option." Genie spoke. "Huh? What is it?" Sora asked. "You see Kirito was my master once. That means he got three wishes. And he used two of them to help you win that fight with Jafar and escape the cave of wonders. So even though I'm a free agent now, I still owe my good pal Kirito one more wish!" Genie said while dressing himself up in a lawyer's suit and presenting an oversized contract. The bottom line read 'one wish left'.

"You'd do that genie?" Kirito asked. "Of course Kirito. You and Al are the best masters I've had in ten thousand years. You deserve to be happy with your family. And trust me, you're not gonna find another gal like Asuna, believe me, I know. I've looked." He said. But then his body began to fade. "Oh! Looks like my time is up. Call me again when you want that wish granted!" and the genie disappeared. "Well now, I do believe you have found your solution. It may not be what you had expected, but it is what you needed yes?" Merlin said. "Yeah it's great! Asuna we can see- hmph!" Kirito was suddenly tackled by Asuna and a fierce lip lock ensued between them. "Oh my!" Gasped Fairy god mother. Goofy then covered Sora's eyes with his hands and Donald grabbed his arms. "Hey, come on. It's not like I don't know what they're doing!" Sora said. "Yes but this story is rated T." said Merlin. "You're breaking the wall again Merlin." Said fairy god mother.

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Chapter 19 Rebirth.

When Asuna said magic training involved hitting the books, I didn't imagine we'd actually be hitting the books. Apparently Merlin's idea of training was using the furniture as moving targets and having us shoot random spells at them. But Asuna said there was a method to his madness so I was inclined to believe her. Still I never thought magic training would be so physical. I guess even mages need to be fit. After an hour or so we headed back to the gummi ship. We were excited to tell Yui and Strea the news. I still can't believe Genie would go that far for us. He's a real friend. I hooked the laptop up to the gummi ship so the battery wouldn't die while we talked. As usual both Yui and Strea were on my browser. "Welcome back daddy." Said Yui. "Did anything interesting happen while you were out?" Strea asked. "Uh-huh. Lots of things." Goofy said. "Did you find a place for Mr. Geppeto and Pinocchio?" Yui asked. "Yup. Turns out a new house was built in the first district while we were away. They'll be living there from now on." Said Sora. "That's good to hear." Strea said. "Yup. Now that Pinoke and Geppeto are together again on solid ground, I bet Pinocchio will be a real boy in no time." Jiminy said. "There's more." Donald said. "Really, what else?" Yui asked. "Well do you remember when we went to Agrabah and met Aladdin and genie?" Sora said. "Yeah. We found Philia there to. I wonder how they're doing?" Strea asked. "They're probably looking for treasure. You know how Philia is." Kirito said. "Come on, Kirito tell them already!"Asuna begged.

"Oh, right. Well during Sora's fight with Jafar, I used the lamp to ask Genie for help. My first wish was for genie to hold off Jafar while Sora grabbed his lamp. And I used the second wish to teleport us back to Aladdin's house." Kirito said. "You said Genie grants three wishes right? What happened to the third one?" Strea asked. "I didn't use it. I gave the lamp back to Aladdin and he wished for Genie's freedom. But Genie says he can still honor my third wish. I can use it for anything." Kirito said. "Wow really? That's great! Do you know what you're going to use it for?" Yui asked. "I have. I'm going to use it to bring you two to the real world." Said Kirito. Their eyes widened like saucers at what they heard and both of them were speechless. "EHHH?!" They both shouted. "H-he can do that?" Yui said. "He said he could do anything. And given the scale of his power, I believe it." Kirito said. "So that means, we get to be real people? I can meet you, mom, sora, Donald, and goofy as a real girl?" Yui asked disbelieving. "Oh Yui, you already are a real girl. You'll just be moving from the virtual world to the real one." Asuna said. "But… won't I just get in the way? I'm a little girl after all. You'd just be protecting me all the time." Yui asked.

"Oh, that doesn't matter one bit." Donald said. "Yeah, because that's what family is all about. Even if ya were big and strong like your parents, they'd still protect ya. And we would to because we're friends. A-hyuck." Goofy said. "Yeah and look at Donald, I'm sure you're taller than he is and he's still useful." Sora said. Which in turn triggered another of Donald's famous tirades. "But what about the gummi ship? Won't you need us to pilot it?" Strea asked. "Well Cid programmed that stuff into you right? So it would still be in your heads shouldn't it?" Asuna said. "That's right. We should be able to retain any information in our data banks." Yui said. "So what are we waiting for? Let's get started!" Sora said. We headed to the first district so that there would be more room for Genie and the girls. While we were at it we invited Agil, and the other residents of traverse town to witness the deed. Everyone waited anxiously to see the girl's arrival.

"Genie it's show time!" Kirito shouted. Pink sparks shot from Kirito's sword once again and in the same manner as before the sparks swirled together as they created blue smoke as genie appeared swooping down to give Kirito a high five. "Oh I just love performing in front of an audience! So master, are you ready for your final wish?" he said. "Just Kirito's fine. And yes." Kirito said. "Alright! Just say those magic words and all your dreams will come true!" Genie said. Kirito opened the laptop and placed it on the ground. "Are you guys ready for this there's?" he asked. "We're ready. There's no turning back now." Yui said. "Just think, when we get out I can hug you for real now. And Asuna, and Sora, and, Donald, and Goofy. Oh I'm just gonna hug everybody. Everybody gets a hug!" Strea said. "Okay Strea." Kirito said standing up. "Alright Genie. I wish for you to make bring Yui and Strea to live here in the real world." Kirito said.

"Sniff. Ya know. You and Al are the nicest guys I ever met!" he said while blowing into an oversized handkerchief. "Alright! Two Girls ala genie coming right up!" genie said with his usual flare. He shot two balls of pink light at the laptop and it began to glow with a bright light. As the light intensified one could see Yui and Strea being reconstructed in the real world as their pixels were converted into the human essence. When the light faded they stood in front of the laptop dressed in their normal clothes. "Well, my work is done. Genie over and out." He said disappearing in a puff of smoke. "Daddy!" Yui said as she ran up to me. I picked her up in my arms and held her as tight as I could. "This is real. It's really you Yui." Kirito said. Asuna and Strea came to join the embrace. Strea's bear hug was as tight as ever as she hugged the three of us. Seeing the perfect opportunity Agil took out his phone and took pictures.

"The whole Kirigaya family. That's one for the wall." Said Agil. "But, I thought they weren't married." Cid said. "Pfft. Technicality." Agil said. "Besides, you don't need things like jewelry or blood to be a family."Aerith said. "Wise words lass. It's the bonds in our hearts that matter. And theirs' just might be what turns the tide against these troubled times." Said Merlin. Sora, Donald, and goofy joined the fray as well. Even though they had seen them on a computer screen, it was their first time meeting Yui and Strea. Donald and goofy made funny faces that mad Yui laugh while Sora found out how strong Strea's bear hugs were as she literally lifted him of the ground. Needless to say, it was a great time for everyone.

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Chapter 20 the games begin.

After we celebrated Yui and Strea's Arrival to the real world we decided we should hit the road again. We were on our way to Olympus coliseum to participate in the games. It would be a good opportunity for Sora and the others to test themselves. Especially since Leon and Yuffie were in it as well. If leon was holding back against Sora as he claimed, then this would be interesting. When they arrived at the coliseum, they saw that a roster for the tournament had been posted. "The Phil cup." Sora said. "It looks like the tournament is going to be a king of the hill battle. If you win all the rounds then you'll win the whole tournament." Yui said. "And look who's at the second seed." Donald said. At the top of the board were Leon and Yuffie's names. It looks like whoever wants the top spot will have to go through them. Which was perfectly okay with Sora and Kirito. They looked forward to the challenge. They entered the lobby to speak with Phil and enter the tournament. A large sword caught the group's eye. It was a large, double edged great sword with a purplish hue and a golden X shaped cross guard. "I see that blade's caught your eyes to." Said Phil. "what's it doin' here?" goofy asked. "Well ya see, that blond guy with the big honkin' sword you guys fought before brought it. Said he wanted to apologize, so he offered that sword as a prize for whoever wins the tourney. And let me tell ya, it's drawn a lot of contenders." He said.

'I bet hades made sure most of them were heartless. Although that doesn't seem to have stopped Leon and Yuffie.' Kirito thought. Phil signed the five of us up for the tournament. Yui and Strea sat in the stands to cheer us on. "WOOHOO! DO YOUR BEST GUYS!" Strea shouted from. Of course Phil took notice of her and decided to put on the charm as he put it. "So, how'd those guys score a cutie like you toots?" Phil said while using his hand to comb back the few strands of hair on his balding head. "That's Strea and she's my little sister. Mommy and daddy are fighting with Sora in the tournament right now." Yui said. "LITTLE sister?! And those two?!" Phil exclaimed while pointing at Kirito and Asuna who were in the middle of fighting a large body heartless. Kirito was distracting it while Asuna attacked from behind. "Yeah that's right." Strea said. Phil decided to walk back to the lobby so who could cry in a corner without being seen. 'She was such a hotty! How could she be related to them? Why must the gods curse me so?!' he thought.

After eight rounds in the tournament the group of five was facing off against the gun blade swordsman Leon, and the great ninja Yuffie. "You better not be holding back this time Leon. Because I came for a real fight!" Sora said. "You've come this far. Holding back isn't a luxury I can give anymore." Leon said. "Ooh look at you Squall, talking all serious and stuff." Yuffie said. "I told you not to call me that." He said. "Enough chitchat, let's rumble!" Sora said. And just like that the final battle for the Phil cup began. Leon ran up to us and leapt into the air for an aerial attack. When the five of them dodged out of the way, Yuffie threw her shuriken in circular arcs to catch us when we were off guard. Their team work was impeccable. If we were going to win against them, we would have to divide and conquer. Asuna and Goofy went to fight Yuffie while Sora, Donald, and Kirito kept Leon at bay. True to her ninja nature, Yuffie used a hit and run style with her shuriken for ranged attacks and cartwheeled away, or used smoke bombs whenever Asuna got close. Fortunately, Goofy's shield was able to block most of her throwing stars, and Asuna's agility allowed her to keep up. However even Goofy couldn't block Yuffie's attack when she charged her shuriken with magic to supersize it. The giant glowing shuriken whizzed by Asuna and left a cut on her cheek. Yuffie leapt into the air and caught each shuriken she had thrown over the course of the battle. "What's the matter? You aren't giving up are you? That would be way too easy." Yuffie taunted. "Not on your life!" Asuna shouted. As soon as Yuffie landed, Asuna charged at Yuffie. Her rapier glowed as she unleashed the sonic blade technique she learned from sparring with Sora and Kirito. With each thrust Yufffie was left unable to attack or defend and when the final strike hit, Yuffie collapsed in defeat.

Meanwhile Leon was contending with Sora and the others. Similar to when he first fought sora, his movements were slow, and his demeanor was calm and composed. After one of them would attack he waited to deal a big hit to Sora or Kirito. However dealing with the two of them was troublesome. Similar to his team work with Yuffie, the two of them covered for each other and when he focused on one the other would strike. It was time for Leon to up his game. He began charging magic into his sword and the blade glowed with a bright light as it grew in size. "It's over!" he shouted as he ran towards Kirito. With a vicious uppercut leon slashed Kirito, leapt into the air, and hit him again on the downswing. The attack sent shock waves that knocked Sora and Donald off their feet. Yui and Strea gasped when Kirito was hit. Strea grabbed Yui and hugged her close so that she couldn't see. It looked like Kirito was down for the attack tore through his shirt and his breastplate had barely saved him from a lethal blow. The armor fell and clattered to the ground as Kirito knelt on one knee. He stabbed his sword into the ground and held onto it as support. He could barely hold on to his other one. Sora tried to attack in retaliation, but Leon knocked the wind out of Sora with the back of his blade and sent him flying into one of the pillars. Donald used a blizzard spell hoping to hit Leon with opposite magic, but Leon's firaga hit the spell before it could cluster and the back draft blew Donald away. Believing his work to be done he turned around and began a slow walk towards Asuna and Goofy.

Kirito closed his eyes feeling like he was about to faint. 'Is this the best you can do? Fight boy! Fight like your life depends on it! You must overcome your limitations!' in a flash of light Kirito saw he was back in the place from his dreams. The man in armor stood in front of him with keyblade in hand. "There is no time to waste boy. You must defeat the foes in front of you if you are to survive against the forces of darkness." He said. "But he's so strong! How am I supposed to fight Leon, let alone defeat him, if I can't stand on my own two feet right now?" Kirito asked? "That man has learned how to surpass his limits. If you are to defeat him, you must do the same." He said. "It's not like I can fight like I do in Sword art online. At least not without the system helping me." Kirito said. The armor clad swords man walked up to Kirito and placed his hand on top of his head. "That is merely your perception. If you believe you can fight, then you will! All you must do, is will your strength to return!"

in a flash of light Kirito had found himself back in the coliseum's arena. Feeling his strength return he got back on his feet and into a fighting stance. "Hey Squall! I'm not done yet!" Kirito shouted. Leon stopped midstep and turned to see Kirito was standing up again. And more importantly he had called him by his real name. No one was allowed to do that. Not until he restored peace to hollow bastion. "Yuffie really needs to learn how to keep her mouth shut. More importantly. Are you sure you can still fight in the shape you're in?" he asked. "I was holding back before." Kirito taunted. "Alright punk. Have it your way." Leon said. He was more than confident he could take on Kirito in his weakened state. So when he readied his weapon, he was surprised to see that Kirito was already in striking range just a second after he finished speaking. "Starburst stream!" Kirito's swords glowed a bright blue color and he unleashed a string of attacks one after another. Leon was left helpless at the 16 hit combo and as the last two hits hit him, the gunblade was knocked away from his hand and the tip of the sword in Kirito's right hand was poised directly at his abdomen. Kirito had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in an instant. "I believe your exact words were 'it's over.'" Kirito said. "Now you're getting cheeky." Leon countered. Kirito lowered his swords and they dematerialized. "Kirito!" Asuna shouted. He turned around to greet her when he saw not only her, but Sora, Donald, and Goofy had jumped in the air and were about to put him at the bottom of a dogpile. Which they succeeded in. Strea held Yui on her shoulders while they cheered from the stands at their victory. His friends praised him for his win and asked if he was okay. The questions were all rapid fire and it was hard to tell who was asking what. But honestly he was just glad to have this moment with them.

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Chapter 21 under the sea

After winning the Phil cup and claiming the great sword cloud had left, our heroes were travelling through inter space once more. Yui was sitting in the pilot's seat flying the ship while Strea sat in the copilot's chair polishing her new weapon. The the five world travelers were sitting in the kitchen dining on a much deserved meal prepared by Asuna. "Okay spill it. How did you do that?" Sora asked. "Do what?" kirito said. "You know, that thing with the glowing swords and that super cool combo!" Sora said. "I'd like to know to. That was one of your dual wielding skills from SAO. And not one of the easier ones." Asuna said. Its true starburst stream was one of his most powerful sword skills. It took Kirito months of grinding to learn it. 'I thought sword skills from SAO would be hard to pull off. But when I felt that rush of power it felt like I could do anything. Maybe if I practice with it I can use more of my old attacks. Even THAT skill seems feasible now.' Kirito thought. "Um hello? Earth to Kirito." Asuna asked. "Let me handle it." Donald said. The duck mage hopped off his chair, walked up to Kirito, and swiped the sandwich from his dinner plate. "Hey my sandwich!" Kirito exclaimed. Donald held the sandwich away from Kirito and began tapping his foot as if he were waiting. When kirito looked at the rest of the table he could see everyone was staring at him intently. "I guess there's no escaping it now."

Kirito said. So he told the Sora, Donald, and Goofy about the dream he had the day they had returned to traverse town after escaping Monstro. And about the mysterious keyblade warrior in it. "You had that dream to?" Sora asked. "Huh? What do you mean Sora?" Jiminy asked. "Well… They weren't exactly the same, but the place he described, the weapons, and the questions. Those were in my dream to. And it all happened the day before I got this." He held up his hand and summoned they Keyblade. It was pretty simple looking. A gold rectangular hilt, black handle, and oddly enough, a key chain at the end with a mouse emblem that looked like king mickey's seal. The blade was silver color, about a yard long, and was cylindrical. The space between the teeth looked like the crown necklace that Sora wears. "Well hey! If Sora had the same dream that Kirito's having now, then maybe Kirito can use the keyblade to. A-hyuck." Goofy hypothesized. 'Of course! Why didn't I figure it out sooner?!' Kirito thought. "Goofy you are a genius." Kirito complimented.

"Gee, thanks Kirito. That means a lot comin' from someone smart like you. A-hyuck." He said. "So can you do it? Summon a keyblade I mean?" Sora asked. "Hmmm…" Kirito held out his hand and concentrated. He was trying to call out the weapon the armored man used, but it just didn't work. He could feel it like it was waiting for him, but it wouldn't respond. "It's not working." Kirito said. "Aw phooey." Donald said while taking a bite from Kirito's sandwich. After the first bite Donald's face turned red and he screamed "WAAAAAAAAACK!" while running towards the sink and drowning his head in it. "What was in that sandwich?" Sora asked. "Hot sauce. And wasabi. I like spicy food." Kirito said while taking a bite from his reclaimed meal. After Donald had cooled off we arrived at the next world. But there was a slight issue. It was entirely submerged in water. "Okay guys prepare to land." Donald said. "Land Where? In the sea? We'll drown!" Sora said. "Don't worry my magic will take care of it. Just leave everything to me." Said Donald. "We're coming to." Said Yui. "Alright. But if things get dangerous you find a safe place to hide okay. And Strea, promise that you'll keep Yui safe." Kirito said. "Sir yes sir." Strea saluted.

Donald's magic enveloped us and we were all teleported to the deep sea world. And our bodies were changed to match the environment. Donald's lower half became that of an octopus with blue and yellow tentacles. Goofy had turned into a sea turtle, but his head was still the same. Sora, Kirito, Asuna, and Yui became mermaid and in the boys case merman esque. Sora's lower half was blue and dolphin like. Kirito was shark like and had a triangular gap in his dorsal fin. Asuna's mermaid tail was an albino white with subtle hints of red like a koi fish. And yui's lower half was pink and had little specks of gold in her scales. Asuna and Yui wore clam like bras to cover their chests. How clams had string that could be tied around there backs they had no idea, but were thankful none the less. And Strea had an octopus like body. Her purple octopus skin covered her pale white human features like a dress and her tentacles had soft pink undersides. "This is going to be a big adjustment." Kirito said while looking at his new body. "It looks like Yui's figured it out." Asuna said. Yui had taken to being a mermaid like a fish to water. (Pun intended) "Look Mommy I'm swimming! And my tail looks so pretty!" Yui said. "That's great honey." Asuna said. "The ocean's so salty. I've never felt anything like it before. It's amazing!" Strea said. "I'm kinda used to it." Sora said. That made sense since Sora was an islander.

It wasn't long before we were found by the locals. Another mermaid with long red hair and a green fish tail, along with a yellow fish with blue fins and stripes, and a small red crab were swimming towards us. "Come on, Sebastian!" the mermaid said. The crab now identified as Sebastian begged the mermaid who he called Ariel to wait and not leave him behind. However he panicked when he came face to face with an upside down Donald and swam for cover behind her. "Relax, Sebastian. They don't look like one of them. Right flounder?" she asked the yellow fish behind her. "I don't know. There's something weird about them." Said flounder. Sora began to laugh nervously. "What do you mean?" he asked. Ariel began to swim around them. "They do seem… a little different. Where are ya from?" she asked. "We're from kinda far away. And we're not really used to these waters." Sora said. In a desperate bid to sound convincing. Fortunately it worked. "Oh, I see. In that case. Sebastian can show you how to swim around here." She said. "Ariel, King Triton will not like this!" he said. "Oh don't worry." Ariel said.

After a few minutes of tutoring from Sebastian everyone was able to move around in their new bodies without much trouble. "Good job. Now let's move on to self-defense." He said. "Sebastian!" Ariel exclaimed. When we looked where she pointed, we saw a group of jellyfish like heartless swimming towards us. "Class is over! Good luck!" Sebastian said as he swam away slowly you'd think a crab would realize he moves faster on the ocean floor. "Yui go hide with Ariel. We'll take care of these things." Kirito ordered. "Right." Yui and Ariel swam off into a small alcove while Sebastian and Flounder hid inside a giant clam. Kirito thought using two swords underwater would be ineffective so he only used one. His black blade slashed through the jelly fish like a butter knife through jelly. Thankfully these Jelly fish didn't have poisonous stingers like the ones back home so they didn't have to be cautious with their movements. And despite its heavy weight Strea was able to put her great sword to good use on the larger ones. The large jelly fish heartless broke into smaller versions of itself when they were beaten and we all moved in as a group to eliminate them. Due to their fragile nature, the battle was short lived. Ariel and Yui came out of hiding and Sora used his keyblade to pry open the giant clam Flounder and Sebastian used for shelter. Sebastian was worried that the heartless were attacking the palace and Ariel asked us for help. We gladly accepted. She said to follow the trident shaped markers to reach the palace and not get lost.

As we explored the sea bed we saw marvelous sights like coral reefs, schools of fish, and thermal vents creating ocean currents. It was too bad the heartless were here and scared everything off when they appeared. When we arrived at the palace plaza we saw stone pillars and arches similar to the ones in Olympus coliseum. The palace itself had similar architecture along with tall pointed spires and a glowing golden light. As we swam towards it more heartless showed up. These heartless were green and looked like scuba divers. They had propellers on the back of their heads that gave them greater speed and carried tridents as weapons. Hoping to avoid a fight we booked it to the palace. The heartless followed us through the halls and as we split up to avoid them, they were destroyed by a golden bolt of electricity. "That was to close." The blast came from a merman sitting on a throne. He had a blue fish tail, held a golden trident, was very muscular, had a long white beard and hair, and wore a five pointed crown on his head. "As long as I have my trident, I will not tolerate those creatures inside this palace!" He said with Authority.

"Hi daddy." Ariel said. "Oh Ariel! When will you listen? It's dangerous out there! Strange creatures lurk outside." He said while looking at the seven of us. Sebastian coughed to get everyones attention. "Behold. You swim before the ruler of the seas: His majesty, King Triton." The crab introduced. "And who are they?" The king asked. "They helped us fight off those creatures." Ariel explained. "They don't look familiar." Triton said. "We're from an ocean very far away." Sora said. "Yup. We came to find the keyhole." Goofy said. "The what?" Triton said surprised. "What's that?" Ariel asked. "Well it's a- -" goofy was about to explain before being interrupted by Triton. "There's no such thing! And certainly not here." He said. "But daddy!" Ariel said. But a look from her father told her to be quiet. "Ariel not another word. You are not to leave the palace. Is that clear?" he said sternly. Ariel didn't say a word and simply left the throne room. We decided to follow her.

"Hmm… perhaps I'm being too strict with her. I'm just concerned for her safety." The king said as he watched Ariel swim off with her new friends. "Of course your majesty." Said Sebastian. "But I must admit, now I'm quite curious about this keyhole." He said. "That need not concern you, Sebastian. Have you anything to report?" Triton asked. "It's just as you suspected your majesty, they seem to be coming from Ursula's grotto." Said Sebastian. "I knew it. That sea witch is up to no good again. I see exile from the palace has taught her nothing." "He said angrily while stroking his beard. "Yes, she poses serious danger." Sebastian said. "And I told you to keep Ariel away from such danger, did I not?" the king said. Not wanting to become King Triton's next victim, Sebastian quickly swam to Ariel's grotto. It was the place Ariel was most likely to be After all.

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Chapter 22 Peace and ruin

We followed Ariel to her secret grotto. The entrance was hidden behind a large rock, but it was easily moved. Ariel was a collector of sorts. Inside her little grotto were shelves of treasure chests, pottery, mirrors, books, and other human made things. And on the bottom most shelf was a blue plaque shaped like a trident. "I think all these things are from the outside world. Someday, I'm going to see what's out there. I want to see other worlds. Does that sound strange?" Ariel asked. "No. Not at all. I used to feel the same way." Sora said. Kirito elbowed Sora in the ribs. "I- I mean I still do." Said Sora. "Hey why don't we try looking for that key hole you mentioned." Ariel suggested. "But didn't your father say-" Strea said before being interrupted. "Oh, he treats me like a little girl. He never wants to let me do anything. He just… He just doesn't understand." Ariel said. "Did you ever stop to think that maybe he's trying to protect you?" Kirito asked. "He's over protective. If he had his way I would never be outside the palace. You even heard him say it." She had them there. And we did need to find the keyhole. Plus Ariel knows her way around. We didn't have a choice. So we followed Ariel to keep her safe from the heartless.

Ariel brought us to a sunken ship. The ship had many holes in the hull and a few of its windows were broken. Whether the ship had been brought down by a storm or a sea battle was hard to tell. When we entered the ship's cargo hold we found a single chest in front of the ship's back windows. Sora approached the chest ready to open it with his keyblade. "SORA LOOK OUT!" Kirito shouted. "Huh?" the boy said. When he looked at the window he saw a huge shark swimming towards the ship. Its jaws were raised, ready to devour its prey. "WOAH!" Sora swam away from the window as fast as he could. The shark crashed through the ship and shattered all the glass. It tried to squeeze its way in, but the shark was simply too big to fit. Eventually it gave up and went somewhere else, but deep down, we knew that it wasn't done with us. As soon as we left the ship, it was going to attack. A black substance sprayed around the cargo hold and it became hard to see. "What is this stuff?" Sora asked. "I think Donald and I inked ourselves. I'm sorry." Strea said. "Well, I'm sure you didn't mean to." Asuna said. "I'll take care of it. WIND!" Sora said. As quickly as it appeared, the octopus ink was blown out of the ship's interior by Sora's magic. "Phew. You saved my life there Kirito. I owe you one." Sora said. "It's no trouble. I'm sure you would've done the same for me. Now let's see what's in that chest." Kirito said. When Sora opened it, they found a crystal trident shaped crest. It looked like it would fit in the plaque in Ariel's grotto.

"Well this is a good find, but what do we do about that big shark?" Ariel asked. "It looks like Sora's wind spell blew all that ink around the ship. We've got perfect cover." Asuna said. "You're right! He can't see where we'll come from. And if we swim fast enough, then we won't have to fight at all." Yui said. "Hooray for involuntary body functions!" Strea cheered. We didn't waste any time and swam back to Ariel's grotto as fast as we could. We managed to avoid the shark and arrived safely at our destination. Sora placed the crystal trident on the plaque in Ariel's grotto and we waited to see what happened. "Ariel, you've disobeyed me again! I told you not to leave the palace!" We turned around to see King Triton had barged into Ariel's treasure trove. His eyes widened when he saw the crystal trident and he raised his own trident to destroy it. Ariel pleaded for him to stop, but it was too late. The sea king shot a bolt of electricity and the crystal trident was smashed to smithereens. "How could you…" Ariel left her grotto distraught at what her father had done.

"Young man, you're not from another ocean. You're from another world aren't you?" the king asked rhetorically. "Huh?!" Sora gasped surprised. "Then you must be the key bearer." Triton said. "How did you know?" Sora asked. "You may fool Ariel, but you can't fool me. You don't know your dorsal fin from your tail. As the key bearer you must already know. One must not meddle in the affairs of other worlds." Triton said. "Of course I know that! But…" Sora said. Looking back Sora had done a lot of meddling. It was for the good of the worlds and their people, but he had meddled nonetheless. "You have violated this principle. The key bearer shatters peace and brings ruin." The king said. "That's not true! Sora's a nice person! We came here to bring peace to your world and protect it from the Heartless. We even protected Ariel, your own daughter who you just sent off crying!" Yui defended. Triton stared at the little girl before him. This child had the audacity to berate a king in defense of her friend? But she also had a point. Perhaps he had acted too harshly towards Ariel. "I thank you for defending my daughter. But there is no room in my ocean for you or your key." He said as he swam back to the palace. Sora looked at the keyblade he held. 'Shatters peace and brings ruin? What did Triton know about the keyblade that I don't?' sora thought.

Meanwhile, Ariel was knelling over a rock as she cried her eyes out. The distraught mermaid was completely unaware of the two eels that were watching her. "My, my, the poor child suffers such deep sorrow." Said Flotsam. "What a pity. If only there were something we could do…" Said Jetsam. "Wait… Maybe she can be of some help." Flotsam said making their presence known to Ariel. "Yes. Maybe she could be of some help to you." Said Jetsam. "Who are you talking about?" Ariel asked. "Oh she would surely help you." Said flotsam. "She'd make all your dreams come true." Said Jetsam. The two eels twirled together in a double helix and an inky black darkness appeared around them. "Ursula can help." They both said at the same time. "You called my dear?" said Ursula. The sea witch had purple on her human features and her black octopus body covered her rotund body like a dress. "You're Ursula? Well I was wondering if- -" Ariel said. "It's all right. Helping others is what I live for. Let me guess. You wish to see other worlds. That shouldn't be too hard." She scoffed. "After all, your new friends came from other worlds." Ursula said. "What?" Ariel asked surprised. "But they had special help- - that mysterious key." Ursula said. Ariel was saddened by this. Why had they not told her? And she even told them she wanted to see other worlds to. "Now, now. Cheer up, sweetie. You have something special too. Now listen carefully. I think the key hole they seek, is somewhere in the palace. Now, my dear, if you can take me there without your daddy knowing… I can help you get to these other worlds you long for. Do we have a deal?" she asked. Ariel was hesitant, but she wanted to see other worlds so badly. And she also knew not to judge people by appearances and rumors. "Okay." Ariel said.

Meanwhile our seven travelers were heading back to the palace. "So why are we heading to the palace again?" Goofy asked. "I think King Triton knows more than he's letting on. He knew about the keyblade, so there's no way he can't know where the Keyhole is." Kirito said. "Okay, but why aren't we looking for Ariel? She looked so upset." Asuna asked. "We can't interfere Asuna. Whatever issues Ariel has with her dad have to be worked out between the two of them." Said Sora. When they arrived at the palace halls, they were surprised to see a large octopus woman cackling as she held the king's trident. Triton sat on his throne powerless while Ariel was concerned for her father's wellbeing. "The trident is mine at last! And I couldn't have done it without your help, my dear." She said. "Ursula, no! I didn't want this!" said Ariel. "Why not? Aren't you tired of following your daddy's orders?" she asked. "Oh, yes. We had a deal, didn't we? Time for a little journey- - to the dark world of the Heartless!" the sea witch exclaimed! "We cannot find the keyhole." Said flotsam "The key hole is not here" said jetsam. "What?" she turned around to see the group of seven swimming towards the throne room. "Why, we have company. I'm afraid you're a little late handsome." Ursula said as she disappeared into inky darkness. "The trident… we must get it back." Said King Triton. "Let's go!" said Sora. "Wait, I'm coming with you! My father is hurt and it's all my fault. I have to stop Ursula!" said Ariel. "That's right! I'm right behind you, Ariel!" said Sebastian. "Ursula draws power from her cauldron. To defeat Ursula, you must strike her cauldron with magic." Triton said. "Thanks for the tip." Sora said. "Yui, you should stay here with the king. We don't know what kind of tricks Ursula has up her tentacles. It's too dangerous." Asuna said. "Okay, but promise me that you and everyone will come back safe." Yui asked. Asuna hugged Yui close to her chest. "I promise. Be a good girl while we're gone okay. And don't bother Triton too much." Asuna asked. "Okay." Yui said. and so six heroes set off with Ariel and Sebastian to defeat the sea witch Ursula.

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Chapter 23 Ursula's wrath!

We traveled to the sunken ship we had found before. Thankfully the shark wasn't around to attack us again. The entrance to Ursula's lair was hidden behind a large rock that was painted with a purple sea serpent to ward off intruders. The door was way too big for us to move, but Sebastian found a hidden switch. Hidden between two large rocks. Sebastian was able to swim through the crevice and press the switch that opened the door. We navigated the undersea cave until we reached Ursula's grotto. The grotto's exterior was a tall tower modeled after the sea serpent on the front door. As we swam through Ursula's lair we discovered little plant like creatures with eyes that were rooted to the floor. "What are they?" Asuna asked? "Ursula's prisoners. That sea Witch makes deals with unwitting victims and then drains the life outta them." Sebastian answered. "Ursula lives only to make us sea folk suffer!" he said. "We have to stop her. For everyone's sakes." Ariel said. We reached the center of Ursula's lair the room was shaped like the belly of a monster. Her cauldron sat in the middle boiling some kind of brew. Ursula herself sat inside a large sea shell shaped chair. "Come on out!" said Donald. "Your time has come!" said Sebastian. The sea witch was not happy to see us. She crawled out from her chair with a nasty scowl on her face. "Donald and Sebastian screamed in fright at the sight of her. Ursula called her two pet eels to assist her and the battle began.

Ursula tossed a potion into her cauldron and it began spewing balls of fire throughout the room. "Remember the plan!" shouted Asuna. We split into two groups. Sora, Donald, and Asuna concentrated their magic attacks on Ursula's cauldron while Kirito, Goofy, Strea, and Ariel kept Ursula and her pets off their backs. Despite being turned into a sea turtle, Goofy's spin attacks hit as fast and hard as ever. Although Ariel proved to be more adept having live her whole life under water. The two of them fought off Flotsam and Jetsam while Kirito and Strea fought Ursula. Ursula spun around like a propeller and her tentacles struck anything in her way as she laughed. However, the moment she stopped she was wide open for attack. Normally a great sword like Strea's wouldn't be much use under water, but Ursula's boulder like body made her an easy target. The plan was working perfectly that is until Ursula's cauldron began to glow with a bright light. "Um guys, I think think we might have over done it." Said sora. "It's gonna blow!" shouted Donald. "We gotta get out of here!" said Sebastian. "But the Trident!" said Ariel "There's no time!" Said Kirito. The eight of us swam out of Ursula's Grotto as fast as we could. When we escaped through the jaws of the sea serpent tower, the head exploded and the tower crumbled.

"That was close." Said sora. "Do you think she's… you know?" Ariel asked. "I wouldn't count on it." said Sebastian. The water around us began to swirl and created a whirlpool that blocked our exit. Inky black clouds formed around the rubble of Ursula's grotto. "The sea and all its spoils bow to my power!" Ursula's voice echoed around us. The sea witch emerged from the rubble and used the trident's magic to grow to gargantuan size. A crown similar to King Triton's was now on her head. Sora and the others knew that this was going to be their hardest fight yet. Ursula cast a spell and thunder rained down in us endlessly. "Normally I don't hit girls in the face, but for you I'll make an exception!" Said Kirito. The seven of us charged in from various directions hoping to overwhelm her. Ursula spat powerful bubbles to keep us at bay though. "We need to split up again! Kirito you lead the assault team. Donald, Ariel, and I will concentrate on supporting you guys with magic." Said Asuna. "You heard the lady. Let's take her down guys!" Kirito said. "Ha! Insolent fools it's not over until the fat lady sings!" Ursula said. "Well then you'd better start singing!" Sora retorted. "Why you! Get ready for this!" Said Ursula. She raised the trident skyward and called down a huge surge of electricity. It created an electrical wall around her that none of us could touch. However it soon dissipated and we were able to attack once more.

Ursula was brutal, even going to the point of trying to eat us alive. But kirito would not let anyone be devoured by a giant sea creature again if he could help it. When Ursula tried to swallow him again, he summoned his second sword and jammed each blade between the top and bottom rows of her teeth. "Everyone! Send some Magic attacks right down her throat!" Kirito shouted. "That boy is either brave or crazy!" shouted Sebastian. "It's probably both, but it's our best shot right now." Said Asuna "You heard the man! Let's turn in her insides into fried calamari. Now fire!" said Sora. Donald, Asuna, and Sora sent fire balls right into Ursula's mouth. Each spell flew past Kirito as he held her gaping maw open. Soon her smoke rose from her mouth as her lungs were burned. The sea witch expelled a torrent of air as she lost her ability to breathe. Kirito dislodged his swords and let the current blow him away from Ursula's mouth. Electricity crackled below the ink and smoke that covered Ursula's giant tentacles and she began to sink into the depths below. When she disappeared a golden light shown from the center of it all. When the light faded Triton's trident was there, ready to be claimed. Ariel grasped the trident in both of her arms and smiled. "We did it… let's head back to the palace." She said.

When we arrived at the palace we saw Yui sitting on Triton's lap. The two of them were laughing together over a story he told. "Ariel always comes up with the strangest names for things. Why just the other day she- -" Triton cut himself off when he saw we had returned with the trident. "I'm afraid story time is over now. Go on little one, they're waiting for you." Said Triton. "Okay. And remember what I said about controlling your temper." Yui said as she swam towards us. "In and out, deep breaths. I remember." He remarked. Ariel swam up to her father and gave back the trident. "I'm so sorry daddy. This is all my fault." Said Ariel. "No, no, it's my fault. You followed Ursula, because I wouldn't let you follow your heart. And when you found that crystal, I lost my temper and destroyed it." King Triton said. "Oh yeah, the crystal! Why did you destroy it?" Goofy asked. "That crystal held the power to reveal the keyhole. The keyhole is dangerous. I had to keep you away from it at any cost. Now, I have one more request for you. Key bearer will you please seal the keyhole?" Triton asked.

"Of course. That's what we had in mind from the start." Sora said. "Where is the keyhole daddy?" Ariel asked. "You should know better than anyone. It's in your grotto. Now, take my trident with you. You'll need it to reveal the keyhole." Said Triton. "Okay daddy." Ariel grabbed the trident and we all swam back to Ariel's grotto. Ariel held trident as it began to glow. Like magic, it floated up to the plaque that once held the crystal. The trident's magic created a new crystal and they began to resonate with one another. A single magic square almost like glass appeared bearing the world's Keyhole. Sora raised his keyblade and stars gathered around it once more as it shot a ray of light towards the keyhole and locking it. The keyhole disappeared after its sealing. "Tell me, sora. Your world, what's it like?" Ariel asked. "Oh, about that… I'm sorry for lying to you." Sora said. "It's alright. Besides, if you can travel to other worlds, maybe I can too." She said as she swam upwards looking at the skylight of her little grotto. "So many places I want to see… I know I'll get there some day. I'll find a way somehow. I'm sure of it." she said hopefully. "Well, if you find it, do me a favor and leave me out of it." Said Sebastian.

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Chapter 24 the masked gladiator.

After saying our goodbyes to Ariel we boarded the gummi ship. Donald used his magic to return our bodies back to normal. "I never thought I'd miss having legs." Kirito said as he patted each of his legs. "It was a little strange being turned into sea creatures, but at the same time it was kind of fun." Said Asuna. "Yeah, back in the islands I swam in the ocean a lot, but I've never been so deep underwater before. It looked so cool." Said Sora. "It was quite the experience, but I'd like to get to dry land soon." Said Kirito communication system beeped and the screen turned on to show chip and dale. "Hey guys. How was your trip?" asked dale. "Very wet. Why are you guys calling us? Is there anything wrong with the ship?" said Donald. "Nah, the gummi ship is okay. We just heard that Olympus coliseum is holding another tournament and figured you guys would want in." said chip. "It looks like you got your wish Kirito A-hyuck." Said goofy.

Yui inputted the coordinates for Olympus coliseum and we warped there instantly. I didn't think the calculation system Cid installed had been ported over when genie brought her and Strea to the real world. It makes me proud that Yui can remember all of that information. Who knows? Maybe someday she can have a job out in space like in those old sci-fi shows. When we entered the coliseum gates we saw another billboard had been placed next to the Phil cup billboard. "The Pegasus cup." Said Asuna. "Do you think there's anyone we know?" Asked Strea. "I don't think so. Except for the top seed, all the other seeds have heartless in them." Said Yui. "Then who's at the top?" asked Sora. "Someone called the masked fighter." She responded. "Well one things for sure. We can't leave that many heartless running around." Said Kirito. "You're right. There's no telling what would happen if they escaped the arena." Said Asuna. "No problem. We'll clear them out and fight this masked fighter guy for the top spot while we're at it." Said Sora. "It might be harder than you think." Hercules said walking up to us. "That masked fighter is pretty tough. He's got a bunch of moves I've never seen before. Every match he's been in has ended in less than a minute." Said Hercules. "He's that strong?" Donald asked. "Well, we haven't fought yet, but I've seen enough to know that he's tough to beat." Hercules said crossing his arms. "But something tells me that if anyone can beat him, it's you guys." He said. "Thanks Herc." Said sora.

After talking to Phil and signing up for the tournament, we made our way to the arena and waited for the first round to start. In the shadows of the cage there was a person, short in stature, covered from neck to toe in a dark, sinew like substance. Around their waist was a white feathery skirt. The person's face was covered by a helmet with an effeminate mask. They carried a short, curved jet black sword that was shaped like a bird's wing. The person in question looked at the newcomers. The masked fighter looked especially interested in Asuna.

As the team of six advanced through each round, Yui sat in the stands cheering them on. The girl was absolutely giddy as she watched her parents and sister fight alongside Sora, Donald, and Goofy. "Wow they're creaming those guys. 'Course it's kinda easy when you have a big team like they do." Yui turned her head slightly to see that Yuffie and Leon were in the stands as well. The two of them sat on either side of Yui to watch. "Yeah, mom, dad, and Strea are a good team already. And Sora, Donald, and Goofy make them even better." Yui said. "Still, their last opponent won't be so easy." Leon said. "Huh?" Yui asked confused. "Well it's like this. Before you guys got here, Leon and I tried taking him on ourselves. But he beat us without even breaking a sweat." Yuffie said. Yui's eyes widened at the info. Kirito barely defeated Leon when they fought before. If the masked fighter defeated Leon so easily, then this was going to be really hard for them.

The final round had started. Our heroes were squaring off against the masked fighter. The masked fighter dashed towards Sora and attacked in a single bound. Sora managed to block the incoming attack, but his opponent slid passed him and kicked Sora in his back. The masked fighter swiped at Donald only to be blocked by Goofy's shield. The masked fighter disappeared in a dark flash and struck down the two of them from above. Kirito made a running attack with his twin swords, but the masked fighter blocked it. Kirito began to hammer down on his opponent's sword hoping to either break his guard or wear down his stamina. But the masked fighter used his free hand to fire a blast of blue flames on Kirito at point blank range. The attack sent Kirito crashing to the other side of the Arena. Strea and Asuna ran to their side to make sure everyone was okay, but the moment strea crossed the other side of the Arena, the masked fighter raised his hand towards them and a wall of blue fire rose in the center of the ring. The wall of flames was so high and the flames burned so intensely, that there was no way to get passed it. Which meant Asuna would now have to fight the masked fighter one on one.

The masked fighter readied his fighting stance and beckoned Asuna with the fingers on his free hand to come fight. With no other options, Asuna held her rapier in a similar stance as her opponent. The two of them slowly moved in a circular manner waiting, each waiting for the other to make the first move. When both fighters were faced horizontally parallel to the flames, they attacked. The metallic clang of sword against sword could be heard as they slashed, stabbed, and parried against one another. Asuna ducked to dodge a blow from her foe so she could attack his legs. But the masked fighter made a small jump to avoid the attack. Asuna seized the opening and made an upward stab at her opponent that pierced his shoulder. The masked fighter backed away from Asuna and held his wounded limb. Asuna could see the bit of skin from where she had pierced her opponent. "So you are human under there. I was starting to wonder." Asuna said. The dark material covering the masked fighter's body repaired itself and covered the wound. The masked fighter's sword began to glow with a purplish hue and he charged to attack Asuna. Asuna's rapier glowed in a blue light and she did the same. The two moves collided and force created a small explosion that covered the area in dust and smoke. Everything was eerily quiet. When the debris settled, it revealed Asuna standing above her opponent. The masked fighter's mask was cracked. "Mother's Rosario. There's only one other person I know of that has that skill." Asuna said. "So you figured it out. I was hoping I'd get to fight you some more before I used it. But you're even stronger than I remember Asuna." As the masked fighter spoke the mask began to crumble. The cracks spread throughout the helmet and the whole thing shattered. Long strands of purple hair billowed outwards. Around the masked fighter's forehead there was a red bandanna and his, or rather her face. Was that of Yuuki Konno. The darkness around her body dissipated and she wore a white dress and sandals with straps that went up her calves and shins. "So what's up?" she asked casually while closing her eyes and showing off her toothy grin.

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Chapter 25 soldier

After their fight in the Pegasus cup, our heroes stood in the coliseum lobby along with former opponent, Yuuki Konno. "Why the hell are you fighting in the coliseum?!" Asuna asked. After the masked fighter's identity was revealed, Asuna didn't know whether to feel happy or angry. She was happy that Yuuki was to know that Yuuki was okay despite what happened to their world. But she didn't understand how Yuuki was able to not only walk outside of her hospital room, but fight in a tournament filled with heartless and other strong warriors. Yuuki Konno was a dear friend of Asuna and every one of their friends from her and Kirito's world. But Yuuki is or was supposed to be very sick. At a young age, she and her family contracted a rare drug resistant strain of acquired immune deficiency syndrome from a bad blood transfusion. The disease had killed her parents and her older sister Aiko. Ever since Yuuki was little, she had to be kept in a sterile room, and she was subjected to severe medical treatments to treat the diseases her body couldn't resist. In the past few months Asuna had been receiving medical reports from Yuuki's doctor Dr. Kurohashi. Yuuki began showing signs of recuperating and she had even started walking practice. But it should've been impossible for her to be here and of all things fighting in the real world. "I guess I've got some explaining to do huh?" Yuuki asked rhetorically. "Take your time Yuuki. Tell us everything that happened to you." Said Kirito. "Alright. I guess it all started after that big storm hit us."

After the storm had taken their world, Yuuki found herself in a very dark place. The cold stone floor stung her bare feet and she felt a chill from the air in her pale white hospital gown. Looking around she saw sconces holding torches of blue fire and a river that was a sickly green color. "Wh- what is this place? Where am I?" she asked. But nobody was there to answer. "Well, this looks like a cave. And there's a breeze blowing. Maybe if I follow the air flow backwards, then I can get out of this place." And so Yuuki began a slow trek through the dark depths. Progressing through the cave was an uphill struggle for the 15 year old girl. The cave had winding tunnels that seemed to go on forever, But Yuuki's method of traversing them proved effective and she proceeded without much issue. After what seemed like hours, she came across a man sitting near a small campfire. The man had long silver hair and wore a black and red coat that exposed his muscular chest. He had silver pauldrons on his shoulders and the sleeves of his coat had small bat like wings. But those were nothing compared to the enormous bluish black bird's wing on his back. Around the man's waist was a brown belt with a silver belt buckle that bore the letter M. he carried a very long sword that looked like it was about seven or eight feet in length.

"Um… excuse me. I'm wondering if you can tell me where I am." Yuuki asked. The man looked at her with his piercing blue eyes. A sly grin appeared on his face. "Can I?" he joked. "Please tell me where I am and how I can get out of here!" Yuuki asked. "Very well. You little girl, are in the underworld. A place the dead go." Yuuki's eyes widened and her heart all but stopped. "The dead? Does that mean I'm… and you too?" she asked. "No. if we were, then we would be floating in the Styx with the rest of them." He said while pointing at the river. Yuuki sighed in relief and walked towards the campfire. "So if you don't mind me asking? Are you an angel?" Yuuki asked as she looked at the single wing on his back. He chuckled at the question. "Not in the way you think. I didn't come here to rescue little girls that wondered away from home." He said. "Oh. That's too bad. I could really use some rescuing right now." She said. "The strong live and the weak shall perish. That is the way of the world." He said. "…eak." She muttered. "You'll have to speak up little girl." He said. "I said I'm not weak!" she pointed her index finger towards him. "Just you watch, I'm gonna get out of this place. And then I'll make you eat those words!" Yuuki spoke. "What is your name little girl?" he asked. "It's Yuuki Konno. And what about you Mr. Angel?" she asked. "You may call me Sephiroth." The man stood up and plucked a feather from his wing. "If you can make it to the top, then we shall see if your words match the will of your heart." He gently placed the feather with in Yuuki's short brown hair so it would rest on her earlobe. "Until we meet again. Yuuki Konno." Sephiroth disappeared right before her eyes in a flash of darkness. Yuuki placed her hand on the feather he had left her. Its presence felt reassuring to her. It felt like she had a guardian angel protecting her. For better or worse she couldn't tell. She chose to think meeting Sephiroth was a good omen and began spelunking through the underworld to find the exit once more.

Yuuki didn't know how to explain it, but as she kept walking and walking, she felt better. It was like every step she took brought her closer to the strength she possessed in the virtual world. But feeling it with her actual body felt so good! She walked faster and faster until she broke into a mad dash and ran through the underworld's depths. The hospital gown was starting to feel like a hindrance to her, so she tossed it aside and ran head long into the darkness. As she passed through the torch filled halls she felt the shadows coalescing around her body until they covered it completely. The dark sinew created boots around her feet and the material spread until it covered each part of her skin. When it spread to her Chest the darkness created an emblem similar to the one she and her big sister had created for their guild, the sleeping knights. The darkness spread until it covered her head. Once its work was done, it receded down to her neck and her hair was back to its long length and purple coloration. And her eyes were a bright red and they allowed total clarity in the dark. She placed her hand on her Chest where the emblem lay. 'My friends. I can feel all of them with me.' She thought about her old guild mates and all of her new friends who survived SAO. She found the glowing staircase that led to the world above and saw the image of Asuna and all of her friends waiting at the top. "I hope all of you are ready. Because I'm coming to see you for real this time!" Yuuki ascended the stairway until finally she saw it. The bright blue sky and white fluffy clouds. For the first time in ages, the sun's light shone on her face. She clenched her hands in fists and raised her arms skyward. "WOOOHOOO! FREEDOM!" she exclaimed.

"So that's the power you have. I'm actually impressed." Yuuki turned around to see sephiroth ascending the stairs behind her. "Hehe. I told you I wasn't weak." Yuuki said. "So it would seem. You've overcome your frail body's limitations. And the power of darkness has purged all weakness from it." Sephiroth said. "You are no longer the weak, sick, girl you were before. You are a survivor, a warrior, a soldier." He spoke. Yuuki looked at the dark material covering her body and the emblem on her chest. "So that's what this is? The power of darkness…" Sephiroth plucked another feather from his wing and it grew into a dark saber. The weapon had a curved single edge on one side and the back was jagged and saw like from the pointed feathers. The handle was covered in bright blue wrappings and bore a chain at the bottom with no ornament. "Hehe. If you keep yanking them out like that, you'll run out." Yuuki joked. Sephiroth smiled and handed Yuuki the new weapon. The girl took the sword by the hilt and felt its weight in her hands. The blade was light as a feather and wickedly sharp. The light from the sun allowed her to see her reflection in the dark colored metal. "So if we aren't in the underworld anymore, then where are we now?" Yuuki asked. "Olympus coliseum. It's a place where warriors gather to test their strength." He said. "Wow. That's so cool!" Yuuki said excitedly. "You should take this chance to hone your abilities. Participate in the games, and you'll find worthy opponents." He said. "Do you think I'm ready for that?" Yuuki asked. "Are you?" Sephiroth responded as he descended into the underworld. Yuuki smiled at the familiar joke. "You know I am!" she responded. The two of them parted ways with one another Yuuki went to participate in the games while sephiroth went back to the deepest depths of the underworld.

"And that's how I got here. I went to the coliseum's storage to look for real clothes that would fit me and then I started kicking butt in the Arena. I thought if I stayed here long enough that I'd find you again. Turns out I was right on the money. But I never thought Yui and Strea would be here. You guys must have had quite the adventure." Yuuki said. The tale she told us sounded phenomenal. Traveling from the deepest depths of the underworld and ascending to the surface all on her own was nothing short of a miracle. "So you're saying that…" Kirito spoke. "Mmmhmm. No more HIV, no more aids, no more weird anagrams and strange words. I'm 100 percent cured! Isn't that great?" Yuuki said. Asuna pulled Yuuki into a hug as tightly as she could and cried. "I'm just so glad you're okay! After our world disappeared, I was so worried something had happened to you." Asuna cried and cried on Yuuki's shoulder. She was so happy to see her again. Yuuki returned the hug and placed her hands around her back. "Me too. I'm so glad I get to see you like this. Not just in the virtual world or in my hospital bed hooked up to monitors and iv drips. I'm glad that for the first time, I get to see you in the real world. And that I've managed to live this long and that I get to keep on living with you and everybody." Yuuki said with tears rolling down her eyes.

 

 

Author's note: so when i posted the last chapter i got an anonymous review asking why Yuuki was alive. and since i can't reply to anonymous reviews i figured i would answer here. in this chapter. so in case no ones has figured it out yet, this story uses the continuity of the sword art online Video Games rather than the anime. that's why this story has characters like Philia and Strea who are game exclusive characters. and in the video game timeline Yuuki Konno is still alive. for how long in the games that will be i'm not sure, but since she is alive there, she's alive in here. so i hope that answers some of the questions you guys have. if you want to know where you can get these games, you can find them on the playstation store. in chronological order the games are SAO hollow fragment, SAO lost song, SAO Hollow realization, and the newest one that was released a couple of weeks ago Accel world vs Sword art online Millenium twilight. if you've ever wondered how the game of sword art online is played, then these are the games for you. i hope you guys like this chapter.

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Chapter 26 High wind D

"So you have this thing called a keyblade, and you're travelling to new worlds to save them from those monsters in the Arena?" Yuuki asked. "That's the gist of it. We're also looking for our friends and a way back home." Said Kirito. "Then what are we standing around here for? Let's go!" Yuuki said. "Well uh, the thing is-" Goofy said before being interrupted by Sora. "Oh come on. You're not gonna make up another excuse about our ship being full are you?" he said irate. "The cockpit is getting kind of cramped though." Kirito said. He then imagined the 6 of them bickering about their lack of space while Yui and strea were in the pilot's chairs. Yui grew more irritated as they got louder and louder and shouted at the top of her lungs "I WILL TURN THIS SHIP AROUND RIGHT NOW!" Kirito's little thought bubble popped and he shivered at the scenario. "No sweat. We've got your backs." Yuffie said as she walked up to us with Leon in tow. "What do you mean Yuffie?" asked Donald. "Cid figured you guys might be having some space issues after you brought Yui and Strea to life with that genie wish of yours." Leon said. "You guys have a genie?!" Yuuki interrupted. Leon continued speaking like he hadn't heard her. "So he and Geppetto have been working with the chipmunks on a new ship for you." He said. "Yup he figured two ships would be better than one. So now you guys can pick up any strays you come across and bring them back to traverse town. That's where they were supposed to go after all." Yuffie said. "Wow, I honestly don't know what to say. We can't thank you guys enough." Kirito said. "You scratch our backs, we scratch yours. Just make sure you keep defeating the heartless and sealing those keyholes." Leon said. "You got it Leon." Said sora. And so our heroes parted ways with Leon and Yuffie and headed back to their ship.

It turns out that Leon and Yuffie had docked the new ship next to theirs. The new ship was pretty much identical to the old one. The only difference was that it was painted black while the old one was red. "Oh my god we have our own space ships. That is Awesome!" Yuuki said. "Yeah it's pretty cool. So how are going to divvy up the crew?" Kirito asked. "Well I think I'll stay on the high wind." Sora said referring to the red ship. "The king told us to find the key bearer, so Donald and I'll stick with Sora." Said Goofy. "You guys will need help flying the ship so I'll go with you." Strea said. "So I guess that means Asuna, Yui, and I will be on the High wind D. What about you Yuuki?" Kirito asked. The girl in question grabbed onto Asuna's arm. "That's easy. I'll go where Asuna goes. That way I'll get to eat more of Asuna's yummy food." Said Yuuki. "W-wait can't we trade or something? I like Asuna's cooking to. Come on, I'll give you Goofy." Said Sora. "Tempting, but no. Besides, with the ships docking systems we can still all eat together." Said Kirito. Sora sighed in relief "Thank goodness." 'I feel like I'm being used.' Asuna thought.

Our heroes were now flying through interspace looking for the next world. Yuuki stared in awe at the majesty of space from the comfort of the High wind D's flight deck. "Wooow. Space is incredible. And you and Strea really know how to fly these ships Yui?" she asked. "Uh-huh. Mr. Cid taught us everything he knows about space travel. I know how everything works from the drive core to the ships Ailerons. Of course learning is easy when you're a highly intelligent AI and can download and process hundreds of gigabytes of information in seconds. Of course now that I'm a human being, you could say that my processing power is limited." Yui said. "I hadn't even considered that. Human biology is completely new to you two. You and Strea are practically newborns." Yuuki said. "It's a bit strange, but I like that I get to live in the same world as mommy and daddy now. From now on I can live with them in both worlds. And that makes me really happy." Yui said with a smile on her face.

Hearing Yui say those words made Kirito and Asuna happy as well. Kirito knew that bringing Yui and Strea to life might cause some issues, but seeing his daughter happy is what matters to him. Sure he could've used that wish to bring back his home world or even wish for his friends and family to be brought to traverse town. But he knew this was the right choice. And in his opinion it wouldn't be much of an adventure if everything was handed to him on a silver platter. "Oh! I think I see something! Is that… a giant jack-o-lantern?" Yuuki said. "It's probably another world. They come in all shapes and sizes." Kirito said. "We haven't been to this world yet. Which means there's probably another keyhole there." Said Asuna. Kirito sat down in the middle chair of the flight deck. "Sora and the others have probably spotted it by now. Set a course Yui. Our destination is that giant pumpkin." Kirito said pointing at the new world. "Hehe, aye-aye captain." Yui saluted. "Aw, how come he gets to be captain?" Yuuki asked as she sat in the left chair behind him. "To be fair, Kirito is usually the leader of our Parties online." Said Asuna as she sat in the chair to Kirito's right. "If you wanted it then you should've grabbed the captain's seat first. Full speed ahead Yui." Kirito ordered. "Sir, yes, sir." Yui responded. and so our heroes set off for the next world.

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Chapter 27 Night of the dancing Heartless?

The world we landed on was different from other places we had been to. The town was decorated from head to toe in pumpkins, spider webs, gargoyle statues, and other spooky, macabre architecture. Just like in Atlantica, Donald used his magic to change our appearance and blend in with the locals. Sora's face was partially covered by an orange devilish mask and dressed in black. His legs were covered in black socks and wrapped in blood red bandages. His usually fingerless gloves were replaced with ones that made his fingers look like claws and his teeth were sharp and pointed like a vampire's. And he had a small cape with bat like wings. Donald was wrapped from head to webbed toe in old bandages like a mummy, but the most bizzare thing was that his midsection and his right elbow and wrist had vanished making it look like his upper half and right hand were floating. Goofy had a large silver screw drilled into the top of his head and his nose was replaced by a metal cone with a small jack-o-lantern on the tip. His right eye became a bright red while his left was a gray spiral. He wore a tan turtleneck sweater and a tattered yellow patchwork-jacket. He had black suspenders attached to green equally tattered patchwork pants. His shoes were torn and showed his black furred toes.

Kirito had grown goat like horns on his head and sprouted a tail with a snakes head at the base of his spine. His coat and shirt were gone exposing his torso and his arms had grown blue fur. And from the waist down is legs had morphed into blue furred goat legs. "This is so weird." Kirito said as he tapped his new cloven hooves on the cobblestone pavement. "Really? I think you look like a boss!" Yuuki said. Yuuki had taken on a furrier appearance like Kirito had, only she looked more like a werewolf. She had grown lupine ears atop her head and purple fur on her arms and legs. Her fingers and toes had grown black razor sharp claws and her teeth looked just as sharp. She worea white t-shirt and a pair of overalls that went up to her chest with straps that went over her shoulders. Her right pant leg was worn while the left had a yellow patch on it. And she had a long purple wolf tail. "Yeah. You look just like the gleam eyes on floor 74 of Aincrad." Said Asuna. Asuna's upper body was the same, but from the waist down she had an eight meter long albino snake's tail. Her ears were pointed and she had white scales around her neck. "Hmmm. I wonder why you guys changed and I didn't." Strea said as she placed her hand on her chin. Unfortunately when Strea tilted her head, it came off her body and fell on the ground. This in turn caused everyone to scream. "Hey why is everything upside down now?" she asked. "Um Strea, don't freak out… but… oh I can't say it! It's better if you just see for yourself." Said Asuna.

"What are you talking about? See what?" Strea asked. As strange as the situation was, Kirito grabbed Strea's head by her cheeks and her eyes widened when she saw that she had literally been decapitated. "AAAAAIIIIEEEEE! What happened to me?!" she shrieked. "It would seem that Donald's spell has transformed us into monsters of various folklore. If I were to guess, I would say Strea has become a Dullahan." Said Yui. It seems that Yui got lucky in the transformation department. Her outfit was now a black dress that went down to her ankles and she wore a Witches hat. Otherwise she was completely normal. "Dullahan?" Sora asked. "Dullahans are a type of fairy. In mythology they're headless horsemen that foreshadow a person's death. Although sometimes they can be seen carrying their heads." Yui said. "Well that's interesting and all, but can someone please put my head back on my body where it's supposed to be!" Strea demanded. "We could try, but unless we can find a way to make it stick, I think it's just going to keep falling off." Kirito said. "Well that's just great. So I guess my body is supposed to carry me like a basket ball now?" Strea asked. "Looks like it." Sora said. "I wanna go back to the ship." Strea cried. "That would be ill advised. I mean what if you leave and your head is still detached? You would die instantly." Yui said. "You're mean!" Strea complained.

As soon as our heroes entered the Halloween town plaza they saw several floating ghost like heartless. Excluding Strea they drew their weapons ready to fight. But something was up with these heartless. They weren't attacking. Instead they were being used in what looked to be some kind of performance. A short strangely cone shaped man was speaking through a megaphone. He wore a tall top hat, a tie made to look like a black widow spider, and a red ribbon on his waist coat that said Mayor. "And now, allow me to introduce the master of terror, the King of nightmares- - Jack Skellington!" the heartless stood in two rows and raised their hands in a wave motion as they parted to reveal a skeleton in a tuxedo rising from a fountain with his bony hands crossed on top of his chest. The skeleton man then struck a pose for his audience. The mayor ran up to jack with his short stubby legs and applauded. "Bravo, Jack! Bravo! Those ghosts will be a big hit at this year's Halloween!" the mayor said. "Thank you, thank you. But their movement still needs work. It's not scary enough." He said disappointedly. "I want to strike bone-chilling terror. I'm going to consult the doctor." Jack said as he walked to the doctor's lab. "Then I'll go attend to the decorations." The mayor said. This Jack Skellington clearly had no idea about what the heartless were or the threat that they posed. It was their responsibility to make sure that the heartless didn't hurt any innocent people. They needed to follow Jack and make sure he didn't do anything dangerous.

When they arrived at the lab, they saw jack was examining a heartless that was strapped down on an experiment table. "I don't understand. Maybe the guidance system was damaged in the explosion." Said Jack. He was speaking to a short man with pale chalk white skin with an enormously large cranium. The man was dressed sat in a powered wheel chair that he moved with levers on each side. His tiny hands were covered by large black leather gloves the man's eyes were covered by a pair of sunglasses with circular frames. "Nonsense. My devices are always perfect!" he proclaimed. Jack was looking through a book on the from the doctor's collection when an idea came to him, "Oh I've got it!" he said. "Why, of course! The heartless need a heart! Doctor, do you think we can add a heart to that device?" Jack asked. "Certainly. A heart's not all that complicated. Let's get to work." The doctor said. Jack began to read off instructions from the book. "To make a heart, first take a container with a lock…" Dr. Finklestein did exactly what he said and hoisted up and dirty brown heart like organ that was somehow still pumping and was locked in restraints. The lock had a big keyhole on it. "We need the key to this thing first!" he shouted. "What do you think sora? Should we help them out?" Kirito asked. "I think so. If we can give the heartless hearts, then we won't have to fight them anymore." He reasoned. "It's worth a shot." Asuna said. So Sora brought out his keyblade and used it to unlock the container. Jack was pleased with the result.

"My, that was amazing! Uh, and you are…"

"Sora."

"Well done, Sora! I'd like you to be a part of this years Halloween." Said Jack. "What's this Heartless doing here?" Sora asked. "Oh, the heartless came to town just recently. What's frustrating, is that I can't get them to dance with me! So the doctor and I are trying to improve the guidance system. He's quite a genius! So doctor, let's continue. The ingredients for a heart: Pulse. Emotion." Jack said pointing to a croaking frog. "Terror." The doctor interrupted by bringing out a large spider. "Fear." Said jack. The doctor dragged his leather gloved hand across a piece of glass that made a high pitched squeal. "Hope and despair." Jack said as he brought out a pair of snakes that were eating each other by their tails. "Mix them all together, and we have a heart!" the doctor pulled a lever and several machines began whirring to life and brimming with electricity. A tesla coil above the heartless electrified the specimen and it sat up. The ghost like heartless drooped its head and lay back down, motionless. "It failed!" the doctor exclaimed. Jack placed his hand atop his head in despair.

"Hmm. Maybe we're missing some ingredients. Let's try adding memory!" the doctors fore head popped open like a lid on a trashcan and he was literally scratching his brain. "I think I'm gonna be sick." Asuna said while covering her mouth to hold back the bile rising in her throat. "Sally! Sally! Good-for-nothing girl! Don't know why I bothered creating her!" the doctor said as he did a 180 in his wheel chair and put his lid back on. "Sally's got the memory we need. See if you can track her down." The doctor said. "No problem. Sora, would you like to come along?" Jack asked. "Sure." Sora said. "Hey doctor, do you think you could help us with something?" Kirito asked. "Of course boy, what seems to be the trouble?" he asked. "Well our friend here has been, well… decapitated." Yuuki said. "We were hoping you could reattach her head for her." Yui said. "Of course, my Sally loses body parts all the time. I always keep a needle and thread on me so I can stitch her back together. She'll be good as new by the time you bring Sally back." Said Dr. Finklestein.

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Chapter 28 to make a heart.

The mayor of Halloween town was waiting for us just outside of the doctor's lab. But rather than the rosy cheeked jolly face he had before there was a pale white face with yellow eyes, green lips and pointy teeth. Apparently this was the mayor's distressed face. "Jack! Jack! We have a major crisis! The heartless are completely out of control! We can't stop them!" the mayor said panicked. "Hmmm… maybe our experiment triggered something." Jack said while scratching his head. "Everything will be fine mayor, you have nothing to worry about." Said Jack. Donald glared at jack and began tapping his webbed foot. "You know we're going to have to fight them right?" Kirito said. "Well you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs." Jack replied with his ever present optimism.

The heartless of Halloween town lived up to the world's name. Besides the ghost heartless we had seen before there were mummies with long limbs and razor sharp claws. And gargoyles that camouflaged themselves to look like statues so they could make surprise attacks. The mummies had a pattern of jumping really high before landing on the ground to make a sweeping attack with their hands. And as if flying wasn't enough for them, the ghosts and gargoyles could turn into a gaseous state to avoid attacks while they got in close to land hits of their own. Using her new form to her advantage, Asuna was able to coil around them the moment they materialized to prevent their escape as she plunged her rapier through her victims. Kirito's new legs allowed him to jump higher than he normally could and his sense of balance improved, allowing him to balance himself on things he wouldn't normally be able to. Like a ninja from anime, he slew foe after foe and leapt into the air and landed on top of a guillotine. "My, my, your skills are impressive. You all would be great additions to this year's Halloween if this experiment with the heartless doesn't work out." Jack said. When the battle was over our heroes grouped up behind jack as he lead them to the graveyard.

"Hey Jack I was wondering about something. I know this place is called Halloween town, but you keep talking about Halloween like it's just around the corner. Do you know what today's date is?" Asuna asked. "Of course, it's October 7th. Halloween is just over three weeks away. There's still so much to do!" said Jack. "October 7th. That's daddy's birthday!" Yui said excitedly. "It is? Why didn't you guys say anything sooner? We totally would've partied!" Sora said. "I didn't think that much time has passed." Kirito said. Their world had disappeared around the middle of September. Which means that they had to have been gone for at least four weeks. Time really flies when you aren't watching it. "And Asuna's birthday was a week before yours. We missed it!" Yuuki exclaimed. "So how old are you guys now?" Goofy asked. "I'm 18 now. And Asuna's a year older than me, so she's 19." Kirito said. "K-Kirito! You're not supposed to talk about a girl's age like that!" Asuna said embarrassedly. "Come to think of it I don't know how old everyone in our group is. We should compare to see who the oldest and youngest is. I'll go first, I'm 16." Yuuki said. "I'm 14." Sora said. "Strea and I were created when SAO was created. So technically we're four. But this body makes me look like I'm ten. And Strea looks about as old as mommy does so let's say she's 19 to." Yui said. "Do you think we should join in Donald?" Goofy whispered. "No way! We're senior citizens compared to them." Donald quietly replied. "Gawrsh do ya think so? A-hyuck." Goofy said while covering his mouth.

Jack led us to the graveyard and stood in front of a grave that bore the head of a dog with long ears. And right before our eyes the ghost of that dog rose from the ground. Its body was like a thin white sheet and it had a glowing orange nose. "Zero! Have you seen Sally anywhere?" Jack asked. The dog spirit's ears shot upwards and he flew right though Asuna causing her to shiver. Zero went behind a gargoyle statue and a soft gasp was heard. The gasp came from a zombie woman with pale blue skin and long red hair. Her body had numerous stitches that held her limbs and head in place. She wore a patch work dress that was mostly green, yellow, and brown. "Is something wrong Jack?" Sally asked. "No, everything is going great! We're going to have the best Halloween ever!" Jack said enthusiastically. "All we need now is your memory." He said. "Memory? You mean this?" Sally said as she showed us a hand full of flowers. "What are those?" yui asked. "They're scorpion grass, but people call them forget-me-nots. In the language of flowers they mean fond memories, loyalty to ones friends, and true love." Sally said. "So that's what the doctor meant by memory. Phew, for a second I thought it would be something… unsavory." Asuna said. Sally gave the flowers to Jack and he admired them in his bony grasp. "Jack, I have a bad feeling about this. Why don't you try something else? There's still time." Sally pleaded. "Nothing could beat what I've got planned! Once we give the heartless a heart, they'll dance just as I envision it. Trust me, you're going to love it!" Jack said. Sally looked as though she had doubts about Jack's plan. The heartless were very dangerous creatures. Sora and the others hoped jack knew what he was doing. With sally in tow, the group headed back to Dr. Finklestein's lab.

All was quiet in the graveyard until three young children hopped out of the coffin in the far back. The first was dressed in red and wore a devil's mask. The second was dressed in purple and wore a green mask along with a witch's hat. And the third wore purple clothes with bones to make him look like a skeleton along with a skull mask. In order they were Lock, Shock, and Barrel. Halloween town's most infamous pranksters and henchmen to Oogie Boogie. "Did you hear that?" Barrel asked. "Yeah, I sure did! A heart! What should we do?" said lock. "Gosh, you really are stupid! Isn't it obvious?" said shock. "Tell Oogie Boogie!" said Barrel. The three nodded at one another and laughed evilly. When the pranksters returned to their master's lair, they immediately told him about Jack's plan. Oogie let loose a frightening laugh and the three huddled together in fear. "A heart? That bone head Jack is really making a Heart?" he guffawed. "I'll be Jiggered! That works for me! Ooh, when I get my hands on that… well I've got no hands, but I'm still gonna nab that heart and control the heartless." Oogie said as he laughed maniacally.

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Chapter 29 Oogie's house of horrors

After returning with Sally and the "memory" the doctor had asked for, Dr. Finklestein tasked us with locating the mayor and the last ingredient "surprise". As promised Strea's head was firmly placed atop her neck and held in place by a ring of stitches. With Strea in tow, our heroes were skulking about the graveyard once more. "These stitches are so itchy." Strea complained while scratching at her neck. "It could be worse. He could've use staples. Little metal barbs that stab into you, it just feels wrong." Yuuki shivered. "That sounds painful." Donald said. "It's just slightly uncomfortable, but staples are easier to remove and they don't tear like stitches do." Yuuki said. "Suddenly I am very thankful for healing magic." Sora said. "That's the spirit." Jack said.

When we found the mayor he was takins stock of the Halloween decorations they planned to use. We asked him where we could find "surprise" and he handed us a box with a crank on the side. "So "surprise" is a Jack in the box." Kirito said. "But I'm not in a box." Jack said. A bead of sweat went down Kirito's head. 'I can't tell if he's being serious or not.' He thought. "Should we wind it up and see what's in it?" Asuna asked. "No, no, no, that would ruin the "surprise". We need to take it back to the doctor as is." Jack said. "You're the boss." Sora replied.

The nine of us brought the "surprise" back to Dr. Finklestein's laboratory and he immediately went to work. The mad scientist placed the forget-me-nots and the jack in the box on the table with the heart and the other ingredients and started up the ominous electrical device once more. The coil, brimming with electricity, zapped the strange organ and the other ingredients vanished. Whether the doctor's experiment was successful or not had yet to be seen. "That should do it." said the doctor. Dr. Finklestein picked up the heart container and was wheeled over to the heartless to begin the transplant. But before he could start, Barrel leaped from under the table and blocking his path. The doctor tumbled out from his chair and dropped the container which bounced in to the hands of lock. With their prize captured, the trio of tricksters ran back to their master's hideout.

"Does this kind of thing happen often?" Yuuki asked. "It's become a recurring event recently." Kirito said. "Imbeciles! Now is not the time for idle banter. You must apprehend those hooligans and retrieve the fruit of my hard work!" Dr. Finklestein commanded. "Roger. So where do we start looking for them?" Sora asked. "Those three work for Oogie Boogie. The only place they would go is to his manner of miscreants. Follow me!" Jack said as he pointed towards the door and marched onward.

Jack Lead us to a large hill with a curl at the top of it. The curl at its apex began to unwind and moved towards a cemetery wall and created a bridge for us to walk or in Asuna's case slither across. When we arrived at Oogie's house we saw Lock, Shock, and Barrel riding in a walking bathtub towards a room at the top of Oogie's enormous estate. The sheer size of it was impressive. But it looked like the whole house was constructed haphazardly with pieces of statues, cages, and other houses. It looked like the slightest breeze would cause the entire structure to collapse, but it stood none the less. We carefully made our way across the board walks and rope bridges and made sure to avoid areas that had suffered wood rot and the rather obvious traps. Eventually, we scaled our way to the top room where the three pranksters were. When we opened the door to their room we saw them toss the heart down a shaft. No doubt to deliver it to their master. The three of them cackled with glee at the completion of their task completely unaware of Jack Skellington's approach. The walking skeleton tapped each of them on the shoulder. When the three of them turned around jack pulled at his jaw and it stretched like clay. He showed of his sharp pointy teeth and released a bone chilling screech. The three of them huddled together in fear of the pin striped suit wearing skeletal monster before them. "You three are in a lot of trouble." Jack stated.

"We're sorry, we won't do it again. It was all Barrel's idea, please don't hurt us!" shock begged. " Quiet! Now, you three are to return to Halloween town and apologize to Dr. Finklestein. And as punishment you are to work as his assistants for a whole year." "A whole year?! That's so boring!" Lock complained. "Jack placed his bony fingers in his mouth again. "Okay, okay, we'll do it!" Barrel said. "Good. Now tell us where to find Oogie Boogie." Jack ordered. "Pull that lever. It'll unlock the entrance to his lair. Look for the green door with his face on it. Please don't tell him we told you, he'll get really mad at us!" Lock said. "Got it. Now get out of here. Chances are this place is going to be a pile of rubble by the time we're done." Kirito said. The trio nodded and ran out the door as fast as their legs would carry them. "Look at 'em go! You scared the living daylights out of them Jack!" Sora said. "Thanks. I'd like to think I scared them straight, but knowing those three they'll be up to their old tricks again someday. Now let's get that heart back." Jack said.

We scaled our way back towards the foundation of Oogie's house and just as they had described found a green door with Oogie's face on it. We opened the door and entered a large circular room. Theinner circle was a pit made to look like w wheel one would find in a casino. And one the outer edge on the opposite side of where we stood was Oogie Boogie, holding the still beating heart the doctor had created. Jack demanded Oogie return the heart at once. "You want it? Come and get it." Oogie shoved the oversized organ down his throat and swallowed it whole. Jack watched in rapt attention as if he was observing an experiment or show. "Now let's see if I can get their attention. Oh, Heartless!" Oogie called. Kirito and the others readied their weapons expecting to fight a horde of heartless. But Oogie only managed to call two gargoyles to his side. "This is it?" Oogie asked. Judging from the results, it seemed that the heart did not in fact have the ability to control the heartless. Kirito guessed that Oogie had intended to call either more heartless or a big strong one like they had fought before. If Oogie could only call those two, then the heart was a total dud. "Nobody disrespects me! Nobody!" Oogie angrily shouted.

The fight started when a Gust of wind forced us into the pit. The two gargoyles Oogie summoned gave chase and attacked us. The heartless stood no chance as they were defeated by Yuuki and Sora. Being the gambling man he is, Oogie's weapon of choice were dice. He tossed fiery dice that exploded when they hit the ground. And red dice that triggered various booby traps. These traps were rotating scythes that moved up and down and rotated in the opposite direction the floor beneath us was moving in. the second trap was several buzz saws that we had to jump and duck to avoid. And the third trap was a firing squad of tin soldiers holding muskets. Lucky for us said firing squad was basically a fixed turret that stayed in one place and could only fire in one direction. Somehow, Sora figured out that hitting the dice and throwing them back at Oogie, prevented the traps from activating. And By extension, caused the five panels at the center of the wheel to glow. When one of the panels was stepped on, fences would rise up and entrap oogie in the section they were raised in. and the section of the wheel we were on rose to meet the high ground Oogie held. Oogie couldn't overcome so many of us and we all tore him to shreds. Bugs began to spill out from his torn seems and he wailed in agony as he was reduced to nothing but an empty burlap sack. The Heart Oogie had swallowed was no longer beating and laid there lifelessly. "So that heart was a failure. Sally was right, the heartless are too dangerous to control." Jack said somberly. "You can tell her that when we get back to Halloween town." Asuna said.

After we exited the Oogie's lair we made our way back to the entrance to the graveyard. We were about to leave the place for good when the ground began to shake and Oogie's house became clouded in smoke. "What's happening?" Yuuki asked. "This is what we call part two." Kirito said. "You've done this before?!" Yuuki exclaimed. When the smoke cleared we saw that Oogie had somehow become one with his house. It looked Oogie had swallowed his house and parts of it we sticking out through the holes in his body. There were dark blobs on dotted throughout the entire structure. According to Jack Oogie was using them to draw from the power of darkness and make himself more powerful. If we could destroy them then Oogie and the house should come apart. "Alright we have a plan of attack. Take out the blobs. Destroy the house. Just watch out for the heartless and that big flaming lantern in his right hand. Let's do it!" Asuna shouted. And so we jumped to the bottom of the canyon all except Asuna who couldn't climb like the rest of us in her Lamia form. Instead she stayed at the top and coordinated our attack. Thanks to her, we were able to find each blob quickly and easily while avoiding attacks from the heartless and the house itself. When the last dark blob was destroyed the house came crumbling down and all likeness of Oogie boogie had vanished. "Is it over?" Yuuki asked. A blue light began to glow from the ground, the light formed a large keyhole on the ground. Sora used his keyblade and shot a beam of light up high. The light scattered into several smaller beams and fell to the ground and outlining the keyhole. The keyhole clicked to signify that it had been locked and the light faded. "Now it's over." Kirito stated.

We had returned to the doctor's laboratory where he and Sally had awaited Jack's return. We told them that the experiment was a failure and That Oogie would no longer be able to bother them. "Well I suppose that's one good thing to come out of this debacle. Still, what went wrong? Emotion, memory, we had all the necessary ingredients. But is there more to a heart? And what is a heart anyway? I can't seem to figure it out!" Said Dr. Finklestein. "Who knows? Maybe somethings are beyond science." Yuuki said. "Preposterous! Everything is explainable through science! I just need to figure out the science of the heart." said. "Then I guess you've got more work to do right doctor?" Yui said. "Oh sally, why didn't I just listen to you?" Jack said depressingly. "Don't feel bad Jack. We'll come up with another plan for Halloween." Sally said as she held Jack's hands in her own. "And next time, we'll do it together." Said Sally. Jack smiled as he looked at sally. As the two shared the moment Sora and the others left the lab and returned to the gummi ships. "I've gotta say Asuna, I'm surprised you didn't freak out here as much as you do when Lis tells ghost stories." Kirito said. "Well, after visiting so many worlds and fighting so many heartless, I think I'm used to it now. Don't get me wrong, I'm still freaked out sometimes, but now those stories just seem silly by comparison." Asuna said. "I guess fighting monsters will do that to ya." Kirito said. "So where to next?" Yuuki asked. "The next world. Set a course Yui. We'll follow Sora and Dock at 18:00 for dinner." Kirito said. "Aye-Aye captain" Yui said. "Are we really still doing this?" Yuuki asked.

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Chapter 30 Jolly Roger

The gummi ships high wind and high wind D were traveling through interspace side by side. The ships were connected to one another via a cylindrical docking tube that extended from both sides of the ship and locked in place towards the middle. Allowing the passengers of both sides to safely float between each ship. Asuna was once again cooking for her the others while they sat at the table. Kirito was once again telling Sora about his various exploits in the virtual world while Jiminy took notes in his journal. The cricket was no doubt adding more details to the biographies he kept on everyone we had met. "So there was another black swordsman besides you?" Sora asked. "For a while there was. Genesis was a beta tester alongside us and other players in a game called Sword art: Origin. The players called him that because he wore black clothes and used a large two handed sword. He wasn't exactly a nice guy. He abused the power he had in the virtual world by waiting for raid parties to whittle down a bosses HP and striking down the boss himself to rob players of their rewards." Kirito said. "How rude." Donald said.

"That's not all. He had another alias. "The god of cheats." Genesis tampered with his amusphere so that he could use digital drugs in game. By creating an artificial high, he was able to fool the system and go beyond the game's normal limits." Yuuki said. "That's totally not fair. Didn't he get caught?" Sora asked. "Yup. Genesis asked me to meet him in a dungeon for a duel. I contacted Seven, one of the game's developers, and asked her to listen in on us. Then I tricked Genesis into revealing his secret. After I defeated him, his account was deleted and he was sent to prison for illegally modifying his amusphere." Kirito said. "Gawrsh, he went to jail for cheating in a game? If it was that risky he shouldn't have done it!" Goofy said. "That's right. The government doesn't want a repeat of the SAO disaster. So laws regarding virtual reality are super strict. His actions simply weren't tolerable at the time." Kirito said. Asuna began placing plates of food on the table. Each plate had a nice helping of rice and curry. "Well, you both might have been the black swordsman, but I think you wear think you wore it better than he did." Strea said. "Uh-huh. I mean sure you're both showoffs, but Genesis was totally self-absorbed." Yuuki followed. Asuna placed the last plate in front of an empty chair and sat down to eat with everyone. "THANKS FOR THE FOOD!"

Alarms began blaring all over the gummi ship. Everyone hustled over to the command deck to see what the trouble was. "What's going on? Are the heartless attacking? Is there an asteroid field?" Sora asked. "There's a ship just off the port bow. It's big, heavily armed, and it's about to ram us." Yui said. "What do we do?" Goofy asked. "It's likely that they'll try to board us. Our ships are too small for us to fight on. We'll have to board them before they hit us. Everyone get to the transporter." Kirito said. "Aye-Aye captain!" They all saluted. "You're really getting into the leadership role huh Kirito." Asuna said. "Well, to be honest I think you or Sora would be better at it." Kirito said. "Really? What makes you say that?" Sora asked.

"Well, Asuna's led a Guild before. She came up with all the formations for boss raids back in aincrad. She kept people safe, she has a natural ability to take charge, and doesn't take nonsense from anybody." Kirito said. "And Sora, you're friendly, brave, honest, and loyal to a fault. You have a strong conscience and most importantly, a good heart. Put all those things together and you have a leader that never leads anyone astray." Kirito said. "Wow… I don't know what to say. Thanks Kirito." Sora said. Asuna started giggling to herself. "What's so funny Asuna?" Kirito asked. "Oh nothing. It's just, this is the first time you're making friends our age that aren't girls." She said. "TH-This again? Why do you guys always say that? I don't have a harem I just have friends who are girls!" Kirito stated. "I didn't know you were such a chick magnet Kirito." Sora said "And just like that, the moment is gone." Kirito said.

The transporter instantly beamed them down to the pirate ship. The ship itself was large and wooden. The hull and ramps were painted red while figure head a skull painted gold. The ship had three masts with white sails. And on the crow's nest there was a black flag with a skull and cross-bones. Looking around, Sora could see that he was the only one on the deck of the ship. "That's weird. I could've swore chip and dale fixed all the bugs with the transporter." Sora said. "I didn't think you'd come Sora." The voice behind him caused Sora to gasp. He turned around to see Riku standing on the upper level of the deck. "Good to see you again." Riku said. "W-Where are the others?" Sora asked. Something about this was off to Sora. Normally the transporter would put them all on the same area. So why was he here by himself? Was it setup? Was Riku capable of this? "Are they really that important to you? More important than old friends? Instead of worrying about them, you should be asking… about her." Riku side stepped to reveal Kairi sitting on the floor. Her eyes were open, but she had a vacant expression. Almost as if she were unresponsive. "Kairi!" Sora exclaimed.

"That's right. While you were off goofing around, I finally found her." Riku said. Sora was about to run up there to see her, but a man with a Hook for a hand blocked his path. Captain hook was accompanied by his first mate Mr. Smee. He was a short old man with a pot belly that wore a red sock like cap, a white and blue striped shirt, shorts, and sandals. There were also two pirate-esque heartless that carried black swords. "Riku, why are you siding with the heartless?" Sora demanded. "The heartless obey me now, Sora. Now I have nothing to fear." Riku said. Nothing to fear? Didn't he know what happened to everyone else that used the heartless? "You're stupid! Sooner or later they'll swallow your heart!" Sora said. "Not a chance. My heart's too strong." Riku scoffed. "I've picked up a few other tricks as well. Like this for instance." Riku raised his hand and pointed his palm toward Sora.

Suddenly, Sora's shadow rose from the ground and floated in front of him. If it weren't pitch black and didn't have yellow eyes it would've been an exact likeness of him. "You can go see your friends now." Riku said walking away from him. Then a trap door opened beneath his feet and he fell to the ship's storage room. "Let's get underway already. And keep Sora away from Kairi until we're ready to land." Riku ordered. "Hmph! That scurvy brat thinks he can order me around!" Captain hook complained. "What shall we do captain?" asked Mr. Smee. "Nothing! The hold is crawling with heartless. Let them keep an eye on the brats." Said Hook. "But captain, you-know-who is also down- -" smee said before being interrupted. "Shhh… Did you hear that, Smee? Oh, that dreadful sound!" said hook fearfully. "N-no captain." Smee said. Captain hook looked directly at Smee and grabbed his shoulders. "Are you quite sure? Did I imagine it? Oh, my poor nerves…" said captain hook woefully.

"Ya don't say?" Kirito said. "Yeah, it was definitely Kairi. I've finally found her!" Sora said. "All right! Then let's go up and talk to her." Followed Goofy. "Sounds great. Okay, but first… How about getting off!" Donald asked. He, along with Kirito and Goofy had wound up in a four person pile up when Sora had fallen on top of them. And of course instead of helping, the girls were laughing at the hilarity of it.

After that, Sora got up and looked through the slot on the storage room door to see if the coast was clear. We were about to make our way back up to the deck when a red haired, pointy eared boy wearing green clothes, a small green hat with a red feather and a dagger sheathed on his belt made himself known. "Who are you?" Goofy asked. "I'm the answer to your prayers." Donald sighed and began tapping his foot as he was want to do when someone annoyed him. "Okay, then. Fine. Have it your way." He said. "But you're stuck in here to aren't you?" Asuna pointed out. "No. I'm just waiting for someone." He said. As if on cue a small, golden light entered the room the light left a path of glittery dust as it moved towards him. Then the light faded and we saw that it was a fairy with blonde hair tied in a bun wearing a little green dress and slippers with bells on them.

"Tinker bell, what took you so long? Did you find Wendy?" he asked. The little fairy made a buzzing sound as it talked. Only Peter could understand it. "Hold on. There were other girls there, too?" he asked. The little fairy crossed her arms as though she were mad about something. "Are you crazy? There is no way I'm gonna leave Wendy there!" he said. "Aha. She must be pretty jealous." Donald laughed. Of course Donald's rude remark caused the little fairy to float up to him and kick Donald in his big duck bill. Despite her size, the kick was hard enough to shut Donald up and make him dizzy. Then Tinker bell flew out the door leaving us to fend for ourselves. "Come on Tink! Open up the door!" he asked. "Ahem." Sora said. Peter Pan looked toward Sora and saw him holding the keyblade in one hand and the other hand was covering his mouth. Seeing no other options, he decided to team up with the ragtag group. "I'm Peter Pan." He introduced while holding out his hand. Sora introduced himself as well, but when he reached out to shake Peter's hand, Peter yanked it away. "Okay, We're in this together, but only 'til we find Wendy." Peter said.

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