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Fanfiction ► Kingdom Hearts: Keys to the Kingdom Series



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KingdomKey

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Oh my god. Telary and Riku finally had the talk after so long! I'm really glad to see they were able to come to an understanding in regards to Sora. Telary getting choked up about it really hit me in the chest than Riku. I can barely remember a time when Telary swears, but when he does, it's enough to really get your attention about how serious he is. I also find it funny how Kairi can casually point out La's leopard army is on their side to the pair of them. Or that she can understand them. Anyways, I do hope they're able to rescue Sora! In the meantime, this was a fantastic chapter as usual! :D
 

TelaryCri

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Chapter III: In the Leopard's Den, pt. 2
The sound of the throne room’s massive doors slowly opening snaps Sora back into reality. He’d almost fallen asleep, despite the uncomfortable sensation of being tied to a stone column. Clearly, that’s not happening now.

Especially once the Keybearer gets an eyeful of what the doors were opened to admit. A large group of leopard-men lead Riku, Kairi, Azlyn, and Telary into the room. All four have their hands bound. Two of the beastly guards carry Az and Tel’s weapons. Sora grimaces, noting the subdued looks on every one of his friends’ faces. What must have been done to them?

The lead leopard-man bows before his mistress, the others doing the same as they force the captives to their knees.

Queen La stands from her reclining position on the throne. Grabbing her staff, she walks down the stairs of the platform the throne is situated atop.

“I must say, Kaaj,” she begins, leering appreciatively at the captives assembled before her, “I had doubts as to your ability to make this happen. You show an incredible resourcefulness, perhaps one worth keeping around.”

Sora sees Kairi and Telary exchange quick glances at the queen’s words, but what that could possibly mean flies right over the boy’s head.

“We’ll get out of this!” Riku yells defiantly. He stands and begins to charge, but a leopard-man swiftly punches him in the stomach. The silver-haired young man goes down hard, as yet another indecipherable look passes between Kairi and her brother.

Sora has seen quite enough, body tensing as he readies himself for action. But then Kairi, acting out of some odd relationship-mind-meld, turns one of her looks to him. This one is far less undecipherable, easily translating to “Not now!” Confident in his friends, the Keybearer relaxes. They’ve got this.

Probably.

“A fighter to the end, I see,” La says, chuckling at the sight of her soon-to-be mate on his knees. “Such an admirable quality. I look forward to it being turned to my service.”

“That will never happen,” Riku grunts, still obviously in pain. Even knowing there’s some kind of plan going on, Sora has to fight the urge to break free and attack.

“Not right away, perhaps,” the queen admits. “But once your friends are removed from the equation, and I am your only companion, I suspect things will take a different turn. Bring him to me.”

The leopard-men comply, two of the picking Riku up by the biceps and dragging him across the stone floor.

“What happens to the rest of us?” Kairi asks, her voice steely and defiant.

“For all my sins, I am a woman of my word,” La explains, momentarily taking her eyes off the approaching Riku. “Maleficent desires you, and your tied up friend over there. When she arrives, you’ll be handed over to her tender loving care.”

Reaching their queen, the leopard-men drop Riku at her feet. He snarls up at the woman, but she only rolls her eyes, smacking him hard in the face with her staff. The silver-haired young man goes down again.

And in that same moment, Kaaj and Sheeta dive forward, grabbing at their queen. La gasps in surprise, the gem in her staff glowing as she quickly backs away. A pink beam shoots out, colliding with Sheeta and disintegrating him on the spot.

Kaaj ignores the plight of his comrade, pressing on to his goal. He manages to get his paws on La’s staff, tugging at it for all he’s worth. Snarling, La attempts to summon another blast. Until she feels cold metal, pressing against her neck. Looking behind her, she sees Riku standing there, Way to Dawn held at her throat.

“You treacherous…!” La screeches.

“What’s wrong?’ Riku asks condescendingly. “I thought you were all about having a strong mate. Let go of the staff. I think your reign is over.”

Kairi, Azlyn, and Telary stand, easily snapping their bonds with a small bit of applied force. The leopard-men hand the Disney Castle pair their weapons back, and Kairi summons her Keyblade. The heroes and their leopard-men allies approach the throne.

Until a blaze of green fire whirls to life, directly between them and the captured queen. It fades out in moments, leaving behind Maleficent. In a few quick glances, the witch takes everything in.

“As I suspected,” Maleficent sighs. Kairi, Azlyn, and Telary make a run at her, but a negligent wave of her staff summons a burst of flame. The heat drives them back, and when the fire is gone, a group of Powerwilds stand in its place. Her other foes deterred, Maleficent turns back to her erstwhile partner. “Your own arrogant shortsightedness has betrayed you.”

“You knew?” La rages, hissing at the jade-skinned woman. “And said nothing?”

“Why should I be forced to hold your hand, my dear?” Maleficent inquires, nothing but sheer disdain in her every word. “Any fool could have foreseen your minions’ rebellion. Anyone worthy of my patronage.”

“So, what happens now?” Riku asks, stepping closer to Maleficent while still keeping La at swordpoint. “You’ve done your gloating, flaunted your superiority. Is that enough to convince you to leave peacefully?”

“Why, my dear Riku,” the witch declares, pressing a hand to her chest as if offended, “certainly you know me better than that?”

Riku moves quickly, pushing La and Kaaj away as he himself leaps to the side. Just in time, as not a moment later two massive fists crack the throne room’s stone floor. The silver-haired Keybearer lands a few feet away, regaining his bearings just in time to have them upset again as an Apewild charges at him.

More Heartless attack the rest of the group as well, Armored Soldiers and Neoshadows advancing on Kairi, Azlyn, Telary, and the remaining leopard-men. Azlyn charges forward and slashes a Neoshadow in half, the battle erupting from there into a more frenzied conflict.

Sora struggles against the ropes holding him captive, every fiber of his being crying out to help his friends. Not to mention the fact that some Neoshadows are approaching him. He tries his best, but the ties still bind. By chance, he sees Telary hurling a fireball at an Armored Knight. Quickly realizing his boneheaded oversight, the Keybearer summons a fire spell of his own. The ropes burn away in seconds.

Magic. Why does he always forget he has magic?

Sora slashes downward, knocking the Neoshadow to the ground and stunning it, though not killing it completely. He doesn’t get a chance to deliver a killing blow, though, as two more of the shadowy creatures leap over their fallen comrade, straight at him. The Keybearer slashes twice, knocking them back.

But the first Neoshadow has recovered by now, going for his legs. Sora dances out of the way of its claws, stabbing his Keyblade directly downward, tip first. It sinks into the Heartless’s flesh, killing it instantly. The other Neoshadows attack again, but he quickly cuts them to pieces.

He scans the room, somehow instinctively finding Kairi amid the chaos. She’s holding her own against an Armored Knight, assisted by two leopard-men. The Princess of Heart cuts through the Heartless. Sora runs over to her, taking out some Shadows along the way. A Powerwild jumps at his back, but before it lands a globe of white light slams into it. With a sizzling sound, the Heartless pretty much evaporates.

“Hey,”the Keybearer greets his girlfriend, casual despite all the chaos ensuing at the moment.

“Hi,” she replies, stabbing through an Armored Knight. The enemy defeated, she turns to face him with a small grin.

“Things really fall apart without me here, huh?” Sora quips, smiling his widest smile right back. “But, uh, seriously… What in the worlds is going on right now?”

“Long story,” Kairi declares, blocking an assault from a Powerwild’s claws. She bashes it on the head. “Short version, the leopard guys are good, and I need to get La’s staff.”

The Keybearer throws his gaze over to Queen La’s last position, and the sight awaiting him there isn’t a positive one. La seems to have regained her staff, firing off shots of pink energy more or less at random. One blast manages to hit a leopard-man, his body disappearing and leaving only his meager coverings behind.

“That one?” Sora clarifies, with a gulp that would be audible if not for the surrounding chaos.

“Crap!” Kairi declares, stomping the ground in frustration.

Across the room, Riku faces off against a raging Apewild. He manages a few blows here and there, but nothing with enough power to finish the creature off. If anything, he’s only making it angrier.

A huge fist lashes out, the silver-haired Keyblade wielder barely ducking it. He slashes against the creature’s stomach, but again the damage seems minimal. It turns and lashes out again, Riku somersaulting forward and past the Heartless entirely.


He regains his feet and turns to see the Apewild charging. Riku braceshimself to try and counterattack, but before the Heartless can reach him, Azlyn springs in. The Disney Castle knight plows her feet into the creature’s head, sending it hurtling into the floor face-first. With another front flip, she lands by Riku’s side.

“I already hate all Heartless,” she comments, watching warily as the Apewild tries to get back on its feet. “But I’m starting to hate this kind the most.”

“It’s tough,” Riku agrees. “Got a lot of weight to throw around.” He gives the knight a mocking once-over. “Though of course, you’d know all about that.”

“You’re just bitter ‘cause you know you can never have me,” she shoots right back. “Although, you might be on to something here. This thing likes to give out the bum’s rush. Whaddya say…?”

The silver-haired Keyblade wielder nods. “Taste of its own medicine? Let’s go for it.”

The Apewild is back on its feet, facing its opponents. The creature is just contemplating a charge when, suddenly, the tables are turned. Azlyn and Riku rush the Heartless, leaping up for momentum and crashing into it. Wrapping their arms around its bulky frame, the pair flip forward, slamming the Apewild into the ground in a devastating suplex. It explodes on impact, the force proving to be just too much.

“I guess,” Azlyn declares, a little out of breath, “there really is something to be said for teamwork, huh?”

Shining bolts of lightning crash down behind the pair. They turn quickly, just it time to see a veritable swarm of Shadows laid low by the power. A few feet away, Telary rests his staff against his shoulder.

“You got that right,” the wizard agrees with a grin.

A burst of strangely colored light explodes a few yards away, accompanied by a devastatingly loud noise. Startled, everyone turns to the middle of the chamber, where Queen La and Maleficent are demonstrating a remarkable lack of respect for teamwork. The two sorceresses stand across the hall, their staffs swinging and flashing as they hurl great power against each other. Their powers meet in the middle, producing one technicolor detonation after another.

Riku, Azlyn, and Telary, taking advantage of the evil women’s distraction, rush over to where Sora, Kairi, and the remaining leopard-men stand.

“We need to get that staff,” Kairi growls, watching the magical duel with a frown. “And I don’t think we can do that while Maleficent is blasting away at it.”

“Maybe we’ll get lucky, and they’ll just end up killing each other?” Sora suggests, shrugging weakly.


Riku shakes his head. “Probably best not to bank on that. Honestly, I don’t think this lasts much longer. We’ve all seen Maleficent go all out. She’s just toying with La.”

Kaaj says something in snarls and growls, only Kairi understanding a word.“He says this is as much effort as they’ve ever seen La go to,” she explains. “And she probably can’t sustain it for long.”

“Which should give us an advantage against her,” Telary chimes in. “But we’ll need to make Maleficent focus on something else.”

“I can handle that,” Riku declares confidently. “She won’t be able to resist me.”

“Finally, a woman you can say that about,” Azlyn quips. “I’m in on that action, too.”

“Count me in,” Telary declares. “I’ll have your back, Riku.”

“Aw, look at you guys!” Sora gushes, smiling like a fool. “I told you spending some time together would…”

“Save it for later, Sora,” Kairi admonishes the boy. “Right now, we’ve got a job to do.”
 

KingdomKey

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Kairi makes me laugh a lot. She had some really good lines in this chapter. And oh my god, Riku. Yes, we all know Maleficent can't resist you. I'm not sure if you should be proud of that fact. Lol. Anyways, Sora remembering he could use magic was hysterical to me. And talk about that acting. I absolutely love everything about this chapter. I found it to be extremely entertaining. Furthermore, I like how La is having to deal with Maleficent as well. Got to love some back stabbing. Overall, I look forward to seeing the next chapter as usual. :D
 

TelaryCri

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Chapter III: In The Leopard's Den, pt. 3
With another sweep of her staff, Maleficent deflects La’s latest onslaught with a curtain of green fire. The queen of Opar screams with every attack, something about betrayal and treachery. Honestly, she isn’t paying that much attention.

Until finally something manages to catch her eye. Riku and the two Disney Castle lackeys (She honestly can never remember their names. Then again, what does that really matter?) are making their way over her direction. At the same time, Sora, the Princess, and the leopard-men head for La. A two-pronged attack, most likely to take advantage of Maleficent and La’s preoccupation. Interesting notion, but not anything that could catch the Mistress of All Evil by surprise.

She sends out two bursts of flame, one to keep La from firing, the other directed to Riku and… whoever. The tall redhead raises his wizard’s staff, deflecting the fire with a magical barrier. La, meanwhile, barely manages to protect herself, simultaneously noticing the foes coming for her. The queen’s attention suddenly shifts, and she turns to face down her rebellious subjects and their Keybearing heroes.

This situation seems to have run its course, anyway. An amusing diversion, but Maleficent has other, more important arrangements to be making. Summoning dark power, the witch takes her leave.

La, on the other hand, is not so inclined to lay down and die. She feels exhausted, thinly stretched after her hard fought duel with Maleficent. The queen of Opar knows her own power is great, but that witch… Something dark taints her magic, undeniably powerful but fundamentally wrong.

But there’s no time to dwell on that, either the fatigue or the mystery of Maleficent. Not when her former minions and two Keyblade wielders are charging string for her. Marshaling the strength she has left, Queen La of Opar unleashes her full power once again.

Kairi raises her blade, sweeping aside a blast of pink energy. The next she dodges, always moving forward, never stopping. From the corner of her eye she sees a leopard-man, perhaps Kaaj or Numa, get hit, disincorporating in an instant. But still she can’t stop, can’t falter. Not if the rest of these poor people are to get their lives back.

It’s never occurred to her before, the sacrifices one must make to carry out heroism. From this day on, she’ll never forget it. Driven by the power of her conviction and the memory of the already fallen, she reaches the evil queen first.

A blast of energy, wider and brighter than any before, drives straight for the Princess’s body. She sees it coming, her body already moving. Instinct seems to take over, a small voice in the back of her head declaring, “You’re dead, Princess.”

“Not yet,” Kairi mutters, gathering herself for a leap. She leaves the ground with grace and power, drilled into her by hours of instruction, hard-learned lessons. She sails upward, her body twisting forward and around as she passes through the air over La’s head. The mad queen’s eyes follow her, a panicked look on her face.

Kairi lands behind La, her feet touching the ground more gracefully than she’d even thought they could. She faces her opponent’s back, watches as she turns around, seeming to move at half speed. La raises her staff, held tightly in one hand as she directs the carved leopard’s mouth and the jewel within at the Princess of Heart.

But Kairi’s Keyblade is already there, smacking the wooden scepter with an audible crack. La loses her grip, the staff rising into the air and turning lazy flips. The queen of Opar reaches out for her mark of office, source of all her power. But she’s too slow, too late.

Kairi snatches the scepter right out of the air.

La howls, leaping at the Princess of Heart. Kairi’s elbow snaps up, connecting with the queen’s chin and sending her to the floor. With the enemy down, Kairi can concentrate on doing what she came here for.

Her Keyblade is dismissed in a flash of light, allowing her to wrap both hands around the staff. She can feel the power inside its gem, calling out to her and reacting with the light of her heart. A glow surrounds Kairi, pink and bright enough to hurt the eyes. Her eyes go white, the power surrounding her now seeping into her body.

Her friends and the leopard-men watch with awe and anticipation, eyes following the staff as Kairi raises it higher. Energy radiates from the gem, flowing freely as water from a broken dam.

A pile of clothes begins to stir on the ground, energy swirling within.There’s a flash, and suddenly a full and healthy leopard-man stands there, looking over its revived form with awe. The scene repeats itself all around the throne room, all the fallen beastmen restored to life by Opar’s new queen.

But the damage is not yet undone, the ache of transformation still haunting each leopard-man. For too long have these creatures suffered, doing the bidding of a madwoman. No longer, if Kari's to have any say about it. She raises the staff even higher, preparing the strength of her arms.

La realizes the Princess’s ploy, leaps for her in desperation. Riku reaches out, holding the jungle queen at bay. There will be no stopping this.

Kairi brings the staff down hard, slamming its powerful jewel into thestone floor with as much power as she can muster. For all itsmystical might, the gem itself is a fragile thing. I shatters, bursting into hundreds of small pieces with a small explosion of power.

From that conflagration comes a billowing cloud of thick smoke, pink and orange mixing with yellow. It spreads out in a perfect circle, sweeping over everything in its path.

It reaches La and she cries out, wrenching hard enough to pull away from Riku’s grasp. But it’s no matter, the old queen’s reign has ended. She begins fading, every inch of her turning to grey grains of dust. Her form can no longer sustain itself, melting into nothing but a pile of ashes.

“No!” La screams at her last, her entire being falling apart into motes. Somehow she finds a way to turn to the heroes and her rebellious minions, a look of pure spite and hatred on her rapidly disintegrating fingers. “A curse… On you… All!”

Then her mouth melts, joining the rest of her body as it blows away in the wind like fine grains of sand.

Azlyn is about to make a commentary when the wave of smoke reaches Kaaj. The leopard-man closes his eyes, receiving the magical mist like a thirsty man drinking precious water. His form begins to change, his body hunching forward as it twists itself into a new shape. The garments he wears fall to the ground, his body no longer fit to accommodate them.

All around the process repeats itself on the leopard-men, returning themto their true forms. But, as it turns out, La’s minions were not men turned bestial, but ordinary leopards made anthropomorphic.

Soon all leopard-men have been restored to proper form, but still the magic smoke spreads in its circle. It reaches the throne room’s exit, freely flowing out into the rest of the world. As it passes the threshold, the entire palace begins to shake.

“I guess that magic power was all that was keeping this city intact, huh?” Telary points out, holding on to Azlyn for balance.

“Why do all the ancient cities we visit always collapse?” Sora sighs. He looks over to Kairi, who stands still as a statue, staring at thelast spot La stood in. Concerned, he jogs over to her. “Are you okay?”

“I killed her,” the Princess says quietly, almost unheard over the sounds of Opar’s collapse. “I…”

“You also saved them,” Riku reminds her, gesturing to where the freed leopards are making their exit.

One looks over its shoulder at Kairi, giving the Princess of Heart a respectful nod. With a mighty roar, Kaaj leads his people to safety.

Sora does the same for his. The palace is collapsing around them, huge chunks of rubble falling from the sky. A hasty exit is necessary for survival. As a group, the quintet run through the crumbing city. Flying rubble and imploding bridges and roads provide numerous obstacles, each as perilous as the last.

But by keeping a close eye out for each other and working together, Sora, Azlyn, Telary, Riku, and Kairi are able make it through everything. Through anything.
 

KingdomKey

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Kairi is a badass in this chapter! I have to say it's really cool to see all of that training for her paid off. The fact that she could land the final blow on La and restore the leopard men was exciting! Seriously, the upper cut to La's jaw with the staff was SO DAMN AWESOME! I can't even put it into better words. And Sora complaining about the ancient cities collapsing with their visits is hilarious. But Riku being supportive about what happened between Kairi and La was extremely touching too. This chapter was awesome. And I'm curious what'll happen next. :) Or if this is where things start to wrap up before Telary and Azlyn's wedding?
 

TelaryCri

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Chapter IV: Two World, One Family, pt. 1
Kairi sits by herself, resting on a thick root and looking out into the jungle. Its wild noises surround her, accompanied by a light snoring wafting out of Sora, Riku, and Telary’s tent. A thermos of tea sits by her side, and every once in a while she unscrews the lid to take a sip. Mostly she just sits absolutely still, staring at nothing. Thinking.

It doesn’t take long, maybe half an hour, before Azlyn emerges from their shared tent. She wears her pajamas, a grey oversized long-sleeve shirt with a large Disney Castle seal emblazoned on the chest. She might be wearing shorts as well, but the shirt’s so long it’s hard to tell. Rubbing sleep from her eyes, the knight trudges over to Kairi, taking a seat next to the Princess of Heart.

“Hey,” Azlyn mumbles after a few seconds, rubbing sleep from her eyes. “Whatcha drinkin’?”

“Tea,” Kairi answers, offering the thermos. The blonde takes it with a grateful nod, taking a big swig. Kairi instinctively frowns at that, considering how hot that tea was. If Azlyn takes note of the heat, she doesn’t show it.

The knight opens her mouth to say something, but all that emerges is a belch. She forces a few coughs, embarrassed. Kairi tries not to laugh, but eventually she finds that she just can’t help it. The sound adds to the other noises of the night, Azlyn joining in herself after a moment.

When the merriment has died down, Azlyn speaks again. “I was going to ask, before I was so rudely interrupted… What are you still doing up, after your busy day of chain-breaking?”

“I just couldn’t sleep,” Kairi answers, looking away from the knight. “Adrenaline I guess, plus…”

Azlyn knows a pregnant pause when she hears one. “You can tell me, Kai. I got no room to judge.”

The Princess of Heart maintains silence for another minute, then lets out a breath she wasn’t quite aware she was holding in. “La’s dead because of me. When I smashed the staff, it must have…”

“She was the bad guy,” Azlyn assures the redhead. “If she ever did anything nice in her life, it sure as hell wasn’t at any time we were around. Plus, that same staff-smashing freed the leopard-men. That was your whole goal, if you remember.”

“I know all that.” Sighing again, Kairi stands up and walks a few paces away. Her back still to Azlyn, she says, “I keep seeing her, melting away like she did. I know she was bad, and what she did to those leopards makes me furious just thinking about it. But still…”

Azlyn stands, making her way to Kairi. As tenderly and reassuring as she knows how, the knight lays a hand on her shoulder.

“You did the right thing,” she declares, hoping that if she just makes it sound firm enough the other girl will be able to take it as rock hard truth. “You just need to keep reminding yourself that. Like I…”

When the knight cuts off into silence for a few moments, Kairi turns to her. “Like what?”

“Like I,” Azlyn finally musters up the gumption to say, “need to remind myself of who my student is.”

“What does that mean, exactly?”

“The thing you gotta understand,” the knight explains, “is that I pretty much taught myself fighting. Okay, I had some help I guess. Captain Goofy taught me how to handle the shield a little, but he’s no warrior. Or maybe he just pretended he wasn’t, because he didn’t want me to be one. Same thing with the king. He gave some tips, but it was pretty clear he wasn’t crazy about me fighting either.

“The point is, if I wanted to learn, to make sure I perfected all of my skills, the only person who could make me was, uh, me. And I’m, as I think you’ve noticed, not always the nicest instructor. I guess, back in the jungle, I just got so caught up in the moment that I yelled what I always used to in my head.”

“That’s why you called me by your name,” Kairi realizes, nodding thoughtfully. “You were just doing what came naturally.”

“But you aren’t me, Kairi,” Azlyn says. “Every student is different, and I really should have remembered that. Please forgive me, not onlyfor yesterday, but all the times I yelled. I’m sorry if I made you…”

“What you made me, Azlyn,” Kairi interrupts, grinning at the knight, “was a fighter. I’m not going to tell you that all that yelling, or telling me I was dead, or kicking me while I was down, didn’t hurt my feelings a little. But honestly, without all that I would never be where I am today. Every fight I got in, from the sewer Heartless to La herself, I heard two voices in my head. One was Sora’s, and the other was yours.”

“Mine was louder, right?” Azlyn asks.

“You’re always the one being the loudest, Az.”

The girls share a laugh at the joke. Then, suddenly, Azlyn becomes serious again, a little pensive.


“So, uh, Kairi,” she says, trying to keep the nerves in her voice from showing up too much. “I know we’ve known each other a while now,and we’ve got that whole forgotten childhood history thing, but, um… We’re really truly friends, right?”

It’s Kairi’s turn to get serious. She faces Azlyn head-on, reaching out to place a hand on each of the knight’s shoulders. She looks her straight in the eye.

“Azlyn,” she replies, grinning as the beginnings of tears wet her eyes. “You’re marrying my brother. That makes us more than friends. We’re going to be sisters.”

“Gee,” Azlyn says, fighting hard to keep composed even as tears begin to flow freely down her face. “You and Sora really are just freakin’ p-perfect for each other, y’know? And you’re clearly related to Tel too. All three of you, so d-damn sappy all the t-time.”

Laughing once again, Kairi pulls her friend in for a hug.

KH-KH-KH

Everyone sleeps in the next day. They’d had a big night, after all, and this is a vacation. Therefore doing whatever they want is part of thepackage. Even if “whatever they want” is defined as not waking up until noon.


But, even on vacation, dreams must eventually give heed to cold, hard reality. Said reality comes in the form of Sora, ridiculously energetic as usual. Riku makes sure to tease him that there’s no reason for him to not have energy, considering he spent all that time yesterday sitting down.

Eventually everyone manages to drag themselves up into the waking world. In Azlyn’s case, said dragging is assisted by Sora very loudly banging his Keyblade against a large skillet. She only makes a single ,seemingly cursory threat to kill him for that.

“That means she’s in a pretty good mood,” Telary informs Riku,whispering with his mouth shielded behind one hand. “Usually she’d respond to something like this by trying to kill him.”

Sora’s enthusiasm doesn’t stop with just waking all his friends up. He cheerfully informs them to eat breakfast (more like lunch, considering the hour) quickly, because they leave soon to go see Tarzan. Everyone moans and groans about the upcoming hike, but Sora is having none of it. They’re going, and that is that.

The group dresses and eats more or less silently, even Sora not having much to say. It’s a nice silence, though. The kind of quiet groups of people achieve by making the unspoken decision that there just isn’t anything that needs to be said.

About an hour after waking, they’re on the move. Yet again, very little is said between anyone. Occasionally Sora will ask Azlyn or Telary if they remember this tree or that, to which the reply is generally curt, and uniformly negative. Sora claims to perfectly recall the events that happened at each tree he points out, his happy chatter filling the air in the absence of anyone else’s.

“That’s where I told Azlyn to go take a hike!” the Keybearer declares, shaking his head at the memory. It seems time has turned what was once pain into a kind of nostalgic fondness.

“I was kind of being a bitch,” the knight admits to Riku and Kairi. “Told him you two were dead, and he should give up on looking for you.”

“So you’ve always been this chipper and pleasant,” Riku notes sarcastically. “And here I thought age had jaded you.”

“Not as much as age jaded your face!” Azlyn shoots back, a dig without any venom behind it.

“We made up, though,” Sora continues, like he’s oblivious to anyone else. “This really is a magical place, now that I think about it. Where people you just kinda know become your good friends. That’s why I wanted to come here, y’know. I knew it would help…”

“Oh look, we’re here!” Kairi announces, pointing out the camp, where they’d agreed to meet instead of the treehouse, in the distance.

Tarzan and Jane are already waiting for the group, greeting them all warmly as they enter the couple’s home. Terk and Tantor are there as well, acting friendly enough despite the language barrier.

The first thing Sora does is explain his group’s adventure last night.Tarzan listens interestedly, occasionally adding a comment about his own past entanglements with La. The part about the leopard-men really interests Jane, who can’t stop shaking her head and remarking on the heretofore unknown living conditions of “the poor dears”, as she takes to calling them. When the tale winds down, Sora notices the slowly growing look of disappointment on Tarzan’s face.

“So, she’s really gone?” the ape-man asks, an odd but hard-to-identify note in his voice. “You… I mean, she’s not a threat anymore?”

“Nope!” Sora cheerily confirms. “Thanks to Kairi, you’ll never have to deal with that crazy lady or her dark magic ever again!”

“That’s… Nice.”

“Oh man,” Azlyn suddenly says, slapping her palm against the table they’ve all been sitting around. “You’re jealous that we wasted your archenemy, aren’t you?”

“Jealous!” Tarzan protests, scoffing at the notion. “I, um… I was just…”

“Now, now dear,” Jane soothes her husband, a hand on his muscled shoulder. “Whatever the means, whoever delivered it, the good thing is that she can’t threaten us any more.”

“I wish we could say the same for our enemies,” Riku says ,leaning forward. “Counting what happened when you guys went to Agrabah, this is the second time in a few months Maleficent has caused trouble. What if she’s just laying the groundwork for something big?”

“I do remember someone saying that she wanted me specifically handed over to her,” Kairi remarks. “Could she be targeting the Princesses again?”

“Pete never made a move on Jasmine, though,” Sora points out. “And she wanted me too. La said that a few times. Maybe it’s all just about revenge now.”

“Maybe,” Riku concedes.

“I, for one, agree with Riku,” Telary says, frowning at the unknown situation before them. “Maleficent isn’t one to go without a plan for long. We’ll be seeing her again, and I just bet it’ll be something big.”
 

KingdomKey

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You know, I actually think Azlyn would make a great teacher someday. Teaching a group of fighters how to fight as a career choice after settling down from adventures with Telary at her side. Or it's something that I can easily envision. Anyways, I totally loved the moment she had with Kairi. And it was icing on the cake when Kairi told her they're going to be sisters. Lol. Otherwise, I like the foreshadowing that Maleficent might be planning something big.

Definitely can't wait to read the next chapter! And this was great as always!

I'll also be reading stuff on fan-fiction.net. I know I'm really behind. lol. xD
 

TelaryCri

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Chapter IV: Two Worlds, One Family, pt. 2
Even after the ruinous destruction wrought upon the city of Opar by the death of its queen, the grand palace still manages to stay upright. Massive chunks of stone have fallen from its infrastructure, giving the entire building a battered, lopsided look. All around it lies the rubble of lesser structures, like corpses among a wounded man left on the field of battle. All is silent, not even the noises of the surrounding jungle able to penetrate its gloom.

Until the loud crack of Maleficent's staff echoes through the tattered ruins. She walks slowly and deliberately from the dark portal that carried her back to this primitive world, Pete following in her wake as ever. With a wave of her hand, the witch dismisses the portal.

“Yikes,” her minion comments, looking around at the half-destroyed city with a grimace. “This place sure could use a good redecoratin’, huh?”

His mistress doesn’t deign to respond to the comment, merely makes her way up the cracked stairs to the palace’s formerly elaborate entrance. Most of the columns holding up the overhanging roof have shattered, leaving massive sections of it slumping over like a wounded animal. A great pile of stone chunks blocks the main doors.

That matters little to Maleficent. She raises her staff, focusing her dark power and will on the fallen masonry. With a flick of her staff, the rubble flies off to the side. The great double doors stand open to her now, the left one missing most of its top half, and the right with a massive gash along its edge.

The witch and her minion enters the palace through that crack. All the torches that once lit its large foyer have gone out, but there are enough holes in the ceiling that sunlight streams in to brighten it adequately.

“This place got real thrashed up, huh?” Pete remarks, speaking simply to fill the eerie silence that inevitably accompanies the ruins of a civilization. “Musta been some fight, huh?”

“A long overdue collapse,” Maleficent says, her first words since arriving.

Pete nods his agreement. He’s not really sure why, but it’s all part and parcel with the minion business. “Still, reminds ya why the Keybrat and his little buddies are so dangerous, huh? And now if they figured out about you bein’ after the Princesses of Heart…”

“Dangerous to an overzealous weakling like La,” the witch interrupts, her tone even but laced with undeniable menace. “I have learned from the mistakes I made in my last endeavor. A proactive Keyblade master is more useful to my plans, besides. Like Organization XIII, I shall make Sora’s instinctive heroism work against him.”

They’ve entered the throne room now, more intact than might be expected. Maleficent moves directly for the throne platform, stopping just before ascending its staircase.

“What, uh, what are we doin’ back here anyways?” Pete asks, taking in this room as he did all the rest. With considerable trepidation and fear, that is.

“I merely wish to satisfy a suspicion,” his mistress explains. She reaches out a hand, and suddenly the stairs leading up to the throne dais collapse. The rubble falls, revealing another staircase. This one moves downward, into a chamber that has never before seen the sun. Without hesitation, Maleficent descends.

Pete follows, but with a lot of hesitation. It gets darker anddarker the deeper they move, until Maleficent finally lights the magical green orb at the top of her staff. With that eerie jade light guiding them, the villains head deeper into Opar.

“The city obviously operated largely as a religious cult,” Maleficent continues to exposit. “Centered upon some ridiculous feline deity.”

“I’m guessing… leopard?” Pete throws out. It’s not often he gets a chance to provide a correct answer.

The witch nods. The staircase’s end can now be seen just a dozen steps down. “Indeed. Most of the buildings I observed paid homage to the leopard’s image in some form. But that deity they worshiped was an aberration, a corruption of much a more distant memory.”

The villains enter a chamber now, only a little smaller than the room above, and dark. It's obvious no one has been down here in a long, long time. Also apparent is the fact that, once upon a long ago age, considerable time was spent in this place. The symbols carved on all four walls attest to that, words written in an old language, forgotten by most.

But not by everyone.

“La hadn’t a clue, what was directly beneath her feet,” Maleficent notes sardonically, gazing around the room with a look of wicked glee. “No one in the city did, I’d wager. I imagine that long ago, many people made a very closely concerted effort to vanish this place from living memory.”

“W-why would they d-do that?” Pete stammers, holding himself very tightly as he moves along behind his mistress. They walk to the farthest wall, covered in the hanging remains of dead, rotted vines.

“Because,” the witch answers, stopping before the wall, “hearts grew weak. Over time, even the barbarity of the leopard god seemed preferable to what was once the center of their worship. A creature so evil that its very presence filled them with such dread, such fear and foreboding, that they preferred pretend it never existed.”

Maleficent raises her hand, swiping it once over the wall to clear away the dead vines. They fall away, revealing part of the stone beyond. Something more than words is carved here, a mural of some kind.

Pete takes a step closer, hoping to get a better look. A small squeak emanates from downwards at the motion, the curious fat cat glancing down. A tiny, brown-furred mouse looks back up at him, somehow managing to school its rodent features into defiance.

“Ah,” Maleficent says, momentarily stopping her work on the wall to seewhat her minions has uncovered. She bends low, scooping the creature up in one hand. Looking into the mouse’s eyes, she sees the tiniest glimmering glow. A few specks of pink light up the blackness of its pupil. “More resourceful than I would have though, La.”

The mouse’s eyes go glassy, rolling back in its head. A fine pink mist gathers around the creature’s body, but with a single squeeze of her hand Maleficent sends the cloud back into the rodent.

“Ah, what was that!” Pete yelps, leaping back and raising his hands over his face.

“La’s spirit lives on, despite the destruction of her physical form,” his mistress explains. “It found refuge in this creature, and just now thought itself capable of taking over my body as well. A foolish effort.”

“What, uh, what are ya gonna do with her?” Pete asks.

“Nothing.” The witch sets her former ally/opponent on the ground. “This seems a proper lesson for her arrogance.”

La tweaks her nose up at the jade-skinned woman, squeaking defiantly. But Maleficent pays no mind, returning to her task of clearing the wall. When the last dead vines have fallen and crumbled to dust, the image stands revealed.

The carving depicts a monstrous creature, towering over all. Its powerful arms stretch upward, two massive wings spread wide. Its monstrous features stretch into a look of wicked glee, fanged mouth open in a malicious smile.

Pete looks the carving over, feeling a sudden dread come over him, deeper than he even thought a simple image could evoke. La recoils, scampering behind the fat cat’s leg. And Maleficent regards it with a gleam in her eye.

Beneath it, written in the ancient language of Opar, is a single word. A name, just one name among many for the dark deity. Maleficent runs a reverent hand over it, translating aloud as her hand slides across.

“Chaos.”

KH-KH-KH

After much friendly talking and an early dinner, Tarzan offers to lead Sora and his friends on a short hike to a very beautiful spot nearby. Everyone agrees eagerly, with minimal grumbling. Sora pouts about that for a while, citing his friends’ earlier moaning and groaning when he suggested a walk.


The Keybearer watches Telary and Riku, standing a ways away having a light conversation. Kairi comes up beside him, noting the absolutely ecstatic look on his face at such a simple thing.

“Everything ended up working out, huh?” she says.

Sora flinches, suddenly noticing the presence of his girlfriend. When he recovers, the Keybearer turns to her with a smile.

“They really did, didn’t they?” he agrees, putting an affectionate arm around her. “I knew it all would. Everything went just the way I planned!”

“Yeah,” Kairi replies skeptically, rolling her eyes. “Pretty sure your getting captured wasn’t anything you anticipated.”

“You kidding?” the Keybearer scoffs. “That was totally part of it! I mean, c’mon Kairi, do you really think I couldn’t have taken those leopard-men that came after me if I’d wanted to?”

“Um, yeah,” the Princess of Heart replies, frowning at him. “I very easily think that.”

“But are you sure?”

“Sora!” Kairi, having had quite enough, pulls Sora’s arm off her shoulder and walks away. Tarzan is signaling the hike’s start to the group anyway.

“C’mon!” Sora calls, following the redhead with dogged determination. “Just think about it, huh? Maybe you’ve been underestimating my… Kairi, wait. Please come back. Kairi, I was just kidding around. KAIRI!”

Riku and Telary turn their heads, watching as Kairi places fingers in both her ears, walking further into the jungle, away from the apology-babbling Keybearer. Both young men sigh, exchanging knowing glances.

“That boy is… something else,” Riku declares fondly.

“That’s as accurate a description as I can think of,” Telary agrees. “A good kid though, of course. He just occasionally needs a bit of guidance. A helping hand.”

“Or two,” Riku says, giving the wizard a small grin and offering his own hand out in front of him.

“Y’know,” Telary replies, taking Riku’s hand and giving it a firm shake, “two would be better, I think.”

Their little moment of mutual admiration doesn’t last long, as Azlyn comes stalking out of the jungle. Her eyes dart briefly to the young men’s handshake, before rolling exaggeratedly.

“Would you two hurry up?” the knight snaps, hands on her hips and foot tapping impatiently. “And Riku, I know Telary deftly combines the hidden lust you have for Sora's taut, manly body with your Kairi-inspired redhead fetish, but could ya stop trying to snatch him away from me? It’s just pathetic.”

“Sorry about her, too,” Telary apologizes, dropping the silver-haired Keyblade wielder’s hand.

He shrugs, seemingly unbothered. “It is what it is. Besides, it’s nice to have a little outlet for my anger issues. At least with her, I can expect a fight right back.” Riku jogs forward, directing a glare at Azlyn. “Well, excuse me! It isn’t my fault you can’t keep your man satisfied.”

“Well,” Azlyn scoffs, “if anyone would know about satisfying a man…”

Heaving a deep, long-suffering sigh, Telary trudges after his friends.

KH-KH-KH

Tarzan leads the group through the jungle at a brisk pace, Jane all the while giving scientific commentary on pretty much everything they see. They’re obviously heading uphill the whole way, until Tarzan finally leads them to a massive tree. A long vine hangs down, rising all the way up into the foliage-thick branches.


The group climbs up, high into the network of thick, interconnected branches. Tarzan once again takes lead, the ape-man guiding his guests from branch to branch, tree to tree. A gap between two trees leads to an impromptu vine swinging lesson, which thankfully everyone takes to without injury.

“Almost there,” Tarzan says, leaping across a smaller gap. By now, the whole group can hear the dull roar of a lot of running water nearby. After another few minutes, they reach the end of their trip, the last few feet blocked by an intensely intermingled system of leafy branches. “Okay everyone, get ready to be amazed.”

Tarzan pulls the “curtain” back, and everyone steps out to the edge of an almost impossibly thick limb. Telary expresses a little trepidation about the stability for a moment, but the protests die down when he sees the sigh waiting for him.

They stand high above the world’s largest lake, a might waterfall tumbling down a cliff. Light hits the falling liquid, casting hundreds of bright rainbows off the reflection and out into the air .Combined with the clear blue skies above, it’s an awe-inspiring sight.

“Awesome!” Sora declares, throwing his hands up in delight. “On top of the world, we’re on top of the…” An idea suddenly strikes, lighting up the boy’s face like holiday tree. “Okay, I just had the greatest idea! Everybody's gonna Tarzan yell!”

“Tarzan yell?” Azlyn repeats with a scoff. “What’s that?”

“Yes, Sora,” Tarzan chimes in, hands on his hips. “What exactly is a ‘Tarzan’ yell?”

“You know,” the Keybearer retorts, rolling his eyes. “That thing whereyou get up all high, beat on your chest and go ‘aaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaa’!!! Y’know!”

“Oh,”Jane says, giggling behind her hand. “I must agree dear. You do tend to do that.”

“C’mon, this is the perfect place!” Sora continues, bouncing on the balls of his feet. An unwise move from this high up, but he doesn’t seem to care.

“Let’s go for it,” Telary says, sighing exasperatedly. “If it makes him happy.”

“If it makes him happy,” Kairi repeats, giving Sora a peck on the cheek.

Sora, Kairi, Riku, Azlyn, and Telary line up next to one another looking out on the vast, beautiful landscape below. Sora, standing in the middle, glances to both sides. On his left, Riku and Kairi, his oldest friends. To the right, Azlyn and Telary, his foremost world-traveling companions.

Rocky start aside, leopard-men or no, the murkiness of Maleficent’s future plans hanging in the balance… This is the greatest vacationin the history of the universe.

“On three!” Sora announces, his whole body thrumming with anticipation. “One…”

“Two… ”Riku and Kairi simultaneously declare.

“Three…” Azlyn and Telary say in unison.

With absolute joyous excitement, all five unleash their best, loudest yells.

Put your faith in what you most believe in,

Two worlds, one family.
I hope you liked this KttK tale, and I'm sure that you'll thoroughly enjoy the next!

As for the FFnet stuff, there's really no need to rush. I've been writer's blocked something fierce, so I suspect you'll be caught up in no time! And hey, all of COM is ready and waiting for you, so that's convenient! I look forward to hearing from you whenever you get the chance!
 

KingdomKey

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The Tarzan yell got me to laugh aloud. I really like how everyone came together on this vacation towards the end. Speaking of which, does this mean that Chaos is going to be the one to wreak all kinds of havoc? Like, I'm thinking of Dissidia Chaos. Or is there something related to Chaos about to happen with Maleficent's doing? Anyways, I really enjoyed this story a lot. I could feel my face burning a bit when Azlyn was talking about pleasing a man. lol. Always going to love and gush over these guys. <3

I certainly enjoyed it, TelaryCri! And I'm glad you have so much faith in me to catch up on COM! xD lol. I hope your writer's block isn't giving you too much hassle! But yeah! You'll definitely hear from me for sure! :D Furthermore, it's always a pleasure to read your stories. <3 Thank you for sharing them here on KHI!
 

TelaryCri

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Keys to the Kingdom: Team Spirit

Chapter I: A Hero's Reward, pt. 1
A small red Gummi ship whips quickly through the vastness of space,riding the metaphorical currents of the awe-inspiring “OceanBetween Worlds” en route to its destination. It’s a route the vessel’s passengers know well, having traveled it many times before. The route to Olympus Coliseum.

“This,” Sora declares, practically bouncing up and down in his seat, “is going to be the best vacation ever!”

Riku, lounging on the cushioned bench against the rounded glass of the cockpit’s windshield, sighs and rolls his eyes. “You said that about the last one too. That time, we got attacked by a crazy lady and her horde of transmogrified beastmen. I fell into the river, Kairi had to fulfill some ancient prophecy… Remember, how you were nearly sold off to our archnemesis?”


“And we still aren’t sure why,” Telary, piloting the ship, reminds the group.

“Just proving my point more, Riku,” the younger boy shoots back, haughtily crossing his arms. “No life-threatening hiccups this time. And, no more arguing between my friends about who loves me more.”

Azlyn, sitting peacefully in her own chair, snorts a little in amusement.


“That,” Riku protests, sitting up with an indignant look on his face, “is not an accurate description of…”

“It’s not entirely inaccurate,though,” Telary points out, the soft-spoken voice of reason as always. “And anyway, I agree with Sora. Fighting tournaments aren’t exactly my cup of tea, but at least it’s combat in a more controlled environment. And we won’t be sleeping in tents.”

“Not that the coliseum dorms are much of a step up,” Azlyn sighs.

“The notice even said that this’ll be the first tournament Hercules is running himself,” Sora continues. “It’ll be nice to be able to support him, y’know? Though that probably means our rematch isn’t in the cards yet.”

“It’s very sweet, too,” Telary practically coos. “Naming the tournament after his wife. ‘The Megara Cup’! Rolls off the tongue.”

“Will you ever name a fighting tournament after me, Tel?” Azlyn asks, getting up from her seat and cuddling closer to her fiancée.

He briefly turns his gaze away from the vastness in front of him, giving the blonde knight a quick peck on the cheek. “If the opportunity arises, then sure.”


“What opportunity?” Kairi asks,climbing up into the cockpit. She dabs at her slightly sweating forehead with a towel, then whips it around her shoulders before taking a seat.

“Not important,” Riku deadpans, laying down on his bench again. Closing his eyes, he asks, “How was the workout?”

“Good,” the Keyblade-wielding girl happily declares. “I think I finally feel ready for this tournament.”

“You better,” Azlyn says, staring back at the redhead with a smirk. “I told you, think of this as your big final combat test.”

“Believe me, I am,” Kairi assures the knight. “Though, to be honest, I think the whole ‘freeing an oppressed group of beastmen from enslavement with simultaneously rescuing your butts’ thing I pulled in the jungle was a fairly comprehensive assessment.”

Azlyn shrugs. “Eh, point. But this one could involve a trophy!”

Sora stands up, loudly clearing his throat to get everyone’s attention. He has to do it twice before it actually works.


“Now that we’re all here,” the Keyblade master says, “I think it’s time we talked about something: teams for the tournament. Now, max team-size for the Megara Cup is three members…”

“Did you read the information packet, Sora?” Telary asks, glowing withan odd pride. “I see I have managed to teach you a thing or two.”

“Our little boy,” Azlyn agrees, over-dramatically sniffling. “All grown up and being a big nerd!”

Ignoring his friends’ laughter, Sora presses on. “Anyway, I was thinking that the best idea would be for me and Kairi…”


“What a post-victory celebration that’s gonna be,” Riku remarks, chuckling to himself. Then, suddenly, something clicks in his brain. He bolts upright again, frowning deeply. “Wait a minute! That means…”

“The other team will be Riku, Azlyn, and Telary,” Sora finishes for his upset friend.

“That should be nice,” Telary says, genuinely meaning it. It might havebeen a trip down a bumpy road, but all of he and Riku’s problems are beyond them now.

“Nice for Riku to have a stunningly attractive teammate he can piggyback off of,” Azlyn adds sardonically.

“You three will make a great team,” Kairi adds, smiling at her silver-haired friend.

“Why can’t I be with you two?” Riku asks, trying not to sound like he’s pouting. Trying, and failing. “Team Destiny Islands?”

Sora sighs. “I know, I know. I’d like for us to be competing together too,but c’mon. Three Keyblades? Seems kinda unfair if you ask me. And, well…”


“And what?” Riku demands, one eyebrow raised unforgivingly.

“Another thing that kind of had me worried,” Sora explains, wincing through every word, “is that, y’know. What might happen if you and Azlyn ended up facing each other on opposite teams.”

“He’d get his ass kicked,” the knight quips.

“In your dreams!” the silver-haired young man fires right back. “You couldn’t even touch me.”

“Why would I want to?”

“I think I see your point!” Telary yells over the ensuing argument.

“A little competition is healthy,” Riku says defensively, averting his attention from his ‘opponent’ for the time being.

“What competition?” Azlyn haughtily declares.

“I don’t think ‘healthy’ is quite the word for what goes on between you two,” Kairi points out.

“Yeah,” Sora agrees, nodding his head gravely. “Just ask the manager of Destiny Islands Putt-Putt.”

“They can’t,” Telary reminds everyone, sighing. “We’ve been banned for life, remember?”

“We put the windmill back up!” Azlyn says, rolling her eyes. “Of course, we couldn’t save the seahorse statue.”

“That thing always creeped me out anyway,” Riku says. “Threw off my whole game on that hole. We probably saved an entire generation of young kids from future nightmares.”

Azlyn nods. “A statue of me should be erected in its place.”

“And the nightmares are back on the table,” Riku mutters under his breath.

“The point is,” Sora says wearily, “those are the teams I think would work best.”

“And I agree,” Telary declares. The console in front of him emits a high-pitched beep. “Good thing that’s settled, because we’re almost there! Olympus Coliseum, here we come!”

KH-KH-KH


The courtyard outside the Olympus Coliseum is packed with people, more than Sora thinks he’s ever seen gathered for a tournament. A good sign, probably. The offworld quintet stays together as they make their way through the throng.


It seems the arena itself has been rebuilt good as new too, which is another great sign. Seeing those gleaming gold statues, swords crossed over the lobby entrance, does Sora’s heart good. He remembers all too well what knocked those same statues down, after all.


The lobby is nothing like he remembers though. The previously designed foyer had been a small, cramped room only big enough for about a dozen people. This one is almost as spacious as the courtyard outside. Maybe a hundred people mill to and fro, many heading off down various corridors leading to other areas.


Set up at the far end is a huge canvas canopy, with a group of tables beneath. Men and women in white togas man the area, their clothes decorated with clasps depicting the lightning-bolt-from-cloud symbol of Olympus.


“When they rebuilt, they really went all out!” Sora declares, taking in his surroundings with a joyous smile. As always, it does his heart good to see a place that was once so broken be reborn anew.

“Nothin’ but the best!” a familiar gruff voice says behind the group. Whirling around, they see the satyr Phil standing before them, hands on his furry hips. “How else are we gonna keep gods-ordained true heroes coming back?”

“Hey, Phil,” Sora greets the little goat-man, leaning down to shake his hand.

“Really impressive work you’ve done here,” Telary comments, gesturing wildly at the huge lobby.

“Must have cost a pretty penny,” Azlyn adds, tapping her shoe on the shining marble floor.

“Well,” another familiar voice butts in, “he actually saved a ton on labor. Having a super strong demigod on staff came in handy.”

“Herc!” Sora exclaims, spinning around to give the hero a hearty fist-bump. It actually ends up hurting a little, but the Keybearer does his best to hide the pain. “Too bad we’re not gonna be able to get that rematch going, with you running things.”

Hercules shrugs. “I’m bummed about that too. But, I figured that after all my years fighting, seeing how things go from the other side would be a new experience. Plus, Meg convinced me to take a break. She said the constant heroics stuff was making me mopey.”

“That’s a valid point,” Azlyn mutters to herself.

“Oh, I didn’t even introduce you to my friends!” Sora subtly pushes Riku and Kairi forward.

“Nice to finally meet you two,” Hercules greets the pair with a friendly smile. “I take it you’ll all be competing today?”

“Yeah,” Riku replies, folding his arms across his chest coolly.

“Based on what Sora told me, it should be fun,” Kairi says with an exuberant smile. “And by the way, I think it’s very nice of you to name this tournament after your wife. She must’ve loved it.”

“She sure did,” Hercules replies with a thumbs up. He looks down at Phil, nudging the satyr with his leg. “C’mon, Phil. Tell ‘em.”

Phil crosses his arms, frowning. “I was just about to get ta that, Herc.”

“Tell us what?” Sora asks curiously. “Did something bad happen. Did Hades…?”

“Nothing bad at all,” Hercules assures his young friend. “In fact, for you it’s pretty much the opposite.” He gives Phil another suggestive nudge. “Go on.”

“It’d really be better if I just showed ya,” the hero trainer says, turning and gesturing for the group to follow him down a nearby hall. After exchanging curious looks, they fall into step behind the satyr.
 

KingdomKey

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I'm dying to know what Phil needs to tell them! I also laughed about the whole mini golf incident. xD It's kind of too bad to see Riku being on Telary and Azlyn's team because, it'd would've been cool to have a Team Destiny Island. However, I get Sora's point and argument over it. Plus, I really want to see Kairi hold her own without both boys getting in the way. So if this a three team thing, then who else is joining Sora and Kairi? Otherwise, I loved this chapter. <3
 

TelaryCri

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Chapter I: A Hero's Reward, pt. 2
“What’s with all this silent treatment?” Azlyn demands. “If you’ve got something to say, just say it.”

Phil sighs, giving the knight a dirty look over his shoulder. “I can’t believe you of all people haven’t figured it out yet.”


“That’s gotta be the first time anyone’s said that to Azlyn,” Riku remarks.

Phil is about to say something else, when suddenly a group of five kids, maybe six or seven years old, go running past the group. Everyone sort of awkwardly shifts aside to let them through. The small parade of children is only about halfway through when suddenly, there’s something odd about them.


Three wear what are obviously recreations of Herc’s standard outfit, short cape and all. The other two are dressed far more familiarly; black jackets, some kind of foam-based spiky brown wigs atop their heads. And one holds a wooden replica of what is most certainly Kingdom Key.


For the party, the kids seem to pass by in slow motion, allowing each of them take it in and process what this means. Focusing up ahead, they realize that Phil is leading them to the Olympus Coliseum Heroic Souvenir Emporium. In short, the gift shop.


“You mean…!” Sora cries out in glee, sprinting ahead. The others follow him at about the same speed, leaving Phil spinning in the dust.

The shop is large, and several people mill about looking at its wares. Most of the merchandise that can be seen features Hercules, from costumes like were seen in the hallways, action figures with “full pectoral action”, and drink mugs. The largest display is beneath a statue of the demigod, standing above a half-dozen stacks of uniquely designed Herc-themed togas like some flexing guardian angel.


But a bit further away, relegated to an out-of-the-way corner of thestore, Sora is the star of the show. The foam wigs and wooden Keyblade replicas spied earlier are on display, but it doesn’t end there. A pair of bright yellow sandals, a throwback to his younger, more fashionably-challenged days, togas like Herc’s but instead featuring Sora-inspired color schemes. Even…


“I can’t believe it,” Sora manages to choke out, approaching a shelf with an awed look on his face. “I’m an action figure!”

The Keybearer squeals with glee, picking up several of the small figures made in his likeness and hugging them to his chest. Everyone else just watches, jaws agape at the display before them.


“Well, there it is,” Phil declares, surprising the group as he saunters up to them with a smirk on his face. “Ever since that whole ‘gods-declared-true-hero’ thing, people have been clamoring for this stuff. And, being a man of the people…”

“You decided to make a little munny off of it,” Riku deadpans.

The satyr shrugs. “Way of the worlds, kid.”


A group of young kids rush in suddenly, smiling brightly at the goodies in front of them. They run straight through the older group, uncaring as children are wont to be. One bumps up against Sora’s leg, startling him out of his action-figure-induced reverie.


“Oops,” Sora apologizes, giving the youngster a sheepish grin. “Sorry for standing here hogging all the…”

“OH MY GODS!!!” the little boy screams, immediately drawing attention from the rest of the shop. “It’s really him! It’s SORA!!!”

For a long moment time stands still, everyone’s eyes latching onto the Keybearer as their mouths drop open. Sora, realizing quickly that he’s become the sole center of attention, coughs nervously into his fist, waving the other.


“Uh,” he says, notthe most eloquent introduction, “hi everybody. How’s it…”

“Autograph!” a youngster yells, drawing a rolled up scroll from his back pocket. He thrusts it at Sora. Still a bit dazed, the Keybearer almost can’t help but take the paper from his hand.

“Look!” someone shouts from across the store, no little boy judging by the deepness of hs voice. “Sora’s signing autographs!”

A frenzy of activity suddenly overtakes the store, everyone rushing at the Keybearer with pens and paper held high. Sora barely has enough time to let out a frightened little squeak before he’s swarmed. People of all ages surround him, men and women alike eager for a memento.


His friends, meanwhile, slowly struggle to pick themselves up off the ground. Each is battered, a few bruises forming from where the mob had literally stepped over them in the rush to see Sora.


“That was unpleasant,” Riku mutters, rubbing his sore back. “And look, the bozo didn’t even notice.” He heaves a great sigh. “This isn’t going to end well.”

“Sora does have a tendency to let his head swell,” Kairi agrees, nervously shaking her head.

“Figures,” Azlyn grumbles, scowling at the mob and the Keybearer at its center. “Half of that moron’s success is because of me, and what do I get for all my efforts?”

“Not to throw in with Azlyn’s usual greedy mindset,” Telary adds, directing a concerned frown at the satyr, “but she has kind of a point. Why aren’t there any, say, Telary action figures? Just because I’m the brainy one, it doesn’t mean…”

“Relax, kids, relax the both of ya!” Phil declares, holding up his hands appeasingly. “Trust me, you won’t be disappointed by this deal.” He sighs, his expression conveying an odd sorrow. “Follow me out back, huh?”

Telary informs Riku and Kairi of he and Azlyn’s little field trip, but both decline to come along. Both of them are looking rather protectively at Sora, probably ready to intervene if anything truly troublesome arises.


And so Phil leads the Disney Castle power couple out of the shop, heading back to the main lobby. From there they take another corridor, seeing progressively less foot traffic as they go. Finally they reach the exit, walking out into the afternoon sun.


“Uh, what’s all this then?” Telary asks, looking around. They’re in what appears to be an animal-centered area, mostly horses trottingaround playfully and supping on food and drink freely available fromseveral troughs.

“The stables,” Phil answers, gesturing rather obviously to the frolicking/snacking equines. He leads them to a trio of long wooden buildings, obviously the actual digs for the horses.

“And why exactly are we in the stables?” Azlyn asks, much more aggressively than her wizard companion. She holds her nose shut with two fingers, giving the grazing animals the same generally mistrustful look she gives every unfamiliar beast. “Don’t tell me, we’re getting ponies? Something to appease us while big boy Sora gets the…”

“There ain’t any horses in stable number three at the moment actually,” Phil says, reaching the aforementioned building. It’s locked tight,and for some reason two bulky men in gladiator armor stand to either side of the door. “No more room.”

“No room?” Telary repeats, bewildered. “Why wouldn’t there be…”

Before the wizard can finish his question, Phil gives the men at the stable doors an approving nod. Without saying anything, the bulky guards throw off the stable’s lock and heave the double doors open. A soft golden light shines through from the space between, steadily growing larger and more brilliant as the doors open wider.


Looking inside, Azlyn’s legs suddenly feel numb. She stumbles to the side, Telary barely reacting quickly enough to reach out his arms and hold his fiancée up. She clutches at him frantically, her mouth opening and shutting without producing any actual sound. After a moment of that, she just faints dead away.


“Yeah,” Phil says with a pronounced smirk. “I figured you’d react something like that.”

The stable is filled with munny coins. They sit stacked in piles, thousands upon thousands of pieces heaped atop one another. The afternoon sun seems to hit them each just right, producing a golden gleam that Telary can scarcely look at without hurting his eyes.


Azlyn gives a little moan in his arms, and the wizard knows he must act quickly. Gingerly setting his fiancée on the ground, Telary rushes into the stable, grabbing a handful of coins in one fist. He rushes out just as swiftly, sliding to his knees in front of the unconsciousknight. He waves the coins he’s gathered above her nose, letting the smell of pure munny fill Azlyn’s nostrils.


Her eyes snap open immediately, and within moments she’s sprung to her feet. She reaches down and grabs Phil, hauling him up to eye level.


“Okay,” she says, fighting hard to not trip over the words. “So, what’s exactly the deal here, huh? We talking percentages of profit, or is this just some kinda one-time advance?”

“I’ll answer your questions,” Phil promises, his voice a little strained. “But only if you put me down.”

The knight obliges. She’s even more careful than is her norm. This is, after all, the satyr who seems to be the middleman between her and vast riches.


“My team comes up with the merch, I manufacture the merch, I sell the merch,” Phil answers firmly.

“Using my boy’s face,” Azlyn argues, hands firmly on her hips. A power pose. “So, what is this then? Half the sale’s percentage?”

“Half!” Phil throws his head back, clutching at his belly as he yucks it up. Once the satyr finally regains composure, he gives the knight a disbelieving look. “You kidding? This is Sora’s standard thirty percent.”

“Thirty percent!” Azlyn and Telary parrot, a shocked look on both their faces.

“All this munny, and that’s just thirty percent?” Telary continues, shaking his head. “Sora must be morepopular than we…”

“Thirty percent is, and I say this with a lot of authority due to experience, a pure insult!” Azlyn declares, thrusting a finger in Phil’s face.

“That’s the deal, sister,” the trainer shoots back. “And it took a lot of moralizing speeches from Herc to convince me you deserved even that much.”

“This isn’t over,” Azlyn warns the satyr, putting on her best threatening glare.

“What isn’t over?” Sora asks, he and Riku and Kairi coming out from the coliseum proper. When they stop in front of the stable, the Destiny Islands trio gape in awe at its contents. “That’s a lot of munny. Whose is it?”

“Yours,” Telary answers, earning a swift glare from Azlyn.

“Wow.” The Keybearer shakes his head. “This is definitely a big day for me, huh?”

“It sure is,” Azlyn agrees, clasping a hand against Sora’s shoulder.“So, now that you’ve got all this munny… What, exactly, are you gonna do with it? Just asking, one friend to another.”

“Here we go,” Riku mutters to Telary and Kairi, crossing both arms across his chest.

Sora mulls over the knight’s question for a long moment. “Y’know, I’m not sure. Munny’s never really been a big deal to me.”


“I know,” Azlyn says, giving her maid of honor a friendly shake. “And that’s one of my favorite things about you, if I may speak freely. But, it does present aproblem in this case. All this munny falling at your feet, it’s a lot to manage. Probably too much to manage and focus on winning the tournament at the same time.”

“That is true,” Sora agrees, scratching his chin thoughtfully. “I can’t disappoint the fans.”

“The fans,” Azlyn repeats, with a solemn nod of her head. “But don’t you worry about it, Sora. I can take care of everything. You just go out there and give it your all. The munny, pffft, I can handle that easy.”

“Thanks, Az. You’re really helping me out.”

The knight shrugs. “Oh, think nothing of it. Anything to help out my maid of honor!” She lets Sora go, then turns to Telary and Riku with an apologetic look on her face. “Sorry boys, afraid I won’t be able to…”


“Yeah, I figured,” Riku cuts her off, holding up a hand. “Have fun finding a way to screw this all up horribly.”

“Believe me,” Azlyn replies with a smug grin, “I will!”

Practically on reflex, Telary’s palm smacks straight into his forehead.
 
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