• Hello everybody! We have tons of new awards for the new year that can be requested through our Awards System thanks to Antifa Lockhart! Some are limited-time awards so go claim them before they are gone forever...

    CLICK HERE FOR AWARDS

Fanfiction ► Kingdom Hearts: Keys to the Kingdom Series



REGISTER TO REMOVE ADS
Status
Not open for further replies.

TelaryCri

Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2016
Messages
299
Awards
1
Oh, plenty of adventures still await (up to and including their actual wedding). Next up is part two of what I'm calling the "Life Goes On" series. This one I'm pretty excited for, because A) I'm not following any specific movie, B) We're going back to Deep Jungle, and C) Riku finally gets in on the fun! If you've ever wondered what it'd be like to have a Riku, Azlyn, and Telary adventure, I'm sure you'll appreciate what's coming up (though it does rely on some super obscure Disney properties). Now, all I have to do is write the thing!

PS did you notice the parallels between their makeup scene and their initial hookup?
 
Last edited:

KingdomKey

Gold Member
Joined
Sep 25, 2010
Messages
6,265
Awards
26
Age
30
An adventure with Riku, Telary, and Azlyn! <3 I wonder how long it'd take before one of them picks a fight. Or if they'll be all like, "c'mon, we need to pull it together and do the thing!" I'm really excited for this story, including all of the other adventures you have in store for them. The wedding. Aw man, I really can't wait to see what that's like. Also, Telary is really romantic with Azlyn that it makes my heart melt inside. I feel all fluffy thinking about it. <3 Anyways, you'd be correct! I'd appreciate anything you write or use for your adventures with SAT or RAT. xD
 

TelaryCri

Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2016
Messages
299
Awards
1
BTW, a FFNet reviewer recently coined Azlary as the "official" Az/Tel ship name. Which is good, because I've been looking for one for a long time.
 

TelaryCri

Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2016
Messages
299
Awards
1
And, finally, the story continues!

Chapter I: Call Of The Wild, pt. 1
It’s said that time flies when you’re having fun. Kairi has always found that to be true. These last five months have absolutely blazed by, having Sora and Riku back home on Destiny Islands. Today, she’s learning that the opposite of that statement is true as well. When you’re about to be punched in the face, time seems to slow to a crawl.


WHACK!!!

“Nice one, Princess,” Azlyn comments sarcastically, taking a few steps back and watching Kairi recover. “I’ve told you a hundred times, you’ve gotta keep your guard up.”

The novice Keyblade wielder opens her mouth to protest, but a swift kick in the gut silences her before a single word can be uttered. Grunting, she stumbles back with a hand clutched to her stomach.

“And don’t let yourself get distracted!”

Azlyn swings another punch, but by now Kairi’s learned her lesson. She quickly raises the hand not currently holding her soft practice sword, catching Azlyn’s fist in a firm grip. Her “blade” swings in a backhand strike, knocking into the knight to score a hit.

“Ha!” the redhead triumphantly croons, stepping back from her opponent. Turning to the gym’s wall, she gives Sora a cheerful thumbs up.

For a moment, he just looks at her. Gone is her many-zippered pink dress, impractical for heavy combat. In its place she wears simple, practical clothes of a style not unlike SAT’s good fairy created outfits: A pale purple sleeveless hoody, half-zipped and revealing her white tank top underneath. A pair of white pants cover her lower body, ending just below the knees. Her shoes match the hoody, and of course white fingerless gloves cover her hands. White sleeves extend from the gloves to her elbows. Also in deference to her training, the Princess of Heart has her red hair put up in a bun.

She looks good, in Sora’s opinion. Then again, if you were to ask him he’d say she looked good in anything she wore.

“Good job!” he calls back, grinning. From his vantage point, Sora can see that Azlyn has already recovered. Kairi’s still looking at him, and he knows he should say something. But would that defeat the whole purpose of this training?

His internal debate proves moot. Before he can make a decision, Azlyn is diving towards Kairi. On instinct Sora goes to cry out, but it’s too late now. Azlyn’s knee makes harsh contact with the back of Kairi’s, sending her to the floor. Still in motion, the knight thrusts upward and traps her student’s neck within the crook of her elbow.

“I’m sorry,” Azlyn hisses directly into Kairi’s ear. “I seem to remember telling you not to get distracted? That’s weird, maybe my old memory is on the fritz.”

“Azlyn…” Sora protests, pushing off the wall and stepping forward.

Desperate, Kairi thrusts back her elbow, aiming for Azlyn’s gut. It’s a direct hit, but the knight does little more than grunt in reply.

“Not a bad idea,” she admits, releasing the girl from her hold and stepping back. “Maybe you are learning something.” Sora reaches down a hand to help his girlfriend to her feet, but she refuses and rises on her own.

“I’ve got it now, Az,” Kairi says, swinging her arm around in a circle to get some circulation back. “Ready to go again?”

“You don’t have to, if you don’t want to,” Sora says, nerves wracking his voice.

“I’m okay,” the redhead replies with a determined nod. She gives the practice sword a quick swing, as if that proves her readiness.

“If you’re feeling too squeamish,” Azlyn informs her maid of honor in a teasing voice, “you can step out. To be honest, you’re kind of a distraction.”

“The best kind,” Kairi adds with a teasing wink. Behind her Azlyn makes a fake gagging noise, clutching at her throat. Hearing it, the Princess of Heart gives her friend a deadpan look. “Oh, like you’re one to talk. Now c’mon. Five more minutes, then I get half an hour to talk with you and Tel about centerpieces.”

“What’s there to talk about?” Azlyn scoffs. “I already told you what I want!”

“For the last time, Azlyn, there is no way we’re commissioning thirty golden statues of you and Telary!”

The bride-to-be throws up her hands. “Typical! You talk and talk about wanting my input, and then when I do give an idea…”

Rolling his eyes, Sora decides the best thing to do for now is take his leave. Not bothering with a goodbye that won’t even be heard, he exits the Gummi ship’s small gym. The hallway beyond is quiet, the girls’ argument thankfully muffled by the metal of the wall.

Curious, he glances up at a clock hanging on the wall across from him. Looking at the time, he grimaces. One hour into the trip. That’s all it had taken to get into a discussion about the wedding. Considering how the whole point of this trip was to get away from wedding-prep for a few days, that’s pretty pathetic.

Azlyn has been far more conducive on the subject since Agrabah. And Kairi, now slipping into “wedding planner mode” with the same fervor with which she likes to organize the rest of her life, has spent several days in the time between then and now going back and forth to Disney Castle. Sora had gone with her once, and that had been quite enough.

In all, the integration of what Sora considers to be the two halves of his life is going well. But, to be honest, he’s always known that Kairi would get along with Azlyn and Telary, even disregarding their built-in history together. So that’s one down, basically. And one to go. One significantly more difficult one to go.

The Keybearer wanders into the main room/kitchen. Riku sits at the table there, idly staring at nothing. Every few moments he’ll twiddle a thumb. He looks up when Sora enters the room, but only for a moment.

“Uh, hey!” Sora awkwardly greets the older boy, giving him a sheepish grin and wave.

“Hi.”

Sora moseys closer, still smiling. “How are… things?”

A shrug. “Okay.”

Awkward silence. The Keybearer moves his hand to rub at the back of his neck, but quickly stops himself. It’s an obvious tell, one Riku would pick up in an instant.

“The ship’s great, huh?” Sora asks, pressing on in hopes that somehow the situation’s weirdness can be lessened. “A lot more room than you’d think.”

“There sure is,” Riku replies, brushing a lock of silver hair behind his ear. It’s much shorter than it used to be, merely framing his face rather than hanging down to his shoulders. When asked, he’d said he had his reasons for the haircut, and that had been that. “Must have been nice, traveling around in it.”

“It was!” Sora agrees with a preppy smile. Excited, he pounds his hand against the table. Riku barely twitches. “And y’know, it’s even cooler when you’re in the cockpit. You can see everything just passing you by.”

Riku says nothing, only barely nodding. His eyes momentarily dart over to the ladder leading to the cockpit, but they don’t linger.

“Tel’s up there, too,” Sora says, searching desperately for something to say. “He knows all about this ship and stuff!” Another nod, this one even slighter than the last. “C’mon, let’s go up there! He’s probably getting kinda lonely.”

“You can go ahead if you want…” Riku begins to reply.

But Sora’s having none of it. “C’mon, Riku. You can’t just sit around by yourself, looking all broody! You’re over that whole phase, right?”

Riku sighs. “Right,” he replies with a little smirk.

Sora heads for the upward ladder, grinning cheerfully. When he hears the scrape of Riku pulling his chair out behind him, the boy’s smile widens. This will be perfect. All it’ll take is a little nudge, and his two favorite guys will be great friends too!

Telary, sitting at the controls, looks briefly over his shoulder. He smiles when he sees that Sora has come up to visit. He’d been getting kinda lonely up here all alone.

“Hey there, Tel,” Sora greets the redhead enthusiastically, walking over and clapping a hand against his friend’s shoulder. “We came up to check out the scenery.” The Keybearer points up at the swirling colors of Gummi space outside the round glass canopy.

“We…?” Telary asks, looking behind once again to see that Riku has entered his domain as well. Faltering momentarily, the pilot manages to stutter out a cheerful-sounding, “Ah, well, the more the merrier.”

“Would ya just look at that!” Sora declares, plopping down in an empty chair. Clasping his hands behind his head, the Keybearer looks up at the passing scenery. “It’s great, right Riku?”

“Sure, Sora,” the silver-haired young man agrees. His voice has its usual calm-and-cool tone.

“Flying is great,” Sora continues to babble, filling the room with his chatter. “Sometimes Tel would even let me fly the ship myself. I was pretty good at it, right?”

“You were,” the wizard concedes with a small nod. “We only almost crashed the one time.”

“Nobody gets things right on the first try,” Sora huffs. “I got a lot better though. Tel’s a pretty good teacher. Like I said, he knows everything!”

“Sora…” Telary looks away, a blush clearly visible on his cheeks.

After checking to make sure his best friend is still occupied, Riku rolls his eyes.

The Keybearer is far from done, though. “Oh, maybe you should show him how it works Tel! I’ll bet anything Riku would be great at it in no time. He picks things up really quickly.”

“We, uh, may not have enough time for that, Sora,” Tel answers his young friend, fighting hard to keep his teeth unclenched. “We’re coming up on the world soon.”

“Good thing, too,” Azlyn says, entering the cockpit. Kairi follows along behind her. “The Princess has gotten the hang of basic combat pretty quick. Time for her agility training, which Deep Jungle should be perfect for working on.”

“Don’t work her too hard,” Telary admonishes his fiancée. “This is supposed to be a relaxing trip. A nice little break from all the stuff going on in our lives. A cleanse for our bodies and…”

A loud, mocking snore from Azlyn cuts the wizard off handily. Telary’s face reddens as Sora and Kairi laugh. Even Riku snickers a bit.

“Isn’t Gummi space amazing, Riku?” Kairi asks her silver-haired friend, looking up as they pass through a swirling nebula of color. “We warped right to Agrabah on our last trip, so I really didn’t get to appreciate it like I should’ve.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” Riku admits, his stony expression softening. “Nicer than the Realm of Darkness, anyway.”

“Y’know, Rik,” Azlyn suddenly chimes in, as if she’s only now become aware of his presence in the cockpit, “I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m not sure why you went with that haircut. Got it all cut back like that. I mean, it draws so much attention to your face.”

Sora instinctively looks to Telary (his usual routine after Azlyn insults someone and before Tel admonishes her for it), who seems a bit too preoccupied with the dashboard at the moment. Upon realizing the wizard isn’t going to say anything, the Keybearer says, “C’mon, Azlyn…”

“And I,” Riku shoots back with just the slightest grin, sitting up a bit straighter in his chair, “can’t help but wonder why you keep opening your mouth. I mean, it draws so much attention to your personality.”

Now Telary has a reaction. “Hey!” he shouts, whipping his gaze over to the silver-haired young man.

“At least I have apersonality,” Azlyn counters, leaning forward with a gleam in her eyes.

“I still have every ugly hat my aunt’s ever knitted me,” Riku says, “that doesn’t mean I go around showing them off.”

“Oh look, we’re here!” Sora declares loudly, standing up and making a beeline for the instruments panel. Sure enough, the green-covered sphere of Deep Jungle stands out against the dark blue space ahead.

“So we are,” Telary agrees, nodding to himself as he focuses again on his pilot duties. Luckily, the rest of the cockpit has managed to settle themselves down. “Now, we have all the camping equipmentwith us, so we’ll actually have to set down.”

“That’s a lot of trees,” Kairi says. She’s standing to her brother’s left, carefully examining a topography scan.

“We’ll need to find a pretty big clearing if we’re gonna land.” Scratching his chin, the wizard initiates a computer scan.

“We visited here before we had the teleporter, right?” Sora says.

“We did actually,” Azlyn agrees. “Huh, where did we land last time?”

With the topography scan going, Telary has time enough to spare his fiancée and Sora withering looks. Sheepishly, they both recall the rocky events of their last visit to the jungle.

“Oh, yeah,” Sora chuckles, scratching at the back of his neck. “Now I remember.”

It feels like this took forever, right? I just had kind of a hard time plotting out the specific sequence of events I wanted, and on top of that I started on Keys to the Kingdom: Chain of Memories (which I've decided not to post here directly because I think it would mess up the flow of everything if I had two stories running in the same thread, and also because it's a step back in time and I want to keep moving forward here). Anyway, I think things are settled now, so here we go. Keys to the Kingdom: Law of the Jungle, is go!
 

KingdomKey

Gold Member
Joined
Sep 25, 2010
Messages
6,265
Awards
26
Age
30
The burns being thrown down in this chapter were scorching between Tel, Azlyn, and Riku. xD And oh my god, there's a new chapter! <3 The story is being continued! Well worth the wait after how long it's been! And you're doing Chain of Memories too?! :O I'll have to hop onto FF.Net to read it in that case! I don't want to miss out on that any. Also, I love Kairi's new outfit! And I like how she takes a blow from Azlyn no problem. <3 I also can't help cringing at Sora's attempts to get Riku to loosen up and talk more. I think Tel and Azlyn might be able to do a better job of it. :3 Anyways, loved the newest chapter! Can't wait for more as always! <3
 

TelaryCri

Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2016
Messages
299
Awards
1
Chapter I: Call of the Wild, pt. 2
The Gummi ship’s cargo ramp opens with a loud hiss. It’s barely finished lowering itself before Sora goes bounding out of the ship. Trees surround their small clearing, muted sunlight shining through the leafy canopies. The foliage stretches as far as the eye can see, and further still. Rustles, roars, birdsong, and the flutter of insect wings fill the air with sound.

“I’d forgotten how cool this place was,” the Keybearer remarks, turning to see the rest of his friends disembarking.

“Metaphorically speaking,” Telary notes, fanning himself with one hand. Kairi walks past him, taking in her surroundings with the same awe Sora had.

“Every world is so different,” she remarks with a smile, taking Sora’s hand. “I’m so glad to finally be seeing them.”

Sora swoops in and pecks her cheek. “I’m glad you are too. With me.”

“Oh, puke!” Azlyn grumbles aloud, the two folded and packaged tents over her shoulders. Telary reaches out to take one off his fiancée, but she just snorts and swings it out of reach. A bit dejected, he turns back to the large pile of outdoor living paraphernalia.

Riku takes the place in silently, arms folded.

“So, are we setting up here, or…?” Sora asks, looking around at the rather sparse area remaining in the clearing.

Telary shakes his head, struggling with a trio of sleeping bags. “No. There’s another open spot about half a mile from here. Smaller, but more space than we’ve got here with the Gummi ship.”

“Half a mile?” Kairi says with a frown, releasing Sora’s hand. “That’s a long way to walk in the middle of the night.”

“Why would we have to…?” Sora begins to ask, stopping abruptly when he realizes what the girl is talking about.

Telary shrugs. “Yeah, that’s kind of the rub there.”

“So use a tree,” Azlyn scoffs. Off Kairi’s less-than-enthusiastic expression, she adds, “Consider it part of your training, if that makes you feel better.”

The redheaded girl sighs. “It really doesn’t.”

Telary trips on a pebble, wobbling forward and dropping everything he’s carrying. He wobbles back, landing hard on his rear with a yelp. Wincing, Kairi and Azlyn rush to his side to make sure the wizard is okay.

“Maybe I should take those,” Riku says, bending down and gathering up the rolled up sleeping bags under his free arm. The other is already burdened with several fold-out stools, but the silver-haired young man doesn’t seem to mind.

“I’m fine!” Using Kairi’s arm as a lever, Telary regains his feet. He thrusts his arms out towards Riku. “I can take those.”

“It’s fine.”

Tel frowns, a bit poutier than is normal for him. “No, seriously…”

“I’ve got it,” Riku repeats firmly. Telary’s frown turns darker, but he relents.

“I guess it really is good to have you around, Rik,” Azlyn says with a smirk. “Our own personal packmule.”

“What’re you talking about, Az?” the silver-haired boy shoots back sharply. “I thought you were already the group’s jackass.”

“Guys, seriously,” Kairi sighs, rolling her eyes as she gathers some cooking utensils. Looking up, she notices a large red bird perched on a root in front of her. It gives her a happy little tweet. She smiles back at it, earning another twitter.

“Well, don’t you just make friends everywhere,” Azlyn quips.

Sora laughs. “Yeah, animals have always loved Kairi!”

A few minutes later, all of their supplies are gathered and the group is off to their campsite. Telary leads with Azlyn by her side, and Riku drifts along a ways behind him. With a conspiratorial nod, Sora calls Kairi back to walk with him out of the others’ earshot.

“Well, it looks like we’ve got a problem,” the Keybearer sighs. Kairi frowns at the boy’s truly defeated tone. “I mean, did you see what happened back there? And on the Gummi ship? Yikes.”

“Yeah,” the Princess of Heart agrees with a nod. “Riku and Azlyn sure are…”

“What are you talking about?” Sora interrupts. Off his girlfriend’s confused expression, he explains. “I’m talking about what’s going on between Riku and Telary.”

That doesn’t really clear things up for Kairi. “Sora, those two have barely interacted at all. Thus, no problem. Meanwhile, Az and Riku have been going at each other since…”

The Keybearer rolls his eyes. “That’s nothing. They’ve just recognized each other as an outlet for their natural aggressive behavior.”

For a few moments, Kairi just stares at the young man before her, mouth agape. “Uh, wow. Okay.” Frowning, she continues, “Not to sound, um, like I’m belittling your intelligence or anything but, how…?”

He shrugs. “Maybe I’m not a genius like you or Tel or Riku, but I know my friends, Kairi. I can read ‘em like a book!”

“Right, sorry,” Kairi quickly apologizes. Sora recognizes that she’s clearly still baffled by his observation, but decides to let it slide. “Okay, so explain what exactly you’re ‘reading’ from Riku and Telary.”

“Something bad’s going on between them,” Sora explains happily, shaking his head. “I could feel it every time I mentioned one to the other. And back here with the bags… Oh, Kairi, that was a way worse fight than anything Az and Riku could have. It just looked small.”

“I see,” the Princess of Heart replies with a nod. “Well, I guess I can see where you’re coming from. Okay, so, we’ll just keep an eye on it. Given the people involved, I don’t think we have to worry about it exploding into an actual confrontation anytime soon.”

“You mean, I’ll keep an eye on it,” Sora corrects. “You are going to focus on your training with Azlyn. And having fun.”

“Found the clearing!” Telary calls from up ahead.

“And Kairi has ten seconds to get her ass over here, or we go double on the training!” Azlyn, demanding as ever, declares. “10…9…”

Without another word, Kairi takes off at a sprint, everything she’s carrying dropped to the jungle floor. It’s a near thing, but she manages to make it before Azlyn reaches zero. Leaving Sora, of course, to gather up all she’d left behind. A great beginning.

“…Never seen anything like it before,” Telary is saying when Sora joins the rest of his friends.

The wizard and his sister stand apart from Az and Riku, examining a strange stone column standing near the treeline. It’s clearly very old, covered in vines and cracked in several places. Stepping closer, Sora notices that it’s not just a column; it’s some kind of statue! A feline face, perhaps that of a panther or leopard, peers out from the mess of untamed foliage.

“As far as I know,” the wizard continues, “there is no civilization in this jungle. Unless the gorillas built this.”

“Fascinating,” Azlyn says with a pronounced eyeroll. “How about we admire the scenery after we have a place to sleep? C’mon, Tel, help me with our…”

Sora shakes his head. “No, Az. Don’t you remember? We’re not dividing up the sleeping arrangements by couples. Boy tent and girl tent, that's what we agreed on.”

The knight scowls. “Geeze, when did you turn into some kinda nun, Sora?”

“He just wants everyone to feel comfortable, Azlyn,” Telary answers for the younger boy. “And frankly, the jungle is not the place for…” He blushes. “…Well, y’know.”

“I’ll help you out with the tent, Az!” Kairi offers cheerfully, making her way over to the blonde knight. They begin to assemble their shelter, and it only takes a few minutes for Azlyn to inform her that she’s doing things completely wrong.

While the girls work, Sora and Telary make their way over to where Riku has pulled out their own tent. Looking at the heavy brown material, the Keyblade wielder huffs out a nostalgic sigh.

“Do you think we’ll be able to see Tarzan?” he asks Telary, who’s carefully scrutinizing the instruction book included with their tent .Riku just rolls his eyes at the wizard’s studying and begins to set things up.

“There’s a definite possibility,” Tel allows, looking up from his reading.“I made sure we’re in the vicinity of where Jane’s camp was located. I’m not sure how long she was planning on staying here though, and with the gorillas’ migratory nature…” He shrugs. “There’s just no way to be sure.”

A loud, familiar yell splits the air from nearby. Everyone stops what they’re doing and looks towards its apparent source. Most are surprised, but one certain young man just lets his mouth spread slowly into a satisfied smile.

“Or maybe he’s right over there,” Telary mutters to himself, sighing as he shakes his head. “Because, of course, our universe runs on strange bursts of lucky coincidence.”

“That was a person?” Kairi asks, eyes widened by surprise. That’s certainly not a noise she’s ever heard any human make. Except maybe Riku if you woke him up too early.

The wizard nods. “Yep. Tarzan has quite the lung capacity.”

The loud trill of a trumpet adds itself to the jungle din.

“Who do we know that makes that noise?” Azlyn asks with a raised eyebrow.

“Why don’t we go find out?” Sora suggests with a grin. “The tents can wait. C’mon!”

The Keyblade master takes off through the trees, heading in the direction from which Tarzan’s cry originated. Riku takes off after him immediately, with Azlyn on the silver-haired Keybearer’s heels. Kairi follows her, and Telary lets out a big sigh. Surveying the campsite once again to get a good lock on its location in his head, he rushes after his friends.
 

KingdomKey

Gold Member
Joined
Sep 25, 2010
Messages
6,265
Awards
26
Age
30
I can only see things getting even bumpier from here. All the boys in one tent? There's no way nothing could go wrong with that. No way at all. lol. And gosh, Tel get your head out of the gutter about you and Az doing the dirty. XD It's nice to see Kairi is noticing as much as Sora is about the three of them acting out of sorts with one another. I thought for sure things would get out of hand with Tel and Riku arguing over the tents. It makes me anxious. ouo I look forward to the next chapter to see how things go with Tarzan!
 

TelaryCri

Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2016
Messages
299
Awards
1
Chapter I: Call of the Wild, pt. 3
As he runs, Sora dimly notes that he’s passing by more of the strange statuary that had been in the campsite. Another yell from Tarzan stirs his feet forward. He can hear the others behind him, following right along. Tarzan is very nearby, and at this close distance Sora can clearly make out the sounds of struggle. Giant footsteps pound the jungle floor.

Finally, Sora breaks through the thick barrier of foliage, finding himself atop a small hill sloping downwards into a green valley at the edge of a high cliff. In the valley, none to the Keybearer’s surprise, is Tarzan. The ape-raised man looks as fearsome as ever, swinging his long wooden spear with abandon at a group of creatures whose appearances startle Sora a bit more.

Six tall, bipedal leopard men surround Sora's old friend. Each wears a dark brown cloth around its hips, as well as a deep blue covering over its head. They act as animalistic as their savage appearances would suggest, snarling and scratching. Still, Tarzan fights on.

He’s not alone though. A red elephant fights alongside him. There are another few leopard-men taking the fight to the pachyderm, but with relative size and strength being what it is, they aren’t proving quite effective.

“What the hell is going on down there?” Azlyn remarks caustically as she emerges from the jungle. Looking up, her frown deepens still more. “And what’s with that!”

The ‘that’ in question is a large, if dilapidated, city of light grey stone. It stretches across a huge sunken valley, seemingly centered around a crumbling ziggurat. A long stone bridge connects from the city’s edge up to the jungle cliff, an elaborate archway serving as something of an official border. This is definitely a part of the jungle they hadn’t visited last time.

“Uh, huh?” That’s all Telary has to contribute to the discussion.

Kairi, who arrived just ahead of her brother, has to admit that it’s quite rattling to see the indomitable SAT trio look so stumped. By this point, she sort of assumed they’d seen everything there was to see in the universe. In an odd way, it’s nice to know that experience be damned, no one has truly seen it all.

“As weird as this is, only one thing matters,” Sora declares, using his most commanding voice. “Tarzan’s in trouble, and we need to help him!”

“Too right!” Azlyn agrees. Looking back at Kairi, she says, “Watch this closely, Princess. Ya might learn something!” She leaps into the air and effortlessly flips forward. Midair, she throws her shield to the ground. Landing on it, the knight surfs down the grassy hill towards the fray below.

“Maybe I’ll try that later,” the redhead decides, opting instead for a regular charge down the hill. Sora and Riku flank her, both with blades at the ready.

Azlyn smashes into a pair of leopard-men, jumping off her shield to punch another in the snout. Tarzan smacks another opponent away with the butt of his spear, looking at the newcomer in shock. He’s even more surprised when he looks up and sees two more familiar faces coming down the hill.

“Sora!” the ape-raised man exclaims happily, dodging a leopard-man’s clawed swipe.

The Keybearer only nods in greeting, smacking down another of the strange animal/man hybrids. Kairi takes another down with a blow to the head, and Riku cuts down one with a swipe at its legs. Another dives for him, but he dodges easily. Another slash sends it to the ground.

The remaining leopard-men, smarter than they look, seem to decide all at once that the odds of victory are no longer very good. Snarling, the bestial bipeds withdraw.

“You fools!” an enraged voice snarls from somewhere above. Looking up, the group sees a dark-skinned woman dressed in a black midriff-exposing top and long loin cloth. Her white hair blows in the wind, and in one hand she grips a tall wooden staff with a round jewel atop it. “What kind of men are you, running away like cowards!”

“Where is Jane, La?” Tarzan demands, surprisingly erudite.

“You know my terms very well, Tarzan,” the woman snarls. “If you want your precious woman back, agree to be my consort!”

“Not going to happen,” the ape-man replies, snarling defiantly. “I love Jane, and only her.” Looking down, his scowl becomes a smirk. “You can see one of the reasons for yourself.”

Jane scrambles up the cliff beside the bridge, dressed in a yellow blouse and long olive-green skirt. A gorilla with dark blue fur climbs up beside her.

“No!” the woman who is apparently La cries out. “How could this be?”

“I see you haven’t yet learned,” Jane replies with a smirk. “I’m rather very resourceful when the occasion arises.”

“You ever feel like you charged into the middle of something?” Sora quietly remarks to Kairi. The Princess of Heart nods sympathetically.

“You will pay for this!” La continues to scream. To be honest, Sora thinks it’s all a little over-the-top. Either way, she raises her staff, the pink gem glowing. Bringing it down, she fires an equally-pink blast of energy, straight for Tarzan.

The ape man moves to get out of the way, and Riku instinctively steps forward. Raising the Keyblade in a high block, he deflects the blast harmlessly into the air.

“WHAT!” La screams, again. Seriously, this lady can carry on with the melodrama. “How could that be? My most powerful attack and you simply…! And the way you bested my leopard-men!”

“Name’s Riku,” he replies, smirking. It carries just a hint of the old charm of his younger days on Destiny Island. “And by the way, nice outfit. Let me guess, half off?”

Even Azlyn chuckles a bit at that one.

“I see,” La says, suddenly calm. In fact, her voice has a sultry hint to it as she gazes down at the silver-haired Keyblade wielder. “Well,this is all quite interesting. Until we meet again, Tarzan… And friends.” The queen slams her staff down on the stone of the archway. Pink energy surrounds her in a vortex, and with an echoing leopard’s snarl, she vanishes.

“Ooookay,” Azlyn remarks, bewildered. Turning to Jane, she asks, “So, uh, what in the ever-loving heck was that all about?”

“Perhaps this isn’t the best place to discuss such things,” the young scientist declares, warily eyeing the city below.

“I agree,” Tarzan says, once again shocking Sora, Azlyn, and Telarywith his command of vocabulary. “We should get going.” Turning to the red elephant, he makes a few uncannily accurate trumpeting noises. The elephant answers right back, nodding shyly.

“Sometimes,” Kairi whispers to Riku, “I realize that I’ve really underestimated just how strange some of Sora’s adventures were.” The silver-haired young man shoots her a small grin in return.

“Tantor says you can hop on,” Tarzan explains, patting his large friend’s flank. The elephant bends his knees, and Jane, Sora, Azlyn, Telary,and Kairi scramble up on his back. Riku declines with a firm shake of his head. Once everyone’s set, the group takes off into the jungle.

“Seems like things have really changed around here,” Sora calls down to Tarzan.

“Like how you’re talking all good,” Azlyn chimes in.

“I owe it all to Jane,” Tarzan replies, blushing as he looks up at the young woman. “She’s an amazing teacher.”

“And you a capable student,” Jane says with a smile.

“Okay, then next question,” Sora says. “What was up with that lady? And the leopard people? And that city?”

“The lost city of Opar,” Jane explains with a scholarly air. “It seems to have been great once, but now it’s only ruins. Ruled over by Queen La, an unpleasant woman with a rather unhealthy fixation on Tarzan.”

“She wants ‘the perfect mate’,” Tarzan adds. “And it seems I’m her number one pick. Those creatures were the leopard-men, her servants. We actually don’t know a lot about them, but they’re very loyal to La.”

“It’s nice to know,” Sora chimes in wistfully, “that I’m not the only guy in the universe who attracts such weirdness.”

“Though admittedly you win for largest volume and variety of said weirdness,” Telary points out.

“By the way,” Jane interrupts. “What exactly are you doing back in the jungle, Sora?”

“Camping trip,” the Keybearer answers, smiling. “We’re actually setting up not that far away from here.”

“Oh, what fun!” Jane says delightedly. “Though I must admit, after spending so much time on an extended camping trip of my own, I most definitely would say that I prefer indoors living.”

“Where do you guys live?” Kairi asks. “There’s probably not much in the way of for-sale property around here.”

“We’ve moved into the old treehouse,” Tarzan explains. Sora, Azlyn, and Telary nod. They all recall the structure very well. “It’s much nicer than the camp and, well… It was built by my parents. It helps me feel more… Um, what’s the word again? Jane?”

“I believe you were trying to say that living in that treehouse makes you feel connected to your parents,” the wild man’s wife says. “And, on top of all that, it is rather well put-together. Especially considering what they had to work with. Not Buckingham Palace, but a good home.”

“Our camp’s just up ahead,” Telary points out.

“So close to Opar?” Jane asks, sounding a little worried.

“Well, we didn’t know there was a leopard-man city ruled by a jealous witch queen around when we picked it,” Azlyn mutters defensively.

“If you’d like, you can stay with us,” Tarzan offers.

The group mulls that over for a minute, but Sora interrupts before any consensus can be reached.

“We’ll be fine!” the Keybearer declares, shrugging confidently. “Everything’s almost ready anyway, and we wouldn’t want to haul all that stuff… It’s fine.”

“Okay,” Tarzan relents after a moment. “I guess you know how to handle yourselves.”

“But do come and visit before you leave,” Jane offers, smiling radiantly. “No offense to Tarzan, but having occasion to speak to a few more human beings would be a welcome experience.”

The gorilla grunts something up at Jane, and she grunts right back. It seems that language lessons have run both ways in her and Tarzan’s marriage.

They part ways a few minutes later, promising to catch up two days later, before Sora and company depart. Azlyn and Telary lead the offworlder group through the jungle, Riku trailing behind. Sora and Kairi walk behind their old friend.

“What was that back there? Kairi asks her boyfriend. Off his skeptical look, she elaborates. “Sticking to this campsite. It sounded like you had some ulterior motive.”

Sora frowns. “Kairi, that’s gross! But actually there was another reason I wanted to stay here.”

Kairi sighs, used to this occasional cluelessness by now. “Okay. What exactly was that?”

“Do you know why I made so many friends, Kairi?” the Keyblade master asks. When Kairi only sighs and shakes her head, he answers his own question. “Because we were thrown together into dangerous situations. If there’s a ruined city nearby, full of crazy leopard guys. You just know something’s gonna happen. And when it does, bam! Telary and Riku work together, discover they can be best friends too, and suddenly everything is right as rain in the universe!”

Kairi says nothing, honestly a little too dumbstruck to respond. It seldom fails to surprise her, Sora’s own unique brand of insight and savvy. You have to really know what you’re looking for to spot it, but it exists all the same.

They return to their campsite, still half-made and unperturbed.

“Well, that was fun!” Telary says with his usual forced cheer. “Time to get serious about camping though. Now, where did I put those tent instructions?”

Rolling his eyes, Riku sighs loudly. Sora catches it out of the corner of his eye, smirking to himself. Soon, he thinks, all will proceed according to his plan.

The Keybearer shudders a bit at his inner monologue. He’d better be careful, or he might start sounding like Maleficent.

KH-KH-KH

In the grand throne room of her elaborate ziggurat, Queen La sits in her throne. Attended to by a group of leopard-men, she plots and schemes.

“A very interesting boy, that one,” she says. Ostensibly she’s speaking to her servants, but in reality she just enjoys a good villainous monologue. “So powerful, and not just with that blade. He made fools of you all. Why, even Tarzan had more trouble!” Standing up, she makes a resounding proclamation. “I must have him!”

Two leopard-men give each other knowing looks. If they had the capacity, they’d be rolling their eyes.

“Oh,” says a female voice, echoing all around the chamber but seeming to come from nowhere, “but you can.”

Green flames appear in the midst of the chamber, on the long stone walkway that cuts through the throne room’s shallow pond. La shield her eyes, and her vision finally adjusts, she sees that someone new has entered her chamber. A woman in purple and black, with jade-green skin. A raven perches on her shoulder.

“Who are you?” La demands, gripping her magical staff warily. All around her, the leopard-men tense. “Why have you come?”

“My name is Maleficent,” the robed witch answers, stroking lightly at her own mystical staff. “And I believe we may have something to gain from mutual cooperation.”

Ever so slightly, La back down. Raising a white eyebrow, she steps away from her throne. “An interesting prospect, to be sure. I’m listening.”
 

KingdomKey

Gold Member
Joined
Sep 25, 2010
Messages
6,265
Awards
26
Age
30
Well, I'll be damned. Maleficent showing up after Sora thinks of her. It's almost like saying Beetle Juice three times. Or Maleficent keeps showing up like a bad penny as the saying goes. xD And Tarzan an Jane are MARRIED?! I didn't even know this happened. Did that really happen in the television show or movie? (I've seen both. But only to an extent for the television series of it on Disney Channel.) Anyways, I find it almost scary to see how Sora plotted that out in hopes of getting Telary and Riku to get along. Also, Riku being cocky and making fun of La was quite interesting. It's almost like he's the old Riku from KH1. On the other hand, I really enjoyed this chapter a lot. And thought it was funny when Kairi at first thought Sora was implying the dirty back at camp. xD Must be too soon for that. Loved this chapter! Can't wait to see what happens next.
 

TelaryCri

Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2016
Messages
299
Awards
1
Chapter II: It's A Jungle Out There, pt. 1
Maleficent and La meet in the middle of the chamber, both women sizing each other up. Being as blunt as possible, their first impressions narrow down to "wild-yet-possibly-useful-jungle-trollop" and "frigid-but-potentially-useful-green-witch" respectively.

"Well?" La demands haughtily, giving the witch a stony eyebrow. "If you have something to say, then say it. A queen's time is not to be wasted."

"Very well," Maleficent concedes with a gracious nod. "As I said, I believe that we may have something to offer each other. Those children you encountered today have long been a thorn in my own side. A thorn I very emphatically wish removed."

"And so, you seek my assistance in said removal," La says, grinning with pleasure. "I suppose I could be persuaded to lend my aid. For a price."

"I had thought that would be the case," Maleficent replies. "I require only two members of the party. The young boy wielding the key and his red-haired female companion. The rest, I would be happy to leave to your discretion."

"You have been observing me for some time, I'd wager," La says thoughtfully, leaning back in her throne.

"Indeed." The witch begins a slow stalk about the chamber, looking around as if admiring the architecture. Though in actuality she finds the "leopard" motif a bit too overplayed. "And you are just one of many. I have plans, you see, and to fulfill those plans I shall need allies. You perhaps may be just one such individual. If you can prove to me that you are worthy."

La shakes her head, stunned at the arrogance on display. "I am no one's servant, green one."

"Certainly not," Maleficent concedes. "And to show my good faith, I shall demonstrate to you the power that can come from allying your interests with mine." The witch smirks. "All I require is one of your mongrels."

Intrigued, La gestures with her staff. A leopard-man immediately obeys, approaching Maleficent with his head bowed low. The look on his feline face can only be described as apprehensive. His fellow beastmen seem to pick up on that, every one of them becoming just a little more tense. Intrigued, the queen of Opar leans forward in her throne.

Maleficent waves her hand lightly. An inoffensive gesture usually, but in this case, a rather deadly one. In response to her whim, an inky black Neoshadow rises up from the stone floor.

The reaction is instantaneous. The volunteered leopard-man growls and recoils in fright, his fellow huddling together. As for La, she has only become more intrigued. Acting on its dark, inbred instinct, the Heartless pounces on the closest target.

The sacrificial leopard-man roars, swiping a paw at the monster leaping towards him. The defensive maneuver does little good, the Neoshadow merely taking the blow without loss to its momentum. The two go down in a heap, and from there it doesn't take long before it's all over. A crystalline heart floats up from the fading body of the leopard-man. It doesn't get far though, the Neoshadow ensnaring it in its clawed hand.

The Neoshadow squeezes its prize until it shatters into pieces. The room is silent for a moment, the leopard-men not daring to make a sound and Queen La to stunned to.

"What have you done?" the queen finally demands once she's regained composure, rising from her throne with a dumbfounded look. "Where did he…? What is that…?"

"A Heartless," Maleficent explains all-too happily, smiling a cruel smile. "Creatures of purest, deepest Darkness. Useful tools, if one knows of the proper way to wield them. As for the fate of your, hmph, 'leopard-man', that only serves to further demonstrate the utility of the Heartless. Even now, the former heart of that creature is becoming yet another creature of Darkness."

"An army that grows itself, hm? Quite intriguing."

"And takes many forms," Maleficent elaborates. Holding her hand out again, she summons a trio of Powerwilds. "All yours to use as you see fit. As long as my conditions are met."

"The girl, and the boy with the key-shaped sword," La repeats. "And what, may I ask, serves to differentiate them from their companions?"

"The girl's heart is pure, untainted by the slightest touch of darkness," the witch explains coolly. "She is one of seven maidens similarly empowered. As for the boy with the key, his potential and power is… somewhat unique."

"I suppose it really is no matter," La decides with a shrug. "Neither of them are the one I have interest in, in any case."

"You speak of course of the silver-haired boy, Riku." Maleficent chuckles. "He is quite a sight to behold, isn't he? I would, however, be careful with him. That one can be rather… wild."

La smiles. "I like him more and more all the time, Maleficent." The queen of Opar is grinning fiercely now. The thought of a worthy consort finally coming to her after all this time is giving her a warm, fuzzy feeling. She turns to the leopard-men, who appear slightly wary but nonetheless stand obedient.

"You know what your queen desires," she says, her usual haughty voice carrying commandingly over her minions. "Bring the five we saw earlier to me, and make sure not to damage them too badly."

"Take a cohort of Heartless along," Maleficent says. Gesturing, she sends the group of Powerwilds, along with a few barking Rabid Dogs, along towards the leopard-men.

La's minions are still wary, but accept the creatures into the group. Everything settled, they set out. As they leave the chamber, out of the villainesses earshot, the leopard-men begin to plan. A girl with a pure heart. It has been a long time since they'd heard of such a thing.

Unbeknownst to the queen of Opar, she may have just given her minions exactly the what they need to achieve their true goals.

KH-KH-KH


A root snags Kairi's foot, throwing the running girl off-balance and nearly sending her face-planting into the jungle floor. She manages to keep her composure, stumbling a few steps but nonetheless leaving her stride unbroken.

Branches snap behind her. She spares a quick glance over her shoulder, but there's nothing there but empty jungle. She listens closely for any further sounds, but all she can hear is the background noise of insects and jungle birds.

Satisfied, Kairi focuses once again on the path before here. Just in time for her enemy to pounce.

The Princess of Heart lets out a surprised squeal, immediately chastising herself for the noise. How many times had Azlyn drilled into her that showing fear in battle is a loss in itself? She tries to recover, Keyblade springing to hand in a flash of bright light.

There's just enough time for her to swipe Azlyn's shield away, avoiding a painful blow to the chest. The Disney Castle knight doesn't pull any punches, and Kairi's used Cure on the resulting bruises enough times to always try her best to avoid them.

Azlyn doesn't seem to mind her shield being batted away, continuing to charge towards the redhead with a defiant scowl on her face. She leaps up and snaps out a kick, Kairi quickly turning aside to dodge the blow.

An open-handed jab thrusts toward her face, so Kari ducks. Crouched, she uses the opportunity to attack her opponent's torso. The hit lands, but Azlyn makes no noise to indicate it did any damage. A leaping back-flip flings the knight away from the Keybearer. Kairi allows herself a small grin of satisfaction. It's not the first time she's landed a hit, but any contact with Azlyn during a fight is to be celebrated.

Landing by her deflected shield, Azlyn shakes her head minutely. "Cocky."

That one word is all the knight has said to her trainee since she announced they would be starting immediately, while the boys finished setting up camp. From the campsite she'd led Kairi on a walk about half a mile into the jungle, and given one simple nod towards the foliage. The implication had been very clear: run.

Kairi doesn't say anything in reply, merely charges ahead with her blade drawn back. Azlyn, shield in hand, leaps up and grabs an overhead branch. She swings herself up onto the branch itself, then pushes off. Twisting midair, the knight lands on her feet behind Kairi. Locking herself into a strong stance, she flings her shield again.

Kairi tries turning to deflect the flying disc once again, but she's still a bit dazzled from Azlyn's acrobatic maneuver. The pivot is too slow, and unforgiving metal slams into her shoulder blade. The impact sends her spinning the opposite direction, and the Princess of Heart slams into a tree trunk. She tries to push off and regain her footing, but before she can, Azlyn is already slamming her yet again into the trunk. Still gripping her trainee's back, the blond throws her to the jungle floor.

"You're dead," she informs Kairi. It's so matter-of-fact (and Kairi's still a bit lightheaded from all the impacts), that the redhead nearly laughs. Azlyn frowns. "I don't see what's so funny. To you, anyway. The only reason I'm not cackling at your defeat like some demented harpy is that a teacher's gotta maintain a certain composure."

"I guess," Kairi huffs, rising to her knees, "I'm just kind of getting inoculated to the whole 'you're dead' thing." Indeed, the knight says it every time she gets the better of Kairi in a lesson. Whenever Sora's not around to hear, at least. In fact, her entire demeanor is less harsh with Sora present.

A foot lands on the rising girl's back, forcing her face-first into the dirt. "What did I say about using words I don't know?"

A groan, and then Kairi answers with, "Not to."

"Do you know why I tell you you're dead, Princess?" Azlyn asks, clearly rhetorical. "Because if this was an actual fight, and not just a really aggressive girl-talk session, you would be dead."

"Ugh, noted." Kairi rises again, and this time she thankfully isn't stomped back down. She reaches out a hand to get Azlyn's help, but after a few seconds of her hand hanging in empty air, she realizes it isn't forthcoming. So, she just gets up on her own.

"I hope so. Now, you wanna tell me what you did wrong?"

The Princess of Heart frowns, thinking it through. "I, uh, wasn't ready for that tree-jumping maneuver. So, um, I guess I failed to factor in the fight's environment?"

"I really don't need answers to be in the form of a question," Azlyn says with a sigh. "But yeah, you were right. Also, you didn't adapt to the change on position quickly enough. Too bad about you being too dead to do anything about that now though."

Kairi snorts at the joke, but one look at Azlyn's still-serious face is enough to tell her that that wasn't the right move.

"Now, it's your turn," the knight says, stepping aside and gesturing up to the tree branch. Off her pupil's confused expression, she explains. "Do what I just did. I won't even try to attack you while you're doing it."

Kairi grimaces. That doesn't make Azlyn very happy.

"It's not as hard as you think," she says. The almost reassuring words are an odd occurrence in an Azlyn-run training session. "You know the basics of it. Don't you?" Frowning, she declares, "Back-flip. Now!"

Startled by the harsh tone, it takes Kairi a moment to process her instructions. Seeing Azlyn's mouth open to give the command again, she pushes to surprise aside. Leaping up, she does as asked. Her form is pretty good, after many hours in the Disney Castle gym working on this kind of thing between wedding discussions. When the Princess of Heart lands on her feet again, she's only turned a few degrees from her original standing position.

Azlyn's fist jabs into her side.

"Ow!" the girl protests, recoiling in pain and surprise.

"You're dead again."

Now Kairi's starting to get a little angry. "I landed that…"

"Not exactly," Azlyn interrupts. She's shaking her head, which Kairi has learned means she'll hear no arguments. "You turned mid-flip. Landed facing away from the opponent. It only takes the second you use to readjust for your enemy to stab you through the chest, or break your knee, or crush your rib cage."

"Fine," Kairi relents, huffing out an indignant sigh. "But you didn't tell me you were going to be attacking…"

"Oh, so now I have to remind you that fighting skills are used against people and things that want to hurt you?" The knight scoffs, shaking her head dismissively.

"That's… a point," Kairi relents, still frowning at her teacher. "But at least I landed steady this time!"

"Dying with both feet on the ground is a little less embarrassing, I guess."

Kairi's frown deepens. It takes a lot to get the girl angry, but Azlyn is starting to push just far enough. "All I'm asking for is a little encouragement! Sora…"

"If it's Sora's kind of encouragement you want," Azlyn interrupts, her tone harshly sarcastic, "I'm afraid you're barking up the wrong tree, Princess. I'll admit, I find it a little interesting that you're almost a girl-version of Telary, but…"

"Now you're just being mean," Kairi declares. She's a bit surprised to find herself actually scowling now. The last time she'd scowled it had been at a maniacal Nobody bent on universal annihilation.

"You want me to be nice, Kairi?" Huffing, Azlyn folds her arms across her chest. "I thought you liked being pushed. I thought you wanted to get better. But if all you're after is a pat on the back…"

Kairi throws up her hands, ready to be done with all this. "Okay, that's enough! Clearly this is getting a little out of hand." She sighs. "We should probably just head back. Have some fun with the guys, get a good night's sleep, then we can try again in the morning."

Azlyn shrugs, nonchalant. "Fine. Who needs valuable survival skills anyway, when you can just goof off? It's not like we're under constant threat or anything…"

"That's it!" Kairi is so done playing games. Turning on her heel, she stalks away into the jungle towards the campsite. "I try to diffuse the tension, give you an out, and you don't even take it! If you're gonna be like that, fine!"

"I wouldn't have to 'be like that' if you could just buck up and learn to do things right, Azlyn!"

Kairi stops dead in her tracks, turning to the knight with a raised eyebrow. Azlyn just stands stock still, frozen in the middle of the jungle.

"Okay," Kairi says, quite lost. "What exactly was that about…?"

Azlyn declines to answer. Without another word, she runs off into the jungle in the opposite direction of Kairi. Though confused and still a little frustrated, the redhead knows that the right thing to do is pursue.

She's about to take off, when she hears a branch snap behind her. Reacting on instinct, she spins around towards the noise's source. Light flashes in her hand, Keyblade solidifying within. Kairi plants her feet into battle-ready position, holding her weapon in front of her body with both hands.

Lightning flashes in the sky, followed by an ominous boom of thunder. Just as its last echoes are fading, rain begins falling in steady, fat drops, and the leopard-men emerge from the jungle.
 

KingdomKey

Gold Member
Joined
Sep 25, 2010
Messages
6,265
Awards
26
Age
30
Kairi has one heck of a teacher. You know, Azlyn would make a really great fighting instructor after saving the world from heartless and darkness. Also, I wonder what that was about too? I hope Kairi is ready for anything to come at her, now that she's all alone. Also, I really like how Kairi handles being told she's 'dead' during her training. It shows development and the seriousness she takes it, even if she laughs it off a bit too. Otherwise, Maleficent teaming up with La was interesting. Shame that her own leopard people are planning to double cross her later. xD Otherwise this was an awesome chapter! I eagerly look forward to more! <3
 

TelaryCri

Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2016
Messages
299
Awards
1
Chapter II: It's A Jungle Out There, pt. 2
The loud noise of a thunderclap catches Sora's attention. Frowning, he straightens up to look at the sky. It isn't raining yet, but he can see the dark clouds hovering a few miles away. A thick, hazy curtain of semi-darkness falls from them. Pretty soon they'll be looking at a downpour.

"Do you think we're good?" Sora calls over to Telary. He shifts the bundle of potential firewood in his arms, indicating what he's talking about.


The wizard frowns at the sparsity of his young friend's haul. Looking down, he notes that his own kindling collection is rather lax as well.


"No, we're not," he decides to reply. In preparation for this outdoor experience, he'd read as much as he could about all manner of naturesque activities. Proper fire building had been a big one. "Especially with how scrawny what we've got is."


"Hey, Sora!" Riku calls from a few yards away. The silver-haired Keyblade wielder stands at the edge of the jungle thicket. "There's some bigger branches over here by the river. Probably more useful than…" Trailing off, he throws a disparaging glance at Telary's bundle of twigs.


"Okay!" Hiking up his gathered wood for a better grip, Sora runs off after Riku. Telary follows at a sedate pace, wondering just what is wrong with what he's managed to find.


Clear from the thick jungle, the manly trio stand on the edge of a large, swiftly moving river. There are indeed several very large branches scattered around.


"These should do," Riku explains, waving his hand over them. "Bigger pieces…"


"Are the best ones to keep the fire going for a long time," Telary interrupts. Riku frowns at him slightly. He shoots a smug smile right back. "I did my research."


"Uh huh." Riku says nothing more, merely grabs a very thick log and slings it over his shoulder. It's been like that for hours now. Riku or Tel says something. The other butts in to correct them. The original commentor acts like he doesn't care. Rinse and repeat about a half-dozen times.


Every attempt at conversation dies a quick death, despite Sora's best efforts. It seems that both of his friends have their walls up, and no amount of effort can tear them down. He can't give up now though! Not when he knows there's a great friendship waiting to happen between the two of them. The first step is just to reveal a commonly shared interest. But what would best unite the two big brother-type mentor figures in his life…?


A slow grin spreads across Sora's face as the answer comes to him. He's a bit disappointed, actually, that it took him this long to figure it out. There's only one thing.


"You want thick, there are some good-looking logs up there!" he announces, pointing to the tallest tree he can see. There are, indeed, several severed limbs hanging caught in their live brethren. "I'll go get 'em!"


Riku shrugs, turning back to his mission of collecting the wood on the ground. Telary, however, grimaces.


"Uh, gee Sora," he says, shrugging nervously. His voice shakes a little. "Maybe that isn't such a good idea. There's plenty of wood on the ground here, and climbing that high could be dangerous…"


"Go for it, Sora!" Riku says, glaring at Tel as he does. One of his eyebrows is raised as if offering a challenge. "Not a bad idea to have some backups. I think I read that in a nature book somewhere."


Telary's nervousness vanishes, his concerned expression usurped by a deep frown. "We'll be okay without them. I can just start a fire magically anyway. Besides, those limbs might not be as dead as you think. Using live wood not only…"


"Would you just let him climb a tree?" Riku interrupts, rolling his eyes. "He doesn't need you hovering around him all the time, telling him what to do."


Telary drops all the wood he'd collected and spins around on his heel, facing Riku. His frown has turned darker, now in the form of a full scowl. Ignored, Sora is beginning to regret starting down this road. It certainly isn't leading the places he'd expected it to.


"Maybe you're right," the wizard admits, his words complemented by a wildly exaggerated shrug. "You like being hands off, don't you? That works for you. Okay, so why don't I stay here and say nothing, and you can run away and hide in the dark like you're used to."


Sora's jaw drops. His mind goes blank. Time all around seems to freeze in place. When things finally start stuttering into motion again, the Keybearer almost can't believe this is actually happening. He hasn't heard this much cruelty from Telary since the wizard killed the Nobody Demyx. And that had been a result of thinking Azlyn was dead.


"So, there it is," Riku says, his voice oddly quiet and still. "Actually, I'm kind of glad you finally brought that up. It's good to know that you're not the coward you usually seem to be."


"Oh, I'm the coward? Yes, it was so brave of you to…"


"STOP IT!"


Sora's loud yell surprises everyone. In some ways, it surprises the man himself. But he'd seen the way this conversation was heading, two of his best friends going for each other's throat. He knows it has to stop. He knows that he's the one who has to stop it.


"I am sick of this already!" Sora continues, thoroughly incensed. "I can't just stand around here and watch you two tear into each other. You know, the two of you are the people I respect most in the whole universe. But right now, I can't even look at you!"


"Sora…" Telary says.


"Hey, okay…" Riku also says. Both of them take a step toward their younger friend.


Sora just shakes his head. "This kills me, okay? It really does, because the two of you have a lot in common. You should be really great friends. Heck, I'd be okay if you could just have a normal conversation." He sighs, shaking his head in exasperation. "But, until that can happen… I just can't be around you two!"


Telary frowns. "Now, Sora…"


Riku Just huffs out a sigh. "Look…"


The Keybearer holds up a hand, cutting both his friends off. "Don't tell it to me, guys. Talk to each other. Maybe the best way for that to happen is for me to go. So I'm gonna." Turning away, he begins walking back to the campsite, still holding most of the firewood. "Come and talk to me when you get your crap together."


Riku and Telary say nothing, only stare silently as the boy each can only think of as his little brother walks away. The look on his face, that of absolute hurt and sadness… It's not a look either one likes being the cause of.


Still silent, they look to each other.


Sora keeps walking through the jungle, head held high. He had really, really hated having to do that. The older boys needed a kick in their pants, sure, but yelling at his friends has never settled well with Sora. Come to think of it, neither does being the sensible, mature one. Usually it's one of the two he just reprimanded who fulfill that role.


A twig snaps behind him. The Keybearer tries not to jump, but only succeeds in keeping his shock from going toofar over the top.


"Already?" he says, beginning to turn around. "C'mon, you have to at least try! I mean, there's no way you two could've figured all your stuff out so…"


A fierce roar cuts him off, just as a blur of color rushes straight into Sora's midsection. The momentum sweeps him off his feet and to the ground. His impact against the jungle floor is unforgiving, felt through his entire body.


But Sora's been in enough scrapes to develop one heck of a reaction time, and before the shock has even faded, he's got his arm moving. His fist slams into something long, bony, and covered in a light layer of fuzz.


His opponent stunned, Sora rolls to his left. When he comes up on top, his attacker now the pinned one, he finally focuses enough to get a good look at who he's fighting. Below him, a brown-hooded leopard-man snarls.


Once again the Keybearer reacts without much thought, slamming his elbow down into the creature's snout. It roars in rage and pain, but the noise is weaker. It peters off after a moment, the leopard-man unconscious.


Sora scrambles to his feet, summoning the Keyblade as he rises. Just in time, too, as another one of Queen La's beastmen flings itself out of the jungle. Sora sidesteps this charge, swiping at its flank. The hit isn't powerful, but from the resulting snarl he knows it was somewhat effective.


The sound of rustling leaves and snapping branches alerts the Keybearer to a new attack, this one from above. He instinctively swipes through the air above his head. To his surprise, this isn't another strike from a leopard-man. The Keyblade cuts right through two Powerwild Heartless, their captive hearts floating off into the distance.


The unfortunate implications of this development don't have long to run through Sora's head, as this ambush isn't over yet. The leopard-man from before, the one not beaten into unconsciousness, is attacking once again. Its clawed hand slashes towards the Keybearer's throat, and he only barely manages to step away in time.


A hand clamps around his bare ankle. Startled, Sora looks down to see that the first leopard-man, the one who'd landed the surprise tackle, isn't quite as unconscious as it had seemed to be. Its grip on his leg is solid, and with one hard yank Sora is back on the ground. The leopard-man rises to its haunches and turns to hold Sora down in one quick movement. The Keybearer struggles, but his opponent has a good grip on his wrists now.


The second leopard-man comes to stand over him too, its expression blank-yet-fearsome. He snarls something to his partner, receiving a throaty growl in return.


Desperate, Sora lashes out any way he can. His rising knee fails to connect with anything, so he turns his head and clamps his teeth down on the arm of the leopard-man holding him. Its a desperation move, and suddenly having a mouthful of fur shocks him into letting go. Not a good idea, as the leopard-man quickly slaps him across the face. It stings like hell, leaving Sora in a barely lucid, woozy state. Everything is fuzzy, just a blur of various colors. A lot of green, primarily.


He can feel himself, in an oddly detached sort of way, being hauled to his feet. The leopard-men continue to snarl at one another, probably having some sort of conversation. After a few seconds, Sora's vision begins to coalesce from its blurry state. He feels his arms being dragged out in front of him, and looking down he watches as his hands are bound in a thick cord.


He reacts on instinct again, jabbing his tied fists forward at the creature trying to restrain him. He feels the hit land on a fuzzy torso, allowing himself some small satisfaction. His captives must not like that, or maybe someone's still miffed about the punch, because the next thing he feels is a paw slamming into the back of his head.


As his vision fades, slowly going dark at the edge, Sora can't help but have one last, actually rather inappropriate thought: at least his plan is coming together.


KH-KH-KH


Resting against a tree trunk, Azlyn slowly works out the kinks in her arm. She's been holding it up for several minutes now, using her shield as an impromptu umbrella against the heavy rain coming down.


She still can't quite believe what she'd let slip to Kairi. She hadn't been thinking, too caught up to properly consider what she wanted to say. Then again, when has Azlyn ever put an emphasis on thinking?


Another mistake, big one, had been running away. Overwhelmed by the moment, the knight had gone with her gut. Run towards physical problems, away from emotional ones. That's gotten her in trouble a few times now, but it seems the lesson just hasn't quite taken.

What's worse is that Kairi had been gone by the time Azlyn made her way back to their training grounds. Driven off by the screaming nutbar that's supposed to be mentoring her. It's all a mess, and once Azlyn gets back to the campsite and finds Kairi, she hopes it can be fixed.


Unfortunately, she hadn't been paying the best attention on the way to the place they'd been training at. Truthfully, she'd just started walking and stopped when it felt appropriate. Hindsight is another quality Azlyn could never be suggested to possess.


After another few minutes of walking, shield held overhead to deter the rain, she emerges from the jungle at a riverbank, a surprisingly open few yards between the treeline and the water. Looking around to get her bearings properly, the knight spots something through the rain. Just less than a hundred feet away stand two tall figures. Curious, Azlyn jogs towards them.


She's about twenty feet away, just close enough to identify the figures as probably Telary and Riku (though what exactly they're doing standing around together is beyond her), when the sound of Heartless warping in throws off her stride.


Azlyn skids to a stop, ending up going a bit further than intended due to the falling rain making the grass more slick. A cohort of small, shifty Powerwilds appear, coming straight for her.


She hurls her shield forward, hoping for the first strike. The group of Heartless break their close formation, but the flying disc manages to clip on in the leg, then smack another as it comes back around to Azlyn's hand.


By the time the Powerwilds, about ten in all, reach Azlyn, she's prepared. Two jump for her face, a quick slash of her shield keeping them back. Another she kicks back into one of its companions, putting them both off balance.


There's still a sizable group of the creatures coming though, and the knight barely has enough time to brace her shield, face-out, in front of herself. The Heartless slam into the barrier, pushing her back through the slick grass and wet dirt beneath.


It does manage to deter the heart-craving creatures though, forcing them back as well. Just as they're gathering for another charge, a deluge of lightning bolts crash down from the sky. The Heartless go crispy, and Azlyn throws a look over her shoulder. Telary has arrived on the scene, staff still held high.


Riku stand behind him, facing the opposite way and weaving a defensive barrier with his red and purple Keyblade. A group of Rapid Thrusters coming in from above stand no chance, cut to pieces by expert swordsmanship.


"Where's Sora?" Azlyn shouts over the heavy sounds of combat and rainfall, the loud rushing noise of the close river, non-magical thunderclaps looming in the distance.


Telary opens his mouth to speak, but finds himself cut off when Riku stumbles into his back. Startled, the wizard nearly clobbers him over the head. Even when he regains himself, the urge lingers.


"Big," is all Riku offers, obviously a bit dazed from his experience.


A sound like drumbeats suddenly fills the air, cutting through all other ambient noise. Azlyn and Telary instantly move to either side of Riku, a simple reflex action after so many fights as part of a trio.


Their foe looms large, obscured by the heavy rain. It's at least twice Azlyn's size, thickly muscled and hunched over on its massive front arms. Disturbingly, it reminds the Disney Castle pair of Tarzan's gorilla "father" Kerchak.


A bright white bolt of lightning briefly illuminates the dark, affording a better look. The creature is indeed highly reminiscent of a gorilla, but covered in purple fur like a Powerwild. The Heartless symbol stands out against its chest.


Riku wastes no time, charging back towards the creature with his blade held high. Not to be outdone, Azlyn follows after him. She hurls her shield, but it just bounces ineffectually off the Apewild's chest. She scowls as she catches her weapon on the rebound. Seems Riku will be the one getting first crack.


The silver-haired Keybearer leads off with a powerful downward slash. The Apewild raises its massive arm as a block, and the thick limb holds against Way to Dawn. Its other arm swings up, and Riku barely manages to back away from the strike.


He clips Azlyn during the retreat, throwing off the knight's landing. Growling, she pushes him away, using it as momentum to fuel her punch against the burly Heartless. It hardly matters, though, since the creature catches her fist in its own. With a roar it lifts her off the ground, whipping her body around like a flail. Her legs crash into Riku, lifting him off the ground.


Azlyn twists her body, managing to plant both feet on the Apewild's chest. With a loud grunt of effort, she pushes her legs off, then swings forward again to nail the Heartless with her heels.


It works, the Apewild dropping her unceremoniously to the ground. She tries to stand, but winces as she feels pain shoot through her shoulder. Being used as a weapon seems to be taking its toll. With all of her focus and determination, the knight manages to get upright enough to retreat.


A red and orange ball of fire comes flying in, steam from the rain surrounding its flight path. It impacts against the Apewild's chest, thankfully managing to stagger it for a moment. Realizing the effectiveness of Telary's strategy, Riku shoots off a dark purple fireball of his own. It's on track to make its own impact, but halfway through its flight it runs afoul of a second normally colored fire spell. The two attacks cancel each other out, leaving nothing but smoke and steam.


Frustrated, Riku's about to try again when he hears another loud bellow. Out of the rain and steam comes the Apewild, charging straight ahead like a runaway freight train. Gritting his teeth, Riku raises his hands to form a dark shield. The barrier coalesces in front of him, purple energy radiating off of it.


Out of seemingly nowhere, Azlyn leaps up for the Heartless's back. Damaged shoulder be damned, she attempts o tackle the charging monster. Unsurprisingly, it proves ineffective, the Apewild not even slowing down. It keeps going until it hits Riku's barrier.


The sheer force of the creature's weight reverberates through the dark shield, sending Riku's arms into an explosion of tingles. The Apewild's arrested momentum has yet another downside, as the jarring change in motion sends Azlyn flipping head-over-heels over its shoulders. She plows into Riku, their bodies colliding and falling together to the slick ground. They land just barely on the lip of the small drop to the rushing river.


Lightning crashes into the Apewild's back before it can even work up a good loom. Grunting in surprise, it turns to see Telary standing a few feet away, staff held up in the air. Identifying the wizard immediately as a greater threat than his prone companions, the creature takes a stride forward on all fours. The wizard dodges left, stumbling forward on the wet grass. He ends up on his knees, beside the just-beginning-to-recover pile of Riku and Azlyn.


The Apewild snarls and takes a few steps forward, stopping only to rap a triumph beat against its chest. Unexpectedly, two leopard-men appear around its flank. Each holds a thick cord of rope, single-mindedly stalking towards the fallen trio.


"That doesn't look good," Riku mumbles, taking a knee. He tries to stand, only to put his foot where Azlyn has her hand.


"Hey, watch it!" the knight growls, fiercely pulling her hand back.


The loud, sudden noise seems to excite the Apewild. It begins to stalk forward, shouldering aside a leopard-man. The anthropomorphic minion seems to take offense to this in much the same way Azlyn had Riku. It snarls at the Heartless, holding up its rope as if to remind the creature of their goal to capture, not kill.


The Apewild only takes it as another challenge, roaring in the leopard-man's face. The other leopard-man joins in, swiping a claw at the Heartless.


"Okay, good," Telary whispers. "Seems they aren't working together very well."


"That's going around," Riku mumbles to himself.


Telary puffs out a breath, deciding to let that comment slide. It is rather true, after all. "All we need to do is…"


He never gets to finish that sentence. The Apewild, its savage mind angered by the denial of its kill, slams its fists into the ground. The act sends the ground trembling, staggering both leopard-men.


As well as the heroic trio, perched on the edge of a raging river. Telary, one foot firm and the other still rising, stumbles back. He clips Riku in the shoulder, who nudges Azlyn. Destabilized, the trio falls backwards, falling briefly through the air before they hit the swift, unforgiving rapids below.
 

KingdomKey

Gold Member
Joined
Sep 25, 2010
Messages
6,265
Awards
26
Age
30
Oh no, no, no, no, no! Please tell me Azlyn, Telary, and Riku survive the fall and the unforgiving rapids! :O And now, it makes sense why Azlyn took off. I didn't realize that was more of a memory of what Telary said to her rather than something she suddenly heard out of the blue around Kairi. Furthermore, Sora. </3 You got kidnapped! My gosh, the amount of butting heads in this chapter blows my mind. At the same time, I'm kind of glad Sora still thinks his plan will somehow get Telary and Riku to get along. On the other hand, I like how Azlyn, Telary, and Riku tried their best to take on the Apewild together. xD Great chapter as always! Looking forward to more!
 

TelaryCri

Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2016
Messages
299
Awards
1
Chapter II: It's A Jungle Out There, pt. 3
As Sora comes gradually out of his groggy state, the first thing he feels is the drag of his shoes across ancient stone. Moments later, the sensation of rough fur across his cheek joins it.

Groaning, he opens his eyes. Even that takes an effort, leaving him with no energy to even lift his head. Which hurts, now that he's thinking of it. Looking down, he can see over the furry shoulder of the leopard-man that has him flung over its back. Dull grey stone passes by quickly. From the darkened color, Sora can easily tell that it's past nightfall. Also of note is that the rainstorm has passed.

Finally, the Keybearer gathers enough energy to lift his head up, do a more thorough reconnaissance. He does his best to look around without slamming his face into the neck of the creature carrying him. From what he can gather, he's in a city. Probably that Opar place. Another leopard-man runs beside them.

Sora looks out in front, eyes catching the enormous stone building looming above. Things get bumpy for a minute, the leopard-men ascending the palace steps. With his untreated head wound the trip is more disorienting than it might have been, and for the next minute or so the Keybearer's head is swimming in groggy confusion.

When his vision clears, Sora sees two massive stone doors opened wide, leading into a chamber that must take up half of this building. This part of the palace is lit better, roaring fires burning in huge pots and on small torches.

La, lounging lazily across her throne, sits up and takes notice upon her minions entering with their target. One of their targets, at least. And by all of Maleficent's accounts, the most powerful too.

"Oh, how wonderful," the queen declares, a languid smile slowly stretching her mouth. "The first guest has arrived. Or should I say, the first gift."

Grimacing, Sora boldly yells something brave and defiant at the evil woman. Or at least, he wants too. As woozy as his head wound is making him, it all just seems to come out in a weak gurgle.

"It appears my pets played with you rather roughly," La says with mocking concern, shaking her head. She stands, grabbing her staff from where it rests against her chair. Seeing it up close, Sora sees its true shape. Instead of the regular stick and large pink orb it appeared to be, it's instead something like a leopard version of Jafar's favored snakehead staff. The queen of Opar bangs its end against the stone floor, a sharp sound rising up from the impact point.

"Had to," Sora says. He speaks slower and more quietly, better to make sure his words are getting out properly. "I don't go down easy."

"Defiant, aren't you?" La tilts her head back and laughs, a terrible, half-mad sound. "Pity I should have to surrender you to that witch. But bargain is a bargain. Besides, you're just a bit young for my tastes."

Sora can't help but be confused. What is this lady talking about, "surrendering" him. To Maleficent presumably. That certainly wouldn't be good. Is the same fate in store for all of his friends?

"You're gonna be sorry about this," Sora threatens the queen, fighting not to yelp as he's unceremoniously removed from the back of the leopard-man that had been carrying him. Along with its comrade, the two anthropomorphic predators drag him to a far end of the throne room. A large column runs from floor to wall, and a great deal of rope rests at its feet. Realizing what's about to happen, the Keybearer can't suppress an angered growl.

"Maleficent was rather specific on how to hold you," La says, watching with a satisfied gleam in her eye as her minions begin tying Sora to the stone column. "No chains, no locks, no seal of any kind. Apparently that blade of yours is quite useful for escapes. Make sure you bind his hands well, my pets."

The leopard-men work methodically, tying Sora's torso tight to the pole. He can't hardly move his arms, and his wrists are bound as well. Even his feet get tied tightly, a long cord of rope running from his ankles to his (already tied) wrists. He can't hardly move at all, not even kick. And summoning the Keyblade is right out.

Even as his humiliation stretches on, the boy keeps his defiant sneer going as strong as possible. No need for this evil woman to get any more satisfaction from him.

"I suggest you do your best to relax, my boy," La advises, lounging once again. Her staff stays in hand, though. No need to take too much risk, after all. "Maleficent isn't due back for another few hours. You're all mine until then."

"We'll see about that," Sora shoos back. His head injury has faded, leaving him feeling as alert as ever. A minor throb still persists, however. No need to show La that, though. "If you hadn't noticed, my friends are still out there. You may have caught me, but you'll never get them! And as soon as they lose your lame animal dudes, they'll come to get me. Just you wait! I bet you won't even have to wait that long. In fact, I…"

Rolling her eyes, La thrusts her staff in the Keybearer's direction. The sound of a snarling leopard once again rings out, pink energy enveloping him. When it fades, a thick gag rests across Sora's mouth.

Sora grumbles to himself behind his gag. So what if his personal situation isn't looking so good right now. Nothing he just said to La was mere bluster. He meant every word. His friends wouldn't allow themselves to be caught, and they'd come for him. He's one-hundred percent confident, no ifs, ands, or buts.

He sighs. Okay, so maybe it's more like seventy-five percent. And perhaps a small but.

KH-KH-KH


Kairi stands at the ready, Keyblade held out in front of her. She regards the leopard-men with wary eyes, never focusing on one of the three for too long. They regard her with about as much scrutiny, no one moving as the rain continues falling.

"Don't take another step," the girl warns, remembering Azlyn's instructions to always seem as aggressive as possible when facing an enemy. Any psychological advantage you can take is a good one.

The beastmen exchange quick glances with one another, communicating without any need for words. Kairi's seen Sora, Azlyn, and Telary do that, and it's always made her feel a little left out. Finally, the leopard-men drop their from aggressive stances, crouching close to the ground.

Kairi lowers her blade just a touch, barely an inch. This is definitely not what she expected. And it's nothing she's been trained for either.

"What's going on?" she asks, trying to make the words sound harsh and demanding. They aren't quite there though, her confusion edging out some of the bite.

Suddenly, a snap realization hits her like a ton of bricks. With a grunt that's as Azlyn-like as she can take it, the Princess of Heart spins around, ready for an attack to come at her back. But nothing happens. The only sound is falling rain.

Wary of a double feint, Kairi whirls around again. The leopard-men are closer, but still crouch. As she watches, one of them lowers its head into something like a bow. It's a shock Kairi has in no way been equipped to deal with. When the others have lowered their heads, definitely bows too, she lowers her Keyblade.

"Okay," she says, keeping her voice as hard as possible. Her body is tense, ready to swing her weapon up at the first sign of trouble. "Clearly something's going on. I don't think you're trying to hurt me."

One of the leopard-men emits a low growl. It seems like an affirmative, though how Kairi figured that out is beyond even her understanding. Well, she has always been good with animals. Cautiously, the girl steps closer. Her Keyblade remains at the ready, though.

The leopard-man holds out his paw, palm facing up. For a long moment Kairi just stares at it, mentally preparing herself. Slowly, as cautiously as possible, the girl reaches out to touch the creature.

A sudden feeling wells up inside her, starting from her chest and spreading all around. Her vision blurs, her ears pop, and her knees go weak. As she begins to tip over, dropping her Keyblade in the process, Kairi internally curses herself for falling for a trap.

She feels furry hands against her shoulders, gently guiding her into a sitting position on a tree root. Within a few moments of being seated, she feels stable again. With that stability comes clarity of thought, one single notion she has to acknowledge: the leopard-men hadn't taken advantage of her state, at a time it would be perfect to do so.

She looks up at them. "You really don't want to hurt me."

"No."


Kairi jumps in fright, nearly falling backwards off her seat. Luckily, she's able to keep herself from doing anything too embarrassing. "Um, what…?"

The leopard-men are bowing again. "Forgive me, Honored Savior."

The girl frowns. It doesn't appear that the leopard-man I actually speaking, and all Kairi actually hears is a few unknowable grunts and snarls. But, somehow, the meaning is conveyed anyway.

Regaining composure as best she can, she replies, "Uh, just Kairi is fine, actually. And your names…?"

"I am Kaaj," the apparent leader says, bowing his head once again. He swivels his paw to the beast-man on the right, "This is Sheeta," then the left, "and Numa. We have waited long for your coming."

"Oh," Kairi says, none of that clearing up much. "Okay, sure. So, what's with the 'honored savior' thing and waiting for me? And, don't take this the wrong way or anything, but don't you work for that scary jungle queen?"

"We have served La for much time, yes," Kaaj answers. "But not because of wanting to. We were not always as we are now. Not slaves. Not in these forms."

Kairi frowns, her fists clenching. The idea of enslaving any creature is not one she appreciates. And judging by Kaaj's last comment, La had even transformed the leopard-men from regular people into these grotesque animal-beings.

"What do you mean by 'waiting', though?" she asks. "And why is it me that you've been doing this waiting for?"

"In a temple in Opar," Kaaj explains, a clear reverence in his words, "there exists a legend, carved their in ancient times. It speaks of many things, but among them is mention of seven pure-hearted maidens. The power of even one maiden is said to be great, bringing evil to its knees. Ever since the leopard-men discovered it, we have waited for these maidens to come and bring us salvation."

"I see." Kairi frowns, her forehead crinkling up in thought. A legend of seven pure-hearted maidens, hm? A clear reference to the Princesses of Heart, no doubt. But why would a tale like that be inscribed on a temple wall in an ancient jungle city?
And, of course, on a more personal note: did the leopard-men really expect her to be their great liberator? That certainly seems like a tall order for one rather inexperienced Keybearer.

"I do want to help you," Kairi assures the group. "But I think it would be best if we went and found my friends first. They're all much better at this sort of thing."

Looking up, Kairi notes that the leopard-men have gone a little sheepish. They look back and forth between each other, as if arguing silently over who should deliver bad news.

"Did something happen to my friends?" the Princess of Heart demands. She stands, summoning her Keyblade again. The dizziness of earlier has passed, and her stance is strong and unyielding.

"Please, Honored One," Kaaj says, holding up his paws non-threateningly, "you must understand. La has not much patience, and is full of wrath. The only way we could see to keep her satisfied, was to give her most of what she asked for."

"What she asked for," Kairi says in a slow, steady voice, "being my friends. Why should I help you if…?"

"The creatures." This from Sheeta, the first time he's spoken up. "If La were to become displeased with us, easy step to making us food for the dark monsters."

"Dark monsters?" The girl's eyes dart back and forth as she thinks. "Dark as in, shadows?"

"Yes," Numa answers, nodding his furry head. "If they feed on hearts, more are made. So said the green woman."

Kairi grimaces. If Heartless are involved, then the leopard-man can only be talking about one "green woman". "Maleficent. So, she's involved with this."

"She wishes to possess you and the boy who bears the key," Kaaj explains. "The rest, La's to freely have."

"Great," the Princess of Heart sighs. "Looks like my days as the number one most desirable kidnapping target aren't quite over yet. But which boy with the key? Sora, or Riku? Both are valid revenge targets, I guess. But if that's what she's after, why give Azlyn and Telary, plus the remaining Keyblade wielder, away? To get La's help, maybe. But…"

"Honored One," Kaaj interrupts, snapping Kairi back to reality. "If you are to save us from our captivity, we would surely help your friends. Once La is without her staff, she will be powerless. One rescue brings another."

"That's true," Kairi agrees, still giving the matter some thought. Really, there's not much left to give. Sora, Riku, Azlyn, and Telary have proven themselves capable of surviving Maleficent's plots numerous times in the past. She's not happy that the leopard-men would bring her friends into the lair of a madwoman, but their fears of becoming Heartless are understandable.

Besides which, and she's really trying hard not to think of this, isn't it her time to really shine? Save the day, vanquish the evil foe to help ease peoples' pain, fulfill an ancient prophecy? This is something only she can do, and therefore something she must do.

"Okay," she says, happy to see the relief that comes to the leopard-men's faces. "I'm in. Now, what exactly does freeing you from La's curse entail?"

"Only the queen of Opar may undo our curse," Sheeta explains. "The queen holds the gem of Opar."

"Oh, that pink orb in La's staff!" Kairi says, recalling events earlier in the day. "You already said I had to take La's staff away. What then?"

"Then, you will free us," Kaaj says, immense relief practically radiating off of him. "Destroy the gem, make sure La no longer has the power of Opar."

Kairi nods along with the explanation, every word pumping her up more and more. It's an adventure worthy of a true Keyblade wielder, alright. "You go free, and I can have my friends out of there before Maleficent ever knows La even had them. You can show me the way to Opar?"

"Of course, Honored One," Kaaj confirms, bowing low again. Kairi looks away, the notion of being so revered still a bit awkward to her. When he straightens again, Kairi somehow makes out through the animalistic face that he's pleased. Sheeta and Numa wear similar expressions, and in the end that's what it's all about. Making others happy.

"Then lead on."
 

KingdomKey

Gold Member
Joined
Sep 25, 2010
Messages
6,265
Awards
26
Age
30
Wow. I like how Kairi is all about saving the day. I suppose it's a good thing they're more on her side. Or so they appear to be at the moment. It's a shame they got transformed into beasts by La like that. On the other hand, it's kind of a bit kinky to imagine Sora tied up and gagged like that. xD 100% joking and lmao right now. Anyways, I like Sora's spirit to be defiant. Shame that didn't last real long. I do hope the others arrive soon for the butt kicking to begin! <3 Great chapter as always! :D
 

TelaryCri

Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2016
Messages
299
Awards
1
Chapter II: It's A Jungle Out There, pt. 3
Do not panic. Remain calm. Keep thinking clear. Those three phrases seem to have stuck themselves in an endless loop in Telary's bran, drilled there by the hours he'd spent reading the Jr. Woodchuck Wilderness Guide that Huey, Dewey, and Louie had lent him in preparation of this trip. Easy enough concepts to read about, but as far as putting them into practice goes? Forget about it.

The wizard fights desperately to keep his head above the water, taking huge, panicked gulps of air whenever the opportunity arises. Out of the corner of his eye he sees Azlyn, the knight valiantly trying to do the same. Riku has left his vision entirely, but honestly that's not his top concern at the moment.

After all, Riku is the greatest, most skilled human being alive. According to Sora anyway. A quick dunk underwater quickly slams that notion out of Telary's head. There are far more important considerations at hand. Survive first, be bitter later. Solid plan, that.

Telary fights his way to the surface, gulping down a quick breath. It's almost immediately knocked out of him a moment later, his shoulder colliding with a large rock. Screaming, he goes spinning through the current, trying to do as the guidebook said and make sure to end up facing downriver.

By the time he's properly oriented correctly, a miraculous patch of calmer waters greets him. His pace slows considerably, easing the forced transition back to clarity of thought. There's a sudden flurry of splashing to his left, and looking towards it he sees Riku, paddling over to the riverbank. Even more surprising, the silver-haired young man pulls Azlyn along with him.

Roused by the sight, Telary gather his strength and starts kicking his way to the riverbank himself. The sound of rougher rapids ahead compel him even stronger, land getting closer every second. Just a few feet away from precious solid ground, Riku's hand wraps around the wizard's wrist. With a grunt and a heave, the Keyblade wielder brings Telary to land.

The rain has stopped, the heat of the jungle combining with their wet clothes to make things uncomfortably muggy. For a long moment the trio simply lay still, breathing heavily and getting their strength back. Finally, after what must be five minutes, Telary finds the strength to sit up. He must have been more out of it than he though, because Riku is already standing. The young man gazes out into the jungle, frowning as if he's expecting something that isn't coming.

"Az?" Telary asks, forgetting about Riku a moment to check on his fiancée. The knight looks up at him with wide eyes, smiling just a little. "Are, uh, are you okay there?"

"Oh, I'm great," she replies, sitting up with a loud grunt. Reaching for her ponytail, she immediately begins ringing water out of her hair. "I've always wanted to go rafting. Just figured that, hey, it would involve an actual raft."

"Beggars can't be choosers," Telary says, attempting to be wry but only sounding worn out. Looking up, he mutters, "Even where companionship is concerned."

"Heard that," Riku says sharply, making his way over to the Disney Castle pair. He stops in front of them, letting out a huge sigh. "Well, if I were to guess, I'd have to say that we have something of a situation here."

"Those freaky leopard things," Azlyn agrees, shaking her head to get out the last few drops of water. Riku grimaces as a few hit him, he suspects on purpose. "And a big scary Heartless."

"That La lady must have figured out a way to control them," Telary suggests. He shakes his head. "Why does that always happen when we're around?"

"Speaking of things that are around," Riku butts in, looking hard at Azlyn. "You were supposed to be with Kairi. You very obviously weren't. Why?"

"No big deal," the knight replies, trying too hard to sound flippant. "We were, y'know, going over some combat stuff and, well… Words were said. Kairi just needed a little break, and some space."

"I can't imagine why that would be," Riku states, rolling his eyes.

"Well, excuse me!" Azlyn shoots right back, jumping to her feet and stomping up to the young man. "Weren't you two supposed to be with Sora, hm? I notice he wasn't around."

"Words were said by us too," Telary answers, sounding embarrassed about the whole thing. "Sora didn't exactly like it when Riku started…"

"Started what?" the Keyblade wielder interrupts, glaring hard at the wizard.

"You were the first to yell!" Telary declares, pointing an accusatory finger. "All I did was try to keep Sora from climbing up that tree and breaking his neck…"

"Sora's climbed a hundred trees, a hundred times. But you just couldn't resist butting in, because obviously you know best for everyone…"

"Yeah? Well, at least I'm around to give advice when…" The wizard gasps, hand flying towards his staff. "Riku, look out!"

Caught off guard by the sudden switch, Riku barely as time to turn before he sees a long red snake come flying out of the treeline. He turns to the side, barely avoiding getting a face full of fangs.

Azlyn throws her shield, but the snake twists its body away from the flying disc. Turning quick as a whip, the reptile lashes out again, going for Telary's face this time. The wizard screams, sweeping up his staff to knock the creature aside.

It's a solid blow, sending the python careening to the side. It lands hard against the ground, hissing its displeasure. Its head whips around, taking in its three opponents. Realizing that this fight isn't worth it, the snake slithers away into the jungle.

For a long moment everyone remains silent, perfectly still except for their heaving breaths. Nothing like a near-death experience to kill an argument.

"Okay," Riku says after a minute, his voice calm and even-toned. "What we learned there was, standing around and yelling at each other isn't a great idea right now."

"Those leopard-men were trying to capture us," Telary says, maintaining his cool as well. "I saw one of them had some rope, presumably to keep us tied up for the trip. Odds are, then, that they went after Sora and Kairi too. If they were both alone…"

"Depending on how many showed up, I doubt Kari had much of a chance," Azlyn sighs, feeling immensely guilty now about leaving her student because of a petty argument. "She's good, but those things are vicious. Smarter than the average Heartless too, if they can capture instead of just killing."

"So it's safe to assume that she's with them now," Telary says, grimacing at the thought of his sister in the hands of wild beastmen. "But if Sora got away…"

"He'd come after us," Riku completes.

"Unless he didn't know," the wizard suggests. "And wandering around hoping to catch up with him doesn't give us great odds."

"We'll just follow the river," Riku argues. "It was pretty much a straight shot from where…"

"He wouldn't have seen us in the river," Azlyn protests, crossing her arms imperiously. "Unless he somehow became invisible, I didn't see Sora there when we fell in."

"What if he assumed we got captured, then?" Telary says. "He'd make straight for that city, Opar. And while we're at it, assume he was taken himself."

"All roads lead to Opar," Riku says, nodding as he thinks things over. "Which brings me back to what I was saying before. If we follow the river, either we end up meeting with Sora, or we follow it all the way back to Opar."

"Does the river go all the way there?" Azlyn asks.

Telary nods. "He's right, it would. A city that size would definitely need a water source close at hand."

"So, that's it then," Azlyn says, looking at each of the boys. "The three of us, pulling rescue operation."

"Well, Sora did seem eager to see us working together," Riku points out with a small smirk. "I guess he's getting his wish."

"We'll need some supplies," Telary says, immediately starting a list in his head. "Most of that stuff is back at the campsite."

"Which they'll be watching," Riku says.

"Who cares?" Azlyn states dismissively, cocky as ever. "They can watch my fist, coming for their faces."

"Alright then," Telary declares, inwardly prepping all his resolve. "We follow the river up to the campsite, grab supplies and see if we can't find Sora. Or Kairi, for that matter. If we don't find them, or only find one, its back to the river and up to Opar."

"The three of us, on a whirlwind adventure," Riku deadpans, shaking his head at the seeming ridiculousness of it all. "Too bad we don't have somebody along to write this all down."

"You never, I've honestly considered doing a memoir," Telary announces as they set out up the riverbank. "I don't like to brag, but I think I could reveal some real insights."

"I would read it," Azlyn says, patting her fiancée assuringly on the back. "Well, I'd buy the audio-tape, anyway."

"But who would read it though?" Telary asks, scratching his chin as he seriously contemplates an answer. "Someone with a commanding-"

"Sexy," Azlyn interjects.

"-Voice," the wizard finishes.

"I'm starting to see why Sora really got along with you guys," Riku says, chuckling. That quickly cuts off though, the young man regaining his usual seriousness. "But, y'know, we are most likely still being hunted. A lot of talking probably isn't for the best."

The Disney Castle pair agree to that, and for a few minutes they walk in silence. It's surprisingly easy, companionable almost. Maybe the key to these three getting along is saying absolutely nothing. It wouldn't be the first friendship in history to be that way.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, Azlyn starts snickering. What about is totally unclear, but soon it has risen to the level of a barely-contained chuckle.

"What is so funny?" Riku irritably demands of the knight, checking the jungle quickly for signs of anything laying in wait beyond the treeline.

"Sorry, sorry," the knight apologizes, a laugh forcing its way out of her mouth. "It's just, I was just thinking about the last time all three of us were together like this."

Riku and Telary, immediately catching her reference, frown deeply. That hadn't been a proud moment in either of their lives. The sight of Sora abandoned on the ground in Hollow Bastion still haunts them to this day.

Azlyn coughs loudly, awkwardly scraping at the ground with her shoe. "Okay, so I guess that wasn't as funny as I thought it was, huh?"

"Definitely not," both men agree.

"I thought we all agreed on not talking," Telary reminds everyone, staring straight ahead and closing his eyes as if to will thing back to easy silence. It seems to work, as once again the only noise is that of the jungle and rushing river.

After another long stretch of nothing, Riku holds up a hand to stop the group. Telary's about to ask what for, but instead he just follows the Keyblade wielders gaze upward. High in one tree, the wizard can see a few broken branches wedged between the healthy ones. The tree Sora had wanted to climb, the one that had somehow led to Riku and Telary's shouting match.

"Well, we're back where we fell then," the wizard announces, sighing in relief. "And it doesn't seem like that Heartless or any leopard guys are hanging around."

"Must have moved on once they figured we were in the river," Azlyn posits. "But then, why didn't we run into them following the river? They would have done that, right?"

Riku shakes his head. "I don't know. This whole thing seems off to me. Like there's something going on that we don't know about."

"True," Telary agrees. "But a lucky break is a lucky break. We still need to be careful, but let's just get back to the campsite and stock up for Opar. I want to be at the city before nightfall."

The wizard heads into the trees, Azlyn following along behind him. Riku falls into step eventually, but he can't help but remain bothered. Something odd is going on behind the scenes here, and he doesn't like it. Not one bit.
 

KingdomKey

Gold Member
Joined
Sep 25, 2010
Messages
6,265
Awards
26
Age
30
They're finally getting along! I'm bouncing in pure excitement at this development. And Azlyn laughing at something inappropriate isn't shocking to me at all. xD On the other hand, I like how Telary warns Riku to look out for the man eating snake. My other favorite part of this was when Telary mentioned doing a memoir. Azlyn interjecting the voice needs to be sexy, while Telary is shooting for manly is hysterical to me. xD I have such love for these two characters. I hope they continue to kind of get along with each other during their rescue operation. I like how they all assume that Kairi is kidnapped. The look on their faces would be priceless when they realize she's not. lol.

Loved this chapter. Looking forward to more! :D Also, thanks for the shout out! I forgot to write that down earlier. xD
 

TelaryCri

Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2016
Messages
299
Awards
1
Chapter II: It's A Jungle Out There, pt. 5
Kairi grunts as her foot hits an aboveground root, nearly tripping over herself. Being the great savior she supposedly is, that would hardly seem dignified.

The walk to Opar has been long and arduous, the Princess of Heart finding it hard to keep up with her beastmen escorts. And she suspects they've only been moving at half-speed for her sake anyway.

There hasn't been much said between her and them. She already knows all she needs to about the plan, and apparently being half-predator cat leaves one militant about not wasting more words than is necessary.

Finally, they reach the outskirts of Opar. The city is mainly built into a slightly sunken valley, closer to the river it once drew its water from. Kairi's party emerges somewhere at the southern end, the remnants of what must have been some kind of market district. Even from her high position, the Keybearing girl spots what remains of stalls and buildings.
She also feels something else.

"What troubles you, Honored One?" Sheeta asks. Even over the short journey, he's proven himself the most sensitive of her escorts.

"Bad feeling," she answers, only earning puzzled glances from her companions. Frowning, she places a hand over her heart. "In here. You see, I think part of my power is the ability to sense when Darkness is nearby. Particularly the Heartless."

Kaaj and Numa raise their snouts to the air, sniffing loudly. Suddenly both grimace, looking back down at Kairi with troubled expressions.

"She is correct," Kaaj declares, shaking his head. "The dark creatures are here, enough that I can smell them from here."

"More than that," Kairi points out. Below, a troop of Powerwilds seem to patrol the Opar streets.

"Does La grow impatient still, then?" Numa wonders. "Have we already lost our brothers this day, our salvation so close at hand?"

"If that's the case," Kairi says sincerely, "I'm truly sorry. But it might mean something that could help us. It might mean that some or all of my friends are still free."

"We must move now," Kaaj announces, shaking his head. "But with these Heartless about, the streets will not be safe. Only way now is to go underground. Tunnels."

"Tunnels?" Kairi asks, until an idea suddenly sparks in her brain. "You mean the old sewer system, don't you?" The leopard-men nod, and she sighs. "Of course. Great. And I really liked these shoes."

"The tunnels cannot be accessed from here," Numa explains. "We'll have to go to the river side, where the aqueduct empties. Not far from here, but we should hurry."

Their course of action set, the four of them take off swiftly to the city's other side.

KH-KH-KH


Staying low to the ground to avoid any sentries' line of sight, Riku, Azlyn, and Telary make their way across the bridge into Opar. They move swiftly but carefully, a few of the potion bottles they brought clinking together in Telary's pocket. Riku, in the lead, suddenly stops short. He sniffs the air, grimacing at what he smells.

"Heartless," the silver-haired man announces. "From what I can smell, a lot of them."

"Smell?" Azlyn repeats, thoroughly disgusted. "You can smell Heartless?"

"Darkness has its own unique scent," he explains, like it's no big deal. "And different kinds of Darkness smell differently as well. It's an ability I developed a long time ago. Came in handy when I was undercover this last year."

"Do you really have to describe it in terms of scent, though?" Azlyn asks. "Seriously, that's kind of a weird thing to keep referring to. 'The smell of Darkness', I mean really."

"Remember us being quiet before?" Riku snaps at the knight, giving her his best scowl. "Well, that goes double when we're infiltrating the enemy stronghold. Sound like a good policy."

"We need to talk about a plan," Telary hisses right back, placing a protective hand on his fiancée's shoulder. "Though I guess your approach would be to just skulk around until the last possible second, right?"

"What's that supposed to mean?" Riku asks, anger making his voice go bitter.

Quick as Azlyn can blink, the two men are in each others faces. This is hardly the time, but neither of them seem to care. The knight moves to intervene, only momentarily tripped up by how hot being this angry makes Telary look. And the subsequent thought of the two men before her duking it out.

"Not the time, either of you!" the knight admonishes her cohorts, placing a hand on each of their chests and pushing them further apart. "You're supposed to be the mature ones, so I can goof off and crack jokes! And this is a situation that's gonna need some levity, so just do what men normally do and push your feelings down until they come out in the rage of battle."

"She's right," Riku admits, though not without a sneer. "We can have this out later. Or maybe never, I really wouldn't mind that."

"Sure," Telary agrees, straightening up his hoodie to give himself a moment to get composed. "But my point stands. We need a plan."

Riku turns back to the city, squinting at the streets below. Luckily, his long experience popping in and out of the Realm of Darkness have left him with excellent night and long-range vision. He doesn't see many Heartless on the city's nearest edges, and moving up a few streets yields the same result. But then he focuses on the city's largest building, undoubtedly a palace of some kind. Several Heartless, Powerwilds and Apewilds both, patrol the area just outside.

"The streets are safe," he announces after a minute of silent staring. "But that palace is under guard."

"Heavy guard?' Telary asks.

After a moment of consideration, Riku shakes his head. "Nothing we can't handle. No skulking around today, I think. A direct assault."

Azlyn's eyes light up. "Oh, and here I thought nothing that came out of your mouth could ever make me happy."

"Seems a bit dangerous," Telary points out.

Riku sighs heavily. "You think sneaking is bad, and a direct assault is also bad. I ca only guess, then, that you have some brilliant third option? Isn't that your thing, always knowing what's best for everyone else?"

"We are not going through this again!" Azlyn snaps, her voice harsher than a bag of stones. "I vote yes on the all-out attack. Sorry, babe. The thought of agreeing with Rik here almost makes me physically ill, but a fight's a-calling and I'm gonna answer."

After a moment of more consideration, Telary finally answers with a begrudging nod. Riku has a point, he supposes. Between the silver-haired man's Keyblade, Azlyn's ferocity, and Telary's own magic, an all-out attack isn't the most impossible of scenarios.

All party's consent given to the plan, they move out. Across the rest of the bridge and through the streets, the group makes only the slightest of gestures towards stealth. They're coming, who or what knows it be damned.

Nearly a dozen Powerwilds stalk up and down the palace steps, a single Apewild seeming to watch over them. Even without speaking, Riku, Azlyn, and Telary knows that the biggest Heartless is the first target in need of elimination.

Riku charges straight away, Way to Dawn flashing in his hand. Azlyn's right on his heels, shield already drawn for battle. Telary lays some groundwork for himself with a burst of lightning, then goes along after his allies.

The Heartless immediately take to the threat, Powerwilds swarming Riku. He barely takes notice, slashing through two in a single slash and knocking two more together with a kick. Azlyn leaps to his side, hurling her shield through another three.

Then the Apewild is on them, leaping through the sky with its massive arms raised. Both warriors slash at it, but the timing is wrong and their weapons clash only against each other. Caught off guard by the mistake, it's all the pair can do to scatter as the Heartless lands. Its landing makes a huge impact, cracks splintering through the ground.

Telary hurls a fireball, but once again poor coordination kills. Riku launches his own attack, the two canceling each other out just before hitting heir target. It manages to do some damage however, and the creature stumbles back.

Azlyn leaps in with a kick. Her shoe connects with face, the creature flinching away still more. It lashes out with a desperate arm, knocking into the knight's back and sending her stumbling away. She recovers just in time to see a renewed offensive of Powerwilds charging for her.

Riku jumps at the Apewild, giving it a solid slash to the chest. He follows it up with another, and then a bolt of lightning hits the monster from above.

The Powerwilds swarm Azlyn in a frenzy, attacking from every which way. She strikes out more or less at random, only succeeding in hitting a scant few. The rest rake their claws against her body. The magical clothes she wears blocks out a lot of damage, but there's plenty of marred skin regardless. She kicks out, knocking two Heartless back. They fall over the lip of the small trench on that side of the plaza, landing with a splash. Sparing a quick glance to check, the knight sees that its some sort of water-trench, leading to an open tunnel.

The Apewild is on its last legs, and with a loud yell Riku plunges his blade through the creature's chest. The Heartless growls in rage as it bursts into particles, a large crystalline heart rising from it before disappearing.

Telary makes his way toward the Keyblade wielder, confident that Azlyn can finish the last few Powerwilds on her own. "We didn't do so bad that time, I guess."

Riku nods slightly. "I guess you're right. Now, c'mon before…"

The sound of a roaring predator cuts through the night, along with a bright streak of pink energy. It hits the ground between the two men, sending both flying to land hard on the plaza's stone. Groggy but not unconscious, Riku looks to the blast's source.

Queen La stands at the palace's top steps, lowering her staff as she laughs at the sight below her. Two more Apewilds flank her, though they seem barely held in check.

"So," she haughtily declares, "it seems that after all my machinations to make you mine, it is you who has come to me."

"Lady, what the hell are you talking about?' Riku spits up at the tyrant, rising painfully to his feet. "Yours? Please, I wouldn't touch you with a nine-foot pole."

La merely smirks, shaking her head. "Why is it always the mouthy men that capture a woman's eye?" She turns her gaze to Telary. "Of course, there is always another option."

"Like hell, lady!" Azlyn calls out, slashing through her last Powerwild. "The redhead's mine. And when it comes to Silverhead, keeping him away from you is doing you a favor!"

"A territorial woman, I see," La says, thoughtfully giving Azlyn a once-over. "I can respect that. I just can't let it live."

A pink blast flies at the knight, who gasps and tries to pull her shield up in time to block it. The magic collides with
something, and when it fades Azlyn is gone.

Angered, Telary shoots off a fireball at La. Opar's queen merely waves her staff to reflect it. With another gesture, she sends one of her Apewilds off to nab the wizard.

Riku leaps at the queen, Keyblade raised. But the Apewild bodyguarding her is too quick, quickly grabbing the young man in one massive hand. He struggles, but a quick squeeze accompanied by a strange dark aura renders puts the rebellion to bed quickly.

Across the square, the second Apewild ignores a blizzara spell, wrapping Telary up in both arms. The wizard tries to wave his arms and do some magic, but once again that dark aura is deployed to drain his energy.

"It looks as if the collection is almost complete," La declares haughtily, looking over her two new prizes. "Shame about the girl, but I would've ended up killing her anyway. I'm not one for sharing."

"You'll pay for what you've done!" Telary growls, fighting against his captor to no avail.

Queen La laughs. "Doubtful. Take them somewhere they can be kept hidden. I don't trust Maleficent not to go back on her deal, so I think it would be best if they be scarce when she arrives. And when you've finished with that, add yourselves to the last search party. I still need that girl, or I doubt the witch will let me keep you, my pets."

KH-KH-KH


Sewers are gross. On an intellectual level Kairi has always known this, but face-to-face with the reality she can confirm it firsthand. Yuck.

"Not far," Kaaj assures his honored savior, noticing the look on her face. He starts saying something else, only to quickly cut himself off.

All three leopard-men glare at the dark path ahead, the sound of footsteps echoing off the walls. Kairi summons her Keyblade as well, ready for the Heartless she can sense coming.

An Apewild lopes out of the shadows with a loud bellow, almost deafening in the tight space. It knocks Kaaj aside with its shoulder, the swipes down Sheeta and Numa with a swing of its arm.

Kairi attacks, slashing her blade into its chest. The creature backs up, pained. She knows overconfidence can be bad, but the redhead allows herself a small smile at the fact that she's struck first blood.

The Heartless comes for her again, and suddenly she realizes that all it will take is one hit from the bulky Heartless and she'll go down. Even without much maneuvering room, the redhead manages to dodge a downward swipe that instead crashes into the ground. Gross water splashes upward, and Kairi feels herself losing balance.

She braces herself against the wall, the Apewild looking down at her with its glowing yellow eyes. The girl knows she's cornered, but raises her Keyblade anyway. Deflecting a blow from a creature this strong won't be great for her arm, but it might buy her even a moment.

As might the metal disc that flies through the tunnel, colliding against the Apewild's head. Surprised, the Heartless turns to the source of its pain. Azlyn rushes down the tunnel, skidding to a stop when she sees the scene before her.

With the Apewild focused on the new arrival, Kairi sees her chance. She slashes at its back, apparently hitting a soft spot. The gorilla-like creature falls forward, right into an upward kick from Azlyn. Grunting, Kairi runs her blade through its back. It disappears promptly.

"Well," Kairi announces into the post-battle silence, looking up at Azlyn. "I guess I'm not dead, huh Az?"

The knight snorts. "No, Princess, you're not. Not by a long shot." Something suddenly hits the knight, and she looks down to the ground. Specifically the fallen leopard-men. "Uh, Kairi. Has something happened I should know about?"
 

KingdomKey

Gold Member
Joined
Sep 25, 2010
Messages
6,265
Awards
26
Age
30
I cracked a smile when Azlyn appreciated Telary being angry and defining it as hot. xD Anyways, I really like how Kairi is getting along with the leopard men. It's kind of nice to see they care about her to a degree. And I'm surprised Azlyn and Telary didn't know Riku could smell heartless or darkness until now. Or that darkness has a scent. xD Also the fight scenes are fantastic and superb as always, TelaryCri! <3 Looking forward to more chapters as always. <3
 

TelaryCri

Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2016
Messages
299
Awards
1
Chapter III: In The Leopard's Den, pt. 1
Riku and Telary land hard on the stone floor of a very small room somewhere within Opar's grand palace. They traveled down several staircases to get here, so Telary can only guess it's the cell of some kind of underground dungeon. Lack of windows and illumination are key parts in the assembly of that theory.

Before either hero can react, the two Apewilds that carried them down are pushing a massive boulder across the entrance. Riku rises to his feet first, charging at the rapidly diminishing exit. But he's too late, the cell's barrier slotting into place neatly. With the light from the torches in the hall blocked, the room is plunged into perfect blackness. Even Riku's abnormally good night vision is challenged to see much of anything.

Luckily, Telary's got an idea on the illumination situation. He simply calls magic fire to the tip of his staff, where it burns like a torch. Luckily, a quick scan of the small room reveals a few actual torches embedded in the walls. The wizard quickly lights them.

"Help me with this thing," Riku calls to the wizard once he's done. They both put their hands on the boulder blocking their exit, pushing with all their might. But it's useless, the huge rock never once seeming to waver or budge. After a long minute the pair stops, exhausted.

"Clever trap, to use on a Keyblade wielder," Telary comments, huffing and puffing his way through the statement. "Another little suggestion from Maleficent, do you think?"

"From how that queen talked, it sounds like Maleficent let her in on the secret of Heartless control." Riku sighs, wiping some sweat from his forehead. Unbidden, the memory of himself learning the trick of it plays through the young man's mind.

"You just can't keep that witch down, can you?" Telary lets himself sink to a sitting position on the floor, back still resting on the boulder. "She even came back after we killed her."

"Which still really bothers me, by the way," Riku says, pushing off the boulder and pacing to the other side of the cell. "But that isn't the problem right now. La has Sora, and she's after Kairi too."

"Azlyn must've gotten away, though," Telary says confidently. After Riku silently stares at him a moment, the wizard just shrugs and says, "I would know if Azlyn was… gone. She's out there, and she'll go looking for Kairi."

"I guess it's up to them now, huh." With another sigh, Riku sits down against the wall. He faces Telary from across the few feet the room allows between them. For a moment, the pair just silently stare at one another. A long moment. Finally, the silver-haired young man leans forward.

Telary raises an eyebrow at Riku's new posture.

"We're going to talk now," Riku says, his tone even and voice tightly controlled. "Sora was right, back before this whole mess started. You and I need to get ourselves together. So, what's your problem with me?"

Well, that's certainly blunt. But a long life of dealing with Azlyn has prepared Telary for that kind of thing. He takes a deep breath before beginning to speak. "First of all, it's not what you think, alright? I'm not still mad about you being on Maleficent's team. I understand why you did what you did, though I still think it was, y'know, pretty stupid."

The silver-haired young man snorts. "Yeah, well, join the club." He leans back, his expression pensive but interested. "That's really not it?"

"Not at all," Telary replies, shaking his head firmly. "You're back on the right side now, that's all that matters."

"What, then?" Riku asks, standing up and looking down at the wizard. Now that his initial thoughts on his disapproval have been proven wrong, the young man is immensely curious. "What did I do that makes you so angry?"

"You weren't there for him," Telary replies, his voice quiet yet undeniably angry. He looks up, directly into Riku's eyes. "You never said a word, gave any indication that you were alright, that you were even alive." The wizard is standing now, fists clenched tightly as he takes a step forward. "You just skulked around in the shadows, keeping everyone guessing. You even told the king not to confirm anything. That hurt him, more than I think you…"

"You think I don't know?" Riku snaps, pounding his fist against the wall. "You think I didn't care that my best friend had no idea what I was doing, where I was? But I couldn't face him, not like I was."

"That, if you'll excuse my language, is pure bullshit," Telary counters, his voice steady and iron-hard. "You say he's your best friend, but if you thought he could ever look at you, no matter what, with anything less than complete understanding, then it seems like you don't know him at all."

"And I guess you do, hm? You haven't known him half, hell, a tenth as long as I have. And now, all of the sudden you know automatically what's best for him?"

"We went through hell together!" Tears have begun filling Telary's eyes, reflecting the torchlight. "When he needed a shoulder, mine was there. He told me everything, because he knew he could. Because he knew I would never abandon him, hide away from him for some stupid reason. I do know him."

"Then why," Riku says, looking down at the ground, his voice dropping to just above a whisper, "are you still mad at me, hm? You know he forgave me, that he understood my reasons. But you just keep on trying to be mad at me for him, like he's too stupid to know what he should feel."

Telary's whole body droops, like the steam's run out of his engines. His fists unclench, hands
feeling slightly sore after how tightly they'd been squeezed.

"What else does that leave me then?" the wizard asks, a single tear escaping his eye. "A stupid feeling inside, just because I'm jealous? Of how cool you always are, how tough and strong. He looks up to you so much, even after everything."

"You want to talk about feeling stupid?" Riku replies, a small laugh escaping his lips. "How about me, feeling like a complete idiot next to this great guy who, according to Sora, knows everything about everything. A guy who, like you said, was there for him when I was too stubborn or afraid to try and be."

"He sounds pretty great," Telary agrees, laughing a bit himself. "Wouldn't want to compete with him."

"But it isn't a competition, is it?" Riku says, like for the first time this is a solid fact that he understands. "Sora cares about us both a lot, doesn't he?"

"If he didn't, he wouldn't have been so upset that we weren't getting along." Telary leans back against the cell wall again, tired for some reason despite the minimal physical effort that conversation required. "And he was right, about us. We've got more things in common than we think."

"We're surrounded by idiots, for one thing," Riku declares, chuckling. Telary nods, laughing as well. Their laughter builds upon each other's, and soon, the whole cell is shaking with the sound of it.

"Well," Telary says after it's over, working hard to control his breathing once again, "I guess, once again, being locked in a small room together has saved the day."

"Speaking of," Riku says, turning back to the barricaded entrance. "How the hell are we supposed to get out of here?"

"Pushing won't help," Telary says, stepping up closer to the boulder, looking it over with a critical eye. "And I'm not sure there are any spells I know that could break this without killing us too."

"This is another time," Riku declares with a long sigh, "that I kind of can't help but wish I could still call up dark portals."

"That did always seem pretty handy to me," Telary agrees. "Despite the fact that most of the people using them wanted to kill me. And, of course, the Keyblade can't help."

Riku's about to agree, when suddenly an idea hits him. He moves over to the boulder, crouching down to examine the ground. Summoning his blade to hand, he carefully moves the edge along the ground, starting to jimmy the flat blade beneath the boulder. It takes effort, but he manages to get an inch or two beneath the great rock.

"Maybe it's not so useless," the silver-haired young man declares, his voice triumphant. "We might not be able to push it ourselves, we aren't in the right position. But, if we can get some leverage on it…"

"It could be rolled away," Telary finishes, nodding as he thinks the idea over. "And you said I know everything." He shrugs. "Anything is worth a shot at this point."

Riku rears his blade back, holding the hilt with both hands. He stabs it downward, using as much strength as possible to get the blade a few inches beneath the boulder. He gives it a tug, making sure the lever is secure. To his surprise, there's the tiniest fraction of movement.

"Working," he grunts, conserving words and thus energy.

"Okay, a good start," Telary says. He leans forward, grabbing whatever parts of the metal hilt that Riku's hands don' already cover. It puts him in the rather awkward position of hugging the silver-haired Keyblade wielder from behind, but a little discomfort is a worthy price for freedom. After a count of three, both men tug upward on the makeshift lever with all their strength.

It doesn't take long before they can feel progress, the large rock slowly rolling forward. They know that they need only to move it just enough for its own momentum to get it completely out of the way. For a minute, it seems to be an impossible task. The strain is gruesome, requiring complete focus.

Which is why neither man hears the sound of another blade striking the boulder outside their cell. All they know is that suddenly, the task feels considerably easier. Only seconds later, the boulder begins rolling to the side of its own volition.

Riku dismisses the Keyblade, both he and Telary bent over to try and catch their breaths. A moment later, two pair of shoes step into the men's field of vision. Looking up, they see Kairi and Azlyn standing before them, also looking rather tired.

"Az!" Telary springs up and jumps forward to hug his fiancée, all tiredness forgotten in the sheer joy of seeing her alive.

"Hey, Tel," she greets him in return, wrapping her own arms around him. "What's with all this? You didn't think I was gonna let some jungle lady with a glowing stick do me in, did ya?"

"Nice to see that you're okay too, Kairi," Riku greets his old friend with a fond smile. "I guess you managed to get away from La's goons?"

"Well," the redhead says, amusement evident in her voice, "it's kind of funny you should mention that." She points behind Riku, grinning slightly.

He whirls around, startled to be face to face with a gang of leopard-men. They give him fierce looks, yet make no move to shove him back into the cell.

"Interesting," Telary says, finally letting go of Azlyn. He turns to his sister instead, one eyebrow raised quizzically. "I assume they aren't here to eat us?"

Kairi shakes her head firmly. "No. In fact, they need our help just as much as we do theirs." One of the leopard-men snarls something, startling Telary with its ferocity. Kairi is hardly concerned though, merely nodding along. "You've got a point there, Kaaj."

"You can understand them?" Riku asks, hands on hips.

"I've always been good with animals," Kairi replies with a shrug. "Now that we're all back together, we can go after freeing Sora. According to Unene," she points to a leopard-man, "La is keeping Sora up in the throne room itself. No obvious Heartless, but they can be summoned easily, if she knows the trick."

"So, direct approach?" Azlyn suggests, beating a fist into her open palm.

"Didn't work so well last time," Telary points out. "With Heartless and that staff on her side, La could prove a match even for all of us."

"The staff is the key," Kairi explains. "If I can get my hands on it, then the leopard-men can be freed. Plus, La will be powerless. We need to get to it."

Kaaj speaks for a minute, bewildering everyone but the Princess of Heart in the room.

"The throne room is huge, apparently," Kairi translates for the rest of the party. "And La made sure to seal off most of the clever ways to get into it. If we have to run all the way to the throne with nothing but open space between us and the queen, casualties will be unavoidable."

"No direct approach then," Telary says, waving the prospect away. "We need something sneaky. To catch her off guard."

Riku's eyes light up, and idea coming to him. "This leopard-men mutiny," he says, turning to Kairi. "Does La have any idea it exists?"

"No, she doesn't," Kairi replies, becoming thoughtful as well.

"Good," Riku says, a smile spreading across his face. "In that case, I think I have the perfect plan..."
 
Last edited:
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top