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Chapter 31 Hostage crisis

Naturally the heartless came out to play as soon as we left the storage room. In addition to the red, sword toting pirate heartless, there were blue ones that flew around with wings on their backs and attacked with their fists. Normally aerial enemies like these were a nuisance in such tight spaces, but Peter Pan's own ability to fly leveled the playing field. It also helped that he was a natural fencer with the dagger he carried. He flew around cutting down the heartless left and right with the numerous techniques he had learned while Fighting Captain Hook. After we defeated them, Peter pan let loose a bird call to symbolize his Victory. "Why do we always run into the weird ones?" Donald said to no one in particular. "Don't know. But you gotta admit that his flying ability is useful." Kirito said. "I wonder how he does it." Asuna said. "Flying's easy. I'll show ya." Peter said. Peter put his fingers in his mouth and made a loud whistle to call back Tinker Bell. The little fairy still looked steamed from her last altercation with Donald. "Aw, haven't you cooled off yet Tink?" Tinker bell turned her back to peter and crossed her arms. Although peter grabbed tinker bell by her wings and flew over us. Golden dust powdered down on us like a salt shaker. The dust sprinkled on our clothes, but nothing in particular happened. "Just a little bit of pixie dust. There, now you can fly." Peter said. Donald jumped in the air and flapped his arms like they were wings, but then he fell to the ground face first. Tinker bell pointed at Donald and laughed at his failed attempt.

Meanwhile in the captain's quarters Riku was giving orders to Captain Hook again. Apparently Wendy and the other girls they had captured weren't one of the seven princesses that Maleficent had ordered to be captured. Riku wanted to toss them overboard to lighten the load. But Captain Hook went to a lot of trouble to kidnap Wendy. And the other girls were rather rowdy. He still had a bump on his head from where one of them hit him with a wooden sword of all things. Maleficent kept her plans very private. Even Riku didn't know the extent of them. "Just what is maleficent planning anyway?" Hook asked. "Who knows? As long as it means getting Kairi's heart back, I couldn't care less." Riku said. "Hmph. You're wasting your time! The heartless have devoured that girl's heart. I'll stake me other hand it's lost forever." Said Hook. "I will find it. No matter what." Said Riku. There was a brief silence in the room until Mr. Smee spoke through the horn. He reported that Sora and company had escaped and had joined with Peter Pan. "Blast that Peter Pan! All right, then! Bring the hostage to me cabin, Smee! Hop to it!" captain hook ordered. He would have peter's head if it was the last thing he did. The Key bearer and his crew were simply an added bonus.

"Nope." Yuuki said closing a cabin door. "Nothing here." Strea said closing another door. "Not in here either." Asuna said. "Where could they be?" Sora asked. They were now in the fourth room of the second floor of the ship. And so far they had yet to find Wendy and the other captives. Suddenly tinker bell began chiming rather noisily. Peter floated up to see what the fuss was about. Footsteps could be heard on the floor above us. The footsteps clacked on the wooden floor until multiple girls could be seen crouched over a metal bracket on that allowed us to see the floor above. There was a girl with brown hair dressed in a long blue night gown with a ribbon tied into the braids of her hair. The girl had to have been Wendy because she knew who Peter was. What took Kirito by surprise however, were the three girls next to her. The first two girls were dressed in the uniforms of the school the SAO survivors all attended. Both of them had brown her, but one was short and the other had pigtails. The first was Rika Shinozaki. In game her hair was dyed pink and we call her Lisbeth or Lis for short. She's a blacksmith by trade and she maintains and sometimes makes new gear for us. The second girl is Keiko Ayano. Another member of our party. In game we call her Silica. She gained notoriety as a beast tamer in game when she tamed a small blue dragon she named Pina. She named it after her cat in the real world and they grew very close. Despite being an NPC, Pina acts more or less like a real pet and even goes so far as to risk her life to protect her master. And the third girl was dressed in kendo gear. She had short black hair and black eyes. This is Suguha Kirigaya. Kazuto's little sister (technically cousin).

Suguha is very dedicated to Kendo. She's even made champion in the junior league two years in a row. Naturally her skills translated well in both SAO and Alfheim online. In game she had long blonde hair tied into a pony tail that went down to her waist and bright green eyes. In SAO she's one of our main attackers, but in ALO she plays a support role. Despite the circumstances, Kirito was glad to know they were alright. "KIRITO!" they all exclaimed. "Are you guys okay? They didn't hurt you did they?" Kirito asked. "No, but the guy with a hook for hand took my shinai. That was the only weapon we had Kazuto." Suguha said. "Okay. Just sit tight Sugu. We'll get to you somehow." Kirito said. "One more thing. Is there another girl up there with you?" Asuna asked. "Y-yes. She's sitting in the corner on the other grate. But she hasn't said a word since we met her." Silica said. "It's almost like she's under some kind of trance." Lisbeth added. "That's Kairi! She's okay right?" Sora asked. "She's still breathing. As far as I can tell she's fine, but she's totally unresponsive." Suguha said. "You must hurry though. The pirates are coming." Wendy said "What?! I'll be right up there!" Peter said. Sugu and the rest of the girls moved a dresser in front of the door to their room a while ago. Now the four of them had to push against it to make sure no one got in. meanwhile Sora was looking up at the grate Kairi was sitting on. 'Kairi… if you're alright please give me a sign!' Sora prayed. As if in response to his plea, Kairi's hand twitched. It was a small movement, but Sora was able to notice it. And that was enough proof for him to know that Kairi was okay. Unfortunately, the strength of the four girls was not enough to keep the intruders at bay. Riku knocked each of them out cold and took Kairi up to the Captain's quarters.

While searching the rooms of the ship, the group found a ladder that led up to a hatch on the roof. Conveniently enough the hatch brought them straight to the captain's quarters. When they got there they saw Riku holding Kairi in his arms. Sora pleaded with Riku to stay where he was, but it had no effect. Shadows made their way from beneath the door to the outside until they stood in front of Riku. And from the shadows rose the Shadow of Sora that Riku created. With its dark key blade in hand, the shadow attacked us and provided Riku with an opportunity to escape with Kairi.

Sora's shadow was able to fight exactly like he did. Not only that, but he possessed the shadow heartless ability to flatten itself on the ground to give itself invulnerability albeit temporarily. On top of that, the room we were fighting in was so small that coordinating attacks was difficult. Strea was reduced to supporting us with magic since she couldn't pull of the wide movements her great sword required without hitting anybody accidentally. And as if that weren't enough, Sora's shadow began duplicating itself. "Seriously?! One Sora I can take, but this is too much!" Donald raged. "What's that supposed to mean?" Remarked Sora as he cut down one of the duplicates. "Oh! Hey guys, the fake ones can only take one hit." Sora informed. "Alright. Since the fakes are so frail, we can defeat them as soon as they pop up." Asuna said. "Then the real shadow will be a piece of cake. Let's get him!" Peter said. Thanks to Sora's quick observation we were able to defeat Sora's shadow in minutes. Upon its defeat the shadow sunk into the darkness whence it came.

After the battle was over Kirito locate Suguha's Shinai. The wooden bamboo practice sword was mounted on the wall along with other weapons Captain Hook had acquired. We managed to find the other hatch in hook's cabin. We took the ladder down to the corridor that led to the room the girls were imprisoned. Sugu, Lis, and Silica had woken up shortly after our arrival. But Wendy was still unconscious. Peter pan tentatively picked her up and said that he was leaving to take her back home. The boy flew off fast and left us to fend for ourselves. "Big brother, what's going on? Why are we on this weird ship? How is that guy able to fly? What are those black creatures? And why do you have swords and dress like you do in games?" Sugu asked. "That's a lot of questions." Donald said. "A talking duck?" Silica said. "So you're Kirito's sister. I ain't surprised since ya ask lots of questions. But that's good 'cuz it means you're smart like he is A-hyuck." Goofy said. "Um, thanks Mr. Dog sir?" Suguha responded. "You're welcome. And just call me Goofy." Goofy said. "Are we sure we're not daydreaming?" Silica said. "Well for one it's night time. So it wouldn't be daydreaming." Sora joked.

"Okay. And you are?" Lisbeth asked. "I'm Sora. Kirito and Asuna have really been helping out on our Journey. Kirito is an awesome warrior. And Asuna's a wizard in the kitchen and on the battle field. I'm glad they've got my back." Sora said. The three girls blinked once, twice, thrice, until Lis just started laughing. "Uh, what's so funny?" Goofy asked. "Nothing! It's just so typical that Kirito finds this big world saving quest and decides to help out anyway he can. And Asuna's always first along for the ride." Lisbeth said. "Now that you mention it, that's the one thing that's familiar in this situation." Silica said while smiling. "I guess Kirito doesn't change in any world we're in." Suguha said. "Am I really that predicable?" Kirito asked. "Kirito, don't ask questions you already know the answer to." Asuna said. "Well I think that's enough chit chat. Right now we have to take care of Captain Hook so we can get out of here." Kirito said. Kirito returned Sugu's stolen shinai. "Do you think you three will be safe in here until we come back?" Asuna asked. "Yeah. The heartless don't come in here. And if a pirate shows up I can take him." Suguha said. Kirito nodded knowing that Sugu could take care of herself. "Alright guys let's swash some buckles!" Sora said. "Don't ever say that again." Donald said.

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Chapter 32 leap of faith.

Sora and company rushed to the deck ready to face captain hook. When they got there, they saw Hook standing in behind a plank that stretched over the salty him stood his first mate Mr. Smee, who held a glass case that imprisoned Tinkerbell. The salty sea dogs were accompanied by the pirate heartless clearly they had prepared an ambush for us. "Quite a codfish, that Riku. Running off with that girl without even saying goodbye." Said Hook. "Run off where? Tell me, where did he go?" Sora said while swinging his key blade in frustration. "To the ruins of Hollow bastion, where Maleficent resides. But you won't be going there." Hook said as he grabbed the portable prison from his first mate. "Unless you intend to leave your little pixie friend behind?" Said Captain Hook. The implication was clear as day. If they had left right now then Tinkerbell would suffer the consequences. None of us wanted that on our conscience. So we all stowed away our weapons and let the pirate heartless surround us. "Hand over the keyblade and I'll spare your lives. Be glad I'm merciful, unlike the heartless. So, which will it be? The keyblade, or the plank?" Captain Hook asked as he pointed his Hook at the longboard. There was a 2 second pause before everyone heard what sounded like a clock. The continuous ticking and tocking caused Hook's skin to pale as he gained a look of fear. Because he was very familiar with that sound. In the ocean below the plank floated a green crocodile. His yellow reptilian eyes stared at the captain as if waiting for his prey. His jagged teeth and crocodile grin showed that he knew someone would become his dinner tonight. "IT'S HIM! It's the crocodile that took me hand! Oh, Smee! He's after me other hand! I can't stay here! Go away! I can't stand the sight of Him! Smee, you take care of them!" Hook squealed as he ran back to his cabin, no doubt for a change of pants.

Sora was the first to be sent onto the plank. The heartless backed him closer and closer to the edge. The Crocodile paddled beneath him with his mouth open wide to devour him in one gulp. Our team watched on fearfully as we dreadfully awaited the moment Sora would be sent over the edge. Sora began to panic as he was literally at the edge. Just when he thought all hope was lost he heard peter pan in his head. "Fly, Sora! Just believe, and you can do it!" Peter said encouragingly. Hearing Peter's voice managed to calm him down. Sora closed his eyes and decided to trust him. Sora jumped off the plank and plummeted towards the sea. But just before he fell into the crocodile's gaping maw, Sora flew away from it and soared into the air. His body glowed with the same golden dust that tinker bell had sprinkled on us. And in that same moment, Peter pan swooped down and grabbed tinker bell's cage away from one flabbergasted Smee. The two of them descended on the deck of the ship and peter released the little fairy. "Thanks peter." Sora said. "Hey, don't mention it. You didn't think I'd leave you and tink behind, did you?" Peter said. Sense the tables had turned, Mr. Smee ran away into the safety of the ship and left the heartless to fight us. "You're all going down!" Sora shouted.

The fight against the pirate heartless began. Seeing Sora literally escaping the jaws of death gave everyone hope and the courage to fly as he did. The red pirates were no match for our newfound air superiority. But the cavalry soon came in the form of the sky pirates along with a new heartless. It looked like a pirate captain was piloting a small dingy. There were propellers on the back of the ship and on top of the sail. And on the left and right side of it were canons that rained down mortar fire from above. The ship was also equipped with a pointed almost spear like battering ram. The heartless captain tried to skewer us with charging attacks multiple times. But it had one major weakness. What good was a ship without its captain after all? Kirito charged at the pint sized heartless and knocked it off its boat. He then kicked the heartless in its chin and when it was far enough away, he dived foot first and kicked the heartless into oblivion. With no pilot the ship crashed and sunk into the ocean. "Was that another skill of yours? It looked more like a karate move than a sword skill." Sora said. "It's a move I learned from sparring with someone a while back. I call it crow combo." Kirito said. "Less talking, more fighting!" Asuna ordered.

After we defeated the heartless we waited outside the door to Hook's cabin. It was time that we got some payback for Captain Hooks little ambush. Peter Pan stood beside the door and knocked. "Is that you, Smee? Did you finish them off?" Captain hook asked through the closed door. Peter Pan pinched his middle and index finger around his nose and delivered a perfect impression of Mr. Smee. "Aye, captain. They walked the plank, every last one of them." He said. Captain Hook ran out the door without noticing us or turning around. While he was looking to see if what "Smee" said was true, Peter pan snuck up behind him and gave the captain a light Poke with the tip of his dagger. The pirate jumped and squealed before turning around to see that his mortal adversary and the key bearer were still on his ship. Captain Hook grew enraged and drew his rapier ready to fight. "Ready to make a splash you codfish? Now it's your turn to walk the plank." Peter taunted.

For a man his age, Captain Hook was surprisingly spry. No matter what altitude we flew at, he was able to match it by using the masts and his incredibly high jumps to his advantage. Asuna landed on the deck and fought against him. The two of them were locked hilt to hilt in an attempt to gain the upper hand. However Hook had other tricks up his sleeves. Using his hooked hand he "hooked" a pink box with a ribbon on it and dropped at their feet. Sensing the danger, Asuna ran from the "present" before it promptly exploded. "You monster. You disguised a bomb as a child's birthday present!" Yuuki said outraged. "Thank you." Hook taunted. "That wasn't a compliment you codfish!" Yuuki said. "What did you say?!" Hook responded. "Codfish, codfish, hook is a codfish!" Yuuki taunted in a sing song voice. "I'll get you, you wench!" the enraged pirate ran to skewer Yuuki with his sword, however she flew off before he could reach her. And what Captain Hook failed to realize, is that he ran onto the very plank he had forced Sora on. When he realized his grave error, he turned around and Saw tinker bell floating directly in front of his face. "Y-you're not still mad about that whole hostage thing are you?" he asked. She was. So Tinker bell promptly kicked Captain Hook in the nose. The pirate grabbed the injured cartilage with his hand and stumbled off the plank and into the sea. When he resurfaced he found himself directly in front of the crocodile. Somehow Hook defied the laws of physics by running on the water away from said reptile as it snapped its jaws and swam fast enough to keep up with him. "HAHA! Nice!" peter said. He then spit in his hand and offered it for Yuuki to shake. However Yuuki was slightly grossed out by this. So she refrained from spitting and awkwardly shook his hand.

After the battle, Sora stood at the edge of the edge of the upper deck. His hand laid on the rail as he looked up at the sky. "I still can't believe it. I really flew! Wait 'til I tell Kairi. I wonder if she'll believe me. Probably not." Said Sora. "You can bring her to Neverland sometime. Then, she can try it herself." Peter said. "If you believe, you can do anything, right? I'll find Kairi. I know I will. There's so much I want to tell her. About flying, the pirates, and everything else that's happened." Sora said. "Oooo. Sounds like somebody's in love." Yuuki teased. Sora blushed at the insinuation. "Wh-wh-what?! N-no that's- -" "Sora and kairi sitting in a tree." Donald sang. "K-I-S-S-I-N-G." Asuna finished. "You to Asuna?!" Sora sputtered. "Hehe. That's payback for trying to walk in on me and Kirito in traverse town." Asuna said. "Weren't the lumps enough?" Sora asked. "Trust me Sora. There's no escaping it." Kirito said. While everyone laughed at Sora's expense Tinker bell came back and spoke with peter pan. He said that there was something at a clock tower that tinker bell wanted us to see. "Okay, but first let's get Sugu and the others. We've gotta take them with us." Asuna said. "That's true. Plus she'd never forgive me if I didn't tell her that she can fly here." Kirito said.

When we returned to the cell that the girls were kept in we saw that Smee was passed out on the floor. There was a large bump from where he had been struck down by Suguha's shinai. "Big brother, you're back. Does that the mean the pirates are gone?" Suguha asked. "Yup. All taken care of. We just have one more thing to do. We'll take you guys along and then we'll go back to our ship." Kirito said. "Okay. Where are we going?" Silica asked. "London. We'll have to fly to get there though." Peter said. "And how are we supposed to get there? Just sprout wings and fly?" Lisbeth said. "Nope. Just a little bit of pixie dust." Peter said as he flew over them and sprinkled Tink's dust all over them. "Just believe Sugu. It actually works." Kirito said as he floated upwards. Much to the girl's astonishment.

A few minutes later they were all flying through the air. Peter said to get to London they would fly up to the second star to the right of the brightest star in the sky. Suguha was exhilarated by all of it. There she was flying through the cold night air without any wings, heading towards the stars. And the best part, there was no altitude limiter saying how high she could go. For years she thought that she could only get this kind of experience in Alfheim online. But here in this new world, she could fly whenever she wanted. Sure they had to be ripped from their homes and were kidnapped by Pirates, but having her big brother come and rescue her from said pirates was like a fairy tale come to life! But of course it couldn't last. Eventually they reached London and flew down to big ben. The clock ticked down to midnight and as the bell tolled, a keyhole appeared on the clocks face. Sora brandished his Keyblade and sealed the keyhole once more. Upon doing so a little green block fell out and Kirito caught it. Wendy walked along the tower balcony and peter floated along in the air as she did. "Peter, are you really going back to Neverland?" Wendy asked. "Afraid so, but we can see each other any time. As long as you don't forget about Neverland that is." Peter said. Tinker bell was not amused however. She flew around the two of them and surprisingly floated around Suguha next. "Oh boy, she's getting steamed again. Do me a favor and look after her will ya?" Peter said. "You mean it?" Suguha asked. "Sure. Call her up anytime you want." He said. "Thank you so much." Suguha said.

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Chapter 33 Story time

"So are we positive that we haven't been caught up in an elaborate plot to trap everyone in a vr mmo again?" Lisbeth asked. "For the third time, yes. Everything is real. Now are there any other questions?" Kirito asked. Lis, Silica, and Suguha raised their hands. "Ones that don't involve government conspiracies and the ghost data of Kayaba." Said Kirito. Which of course prompted Lis and Silica to lower their hands. "So where are we going now brother?" Suguha asked. "A place called Traverse town. You guys should be safe there while Sora helps us look for a way back home." Kirito said. "Our parents are bound to be worried sick. How long do you think it'll take for us to get back?" Sugu asked. "Honestly, I don't know. But I believe in Sora. If anyone can find our home again, it's him." Kirito said.

After a quick warp jump, our heroes found themselves in traverse town once more. Kirito told Sugu, Lis, and Silica to wait by the accessory shop while they went to install the new nav gummi. Cid said he'd get it done in a jiffy and that he'd be right back. While they were waiting Kirito thought back to their journey so far. While finding some of their friends and his sister was good progress, they still weren't any closer to getting back home. Maleficent seemed to have a hold on Sora's friends, Riku and Kairi. And Kirito had a sneaking suspicion that Maleficent had a hand in Alice's kidnapping. Since Riku was working for her and kidnapped Jasmine, the pieces fit together. And on top of all that was the mysterious knight in his dreams. After the Phil cup, Kirito's sword skills had been returning to him in frequent intervals. And if he was to fight him again, he was going to need every skill he had at his disposal.

Meanwhile, Sora appeared to be in a slump. Riku was in danger of falling to the darkness and from what the girls said, Kairi appeared to be comatose. Donald and Goofy tried to cheer him up like they usually did. "How can you be so cheerful? We're still no closer to finding your king." Sora asked. "The king told us to go out and find the key bearer, and we found you. So as long as we stick together, it'll all workout okay. Ya just gotta believe in yourself that's all." Goofy said. "Just believe…" As soon as he closed his eyes a vision flashed before him. He was floating towards a bright light. And then he watched what looked like a memory unfold. He saw a younger version of Kairi in a library. The little girl dashed to her grandmother. Her grandmother was short in stature and her gray hair was tied in bun. She wore a long purple dress and a white apron along with a brown scarf. Then she began telling a story.

"Long ago, people lived in peace, bathed in the warmth of light. Everyone loved the light. Then people began to fight over it. They wanted to keep it for themselves. And darkness was born in their hearts. The darkness spread, Swallowing the light and many people's hearts. It covered everything, and the world disappeared. But small fragments of light survived… in the hearts of children. With these fragments of light, Children rebuilt the lost world. It's the world we live in now. But the true light sleeps, deep within the darkness. That's why the worlds are still scattered, divided from each other. But some day, a door to the innermost darkness will open. And the true light will return. So, listen child. Even in the deepest darkness, there will always be a light to guide you. Believe in the light, and the darkness will never defeat you. Your heart will shine with its power and push the darkness away. Do you understand Kairi?" She finished.

And that's where it ended. Why did he keep having these daydreams of Kairi? Was she calling out to him somehow? Sora thought. "Sora? Sooora?" Strea said while waving her hand in front of his face. Sora snapped out of his daze and noticed his friends were staring at him. "You were spacing out for a while. You okay man?" Kirito asked. "Y-yeah. Just a daydream." Sora said. Before anyone could press sora further Cid had returned, finished with his task. He said told us that the new gummi could take us to hollow bastion. But he warned us that the heartless were especially strong there. If memory served correctly that's the place captain hook said where we'll find Maleficent. Along with Riku, kairi, and everyone else she had taken.

"Hollow Bastion…" Kirito said. "Everything up 'til now has been pointing us there." Asuna said. "Let's get going then." Kirito said. "You should stop by the coliseum on the way. The next tournament is being held right now. Rumor has it the winner gets a fight with Hercules." Cid said. "Will do." Sora said. "But we just got here. Do you really have to leave so soon?" Suguha asked. "Don't worry. We'll try to get back soon." Kirito said. Suguha wrapped her arms around Kirito and hugged him. "You'd better. If you don't come back, I'll find you and use you as my training dummy for a month." Sugu threatened. "I got it, I got it." Kirito said hugging her back. Their sibling hug lasted a brief few seconds before Kirito and company went back to their ships.

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Chapter 34 the Hercules cup

Once again our heroes found themselves at the Olympus coliseum. For the third time the eight world travelers walked up to the tournament boards to see who would be in the tournament. "The Hercules cup. Think we're ready for it?" Asuna asked. "Heck yeah! I'm ready to show Phil that we're real heroes!" Sora proclaimed. "More like you just wanna show off." Donald retorted. "Donald's right. I'd bet you'd try to fight Hercules all by yourself If we let ya A-hyuck." Goofy said. "He's not the only one." Cloud said approaching from behind. "Hey Cloud. Are you fighting to?" Kirito asked. "Take a look." Cloud responded as he pointed up at the board. Sure enough his name was near the top. Just below Hercules. "Looks like we'll finally get that rematch." Kirito said. "No dark powers involved. I won't be held back this time…" Cloud replied. The spiky haired blonde walked back to the arena not noticing that Yuuki was staring at him. "He seems kind of familiar." She said. "What makes you say that?" Strea asked. "I'm not sure. I think it's the eyes. They're the same color, but they have a warmer look to them. Not like Sephiroth." Said Yuuki. "Maybe they're related?" she guessed. "You can always ask him after the Tournament's done." Asuna suggested. "Alright. Let's get going then." Kirito said.

After signing up for the tournament our heroes fought against more and more heartless. With Yuuki in tow, the band of seven were nigh unstoppable. Eventually they were facing off against cloud. As per their agreement no dark powers would be involved which meant Yuuki was only allowed to use her sword. Cloud stood in the middle, both hands on his sword and ready for battle. "Seven against one. I suppose that evens things up." Cloud said confidently. The fight started similarly to our first fight with him. The seven of us were able to switch to avoid his attacks and make our own. However when it was Strea's turn, something different happened. Strea ran to attack Cloud from behind only to have Cloud parry Strea's Great sword with his own. The two swords colliding made a loud clang on contact and Strea was struggling to get the upper hand against Cloud. "Have to admit, I didn't think anyone would be strong enough to use that sword. Let alone use it against me." Cloud said. "Oh I use big swords like this all the time. But I think this one is my favorite." Strea said. "It definitely suits you, but I won't lose so easily. Even if it is against one of my own weapons." Cloud retorted. Suddenly orange streaks of energy energy began sparking off of cloud. A large black bat like wing sprouts from beneath his tattered red cape and with a single flap he overpowers Strea and soars into the air. With his new found flying ability cloud was able to attack from anywhere he chose.

Cloud wasn't the only one that could "fly" so to speak though. After our visit to Neverland everyone had obtained a gliding ability. However Cloud was still faster and more maneuverable. For a while we had to break our formation to dodge his attacks, but luckily for us Cloud could only use fly for a short period of time before needing to land. When cloud was firmly back on the ground, Yuuki charged in to attack him. As their swords clashed over and over again, Cloud's eyes widened when he noticed the black feather tucked behind her ear. "Where did you get that?" he asked. "The underworld. Someone gave it to me. He gave me this sword to." Yuuki replied. "Did he have silver hair and a long sword?" He asked again knowing full well what the answer was. "How did you know that?" Yuuki asked breaking off her assault. "Sephiroth…" Cloud said while holstering his buster sword. "I don't know what his plans are for you, but you can't trust him. He'll lead you down a dark path. Make you think darkness is the only answer." Cloud warned.

"I'm not worried." Yuuki boldly stated. "Why?" he asked. "Because my friends are with me. As long as I'm surrounded by their light, the darkness won't ever have a hold on me." Yuuki said. A small smile grew on Cloud's face at her response "So you found your light…"Cloud turned his back toward them and began to exit the arena. "Hey Phil, I forfeit." Cloud said. "W-What!" Phil exclaimed. "Hang on a sec. ya can't just-" Phil was about to say before cloud closed the door in his face. "Well. I guess you can. Alright, guess that means you guys get to fight Hercules." Phil said. "Hold on Phil. If I'm going to fight Hercules, then I wanna do it one on one." Sora stated. Phil stared wide eyed and mouth dropped at sora. "Seriously?!" he exclaimed. "A-hyuck, I told you guys he would fight Herc by himself." Goofy said. "You're sure about this Sora?" Kirito asked. Sure Sora had gotten Strong, but was he really strong enough to take on a legendary hero like Hercules by himself? "I'm not just doing this so I can boost my ego Kirito. If I can beat Hercules, then I'll know for sure, that I can save Riku and Kairi." Sora said. "You've thought a lot about this haven't you." Kirito asked rhetorically. Sora nodded affirmatively. "Alright guys, let's go to the stands. And Sora…" Kirito held out his arm towards him, his hand closed in a fist. "Win this." Kirito Said. Sora made a big grin showing off his pearly whites and brought his fist up to Kirito's. "Got it." Sora said.

The final match was about to begin. Kirito and the others watched with baited breath as Sora stood before Hercules. The red haired warrior was extremely muscular. He wore Red roman armor with a blue cape that covered his back, and sandals. He also carried a gladius at his hip. Phil brought in a gong and rang it to begin the fight. The fight started with Hercules winding up to throw a big punch at Sora. Sora tried to deflect it, but the sheer force of it broke his guard and sent him back ten feet. "Hey, give up yet?" Hercules taunted while flexing his biceps. However this left an opening for Sora to attack the hero. Sora managed to get a few hits in before Hercules brought out his short sword and began spinning around like a tornado. Having seen this tactic before from Goofy, he knew exactly how to avoid it. Sora glided through the air while Hercules spun and spun until he stopped due to dizziness. "Hercules is strong alright, but he sure is clumsy." Asuna said. "Yeah, it almost looks like he's putting on an act." Kirito said suspiciously. Phil on the other hand was livid.

"COME ON HERC WHAT'RE YA DOIN' OUT THERE?! GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER! USE YOUR HEAD FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!" Phil shouted. "Right use my head." Hercules said as he lowered his head and ran towards Sora like a charging rhino. Sora raised his keyblade to block the attack and when Hercules' head came in contact with it he stumbled backward and grabbed his head in pain. Phil slapped his palm to his forehead "that flashuguma head of his. I swear that kid's gonna be the death of me." Phil ranted. "Herc! Time to pull out all the stops!" He said. "Alright, try this on for size!" Hercules exclaimed. His body glowed with a golden aura and a large golden circle appeared on the ground. He raised his hand skyward and called down lightning to strike the area. "WOAH!" Strea exclaimed. "What a powerful attack." Yui said. "HAHA! Yup! He ain't the son of Zeus for nothing! There isn't anyone that's gotten back up after that move." Phil proudly proclaimed. "I think you might want to take a closer look Phil." Kirito stated. As the dust cleared everyone saw that Hercules was panting from the exertion and Sora was still standing while wind swirled around him like a sphere. "How in the name of Aphrodite did he survive that?" Phil asked. "He used wind magic at the last possible moment to mitigate the damage from the lightning." Asuna said. "If he was off by even a second that attack would have finished him. It was risky, but it certainly paid off." Kirito said. Mom, dad, look at Sora's Keyblade. It's glowing!" Yui said. Sure enough, the keyblade was enveloped in a golden light. Sora ran to launch his final attack on Hercules. "ARS ARCANUM!" Sora shouted as he unleashed a 13 hit combo against Hercules. The muscular warrior knelt on the ground defeated by the Key bearer.

After the tournament was over we were given a large gold trophy. Of course Sora opted to leave it in the coliseum lobby with the smaller trophy and plaque we had won from the Phil and Pegasus cups respectively. Hercules was extremely impressed by how much stronger sora had grown over the course of our journey. "WOW! And I didn't even hold back!" He exclaimed. "Now I finally know what you mean about strength of heart. Mine comes from Donald, Goofy, Kirito, Asuna, and all of their friends to." Sora said. "Come again?" Phil interrupted in disbelief. "If we stick together, we're unbeatable. Not even Hercules stands a chance. With them beside me, I'm ready for anything!" Sora proclaimed. Everyone couldn't help but smile at Sora's words. Someone could say his words were ludicrous. But Sora's charisma was enough to make them believable. "But that's not exactly what I-" Phil was about to say before Hercules interrupted. "Of course. Your friends give you strength. Isn't that right, Phil?" Hercules said as he scooped up the chubby little satyr. "The seven of you together-" "don't forget me!" Yui interrupted. "Right. The eight of you together make great heroes. And together as a team, I'm sure you can overcome anything." Hercules said as he held out his hand For Sora to shake.

"Hey Herc, this pedestal still needs moving." Phil said. "I don't know Phil. I'm still worn out from the tournament." Hercules replied. "I'll do it." Sora said as he moved to push the pedestal. "Come on guys. Help me out." He said. "Good grief, you still wanna show off." Donald said as he got into position. "Hey it's just like he said. 'Together we're unst- unde-" "Unbeatable" Kirito answered. "Yeah that's the word. A-hyuck." Goofy replied. "Come on mommy us to." Yui said excitedly. "Okay Yui." Asuna said. Everyone began pushing the stone black forwards. With all of their strength combined the pedestal finally moved. And to our complete surprise the keyhole was in the floor right under it! After Sora sealed the key hole we all returned to the gummi ships. "You know if we left that pedestal alone the heartless may never have been able to reach it." Kirito said. "Better safe than sorry." Asuna said.

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Chapter 35 Hollow bastion

As our heroes journeyed to Hollow bastion, they noticed something odd. The further they traveled through deep space the darker it became. There were streams of red, blue, and green. And they all seemed to be converging to a single dark void. "What's going on? Where are all the stars and auroras?" Yuuki asked. "It's a black hole." Yui said. "Huh?" Yuuki said. "Cid explained it to Strea and I. about ten years ago when the heartless appeared, a black hole formed very close to Hollow bastion." Yui said. "Black holes are pockets of space time that are created when a star collapses in on itself. The gravity they generate is strong enough to draw in anything equal or slower than the speed of light." Kirito explained. "So is we get too close to it, we might never be able to escape?" Asuna asked. "That's why Cid gave us the warp gummi. With it our ships can generate a hyperspace lane that allows us to travel at faster than light speed." Yui said. "Well that's a relief." Yuuki said.

Soon enough we had arrived at Hollow bastion. The transporter teleported us to the world's surface. Hollow bastion was strange to say the least. There were several floating rocks in the air and the water falls were moving upwards and despite its liquid state we were able to walk on it as if it were solid ground. But the crowning jewel was the enormous castle standing a mile away. It was covered in machinery and long tubes that let out pink fumes of exhaust and the crest of the heartless was emblazoned in gold near the apex. Looking upon it Sora felt a strange sense of familiarity. "I know this place…" Sora said. "Hmm that's strange." Goofy said. "I felt this strange warmth inside my heart." Sora said. "Aw, your just hungry." Donald teased. "Hey, I'm serious!" Sora retorted. "It's about Kairi right?" Asuna said. From her tone Sora could tell it was a statement rather than a question. "How did you know?" Sora asked. "Sora, you're practically an open book. You always space out and act weird when you think about her." Asuna said. "Oh… is that bad?" Sora asked. "Not at all. Actually it's kind of sweet." Asuna replied. "Oh. Well thanks I guess." Sora said. We all heard a loud beast like roar from the uppermost platform near the castle's entrance. "Sounds like they have a monster guarding the gate. And with the size of this castle, it really gives off that last dungeon vibe." Kirito said. "Be careful everyone. We know Maleficent is here. We don't know what kind of traps and heartless she has setup." Asuna said. She then walked in front of everyone and turned around to face us. "Everyone… I have one thing to say. Let's win. And go back home alive." Asuna said. Kirito remembered that Asuna always said those words right before we were about to take on a floor boss in SAO. Everyone nodded and went towards the source of the roar.

Riku stood at the upper most platform and was staring down at his opponent. A beast with 2 black horns on his forehead, brown fur, Razor sharp claws on his hands and wolf like feet, and a long tail. The beast wore a long purple cape that tied around his chest and went down to his ankles and a pair of trousers. "No vessel, no help from the heartless. Tell me, how did you get hear?" Riku asked. The beast growled and bore his pearly white fangs while staring at him with his big blue eyes. "I simply believed. Nothing more to it." he replied. "When our world fell into darkness, Belle was taken from me. I vowed I would find her again no matter what the cost. I believed I would find her. So, here I am. She must be here. I will have her back!" the beast boldly stated. "Take her if you can." Riku challenged. The beast roared once again and leapt to attack Riku, but Riku back flipped to dodge the beast when he landed. With soul eater in hand the silver haired boy lunged at the beast and dealt a critical blow. By the time we had arrived the beast had collapsed and Sora pleaded with Riku not to kill him. "So, you're finally here. It's about time. I've been waiting for you." Riku said. As he spoke Riku held his hand out to Sora "We've always been rivals haven't we? You've pushed me, just as I've pushed you." He said while placing his hand on his chest. "But it all ends here. There can't be two keyblade masters." Riku said. "What are you talking about?" Sora asked. "Let the keyblade choose… It's true master!" Riku said as he held up his hand. To everyone's complete horror, the keyblade began shaking in Sora's hand. It flew outwards towards Riku. Sora held onto it with all of his strength, but the keyblade magically vanished and reappeared in Riku's hand.

"Maleficent was right… You don't have what it takes to save Kairi. Only the Keyblade master can open the secret door… And change the world." Riku monologued as he held the keyblade skyward. "But that's impossible. How could this happen? I'm the one who fought my way here with the keyblade!" Sora exclaimed. "That's right! Sora's the one who helped everyone on all of our adventures. He used the keyblade to protect people and their homes. You're nothing but a thief!" Kirito exclaimed. "Ouch. Harsh words. But that doesn't change the fact that Sora was just the delivery boy." Riku taunted. "Here. He can play hero with this." Riku said as he tossed a wooden sword at Sora's feet and walked away. Sora was so distraught be Riku's betrayal that he knelt on his knees and placed his hands on the ground. He wondered where it all went wrong. And as if that weren't enough, Donald and Goofy were about to leave us as well. "Come on Goofy. We have to remember our mission." Donald said. "Oh! Well, I know the king told us to follow the key and all, but…" Goofy said while looking at us. The longer he looked the more he was reminded of all the fun he and Donald had with them. Deep down he really wanted to stay with them, but he had a duty to fulfill. For the first time we saw him frown.

Goofy turned around and ran towards the castle. He had to get away before he changed his mind. "I'm sorry." Donald said as he went after Goofy. Kirito tightened his fist as he watched his friends leave. He wasn't one to get angry very often, but after what Riku, did he was furious. He grabbed the toy sword Riku left and snapped it over his knee. "Kirito!" Asuna gasped. Kirito then called out his silver sword and held it out hilt first to Sora. He stared at the sword that was offered to him and his eyes widened as he looked up at Kirito in disbelief. "Kirito…" sora said. "I still have one sword. Right now, you need this more than I do. And besides, how else are you going to save Kairi and beat some sense into those friends of ours?" Kirito said. "… You're right." Sora said. He stood back up and grabbed Kirito's sword. It was heavier than the keyblade was, but he could still use it. "I'm not giving up now. I came here to find someone very important to me." Sora said. "I'm coming to. I'm not leaving without Belle." The beast growled. Despite his injuries, the beast was still able to get up and walk. "The more, the merrier." Asuna said.

The heartless in hollow bastion were unlike any they had seen before. There were knights that held large shields with dog heads that could breathe fire and ice magic. There were wyverns that soared through the air and attacked with their talons. The wizard heartless was able to teleport and cast all kinds of magic, and there were these floating ball shaped heartless that chased and devoured everything insight like an evil Pac-man. The floating enemies were especially difficult since there were many chasms between the admittedly large balconies that we had to avoid if we didn't wish to fall to our deaths. As his name would suggest, the beast was an absolute monster in battle. His brute strength was enough to mow down any heartless in his path, including the defender heartless. We wanted to call him something other than beast, but he insisted on it. He said that he had his reasons for doing so. Not wanting to pry for fear of angering him they agreed that beast was the best thing to call him. Eventually they made their way into the castle interior. The foyer had a large fountain in front of two surrounding stair cases. There were statues and suits of armor along the walls. And there was a large chandelier with pyre burning a blue hue hanging from the ceiling. "Be on your guard. They're close. I can feel them." Said the beast. Soon after he said that though, he heard a noise coming from the entrance. He turned around and saw a woman with brown hair dressed in golden ball gown along with sleeves that gloved her hands and went up to passed her elbows. "Belle!" the beast exclaimed.

Unfortunately it was too good to be true. "Belle" was in cased by a dark aura and when it dissipated, a shadow stood in her place. The beast, infuriated by the heartless for taking the form of his beloved, lunged at the offending creature and became trapped outside when the doors closed. With the beast incapacitated Riku walked into the lobby with Donald and goofy in tow. "Give up while you can." Said Riku. "Not without Kairi." Sora said. "It's over Sora. The darkness will destroy you if you continue any further." Riku said as his body was shrouded in darkness. Riku's dark form was similar to Yuuki's in that the dark material covered him up to his neck. The differences were that the crest on Riku's chest was that of the heartless and his arms had a red tinge to them while Yuuki's were blue. "You're wrong Riku. The darkness may destroy my body, but it will never touch my heart. My heart will stay with my friends. It'll never die!" Sora said. Riku scoffed at his words. "Really? Well let's see about that!" Riku fired a blast of dark energy directly at Sora. The blast grew closer and closer, but Goofy came just in time to block it with his shield.

"Sora ain't gonna go anywhere!" Goofy proclaimed. "You'd betray your king?" Riku asked. "Not on your life! But I'm not gonna betray Sora either, 'cause he's become one of my best buddies after all we've been through together." Goofy proclaimed. "See ya later, Donald! Could you tell the king I'm really sorry?" Goofy asked. "Hold on, Goofy! We'll tell him together!" Donald said as he ran back to join us. "Well you know… All for one and one for all." Donald said. "I guess you guys are stuck with us." Goofy said. Kirito smiled "Welcome back Donald, Goofy." He said. "Big deal. How are you gonna fight without the keyblade?" Riku asked. "I don't need it. I've got a better weapon. My heart!" Sora said. "Hmph. Your heart? What good will that weak little thing do for you?" Riku scoffed. "Although my heart may be weak, it's not alone. It's grown with each experience and it's found a home with all the friends I've made. I've become a part of their hearts just as they've become a part of mine. Our hearts are all one. I don't need the keyblade. My friends are my power!" Sora said while brandishing the sword Kirito gave him. Upon sensing the strength in Sora's heart the keyblade left Riku much to his surprise. And returned to Sora where it belonged.

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Chapter 36 Maleficent's power and Riku's possession

Riku panicked when the keyblade left him and returned to Sora. He knew that he wouldn't be able to win against so many adversaries without it. So he fled to the castle chapel. As he ran down the halls he wondered why the keyblade had chosen Sora over him. Surely his heart was stronger than Sora's wasn't it? "Why? It was mine. Why did it pick him?!" Riku asked. "Know this. The heart that is strong and true shall win the keyblade." Riku turned around and saw a figure in a brown robe. His face was covered in shadow and his ethereal body gave off a dark blue aura. Riku recognized him as the man that enabled him to open the door to darkness. With his aid, the islands he grew up on were cast into the darkness and he was free to explore the cosmos. Why had he chosen now to appear? "Are you saying that my heart is weaker than his?" Riku asked. "For that instant it was." He spoke. Riku shook his head in disbelief. The keyblade was supposed to be his by right. "However, you can become stronger. You showed no fear in stepping through the door to darkness. It held no terror for you. Plunge deeper into the darkness, and your heart will grow stronger." He said. "What should I do?" Riku asked. "It's quite simple. Open yourself to the darkness. That is all. Let your heart, your being become darkness itself." The figure spoke. He then began to walk towards Riku, his body fading as he stepped closer and closer towards him. Riku's body glowed with an eerie green light when the stranger disappeared. He looked upwards at the stain glass skylight on the ceiling his last thoughts were of Kairi and his vow to save her. 'Whatever it takes.' Riku thought before his consciousness faded into the darkness.

In the hall beyond the chapel, Maleficent stood before a large machine. The purpose of this device was to reveal a secret keyhole using the seven princesses of heart. The princesses slumbered in glass capsules connected to it. The hearts of Alice, Jasmine, Belle, Cinderella, Snow white, and Aurora generated beams of pure light that catalyzed the portal. However the portal would not be complete until Kairi's heart was within their grasp. "So, I see the path has emerged at last." Riku said. Although now another voice echoed alongside his own. "Yes, the keyhole to darkness." Maleficent said. "Unlock it, and the heartless will overrun this world." Riku warned. "What do I care? The darkness holds no power over me. Rather, I will use its power to rule all worlds." Maleficent boasted. "Such confidence." Riku said. He then held out his hand dark energy gathered and expanded until it formed a weapon in his hand. The shaft and hilt of the sword was pitch black. It had a red circular guard and the tip of the blade was razor sharp. It also had a single curved tooth that gave the outline of a heart. Maleficent stared in awe of the newly forged sword. However the moment was shortly lived when they heard the door to the chapel opening. "The king's fools are here. I'll deal with them myself. You stay here and guard the princesses." Maleficent ordered.

The chapel interior was lined with sconces that burned with green fire. And below each sconce was a statue of a crow. The altar had depiction of a black rose on the cobblestone floor and on it stood Maleficent. "I'm afraid you are all too late. Any moment now, the final keyhole will be unsealed. This world will plunge into darkness. It is unstoppable." Maleficent proclaimed. We all readied our weapons to fight the horned witch. "We'll stop it. After coming this far, there's no way we're letting that happen." Sora said. "It's over Maleficent. After we defeat you, we'll bring the people you kidnapped back to their homes where they belong." Kirito said. "We already defeated your league of villains. You're just another drop in the bucket." Asuna said. "You poor, simple fools. You think you can defeat me? Me, the mistress of all evil!" Maleficent raged as she held up her hands and staff. The circular alter rose beneath her. The platforms' under side glowed with her dark magic and she cackled as she swirled her staff and created a storm that rained purple lightning upon us. Sora jumped and grabbed on to the platform, but it rapidly spun to throw him off. Asuna managed to jump high enough to land on the platform, but before she could attack maleficent called two defender heartless to shield her. With their large bulk it was a simple matter for the m to push anyone off of the limited space. The Beast roared as he leapt and knocked the defenders off and crushed them under his mighty hands. Strea tried to get in an attack of her own, but maleficent turned into a wisp of green fire and moved to the other side of the chapel. The altar flipped to toss Strea off and returned to its mistress when she rematerialized. "Meteors of heaven, unleash my fury!" Maleficent commanded.

She opened a portal in order to call meteors from the vast reaches of space to crush us. "What are we gonna do? That attack is massive!" Yuuki exclaimed. "I have an idea, but we're gonna need time to pull it off." Kirito said. "Donald and I can make ice barriers. That might slow it down a bit." Asuna said. "What are you planning Kirito?" Sora asked. "I'm going to summon Simba. If we can put enough magic power into it, maybe we can send those meteors back at her." Kirito responded. "Will that even work? It's not like that one time in traverse town." Donald asked. "If Kirito thinks it'll work, I'm willing to try it." Sora said. "But what if the barriers aren't enough?" Strea asked. "If that happens, I'll push them back myself." The beast said. "Beast…" Sora said. "My life is of little consequence, if it means that Belle will be safe. I'm sure that no one would miss a monster like Me." the beast said. Asuna walked up to the beast and slapped him. The beast growled in response to the stinging sensation on his face. "What was that for?" the beast asked. "For talking like an idiot! We have one rule in this party, and it's that nobody dies. That includes you." Asuna said. "You're serious?" he asked. "Those are the rules A-hyuck." Goofy said. "Very well. I won't put myself at risk unless absolutely necessary." The beast said.

And so everyone hastily went to perform their tasks. Asuna and Donald created six walls of ice that were more than a foot thick while Kirito summoned Simba again so that he and sora could begin charging. Goofy along with Yuuki and Strea were cheering for everyone to succeed. "Do you really think this will work?" the beast asked. "No time to think about it now. Here they come!" Donald said. The meteor shower pummeled in to the frozen barriers. Walls of ice steadily cracked and shattered one after another. But as each wall fell, the meteors lost speed. By the time the last wall was breached, the two of them had more than enough energy charged into the red maned lion. The strength of Simba's roar caused the very ground to shake as it pushed the meteors back at Maleficent. The horned witch raised the altar and used it as a shield to protect her from the brunt of the counter attack. However in doing so the altar shattered and she lost all the power she had stored in it. Winded from her exertion, she made a hasty retreat through a dark portal where she first stood. "Phew we did it." Donald said. "Not yet. We have her on the ropes. Everyone drink some potions to recover your strength. Let's strike while the iron is hot." Kirito said.

The portal maleficent created led to a large atrium behind the chapel. Her hand was clutched to her chest as she raggedly breathed and limped away from her attackers. Riku emerged from a portal of his own to aid maleficent in her hour of need. "Need some help?" Riku asked. "Riku!" sora called as they entered they atrium. Kirito's eyes widened when he noticed the weapon Riku possessed. "No way… is that-" "Yes. A keyblade. But unlike yours, this keyblade holds the power to unlock people's hearts. Allow me to demonstrate…" Riku swiftly stabbed the keyblade into Maleficent's chest. "Behold! Now, open your heart, surrender it to the darkness! Become darkness itself!" when Riku finished his chant, he removed the keyblade from Maleficent's chest and retreated through the dark portal from whence he came. "This is it! This power!" she chuckled. "Darkness… The true darkness!" Maleficent shouted as her body became engulfed in a huge torrent of green fire. The flames scorched the roof and her dark miasma spread through the ground as she changed into a fearsome dragon. The dragon was pitch black with a purple underbelly. It stood on four legs with talons the size of daggers. Its head bore Maleficent's horns and two fish like fins on its sides. The inside of her maw glowed an ominous yellow no doubt from the fire in its belly and smoke exhumed from its nostrils. It also had bat like wings on its back, but in the enclosed space they doubted the dragon could use them. "A dragon… We're fighting an actual dragon!" Asuna exclaimed. "I know, isn't it awesome?" Yuuki asked. "Save your enthusiasm for when we kill It." the beast said. "Alright guys, let's slay a dragon." Kirito said.

The malefic dragon rose on its hind legs and slammed its front legs on the ground creating a large shock wave. Then it spewed green flames from its burning maw. Donald and Asuna tried to extinguish them with their ice magic, but it had no effect. "Legends tell that dragon fire is hotter than the flames of hell. No ordinary magic can extinguish it." the beast said while he clawed at its impervious hide. "Then let's fight fire with fire." Yuuki said as she transformed into her dark form. "Dark firaga!" Yuuki casted a ball of blue fire that slammed into the green flames. Upon impact the flames clashed until both of them faded. "Yes!" Yuuki cheered. "I hope you got more of those, because she's not stopping!" Sora said. Maleficent continued to spray her green fire like a flame thrower throughout the area. Between the dragon fire and the shockwaves maleficent created it was very difficult to find an opening. Goofy managed to get behind maleficent, but she did a 180 to attack him. Then she called a ring of fiery green orbs that sought us out like homing missiles. This time Sora got behind maleficent only to have her pull off the same defensive maneuver again. "That's it! She doesn't want us attacking her from behind!" Kirito said. "That must be her weakness." Asuna said. "Alright here's the plan. Strea and I will run up behind her. When she turns around to attack us, Kirito and the beast will climb its back to attack." Asuna said. "Alright, let's do it!" Sora said. Just as they had planned Asuna and Strea distracted the dragon long enough for Kirito and the beast to mount it. Kirito sliced at the spikes on Maleficent's back causing the dragon to rear back its head and screech in pain. The beast then leapt at the dragon's head and locked the dragon's maw in a head lock. Try as it might, the dragon was unable to escape the beast's grasp. And while the beast held it down, Strea raised her great sword high and cut off its head!

With the dragon slain, its head and body along with the numerous thorny vines on the walls burned away and vanished. All that was left of maleficent were here tattered black robes. Which riku promptly stepped on after the epic battle was over. "How ironic. She was just another puppet after all." Riku said. "What?" Donald asked. "The heartless were using maleficent from the beginning. She failed to notice the darkness in her heart eating away at her. A fitting end for such a fool." Riku explained. And once again he disappeared through a portal. Maleficent's robes vanished soon after leaving behind a little red gem. "What is that?" Yuuki asked. "It's a summon gem. It's like the one we use to summon Simba." Kirito explained. "Maybe maleficent was able to draw power from it. It could prove useful to you." The beast said. Sora picked up the little red gem and placed it in his pocket. He noticed that it was warm to the touch. "All that's left now is Riku." Kirito said. "I know. It's time to finish things with him." Sora said.

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Chapter 37 Sora vs Riku?

Upon returning to the chapel our heroes found that a section of the wall had disappeared, thus creating a new door for them. The passage led to a large room lined with numerous machines. The carpet on the entrance bore the heartless crest. And on either side of it were the princesses incased in glass. "There's Alice. And Jasmine." Asuna said. "Belle…" said the beast as he stood before Belle's casket. "She's the one you came here to find?" Kirito asked. The beast nodded in reply. "Gosh. She looks beautiful." Yuuki said. "Yes… yes she does." The beast said morosely. He then placed his clawed hand on the casket. Kirito watched the scene before him he tightened his fist. "Let's go Sora." Kirito said firmly. "Right." Sora replied.

Our heroes ran up the staircase that led to the large portal. Sora was the first to reach the top. Donald was about to catch up to him when he suddenly face planted against an invisible barrier. "Oooow what hit me?" Donald asked. "No. no, no, no, no, no, no!" Kirito repeated as he reached the barrier and pounded away at it with no effect. It was a trap. Now no one would be able to come to Sora's aide while he fought Riku and knows what else! "Kairi!" Sora called as he ran to her unconscious body. He grabbed her by her shoulders and held her in an upright position by her back. "Kairi! Kairi! Open your eyes." Sora pleaded. "It's no use." Said Riku. Sora looked upward to see Riku siting on a platform above the portal device. "That girl has lost her heart. She cannot wake up." He said. 'That girl? Hold on a minute. Riku wouldn't talk about Kairi like that. Something's wrong here.' Sora gently laid Kairi back on the ground and stood up. "You're not Riku. Are you?" Sora asked. Riku smirked at the accusation. "The keyhole cannot be completed. So long as the last princess of heart still sleeps." He said as he jumped and slowly floated towards the ground. "The princess…? Kairi's a princess? Sora asked. "Yes. And without her power, the keyhole will remain incomplete. It is time she awakened." He said. "Is that why you kidnapped these girls? All for some keyhole?" Kirito asked. "That is correct." Riku responded.

"Whoever you are, let Riku go! Give him back his heart!" Sora demanded. "But Sora, first you must give the princess back her heart!" Riku replied. While pointing his keyblade toward Sora. Suddenly sora felt an intense pain in his chest. The pain caused him to clutch at the left side of his chest and to kneel on the ground. "Sora!" Asuna gasped. "What did you do?!" Donald asked. "Don't you see yet? The princess's heart is responding. It's been there all along. Kairi's heart rests within you." Riku said. "Kairi… Kairi's heart is inside of me?" Sora wondered aloud. "I know all that there is to know." Riku said. "Tell me. Who are you?" sora asked. "It is I, Ansem, the seeker of darkness." Ansem introduced as he walked towards Sora. Ansem pointed his keyblade directly at Sora's face. "So, I shall release you now princess. Complete the keyhole with your power. Open the door, lead me into everlasting darkness!" time seemed to slow down as Ansem raised his keyblade to strike Sora down. Kirito kept pounding at the barrier like a madman while everyone watched in horror as the blade moved closer and closer to their comrade. But Sora managed to call his keyblade to block the attack at the last second. "Forget it. There's no way you're taking Kairi's heart!" Sora exclaimed.

The fight started with Ansem leaping into the air and stabbing down at Sora. While sora did dodge the blade, dark energy erupted in spikes that attacked him. Sora cast a wind spell around himself to mitigate damage from further attacks of that nature, but Ansem Swung his keyblade to send a disc of dark energy. Sora tried to dodge again, but the disc was a feint for Ansem's real attack. He lunged toward Sora and cut at his side. Sora quickly cast a healing spell to recover. Defense wasn't working he had to go all out against Ansem. Sora started his offensive by using the sonic blade technique to close the gap between them. After that, he was about to go into ars Arcanum when Ansem rise into the air and launched forward away from Sora and vanished. Then he reappeared and did this time going towards him. Ansem repeated this attack over and over again with each strike hitting Sora at lightning speed. Then Ansem stabbed his keyblade into the ground again and unleashed dark energy. Thankfully sora was able to dodge this time and quickly heal once again. Ansem fired the dark disc at sora again, but this time Sora threw his keyblade at the disc causing it to dissipate. The keyblade continued its whirling art towards Ansem and it struck home. But it didn't stop there. Sora called the keyblade back and threw it Ansem again and again. Ansem lunged at Sora again, only for Sora to block the attack. Momentarily stunned, Sora used his ars Arcanum attack to deal major damage against Ansem. Ansem dodged backwards when the last blow hit him. With his back to the portal, Ansem let loose a sphere of darkness towards Sora. But Sora charged energy into the keyblade and fired a bright blue beam at the projectile. The beam pierced it and the heartless emblem on Riku's chest. When the beam dissipated, Ansem dropped the keyblade and his body began to fade. "Sora…" Riku groaned as he fell to the ground. "Riku!" Sora called as he ran towards him. But it was too late. Riku's body had completely disappeared.

The portal device began crackling with energy. The door way appeared to be unstable. Sora tried using his keyblade to close it, but nothing was happening. "Why isn't it working?" Strea asked. "It's still incomplete. It won't open until Kairi gets her heart back." Kirito explained. "I think you're right. But how are we going to do that when it's inside Sora?" Asuna asked. Sora stared at the keyblade Ansem left behind. "A keyblade that can unlock people's hearts… I wonder." Sora thought aloud. "Sora?" Kirito questioned. "Kirito. I need you to hold on to this." Sora said while forcing his keyblade into Kirito's hand. Kirito grasped the handle in his right hand and the shaft in his left. Kirito was puzzled as to why he had given this to him after the hassle it took to get it back. Before he could ask why, Sora walked up to Ansem's keyblade and picked it up. Kirito's eyes widened when he realized what Sora was up to. 'Might as well give them something to remember me by.' Sora turned to them and flashed a big toothy grin on his face. Then he grabbed Ansem's keyblade by its shaft and plunged the blade into his chest. Light emenated from the self-inflicted wound and Ansem's keyblade floated away. It dissolved and released six hearts each returning to one of the captive princesses. Then Kairi's heart left his body and returned to her, causing her to awaken and the keyhole to stabilize. Sora's body glowed a golden light and he began to fade while falling backwards. Both Kirito and Kairi rushed to sora's side. Kairi reached him first, but his body burst into several lights that floated away right before her eyes. Kirito's fist tightened around the keyblade that was given to him and tears formed in his eyes and ran down his face. "Take it back… COME BACK HERE AND TAKE IT BACK!" Kirito shouted to the heavens.

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Chapter 38 Hope never dies

Everything was quiet after Sora sacrificed himself. For a single solitary moment the world was completely devoid of sound while Sora's friends stared up at the air where Sora had vanished. But like all moments, this one was brief. The moment of silence was broken when a dark portal opened and from came a man with Tanned skin, Yellow eyes, and silver hair that smoothed back and spiked at the sides and top of his head and reached down to his upper back. He wore a black high collared leather coat with a red interior and yellow lining, a white thigh length vest, two belts along his waist, wide brimmed white gloves with three buttons lining the fore arms and black pants that were tucked into his knee high black boots. The coat and vest were unbuttoned exposing his muscular chest and a brooch shaped like the heartless emblem. "So, you've awakened at last, princess. The keyhole is now complete. You have served your purpose. But now it's over." He said. "That voice… are you Ansem?" Kirito asked. "Perceptive of you, young man." Ansem replied. "Ah, and I see that boy's final act was to bequeath his keyblade to you." Ansem remarked. "His name is Sora! And he's not gone, he's just… lost somewhere that's all!" Kairi said. "You poor fools."

Ansem mocked as he walked towards us. However, he only took two steps before his arm began shaking and his progress halted. "Impossible." Ansem gasped. "No. You won't use me for this!" Riku spoke as his body rematerialized in front of him. His ethereal body glowed with golden light and he had his arms spread wide to keep Ansem at bay. "Riku!" Kairi called. "You've got to run. The heartless are coming!" Riku warned. And just as he said, shadow heartless sprouted out of the ground surrounding us. Kirito and the other's readied their weapons for combat. "Do you think we can take them?" Asuna asked while standing at Kirito's back. "Loathe as I am to admit it, Riku's right. We can't fight the heartless and Ansem while protecting Kairi." Kirito responded. "You're right. We can't let Sora's sacrifice be in vain. Everyone retreat!" Asuna ordered. With Kairi in tow, Kirito and the others fled the machine room. "What about the keyhole?" Goofy asked. "Let's just get out of here!" Donald shouted. Little did they know, a single shadow heartless watched as they left. The heartless didn't disappear into the shadows like its brethren, nor did it follow Ansem into the newly completed portal. Instead the little imp like creature followed Kirito and friends on foot.

Kirito and company ran until they reached the castle foyer. Donald, Goofy, Strea, Yuuki, and Asuna waited in front of the fountain. We were about to return to the gummi ship, but Kairi insisted on not leaving without Sora and Riku. "I won't leave without them." Kairi said stubbornly. "Riku's doing what he can to hold back Ansem. And Sora is…" Kirito trailed off before shaking his head. "I know it's hard. But right now retreat is our only option. Sora made a difficult choice. And I know if he were here now, he'd want to protect you. So that's what I'll do. I'll use this keyblade he gave me to keep you safe. Because that's what he'd want." Kirito Said. "Okay… but only if you promise that we'll come back for them later." Kairi said while holding out her hand. "Deal." Kirito responded and shook her hand. The two of them walked down the stairs to rejoin the others when the shadow heartless tailing them leapt on top of the fountain. The heartless jumped down to the ground and walked towards us. Strangely enough, it didn't attack us. It acted more like a lost puppy than anything else. Of course that didn't stop Donald from whacking on the head with his staff. "Confounded heartless! Get lost will ya?" Donald ordered. The heartless tried walking towards Kairi, but its path was blocked by Kirito pointing the keyblade at it. "Sorry. You just picked the wrong time to come here." Kirito said. Kirito raised the keyblade to strike the heartless down, but he was stopped when Kairi grabbed his arm preventing its movement. "Wait." Kairi asked. "Why? It's just another heartless." Donald said. "But it is acting kinda weird don't'cha think?" Goofy asked. "Yeah. It hasn't attacked us or tried to run away yet." Asuna said. "It's like it wants to be here." Yuuki said. "Exactly. This shadow… I believe that Sora is this heartless." Kairi said.

"WHAT?!" everyone exclaimed. "No way. Sora can't have become a heartless. It's just… it's just too cruel!" Asuna cried. "Well… an ordinary heartless would've attacked us by now. I think that's the only reasonable explanation here." Kirito said. Before any further debate could be had more shadow heartless appeared and surrounded us. The heartless believed to be Sora hid behind Kairi while the rest of us formed a perimeter around them. "This time I'll protect you." Kairi said to the diminutive heartless. Kirito and the others fought off the first wave of shadows, but while they did that, a second wave of heartless slipped passed them and surrounded Kairi. Kairi turned her back to them and Shielded Sora's Heartless from the oncoming assault. The shadows dogpiled the two of them and created a dark portal on the floor in an effort to drag them into the darkness. "Sora!" Kairi shouted. A bright light shot out from the darkness and the heartless were repelled from them. Kairi's eyes were closed when the heartless attacked, but then she felt two hands wrapped around her in a warm embrace. And her head was clearly resting against someone's chest. "Kairi. Thank you." Sora said. "Sora." Kairi said happily. "Sora!" Donald and goofy exclaimed. "Sora…" Kirito said vehemently while walking toward him. "*gulp* Umm, hey Kirito. What's umm what's shaking?" Sora said nervously. Kirito looked mad. Really mad. As he stepped closer and closer, Sora closed his eyes and prepared for the imminent pounding he was about to receive, but nothing happened. When Sora opened his eyes again he saw that Kirito was holding the keyblade so that Sora could grab it by the handle. "Just take it back before I clobber you with it." Kirito said. "You'd better do what he says Sora. I think he means it." Kairi said. "R-right." Sora said, while reclaiming the keyblade.

Our reunion with Sora was short-lived when more of the shadow heartless appeared to attack us. We were about to fight them off until the beast roared and scared them off. "Go, now!" the beast said. "Come with us." Spra pleaded. "I told you before, I'm not leaving without Belle. Now, go! The heartless are coming." The beast warned. "Alright. Let's get out of here." Sora said. And so we ran out of the castle and back to the gummi ships. "Yui, set the coordinates for Traverse Towne. We're leaving." Kirito ordered. "Aye-aye captain." Yui responded. The young girl did exactly as her father instructed. The wormhole opened in front of their ship, and they had warped to their destination instantly. When we returned to Traverse Towne, we went to the third district to speak with Leon and explain our current predicament. "So the heartless are pouring out of the keyhole." Leon said. "That explains the increase in heartless roaming around the districts. The only way to stop them is- -" Aerith said before being interrupted by Sora who held out the keyblade "Seal the keyhole right?" Sora finished. "Maybe. But no one knows what will happen once it's sealed." Leon said. "Well we can't just stay here. We have to do something. I've got a friend back there." Sora said. "The beast and the princesses are there to. We still haven't returned them to their homes." Kirito said.

"That's right. More friends for you all to worry about. Riku's keyblade must have been born of the captive princesses' hearts. Just like that keyhole you saw. Of course without Kairi's heart, it remained incomplete. Once that keyblade was destroyed, the princesses' hearts should've been freed. Don't worry Sora. If anyone can save your friends heart, you can." Leon said. "Alright. Guess that means its back to hollow bastion." Asuna said. "Not just yet sweet pea." Cid said. "Sweet pea?" Asuna parroted. "Sexist! Sexist!" Yuffie berated. "Aw, shut your yap!" Cid retorted. "Anyway, with all the heartless comin' out you won't be able to get there the same way you did before. Lucky for you guys, I stowed away the nav gummi I used to escape hollow bastion ten years ago. Should get ya there no problem." Cid explained. "Where is it?" Sora asked "the mural in the waterway under Merlin's house. Get it for me and I'll install it right away." Cid said. "Alright. Sora, how about you take Kairi with you to get the gummi, and we'll head to the accessory shop to catch up with Agil and the girls." Asuna suggested. "Sounds good. Okay sora let's go –wak!" Donald said before being dragged away by Asuna, "Oh no. You and Goofy are coming with us." Asuna said "What for?!" Donald said irritated. "You really are dense if I have to explain it." Asuna said. "Have fun you two A-hyuck." Goofy chuckled. As they all left sans Sora and Kairi.

The night went on with Sora and Kairi heading towards Merlin's house. Alone. The two of them were wandering the third district while Sora was trying to figure out how to start a conversation with the young red head. Fortunately Kairi decided to make the first move by asking about his new friends. "Well there's Donald. He's a wizard, and a total hothead. And there's Also Goofy. He's a Knight, and kinda clumsy. The two of them work for this king who told them to find the key bearer. And that's me." Sora explained. "Wow, look at you Mr. important guy." Kairi giggled. "So what about Kirito and those girls. Do they work for this king to?" Kairi asked. Sora shook his head "Uh-uh. Their world disappeared just like ours did. They've been travelling with us looking for a way back. Kirito's the leader of the group. He's super smart and good with computers." Sora said. "So the opposite of you." Kairi joked. "Heeeey! Anyway… the girls are all really nice. Asuna cooks all our food. She's also in a relationship with Kirito. And they have kids." Sora said "Get out!" Kairi replied. "I'm serious. Yui is just the sweetest little girl. And Strea's bear hugs are tight enough to split a log!" Sora said. "And the other girl?" Kairi asked. "That's Yuuki. She's strong. In more ways than one." Sora said. "What makes you say that?" Kairi asked. "You should ask her yourself. Trust me, I think you would be good friends." Sora said. "Okay." Kairi replied.

The mural in the water way had changed. Where once was a moon and stars there was now the sun. Sora walked up to the mural and it began to glow. An orb of light sprouted from it and floated to Sora's outstretched hand. The light faded and a nav gummi rested firmly in Sora's palm. Then the sun faded and the moon and stars returned. "A light at the end of the tunnel…" Kairi said. "Oh, your grandma's story right?" Sora said. "That's right. We were together." Kairi responded. "You know what's funny. I looked everywhere for you, but you were with me all along. Finally, we're together Kairi. And now, it's time to get Riku back." Sora said. "Do you think it'll ever be the same between the three of us? Riku's lost his…" Kairi asked. "When I turned into a heartless, you saved me, remember? I was lost in the darkness. I couldn't find my way. I started forgetting things. My friends, who I was. The darkness almost swallowed me. But then I heard a voice. Your voice. You brought me back." Sora said. "I didn't want to just forget about you Sora. I couldn't." she replied. Then Sora had an epiphany. "That's it!" Sora exclaimed. Then he place his hand on his chest. "Our hearts are connected. And the light from our hearts broke through the darkness. I saw that light. I think that's what saved me. No matter how deep the darkness, a light shines within. I guess it's more than just a fairy tale." Sora said. "Well, let's go." Kairi said. "You can't go." Sora replied. "Why not?" Kairi asked. "It's way too dangerous." Sora answered. "Come on Sora. We made it this far by sticking together. You can't go alone." Kairi responded. "Kairi, even if we're apart, we're not alone anymore. Right?" Sora said. "I can't help?" Kairi asked. "You'd kind of be in my way." Sora said. "Okay. You win." Kairi relented. Then she took Sora's hand and placed something in it. The charm was made from five pink and yellow Thalassa shells held together in the shape of a star. And on the top shell Sora's face was painted on it. "It's my lucky charm. Be sure to bring it back to me." Kairi said while placing her hands on her hips. "Don't worry, I will." Sora said. "Promise?" Kairi asked. "Promise." Sora responded. "Don't ever forget. Where ever you go, I'm always with you." Kairi said.

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Chapter 39 Yui and the hundred acre wood

Our heroes were once again at the house of Merlin. Much to their surprise, the wizard's body was buried under a mountain of books with only his feet sticking out to indicate he was under there. They frantically dug through the pile of literature until Sora found Merlin's hand and pulled him out. "Ah, thank you my lad. I was in quite the pickle there." Merlin said. "Maybe you should think about getting a book shelf for all those books?" Asuna suggested. "What, and have the book shelf fall on me? Are you daft?" Merlin asked. "No, but you are a pig." The fairy godmother said. "Hmm yes. Well, perhaps this place could use a bit of tidying up." Merlin admitted. "But where are my manners? Welcome, welcome. So what brings you to my humble abode?" Merlin asked. "We found all the pages of that book you asked us to find." Sora said. The old wizard's face lit with joy at the news. "Oh, splendid, splendid! I knew I could count on you lads and lasses." Merlin said jovially. "What's so important about an old book?" Yuuki asked. "My dear, this is a very special book. One that leads to a very special world. A world filled with light that the heartless can never enter."

The Wizard said. "Really?" Yui asked. "Yes. However, like every other world, this world has a keyhole. A keyhole the heartless can exploit. That's why you must enter the hundred acre wood and find its keyhole." Merlin said. "Got it." Sora replied. "One more thing, There is a limit on the number of people that can enter the book at one time." Merlin said. "A limit? Well how many can enter?" Kirito asked. "Only two I'm afraid." He replied. "Hm. Well Sora definitely has to go. So who's going with him?" Kirito said. "I'll go!" Yui quickly volunteered. "Yui?" Sora said. "You guys left me out of the last two worlds remember? I want to see new worlds to." Yui said. "Well, I'm okay with that. What do you think Asuna?" Kirito asked. "Well, she is going with Sora. And there aren't any heartless, so I guess she would be safe." Asuna said. "Thanks mom!" Yui said ecstatically. Before Sora could join Yui in the hundred acre wood, Kirito grabbed Sora by his shoulder. "If she comes backs with so much as a stubbed toe, I will feed you to Simba." Kirito threatened. The killing intent coming from Kirito made Sora gulp in fright. The boy meekly nodded and entered the book along with Yui.

The two of them shrunk down and floated onto the book's pages. Each page of the book was catalogued by a small Illustration depicting what part of the hundred acre wood the page held. The first place they went was an empty meadow with a hollowed log laying in the middle and atop it was a small yellow bear wearing a red shirt. The bear kept tapping away at his head in deep thought. "Think, think. Think, think." The bear repeated. "Hi there. What's wrong?" Sora asked. "Nothing, Just thinking." The bear said. "Oh." Sora responded. "I was thinking of how to say good-bye to Pooh." The bear said. "Pooh?" Yui asked. "Yes?" the bear responded. "Wait a second. You're Pooh?" Sora asked while taking a seat next to Pooh. "Yes, I'm Winnie the Pooh. Pooh for short. Who are you?" he asked. "I'm Sora and this is Yui." Sora introduced. "Oh. Hello Sora. Hello Yui. Have you come to say good-bye to Pooh to?" Pooh asked. "Good-bye? But we just met. Why would we?" Yui asked "Because everyone's gone away." Pooh replied. "What do you mean?" Sora asked. "Well, we all lived here, in the hundred acre wood. And we'd take walks together, or play Pooh sticks…And every day, I'd eat some honey. Just one small smackeral would taste really good right now." Pooh said while rubbing his tummy. "But now, everyone is gone. All my friends and my favorite hunny tree to." He said depressed. "They must have all gone away while I was napping! I think… So, who knows? Maybe I shall end up going away somewhere as well." He said while hopping off of the log. "But I wonder, how shall I say Good-bye to myself? Think, think, think." Pooh said while rubbing his temples. "Oh, my tumbly's getting rumbly." Pooh said while walking away. "Do you think we should follow him?" Sora asked. "Well, his name is the same as the book's title. So he must be the main character. That would mean that most if not all of the story revolves around Pooh." Yui said. "I get it. So if we follow Pooh, we might find the rest of his friends along the way. Good thinking Yui." Sora said.

The next page took us to a house that was built into the base of a tree. The name Mr. Sanderz was written on the door frame. There was also a bell with a chain and a sign that said to ring it. Although the word ring was misspelled. Yui rang the doorbell while Sora opened the door. Inside the house was Pooh sitting on the floor holding an empty honey pot. "Oh, bother. There's no more honey left. If only the hunny tree would visit…" Pooh chuckled "Then I could have my fill." He said. "If that bear keeps eating honey he'll turn into it." Sora joked, earning a giggle from the young girl.

The next page took us to the Hunny tree Pooh so desperately longed for. It was a tall tree with numerous beehives and hollow holes that contained the delicious golden nectar Pooh craved. "H-Hello? I-is anyone there?" A small voice said. The voice came from a little piglet that walked on two legs "Wh-Wh-What am I to do? I'm all alone." The pig despaired. "Pooh? Pooh? Where are you? It's me, Piglet." He called. Piglet then gasped in fright at the sight of us and ran to hide behind the hunny tree. "You get him from the front, and I'll get him from behind." Sora said. "Got it." Yui replied. Needless to say, their plan went off without a hitch. "Oh, dear! I-I was j-just… N-nevermind, I'm sorry!" Piglet stuttered. "I think you need to get down to his level Sora." Yui suggested. "Okay. How's this?" Sora said while crouching. "Perfect." Yui replied. "Don't be scared. You're looking for Pooh, right?" Sora asked. "You know Pooh?" Piglet asked. "That's right." Yui said. Piglet then sighed in relief. "Oh, y-you see, I have something for him. I have to take it to Pooh right away." He said. Thankfully he wouldn't have to go very far, because Pooh was walking towards the hunny tree as he spoke. The little pig ran on his tiny legs to greet his friend, Pooh.

The yellow bear sniffed the air around him. "Oh, I believe I smell a delicious something- - a something like honey!" Pooh said gleefully. "Pooh!" piglet called. "Hello Piglet. How have you been?" he asked. "Oh, I'm so glad to see you. I thought you'd gone away. I brought wh-what you asked for." Piglet said. He then gave Pooh a big blue balloon. "Thank you piglet. Now I can finally have some honey." He said. "Really? B-but how?" Piglet asked. "I shall hold on to the balloon, and fly like a bee, up the hunny tree, see?" Pooh rhymed. "But if you take their honey, won't the bees be angry?" Piglet said. "Hmm… Oh! Perhaps our new friends can help." Pooh said. "What did you have in mind?" Yui asked. "It's quite simple. An owl said while flying toward one of the branches. "If you could keep the bees away while Pooh gathers honey from the Hollows, then the Balloon should remain intact long enough for Pooh to have his fill." Owl said. "Alright. Just leave it to me." Sora said. The next few minutes consisted of Sora fending off the bees while pooh dug into the hollows. The two of them steadily climbing, or in Pooh's case floating, to the top of the tree. "It is rather funny, what I will do for honey." Pooh chuckled.

The next page brought us to a farm. There were two plots with carrots, a plot with pumpkins and a plot with cabbages. And yet another house built into a tree. On the right of the tree was a hole that led inside the house and a sign that read "Rabbit's howse". Pooh and Piglet were standing outside the hole asking if anyone was home and a voice from the inside saying that Nobody is home. Apparently this rabbit didn't want to be bothered. Of course that didn't stop Winnie the Pooh from climbing into said hole, asking for his friend rabbit. The voice in question belonged to a Yellow rabbit who was just a tad taller than Pooh. "Hello, Rabbit." Pooh greeted. "Why, P-Pooh. What a pleasant surprise… Nice to see you to, Piglet. And. Are they new friends?" rabbit asked. "I'm Sora, and this is Yui." Sora introduced. "It's nice to meet you Mr. Rabbit." Yui said. "It's nice to meet you as well Y-yui." Rabbit stuttered. "P-pooh, I'm sorry, but… I'm out of honey at the moment." Rabbit said. 'What is it with this bear and honey?' Sora thought. "There's a honey pot right there." Yui said. She pointed to honey pot that was hidden on a root near the ceiling. "Oh my, how did that get there?! Would you like some honey, Pooh?" Rabbit asked. The question was more of a statement since everyone knows he wants honey. Once again pooh ate from the honey pot until there was nothing left. Then he crawling through the rabbit hole, only to get stuck half way through causing Rabbit to sigh.

"I'll get the carrots and make carrot juice. That'll slim him down." Rabbit said while walking towards his farm "AH!" He yelped. The cause of his scream was a tiger bouncing around all over the place. It bounced on the small bridge causing it to break in two, then it bounced on sora causing him to fall to the ground with the tiger on top. "Hoo hoo hoo hoo! Hey there, Name's Tigger! T-I-double-guh-RR. That spells Tigger!" the tiger introduced. "Well now, I don't think I've ever seen you around here before." he said. "Hello, Tigger. You've just bounced my new friend Sora." Pooh said. "Hey, Pooh! Say, you're looking mighty uncomfy today. Is that some new exercise? Why, bouncin' around is a lot more fun! "Wh-why do ya bounce around so much Tigger?" Sora asked while getting up and wiping the dirt off of his clothes. "Why? Because bouncin' is what Tiggers do best! Speaking of which, my bouncin' spot has gone and disappeared! So for now, this'll be my new bouncin' ground!" Tigger laughed.

Tigger then bounced away on his tail like a spring and landed the vegetables in the field "My carrots!" Bounce. "My Pumpkins!" Bounce. "MY CABBAGES!" Rabbit cried. Before Tigger could bounce again, Yui Tackled Tigger to the ground. "What'd ya go and do that for?" Tigger asked. "Because you're making a mess of the place. Pooh's stuck in Rabbit's hole and we need those vegetables so he can get out." Yui said. "What?! Pooh's stuck? Well why didn't ya say so?" Tigger said. After the brief explanation Tigger promised not to bounce around in Rabbit's field again. Rabbit fed the carrot juice to Pooh, and Sora tackled Pooh's behind out of the hole causing him to launch like a cannonball into Rabbit's secret honey stash, much to rabbit's dismay. "Oh, bother. Where am I? It's ever so dark in here." Pooh said while his head was inside a honey pot. "Well, it isn't so bad I suppose. There's plenty of honey." Pooh chuckled.

The next page brought us to hill with a tree and a swing set. There was also a river and a bridge you had to cross to reach said hill. Pooh and piglet were enjoying the view from the bridge when they spotted their friend Eeyore. The donkey had apparently fallen in and could not get out. Fortunately we were there to help. Eeyore then asked if we could help him find his tail. "Where did you last see it?" Sora asked. "My house." Eeyore replied. "Where's your house?" Yui asked. "Over there." He said, indicating the pile of sticks that were arranged into a sort of tent. "That's your house?" Yui asked in shock. "Yup. It ain't much to look at, but it's mine." Eeyore said. "Hmmm." Upon inspecting the tent Sora saw a tail with a nail at the base, and a ribbon at the end of it laying on the roof of Eeyore's quote, unquote, house. "Is this it?" Sora asked. "Yeah. Thanks for finding it. Could you help put it on for me? Of course you don't have to if you don't want to." Eeyore said. 'Man, talk about guilt tripping!' Sora thought.

The next page took us to and area with lots of tree stumps. On one of the stumps there was an enormous pot. There was also a titter totter fashioned from logs using a tree root as a base. Tigger, along with a little Kangaroo wearing a blue shirt were happily bouncing on the stumps. "This must be Tigger's bouncing spot." Yui said. Tigger introduced us to his friend Roo, and then he asked us to play with them. The game was follow sort of like follow the leader. Tigger and Roo would jump to different stumps and Sora and Yui would repeat what they did. Then there was another game where Tigger tossed apples and Sora would hit the apples with his keyblade to make the apples hit the pot until the pot shattered.

The next page took us to a marsh. Pooh was walking around in the mud following his own tracks while trying to find his friends. What happened next was basically one big game of hide and seek. Before we knew it, night had fallen and we all went to the hill with the swing set and looked up at the full moon and starry sky. "I'm glad we're all together again." Piglet laughed. "I didn't know what to do when I was all alone." Piglet said. "Aw, Piglet, You gotta be brave." Tigger said. "Y-you weren't lonely at all?" Piglet asked. "Lonely? Are you kiddin'? I'm a Tigger! The most wonderful thing about Tiggers, is that I'm the only one. But I do admit, friends are awfully fun too!" he chuckled. "Think, think. Think." Pooh said while prodding his head again. "Penny for your thoughts?" Yui asked. "Oh, well, I'm just thinking about what to think about." Pooh said. "Haha. Well, I think it's time we got going. Come on Yui. Sora said." Sora said. "Okay." Yui replied. "Where are are you going?" Piglet asked. "I'm gonna go look for my friends. They're waiting for me." Sora said. "My mom and dad are waiting for me to come back too." Yui said. "Bounce on back again!" Tigger said. "I Hope you find your friends." Piglet said. "Tell your Parents about us." Roo said. "Will do." Yui said. "Sora, Yui, don't forget. We shall always be here. If you'd like to visit again that is." Pooh said while waving good-bye to us. As we left a shooting star shot through the sky. The story ended with Pooh and company bidding farewell to their new friends. The book closed, but where there was once a blank slate, there was now, an illustration of Sora and yui walking down a dirt road with Pooh, Piglet, and Tigger. The world's Keyhole appeared on the clasp that kept the book closed and disappeared when it was sealed.

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Chapter 40 the Phantom and Kurt Zisa

Our heroes were once again traveling through interspace when they received a transmission from Chip and Dale. The chipmunks told us that some rather powerful heartless had appeared in Agrabah and Neverland. "Agrabah? That's where Philia is. We have to warn her!" Asuna said. "But what about Hollow bastion?" Donald asked over the communicator. "It's on the way. I'm sure we have time to make a few stops. Plus those heartless need to be taken care of." Sora said. "That settles it. We're going back to Agrabah." Kirito said.

Sora and company climbed up the pipe that led to Aladdin's house. Carpet was flailing frantically the enchanted rug was clearly worried about something. "Hey carpet, you haven't seen Philia or Aladdin around have you?" Sora asked. The carpet then pointed to a note nailed to the wall. Then he knelt on his "knees" and hit the ground repeatedly. Kirito then grabbed the note and read it aloud. "It's from Aladdin. It says that he and Philia have gone treasure hunting. And that if we need to find him to go to the cave of wonders." Said Kirito. "But why wouldn't they take carpet? It's faster to fly there." Sora said. "Maybe, they did take carpet. Maybe they ran into the heartless Chip and Dale warned us about and sent Carpet back for help." Kirito said. "We need to hurry then. Carpet, can you take us to where they went?" Asuna asked. Carpet nodded eagerly and spread himself on the floor for us to get on.

Despite carrying seven people, carpet flew through the vast open desert like a jet. Soon we arrived at an arena with where obelisks had risen to create a barrier to prevent anyone from escaping. Aladdin and Philia were fighting in dire straits against and enormous six armed heartless wielding equally large scimitars in four of its hands. The head of the heartless looked like a cobra. And in its maw was a diamond the size of a basketball. The heartless raised its blades to strike them down, but Kirito, Yuuki, Strea, and Sora leapt from Carpet to block the attack from above. The force of their attacks causing it to fall on its back. "They made it." Aladdin said. "Thank goodness. I don't think we could've lasted much longer." Philia said with relief. "Heal!" Asuna and Donald casted cure on the pair of treasure hunters. The heartless roared and a cast a weird magic the extracted something from us. The substance was gathered in glowing purple orbs it held in its free hands. "What did that thing just take?" Sora asked. "I don't know, but I want it back! Fire!" Donald shouted. However no matter how many times Donald tried, nothing happened. "No way, it stole our magic!"Asuna exclaimed. "QWAK! GIVE IT BACK YOU SNEAKY SNAKE THIEF!" Donald shouted angrily as he ran to attack the orbs in the heartless' hands. Both Kirito and Sora joined him in the assault. However, the heartless spun it's scimitars like a windmill in a near perfect blend of offense and defense. The three of them dodged and weaved knowing that one false move would be the end for them. Fortunately the heartless soon tired and they exploited the opportunity to attack the orbs until they broke and released the magic they had stolen. Then the heartless floated in the air and produced a spherical barrier blocking physical attacks. The heartless floated away in its protective shell and cast tornados of sand along with fireballs and dark energy that shot out from the sand for surprise attacks.

"Sora, I think it's time for that new summon spell!" Kirito said. Sora then stabbed his key blade in the ground shouting "Power!" as he did. Fire and smoke billowed around him and a red, serpentine dragon appeared on top of Sora's head. The dragon had blue horns on its head and stood at one foot tall. "I am Mushu!" the dragon introduced. "How is a gecko going to help us?" Philia asked. Only to gasp when said gecko shot a fire ball at her feet. "Don't EVER call me a gecko. I'm a certified, bona fide, guardian dragon!" said Mushu. "Well someone thinks highly of himself." Philia muttered. "Think you can do something about that barrier Mushu?" Sora asked. "'Course. Barrier breaking's my specialty!" The dragon proclaimed. The dragon shot fast triple bursts of fire balls from his mouth that hit the barrier. The rest of us fired our own magic attacks to expedite the process until the barrier shattered and the heartless fell once again becoming immobile. Everyone went to attack the heartless while it was down. However the snake like head was able to stretch out and attack to defend itself until it could move again. Once it was able to move, the heartless spun its body like a gyroscope to take off and spin back and forth vertically and horizontally. The heartless wasted no time in landing by stepping off to deliver a single lightning fast strike. "This thing just doesn't know when to quit!" Yuuki said. "I vote we cut off its head. Who's with me?" Strea said. "Aye." Everyone said in unison. So we kept attacking it until it fell down again. While the snake was attacking everyone from the front, Sora climbed up behind it and severed the heartless' long neck from its body. The body collapsed and disappeared while the snake tried to flee. Unfortunately for the snake heartless it was surrounded it was quickly surrounded and then defeated by Philia, who promptly collected the prized diamond it guarded.

"Welp, we got what we came for. A big rock like this is bound fetch quite the price back home." Aladdin said. "I can't believe you guys fight monsters like that every day. Are they all that strong?" Philia asked. "Not all of them. Although I wouldn't be surprised if there were heartless more powerful than that one." Kirito said. "Well that's nightmare fuel if I ever heard it. By the way, how's the search going? Did you find Jasmine or any of our friends?" Philia asked. "Yeah. We found Jasmine, Suguha, Rika, Keiko, and Yuuki. She's right here actually." Asuna said. "Hello." Yuuki greeted. "Wait a minute I thought you were sick?" Philia said. "I got better." Yuuki grinned. "I See… so where's everyone else you mentioned?" Philia asked. "They're not with us, but they're all in a safe place." Kirito said. "That's good to hear. By the way I forgot to ask, Suguha was in a Kendo tournament recently right? How'd she do?" Philia asked. "Everything's been so crazy lately, I forgot to ask." Kirito said. "Oh. Well when you see her again, could you give this to her? It's a present." Philia handed Kirito a gold necklace with an emerald cut in a rectangular shape. "Before we left our world I was going to treat her to a dessert place, but there's so much treasure to find in this world. I got things like this for everybody back at Aladdin's place. But I realize you guys are probably busy saving the world and all, and this is the only one I have on me at the moment." Philia said. "For everybody? You've been working hard huh, Philia?" Kirito said. "Yeah well, she- I mean they're all worth it. They're good friends." Philia said. Kirito smiled and placed a hand on Philia's shoulder "You don't have to say anything else. I'll make sure she gets it." Kirito said. "Thank you. Kazuto." Philia said.

Our next destination was Neverland. Apparently Tinker Bell had spotted the heartless near the clock tower in London. When we arrived, we flew through the stars towards the British city. As we approached the clock tower, a black cloaked figure flew in from behind and intercepted us before we could reach the tower. The phantom had the heartless emblem on its back. Its cloak spread open revealing that it had no physical form. Dark fire appeared around each number on the clock face and numbers appeared on our hands. As the seconds ticked away on the clock, so too did the number on our hands. "Oh my god, that heartless casted a doom spell on us!" Kirito said. "Doom spell?" Sora asked worriedly. "Bit of video game lingo. Basically, when that timer hits zero, its game over. And game over in games usually means death." Kirito explained. "That's not good! What do we do?" Goofy asked. "If we could just stop the clock somehow." Peter said "That's it!" Donald exclaimed. "What is?" Goofy said. "Stop magic. We can use it to stop time around the clock." Donald said. "Donald, that's brilliant!" Kirito said. "I know. You guys keep it off me while I stop it. I'll come back once I'm done." Donald said.

Just as Donald said, stopping the clock stopped the doom counter from counting down. However, the phantom proved difficult to fight since it was immune to physical attacks most of the time. Further, the phantom's one weak spot, the glowing orb containing a captive heart, was only able to certain kinds of magic attacks depending on what color it was at the time. Red for fire, Blue for ice, Yellow for lightning, and clear for physical attacks. Casting the appropriate spell caused the orb to either become clear, or change to a different color. And while the orb was gone, there was literally no way to harm the phantom. The phantom not only slashed at us with its razor sharp claws, but also shot at us with dark magic missiles that chased us around and dealt continual damage. This heartless reminded Kirito of the more difficult bosses of SAO. The ones that took hours to defeat because you had to fight them in a certain way. The majority of players hate these kinds of battles, but the hardcore ones enjoyed the challenge. Kirito was somewhere in the middle. While he did appreciate a good challenge, there was a difference between difficult and overkill. And this heartless was dangerously close to being the latter.

It took a lot of time and magic, but eventually the heart container broke, releasing the captive heart and causing the phantom and its curse to disappear. "Let's *pant* never *pant* do that again." Asuna panted. "You're preaching to the choir, sister." Yuuki said. "That's both heartless taken care of. Now we can get back to Hollow bastion." Kirito said.

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Chapter 41 The Hades cup Part 1

Just before we could head to Hollow Bastion, we got another call from the chipmunks. Apparently there was another tournament being held at the coliseum. "This time Hades is the one hosting it. He's calling it the Hades cup. It's going to be the biggest one yet. And he's asking for us personally." Chip said. "He says if we don't show up, that he's going to let loose a bunch of monsters to destroy everything!" Dale said. "I was wondering when we'd here from him again." Asuna said. "And he's asking for us? I suppose we should be flattered that a god wants our attention." Kirito said. "Um, hello? Giant monsters if we don't show up? That probably means he'll bring them anyway to kill us." Donald said. "That's why we have to go. Hades won't be able send his goons to attack the civilians if we take them out first." Sora said.

We went to check out the roster for the tournament. Hades had slapped his face on a big blue billboard that covered the three rosters from the other tournaments. When the chipmunks said that this was the biggest one yet, they weren't kidding. There were fifty seeds in total. Each filled with dozens if not hundreds of heartless. The top five seeds were held by Cerberus, a mystery fighter, these things called titans, and Hades himself. "He really wants to kill us doesn't he?" Sora stated. "And the understatement of the year award goes to Sora. I'm not surprised to be honest." Phil said walking up to the board. "Got any advice for us? Like that mystery fighter, and what are titans?" Sora asked. "Boy, are you uninformed. I don't know where Hades got that one guy, but his defense is ridiculous, and his offense is just as good. The titans are the biggest, baddest, monsters in all of Greece. Those big galutes make Cerberus look like a cute, little, puppy dog. I'd have Herc take care of them, but Hades forbade anyone from interfering besides you." Phil said. "Why us?" Goofy asked. "'Cause, Herc cares about you rookies. If something happened to you, it'd break his heart… mine too if I'm being honest." Phil muttered the last part. "We'll win Phil. I promise." Sora said.

Hades was really going all out for this tournament. He gathered nearly every heartless we had ever encountered and more. Including boss heartless we had fought before such as the armor and chameleon heartless, there were these humanoid heartless with long horns on their head, wings on their back, and tails. They also carried magic swords that allowed them to disappear. A ring of dark energy would appear around the sword and then reappear around one of us, causing big damage. They could also launch a volley of energy blasts by spinning in the air. And there were these angelic heartless that created twisters and fired blasts of light at us. It came as a surprise that heartless that used the light even existed. Wasn't light the enemy of heartless? On top of that their wings could also be used as an impenetrable shield. Usually each round would have a list of heartless and their numbers shown on the billboards, but in the hades cup, there were special rounds where we wouldn't know how many heartless would appear or how long the battles would last. When we struck one down, two would appear in its place, and two more in their place. The number of heartless we fought kept increasing without end, but we kept going. We knew Hades and the heartless couldn't keep this up forever.

Eventually, we worked our way up to Cerberus. The three headed hell hound was once again shooting fire balls at us. But we were stronger than we when fought Cerberus the first time. Donald and Asuna's ice magic had grown to a point where it was able to extinguish the flames. And Sora simply whacked the fire balls right back at him. Needless to say, we defeated the humongous hound again. The next round was against what could only be described as a giant rock monster with stubby legs, long arms and two heads. The ground shook with every shockwave inducing step that it took, but it was super slow. We attacked its feet until the rock titan fell over and we climbed its body to attack the heads. For a Titan, it was pretty easy to beat. The next round, not so much. This time the giant monster was skeletal and made of ice. The ice titan attacked by shooting large icicles at us. We were able to block the projectiles, causing them to ricochet to the titan's face, but we couldn't just stay in one place to and block because large frozen boulders would periodically try to crush us. Unlike the rock titan, we weren't able to attack its feet. And when the ice titan stepped it detached its feet and formed new ones and created shockwaves on the ground. The ice titan's breath attack formed ice on the ground causing us to slip if we weren't careful. Since its only weak point was so high, we had to wait until it got tired and knelt down, but even then the head was too high for physical attacks to properly reach since it was so tall and it used its hands for support. Our only means of attacking it were magic and blocking icicles.

By now, everyone was getting pretty much exhausted. Clearly Hades, plan was to defeat us when we got to our lowest point. And there was still someone else we had to fight before him. Judging from our last three fights, Hades had ran out of heartless. Cerberus and the titans had been defeated, and from what Phil said our next opponent was most likely human. But it wasn't cloud or anyone we had fought before. The bars of the arena were raised we could hear the thunderous gallop of a horse charging from the dark depths of the cage. A dark horse dashed into the Arena. The mount ran towards us, stopped, stood on two legs and whinnied as its rider halted his advance. Sora, Donald, Goofy, were relatively unfazed. Yuuki was still excited at the prospect of fighting another strong opponent, but the rest of us stared wide eyed and slack jawed, unable to believe what we saw. On the back of the black stallion, sat a man clad in bright red armor, a long sword sheathed in the white shield bearing a red cross on his arm. He had greyish brown hair that was smoothed back and tied in a small pony tail. Our opponent, was none other than commander Heathcliff, also known as Kayaba Akihiko. "No way, you're supposed to be dead!" Kirito exclaimed.

"Yes, well, it would seem fate has conspired to reunite us. Or in this case, Hades." Kayaba said. "Hades brought you back to life… but why? Why you of all people?" Asuna asked. "Hades is one vindictive, hate filled god. He sought to use the deceased SAO players as pawns to demoralize you and your friends. But, he is not above some level of reasoning. I told him, that I was the last person to die in Sword art online. Therefore I was the strongest of the players he could muster, and I struck a deal. In exchange for letting the deceased rest in peace, I would be his loyal knight. Death is an absolute in this, or any world. I refuse to allow even gods to break that rule. Wouldn't you agree, Kirito?" Kayaba said. "Maybe, like you said, the dead should be allowed to rest. But after all the places I've been to, the people I've met, and the things we've done, I'm beginning to think that the only thing impossible, is impossibility. And look at you. The fact that you're standing here right now, contradicts your one absolute principle. I guess what I'm trying to say is, nothing works how we thought it did." Kirito said. "Then it would seem we've reached an impasse. All that's left is to clash our swords and see whose beliefs hold true." Kayaba then dismounted from his steed and drew his blade. "Come, black swordsman. Let us finish the battle we began so long ago!"

Before the fight started, Kayaba used a megalixir to restore the health and energy of our entire party. He did so under the one condition that Kirito be his only opponent. Kirito drew his black sword and assumed his fighting stance. Kayaba raised an eyebrow "Only one sword? Are you certain you can defeat me that way?" Kayaba said. "I gave my other sword to someone else a while back. He's putting it to good use. As for your second question, I'm stronger than when we fought back on floor 75. Speaking of which, why is it that you look like you did in SAO?" Kirito asked. "If I were to guess, I would say that this appearance is generated by the perception of my soul. It would seem at my core, I am commander Heathcliff, leader of the knights of blood. Perhaps if you were to die and resurrect as I have, you would look like your SAO avatar?" Heathcliff suggested. "That world's Kirito has done his job. And I'm not dying anytime soon." Kirito rebuked.

The fight started when Kirito dashed towards Heathcliff. He wanted to try and get passed the commander's shield knowing how troublesome it was in the past. Heathcliff blocked Kirito's sword with his own and tried to hit Kirito with his shield. Anticipating this, Kirito ducked, dodging the shield and used his free hand to let loose a fira spell at the commander. The spell sent Heathcliff flying backward, but he managed to land on his feet. The commander then rubbed off the scorch marks around the point of impact "This is one of the reasons I didn't put magic in SAO." Heathcliff said. "Sorry commander, but in a fight to the death, there's no such thing as fighting dirty." Kirito said. Kirito then cast a wind spell around himself and began attacking Kayaba again. "I see, so this spell not only increases defense, but also speed. I suppose it pays to have a large arsenal at one's disposal. However…" Kirito's sword was blocked once again by Heathcliff's sword. Kirito tried shooting fire magic at him again, only this time Heathcliff blocked the spell with his shield. Then the commander bashed Kirito away with it. "I can assure you that overreliance on such tactics will be your downfall." Heathcliff said. "This isn't good is it?" Sora said. "How come?" Donald asked. "Back in SAO, Kirito was the only one that could match Heathcliff. But that was because of his dual wielding. Without another sword, Heathcliff's defense will be too difficult to crack." Asuna said. "Uh-oh. If Kirito loses, then we'll have to start all over again!" Goofy said. "He won't." Yui said. Everyone turned their attention to Yui at the sudden declaration. "Daddy won't lose, because he never gives up. Dad is at his best when everything is on the line. All we have to do, is believe in him." Yui said. Yui's words touched all of their hearts, causing them to smile. "You're right. Kirito will get through this. He always does." Asuna said.

Meanwhile, inside the station of awakening. "His defense is impressive I'll give him that. The armored stranger said. "Yeah. If I had another sword this would be easier." Kirito said while eyeing the stranger's Keyblade. "You mean this? Here, take it. " he said. The man tossed it through the air, but it shattered into specks of light before it even reached Kirito. The stranger then chuckled at Kirito's flabbergasted expression. "I'm sorry. But you see, I gave my keyblade to someone else a long time ago. That was just a light magic construct that I made to look like it. " he said. "All this time, it was just a fake? So what happens now?" Kirito asked. "Well, if I were you, I'd listen to my friends. What was it that boy said? 'My friends are my power?' Believe in the friends who believe in you, and your strength shall become unmatched." He said. "Believe in my friends…" Kirito said. He then closed his eyes and thought back to each of the friends and family he had journeyed with. 'Sora, Donald, Goofy, Yuuki, Strea, Yui, Asuna…' "Wait a minute. I just realized. You've been with me since this all began, but I never got your name." Kirito said. "Why do you wish to know?" he asked. "Because you're my friend too." Kirito said. "Friend… it's been so long since I've been called that… Eraqus. My name, is Master Eraqus." As Eraqus spoke Light shimmered around his body and the armor disappeared. Eraqus was an old man with tan skin, dark black eyes, and black hair tied in a high top knot with one bang falling off to the right side of his face. There were jagged scars over his right eye and left cheek. He also had a moustache and a short, triangular soul patch. He wore a white, red lined Haori with a hood, a navy blue shirt, and brown hakama pants. He still kept the blueish armor chasis around his abdomen and armored boots. "Eraqus. Thank you." Kirito said. Eraqus nodded. "Now go, and fight in the way that only you can!" Eraqus.

Back in the coliseum. "This fight's only just begun Heathcliff." Kirito said. "Oh? And why is that?" the commander asked. "Because," Kirito held his hand out "I finally found my second sword!" Light gathered in Kirito's hand and in a flash of what appeared to be data boxes along with zeroes and ones, another sword appeared. The hilt and guard shined like steel and the long cylindrical shaft and teeth were pitch black. The teeth were shaped to look like the guard on Kirito's elucidator from SAO. The handle was rectangular and had four screws along its length. And the guard encompassed both sides of it. And attached to the hilt was a keychain with a perfect replica of Aincrad castle as its ornament.

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Chapter 42 the hades cup part 2

With a new keyblade in hand, Kirito commenced his attack with a vengeance. His two black blades and Heathcliff's white shield and sword, fiercely clashing. Kirito was striking away like a tempest waiting for the moment when Heathcliff's guard would slip. And Heathcliff, the stalwart knight, was defending against Kirito's blistering assault. At one point Heathcliff disarmed Kirito and tossed the keyblade aside, but then Kirito quickly circled behind him, called the keyblade back to his hand, and swung both of his swords at the commander's back. The sneak attack knocked Heathcliff to the ground, but the commander stabbed his sword into the ground to keep himself from falling flat. "My, my. I've never seen such an interesting sword before. Tell me, what is it?" Heathcliff asked while standing up. "It's a keyblade. Believe me, I'm just as surprised as you are." Kirito said. "Well, its appearance certainly suits you." The commander then began to laugh. "This is exactly how I imagined it. The brave hero obtains a powerful sword, and uses it to defeat the final boss. Now if the setting was inside the ruby palace, then it would be perfect." Heathcliff said.

"Eh, been there, done that." Kirito retorted. "Ah, so the game didn't end after our duel. And you actually completed it. So assuming everything else went as planned…" He trailed off. "Yup. The 'seed' you left us has grown. Thanks to it, VRMMO's didn't fade into obscurity. Even SAO has been recreated as a game that everyone can enjoy." Kirito said. "It's just like that person said." Heathcliff muttered. The commander then grasped his sword with both hands, and swung it downwards, Kirito dodged and cast thunder magic. Due to Heathcliff's metallic plate armor, the normally random bolts of electricity homed in on the commander as though he were a lightning rod. However, the commander raised his shield over his head like an umbrella to block most of the damage. Seizing the opening, Kirito unleashed his ultimate attack. A devastating 27 hit combo called the eclipse. An attack that could only be learned by mastering his proficiency in the dual wielding skill in SAO. On the last stroke of the attack, Heathcliff was flung back against one of the arena pillars. Causing him to drop his sword and fall to the ground.

Once again the Commander was defeated by the black swordsman. "Well done, Kirito. I'd offer my applause, but it looks like they've got it covered. Plus I am way too tired." Heathcliff said. Sure enough, all of his friends in the stands were cheering in their own unique way. Sora and Goofy tossed Donald in the air, much to the latter's dismay. Asuna held Yui as the little girl squealed in delight. Strea had caught Yuuki in one of her infamous bear hugs and was suffocating the purple haired girl in her large cleavage. And at some point Leon, Yuffie, and Cloud had showed up. The two latter of the three were passing munny over to Leon. "You guys were betting on me?!" Kirito shouted. "It's not like we were betting on you losing." Leon said. "We were betting on how you'd win." Cloud said. "See, Cloud and I bet that you'd have to borrow Sora's keyblade again, but Lucky Leon here, bet that you'd summon your own. And now my purse is crying because of how empty it is." Yuffie lamented while holding an open coin purse upside down. "How did you know that would happen anyway?" Cloud asked. "Call it a hunch. Plus a bet with Yuffie isn't a gamble. It's an investment." Leon said coyly. "Oh foofie!" Yuffie cried. "As interesting as this is, aren't you forgetting something?" Heathcliff said. "Huh?" Kirito said.

"My life. This is a fight to the death after all. For this to end, you must kill me Kirito." Heathcliff said. Suddenly everyone quieted down. The tension from Heathcliff's words was thick enough to be cut with a knife. "This is a rare opportunity for you Kirito. It isn't every day that you get to kill the same person twice. Especially when that person is responsible for the death of thousands. You can exact vengeance on me again for all of your grief and frustrations. No one here would blame you. I'm already dead anyway. There is no shame in killing a dead man." Heathcliff said. "…You know, for someone who's supposed to be a genius, you're pretty stupid." Kirito said. "Huh?" Heathcliff said. "It's just like you said. I already killed you once. I can't put out all my frustrations on you because I already did that. Don't get me wrong, I still can't forgive you for what you've done. But, I just can't bring myself to feel hatred towards you anymore. And even if I did kill you, there's nothing stopping Hades from reviving you again. And then I'd have to kill you again and again and again. The cycle would never end. And there's also this." Kirito said while holding out his keyblade. "The keyblade isn't meant to hurt people. It's meant to help and protect them. And besides, what you said before, about not letting Hades have his way. That was pretty awesome." Kirito said. "I never thought I'd see the day where I received a compliment from the famous Kirito." Heathcliff joked. "Don't mention it. Seriously don't. Hades is going to be mad enough as it is." Kirito said. "Duly noted." Heathcliff said while retrieving his sword and walking back to his steed. "And Kirito, if you ever want to know, the real reason that Akihiko Kayaba created Sword art online. Then come find me again." Heathcliff said. The commander hen mounted his horse. The dark steed unfurled its large bat like wings and flew off into the horizon.

After the battle, the others walked back to the arena to congratulate Kirito. Not only for once again defeating Heathcliff, but also for summoning a keyblade for the first time. "Dude, you did it! You're a keyblade wielder now, welcome to the club." Sora said enthusiastically. "I knew you could do it. A-hyuck" Goofy said. Asuna then hugged kirito and kissed him on the lips. "Ugh. They had to make it all mushy again." Donald complained. "I am so proud of you Kirito." Asuna said. "Thank you Asuna. I couldn't have done this without you. Any of you for that matter. But now isn't the time to be resting on our laurels. We still have one more opponent to face." Kirito said. "Hades." Sora said. "Speak of the devil and he shall appear." Hades voice rang throughout the Arena. Then Hades appeared from a plume of smoke and fire. "Yo, hey, how're you doin', everybody, yeah. Got a minute? Hades, lord of the dead. Nice to see you." He introduced. "Hey guess what? I've got a place for you down under!" Hades said.

The fight started with hades spraying a steady stream of fire from his hands and floating towards us. When he did this half of us would run behind him and attack while the other half stayed in front to draw his attention. However Hades was quick to anger. Every so often his skin would turn a bright red and his flames would intensify. He moved to the center of the arena and held out his hands to either side and sprayed a wall of flames from them. Then he would rotate and try to fry us like a microwave. At the snap of his fingers hades could conjure small explosions right in front of us. And he shot fireballs at us that were similar to what Cerberus would fire. Fortunately, we were able to block the fireballs and redirect them back at Hades. More fortunately, his "rage mode" only lasted for so long. However, his short fuse meant he could rage again almost as soon as it went off. And on top of that Hades was more durable than any other enemy we had faced before.

However his anger made him very sloppy and predictable. Eventually, we were able to wear him down to a point that we were able to finish him off with an all, out blitz of our special attacks. Kirito attacked hades with his starburst stream, then switched with Asuna and Yuuki who double teamed hades with mother's Rosario. Then they switched out with Strea who unleashed her ultimate attack, calamity. An attack that deals six very powerful hits. And finally Sora unleashing a new move on hades called Ragnarok. The attack involved Sora letting loose a flurry of attacks in midair, then charging up energy to fire off a volley of magic missiles at point blank range. The attack sent Hades flying into the cage where the monsters were kept. Hades cowered as the caged beasts loomed over him and he begged to be let out. However the bars of the pit lowered and left him with no escape.

Back in the coliseum lobby, Phil placed the trophy for the hades cup next to the brazier like the other three trophies we had earned. On the right side of the room was the small golden cup from the Phil cup and the plaque from the Pegasus cup. And on the left was the large golden trophy from the hades cup and now, the azure blue trophy from the hades cup. To anyone else these might be indications of glory and entitlement, or even just empty cups. But to Sora and his friends, they served as reminders of where they once stood and how far they had come since then.

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Chapter 43 the final keyhole

"How're things looking up ahead Yui?" Kirito asked. "Pretty good dad. The nav gummi we got in Traverse Towne is providing us with a very safe route. We should be reaching our destination any minute now." Yui said. "Good job Yui. When we get back, I'll be sure to cook up something extra sweet for you." Asuna said. "Yay!" Yui cheered. "I want something sweet to!" Strea said over the comm. "Me to, me to!" Donald said. "Alright, alright, I'll make something for everyone." Asuna said. "Really?" Sora asked. "Of course. After everything we've been through, I think it's only Right that we have a nice dinner party when we get back to Traverse Towne." Asuna said. "You heard the lady. The sooner we get this done, the sooner we get yummy food in our bellies!" Yuuki said. "Full speed ahead." Kirito said. "Aye, aye captain." Yui said.

Meanwhile, Riku wandering in a place shrouded in darkness. The silver haired boy was filled with regret about his previous wrongdoings. For a moment he thought he was dead. Trapped in an afterlife and meant to be punished for eternity. "I'm not ready. Not until I see Sora and Kairi again." Riku said to himself. That's what he thought, until a voice called out to him. "Riku? Can you hear me? I'll be there soon." The voice spoke calmly. "Who is that?" Riku asked while turning around. "I have the other keyblade. The one that belongs to this world. I've been trying to get through to you, but the darkness in your heart kept me away." The voice said. "Who are you? What's happened to me?" Riku asked again. "Your heart won the battle against darkness, but it was too late for your body. That's why you're here. In this place of darkness where hearts are gathered." The voice said. "So what do I do?" Riku asked. "The door of darkness will open soon, but it's a door we can't enter. It has to be closed from both sides. To do this, you need two keys and two hearts. Maybe you're here for the same reason I am. Maybe it was fate." The voice said. "Fate huh? You seem to know everything, don't you?" Riku sarcastically remarked. "Then, tell me. Are Sora and Kairi okay?" Riku asked. "Don't you feel the echoes of their hearts? You already know the answer. Look inside your own heart." The voice said. The voice was right. Deep down Riku, could feel that Sora was still off gallivanting to save the world. Which meant that Kairi had to be okay to. "Okay." Riku said. And so, Riku followed the mysterious voices guidance as it lead him through the realm of darkness.

As soon as we arrived at hollow bastion, we saw that the beast was standing near the inverted waterfalls where we first met. However there was no trace of belle or any of the other princesses. When we asked where they were, the beast said that they were still in the castle. "I wonder why? Donald asked. "Let's go ask them." Sora said. "You may need my strength. I'll go with you." The beast said.

Upon the beast's suggestion, we headed to the castle library. According to the beast, Belle was an avid bookworm. If there was one place she would definitely be, it was there. Sora immediately recognized it as the library he had seen Kairi and her grandmother in his vision. The library was two stories tall and the bookshelves were equally as high. And as the beast had predicted, belle was on the second floor perusing the shelves. Much to the beast's relief, she appeared to be well. As the two of them slowly approached one another, the beast grasped Belle's small delicate, hand in his own large, beastly palm. Then belle rested her head against the beast's chest, relieved to see her beloved again. The scene our heroes bore witness to, was heart meltingly sweet and even left some of them a little teary eyed.

After the brief reunion, Belle told us that the reason she and the other princesses stayed behind was so that they could keep the darkness that was raging in the keyhole in check. Then she pressed a large red button on the wall, revealing a secret passage behind the book case. "This will take you to the chapel where the other princesses are. Please, be careful." Belle said. "Got it." Sora said. "Hm. If the princesses are there, then the heartless shouldn't be there. You could come with us if you want Yui, but I'd feel better if you stayed here in the library." Asuna said. That's okay. I wanted to stay here anyway. I know I'm not much use in a fight, but I figured that maybe I could find some useful information here. This is the library of our enemy's base of operations after all." Yui said. The little girl's words caused belle to giggle. "A girl after my own heart. I'll help you look. The two of us are bound to find something." Belle said. "Thank you princess." Yui said. "Please, call me Belle." Belle said.

While our heroes were away, Belle and Yui were scouring the library for any bit of information on the heartless and the worlds they could find. But unbeknownst to them, there was someone else in the library with them. A man, dressed in a black coat whose face was shrouded by its hood. The coat went down to his ankles and was closed by a long zipper. The tab was zipped down to his waist. "Interesting." He said. The mysterious stranger approached the young girl, however she was unable to see or even hear him. The man walked through Yui as though she were only air and in that moment, he harvested some rather intriguing data. "Very interesting." He said. The man was about to leave, but a thought occurred to him. The girl had helped him, all be it unintentionally. It was only fair he aided her in turn. So the stranger walked towards the bookshelf, and pulled out the "book" that she had no doubt been seeking. Then he made himself visible. When Yui turned around, she saw the mysterious stranger for the briefest of moments before he vanished in a dark portal, leaving behind several pages scattered on the gound. The young girl went to pick them up and saw the manuscript was titled "Ansem's report."

When Sora and company arrived at the chapel, they found the other five princesses waiting for them. The group recognized Alice and Jasmine, but did not know the other three. "Hello, I'm Snow White." The ebony haired girl introduced. "How do you do? I'm Cinderella." The blonde haired girl in the white ball gown greeted. "So you're Cinderella. We've heard of you from the fairy god mother." Kirito said. "You know my fairy god mother? Where is she? Is she alright?" Cinderella asked. "She's fine. She was actually more worried about you. This place is so close to the darkness that it was probably keeping her away." Kirito said. Cinderella sighed in relief knowing that the person who had made her dreams come true was okay. "I'm Aurora." The girl in the blue dress said. "Thank you for coming so far to help us Sora. Coming from the same world as her, I know Maleficent was very difficult to deal with. But you must hurry. We can't keep the darkness at bay much longer. You must seal the keyhole." Aurora said. "We're on it." Sora said.

Our heroes made their way to the dark machine where Sora and the possessed Riku fought. They went through the portal that the machine had created, and entered a void of sorts. The void was split in to colors of red, blue, and green. At the void's edge was the keyhole placed on a flaming heartless emblem. And from it, emerged a behemoth of a heartless. The behemoth was roughly the size of a two story house. It had two tusks curving upward like bull horns and a single conical black horn on its head. The ground shook as its cloven feet hit the ground. The behemoth roared and leaped to close the distance between us and it.

When the fight started, everyone surrounded the behemoth and attacked it from all sides. Then Kirito climbed on the behemoth's back to see if he could find a weak point up there. As he climbed, he began to worry that this behemoth that this heartless had no exploitable weaknesses. When he reached the behemoth's head he noticed that dark energy was pouring out of the monster's head. "Well, might as go for broke and see what happens." The black swordsman began attacking the horn. With each strike, the energy around it dissipated. His attacks bore fruit when the behemoth collapsed, temporarily stunned. "The horn is its weak spot. It'll take some time, but we can beat this thing." Kirito said. The behemoth didn't stay down for long though. And when it got back up, it roared and called down purple lightning in large amounts to attack us. The dark energy reappeared around its horn and we repeated the process. However this time the behemoth was charging energy in a dark orb at the horn's apex. And none of our attacks were able to delay or prevent it from charging. When it finished, the behemoth sent it into the air and a barrage of dark orbs scattered through the air and attacked everything in sight. The orbs did a number on anyone that they hit. So we set up a system where half of us would attack while the other half would heal with magic. When the attackers took to many hits, one of the healers would heal them, and then they would switch tasks so that the former attacker could recharge his or her mana with an ether. With this strategy we were eventually able to vanquish the heartless behemoth.

"A-hyuck, now let's go and seal that big keyhole!" Goofy said. "Sora, Kirito, you guys did it." Leon said from the other side of the portal. "Leon? What's he doing here?" Strea said. "Wanna find out?" Donald said.

When we left the void where the keyhole was, we saw that Leon was here along with Yuffie and Aerith. "What are you guys doing here?" Sora asked. "We came on Cid's ship." Yuffie said. "This is our childhood home. We wanted to see it again." Aerith said. "It's in worse shape than I feared. It used to be so peaceful…" Leon said. "Don't worry. When you defeat Ansem, all should be restored. Including your home worlds." Aerith said. "Really?" Sora asked. To which Aerith nodded. "That's great. We'll finally be able to go home. And with Yui and Strea to. Everyone will be so surprised." Asuna said. "But it also means good-bye…"Yuffie said. "Once the worlds are restored, they'll become separate again." Aerith said. "Everyone will go back to where they came from." Yuffie said. "Then we'll just visit you guys in the gummi ships." Sora said. "It's not that simple." Leon said while crossing his arms. "Before all this, you didn't know about other worlds, right?" Yuffie asked rhetorically. "Because every world was isolated. Impassible walls divided them." Aerith said. "The heartless destroyed those walls. But if the worlds return, so will the walls." Yuffie said. "Which means gummi ships will be useless." Leon said. "So you're saying we'll never…" Sora trailed off.

"We may never meet again, but we'll never forget each other." Leon said. "No matter where we are, our hearts will bring us together again." Aerith said. "Besides, I couldn't forget you guys even if I wanted to." Yuffie said. "What's that supposed to mean?" Sora said. "Um, I hate to interrupt, but we should probably hurry and seal up that keyhole before all the darkness comes rushing out of it!" Strea said. Just as Strea had said, waves of dark energy were beginning to spill out of the portal device. So Sora and the others hurried back in to seal the keyhole. Sora pointed his Keyblade at the heartless emblem, and once again stars gathered around the keyblade before shooting a bright blue beam into the keyhole. The heartless emblem disappeared and with it, the Keyhole.

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Chapter 44 the mysterious stranger

Our heroes walked back to the castle chapel and saw that the dark portal Maleficent had created during their first battle had reappeared. "Shouldn't that have disappeared now that Maleficent is gone?" Yuuki asked. "Not if there was someone else sustaining it." Donald said. "I can feel it. Whoever, or whatever is behind that portal is very powerful. They might even be as strong as Ansem." Kirito said. "Well whoever it is, I'm sure that all of together can take him down." Sora said.

When our heroes entered the portal to the atrium, we saw nothing was there. Even the tattered remains of Maleficent's robes were nowhere to be found. The group split up to search the Atrium to search for anything that might have caused the portal to reappear. But unbeknownst to them, a mysterious stranger in a black coat walked in after them. Sora felt something off and slowly turned around and saw the black cloaked person walk through him as though he were only air. When he did this Sora felt a rush of memories run through his head and he fell backward. The stranger the others turned when they heard Sora fall and immediately gathered around him. "Who are you?" Sora asked. "Ah, it seems you're special, too." The stranger said. "Ansem?" Goofy asked. "That name rings familiar." The stranger then conjured a sphere of electricity in his hand. "You remind me of him." He said. "What's that supposed to mean?" Sora asked. Then the man fired electrical blast at Sora. Fortunately Sora drew his keyblade and blocked the attack before it caused any serious harm. Then Sora batted away the ball of energy. Causing it to crash into the sealing. Dust and debris fell to the ground from the impact and the stranger said "It means you are not whole. You are incomplete. Allow me to test your strength." The stranger said.

The stranger shot more electrical blasts at us. The spheres detonated when they reached their intended targets and electrocuted both Asuna and Donald in the process. "Asuna!" Yuuki shouted. "*cough* I'm fine. Just give us a sec to heal." She said. "You're gonna pay for that!" Kirito said angrily. The black swordsman went to attack the hooded man, but he raised out his hand and created a rectangular barrier. The moment Kirito touched it he felt volts of energy surging through his body. The man then produced a bright red energy blade similar to the photon swords he had seen in Gun gale online. However the blade came from there didn't appear to be a hilt for the blade in his hand. Rather the energy blade looked as though it had sprouted from the palm of his hand. The man then swung the blade at Kirito and sent him flying. The man then conjured a ring of energy spheres around him and those spheres turned into laser bolts that were fired at us. Yuuki tried slashing at him, but the man enveloped himself in a dark sphere and moved away from her. The sphere moved towards Sora and the stranger reemerged from it. Then he began to electrocute Sora with his lightning. The energy raised Sora's body into the air then Sora suddenly dropped. The man's attack had stopped, but the energy was still lingering in Sora and causing him a great deal of damage. Fortunately, Sora was able to expel it from his body before it did him in.

Having recovered from their prior injuries, Asuna, Kirito, and Donald rejoined the fray. Donald cast a curaga spell on Sora to bring him back to full health while Kirito attacked the stranger "So you're one of the keyblade's chosen as well. Interesting." He said. The Stranger was a very difficult opponent. He was able to switch from offense to evasion seamlessly. His movements were like a dance without any wasted movement. And his reaction time was equal to if not greater than Kirito's own. If someone like him was in SAO, then he would've been the one to obtain the dual wielding skill. As if the man were reading his thoughts, he produced another red blade from his off hand. Then his attacks became more aggressive. Between his ferocity and impregnable barriers, it was like we were fighting Kirito and Heathcliff in the form of one opponent. We were able to work around the barrier by having someone behind him to attack whenever he put it up, but he was still a fearsome opponent. At one point we all tried rushing him at once, but then he produced a large sphere of energy around his body that shot energy beams at us. The attack caused severe damage to anyone it hit. The beams were random and most of them missed, however no one was able to even touch the stranger while the attack was active. When the sphere vanished, the man knelt on his knee. The attack must have been a last resort to finish all of his foes at once.

Seizing the opportunity, Sora and Kirito dealt a swift powerful strike to the man's vital areas. After the twofold strike, His body began to fade. The man clutched at his chest as blue energy began pouring out of him. But suddenly the man waved his hand and the energy vanished. By all appearances it looked as though he had completely recovered. Or was that we had failed to cause any kind of damage? "Impressive. This will be enjoyable." He said. "What are you talking about?" Sora said. The young boy then ran towards the stranger and leaped into the air for one final attack. However, the man vanished and reappeared behind Sora after he landed. Whether it was his speed or teleportation, nobody could tell. "It is beyond your comprehension, for now. Until we meet again." He said. "Wait, what are, you-" Sora was about to ask what he meant, but the stranger's body began to fade away again. And he left us with these final words. "I am but a mere shell."

When the Eight of us exited the portal and returned to the chapel, it vanished. Meaning that it was in fact, linked to the mysterious stranger. We were about to return to the castle library to check on Yui, But the little girl had come to meet us in the chapel instead. The girl was carrying thirteen pages clutched to her chest and panting heavily. The girl had no doubt ran as fast as her legs could carry her to meet us. "Yui. What are you doing here? Did something happen?" Asuna asked. "Th-there was… a man in the library. In a black coat." "WHAT?!" Kirito exclaimed. He then knelt down too her level and grabbed her arms. He was checking to see if the she might have been hurt. "Did you see him too?" Yui asked. "We didn't just see him. We fought him. He was ridiculously strong!" Yuuki said. "Mhmm. He had lightning and barriers and lasers. So many lasers! I thought I was in gun gale again, but I didn't have my mini gun or my rocket launcher! "Strea said. "Did he say anything to Yui?" Sora said. "No. but he left this behind." Yui said showing them the pages she had brought with her. "It's Ansem's report. He documented all of his studies and experiments on hearts and the heartless. Apparently he was even able to create them artificially. And that's not all, he also deduced that the gummi blocks were made from the walls that separated the worlds. And he even sent a girl from this world to find a keyblade wielder." Yui said. "That girl was probably Kairi." Sora said. "Wait, I thought you and Kairi were from the same world?" Asuna said. Sora shook his head negatively. "She just washed up on the beach one day. On the night of a meteor shower. Plus she kinda told me while we were alone together." Sora said awkwardly while poking his fingers together and blushing.

"Idiot! That was a very important detail!" Asuna said. "There's more. The portal device that you mentioned before, it's a door to this world's heart. Ansem's plan was to discard his body so that he could enter that door." Yui said. "Maybe that's why he took Riku. So he could have another body to use once he got through." Kirito said. Sora tightened his hand into a fist. Angry that his friend had been used in such a way. "Sora, I know where your head is right now, but we can't go rushing in halfcocked. We need to rest and prepare for the battle ahead." Kirito said. "We're running low on healing items. We should head back to Traverse Towne and resupply. And while we're there, I can throw that dinner I promised." As though it had a mind of its own, Sora's stomach growled at the mention of food. "Okay. We'll eat and restock in Traverse Towne, but then we have to go find Riku and the king. No more side stops." Sora said. "Right." Everyone else said. "Does the report say anything else?" Kirito asked. "There is one more page, but I don't really understand it. It says that when a person loses their heart and their body disappears, that it's possible to exist in two places at once. The "self" of the original exists in another place, while the body exists in a different place. But because the "self" exists, then the other entity can't truly exist. It doesn't belong anywhere. It's simply a shell of its former self. A Nobody." Yui said.

Meanwhile, in a place far from where our heroes were, the mysterious stranger was sitting on a rock at what appeared to be a beach. The light of the moon shining down on the dark shore providing the only source of light. Then a portal appeared. And another person in a black coat walked out of it. The new arrival approached the stranger hoping to speak with him. Fortunately the stranger spoke first. "I've been to see him. He looks a lot like you." He said. "Who are you?" the boy asked. "I'm what's left. Or, maybe I'm all there ever was." He said. "I meant your name." the boy asked. "My name is of no importance. What about you? Do you remember your true name?" the stranger asked. "My true name is…"

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Chapter 45 A brief respite

Our heroes had returned to Traverse Towne. Asuna and Yui had opted to go and get ingredients for tonight's dinner while Donald and Goofy went to restock or supply of potions, ethers, and elixirs. So the rest of us went to the accessory shop to catch up with Agil and the girls. "Well, if it isn't Kirito." Agil said. "Hey Agil. Still ripping people off with your high prices?" Kirito asked. "Hmph. I'll have you know my goods are reasonably priced." Agil retorted. "And what about you? Ya found a way to get us home yet?" Agil asked. "We're very close Agil." Kirito said. "Yup. As soon as we take Ansem down, everyone will be returned to their home worlds." Yuuki said. "Not me though. I can't go home until I find Riku and the king." Sora said. "Sounds tough. Of course, everything worth doing is that way. Just keep doing what you're doing. You'll find them." Agil said. "Thanks Agil." Sora said. "Agil. Is someone here?" Lisbeth called from the second floor. "Yup. It's you know who." Agil said. "Kazuto!" Suguha exclaimed. The door on the ceiling opened and then she descended the ladder. When she reached the bottom, she ran up to Kirito and hugged him. "Come on, Sis. I wasn't even that long." Kirito said. "You're off gallivanting and fighting monsters for a week and I'm not allowed to worry? Sorry big brother, but you owe me this." Suguha said. "Would it help if I told you I brought a present?" Kirito said. "A present?" Suguha asked. Kirito then dug out the necklace he had received from Philia back in Agrabah. "Oh, Kazuto. You shouldn't have." Suguha said. "I didn't. This is from Philia. I'm just the delivery man." Kirito said. "Well, remind me to thank her." Suguha said while placing the necklace around her neck. "This really is a beautiful necklace. I guess I can let you off the hook. For now." Suguha said.

Agil closed the shop early so that we could use the store to host our dinner party. We all waited for hours while Asuna, Suguha, Lisbeth, and Silica were preparing what was bound to be a mouthwatering feast on the second floor. When the girls told us it was ready, we literally could not wait any longer. The girls had really gone out with their cooking this time. Silica had cooked up the bean buns that her food stand in sword art origin was famous for. Suguha had whipped up her brother's favorite spicy curry and rice. Lisbeth brought out a roasted ham. And Asuna baked a red velvet cake with cream icing and sprinkled with cinnamon. "Thanks for the food!" everyone said. Of course while we ate we recounted all of our adventures thus far to catch everyone up. The girls were pleased to hear that they would soon be returning home soon. And they were surprised that Kirito had recently come to possess a keyblade of his own. "Well what do you know? Now we got two chosen one heroes. That Ansem guy doesn't stand a chance." Agil boasted. "I wouldn't get my hopes up just yet. The fact that Ansem masterminded everything up to this point, must mean he has a plan for dealing with us. He just might be the most difficult opponent we've faced." Kirito said. "Well, I know one thing. And that's no matter what Ansem has lying in store for us, He's going down." Sora said. "HAHA! Now you're talking." Agil said. He then grabbed his cup and held it in the air. Knowing a toast was coming everyone held their drinks aloft as well. "A toast. To our brave heroes. And all that they've accomplished. Cheers!" Agil said. "Cheers!" we all said.

Eventually, our heroes once again headed to the inn for some much needed bed rest. Sora, Donald, and Goofy were snoring away in the green room while Kirito and Asuna were once again in the red room. Yuuki and Strea were in the blue room. Asuna had finished tucking Yui and went to join Kirito out on the balcony. "Looking up at the stars again?" Asuna teased. "Yeah. All of the stars up there are different worlds. I never imagined that traveling to those worlds was possible in my life time, but here we are. In a world not so different from ours." Kirito said. "But, once we defeat Ansem, the walls will be restored. And we'll have to say good bye to everyone. Aerith, Leon, Merlin, even Sora, Donald, and Goofy." Asuna said. "You heard what Aerith said, our hearts will reunite us again someday." Kirito said. "Funny, I thought you would've quoted Leon." Asuna said. "I didn't because he's wrong. We will meet again someday." Kirito said. "How can you be so sure?" Asuna asked. "Call it blind faith if you want, but something tells me, that Sora will make it happen somehow." Kirito said. "Heehee. You're right. There's just something about him that makes you want to believe. You're similar to him in that regard." Asuna said. Kirito looked at Asuna, puzzled as to her meaning. "Kirito. You have this knack for bringing out the best version of a person. You're like a beacon of light, inspiring everyone around you." Asuna said.

"Asuna…" Kirito said. He then wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her in for a kiss. One that Asuna happily reciprocated. When Kirito broke off the kiss, he stared into her eyes. "I think I've put this off long enough." He said. He then dug around in his coat pocket and pulled out a silver band. Asuna gasped at the sight of it and placed her hands over her mouth. "Asuna, when we get back to our world, I don't just want to go back with my girlfriend. I want to go back with my wife. So, let's get married." Kirito said. "Oh, Kazuto. *sniff* Yes. Of course I'll marry you." She said with tears of joy in her eyes. Kirito then placed the ring around her ring finger and dug out another ring for asuna to do the same with him. "It's perfect. Where did you find these?" Asuna asked. "The cave of wonders. While I was looking around, I saw that out of all the treasures in that room, these were the only rings made of silver. So I thought they were special." Kirito said. "You're too good to me." Asuna said. "Come on, let's go to bed. We have a lot to do tomorrow. Husband of mine." Asuna said.

The next morning our heroes departed from Traverse Towne towards their final destination. If they failed to stop Ansem, it would be the end of the world as they knew it.

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Chapter 46 The end of the world

"Remind me why we are going into a black hole of all places?" Donald asked. "It's a near perfect hiding spot." Kirito said. "It's a near perfect hiding spot. A normal ship wouldn't be able to withstand the intense gravity. It's also packed with dark energy. A perfect place to build an army of heartless. Or for Ansem to power himself up." Kirito said. "And if that's where all the heartless are coming from, then it's likely that all the hearts of the worlds they took are there as well." Sora said. "Even more of a reason for Ansem to be there." Asuna said. When the gummi ships entered the vortex, everything went pitch black. All they could see was an eerie purple light up ahead. As they flew closer and closer to it, they saw that the light was coming from what appeared to be a world of sorts. A large pink and purple mass was sprouting from what looked like a miniature galaxy. And if you looked above it, you could see thin blue streams carrying hearts into it. Our Heroes teleported down to a cave in the strange world. When they exited it, they saw that it was actually a small island in a large purple lake. Fortunately they were able to walk on this water just like in hollow bastion. The lake itself was filled with dozens of rocks and on the other side was a portal. "Gawrsh, is that all that's left of the worlds taken by the heartless?" Goofy asked. "Those worlds will be restored if we beat Ansem right?" Sora said. "You betcha." Donald replied. "But, if we do beat him, and all of these worlds become restored and disconnected, what's gonna happen to this place? And to us?" Sora asked. "Well, Uh…" Donald tried to answer. "This is a heartless world. So maybe it'll just disappear." Goofy hypothesized. "You're probably right." Kirito concurred. "But, no worries. Even if this place goes poof, our hearts ain't goin' nowhere. I'm sure we'll find our pals again. Yup, I just know that we will." Goofy said cheerfully. "Yeah, you're right." Sora said while looking at Kairi's good luck charm. 'I'll return this. I promise.' Sora silently vowed.

"Yui, you have to take the ship back to hollow bastion. And don't try to come back for us." Kirito said. "I know. I'll be safer there right? And when you beat Ansem, this world will probably disappear, and I won't be able to find you again. I know that's the most logical thing to do, But I wish that I could be of more use to you." As Yui spoke, her eyes began to water as they filled with tears. "As I am now, all I can do is pilot the ship. If I could help you in battle like Strea, then I wouldn't have to say good bye to you." Yui said. Then the little girl began crying at her own helplessness. Seeing their daughter in tears, Kirito and Asuna embrace her in a group hug and wait until her tears stop. "Please don't cry Yui. I Promise, I'll do everything I can to make sure you see your mom and dad again." Sora said. "Do you mean that Sora?" Yui asked. "Cross my heart." Sora replied. Sora's promise was enough to cheer up the young girl and she smiled, knowing that Sora would do everything he could to keep it. "Okay. I had best get going then." Yui said. And so Yui remotely activated the ship's teleporter to beam her up. The young raven haired girl gave one last look at the heartless world before she departed for Hollow bastion.

When we entered the portal we came across a large chasm filled with crystals and other strange rocks. While we traversed that we found another portal directly below one of the ledges. So we jumped from the ledge and like one would jump from a diving board into a pool of water. This portal took us to a world nexus of sorts. There were large towers equal to the number of worlds we had visited. Each tower held a specific area from that world filled with heartless that we defeated to advance. However when we got to the tower that housed Hollow bastion, the area was one we hadn't found before. There was a hallway and a door to the left. The room the door led too housed a large machine and a terminal to access it. Kirito accessed the terminal and read aloud what the database provided. "Ones born of the heart and darkness, devoid of hearts, ravage all worlds and bring desolation. Seize all human hearts and consummate the great heart. All hearts to be one, one heart to encompass all. Realize the destiny: The realm of Kingdom Hearts. The great darkness sealed within the great heart. Progeny of darkness, come back to the eternal darkness. For the heart of light shall unseal the path. Seven hearts, one keyhole, one key to the door. The door of darkness, tied by two keys. The door of darkness to seal the light. None shall pass but shadows, returning to the darkness. Ones born of the heart and darkness, Hunger for every heart until the dark door opens." Kirito said. "Guys, I think this is Ansem's computer." Kirito said. "And he laid out his entire plan on it. But, why would he leave it for us to find?" Asuna asked. However as soon as she finished speaking, the doors closed and heartless appeared in the room. "I hate these kinds of traps!" Kirito said.

Thankfully the heartless they encountered were ones they had fought before back in the hades cup. And with the curaga spell at our disposal, we were able to survive the ambush. The door unlocked and seeing no other way, we went back through the portal that brought us here. When we returned to the tower, the portal collapsed and in its place was a hole in the floor. The hole took us to a large open area with a mountain below us. Fortunately, in this space we could fly like we were in Neverland, so we didn't fall to our deaths on the mountain side. As we descended the "mountain" began to move and we found out that it was actually a gigantic horned demon with razor sharp teeth, pitch black skin, glowing yellow eyes, and a wing span that was longer than a soccer stadium! The demon was standing in a fiery pit, no doubt drawing power from its hellish depths. The demon roared as its arms and wings stretched out. "What the hell?!" Asuna said. "I think that's exactly what it is. A monster from the pits of Hell." Yuuki said.

The fight started with the demon calling dozens of souls to chase and attack us. Much like our battle with Ursula, our only point of attack was the head. However the demon's fiery Breath attack along with its ability to manipulate the wind to push us back with a powerful gust kept us at bay. And when it got really mad, it could call upon the fire from the pit to envelope the entire mountain in a column of hellfire. The heat of the demon's fire was quickly overwhelming our heroes, however Yuuki didn't seem phased. In fact she appeared to be growing stronger as the fight went on. Her dark form was providing her with even more strength and speed than it had done before. The demon ignited its hands managed to close both of its hands around her in thunderous clap hoping to squash her like an insect. The demon smirked believing its prey had been killed. "YUUKI!" Kirito exclaimed. However the demon felt resistance with in its fiery grasp. It strained its enormous muscles trying to contain the purple haired girl, but its grasp broke with a single burst of power. Yuuki's dark form had dissolved, however she was now sporting a pair of black wings on her back and her usually white dress was now pitch black. "Okay, now I'm mad." Yuuki said. The demon roared in frustration and sent more spirits to attack, but this time they were solely focused on Yuuki. The wings on her back provided an extra boost in maneuverability and she was able to dodge them easily. The demon used its breath attack to engulf her in flames, but to its surprise, the girl flew though the flames and harnessed them around her body as she flew faster and faster towards it. "Have a taste of your own medicine! Hell fire charge!" Yuuki shouted. As the name implied, the attack involved Yuuki ramming her flame covered body straight at the demon, piercing its chest. The demon cried out in agony as it was incinerated in its own fire. The demon and its fiery pit vanished before us and we stared in awe of what Yuuki had done. But the moment was short lived when the wings on her back disappeared and she began falling toward the mountain. Fortunately Asuna was able catch the purple haired girl before it was too late. "Yuuki! Yuuki! Are you alright?" Asuna asked. "I'm exhausted. I never had to use that much power before. I'll be okay, but I don't think I can do what I just did again anytime soon." Yuuki said. "Thank goodness. But maybe you should lay off the dark form for a while. We don't know how using the darkness might affect you in this world." Asuna suggested. "Okay. Even though I really like the new wings, I don't want to bite off more than I can chew." Yuuki said.

Thanks to Yuuki's power play, we were able to descend into the mountain crater. We found yet another portal that took us deeper into the mountain's depths. The portal took us to a series of cave like chambers filled with thorns and architecture from worlds that they didn't recognize. They were likely the remains of worlds that the heartless had taken. The last portal took us to a large cave with a glowing green floor and a heartless crest towards the back. Inky black pools of darkness appeared on the floor and the heartless crawled out of it. These heartless were similar to the shadow heartless in that their color was purely black and they had bright yellow eyes. But these shadows were humanoid and had long antennae on their heads that drooped down their backs like long hair. This new breed of shadow heartless were faster and stronger than their imp like predecessors. They had similar abilities and attack patterns, but the neo shadows had possessed a spin attack that allowed them to hurl their bodies horizontally through the air like a discus. Their claws were sharp enough to cleave through stone so we made sure to avoid the attack at all costs. As we defeated each heartless, a piece of the heartless crest at the back of the cave would crack and fall off. When we defeated the last one, the crest had completely vanished and in its place was a door made of light.

When our heroes entered the portal they found themselves in a small chamber with an ornate pink door in the back. When Sora approached said door he heard a voice "Careful, this is the last haven you'll find here. Beyond, there is no light to protect you. But don't be afraid. Your heart is the mightiest weapon of all. Remember, you are the one who will open the door to the light." the voice said.

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Chapter 47 Ansem Seeker of Darkness

When Sora opened the door, we were bathed in a bright golden light and transported to the last place they had expected. A white sandy beach with a bright blue sea, sky, and fluffy white clouds. The island was teaming with giant trees wider than a house and ramshackle walkways, docks, and store houses. Sora's eyes widened as he took in the familiar view. "Is this… is this my island?" He said aloud. "Your island? So this is the place you and your friends grew up?" Kirito asked. "Yeah, but it just feels off somehow. Look, the waterfall is all dried up. And the bridge connecting to the paopu tree is gone. And the paopu tree looks like it's dead!" Sora said. Looking at his favorite hangout spot in such poor condition saddened him. "What's a paopu tree?" Yuuki asked "Oh, right you weren't around for that talk." Asuna said. "Sora, if you want to talk more about it, we'd be willing to listen." Strea suggested. The former psychiatrist A.I. thought that getting Sora to talk about his home would bring his spirits up. And if this really was his island, he would know it best. "Well, the paopu tree is my favorite place to hang out with Riku and Kairi. The tree was bent so we could sit on it like a bench. And it grew this star shaped fruit." Sora said. "Star shaped fruit?" Donald parroted. "The paopu fruit. There's a legend behind it. They say that when two people share one, their destinies become intertwined. They'll be a part of each other's lives forever." Sora said. "Awwwww. That's so romantic. Kirito I want one." Asuna said. I think you're gonna have to wait Asuna." Kirito replied. Just after he spoke the rock where the paopu tree stood disappeared along with the tree itself. More and more Trees and foliage then began to disappear around the island. And the sea turned from a bright blue into a rancid purple color. Then the island itself began to shake. "This world has been connected." Ansem's voice rang out. "What was that?" Goofy asked. "Tied to the darkness…Soon to be completely eclipsed." "Come out! Show yourself!" Kirito demanded. "There is so very much to learn. You understand so little." "We'll beat you Ansem. No matter what!" Asuna said. "A meaningless effort. One who knows nothing can understand nothing." Ansem said.

The island was now suspended in the air. Chunks of rock and sand pulled out from the sea bed were removed and floating along the island edge. Reality itself seemed to have been twisted and pulled apart as the heartless world and the island began to merge. And on the island's outer edge stood Riku in his dark form. "Take a look at this tiny place. To the heart seeking freedom this island is a prison surrounded by water." However when 'Riku' spoke it was Ansem's voice coming out of his mouth. Then 'Riku' raised his hands in the air. "And so this boy sought out to escape from his prison. He sought a way to cross over into other worlds. And he opened his heart to darkness." Ansem said. As 'Riku' turned around a dark Aura enveloped his body and Ansem's body took his place. "Riku!" Sora cried out. "Don't Bother. Your voice can no longer reach him where he is. His heart belongs again to darkness. All worlds begin in darkness, and all so end. The heart is no different. Darkness sprouts within it, it grows, consumes it. Such is its nature. In the end, every heart returns to the darkness whence it came." Ansem said while teleporting behind us. "You see, Darkness is the heart's true essence." Ansem said. "That's not true! The heart may be weak. And sometimes, it may even give in. But I've learned that deep down, there's a light that never goes out!" Sora said. Ansem then levitated himself higher in the air. "So, you have come this far and still you understand nothing. Every light must fade, every heart return to darkness!" Ansem exclaimed. Then a heartless appeared behind Ansem as if he had called it. The heartless floating behind Ansem had was Humanoid with big muscular arms and pectorals. The heartless' head and chest were covered in bandages in an X shaped pattern, it had two large antennae on its head similar to the neo shadows, and its tail was ironically, connected to Ansem's shadow. There was also a large heart shaped hole in its chest.

The fight started with Ansem laughing as his heartless threw energy discs of energy at us. Having seen a similar attack from Riku everyone knew to dodge this attack. The discs continued their arc until they buried themselves in the sand leaving deep gashes in the earth. Ansem and his heartless were levitating throughout the entire battle only engaging one of us at a time. With Ansem's heartless at his back, attacks from behind were nearly impossible to pull off. At one point Strea had leapt into the air and swung her great sword at Ansem. Normally an attack like that would be difficult if not impossible to stop considering the blade's mass and the rate at which she was falling. However, Ansem called his heartless which he had dubbed guardian to protect him from the red-eyed girl. The guardian demonstrated its incredible strength by grasping the blade with one hand and tossing it and Strea towards the empty store house causing the door to break when she collided with it. "Strea!" Kirito called out. "I'm okay… but I'm kind of seeing stars right now." Strea said. Donald then cast a curaga spell on Strea to heal her. "Better?" Donald asked. "Thank you." Strea said while walking out of the building. "How are we supposed to beat that thing?" Asuna asked. "We may not have to. Remember how Ansem reacted to Strea's attack?" Kirito said. "What are you getting at?" Goofy asked. "The guardian went to Defend Ansem from the front and left his back exposed. So all we have to do, is attack Ansem while keeping it occupied." Kirito said. "Alright. Sora, Donald, Goofy, And Yuuki, you're team A. Keep Ansem busy while the rest of us on team B attack him while he's open. We'll switch roles when the guardian switches places. Got it?" Asuna ordered. "Yes!" everyone said.

With their strategy in place, our heroes set out to defeat Ansem. Team A was attacking Ansem from the front while team B provided support as needed. When Ansem called his guardian to protect his front, Team B attacked from behind. Only to have Ansem fly away from them. "Did you think I would fall for such a pitiful strategy like a common beast? Allow me to show you the gravity of your mistake!" Ansem said. He then flew before Kirito. "Submit!" Ansem ordered. The guardian Struck, condensed itself into a baseball sized dark sphere and entered Kirito's chest. "What'd you do?!" Kirito demanded. "Come, open your heart." Ansem responded. Ansem then engulfed himself in a cage like sphere of dark energy that sparked and crackled like electricity while slowly floating closer to his opponents. The guardian sprouted from Kirito's shadow, grabbing the swordsman's arms in its vice like grip and held him in place while its dark master floated closer to his intended victim. The cage grinded against Kirito sending volts of energy coursing through his body making it feel as if his body was on fire. The black swordsman gritted his teeth to keep himself from screaming in pain. "This process will become easier if you submit to my will. Just like Riku did." Ansem said. "You don't get it at all do you? You and Maleficent might have steered him wrong, but everything he did was to protect his friends. That means that there is a part of his heart that you can't touch. As long as that light burns in his heart and ours, you will never win!" Kirito said.

Suddenly gashes sprouted from the guardian's arms as though they had been cut. Light spilled out from the wounds and the guardian cried out in pain, releasing its prisoner, much to Ansem's surprise. "Impossible! No one has ever harmed my guardian! What manner of trickery is this?" Ansem ranted. 'I guess Ansem doesn't know that I've got my own "guardian". Thanks Eraqus, you really saved my skin.' Kirito thought. 'That's Master Eraqus to you. Now, I've weakened his guardian for you. Finish him before he recovers!' Eraqus commanded. "You don't have to tell me twice." Kirito said. He then pointed his Keyblade at Ansem. Light gathered at the blade's tip and a beam of blue light shot towards his foe. The beam pierced Ansem's chest causing him to be sent flying towards one of the island's large trees. His body disappeared and for a moment our heroes believed they had won. However the ground began to shake and the tree split itself in two. Revealing an area similar to the terrain of the heartless world. And right in the middle of it was Ansem.

After using items to restore their strength, Sora, Kirito, and Asuna ran to engage Ansem in battle once more. However after the three of them crossed the threshold of the heartless space, a barrier formed and prevented the rest of their party from joining the fight. Ansem opened a dark portal in the ground and sunk into its murky depths. Then the portal expanded and an enormous heartless emerged from it. The heartless was roughly two stories tall, humanoid, and had large muscles. Similar to Ansem's guardian, it had a large heart shaped hole in its chest. It had bright yellow eyes, a small pair of wings on its back, and its face was covered by its long hair like tendrils. "I recognize that heartless. It was there on the night my island disappeared. It made this big dark sphere that swallowed everything up." Sora said. "Big dark sphere… Kirito this is-" Asuna said before being cutoff. "The Heartless that can destroy worlds. Ansem just made this fight even more personal." Kirito said.

The Dark side heartless gathered energy in its fist and then sent it crashing to the ground. The resulting shockwave was followed up by a portal opening at the point of impact. The portal sprouted multiple shadow heartless to attack us. Kirito and Asuna dealt with the minions while Sora jumped on the giant's arm and ran up its length to attack its head. Sora must've already known that the head was a weak point if he was attempting to attack it. The giant heartless then stood back up, causing Sora to lose his balance and fall off of it. The heartless then knelt on the ground and plunged its arm into the ground again its head was low to the ground as though it was searching for something. Of course we attacked its head again while it was open to attack. The heartless then rose and pulled out a large dark sphere from the ground. It's offhand grasped the arm holding the dark sphere the heartless was concentrating to control the dark energy. It then sent the orb flying into the air and then it burst and released a rain of smaller dark spheres. The three of us cast the aeroga spell to mitigate any damage we received from the orbs in the event that we weren't able to dodge it. The heartless then concentrated more dark energy in the hole in its chest. The heartless crossed its arms over the hole to contain the energy, then it knelt to the ground. The energy reached its apex and the heartless unfurled its arms, releasing even more dark energy projectiles to attack us. The dark side heartless repeated this process of spawning shadow heartless and gathering energy to rain down on us until we defeated it.

After the dark side heartless vanished, a dark portal opened and Ansem emerged along with his guardian heartless, completely restored. "Take this!" Ansem exclaimed. His guardian floated in front of him, created an energy shield, and the two of them charged at us at blinding speed. They hit the three of us like a truck and ricocheted off of the arena walls to attack again. Fortunately Sora held out his keyblade to guard against the attack and stopped it in its tracks. The guardian then gathered energy in its hands and swung, unleashing two energy waves that traveled straight at us along the ground. Since the attack was fired at close range it proved difficult to avoid. Then Ansem Used attacks from our previous encounter such as having the guardian swipe at us with its fists and possessing our shadows to restrain us. However Ansem avoided using the possession technique on Kirito in order to avoid repeating whatever had caused harm to his guardian previously. We figured out that the cage magic he used to simultaneously attack us and defend himself only lasted for so long. And without his guardian to fight for him, Ansem was an easy target. We by figuring out the intervals between the possession technique and the cage attack, we were able to safely attack Ansem and defend whoever was possessed at the same time.

However, Ansem had one more attack up his sleeve. He moved to the center of the arena and his guardian flew into the ground. The guardian heartless then flew out of the ground unleashing a shockwave as it launched beneath our feet like a rocket. The guardian managed to grab Sora by his arms and took off with him. Then it came crashing down to the ground with Sora in tow. When they made contact, Sora hit the ground hard while the guardian went underground to continue its assault. Eventually the guardian returned to its master and released shockwaves of dark energy in all directions Asuna cast the curaga spell to heal Sora and get him back on his feet. The fight continued on in this manner until Ansem used his guardian's ultimate attack again. But this time our heroes were ready. Sora, Kirito, and Asuna surrounded Ansem in a triangular formation. Each of their swords raised while a golden light appeared in a magic circle beneath them. The guardian tried to attack Sora, but the seal of the circle kept it imprisoned. "What is this magic?" Ansem asked. "It's over Ansem." Kirito said. "This all powerful magic spell will be the last thing you see." Asuna said. "With our powers combined, we will light the darkness." Sora said. "TRINITY!" They said simultaneously. The light from the magic intensified and Ansem and his guardian were bombarded by the trinity's holy light.

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Chapter 48 The World Of Chaos

When the light from the trinity spell faded, Ansem was nowhere to be seen. The barrier to the arena lifted, allowing the rest of the party to join the Sora, Kirito, and Asuna in the dark area. "Is it over?" Donald asked. "You guys did beat him this time right?" Yuuki Asked. "He has to be gone. I mean, what could survive that attack you guys used?" Strea said. "But if anyone could, it would be him." Kirito said. "In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he was only using a fraction of his power." Kirito followed. "But why would he do something like that?" Goofy asked. "So he can surprise us with overwhelming power, and crush any hope we have left." Asuna said. "That does sound like something he would do." Kirito said. "But we still could've beaten him right?" Sora said hopefully. "Sora, look around you. If Ansem was really gone, then this place should be disappearing right before our eyes." Kirito said. Before Sora could respond however, the bright blue sky of destiny islands suddenly turned pitch black. The darkness was all consuming. Our heroes could barely see what was in front of them. "Wha-?" Sora gasped. "Behold the endless abyss! Within it lies the heart of all worlds: Kingdom Hearts!" Ansem's voice rang out. The only thing in the dark abyss that we could see however was a big white set of doors with stain glass windows. The door was standing tall on a small isle of gray rock. If one looked closely they could see the silhouette of a giant heart behind the doors. "Look as hard as you are able. You'll not find even the smallest glimmer of light. From those dark depths are all hearts born. Even yours." Ansem said.

As he spoke each of us were searching the black void for where Ansem might be. "Um Guys…" Yuuki said while pointing at something directly in front of us. When we turned to where she was pointing we saw what looked like a massive battleship shaped monstrosity. The hull of the ship was made of twisted discolored flesh. The deck was long and flat. Behind the deck was a dome shaped area containing what appeared to be some kind of organic power core. The ships figurehead was literally a giant head with yellow eyes, pointy chin, jagged teeth and veins popping out on its forehead. Beneath the figure head was a long pointy battering ram. Behind the ram was a lower set of wings carrying demonic heads along the length of each wing. Likely either for bombing or spraying fire over a widespread area. And above the core chamber was Ansem. His coat and shirt were gone leaving his muscular torso completely bare. His pants and boots were now outlined with a golden filigree of some kind. And he was carrying a double bladed halberd that looked like Riku's Soul eater sword. The blades were connected by the bottom of their handles. Ansems guardian had grown larger and more demonic in appearance. It had attached itself to the roof of the core chamber. It now had long sleeved arms with sharp pointy claws. Its insides were completely exposed. Its spinal column and ribcage were completely visible. And its intestines were connected to Ansem's back. Around its neck was a golden ring with dark red demonic heads on each end. The guardian's own head had sprouted long pointed horns. Its face was covered by a black mask that only exposed its bright yellow eyes along with its dark blue mouth and pointy white teeth. "Darkness, Conquers all worlds!" Ansem bellowed.

Since we no longer stood on solid ground, we all began to fall into the abyss. As if to spite us, Ansem opened a set of dark portals to swallow up our friends. Asuna, Strea, Yuuki, Donald, and Goofy were sucked into the portals. Leaving Sora and Kirito to fall into the abyss. As the two of them fell they began to wonder if this was really how it was going to end. Their friends were taken captive while they fell to the infinite darkness. Had Ansem actually triumphed in this battle of good and evil despite their effort? Then sora heard Riku's voice in his head. "Giving up already? Come on Sora, I thought you were stronger than that." Riku Said. Meanwhile Kirito was hearing master Eraqus in his head again. "You've done well to come this far Kirito. There is but one more obstacle for you to overcome. Now, go!" Eraqus said. And so, Sora and Kirito fell into the abyss. Only to come flying out of it seconds later. The two of them flew up to Ansem's level, Sora with his one keyblade, and Kirito with his keyblade and black sword in his hands, ready to take on Ansem.

Believing that Ansem himself was still the primary weak point, the two key bearers went to attack him. Ansem attacked with broad sweeping motions and spin attacks from his halberd. The two of them made sure to avoid the range of his blades entirely to avoid taking serious damage. He was only able to attack three to five times before he took a moment to rest. The two of them attacked Ansem during that time. However doing so was more difficult than anticipated on account of these dark spheres that fired lasers at us to keep us away. Ansem would also conjure up these little bat like heartless to defend himself. The bodies of these bats were tear shaped with pitch black skin and yellow eyes. Their only attacks were head butting us and they were quite agile. Sora opted to take out the bats while Kirito focused on attacking Ansem. Due to the near constant laser fire, it was difficult to pull of long combos like starburst stream and Ars Arcanum. Eventually the two of them wore Ansem down to the point where he retreated into his guardian's ribcage. A heartless crest appeared over his chest forming a barrier that we could not penetrate. Then a dark portal appeared in front of Ansem. Believing that they could find their friends if they entered it, our two wielders went inside.

The portal lead to a dark chamber with a heartless crest glowing a dark blue on the ground. In this chamber, they found Yuuki fighting off a hoard of shadow heartless. "About time you showed up!" Yuuki said while striking down another shadow. With the keyblade wielders at her side, the tide of battle shifted in their favor. Yuuki could fight these heartless all day, but without a keyblade, they would just keep popping back up. After the waves of shadows were defeated, a strange vein like organ with a blue glowing core at its center appeared. Sora struck at the organ and then it exploded. The dark portal opened and the three of them were able to exit the portal.

When the three of them exited the portal, they found that the battle ship had grown a number of organic cannons that fired ice and fire magic while Ansem's guardian waved its arms to create powerful gusts of wind to blow us away from it. After taking out these cannons one by one, another portal opened up and the three of them went inside. The area that they entered was identical to the one where they found Yuuki. But this time they found Goofy and Strea fighting off a hoard of dark balls. "Sora!" Goofy called. "Kirito!" Strea followed. The five of them were able to fight off the hoard of the heartless. Thus causing another organic core to show up, this time glowing yellow. Sora struck at the organ and it exploded again.

This time when the five of them exited the portal, the figure head of the battleship was moving as though it had a mind of its own and called lightning down from the sky to attack us. And more of the cannons from earlier spawned to aid its assault. Strea and Yuuki dealt with the cannons while Sora, Kirito, and Yuuki attacked the bulbous forehead of the monstrous figure head. The demon's head roared and unleashed more lightning to strike us periodically. After the cannons were destroyed, Yuuki and Strea joined the assault on the head. The two of them gouged out the head's eyes while Kirito stabbed both of his swords into the monster's massive cranium. The figure head let loose its last guttural roar before it went slack jawed and stopped moving entirely. Then another portal opened up in its massive maw.

Our heroes went into yet another dark chamber, this time locating Donald and Asuna who were fighting off a group of invisibles. "What took you so long?!" Donald asked angrily. "Just be glad that they're here Donald." Asuna said. With all of our heroes reunited, they were easily able to fight off the heartless hoard. Then another organic core showed up, this time glowing red. Sora destroyed it and the entire group was free to escape the dark chamber to take on Ansem. When we left the portal in the figure head's maw, the head exploded and left behind a purple stump from where it used to be. The barrier around the core chamber vanished allowing us to attack it. However there were even more magic cannons that we had to deal with before attacking the core itself. The primary core was a large deformed purplish organ with a glowing skull like face. Each of us attacked the core until it began glowing a bright light. We all flew away from the core as it exploded.

With the primary core destroyed, Ansem undid the seal that kept him safe in his guardian's ribcage to deal with to fight us. Ansem's fighting style hadn't change since their earlier bout when it was just Sora and Kirito. But now that the full party was here we were able to combat Ansem more effectively. Asuna and Donald made sure that each of us were protected by the aeroga spell. Goofy and Strea tanked any attacks that were heading their way, while Sora, Kirito, and Yuuki were attacking Ansem. The mouths on the guardian's main head and two smaller ones began to glow and Asuna could tell that the guardian was siphoning their magic for its own use. Fortunately they had brought plenty of ethers with them, so the magic drain was only a minor nuisance. Then Ansem held out his halberd skyward and a black hole formed that drew us in while simultaneously firing a rain of laser fire. Knowing that getting too close to that attack would be dangerous, team B flew away from Ansem's attack before it detonated. Between Ansem's attacks and the cover fire from his guardian, it was a very long battle. But our heroes came out on top when both Sora and Kirito dealt the final attack by slashing at Ansem's chest and leaving an X shaped gash where their keyblades connected. Light spilled out from the wounds and the guardian cried out in agony. With its master defeated, the ship exploded in a great ball of fire and the guardian was destroyed. Leaving only Ansem.

Ansem, now in his original form with his coat, gloves, and his previous set of pants and boots, floated before us. He grasped his aching shoulder with his right hand while his left arm hung limply at his side. "It is futile. The keyblade alone cannot seal the door to darkness." Ansem said. He then turned his back to us and reached his hand out towards the large white door in one swift motion. "Kingdom Hearts! Fill me with the power of darkness…" Ansem pleaded. The doors began to open at his command. As they slowly moved outwards shadows spilled from the cracks. "Supreme darkness…" Ansem said. "You're wrong! I know now, without a doubt, Kingdom Hearts… Is light!" Sora said. And just like that, a radiant light shined when the doors opened. Ansem winced as he was bathed in its holy glow. "Light… But… Why…?" he feebly asked. The light from the door intensified and it eradicated Ansem completely.

When the light faded our heroes flew towards the isle that the doors were standing on, landed, and ran towards the doors. Sora, Kirito, and Asuna pushed on the right side of the door while Donald, Goofy, Yuuki, and Strea pushed the left side. Despite their efforts, the doors barely moved when they pushed. At one point Goofy peaked inside the doors to see what was behind them. Donald berated goofy for his slacking but then he looked inside the doors himself. Behind the doors was a cave. And in that cave were hundreds of heartless. "The heartless!?" they cried. "Hurry! Asuna said. "It's too heavy." Kirito said. "I can't…" sora said. Then suddenly a gloved hand grabbed the door from the other side. "Don't give up!" he said. The hand in question belonged to Riku who was pulling the door from the other side. "Come on, Sora. Together we can do it." Riku said. With Riku's help the doors then began to move. It was then that Kirito recalled the database on Ansem's computer the door had to be closed from both sides. That's why they hadn't been able to move them until now. As the eight of them struggled to close the door, two Dark side heartless spawned on Riku's side of the door. Intent on stopping the door from being closed. "It's hopeless!" Donald screamed. However the two giants vanished nearly as soon as they appeared. A golden light shined like the sun and from that light, leapt a small person with big round ears and a mouse tail wearing red shorts, White gloves, and big yellow shoes. "Your, Majesty!" Donald and goofy called out. The mouse king then pulled out a Keyblade of his own. In appearance it was identical to Sora's. However the blade was gold, the piece connecting the blade to the hilt was red, and the hilt was silver. "Now, Sora! Let's close this door for good!" Mickey said.

"Close it, quick!" Donald said. "But…" Sora remarked "Don't worry. There will always be a door to the light." King Mickey said. "Sora, you can trust King Mickey." Goofy said. "If Goofy trusts him, that's good enough for me." Kirito said. "Now! They're coming!" Riku warned. "Donald, Goofy, Thank you." King Mickey said. As the doors closed, Riku made one last request of Sora. "Take care of her." He said smiling. Sora nodded in response and renewed his efforts to closing the door. When it closed a bright blue light flashed from the doors indicating that they were properly sealed. Sora leapt back ward and raised his keyblade in the air. Stars gathered around it as the weapon worked its magic into locking the door. On the other side of the door, Mickey was doing the same with his keyblade. The doors were enveloped in bright golden light, and then they vanished. Revealing a road into the great unknown.

As our heroes gazed heavenward, Sora began recalling the moments of friendship he had with Riku. How they just hung out at the docks and the paopu tree. And the noogies all of the noogies from Riku he had recieved on his spiky haired head. And the race they had the day before their adventure began. Those were memories that he would always cherish. When he turned around, he saw that Kairi was there with them but Sora knew that she was back on destiny islands by now, but by a stroke of Fate he had been allowed to see her one last time. Sora ran off to speak with her. Donald gained a sad look in his face and he attempted to call out to Sora, However Goofy placed his gloved hand on Donald's shoulder. Goofy understood exactly what Donald was feeling. Because he was feeling it to. But he knew that this was something Sora had to do. Kirito and the others watched with smiles on their faces as Sora went to speak with Kairi one last time they wished that they could have a similar send off with their friends and loved ones, but if only one of their group could have such a moment, they were glad it was Sora.

Kairi slowly backed away as the sand native to destiny islands she stood on slowly receded from the gray isle of rock Sora was at. The ground shifting caused her to lose her balance and nearly fall, but Sora caught her by her hand and helped right her balance. "Kairi, Remember what you said before? I'm always with you, too. I'll come back to you. I promise!" Sora said. Sora held onto Kairi's hand for as long as fate would allow and in the last moment before the two of them would be forced to let go, Kairi replied "I know you will!" and so the two of them let go. Sora remained in the abyss with his friends while Kairi was returned to destiny islands. Little specks of golden light fell from the sky like snow when they made contact with the ground, a spectacle of light erupted as the islands were restored. The trees along with the ramps, ladders and walkways literally sprouted from the ground. The ocean tide came in and as the light and Sora faded from Kairi's point of view, it looked as though stars were shooting out of the ocean back to their place in the night sky.

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Chapter 49 epilogue

A day has passed since the worlds and the walls dividing them were restored. The light of the sun shined down on the island that Kairi and her friends called home. The young red haired girl decided to visit the secret place where she and her friends would scribble on the walls. She crawled through the hole next to the waterfall and began walking through the cave. The cave consisted of only one room with a wooden door at the back. The door had been there for as long as anyone could remember but no one had been able to open it. Kairi began reminiscing as she gazed at the drawings she and sora had carved into the cave walls. Everything was exactly how she remembered it. All save one. She remembered drawing Sora's head while he drew hers on the wall, but something was added to it. Beneath the depiction of sora's head was an arm stretched out towards her head. In his hand he was holding a star. Likely a paopu fruit from the tree they hung out at. Seeing this new addition filled her heart with joy. She smiled and tears rolled down her cheeks. "Oh, Sora…" Kairi said. After her tears stopped, she grabbed a rock and began carving her own arm and paopu fruit into the picture.

Thanks to the efforts of our heroes, all of the worlds taken by the heartless were restored. Everyone who had lost their world was returned to their home. The princesses returned to their loved ones. Pinochio had become a flesh and blood boy and lived the rest of his days with his father Geppetto in Traverse Towne. Kirito's sister and his other friends returned to Japan. Lisbeth and Silica went back to their routine of going to school and playing games together. Suguha had gained a sparring partner in Philia who came to visit and train with her in her family dojo. Agil and his wife Cathy returned to the dicey café and reopened their business after their forced departure. And last but not least, Yui had stayed in Hollow bastion with Leon, Cid, Yuffie, Aerith, and now Cloud and Merlin.

Cloud ventured to hollow bastion when the games at Olympus coliseum ended. And Merlin sought out to reclaim his previous abode in Hollow Bastion. Now that the black hole created by the heartless was gone, the ocean that encompassed everything but Ansem's castle had receded. Leaving a dark blue valley that stretched out for miles. If one looked closely, they could see the remains of an old town. Yui believed that Hollow bastion would be the first place that Sora and her parents would go when they returned. So until that day came, she would patiently wait for them while helping leon's group restore Hollow bastion to what it once was. She would also go on to study magic and science under the tutelage of Cid and Merlin. For a time, everything was peaceful. The forces of darkness were defeated. But they knew that this period of peace would one day be broken when the heartless returned.

Our heroes found themselves walking down a dirt road surrounded by a large grassy field. For some reason, Donald and Goofy's clothes had changed after leaving the abyss. Donald was now wearing a blue sailor's suit with red bow tie and a cap with a black tassel. Goofy was wearing an orange turtleneck sweater, yellow vest, blue jeans, brown loafers, and a tall green hat with a black hat loop. Sora was walking between the two of them with his hands held behind his head and walking like this was an ordinary stroll in the park while the rest of us were walking behind the trio. "Well, now what do we do?" Donald asked. "We've gotta find Riku and King Mickey." Sora said. "But, uh, where do we start lookin' for that there door to the light?" Goofy asked. Goofy had just asked a very difficult question. One that not even Sora or Kirito could answer at the moment. We walked for a while each trying tome up with our own solution. But we all slumped when we couldn't come up with anything. It was then that a large dog with bright yellow fur, a green collar, black droopy ears, and long thin black tail walked across the field and on to the dirt road.

The dog was carrying a white envelope with a green mouse seal on it. "Pluto?" Donald called. The dog then turned his attention towards us when his name was called. "Hey, Pluto. Where have you been?" Goofy asked. "You guys know this dog?" Kirito asked. "Uh-huh. Pluto is King Mickey's loyal pal." Goofy said. "He's got something in his mouth." Asuna said. "Gawrsh, that's the king's seal!" Goofy said. "Hey, Have you seen king mickey?" Sora asked. After everything they had seen thus far, Kirito half expected the dog to speak in a rich British accent like Charles Dickens. Instead Pluto simply turned and ran further along the road. Since Pluto was our only lead at the moment we ran after the golden dog. Perhaps if they followed Pluto he would take them to the king or a way back home. That letter could provide the very clue they needed. With our spirits renewed, we ran after that dog from dawn until dusk. When we managed to catch Pluto, we grabbed the letter and opened it up. It simply read, "Remember Sora. You are the one who will open the door to the light."

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