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The Persistence of Loss

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Xion lay on her back in her bed, staring blankly at the ceiling of her bedroom. It was gray, like everything else in The Castle That Never Was. Normally the gray didn't bother her, but today it felt different. After passing through so many worlds with Riku, the dullness of this place seemed almost to taunt her. It was reminding her how trapped she was, how no matter what she did, the whole mess she called her life was going to end with someone hurt.

The gray was everywhere. She could turn her head and look at something else in her bedroom, but that would be pointless. Everything in the castle was dull and lifeless. Xemnas and his followers were obsessed with the concept of their own nothingness. It was mostly Xemnas' thing, for sure. But they all desired to have hearts, whether they showed it or not.

The dullness of the place was intentional, she was sure. The Nobodies had chose a place that reflected their true nature. Their true nature as nothing, merely empty shells of something that was once beautiful. Without hearts, they were essentially a violation of the laws of nature. These hearts they so desired, but could never have, as Xion now knew. Kingdom Hearts would grant Xemnas power, but they were all stuck without hearts. Trapped forever as Nobodies...

But Xion wasn't a Nobody, like they were. She was a Replica, and an imperfect one at that. They were more real than her, as ridiculous as that sounded. Her very existence was unstable, and prolonging it only put the others in danger. Being around Roxas slowly drained his energy, and would eventually kill him. And not to mention poor Sora. If she did not die, he would never be able to wake up.

So whatever time she had was borrowed time at best. She would have to face her destiny at some point, but she could at least enjoy a few more sunsets with Roxas and Axel before she had to die.

She hated it, but there was nothing she could do. Anyway she could possibly try to resolve this with her survival would only make things worse. And if she did find some way to continue existing, would it still be her? Or would Sora's memories morph her into somebody else entirely? She could become some twisted imitation of Sora, or perhaps Kairi. She already was an imitation of Kairi, in a way.

Who was she truly? Was there a person buried beneath all those memories who was the true Xion? She wasn't particularly bound as the black haired girl that everyone saw. She knew Xigbar saw her as someone else, as she had read his journal. And she knew Saix saw her as an empty puppet, but whether that was only in nature or in his very vision of her was something she could not be sure of. And Xemnas saw her as Sora, but that was understandable, as that was what he truly wanted.

So who would she be if the memories that her present form was built on were stripped away? The black haired girl? Sora? Or just a dead, empty shell?

Probably the latter, she thought grimly. She clenched her eyes shut, tired of the empty grayness around her, and tired of her splitting headache. She rubbed her eyes, wishing she had something to do. It was too early to go to sleep, but the last thing she wanted to do was go out to the Gray Area and be around the other Organization members. People who pretended to be friendly while plotting to kill each other. Everything they did was fake. Right now, all she wanted was to be around something real.

Sighing, she sat up on her bed and summoned her keyblade. She looked over it, thinking of all the Heartless she had slain with it. Despite all the battles it had experienced, there wasn't a single niche or scratch on its shiny surface.

It wasn't her keyblade. Nor was Roxas' his. They both came from Sora, so they had access to his skills. What right did she have to work against him with his own tools? She sent the keyblade away and stood up. She paced around her room for a while, rubbing her temples. She didn't know why her head hurt so much, but it probably had something to do with Sora. Everything had to do with Sora.

Sora was starting to piss her off. He wasn't even conscious right now, yet everything still revolved around him. Riku was working to wake him up, and was more than willing to destroy both her and Roxas to do so. Namine was trying to piece back together the memory she destroyed, the memories that were giving Roxas hallucinations and were destroying her existence.

But Nobodies and Replicas weren't real, right? That's what they all said. They weren't real people, so they didn't have to be treated as such.

Xion clenched her fists. She was real! She had a body and a mind. She didn't have a heart, but that didn't mean she couldn't feel. Those days atop the clock tower proved that. She was a person, and she didn't deserve to be treated like a puppet. She deserved to have a happy ending just as much as Sora did.

She'd come to a decision. She was going to find a way to make it work. It was a shame that Sora would have to wait to wake up, but that was just too bad.

The last time she left the Organization, Axel had just brought her back. But she hadn't been as careful as she could have. She knew enough about the Organization to avoid them. They hadn't caught her, she had wanted to go back. To say goodbye to Roxas and Axel. To see her friends one last time.

She would leave to find a way for everyone to survive. Dying and returning to Sora was just giving up. She existed now, so they were just going to have to deal with that.

She stood up and went to her door. After listening for a second, she was sure nobody else was there. She slowly opened the door and poked her head out. As she suspected, the hallway was empty. She stepped out, and made her way down the halls, heading for the exit. She had to step outside of the castle before she could use a Corridor of Darkness. Otherwise, the others would know she was gone in a second. But getting to the streets would be easy.

Nothing was going to stop her now. She would fight them all for her right to exist.

 

Felix stood at the edge of the black abyss where Mt. Aleph had once been. Peering into the gaping depths, he wondered how far down it went.

He kicked a rock, watching it bounce off the edges of the cliff side before disappearing into the chasm. He never heard it hit the bottom.

The moon was high in the sky. It illuminated much of the night, but even with a full afternoon sun, Felix would not have been able to see the bottom of the chasm.

As a Venus Adept, he figured he would be able to sense something about the disappearance of the mountain. But he was getting nothing.

Ne needed to get down there. There had to be a way. He could always use his sand psynergy to travel down the edge of the chasm, reforming once he reached the bottom. But once he was down there, he had no guarantee that he would be able to make it back up. The sand was passive, taking the easiest route it could. And his psynergy wasn't an infinite resource.

He resigned himself to the fact that there was no way to get down there. He had already considered other options, but none of them would work. He and Isaac's Growth psynergy wouldn't give them a sturdy enough rope to make it down, nor did anyone have a real rope long enough to reach the bottom. Sheba's Hover psynergy would give out long before they reached the bottom, and they would fall to their deaths. The flying Lemurian ship was too big and unwieldy to maneuver down the chasm.

But even if these options would have worked, Sheba was back in Lalivero, and the Lemurian ship was gone with Piers. They were both gone, along with Ivan and Mia.

And really, Felix was the only one who really wanted to explore the chasm. Well he and Mia had, before she had returned to Imil.

Felix sighed, feeling the healer's absence painfully. He had bonded slowly with the healer during the last phase of the trip, she being the only member of Isaac's group who seemed to understand his burden. She had once carried a great responsibility, the protection of Mercury Lighthouse. And after he had arrived with Saturos and Menardi and essentially robbed her of her duty, he had expected her to hate him. But it wasn't he she hated. It was her cousin, Alex.

That was the reason Felix wanted to climb down that chasm. To find Alex and slice open his throat. He hated the man for more than anyone else in the world, even more than he hated the Wise One for almost making him kill his own parents.

Alex had triggered the entire quest. He had been behind everything. Years before the Proxians had decided to light the elemental lighthouses, he had been researching Alchemy and the Stone of Sages. He had gone to the secluded village of Prox to give them information. He had told them where the other lighthouses were, as well as the elemental stars. He had given them all the information the Mercury clan had gathered on the lighthouses and Alchemy, withholding of course the things he didn't want them to know.

Just enough to spur them into action. He had gone with them when they had first raided Sol Sanctum. He had watched, but not participated. Nobody had known he was there, not even Saturos and his men. As they triggered the trap that would kill not only almost all of them, but would also release the boulder that nearly drowned Felix and his parents, Alex stood by watching. He had known what would happen, but did nothing.

Alex had stood by as Felix and his parents were marched in chains back to Prox. They had suffered there, cold and mistreated for three years, before Saturos declared that they were trying again, this time with Felix's help.

And then Alex had been there when Felix's sister Jenna and the scholar Kraden were taken after the raid once again failed.

While he did not have much of a direct hand in these events, it was his constant egging on of Saturos behind the scenes that had infuriated Felix. And his almost flirtatious nature with Jenna did not help improve Felix's opinion of him any more than his arrogant attitude or his frequent disappearances.

But it was after the events at Venus Lighthouse that truly brought Felix to hate him.

After they were washed ashore on Indra, Alex had once again disappeared, more or less leaving them all for dead. As their journey continued, he had popped in here and there, insulting and trying to intimidate them.

At Jupiter Lighthouse, he helped Agatio and Karst escape after they had back-stabbed and attempted to kill them.

And then after Mars Lighthouse, he had climbed Mt. Aleph and seized the Golden Sun while Felix had been tricked into almost murder his own parents. He had thrown so many lives into chaos and used them like puppets for his own selfish goals.

Sure, lighting the lighthouses had been necessary. But Alex hadn't done it to save the world. He had done it for power. While Saturos and the other Proxians had been awful people, even bordering on mindless killers at times, they had gone on the quest to save their village. Alex had betrayed his.

But even all this wasn't why Felix hated him so much.

It was what had happened when he got back to Vale. His family had been reunited and the world had been saved. The village was gone, but everyone had survived. All was well, and Felix could finally rest in peace.

But he was wrong. Felix's tent now rested nearly a mile away from the camps, set up next to the Aleph Chasm, as he liked to call it. The other villagers had spat at him when he had returned. He was a traitor in their eyes.

The elders had never given him a chance to return to the others. Their debate had been on the options of Execution or Banishment. Jenna and the others had appealed to them passionately, telling them everything that had happened. But it had done nothing. The Vale Elders were even greater fools than the Lemurian Senate.

The debate was still on. They told him that the choice was now his. The people of Vale planned to leave for Vault in the morning, and then for Kalay later. If he tried to follow them, he would be killed. Exactly who was going to kill him was never stated, and Felix knew nobody besides his friends were anywhere near as strong as he was. But he had decided it was just better to let them go than to cause problems.

Jenna was to marry Isaac once they reached Kalay. She already carried his child. Their parents were going too, but they would be returning to Vault after the wedding. After everything they'd been through, they needed a quiet place to settle down.

The rest of his friends had gone already, but they intended to reunite for Jenna's wedding. Piers had taken Sheba back to Lalivero, and was now sailing the seas as a free man. Ivan was in Kalay, working with Lord Hammet in preparing the city for the arrival of the Valeans. Garet was going to help the elderly villagers during the move.

And then of course, there was Mia. She had stayed with him for a while, sharing his tent. They had been lovers for the last few months of the trip. She had been really the first good thing to happen to him since childhood. And now she was gone. They had argued, and she had left. She was back in Imil now, he figured. Resuming her old post as the village healer.

It didn't matter. What mattered was that he was alone.

Felix's life was destroyed, and the only person he could blame was Alex. It was all he had left. So now he stood at the edge of the chasm, trying to figure out a way down so that he could make sure the man was dead. He prayed he was still alive, so that he could end the man's life himself.

 

Xion had nearly made it out of the Castle That Never Was, when she heard a voice behind her call out her name. The voice was so familiar, she knew who it was without even turning around.

"Xion..." Roxas said. "Where are you going?"

She stood with her back turned to him, knowing that if she saw his face it would bring her to tears. A funny thought, seeing as how she wasn't supposed to have a heart.

"I'm leaving. And I'm not coming back until I have a way to set things right." She forced herself to say.

"Don't do this." Roxas said, coming closer. "Axel just brought you back. They'll send him to do it again. Think of what will happen. Think of what Saix will do to you, after running a second time. He let it go the first time, but he doesn't forgive twice."

She said nothing.

"Especially not for you. I don't know why he hates you so much, but I can't protect you from all of them. Please, Xion. Don't make them destroy you."

He stood just behind her now. Not turning to face him, she sighed.

"I wish things could just keep going the way they were." She said. "But it's over. Those days are gone. And if I want to hold on to anything, anything at all... Well, I have to do this. Otherwise, we'll never be able to have ice cream again."

"Why?" He demanded, grabbing her shoulder, and tuning her around. "Why is everything so different now? Why won't anyone tell me what's going on?"

Her eyes were cast down. She just couldn't look at him.

"I wish I could tell you." She said. "But being near you is hurting you. And you're not the only one. I have to go and find a way. So that everyone can go on, and nobody will be hurt. He told me the only way for that was to die, but I know there's another way. Somehow..."

"Who told you that?" Roxas demanded. "That man you were with? The one who dresses like one of us? He's lying to you, Xion! Don't listen to him! I don't know who he is, but he's running around in our coat, pretending to be one of us. You can't trust somebody like that."

She slipped her hand from his grip and turned half away from him. "I don't know who I can trust anymore. I can't trust Xemnas, that's for sure. I have to leave, Roxas. Or everything is going to get much worse."

Roxas stepped back, a hurt look in his eyes. Xion struggled not to look at him.

"There is always the easy way." Xion said. "But that would destroy me. And you as well, in time. But I don't want to die. I refuse to accept that that's the only way. So I'm leaving, and I'll come back when I have a way for us all to survive. Then we can have ice cream again."

Roxas was quiet for a moment before he spoke.

"So that's it, then. You have to go..."

He took her hand in his.

"Fine. Just be careful, okay?"

Xion met his gaze at last. He had a sad smile on his face.

"You, too. Don't be too trusting, Roxas. The Organization is built on lies."

She turned and started walking away. It hurt her to leave like this, but she had no choice. This was the only way.

"We're going to have ice cream again!" Roxas called after her. "Promise me!"

"We will!" She called back. "I promise!"

Xion stepped just outside of the castle, and summoned a Corridor of Darkness. She flashed Roxas a quick smile, and disappeared through it. After a few moments, Roxas walked back inside, muttering something to himself. Up on the balcony, overlooking the entire scene, a shadow stood behind a pillar, grinning.

"So, Poppet's gone again, huh... They just never learn, do they?"

 

Jenna approached the lone tent by the chasm, a wrapped bowl of pasta in her arms. She was only in the early stages of her pregnancy, and still able to manage on her own quite well. Her brother's tent was easy to see, due to the golden glow created by the lantern he had burning inside.

Before she could clear her throat and announce herself. She heard her brother mutter, "Come in."

As she stepped inside the large tent, she saw Felix at a desk, bent over a stack of papers. His ponytail was undone, leaving his dark brown hair unkempt around his shoulders.

"I brought you something to eat."

"Thanks."

Jenna walked over and placed the bowl on the table. As she did, she glanced at the papers, which looked like graphs of the chasm.

"What are you doing?" She asked.

"Trying to find a way down into that damn hole." He muttered. "Why are you up so late?"

"I couldn't sleep." She said. "I couldn't stop thinking about you, all alone out here."

"Sorry to bother you." He muttered. He pulled the cover off the bowl and started ravenously devouring the noodles.

"You don't have to listen to the elders, you know." She said. "Who's going to stop you? You can come with us to Kalay. I want my brother to see my wedding."

"It's not just the elders." Felix said. "It's all of them. All the villagers. They hate me. They think I faked my death in the river. You know, as part of my plot to steal the stars."

"Screw them!" Jenna exclaimed. "Since when do you care what others think? Are you really going to turn your back on your family?"

"Isaac doesn't want me there either. And I honestly don't think I could stand watching my sister marry someone I don't like."

"But you used to be such close friends!"

"That was before he told me I was a traitor. Before he supported the Elders in banishing me. Before he came back as the triumphant hero and told the villagers I was a traitor and a thief, when I was the one who gave up everything to save the world. How could I watch a man like that marry my sister?"

"That's not at all true!" Jenna exclaimed. "He's been trying to get the Elders to let you back in! He's been fighting non-stop to reverse their decision!"

"He once tried to kill me. He was working against us when we were lighting the lighthouses. Remember Jupiter Lighthouse? I saved his life. I saved the lives of all four members of his group. And how does he thank me? He pulls a sword on me."

"Felix... How much sleep have you been getting?" Jenna asked gently.

"What are you talking about?"

"You have rings around your eyes. And they're so bloodshot."

"I'm fine." He muttered. Finished with the pasta, he placed the bowl back on the table and returned his gaze to his papers. "Thanks for the food, but I really have to get back to work."

Jenna strode past him started rummaging under his bed.

"What are you looking for?" He demanded.

"You always used to hide things under your bed." She said. She stood back up, an empty bottle of ale in her hands. "There were six more of these under there. I thought I smelled cheep booze when I walked in."

"So what if I'm drinking?" Felix said. "It's not like I have anything else to do out here. Except finding a way into that damn hole."

"Felix..." Jenna said as gently as she could. "Is this about Mia?"

He stopped reading and set the papers down. He was silent for a moment, then he turned around.

"That's none of your concern."

"Felix, I'm worried about you. I've never seen you like this. What's going on?"

"It's Alex, okay? It's all his fault. I'm going to stay here until I can get down here and find him. And then I'm going to kill him."

"Alex is dead, Felix. He was crushed under tons of rock. His body is crushed to dust."

"I can't know that for sure. I have to find him, dead or alive. I have to see his body before I can rest."

"You were so happy when Mia was here. Remember how you reacted when the Elders told you you were banished? You laughed in their faces and joined everyone in the celebration. You didn't care. After she left you just... Changed."

Felix was silent. He sat back down and returned to his work.

"Please come with us to Kalay. I can't have my wedding without my big brother."

"Thank you for the food." He said in a dull voice. "You should probably be getting back soon. You need rest before the trek."

"Will you come with us?" She demanded, not budging an inch.

"I'll... I'll think about it."

"Thank you." Jenna said. She went to his side and kissed him on the forehead. "You get some sleep too, okay? You look worse than Dullahan."

She took her bowl and left. He sat there, staring blankly at his charts.

He'd told her he would think about it, but he had already made up his mind. He wasn't going to Kalay. He was going in the chasm. Tonight.

 

Xion stepped out of the Corridor into a forest.

She was in a new world, one that she had discovered herself about a week before she had left with Riku. The rest of the organization had no knowledge of this world. Not to mention that the world was huge, larger than any she had been to before. Hiding here would be easy.

Weyard was a very unique world, very different from the ones Xion had been to before. It wasn't as developed as the other worlds, but that wasn't its most interesting feature. As far as she knew, the Organization wasn't even aware of it's existence.

The whole world was also flat. How that was even possible was something Xion couldn't understand. Not to mention how it just... felt. There was something very strange about this place. It was like the very air was different somehow. It seemed a fitting place to begin her search.

Xion made her way through the forest. If her memory of this world was correct, she should be close to a huge mountain. This was where she had arrived when she first came here, and she remembered a large mountain with a peaceful little village at the foot.

It was strange, because she didn't see the mountain peak above the trees. Granted, it was night now, and it had been daytime when she first came here, but it wasn't really something you missed. She was certain she was on the right path, so she should be seeing it.

Her certainty was cast into doubt when she emerged from the forest to find a totally different scene than the one she expected.

The mountain was utterly gone, replaced by a massive chasm that stretched all the way to the smaller mountains to the north. The village was also missing, but that was to be expected. For a moment, she wondered where the villagers had gone, but her question was answered when she spotted a scattered mass of tents flickering with the glow of small fires and lamps.

Xion considered heading over to the tents and asking about the mountain's disappearance, but decided against it. She couldn't afford to leave witnesses in case the Organization came here looking for her.

She made her way down the hill towards the edge of the chasm. For some reason, she felt the need to hurry, so she started running. She usually would take more precautions, but no one would see her with her black hair and coat in the dead of night.

As she drew near the massive chasm, she thought she spotted a lone tent by the edge. Perhaps it was a researcher, camped there trying to solve the mountain's disappearance. She could probably get away with talking to them. What would it hurt?

She didn't know why, but the need to hurry there was stronger. She found herself running as fast as she could, trying to reach the distant tent. Whatever force was pressing her on, she could not resist its urgency.

 

Felix stood once again at the edge of the chasm. A half-empty bottle of ale was clutched in his left hand, and the hilt of his sheathed sword was in his right.

"Alex, you bastard!" He screamed into the chasm. "I'm coming for you!"

He took another drink from the bottle. He felt sick to the stomach, but he was going to do this. It was now or never. If Alex was alive, he was down there, and Felix was going to find him.

He had leaped off Venus Lighthouse and survived. He had been struck by a huge boulder and made it. He could make it down that chasm. And if he didn't survive... Well, who would care? Everyone hated him. Even Mia had left him.

He took another drink and finished off the bottle. He tossed it into the abyss, waiting to hear the sound of shattering glass. After a few moments, he was convinced it had reached the bottom. He thought he almost heard it. It couldn't be that far. It was all in his head.

He took a few steps back, ready to jump. He was going to do this, nothing would stop him.

A female voice called to him on the wind. Jenna must have come back, and had realized he was going to jump. Well, screw her! If she wanted to go off and marry a jerk like Isaac, that was up to her. But she couldn't expect him to go to the wedding, anymore than she could stop him from jumping now. Gods, she was selfish.

He started to run, but slipped and fell. As he hit the ground, his stomach seemed to turn inside out and he vomited all over the grass. Must have been all the ale he'd had.

He staggered back to his feet and began running towards the edge. If you could call it running.

"What are you doing?" The female voice demanded, much closer now. "Are you trying to kill yourself?"

"Go away, Jenna!" Felix spat. He slipped again and collapsed in the mud.

He struggled back to his feet again and stumbled back over to the edge of the chasm.

"I'm doing this and nobody can stop me!"

"I'm not going to let you jump off that cliff!" The girl he assumed was Jenna tackled him and tried to pull him away from the cliff. He couldn't see her face, due to darkness, drunkenness, and the fact that she had grabbed him from behind and was pulling him back.

She was strong, which was weird since Jenna had just gotten weaker after she got pregnant. And why was she wearing gloves?

"Get off me, Jenna! I have to kill Alex! It's all because of him!"

"What are you talking about?"

Felix roughly pushed her back, and she fell on the ground. He spun around to tell her off, and realized this girl wasn't Jenna. This was a girl with black hair, wearing a black coat. She stared at him with the bluest eyes he had ever seen.

"Who are you?" He demanded.

She stood up, a defiant look in her eyes. "It doesn't matter who I am. What matters is you and your idiocy. Are you trying to kill yourself?"

"Shut up!" He exclaimed. "I'm going down there, and not you, not Jenna, not anyone is gonna stop me!"

He turned and made a run for it. The girl chased after him.

"Wait!" She called.

As he went over the edge, she grabbed his arm. He fell, and she held onto him. She tried to grab the edge of the cliff as they fell, but her fingers slipped and they plummeted.

As they fell, Felix realized what he had done. In mid-air, he grabbed the girl and held her in his arms, just as he had done with Sheba when she had fell. He held her above him, so that when they hit the ground, his body would absorb the impact. He would die, but at least she may survive.

As they fell, Felix found it strange how small this girl was. She'd seemed to strong when she was holding him back...

This was the last thing that went through his mind. The sudden impact hit him like a train, and everything went black in an instant.