: Of Responsibility and Childish WantFandom
: Kingdom HeartsClaim
: [071.] PatienceWord Count
: Riku wanted to be back in the safe familiarity of Hollow Bastion with busted water lines and infected computer programs. He was supposed to be growing up.Disclaimer
: I own absolutely nothing related to the Kingdom Hearts franchise. I’m sure it shows.
On the computer screen, Roxas regarded Donald and Goofy; he looked at the next door with hesitation. DiZ typed something into the computer; he stood and walked toward the data projection machine. Riku took the vacated chair as Roxas entered the large, blinding white room where Sora was fast asleep in the center. DiZ was standing before the pod as Roxas approached.
“At last,” said DiZ, “the Keyblade’s chosen one.”
“Who are you talking to?” said Roxas. “Me? Or Sora?”
“To half of Sora, of course,” DiZ answered. “You reside in darkness. What I need is someone who can move about the realm of light and destroy Organization XIII.”
“Why? Who are you?”
“I am a servant of the world. And if I’m a servant, then you should consider yourself a tool, at best.”
“Was that . . . Was that supposed to be a joke? ‘Cause I’m not laughing!”
Roxas called the Keyblade to him and rushed forward, tried to attack, but it simply cut through the data projection leaving DiZ unharmed.
“My apologies,” said DiZ. “This is only a data-based projection.”
Roxas screamed and attempted to hack away at DiZ. It only slashed through the data, harmlessly. The projection of DiZ disappeared and then reappeared behind him.
“Come, over here,” said DiZ.
“I hate you so much...” Roxas swung the Keyblade as if to punctuate the point.
“You should share some of that hatred with Sora. He’s far too nice for his own good.”
Roxas swung the Keyblade again. “No! My heart belongs to me!”
He ran forward a second time and tried to attack the projection, but it disappeared again, and when it did the pod in which Sora was contained cracked open to reveal him inside. Roxas held the Keyblade poised and stared up at the face he’d seen so often in his dreams.
“Sora,” he said. Roxas lowered the Keyblade and stepped closer, his eyes focused on nothing but Sora floating in the pod. “You’re lucky,” said Roxas. “Looks like my summer vacation is...over.”
“DiZ!” Riku shouted.
“You’re going to the World that Never Was, right? To check up on Organization XIII?”
“Correct,” said DiZ. “We have to discover what they’re up to and guide Sora along the way. That irksome redhead is bad enough.”
“I agree, and I’ll meet you there, but there’s something I have to do first. Loose ends I need to tie up.”
“This isn’t negotiable. You go on ahead, scope out their stronghold, and come up with a strategy. I’ll only be a day. Two at the most.”
“All right, but first you need to tie up some loose ends here.” DiZ motioned to Naminé. “She needs to be disposed of and we can’t just let Axel wander around back to Organization XIII. He will need to be destroyed.”
“He’s gone,” said Axel, leaning over the railing.
“I suppose we’re next,” said Naminé.
“You don’t have any place to go, do you?” said Axel. “And you don’t have anywhere to go back to, right? Things like that don’t exist for guys like us.”
“Hmm...” said Naminé. “That’s right. There is no place for me. Still...I have some places I want to go...I have some people I want to see.”
“Yeah,” said Axel, “same here.” He glanced over to Riku and flashed a smirk. “So why don’t you just let us go? That old guy told you to get rid of us, didn’t he?”
“Go,” said Riku.
“You don’t think you should accomplish your goal right here?” said Axel.
“I owe you two,” said Riku.
“You do?” said Naminé.
“Yes. For what happened at Castle Oblivion, and for everything.”
“Okay, thanks then,” said Axel. He opened a dark portal and looked at Naminé, waiting. She glanced at Axel, directed a long look at Riku, and then glanced at her drawing.
“I’m sorry,” she said and stood. Riku swallowed, shut his eyes, opened them again, and turned to see Naminé first, and then Axel, walk into the darkness. The portal closed behind them.
“You never did anything wrong,” said Riku.
Riku gasped and shot up, back rod-straight, sucking in heavy breaths. Sweat collected on his brow; his heart raced. Something wet collected in the corners of his eyes—could’ve been tears, could’ve been the perspiration. His heart pounded erratically against his ribcage. He blinked, squinted, willed his eyes to take in as much of the moonlight streaming through the window as physically possible. One blind hand grasped around for the cigarette pack on his nightstand only to find it missing. He tried to think for a moment, but all his thoughts blurred and ran together like water-stained ink.
The disorientation gave after a few short seconds, but in Riku’s warped state it stretched for minutes. He sat up and raked his fingers through his hair. His cigarettes weren’t on the nightstand because his nightstand was back on Destiny Islands. It wasn’t all a nightmare; he was in Hollow Bastion. He had captured Roxas, taken him to DiZ, and helped integrate the Nobody back into his best friend, Sora. Riku was supposed to destroy Naminé, because she was just a Nobody, and Axel, because he was a Nobody, too, but mostly because he was a nuisance working for Organization XIII. He hadn’t been able to do it, and then he came here. He stayed two nights, but he needed to meet up with DiZ. Riku was leaving in...He checked the clock on Cloud’s nightstand. Three a.m. He was leaving for the World That Never Was in five hours to meet up with DiZ.
Riku sighed and took a long breath. He threw his legs over the edge of the bed and padded out the door; the kitchen was deserted. Riku took a seat at the counter and lit one of Leon’s cigarettes. He stared across the living room to one of the windows looking outside and over Hollow Bastion.
It must have been a sad state his subconscious was in to be having dreams like that. They weren’t really nightmares, exactly—just reliving memories of things that had already happened. Riku’s life recently, however, had been so hellish that they might as well have been nightmares. His stomach flopped—rose and fell—whenever he thought of Axel or Naminé. It wasn’t that Riku ever needed to see them again. He knew he’d see Naminé again, anyway, because she was part of Kairi, but he wondered where they were. He hoped they were okay. He prayed they had the good sense to clear off into hiding, because if they hadn’t Riku shouldn’t have even bothered to spare them. They’d get caught in the crossfire eventually—the two rebel Nobodies behaving as they did. Axel was too loud, brash, obnoxious; Naminé too caring, insistent, and nosy. Riku’s pardon would only delay the inevitable. No matter how he prayed, though, a part of him suspected he would see both again and soon. It was the same natures that would be their downfall that would prohibit either from even entertaining the thought of hiding.
Riku took another look at the clock, a deep breath, and mentally reviewed his agenda for the day. He was going to the World That Never Was. He was not going to think about Axel or Naminé. He was not going to think about Cloud having Geostigma. He was going to stay positive before the piece of Ansem/Random Guy’s Heartless in his heart—already spread enough to make him look the way he did—took over again. Riku already refused to play a puppet to Ansem; he certainly wasn’t going to let Random Guy’s Heartless take him again. Riku rubbed his head. He needed to get back on topic. He probably needed more sleep; Riku had gone to bed early after a short call with Cloud, but his sleep was forever fitful these days.
Riku cast his eyes toward the hallway that led to Leon’s bedroom. This was the point where Leon would wake up (either because he heard Riku rustling around, too perceptive even in sleep, or because he couldn’t sleep either), and they’d sit together, smoke, have a good conversation, and Riku could go back to sleep relaxed. Leon didn’t come. He stared at the hallway harder, mentally willing Leon to wake. Riku knew that he could have just gone into Leon’s room to wake him or banged around the kitchen until he woke, but that would have been awfully kindergarten of him, right? He was supposed to be pulling himself together, growing up. The best way to undo all of that was to cry at Leon’s sleeping side because he had nightmares. If he were back on Destiny Islands he might have woken Ayumi, but she was his sister, and it was okay to be childish around her because she’d always think of him as a child, anyway. Leon...Riku stared at the hallway. Leon didn’t come.
He sighed, put out his cigarette, and walked back to the bedroom. His head pounded as the door slammed behind him.
“Breakfast is ready,” said Leon. He switched on the lamp, assaulting Riku’s half-closed eyes. “Time to get up.”
Riku groaned, rolled onto his back, and blinked.
“Good morning to you, too,” he mumbled.
“You better come eat before it’s cold.”
Leon disappeared through the bedroom door. That was so like Leon—failing to show when you wanted him and barging in when you didn’t. Sometimes Leon was on target, but for the most part, he was a failure at good timing. Riku rubbed his eyes, struggled to his feet, and drudged into the kitchen.
“Rough night?” said Leon.
“Why do you ask?” said Riku. He sat before a plate of sausage and eggs; steam still rose from it.
“You left my cigarettes on the counter. I assumed you woke up at some point.”
Leon frowned. “Sora?” he said as he sat across from Riku at the bar. “Cloud? Ansem?”
“Eh,” said Riku. “DiZ, Naminé, Axel, but it’s all the same, isn’t it? And why would I be having nightmares about Cloud?”
“Oh. I mean...”
“Ah,” said Riku, nodding. He smiled at the tight grimace that pulled Leon’s features. “Zack. Geostigma. Sephiroth. Yeah, I had one of those, too, but you woke me out of that one.”
Leon frowned. “Well I’m glad to be of service...”
“It’s okay,” said Riku. “Really.”
“So other than that...”
“Really. It’s okay. So what do you have on the agenda today?”
Leon shrugged. “Depends on what’s working.”
“The story of the Hollow Bastion Restoration.” Riku smirked. “It’d go so much easier if things would just work like they’re supposed to.”
“Yeah. Tell me about it. We found a new way to get down into Ansem...”
“The real Ansem.”
“Yeah. The real Ansem’s study, so we don’t have as bad of a problem with the Heartless, but I can’t find shit in there that tells us a damn thing. I feel like I’m missing something. It’s like we just aren’t looking closely enough, but fuck me if I can figure out what it is.”
Riku smirked. “Is that a promise?”
“Is what...Oh, shut up. You’re terrible.”
“I’m sorry! You walked right into that one.”
“I did, didn’t I?”
“I considered not even taking advantage of it for half a second, but it was just hanging there...I couldn’t help myself. So? Is it?”
“I don’t think Cloud would like where this conversation is heading.”
“Oh, Cloud’s dying. Who cares what he likes?”
Leon’s eyes softened. “Is this your twisted way of dealing with that?”
“Yes. Flirt with me.”
“Flirting. Flirting. In case you can’t tell, I’m flirting.”
“No wonder you can’t get a date.”
Leon smirked and flicked a small bit of egg across the counter.
“Don’t make me food-fight you,” said Riku. “I’m practically a champion.”
“Bantering with people always makes me feel better.”
“Cloud isn’t going to die.”
“Are you trying to make me feel bad again?”
“No. I’m just letting you know in case you couldn’t figure it out for yourself. He’s too stubborn to die. He wouldn’t be able to whine anymore.”
Riku tried to smile but it felt forced and weak on his lips. His stomach flip-flopped again. “Yeah, right.”
“You’ve gotta believe it or you’re just encouraging him when he starts giving up. That’s not going to do anyone any good. From my experience with Cloud over the years, it’s best to get yourself convinced now if you’re ever going to convince him later.”
“Maybe you should convince him. That’s your job, right?”
“I think it’d be better coming from you. Consider this training.”
“Training to kick Cloud’s ass into shape. Yeah. After all, I’ve got to hand him off to you one day. Can’t do it myself forever. I might get myself into a relationship of my own one of these days.”
Riku sighed. “Fair enough. If it’s for the sake of your sexual future, I’ll heed your advice.”
Leon cracked a smile. “My sexual future thanks you. And what’s on your agenda for the day?”
“Oh, nothing much. Going to a world that isn’t supposed to exist, meeting up with a guy with a bandaged head, and spying on Nobody. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?”
“I’m dreading this enough to chew my own legs off.”
“Don’t do that. Cloud’ll never forgive me if I sit here and let you do that.”
“You sure that’s it? You did invite me to fuck you, and unless you’re into amputees...”
“I didn’t invite you to fuck me!”
“Yes, you did! You said ‘fuck me’ and...”
“Listen, bottom boy, you can chew off your legs all you want. I’m going to get dressed.”
“Is the banter getting to be too much for you?”
“Only in the way where if I stay here with you much longer, I’m going to be late.”
“Because we’ll be fucking?”
“Don’t make me tell Cloud about this conversation.”
Riku’s smirk drained. “You wouldn’t.”
“Of course I wouldn’t. Cloud would castrate me before he castrated you.”
Riku nodded. “Yeah, you’re right. He’s a good boyfriend like that.” Leon stood and took the empty plates over to the sink. Riku stole a cigarette from Leon’s pack and lit one. “You know I’m just kidding right? I wouldn’t ever do anything that would jeopardize my relationship with Cloud.”
Leon paused. He turned back toward Riku, water in the sink still running, and pressed his lips together. He smiled. “I know you’re kidding...”
Riku raised his eyebrows. His heart pounded in his chest. “But?”
Leon’s smile grew a little. He shut off the sink, grabbed Riku’s cigarette out of his hand, and took a drag before handing it back. “But I still think you’re hot for me,” he said, exhaling.
Riku glared. “You’re an asshole.”
“It’s okay. I understand.”
“Well it seems your ego is in no need of inflating.”
“You say that like yours is.”
Leon laughed and headed out of the kitchen. Riku stared into the ashtray and then turned.
Leon stopped where he was by the hallway and turned back. “Yeah?”
“We’re okay, right? That wasn’t anything serious. We were just...Nothing changed, right?” Leon regarded Riku and sighed. He walked back into the kitchen, retook his seat at the bar, and grabbed a cigarette. Riku paled. “Oh, God...”
“What’s wrong?” said Leon.
“I just...I didn’t mean anything by asking. I just wanted to make sure we were on the same page and...”
Leon took a long drag and exhaled. “Look, I flirt a lot, and it used to get me in trouble a lot.”
“I’m not asexual, Riku,” said Leon, scowling.
“I didn’t think you were. Kind of detached from humanity, however...”
“A lot of bad shit happened and I changed a lot. Adolescence was not the happiest time for me.”
“Is it for anyone? Seriously? Because mine is sucking pretty badly, and from what I understand, Cloud’s was shit, too.”
“I don’t know. I think it sucks for everyone but some of us have things a little more fucked up than normal.”
“So what’s this have to do with what just happened here with us?”
“I like to flirt. I’d flirt with just about everyone if they’d let me.”
“Riku, really, I’m not asexual. I’ve been in relationships.”
“I believe you. I just...You don’t talk much. It’s kind of hard to believe you’re a flirt. That’s all I’m saying.”
“The point is it doesn’t really mean anything to me. And from what I can tell from you, you’re not exactly picky about who you flirt with, either. It’s probably second nature to flirt with your friends.”
Riku shrugged. “I used to flirt with Sora all the time. He never got it, but then again Sora isn’t exactly quick on the uptake.”
“Yeah, I’ve noticed. He’s sweet, though.”
Riku smiled. “Yeah. He is.”
“Anyway, the point is that it’s not weird for either of us to flirt and it shouldn’t change anything, but it gets complicated when you hang someone like Cloud—who wouldn’t know how to flirt with the script in front of him—between us. I think, however, that we’ve all overcome that, Cloud included, so I don’t think we can blame this one on him this time. Sure, he might be upset if he heard about it, but I think we’ve bullied him enough that he can now calm himself down and remember that there’s nothing going on between us. That means the real question is what’s wrong with you.”
Riku shrugged. “I don’t know. I feel uneasy, and scared, and insecure. I’m mad about Zack. I’m scared he’s going to die. I don’t know what I’m going to do if he dies. I really don’t. And ordinarily I probably wouldn’t think twice about flirting with anyone, but knowing that he’d be upset...I feel fucked up. I don’t know what the hell is wrong with me. Maybe it’s because I know how he feels about you and me, but...I think just miss him, you know? I miss being with him, and the affection, and now he might die and I’m going away, too, to chase after Organization XIII.” Riku sighed and rubbed his thumb against the counter. He groaned. “Oh, shit. I just made you play relationship therapist again, didn’t I?”
Leon’s frown morphed into a smirk. “Hey, just be grateful I don’t charge.”
Riku released a weak laugh. “I am. I’m more grateful that you’re still putting up with it.”
“It’s not easy. Listen, I know the long-distance thing is hard. I know it’s even harder right now because you have the threat of death added to everything else you two already have thrown on you. It’s going to be a fucking miracle if you make it through all of this together; the stress is enough to tear you apart. And even when everything is over, it’s going to be hard aftermath. You’re both so pig-headed it’ll take ages for you to be okay with your past. The thing you have going for you, however, is that you both take every opportunity you have to make all the bad stuff bring you closer. That’s a fucking rarity, which either means you both love each other way too much to give up, or you’re both so fucking stubborn you don’t care how masochistic it all really is.”
Riku laughed. Leon smiled.
“Whatever the reason,” Leon continued, “if you keep turning shit into sunshine, things are bound to clear up in the end. Right?”
Riku snorted. “Turning shit into sunshine?”
“Yeah. You lose your heart; Cloud fails to finish off Sephiroth...again. What do you two do? Spend months here canoodling, falling over yourselves, and waking up half the neighborhood. You run off without a good-bye, start looking like Ansem who isn’t ‘Real Ansem,’ and Cloud starts talking picket fences. Zack’s back from the dead, Cloud’s dying, and you’re here crying because you miss him trying to flirt somewhat poorly with you. You two are either demented in what gets you going or very well suited for each other.”
“Maybe a bit of both.”
“Now do you feel better?”
“Good. Just be patient, okay? Everything will work out.”
“Patience was never one of my strongest suits.”
“Then I guess you’re going to learn fast. I’m really going to get dressed now and you’re going to stop procrastinating. Mr. Bandage Head is waiting for you to spy on Nobody.”
“I’ll be back soon.”
“Just not too soon because the longer your relationship goes on, the more fucked up your problems get.”
“It’s not my fault this time!”
“I know. It’s Cloud’s turn.”
“It’s not his fault, either!”
“We’re cool. Go play hero.”
Riku huffed and watched Leon disappear down the hallway.
The walk through the corridors of darkness from Hollow Bastion to the World That Never Was felt shorter the second time around, but Riku thought that this may have had something to do with the fact he knew where he was going this time. The first time he’d gone this way—when he picked up and left Hollow Bastion—Riku had just wandered until he ran into DiZ and then blindly found his way. This time Riku knew exactly where he was going. For whatever reasons, his senses seemed sharper than last time—more acute. Perhaps it was the blindfold training, but the scent of light and dark were sharper than ever. He swore he could smell the difference between Hollow Bastion and Twilight Town, both of which had darker scents than normal, but in distinctly different ways. Hollow Bastion was warmer than Twilight Town, which had an acrid, bitter scent that Riku hadn’t before noticed.
It had to be near evening when Riku arrived in the World That Never Was. His nose, acute to the smells of this place thanks to his training for capturing Roxas, picked out DiZ’s location within the first five minutes. Nothing much had changed since he was last here as he headed toward an alleyway near where he had stayed with Cloud but at a bit more distance away (DiZ, it seemed, proceeded with more caution than Riku when spying on Organization XIII). Riku was swarmed by Heartless; he swung Way to the Dawn, fended them off, and slipped into the small house. He discarded his Keyblade immediately to keep his heart from calling out to the Heartless. Riku turned around and jumped. DiZ regarded him from a corner in the room.
“It’s about time you showed up,” DiZ said. “I was starting to think you changed your mind.”
“You scared me,” said Riku. “I didn’t see you there.”
“Obviously. So was there a purpose to your delay or were you just wasting time?”
Riku was immediately reminded of everything he hated about DiZ. With everything that had happened in the few days since he’d last him, Riku had almost forgotten, but now he scowled.
“I told you there was something I had to do and I went to do it.” The remark had more of a bite to it than he meant it to, but DiZ was as callous as ever, and Riku couldn’t help but sneer.
“So you have nothing to report?”
“I saw Sora while I was away if that means anything.”
DiZ looked mildly surprised. “You talked to him?”
“No, I saw him.”
“Well, that’s something. Where?”
“Hollow Bastion. He was there for less than an hour before he took off again. Oh, yeah...There were members of Organization XIII there, too. They called him Roxas, or said something about Roxas—I don’t know, this is a second-hand account—there was something to do with Roxas, and Sora concluded they were just trying to mess with him.”
DiZ sighed, brought a hand to his mouth, and stared at the floor. He glanced up.
“Well, at least that’s some useful information, even if you came by it by coincidence.” DiZ paused, mouth slightly agape, and looked in the direction of Organization XIII’s stronghold. “They are trying to confuse him. Losing Roxas and the Keyblade has been a great loss for them, especially after the dent Sora put in their numbers at Castle Oblivion. Now that he’s awake, he’s going to be in their way. They’ll do anything they can to get rid of him. That’s why our job is so important.”
“So what is our job? I know you said we’d be watching them and helping Sora out, but how are we going to do that?”
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve sensed the remaining Organization members coming and going through dark corridors. Our primary focus should be keeping tabs on those comings and goings. We need to find out where they’re going and what they’re doing.”
“I think it’s best if we split them up between us. We need to focus on all of the remaining six members, but the four we really need to concentrate on go by the names Xigbar, Xaldin, Luxord, and Demyx.”
“Why those four?”
“They’re the ones doing all the field work. All six left together just yesterday, but that must have been the visit to Sora you mentioned.”
“What about Saix?”
DiZ calmly regarded Riku. “You sound concerned.”
“I just...ran into Saix before I collected Roxas. He isn’t...”
DiZ nodded. “Hm. Yes. He’s going to be trouble, but both he and the Organization’s Superior stay inside the castle most of the time. They have, at the least, hardly left this world unlike the others. I believe they are required here for whatever it is they’re planning. We’ll both need to keep eyes and ears on them while we’re here. If either of them leaves on their own, however, you can trail Saix since you’re so concerned about him. Leave Xemnas to me.”
“Xemnas is the Organization’s leader.”
“So what’s the information on the other four? I know you’ve got to have some.”
“As far as I can tell from the data I’ve collected in Castle Oblivion and since I’ve been here, Demyx is the least threatening. I’m leaving him to you. You’ll love him.”
“I don’t like the sound of that,” said Riku, sneering again. “What’s the catch?”
DiZ gave him one of his annoying smirks. “He’s very...carefree.”
“He’s going to annoy me, isn’t he?”
“You’ll like him.”
“That’s a yes.”
“His attacks are water-based and he uses a sitar to control water and create water forms, although he seems to have a general distaste for fighting in general. I doubt if he should become aware of your presence that he’ll fight you. His flight instinct dominates.”
“He’s going to annoy me. Fantastic.”
“I’m leaving you with Demyx because I’m also assigning you to Xigbar.”
“And what do I need to know about him?”
DiZ took a breath. “He’s tough. Very casual and laid-back, but arrogant. Cocky.”
“His attacks? His weapon?”
“Some sort of elaborate guns I haven’t seen before. Two of them. His most common attack is a rapid fire of laser arrows, but he does have a more powerful, charged version. He’s also fond of combining both guns into one for a sniper attack. He can manipulate gravity and space. He has the capability to teleport in a given area, and he knows how to take advantage of his battle field.”
“So don’t get into a fight with him. Got it.”
“Yes, I’d prefer it if you didn’t.”
Riku sighed. “Okay.”
“And there’s one more assignment.”
“I’m taking three?”
“Well, technically, you also have Saix and I, Xemnas. You have Xigbar and Demyx. I’m taking Xaldin and Luxord. So we’re actually even at three a piece up to this point.”
“And that’s six. So who else is there?”
DiZ regarded him with a frown. “You should know better than anyone.” Riku sighed and waited; DiZ gave him a pointed stare. “Axel.”
Riku bit his lip, glare fading. “Oh.”
“And since you like him so much, I think it’s only fitting that he’s your responsibility.”
DiZ nodded. “Now that that’s settled...”
“I haven’t seen or felt either’s presence. I wouldn’t even know that you disregarded my orders, but the Organization has declared Axel traitor for his failure to secure Roxas. I leave it to you to find his location and be knowledgeable of his actions. If you insist on sparing his meager existence, you must be prepared to deal with the consequences. I don’t even want to think about what he’ll try if it would separate Roxas from Sora again, and that’s something we can’t afford to happen.”
“And what happens if the Organization finds him first?”
DiZ shrugged as much as DiZ ever did and said calmly, “Eliminate him, most likely. It wouldn’t be a bad thing; it would negate your failure to follow orders and we would have one less thing to concern ourselves with. Unfortunately, if he is eliminated before we discover his location, it will be harder to uncover and rectify whatever he’s done when we weren’t watching him.”
Riku stared at the floor. So Axel and Naminé were in hiding, or at least in hiding from the Organization and DiZ, because the only thing DiZ had in common with the Organization was a mutual desire to see Axel and Naminé destroyed. At least Riku hoped that was the only thing DiZ and Organization had in common, or else he was in for more trouble than he’d bargained for.
How was he going to find Axel when he could be anywhere? It was something like looking for Sora after they were first separated, and that had never panned out. He only started running into Sora after he started officially working for Maleficent, and there was no coincidence there. Cloud never ran into Sephiroth by accident. If Riku were Axel, where would he go?
From what Riku understood, the relationship Axel had with Roxas was frighteningly similar to the relationship Riku had with Sora. Logic only followed that Axel would be looking to kidnap Sora, and try to forcibly separate Roxas from him again, much like Riku had pursued Roxas and shoved him back into Sora’s soul. So either Axel would gallivant all over the worlds trying to track down Sora’s location, or he’d look for a way to lure Sora to him. With no resources to find Sora that Riku knew of the latter was the more realistic option, but what would Axel use? Riku, himself, was no good, and as far as he knew, Kairi was safe on Destiny Islands...
Destiny Islands. And it’d be easy for Axel to find her, having Naminé by his side and she being Kairi’s Nobody. So it was a good possibility that Axel might get the idea to capture Kairi and go to Destiny Islands eventually. Riku might have patted himself on the back for being so smart except for the little snag where Riku had no idea how to find Destiny Islands again, which meant he had to find Axel and Naminé first, before they got to Kairi. He had just gone in a circle. If Riku were Axel before he resorted to going after Kairi on Destiny Islands, where would he be? It would have helped if Riku had paid a little more attention to Axel and a little less time ragging on Hayner back in Twilight Town.
“I need to eat,” said Riku. “It’s been a long, draining day coming here.”
DiZ motioned his head toward a doorway leading to the back of the house.
“The kitchen is back there. I made sure to stock up on provisions. I have the unfortunate feeling we might be here for some time.”
Riku wandered into the kitchen and dug around the scratched, beaten cupboards. DiZ’s provisions were mostly dry and canned foods. The only means for cooking anything was a stove Riku feared might give him tetanus if he got too close with an open wound. He resorted to a bag of soup crackers, and pulled his phone out as he munched on them. He knew he’d told Cloud it might be a day or two until they spoke again, but he really didn’t want to wait. His head spun; he wanted to be back in the safe familiarity of Hollow Bastion with busted water lines and infected computer programs. He dialed Cloud’s number and the phone rang four times before his voicemail answered. Riku tried two more times; Cloud never answered.
His forehead fell into the palm of his hand and his stomach lurched. Riku pushed away the bag containing his measly dinner and huffed. Rational thinking told him that Cloud was probably busy. With Sephiroth, that Kadaj guy, and Reno, Cloud had a lot to do in Gaea these days. The likelihood of it having anything to do with Zack or the Geostigma was slim. He could have even been sleeping. It was hard to tell what time it really was in the World That Never Was. Still, Riku wished he could have heard his voice. Unload a little of what he’d just learned and deduced. See if Cloud, forever skilled in hunting after Sephiroth, had any ideas on where to go. He probably shouldn’t call Leon, having just left this morning. Leon wasn’t his boyfriend, and Riku burdened him enough.
Riku needed to make more friends. This was ironic considering how many he’d had back on Destiny Islands—or at least people he called friends. He’d only had a few real friends—friends like Leon had become, and Sora was one of them. He couldn’t call Sora, though, and not only because Riku highly doubted Sora even owned a cell phone.
“Do you feel that?” said DiZ.
Riku uncovered his eyes and stared up at DiZ who was standing in the doorway. When had he come in? Riku hadn’t even heard him.
“The slight shift in atmospheric pressure. The air’s scent has changed as well.”
Riku shut his eyes and focused on his senses; he felt it. The pressure in the air was slightly heavier; the scent permeating through this world was a little darker. Riku opened his eyes again.
“Someone’s just opened a corridor into the darkness,” said Riku.
DiZ nodded. “Very good. Can you smell the presence with it—the one who opened it?”
Riku closed his eyes again. It was a Nobody, of course—one of the Organization members. They all has similar smells to them, being what they were (Naminé’s scent was the weakest yet; Axel was the strongest), but Riku’s nose had become increasingly more acute searching for Roxas. He nodded.
“Yeah. It’s hard to get it exactly—it’s faint—but I smell it.”
“That’s Xigbar. I’d commit his scent to memory if I were in your position, but first...”
“I should go after him,” said Riku.
“Precisely. It’s just as well. Xaldin is already on the move. I was about to tell you I was leaving to go after him when I smelled Xigbar open a second portal.”
Riku frowned. “What should I do?”
“Follow him, but keep your distance. Don’t get too close; you’ll have to keep tabs on him by scent alone. If he becomes aware of your presence, flee immediately. For now we just need to know where he’s going and a vague sense of what he’s doing if you can manage it.”
Riku nodded, closed up the bag of soup crackers, and left it on the table. He stood and held out a hand; DiZ mirrored the action.
“I’ll meet you back here tomorrow afternoon at the latest,” said DiZ.
“All right,” said Riku as two dark portals opened. He stepped inside and the small kitchen faded away behind him.
) for previous installments. 71/100 Complete.