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Lights Lessons

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~~~

 

Intense blue eyes stared down at her as Kalai rose to her feet and took a fighting stance. Though she loved him, she would not go easy on Lauriam. Especially since she felt she was finally getting the hang of wielding this amazing key shaped weapon. 

“Don’t hold back!” She grinned. 

“I have no intention to, Rosebud.” He replied before charging at her without warning.

At once she jumped back and placed her keyblade in front of her to block his attack before pushing him back with ease. Weapons clashed again and laughter ensued despite the obvious air of competition between them. Ventus, Elrena and Kairi watched them. 

“Kalai’s gotten a lot better.” Ventus smiled. “She may actually have a shot today!” 

“Come on, Lauriam!” Elrena called out. “Don’t let that greenhorn best you!” 

“HEY!” 

“She won’t be a greenhorn for long!” Said Kairi. “You got this, Kalai!” 

Kalai focused her mind on the pink haired man currently slashing at her, doing her best to block him while dishing out slashes of her own. She performed a backflip to get out of the way of another attack before attacking his legs. He jumped away and their weapons clashed once more.

“Master Aqua has taught you well.” He smirked. “Soon enough you’ll be on our level.”

“I know, right?!” She giggled as she thrashed her blade against his, he spun out of the way and was about to come up from behind but she managed to raise her blade against his at the last moment. Kalai pushed him away, clashing their blades together once more and making him fall back a bit, just long enough for her to point Graceful Destiny at him in victory. “You almost had me that time.”

Lauriam blinked for a few seconds before smiling at his lover and gently pushing the blade from his face, closing the distance between their lips. 

“Not bad, my dear, you really are on our level now.”

“Told you she was getting better!” Said Ventus, grinning at Elrena teasingly. “You owe me ten munny now!”

The blonde groaned in mock disappointment, she was secretly hoping that Kalai would win but she would never say so aloud. She handed over the golden orb with great reluctance before jumping to her feet. Kairi followed her and summoned Destiny’s Embrace.

“Well, consider this a consolidation prize.” Elrena said, kissing Lauriam on the cheek. 

“My turn!” Kairi chimed in. “Kalai isn’t the only one being tested soon!”*

Lauriam glanced at the girl standing next to him. In her eyes he always saw another young girl very much like her. Blonde, dressed in white, quietly staring up at him afraid of what he might do next. Kairi was not afraid of him, she had never known his other self, for which he was grateful. But the memories still compelled him to feel unsure whenever she was near.

“How about...you take on Kalai instead.” He smiled even as uncertainty prickled at his chest. “After all, she just defeated me. Clearly that’s where you will have the better challenge.” 

Kairi made a face, out of all her companions he was the one always finding one reason or another not to fight her. But in this case he was right. 

“Alright!” She said, smiling at Kalai. “You may have beaten Lauriam, but you won’t beat me!”

“We’ll just see about!”

Weapons clashed again and at once the three onlookers could see how Kairi was still struggling with her blade. True Kalai was a more experienced fighter, but even after a month the younger girl was still barely keeping up with them. Elrena tried to encourage her. 

“Stop moving your body like that!” She said. “Let your body move with you not the other way around!” 

Kairi tried to listen to her but still felt herself having trouble, all the while biting back tears of frustration. Why was it that even now she could not help but feel like she was no better than she was when she first began? On impulse she swiped her keyblade backwards, losing her footing and in the next moment feeling the grass beneath her and looking up at the point of Kalai’s blade. The older girl could see her frustration and helped her to her feet with a kind smile.

“Not bad.”

“But not good enough!” Snapped Kairi. “I’m never going to pass if I don’t get better!” 

“You are getting better!” Ventus spoke up. “You both are! 

But Kairi was in no mood for his patronizing remarks, as she felt them to be. She returned to her stance.

“Let’s go again!”

Kalai sighed but took up her stance again as well. This time she tried to give the younger girl more openings to attack. Kairi glared at her.

“Don’t hold back! I can do this.”

Her movements became even more rapid and Kalai could tell that she was overexerting herself by this point. She jumped back and made her blade vanish.

“You’re doing it again, dear.” She said. “You’re getting easily frustrated and it’s affecting your fighting. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing!” 

She changed at Kalai, but she moved out of the way with ease. It took Kairi a few moments to realize she was back on the ground, she glanced down at her keyblade in despair. 

“What’s wrong with me?” She murmured. “Why can’t I still get it right?” 

“Kairi…”

“I’m gonna fail at this rate! I’m gonna fail my exam just like I failed Sora!”

So that was what this was about! She should have known, Kairi was thinking about Sora again. It seemed no matter how well she was improving or how much they tried to reassure her, she would not stop feeling that it was her fault that Sora was now gone. It was her own weakness, in her mind, that allowed her to be struck down by Master Xehanort and compelled the boy to use The Power of Waking to save her, at the cost of losing his own heart. 

Hadn’t she promised that she would be the one to protect him now? Only to be used as a leverage for him to continue fighting? Was she really that fragile after all? After a few moments Kalai could hear the sniffs coming from her friend and tried to help her up. There were tears in her eyes. 

“I’m useless.”  She whimpered. “I don’t deserve a keyblade.” 

“That’s not true.”

“No it is true. I don’t know why I was made a Guardian of Light. My weakness is what sealed Sora’s fate.”

“But it was Sora’s decision to save you on his own…”

“Only because I needed saving again instead of being able to be strong enough to hold my own!”

Kairi had had enough. She pulled away from her friend and ran off in a huff. Kalai did not try to follow and only stared behind her. Lauriam sighed and placed his hand on her shoulder. 

“Poor girl.” He said. “She has such potential and all can see it but her.”

“Yes.” She agreed. “I can’t imagine how she feels. Before the war, when I thought I’d be separated from you and Elrena forever...I...I didn’t know what to do. It killed me that I was going to be free but you two had to stay behind.”

“Indeed. But we came back to you eventually, Rosebud.” He smiled a little. “And I am certain Sora will return to her. Their hearts are connected. As are ours.”

“That may be,” Elrena stood next to them. “But your exam is the day after tomorrow and Kairi is never going to improve in her training if she doesn’t focus and stop blaming herself for the past.”

“Lea said she was improving a lot before the war.” Said Ventus. “Maybe if she can find that motivation again, then her potential will really shine through!”

“A good idea, Ven!” Kalai smiled. “I know she has it in her! She just needs to believe it!”

“In the meantime.” Elrena summoned her keyblade with a sly grin. “How about I interrupt your winning streak first!”

The brunette laughed but obliged her blonde lover and summoned her blade once more. After all, she needed all the practice she could get. 

 

~~~

 

“Master Aqua, may I have a word?”

Aqua glanced up from her reading and smiled at Kalai. 

“I told you before, you can just call me Aqua.”

Kalai smiled at her master, she was always so kind. And so humble in spite of her incredible skill.

“Aqua, I’m...worried about Kairi. She’s not…”

“No need to tell me, I already know.” She put down her book. “Kairi arrived here not long after Sora awakened her heart. She told me what had happened and how she wanted to become stronger.”

“But wasn’t she already strong enough to take part in the Keyblade War in the first place?”

“Her initial training...was not ideal in such a dire situation.” She replied. “Merlin is not a Keyblade Master and Lea already had years of fighting experience. Even Sora and Riku had more practical experience with the keyblade than her.”

“So what you’re saying is…” With a despondent sigh. “She was never prepared for the weight that was put upon her.” 

“Kairi...she...fighting a few heartless or sparring with a friend are things far different compared to what we were up against. In truth, none of us were prepared for what awaited us in the Keyblade Graveyard. Not even me.” Her master extended a hand to Kalai, offering a seat beside her. For a long time they sat together in thoughtful silence before Aqua began again. “Her skills aren’t weakening, quite the opposite. But her confidence is another thing entirely.”

“She wanted so badly to be strong for Sora’s sake. But now that he’s gone…”

“No heart is truly lost forever. It may be a while before he returns but he is not gone. Kairi was Sora’s motivation to fight, so now he must be hers to keep going.” Aqua rose to her feet and helped Kalai to hers. “In the meantime, continue your training. Once you pass your exam, I will grant you both special armor so you can travel the Lanes Between. Then, your new quests can truly begin.”

Kalai smiled at this. “You are so certain that we will pass?”

“Of course.” Aqua smiled back at her. “I have faith in you and in Kairi. So you must have faith too. When the time is right, that faith will guide you to victory.” 

“Yes.” She gave a respectful bow as she turned to leave. “Thank you, Master, oh! I mean Aqua! Thank you, Aqua!”

 

~~~

 

It seemed as though Kairi had been looking up at the sky all afternoon, now the sun was setting. Even so, she was not yet ready to return to the castle. She was not yet ready to face her more skilled companions or her master who had too kind a heart to take such a worthless girl under her care. Extending her hand, she summoned her keyblade and stared at it for a long time. 

"This time, I'LL fight! You know Sora's completely hopeless without us!"

She was not cut out for this, she was never cut out for this. 

“We’ve been looking for you!” 

The second she heard Kalai’s voice, she could feel the burning sensation of fresh tears forming in her eyes. She shut them in reflex as her friend sat next to her, Elrena was beside her. Even with her eyes closed, they could see the pain in their friends face. 

“You know.” Kairi began. “This keyblade, it belonged to my grandmother. She was a master just like Riku and Aqua.”

Kalai smiled, she had recently learned that her own grandmother had also been a master, though had relinquished the title decades ago. 

“When I told her I was going off to train, she gave me a long hug and told me how proud she was of me. She told me it was my duty to use my blade to protect the light and those that I love.” She squeezed her eyes closed harder as she felt the tears beginning to overflow. “Can you imagine how disappointed she would be now if she could see me like this!” 

“Kairi.” Elrena took her hand with a rare look of concern. “The fact that you can even wield a keyblade is a miracle in and of itself. I’m sure your grandma is very proud.” 

"Are you so sure about that?"

"Of course! I wouldn't be saying it if I wasn't!"

Kairi glanced up into her kind green eyes as she clapped her hands together. Kalai flinched as a Chirithy appeared. She had not yet grown accustomed to the odd cat like creature and was secretly still afraid of it. Elrena smiled. 

“Chirithy, isn’t it awesome that Kairi can wield a keyblade?”

“It sure is!” Said the creature. “Back home, in Daybreak Town, not everyone could use keyblades. It takes a special kind of person to be worthy of one in the first place.”

“The cat is right.” Kalai said. 

“I’m not a cat!” 

“Chirithy is not a cat!”

“Anyway! Kairi, I know you wanted to protect Sora, well, how can you if you’re lying here feeling sorry for yourself?”

“Because!” Fresh tears slid down her face. “Sora is gone!”

“No, Kairi. Sora is not gone, not forever anyway. And when he returns he will need someone to stand by his side and believe in him. He’ll need someone to keep him safe. That someone can be you.” 

“What happened to him, it’s not your fault.” Elrena added. “Not anyone’s fault. What that bastard Xehanort put you through, it would easily break a stronger master and yet, here you are. You survived. That alone means you aren’t weak and neither is Sora.” 

“Just like we believe in you, you need to believe in him. But…” Extending her hand to her and pulling her to her feet. “You’ll never have the chance to save him if you don’t train more. Let Sora be your motivation.”

Kairi held Kalai’s hand for a long while as she continued to stare out at the setting sun. Somewhere out there, in that boundless horizon, Sora was there, trying to find his way back to his friends. And back to her. For his sake, she knew she had to keep going. Even when things seemed hopeless, he never gave up. Neither could she.

“What Xehanort did to me.” She began. “I will never let that happen again. I will never be defenseless again!” 

“There! That’s the spirit!” Kalai slipped her hand from Kairi’s and replaced it with her whole arm around her shoulders. “That promise to yourself is your first step forward! Let’s all move forward together!” 

“Yeah!” Elrena grinned as she placed her arm around the girl as well. 

“Yeah!” 

Chirithy floated beside them, a little too close to Kalai for comfort. She yelped and quickly jumped back away from the creature. Elrena giggled and motioned for her pet to give chase to the brunette. Kairi bit her lip to keep from laughing but she couldn’t help it. Her first real smile in nearly the whole day. As the girls made their way back into the castle, there was something else on Kairi’s mind that she had just remembered from earlier.

“Why...doesn’t Lauriam ever want to take me on?” She asked. “He’s the most skilled out of all five of us and I feel like I’ll get better if I have more of a challenge.” 

Elrena and Kalai gave each other a certain look as they tried to decide how to answer her. 

“I...couldn’t say.” The blonde replied, a lie of course. “But if you think fighting him will help you improve, we’ll talk to him.”

At once that look of apprehension washed over the pink haired man’s face as his ladies spoke to him that evening about Kairi’s request. They knew why he didn’t want to spar with her, but at the same time Kairi was not Namine and she was not afraid of him. There was really no reason for him to treat her with such delicacy.

“Once we start our missions, Kairi is going to be placed in far more dangerous situations than our training can give her.” Kalai said. “I doubt you will actually do her any harm.”

Lauriam sighed, he knew she was right. But such was his remorse over the past, that he couldn’t help but have a strange sense of protection over the girl. Elrena placed her arms around him, tilting her head with a smirk. 

“Or, if you actually think she’ll beat you? In that case we completely understand if…”

These words seemed to do the trick, he chuckled and pushed her back onto the bed before nodding his agreement.

“No one can best me.” He said. “Certainly not Kairi.”

“No one but me! If you remember!” Kalai giggled, pulling him back from the blonde. He responded by snaking his arms around her and slamming their lips together. She completely melted into his embrace and made no protest when he pushed her onto the bed beside Elrena. 

“You did not best me, Rosebud. You merely gained the upper hand when I momentarily had my guard down.”

“Same thing!” 

She was silenced by his lips upon hers once more. Elrena snickered but a certain look in his wicked blue eyes told her she would not be laughing for long, her turn was coming.

 

~~~

 

The next morning, Kalai and Elrena got up extra early to tell Kairi the good news. Such was the younger girls excitement that she immediately ran outside with her keyblade, prompting her friends to follow her. They decided to help her practice some before her match with Lauriam. This time Kairi was a little more accepting of their advice and was better at applying it when needed.

“It’s hard to concentrate when you’re so anxious.” Said Kalai. “My father always stressed to me the importance of keeping your mind focused in battle and not to be overcome with fear, even if you are afraid.”

“And if you get easily frustrated,” Elrena added. “Your enemy will easily see it. The most important thing is to keep going until you win.”

“Oh! And try not to move your body with such force.” 

That was one thing Kairi seemed to struggle the most with. Kalai looked at Kairi’s keyblade for a moment before deciding to take it from her.She held Destiny's Embrace, waving it around before making it vanish from one hand to another and then handing it back to it’s owner with a smile.

“Actually, your keyblade is very lightweight, like mine.” She said. “Try not holding it with both hands all the time, you’ll have more control over your movements.”

Kairi listened to her and began to find wielding her blade far easier than before, though she still took it into both her hands when guarding or thrashing. The brunette nodded.

“Now try this…”

She turned her back, giving a look to Elrena that meant to change at her from behind. Before her attack could connect, Kalai turned around and lazily blocked her. The blonde swiped her blade away with ease but in the  next moment it appeared in her other hand and she guarded with more force.Their blades clashed for a seconds before Kalai managed to disarm Elrena but she also made her blade appear in her other hand and pushed the brunette out of the way long enough to point her blade at her. 

Next it was Kairi’s turn. This time she was able to guard with one hand and even managed to disarm Kalai without the older girl having to hold back. She performed a jumping attack and trashed her keyblade at her opponent in a way she did not see coming. Despite her defeat, Kalai grinned, slowly they could see the girl’s motivation was returning. 

The afternoon came and the older girls and Ventus gathered in the forecourt, sitting beside each other as Kairi and Lauriam prepared for their match. In her eyes he could see a newly awakening confidence that, despite his initial worry, he could not help but want to push out further. He smiled at the younger girl.

“Are you ready, my dear?” He asked, taking a graceful battle stance. 

“The better question is, are YOU?” She replied, taking a stance of her own. A smirk came to his lips. This was exactly what they all wanted to hear. 

He decided to let her attack first to gain the upper hand, but soon enough he was showing her why he was considered the strongest among the five. But for once, Kairi did not find herself becoming so easily frustrated. The strength of her opponent only served to encourage her to fight harder. 

“What a difference a day makes.” Ventus smiled. “I don’t know what you two did, but it looks like it paid off! She’s doing amazing!”

“She was always amazing.” Kalai replied. “The only thing different now is that she sees it too.”

Kairi was indeed doing amazingly, compared to the previous day and the previous weeks too. Lauriam laughed as he continued blocking her attacks and watching how she blocked his. When he jumped back and charged at her, Kairi made a backflip out of the way and charged at her opponent similarly to how she often seen Kalai do the same thing. In the next moment her blade was raised in front of her and she thrashed forward, pointing it at his chin. 

“Oh my gosh!”

Her friends shrieked with joy for her. Kairi blinked as she looked up at Lauriam and her keyblade pointed at him, as if she could not believe what had just happened. She jumped back, breathless but still keeping her eyes on him just in case the fight was not yet over. But he smiled and made his keyblade vanish.

“Lauriam…I...”

“You beat me.” He said, taking his hands and summoning a handful of flowers, representing patience, optimism and new beginnings. “When one realizes their true potential, no adversary is a threat. Well done, Kairi.” 

She took the flowers with a strange sense of accomplishment warming her heart. Elrena made a sound of mock disgust.

“HEY! Don’t forget! We’re right here!” 

“Yeah! Stop making us jealous!”

As they laughed together, Terra appeared from the castle. 

“I hope training is going well.” He said. 

“Better!” Replied Kairi.

“Good, tomorrow is a big day. Anyway, Aqua needs you all in the throne room. She has something she needs to tell you.” 

Aqua was a proclaimed Keyblade Master in addition to being the designated keeper of The Land of Departure. She was wise beyond her years but still relied on the guidance of the sorcerer Yen Sid. Though no longer a Keyblade Master, his guidance to the warriors of light was still useful in maintaining the balance of light and darkness. 

Even with the threat of a Keyblade War no longer an issue, darkness still plagued the worlds and new light was awakening in order to keep it at bay. Seven new maidens of pure heart had recently inherited the light of the former Princesses of Heart and were in particular danger as they awakened to their new purpose. Especially since Heartless had recently been increasing in number

“Thus far, we only know of five. Kida, Moana, Elsa, Anna and Rapunzel.” Said Aqua. “Master Yen Sid is keeping watch over the worlds and will inform us when the light in the final two has awakened. In the meantime, he has requested that you five go to him tomorrow morning after Kairi and Kalai’s exam. However…” 

Their master gave them an odd look that they could not read easily. 

“Aqua?”

“I was thinking.” She began. “I feel like you two are ready. I know your exam is not scheduled until tomorrow but at the same time, if you are in agreement…”

“Yes!” Kairi and Kalai spoke out in unison. They felt as though they knew what their master was going to say without her having to say it. She smiled forgivingly at them.

“Care to know what it is I am asking of you two first?”

“Uh..okay.”

“I had a mind to conduct your exam tonight. I have the utmost faith that you will pass so…”

“YES!”

Now Aqua laughed but was warmed by their enthusiasm. Kairi’s victory had made her feel bold and for the sake of her friend’s confidence, Kalai was more than happy to be tested early. Both were anxious to begin their new role and their master could see that. 

“We’re ready, Master.” Said the younger girl. “ I 'm ready.” 

 

~~~

 

Chapter Text

~~~

 

The rest of the day was spent in preparation for the night to come. Soon after the last bit of sunlight had fallen behind the mountains, Aqua summoned Kairi and Kalai to the mountain path to begin what they had been training for. The others watched on in the distance. 

“Now, while this is not an examination for the Mark of Mastery.” She said to them. “ I  nevertheless expect you both to perform to the best of your ability. Look into your hearts to find the power you need. And it will surely lead to triumph.”  

“Yes, Master!” They said in unison. 

Behind their master stood a large set of gold rings attached to chains, she motioned toward them. 

“Strike the rings to make them spin, keep them spinning in the air for five minutes.” 

This was the first part of three in their test. Between the two of them, they managed it with ease. When the rings had been spinning for the specified time, Aqua told them to shoot at them with streams of light. For the second part of their test, she summoned an invisible wall in front of her and instructed them to shoot more light at the barrier. When the light bounced back they guarded it easily, passing their second trial.

“Two down, one more to go!” Ventus beamed. 

“They got this!” Terra grinned. 

Finally Aqua extended her hand and summoned Brightcrest, her own keyblade. She smiled as she took up a fighting stance. Kalai and Kairi glanced at each other, they had already known what the first trials of the exam would be beforehand, but not this. 

“For your final trial.” She began. “You will both take me on.”

“Huh?” Kairi jumped. “At the same time?”

“How is that fair?” Kalai asked. 

“It’s not!” Kairi answered her. But Aqua smiled and Elrena giggled. 

“Aqua is a Keyblade Master!” She said. “So if you’re worried about hurting her, don’t! Be more worried she’ll hurt you!”

“Gee thanks!” Kalai laughed. “But very well, Aqua. If that is what you expect of us.”

Without another word their master charged at them. At once Kalai jumped out of the way while Brightcrest clashed with Destiny’s Embrace. The older girl took a moment to smile at how Kairi managed to hold off Aqua’s attack before lunging at her from behind. It was as though the master had eyes in the back of her head because although she seemed focused on the younger girl, she quickly spun around and summoned several beams of light that Kalai swiped away with ease before clashing her blade with Aqua's.

They traded blows for a few minutes with Kairi moving beside Kalai, her senses on high alert but unsure of what to do next. Then an idea came to her. 

“Get down!” 

Kalai assumed that was directed at her and did so. Kairi then summoned pearl while her friend summoned a gale. This time Aqua was not fast enough to dodge both attacks but she regained her footing just as quickly. Her blade clashed with Kairi’s once more and Kalai watched their movements just as the younger girl had done for her moments ago. 

“Now!” 

When the time came, Kairi spun out of the way, she stumbled a little but Kalai jumped in front of her. Neither were sure they could defeat Aqua but neither would back down. 

“Kairi!” 

The older girl managed to briefly disarm their master and she took the opportunity to spin around her and deliver a blow from behind. Aqua fell forward and Kairi was about to point her blade at her in victory but she surprised her by cartwheeling forward and making Brighcrest reappear in her hand. 

“Not bad, you two.” She grinned. “But…”

She pointed her blade at Kairi and in the next moment she was ensnared in several chains of light. Kalai pointed Graceful Destiny and summoned another gale that Aqua blocked with ease before charging at her. The older girl tried to get behind her master again but was unsuccessful. Their weapons clashed but Aqua pushed her away before preparing to trap her in the same chains of light. Kairi could see this and with all her might tried to break free from her trap and shocked herself when she managed to do it. 

“Amazing!” Gasped Lauriam.

“I got ya, Kalai!”

She summoned pearl, only to have Aqua block it away. Kairi was so quick in running to her friend that did not even see it coming when her master thrashed her blade at her and in the next moment she was on her knees, Brightcrest pointed at her nose.

“Oh no!”

At once Kalai worried about what this would do for her friend’s confidence. She had been doing so well until that moment. But when she rushed to help her friend up, she did not see sadness or disappointment. Quite the opposite. She was breathless, but strangely enough, laughing. Aqua made her blade vanish and smiled at her pupils. 

“Well done, girls.” She said. “Hope I didn’t go too hard on you.”

“Too hard?” Kalai suppressed a giggle. “No way! Right, Kairi?”

“Yeah…” 

In truth fighting Aqua had been very hard, but neither would say so aloud. Her skill was on a whole different level compared even to  Lauriam and Elrena. It could easily be seen why she was considered a Master.

“Kalai, your strength is without question.” Aqua continued. “But you attack from behind too much.”

Kalai bit her lip to keep from smiling, that was something her father had often chided her for. It had been a good trait in her Organization days but not as an honorable warrior of the keyblade. That would be something she would have to unlearn. 

“And Kairi, your skills have improved immensely. But you're too hesitant. Stop being so afraid, there is nothing to fear. Your heart is strong and true. Let it guide you.”

Kairi lowered her head in modesty and felt when her older friend took her hand into hers. It was still hard for her to believe that she was anything but weak, but that day had helped her see that she would not always be weak if she kept training and had faith in herself. 

“In the end.” She went on. “You two fought best when you worked together. That is ultimately what is expected of you, as the newest generation of keyblade wielders.” Aqua turned to Lauriam, Elrena and Ventus who were still watching from the side with Terra. “We are all on the same side and fight for the same goal, to protect light and maintain the balance between it and the darkness. Remember that. Kalai, Kairi, you both pass. Tomorrow I will give you your new armor.”

How their hearts swelled with joy at this! They embraced each other and then embraced their master. It had been difficult but they had done it. This would be the first step forward in their new journey with their three other companions. Together, as warriors of the keyblade.

 

~~~

 

It was early the next morning when Aqua fitted them with metal arm cuffs matching the colors of their blades. On each was a button that when pressed, transformed their clothing into their new gear. 

“That’s amazing!” Exclaimed Kalai. 

“That’s not all.” Aqua grinned as she led them outside. “Kairi, toss your blade into the air.”

She did so, at once it vanished but also transformed into a fantastic looking hoverboard! Her older friend squealed and immediately did the same thing, her’s was more of a hoverbike rather than a board. After a few moments of riding around the courtyard, their three friends followed suit and equipped themselves too. Aqua summoned Brightcrest and created a portal. 

“Alright guys!” Ventus called out. “To the Mysterious Tower! Let’s go!”

As it turned out, Master Yen Sid had about the same amount of information as Aqua had for them the previous day. He spoke to the five about the new seven hearts and the new threat.

“With the fall of Xehanort, it is unknown as of yet what is the source of this new darkness.” He said. “Even so, we must remain vigilant.” 

“We understand.” Replied Ventus. “And what about the new seven princesses?”

“Ah yes.” The sorcerer rested back into his chair. “The light of the original seven has been bequeathed to a new seven, almost as if in anticipation of this new as of yet unknown threat to the worlds.”

“Master Yen Sid.” Kalai began. “Kairi was once such a princess, does that mean…”

He nodded before hearing the remaining of her question.

“Though you no longer hold the princesses power, Kairi, your heart is still undeniably pure and strong enough that you were among the seven Guardians of Light. It stands to reason that you can now have an innate sense of when the light in the final two awaken.”

“Then that will be your job!” Ventus smiled. “Your light will help us find the other princesses!”

Kairi nodded, glad to know that there was a way she could be useful. Lauriam and Elrena glanced at each other, wanting to ask the sorcerer something but unsure of how to word it. 

“Master.” He began hesitantly. “About my sister…”

“I imagine that whatever darkness is now plaguing the worlds is the same darkness that struck down Strelitzia.” He replied. “There are many things about the Age of Fairy Tales that even I do not know. But I also imagine as more memories of that time return to you, they will assist us in finding her.” 

“Understood.” 

“Now, Lauriam, Elrena, Kalai. If you could leave us momentarily, there is something I must discuss with Ventus and Kairi alone.”

This seemed odd to them but they nonetheless obeyed. Once they were gone, the remaining two looked at the sorcerer with as much confusion as their friends had. Master Yen Sid sighed. 

“Kairi, Ventus. I know you trust them, but the fact still remains that those three were formerly members of Organization XIII. Lauriam and Elrena fought against you in the final clash in the Keyblade Graveyard. We only know about five of the new seven hearts because Xehanort was using them to seek them out, so I am still not sure if…”

“NO!” Kairi spoke up at once. “I know what you’re going to say and you’re wrong! Kalai, Lauriam, Elrena, they aren’t like that anymore! They never wanted to help Xehanort in the first place!”

“Yeah!” Ventus added. “Besides, Lea was a part of them too! And he fought beside us! I don't know Kalai very well yet but I do know Lauriam and Elrena! I know their hearts are in the right place!”

“That may be.” The sorcerer went on. “But with this new darkness...one cannot be too careful. In any case, I will not keep you two any longer. Go now and be on your way. May Your Heart be Your Guiding Key.” 

Kairi and Ventus did not like this at all. But they nodded to the master and repeated the phrase back to him. They knew their friends, they knew their hearts. Kalai and Elrena had become as good as sisters to Kairi and helped her when she was feeling down and unsure of herself. And Ventus had known Lauriam since their days as Dandelion Union Leaders in the Age of Fairytales. He had been the one he liked best after Ephemer. If there was any darkness in his heart, it was probably despair at the loss of Strelitzia. How dare Yen Sid question them with such a thing in mind?

 

~~~

 

“What did Master Yen Sid want with you two?” Asked Kalai when they joined them outside of the tower. For the sake of her friend, Kairi smiled. 

“Nothing important.” She lied. “Just..something about Sora. I’ll tell you later. Ready to head back?”

“Actually, Lauriam and Elrena had plans to return to The Land of Departure. But as for me,” With a delighted light coming to her eyes. “I’m headed to Radiant Garden to see my family, I thought you’d like to join me?” 

The younger girls face lit up at this. She had not visited her former home since before the war and always enjoyed being there. For the moment, she forgot her anxiety at Yen Sid's words. Besides, Kairi knew her friend well. 

Ventus decided to head back with Lauriam and Elrena. When they were out of sight, Kairi and Kalai summoned their key mobiles and made their way to The Capital of Light. The second they emerged out of the portal and landed at the front doors of the castle, they were greeted by the wide eyes and open mouths of Lea, Dilan and Adelen. Their response made them break out in laughter. 

“What the hell?!” Lea exclaimed. “Who gave you that cool armor and how can I get some?” 

“Really, Lea?!” Kalai scoffed. “No ‘hey, hello’ or ‘nice to see ya’?! I know it’s only been a month but…”

“And who taught you how to make keyblade bikes?! Geez, Master Yen Sid was really holding out on me!” 

“Maybe you should come to Land of Departure sometime and have Aqua teach you!” Laughed Kairi before turning to Dilan. “I’m not sure if you remember me, but I’m…”

“Of course I remember you, my dear.” He smiled. “How could I forget my daughters dearest friend?” He approached Kalai and took her into his arms. “I’ve missed you, sweet girl. But it appears that you are doing quite well for yourself. I’m so proud.”

“Thank you, Daddy. I’ve missed you too.” She returned his embrace and then went to hug her younger sister. “You too, Adelen! Where’s Iris?” 

A sly grin came to the girl's face as she told her that their sister had went with Ienzo on a day trip to the Canden province. They both giggled. 

“And they left you here all by yourself?”

“It’s okay!” Replied Adelen. “The more time they spend together, the better! Between you and me, Isa and I have already begun designing bridesmaids dresses!”

“Ha! You sure stayed on top of these things while I was gone!”

“Of course! Now…” Running to Kalai’s hoverbike and taking a seat. “I wanna go for a ride! Let’s…”

“Not so fast Adelen!” Dilan tried to stop her but her intrepidity was almost as strong as that of her sister. “How about you ask your sister first if you may.”

She glanced up at Kalai but she merely smiled, having already resolved to do so the second she arrived. Dilan nodded. 

“Alright. Be careful, you two. Don’t go too fast or too high and don't...hey!”

They hardly heard the mans warning as Kalai took her seat at her mobile and Adelen secure in her lap. Kairi and Lea laughed as they watched them rise from the ground and disappear over the high towers of the castle. 

“Well, they probably won’t be back for a while.” Lea said, rolling his eyes.

“And hopefully they’ll still be in one piece when they do!” Smirked Dilan.

“So what now?” Kairi asked. 

“Come on!” The redhead took her hand and pulled her towards the stairs leading to the gates. “Let’s go get some ice cream. Then we’ll go see Merlin.”

 Despite the fact that Kalai had just acquired the keybike that morning, she managed to quickly get the hang of using it and she and her sister had a wonderful time riding through the perfect blue skies and across the shimmering sea. 

“I wish I knew which island is Caelesti province.” She said. “I can’t imagine what my grandma would say if she could see me like this, with a keyblade!” 

“It’s that one!” Adelen pointed to one of the islands in the far distance but forgot her balance. Fortunately Kalai kept a tight hold on her. 

“Hmmm, that’s a little out of our way for now. And I’m sure dad is already worried about us. Maybe for my next visit here. Now, one last thing before we head back.” She tightened her grip on the handles and her sisters hands as they made a swift descent. “Hold on!” 

The younger girl shrieked in half terror half delight as they began gliding across the sea, streams of white water spraying them from all sides before Kalai took off back into the air just as quickly. At one point they nearly collided with a pack of white birds but only barely managed to dodge them. They laughed. 

“THIS IS SO COOL!” Adelen cried excitedly. “Sis, you sure know how to always have a good time!”

Soon they made their way back to the castle and it must be admitted that Dilan was a little more than thrilled that they were not out longer. Adulthood had not diminished the fatherly over-protectiveness he felt towards his daughter and more recently to Adelen as well. Kalai spent the rest of the afternoon safely on the ground and in the castle, catching up with her castle family while Kairi and Lea spent their time together in town. 

When the sun began to set, they took it as a sign that it was time to leave and return to The Land of Departure. Kalai was a little saddened that she did not see Iris or Ienzo but she knew she would return sooner rather than later. 

“Like I said!” Adelen giggled. “We’re designing bridesmaids dresses! I’ll show them to you next time you come!”

“Alright! Then I’ll be sure to come back very soon! I promise!” With one last hug to her father and sister, she and Kairi summoned a portal with their keyblades and returned home.

 

~~~

 

Time worked differently in the various worlds, they knew that. So it was not so surprising when on returning to The Land of Departure that it was still daylight. Elrena greeted them out in the courtyard, wearing a wreath of flowers on her head and with a mischievous smile on her face.

“You’re just in time!” She said. “Come out to the mountain past! But be real quiet! You’ll see why in a sec!” 

It was extremely hard for Kairi and Kalai to keep this promise when they came upon Terra sleeping on one of the stone benches, wearing a flower crown as well. Aqua was snickering softly as she held out her gummiphone, also wearing a flower crown.

“Okay, a little more to the right, Chirithy, move in a little closer, there!” 

She took the picture. And then another without Chirithy. Kairi and Kalai were a little surprised to see their master being so lighthearted, but it was a nice change from the intensity of their training. Lauriam held out another circlet of flowers and smiled at them. 

“Elrena and I were initially weeding out Aqua’s garden.” He said. “I made one for her, and another for you too, Rosebud.” He placed  the crown on the head of his brunette lover, followed by a sweet forehead kiss. “But...I think I got a little carried away.” 

“I made some too! One for Aqua.”The blonde grinned as she placed a floral circlet on top of Kairi’s head. “And one for you too! Your prize for passing your exam! But Ven wouldn’t let us put one on him!”

“Shh!” Ventus placed a finger to his lips. “He’s waking up!”

Terra’s eyes began to flicker as he made a long yawn and opened them fully. At once he could feel something on his head. He glanced around him, slightly confused.

“Huh? What’s going on, guys?”

“Oh nothing.” Aqua tried her best to suppress her grin but Terra knew her well, something was up. 

“Really? Then what are you so red about?”

“Me? Red? No way! Right guys?” 

“And why are you all wearing…” 

That was when he finally touched the top of his brown hair and felt the ring of flowers circling it. The blush on Aqua’s cheeks darkened and the others snickered. Terra held out the flower crown to her with a good natured smirk. 

“Nothing at all, huh?” He asked teasingly. “Then what’s this?”

“Oh come on, Terra!” Elrena spoke up. “The daffodils go so well with your eyes! Don’t ya think?” 

He regarded the blonde with a look of mock anger before smiling. “Just as long as you didn’t take any pictures to send to anybody or share them with...what? What’s wrong, Aqua?!” 

“Nothing! Nothing! Don’t worry, we didn’t take any pictures!”

“Except for the ones we took of you while you were sleeping, and the one or two we took of you with Chirithy too!”

“ELRENA!!!”

But Elrena only giggled as she ran back into the castle with Terra chasing after her and the others laughing behind them. And so the day passed pleasantly and peacefully for them. But Kairi and Ventus had not forgotten what Yen Sid had said to them about their three friends. Honestly, it did not matter to them but the fact that he had even felt it necessary to say such a thing was still unsettling to say the least. 

“Ventus told me that Master Yen Sid is still wary of us.” Said Lauriam when they were preparing for bed that evening. “Apparently our history with the Organization still makes us untrustworthy. I...honestly can’t say I’m surprised.”

“But...Kairi told me that he only told them something about Sora…”

“She was probably lying to you, to not upset you. I can’t say I’m surprised either. It...just sucks.”

“We have the right to only be so angry, Elrena.” He sighed. “Even if we were just pawns, our actions were still unforgivable. To Sora, and especially to Namine.”

“Well then!” Kalai said with determination. “We just need to prove to him that those things are in the past. Whoever we were in Organization XIII, that’s not who we are now!” 

“Yeah!” The blonde agreed. “Your father has accepted us. Terra and Aqua have accepted us. I don’t see why that old man can’t accept us too!”

Lauriam silently agreed and they did not speak to each other for a few moments. Each of them were immersed in their own thoughts. 

Elrena did feel bad about the past, but at the same time she felt that if Lea could be forgiven for his actions as Axel then she should for hers as Larxene. Kalai had spent more than half a year after the war fighting her own battle of guilt and regret and was now beginning to feel like she could finally put the past behind her. Out of the three lovers, the one who truly held the deepest amount of remorse, and arguably needed the most redemption, was Lauriam. 

“Rosebud.” He began at last. “You told us that you were present when Namine returned? How is she? Were you two able to…”

“Namine is well, she’s very happy now with her new life in Destiny Islands. Apparently she recently started school and joined an art club.”

“She always did always like to draw. I do remember that. And she always liked you. She was always so afraid of everything and everyone around her, especially me. But with you, it was different. With you she was happy and cheerful, even laughed some. Really, now that I think about it, she’s so much like…”

“Lauriam…”

“Those days are over, my dear.” Kalai knelt beside him and placed her head in his lap. “It is never too late to make amends. Maybe one day we should go to visit her.”

“Perhaps.” He closed his eyes thoughtfully and began to stroke her hair. “I want nothing more than for her to know how sorry I am for everything. But...I’m not sure if I’m ready to face her just yet. I did her such harm, it wouldn't surprise me if she’s still afraid of me. Even now.”

“She was afraid of my uncle at first too, but I understand. When you think you’re ready, you will.”

The brunette rose from her place and sat beside him. Normally he was the one who initiated their moments of tenderness, but at that moment she could see that he needed it more than usual and she was glad to give it. Her arms wrapped around his neck and her fingers laced into his pink hair. Elrena followed suit and sat on the opposite end of him. 

“In the meantime, we need to focus on our missions.” She said. “By completing them, we’ll show that old man that we are good guys now!” 

The pink haired man gazed at his blonde lover, he knew she was right. After a few moments of looking into her radiant green eyes, he felt his anxiety melting away and he pressed his lips to hers. Their kiss was slow and lingering and they soon found themselves falling back on the bed. Kalai followed them, making a face.

“Hey! Don’t forget about me!” 

They chuckled and Lauriam placed an arm around her waist as Elrena rose to turn off the lights. 

 

~~~

Chapter Text

~~~

The rays of the morning sun had already awoken Kalai before her eyes even opened. But she was not ready to get up just yet. It couldn’t have been that late in the morning, right? She still had time to sleep and had been up late the previous night learning more about what she would do today. Turning to her side away from the window, she allowed herself back to sleep. 

“Hey, heyyyyy! Wakey, wakey!” 

A high voice rang in her ear, she groaned in frustration. 

“It’s still early, Elrena!” She said sleepily. “Come back in an hour!”

“We don’t have an hour! Aqua said we need to leave now! A new Princess of Heart may have appeared in that world! And where there is new light there are bound to be Heartless!”

Kalai opened her eyes for a brief moment before closing them again. The blonde made a face. 

“Don’t make me go get Chirithy!”

“UGH!! Alright! Alright! I’m up!”

The thought of being roused by the odd little creature was enough for her to jump out of bed and begin putting her clothes on. 

“So what about this new Princess of Heart?”

“I think Aqua said her name is Melody.”

“So that would make six thus far. Only one more to go.”

 

~~~

 

Kairi was already standing in the throne room when Elrena and Kalai arrived soon after. Ventus and Lauriam were not present. 

“The boys said they're going to do some fact finding in Radiant Garden.” She said. “So it will only be us girls today.”

“All the better!” Replied Elrena cheerfully. “It will be like a girls trip!”

“It will be much more than that.”

Their master approached them, accompanied by Terra. All three girls stood to attention. Aqua regraded them with a kind smile. 

“Now I know you three are still in training.” She began. “But I have faith that this is a task that you can handle.”

“It’s very simple really.” Terra continued. “Eliminate the darkness that threatens the new Princess of Heart. Kairi, since you once held such a light within you, you should be able to sense when she is near. That will be your role.”

Kalai smiled at her younger friend. She may no longer be a Princess of Heart, but that did not take away the natural light in the girl’s heart. Nothing could take that away. Aqua handed out three charms to them. 

“These pearl amulets contain a special kind of magic.” She explained. “They will allow you to be able to adapt to the world. You must keep them on you at all times in order to survive underwater.” 

They placed the charms around their necks. At once they transformed their normal clothes into their keyblade armor. 

“Well I think that is all you girls need to know.” Their master smiled. “You best be on your way to Atlantica. May your Heart be your Guiding Key.”

“Yes, Master.” They said in unison. 

 

~~~

 

Being underwater was going to get some getting used to. That was Kalai’s first thought when she emerged from the portal and into the deep ocean. She tried to move around but found it difficult, and that was the first time she took her first look at her legs to find them replaced by a shimmering amethyst tail. 

She was a mermaid! 

Was this what Aqua meant by adapting to the world? And in the next moment she saw her two friends jump out of the portal behind her; Kairi with a coral pink tail and Elrena with a bright green tail. 

“Look at us!” Elrena laughed. “We’ll definitely be able to blend in now!”

“Too bad Lauriam isn’t here!” Kairi grinned. “I’m sure he’d think you two look very cute as mermaids!”

“Hey!” 

Kalai blushed and tried to grab her but she only giggled and swam out of reach. Using a tail opposed to legs was another thing to get used to. Elrena could see that. 

“We should probably try getting used to the new form before we begin our search.” 

The blonde swam towards a bright light  that appeared to be the surface and her friends followed suit. They didn’t completely rise to the surface but instead tried diving back down further. Rising and diving seemed easy enough, but swimming in front of them proved more difficult. And how would they be able to fight Heartless like this?

“Let’s try swimming fast.”

“I’m trying.” Laughed Kalai. “You have and suggestions, Kairi?”

“I know how to make you swim fast!” Elrena gave her friend an evil grin before summoning a Fin Fatale and a Tatsu Seed. “Get her, guys!”

Kalai screamed as she tried to elude the Dreameaters. The Tatsu Seed blew bubbles in her direction that she managed to avoid but they would not let up their chase. Kairi laughed and motioned for the Fin Fatale to try and catch her. 

“This is fun!” Giggled the blonde. 

“Glad you think so!” The brunette replied as she continued being chased. “I think I got it. Call off the Dreameaters please!”

She made a face but obliged her all the same. 

“One day, Kalai. One day you’re gonna learn to love them! Mark my words!”

~~~

Finally they emerged to the surface. It was nighttime and the sky was awash with stars. They admired the sight for a few moments before hearing what sounded like the soft sound of crying in the distance. Following the sound took them to a young girl sitting in a small boat by herself. But they did not approach her. 

“I wonder why she looks so sad.” Kalai murmured. 

“Yeah…” Elrena agreed. “Maybe we can…oh!”

There was a pool of darkness surrounding her. And the darkness was growing and pulling her out to sea. Kairi gasped. 

“That’s her!” She said. “That’s Melody!”

“You’re sure?” Asked Elrena. 

“Yes! I can sense the light within her. But…that darkness…”

“Oh no.”

The girls turned around to see that they were no longer alone. Behind them was a mermaid with pale blonde hair worn in a ponytail. She stared at them curiously. 

“Hello. I don’t think we’ve met.”

“I don’t think so either.” Kalai admitted before pointing to the boat being taken further out. “Do you know that girl?”

“Oh yes.” The mermaid smiled. “That’s Princess Melody. She’s my niece.”

“Niece?”

“I’m Arista. One of the daughters of King Triton. Melody is the daughter of my youngest sister Ariel. She married a human prince many years ago and now lives on land. But…Morgana, the sea witch…”

She cast her eyes down in a way the girls could understand. Kairi swam towards the disappearing boat. 

“We have to help her! before the darkness takes her!”

“Yeah that was our mission after all.” Elrena murmured. 

“I want to go with you!” Arista chimed in. “If you aren’t from around here, I can help you get around Atlantica. And Melody is still my family even if we do live in different worlds.”

They were unsure about letting the mermaid join them. There could be Heartless and they didn’t want Arista to get hurt. 

“Are you sure?” Kalai asked. “It may be dangerous.”

At this Arista grinned. 

“Oh don’t worry about me! I’ve had my share in dangerous adventures!” She began to swim towards the boats direction. “Let’s go!”

 

~~~

 

They followed behind Arista, trying to catch up to the boat before it disappeared. As they swam along the mermaid told them more about Melody and why Morgana was a threat to her. Morgana was the sister of another sea witch called Ursula who had tried to seize control over the sea from her father and had been a serious problem for Ariel and her husband Prince Eric. They had managed to deal with Ursula and soon afterward were married. But Morgana had sworn revenge for her sister’s death and the newborn Melody had come in the crossfire. 

“My sister had a great wall erected around the human kingdom to protect Melody from Morgana’s wrath.” She explained. “That was twelve years ago but we still haven’t caught her. To make matters worse…”

Almost as if they knew by instinct what Arista would say next, several jellyfish Heartless quickly and suddenly surrounded them. The mermaid had skill with magic, but it was clear that she could not take on such creatures on her own. With their keyblades, the girls made quick work of the monsters, causing Arista to stare at them with awe.

“Those weapons, I’ve seen them before.”

“You have?” Asked Kairi. “When? Where?”

“Sora, he was a boy who helped Ariel and Prince Eric defeat Ursula. He had a weapon just like that!” 

“Oh! So Sora has been here before?”

“He has, do you know him?”

At once a look of sorrow darkened Kairi’s face and Elrena answered for her. 

“Yes, we all know him. We...oh crap!”

Another jellyfish heartless appeared behind Arista that Kalai immediately took care of. The mermaid swam a circle around her.

“Those creatures started appearing in Atlantica not too long ago!” She said. “And Father is convinced Morgana has something to do with it!”

Kalai and Elrena exchanged knowing glances but said nothing. It was obvious that Morgana harbored an immense darkness in her heart and where there was darkness, there were heartless. Surely once she was dealt with, they would vanish from this world. Arista continued to lead the girls further into the sea but it soon became clear that they had lost track of the boat.

“Do you know where Morgana resides?” Asked Kairi. “Maybe if we go there, it’ll give us a clue.”

The mermaid did indeed and that’s where they headed next. They were nearly to the edge of Morgana’s lair when they caught a glance of something quite alarming. Swimming away with an air of joy was a young mermaid with a coral pink tail. But it wasn’t a mermaid, it was Melody! 

“What happened?!” Gasped Kalai. “She didn’t have that tail when we saw her earlier!”

“And her face!” Elrena added. “She looks so much happier now, almost as if…”

“Morgana!” Arista answered them before they could form the conclusion into words. “She’s behind this! My sister didn’t want Melody to know anything about her mermaid background. The witch must have told her and turned her into a mermaid.”

“But…” Kairi took one last glance into Melody’s direction. Despite the clear happiness in the girls face, she could still sense the darkness at work. “I thought Morgana wanted to destroy Melody. Why would she do that?”

“Only one way to find out!” Kalai began to swim towards Melody with Arista following behind quickly so as not to lose her, only to be blocked by a large heartless that resembled a shark. The brunette summoned her keyblade.

“Ugh! Could you stay out of our way for even a moment?!” 

This heartless proved more difficult to vanquish compared to the jellyfish. It swam around in quick circles that trapped them in a watery vortex that would have overwhelmed them if Kalai did not summon a gale to break it. 

“Wind against wind? How presumptuous!” 

She tossed her blade into the air and it transformed into a lance that she used to run through the Heartless in one swift blow.  But just when they thought that heartless was dealt with another appeared along with some of the jellyfish from before. These monsters were soon proving too much for Arista and she found herself trapped by another votex from which Kairi had to pull her from. But the mermaid laughed.

“And I thought gators were a pain in the tail.”

“You sure you don’t wanna head back to your home?” Elrena asked. “It’s only gonna get worse.”

“I know!” Kairi spoke up. “We’ll go to her father’s castle and tell him what we saw, you and Kalai can continue looking for Melody.” 

“Good idea! Maybe we’ll run into her while we’re looking.” Nearby there was a particularly large mass of blue coral that Kalai swam a circle around. “See this? This will mark the place where we’ll meet up again later. Can you remember it, Kairi?” 

“Sure can! Let’s go, Arista!”

And with that, the four separated. Kalai and Elrena continued to explore the sea together, looking for Melody while taking down any heartless that stood in their way. By now they had fully gotten used to using tails as opposed to feet and fighting was beginning to become easier as well.

“A good thing none of us were sent here during our Organization days!” Laughed the blonde. “That would have been a pain!”

“I think Demyx would like this world though!” The brunette replied. “I know Lauriam would, they’re so many beautiful plants down here. In fact…” 

She pulled out her gummiphone and began snapping photos of the various underwater flowers they passed. All the while they continued to look for Melody and talk about her. 

“Still, there’s one thing I don’t understand. Why would Ariel keep the truth from Melody? If keeping her away from Morgana was her intention, what would be the point of not telling her?” 

“Sometimes...the truth can be just as dangerous as a lie. I remember Aeleus once told me, when I was born, my stepfather threatened to have my actual father arrested if my mother didn’t promise that she would never speak to him again. That was one of the reasons why they never told me the truth. I’m sure Ariel had the best intentions, she’s probably just feels overprotective of her daughter.”

“I get that. Dilan was always overprotective of you, even when we were in the Organization.” 

“He still is.” Kalai laughed a little. “But I think at some point he realized I wasn’t a little girl anymore, and that I have to be free to make my own decisions. He taught me well and I’m sure Ariel taught Melody well too.”

“Come on, let’s keep looking.”

 

~~~

 

Meanwhile Arista and Kairi were having a more difficult time trying to return to Atlantica. More heartless were appearing, sprouting up nearly everywhere as if they were intentionally trying to keep them away from the underwater castle. As if it was their goal. They were almost there, the castle could be seen in the near distance, but even at such proximity, the dark creatures would not relent. 

“Where do they keep coming from?!” Arista asked. 

“The heartless are born from the darkness in hearts.” Replied Kairi. “Your father is is probably right about them working with Morgana!” 

Another heartless shark rammed into them from behind but before Kairi could take care of it, the creature had created another powerful vortex that pushed her far away from her mermaid companion. 

“No!” 

Summoning Destiny’s Embrace, she charged at the monster. Without her more experienced friends, it was a more difficult foe than before but she still managed to take it down. Once the creature was vanquished, Kairi looked around her quickly to find that she was now alone! The vortex had separated her from Arista. Frustration took her over at once, maybe separating from Kalai and Elrena had not been the best idea after all. 

But wait, Arista probably is already further ahead to the castle! I should go follow her!

“AAAAHHHHH!!!!

Kairi was shaken from her thoughts at a high scream from someone that seemed very near and very much in distressed. She glanced around and then down below her to find that several jellyfish heartless had cornered a young mermaid. 

Melody!

Without a moment's hesitation, Kairi swam towards them. She summoned a protective barrier around the girl and made quick work of the jellyfish. When they were gone, Melody approached her with great reverence.

“Oh thank you! Thank you so much!” She said, looking almost as though tears would come to her eyes. “Those monsters kept chasing me. And I’m lost too. I was beginning to think I was a goner!”

“You’re lost?” 

“I’m trying to find Atlantica.” Melody pulled out a stone map. “I think I’m close, but those monsters haven’t made things easy. Do you know where Atlantica is?” 

Why was Melody trying to find Atlantica? It seemed odd but nevertheless it seemed perfect to Kairi. If they could manage to get there, she would surely be in good hands with Arista and her father. She smiled and took the girls hand. 

“You’re not too far.” She said. “I’ll help you get the rest of the way!”

“Oh really! Thank you! Thank you a third time!” Kairi giggled at this. 

“Any reason why you’re trying to get there?”

“I’m looking for something very important there. I need to find it soon or...or…”

She glanced down at her coral tail with a sense of sadness that the older girl did not understand. Even so she agreed to escort Melody the rest of the way. With her keyblade in hand, they made their way towards the undersea castle. 

 

~~~

 

Chapter Text

~~~

 

“What do you intend to do with the trident once it’s in your possession?”

Morgana paid hardly any attention to the masked figure standing behind her, rather her focus was on her all-seeing bubble and the image of two mermaids making their way to the throne room of King Triton. Things were going so well, better than she could have anticipated but she knew she had these mysterious dark creatures to thank for it. To that end, she knew she owed the girl an explanation.

“Simply put, revenge.”

“Revenge? I don’t understand.”

“All my life, it was always ‘Ursula this!’ or ‘Ursula that!’ Or ‘Morgana, why can’t you be more like your sister?’ Ursula!” 

In her jealousy, the witch went into a temporary rage that her masked companion waited patiently for her to come down from. 

“That’s all my mother ever did was criticize me! Hmph!” A few more huffs and Morgana had composed herself. “Well, no matter now. Once I’ve gotten hand on that trident, I would have done what precious Ursula ultimately failed to do and rule the seven seas. I seem to be doing far better than she thus far wouldn’t you say? Whatever I am assisting you and Maleficent with, it appears to be far grander than whatever my sister was doing with her.”

She hesitated. Truthfully the particulars of this were still as unknown to her as they were to Morgana. Even so, she could see the darkness in her heart and knew it threatened the pure light that the others were so desperate for. Who knew how soon his return would be? 

“Do not forget.” She said. “We need the light of Princess Melody, it cannot be attained if she is marred.”

“Now don’t worry your pretty little head about that, my dear.” Replied Morgana rather dismissively. “I know my part and I’ll see to it that the little brat is left unharmed.”

“That’s all I ask. I’ll be on my way now.” She turned and prepared to leave. “May your Heart be your Guiding Key.” 

When she was gone, Morgana turned back to her bubble. Melody had succeeded in obtaining the trident and she and Kairi were now on their way back to her. She grinned malevolently.

“I won’t harm her…much…” 

 

~~~

 

“Daddy, this is Kalai and Elrena. They agreed to help us look for Melody.”

“And they helped me get back here when those monsters were attacking me.”

Ariel and Flounder had been swimming along when they had also been cornered by the dark creatures. Who knows what would have become of them if Kalai and Elrena hadn’t been passing by. As it happened, the one they helped was in fact Melody’s mother and they were more than happy to return to Atlantica with her to meet her father.

King Triton nodded at the two girls. He had seen enough through Sora to know that there was nothing to fear in regards to keyblade wielders and that they were the only ones who could vanquish the heartless. He welcomed them warmly. 

“We certainly need all the assistance we can get.” He said. “Thank you for keeping Ariel and Arista safe. Come.”

Kalai had often heard stories of mermaids but never did she imagine that such stories could be a reality, the castle of the sea king was like something out of those stories. She would have so much to tell Lauriam when she returned. She and Elrena followed behind Ariel, Arista and their father, trying her best not to get too distracted or lost behind them as they approached the throne room. 

“Oh no! Daddy! The trident!”

They collectively gasped as they realized that the kings mighty trident was gone. Sebastian swam frantically around the empty space where it had once been. 

“But that’s not possible! Nobody can remove the trident except YOU, sire! You or one of your descendants!”

“Look at this!”

From the ground Elrena picked up what appeared to be a locket in the shape of a golden shell. The name of Melody was engraved on the front. Kalai stole a quick glance at it before handing it to Ariel. 

“Melody…”

“You don’t think…”

“But how could she have gotten here?”

“Morgana!” King Triton’s white brows furrowed with worry. “If she gets her hands on my trident…”

Kalai and Elrena summoned their keyblades. “We have to find her!”

“Double the search parties!” Shouted the king. “I want every creature on patrol!” 

“Kalai, does that mean you know where Morgana is?” 

“We’re not entirely sure, but we think we know! Come on!”

As they made their way out of the castle, Arista followed behind them. 

“I’m coming too!” Ariel turned to her sister. Despite her own anxiety, she regarded her kindly. 

“Arista, Sis..”

“Don’t tell me this will be dangerous! I already know and I don’t give one rotten fin about that!”

“This won’t be like our old adventures. If you want to help, stay with Daddy and assist the search parties here. When the time comes, I know you will be there for me.”

The blonde mermaid agreed only half reluctantly. A small smile came to the brunette’s face as they swam off, though she was older than Ariel, Arista reminded her so much of Adelen. Always ready for a little adventure and not always aware of her own limits. 

“Such kindred bonds...” She murmured. “...remain the same weather on land or in the sea.”

“When all this is over.” Said Ariel. “I’ll make sure that my daughter knows all of her family, whether they be man or merperson. And how much we all love her.”

 

~~~

 

Finally! I was worried that I may have lost track of her!

On dry land it was now daytime. After hours underwater, it took Kairi a moment to adjust to the bright sunlight and brilliant blue sky. The cries of seagulls brought her attention upward to the image of a large white castle protected by a vast wall. No doubt this was the wall that Arista had mentioned, and so this was the human kingdom. That’s when she saw Melody, staring up at the wall with the trident still in her grasp.

“All this time, Atlantica was never that far away from home.”

Ariel was originally a mermaid and she had married a human prince. It made sense that their world’s were so close together. But at the same time, why block one world away from Melody just to keep her trapped in the other?

“Who are they trying to keep out?” Asked the older girl, staring up at the wall and thinking of Morgana.

“It wasn’t built to keep anything out.” Melody replied with slight irritation. “It was built to keep ME in! Let’s go!” 

As quickly as she emerged to the surface, she descended back below with Kairi once again trying to keep up with her rapid pace. She noticed that they had passed the large mass of blue coral that was where she was to meet up with Kalai and Elrena. They were inching closer to Morgana’s lair.

“You know,” She began. “You never actually told me why you needed the trident. Only that it was important that you get it.”

“If I don’t return it to it’s rightful owner, I’ll turn back into an ordinary girl. This trident belongs to the one person who can make me a mermaid permanently!” 

“Who?”

“Morgana, she’s an enchantress who told me the truth about who I am, and helped me get this tail.”

Morgana! Kairi gasped. It all made sense now, why did she not see it before? But the trident, it couldn’t really belong to the sea witch. That could only mean one thing.

“Melody! No! Wait up!” 

Jellyfish heartless blocked her path but she was determined not to lose track of her as she had lost track of Arista. Casting fire magic upon them, she continued to follow the girl right to this aforementioned sea witch who was such a threat to her. Now she could put the grotesque image to the name. 

“Oh Darling! I was beginning to worry about you!” Morgana approached the girl in a gesture making a mockery of sweetness. “And look! You found my trident! Such a clever girl you are! But…” Taking one look at the glaring redhead behind her. “Who is THAT?”

“This is Kairi.” Melody smiled. “She helped me take the trident. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without…”

“Whose trident is it REALLY?!” 

Kairi threw herself in front of Melody in a stance of protection that Morgana quickly subdued with a slap of one of her tentacles. Melody raised her eyebrow at this but her grasp on the trident remained firm.

“Mine of course!” Grinned the sea witch as she turned to the younger girl. “Now then, Dear, if you would just hand over the…”

“NO!”

“Melody! Don’t!"

"Don’t listen to her!”

“Mom? Is that you?!”

It was indeed Ariel, with Kairi’s two companions beside her. Now they would finish this. The redhead stated agasp at her daughter, just as shocked to see her with a tail as she was to see one on her mother.

“All this time...you never told me…?”

“Kept the most important secret of her whole life from her own daughter!” Morgana placed her arms around Melody. “She lied to you…”

“She was trying to protect you!” Said Kalai. 

“Please, Melody. Give me the trident.”

“No, Dear, give it to me! It’s for your own good!”

“She’s lying to you!” Elrena spoke up. “With tacky highlights like that, how can you trust her?!”

“Because I was the one who gave her all that she wanted. While Ariel was the one who kept this secret from her all these years!”

“I was trying to protect you.”

“By fencing me in?!” Anger flashed in Melody’s face. “You knew how much I loved the sea, why would you keep the truth from me?” 

“Melody listen to me, if there’s one thing I could take back I would..”

But Melody was having none of it. She glared at the four as she handed the trident to the sea witch. At once she began to laugh maniacally as it’s power coursed through her, all the power of the sea now at her command. 

“Melody?!” Kairi gasped. “How could you?!” 

“Oh yes, how could you, dear Melody.”

“YOU'RE THROUGH!” 

Elrena summoned Olympia and Kalai followed suit with Graceful Destiny, only for Morgana to trap them both with tentacles along with Ariel. Kairi and Melody tried to come to their aid but Morgana pointed the trident at them both.

“They were only trying to protect you from moi!” She laughed. “Little Melody has been a very naughty girl, stealing from her own grandfather!”

“My grandfather?!” 

“King Triton! Ruler of Atlantica, or at least he was until a little thief came along...”

“You tricked me!”

“You got no one to blame but yourself!” 

“You won’t get away with this!” Kairi summoned her blade and charged at Morgana. “We won’t let you…”

But Morgana only laughed as she smacked Kairi and Melody into a cave of ice, closing it in a thick icy wall before they could comprehend what had happened. 

“Oh! And by the way, Melody. Your time as a mermaid has just about expired. Catch ya later! I got bigger fish to fry!”

She continued to laugh as she dragged Ariel, Kalai and Elrena away, leaving Kairi and Melody to their grim and watery fate. They continued to bang and bash at the ice wall to no avail. They were trapped. 

“This is all my fault…” Sighed Melody, tears beginning to form in her eyes. “Oh Kairi, why didn’t I listen to you all? I’ve ruined everything. I really am the Princess of Disaster!”

She slunk into the corner, weeping and seemingly resigned to her fate. Kairi gazed out at the wall and then at Melody, feeling at fault as well. If only she had asked about the trident earlier. But maybe it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. And now her friends were in danger too. The more she thought of it, the more downcast she became and soon enough, her self doubt returned. 

Giving up already? Come on, Kairi! How can you protect me if your stuck in here?

No. It was not over. Not yet. They would find a way out. They had to.

 

~~~

 

As the sun fell across the horizon, the terror of Morgana rose from the sea, heartless surrounding her. So certain she was in her victory that she did not notice at once the ship charging her way. 

“Oh, Prince Eric. Come to join the party? We’re having a blast!” 

Using the trident she forced a large block of ice to crumble under the ship, making it capsize and forcing the prince and his men to abandon ship.

“How Ursula would have adored this!”

“Morgana!” 

King Triton appeared accompanied by Sebastian and his own marine cavalry. But the sea witch laughed, what could he possibly do trident-less?

“Release my daughter and granddaughter and I’ll spare you!”

“What ya gonna do? Throw that crab at me?”

“Where’s Melody?! What have you done with her?!” 

“Oh! Wanna join your daughter? I think that can be arranged!” 

She summoned a squid heartless that quickly grabbed the prince and dragged him below the frigid depths. 

“Eric!” Screamed Ariel. “Noooo!!”

“Enough of this bullshit!” 

Kalai struggled to free herself from the tentacle grasp, harder than ever. She only managed to free one arm but it was her strong arm. At once, Graceful Destiny answered her call and she freed herself and her friends from the witch's clutches. They dived down behind the heartless, now pulling Prince Eric further into the sea. Ariel managed to grab her husband while the girls pointed their blades at the monster.

“Remind me NEVER to eat calamari after this!” Elrena smirked. 

“Ha! I was just about to say the same thing, dear!” Kalai replied. 

They made quick work of the squid heartless and then continued to swim away, turning back to Ariel with grins on their faces. 

“Don’t worry, Ariel!” Said the brunette. “We’ll get Melody back!”

“Yeah! And Kairi too!” 

 

~~~

 

With one last strike of her keyblade, the ice wall was finally shattered. Kairi wasted no time trying to swim out but Melody did not follow behind her. She cried out in pain.

“What’s...happening?” 

Her answer was received a moment later when she glanced down and saw her tail vanish and her legs return. And with them, her human inability to survive underwater. 

“OH NO!” 

At once she was in Kairi’s arms as they escaped the cave and she struggled to swim them up to the surface. She tried to move quickly, she could see the light not too far above them but she could also see that Melody was fading fast. Her eyes shifted to the amulet around her neck.

These pearl amulets contain a special kind of magic...you must keep them on at all times to survive underwater…

They were almost there but Melody was unconscious, the bubbles of life leaving her lips at a slower and slower pace. Kairi took in one last breath and did not hesitate. 

“Kairi!” She gasped as she felt her tail return. “What are you…?”

But Kairi only smiled as she felt her keyblade armor return, she made a motion for the younger girl to go to the surface but she would not without at least trying to save them both. It proved futile though and Kairi was instead determined to try to swim on her own. 

“Kairi!”

Even from a distance her friends could see what she had done and that she was now in danger of drowning. Elrena clapped her hands and summoned her marine dreameaters. 

“Go help Kairi! Get her to the surface!” 

The Fin Fatale and Tatsu Seed followed her command and went to rescue her. They followed quickly behind them. Once ashore, Kairi gasped out for air and Melody handed her amulet back to her. 

“Thank you for saving me.” She said. “Here, I think this belongs to you.” 

“Don’t put it back on just yet, Kairi!” Kalai told her as they glared up at Morgana now hovering above them. In front of her was a new squid heartless, larger and more monstrous than the one before.

“FOOLS! I have the trident now!” She raised it above her head, pointing it at all the adversaries below her. Now at her mercy. “AND ALL THE POWER OF THE SEA IS NOW MY POWER!”

She forced them to bow. With their keyblades, they managed to block the witch’s power but it was only a matter of time before they were under the same spell. But Melody noticed something and in the next moment was running towards Morgana. The girls could see what she was seeing, but the heartless...

“I’M QUEEN OF THE SEA NOW! AND THE END IS NEAR FOR ALL OF YOU WITH FINS!” 

“Good thing we don’t normally have fins!” Elrena grinned as she ripped off her amulet. “Right, Princess?” 

“Couldn’t say it better myself!” Kalai ripped off her own as well. “Kairi, protect Melody! Keep the heartless away from her while we take it down!” 

“Got it!” 

Melody made her way up the ice mountain where Morgana was administering her reign of terror, this way and that the icicles moved as she jumped from one to the other to the top. The squid heartless chased her but Kairi formed a protective barrier in front of the girl while her friends took turns striking at it. Morgana did not seem bothered and continued to inflict her wrath, now forcing the King of the Sea to bow before her. 

“SEE THAT, MA?! WHOS YOUR FAVORITE NOW?!”

She demonic laughter echoed into the sky and rocked the sea but the maidens of the keyblade would not relent. The squid heartless grabbed at Kairi and was about to do the same to Melody before it’s tentacle was severed by a quick blow of Kalai’s lance.

“Where there is light, there is darkness.” She said as she returned her weapon to it’s keyblade form. “But your darkness will NEVER have our friends!” 

“Damn right!” Added Elrena as she summoned ribbons of thunder. “Let’s send this creature straight to Hell!” 

Clasping their hands, they twirled their blades together and summoned a massive thunderbolt in a strong and merciless limit. It did just the trick and it evaporated in a large cloud of darkness just as Melody reached Morgana and seized the trident. 

“Just WHAT do you think you’re going to do with THAT?!”

Her tentacle snaked around the girls foot and she struggled to break free. Morgana laughed and was just about to take the trident back when she was struck in the head by a beam of light. 

“Kairi!”

“Quick! Get the trident to the king!” 

She summoned pearl once more, making the witch wail out in pain and let go of Melody. 

“Grandfather, I think this belongs to you!” 

“NOOOOO!!!”

Melody threw the trident to King Triton and Morgana pushed her off the icy cliff. The girl screamed as she plummeted to the ground, but she was caught just in time by Kalai on her keybike and returned safely to the ground.

“NEVER AGAIN! Will you or yours threaten my family!” The trident in his hand, his powerful might returned. There was no hope for the sea witch. “There will be NO ESCAPE for you! EVER!” 

He wasted not another second and encased Morgana in a block of ice. The ground and sea quaked beneath them and her icy throne collapsed and fragmented into the fathoms below. All the while, at some distance, the whole scene was being watched by one who sighed in half disgust and half despair. 

 

Too overtaken by the darkness within her heart. Invi thought to herself. In the end, that was her downfall. But at least the Pure Light is safe. So perhaps this was for the best.

 

~~~

 

The girls watched watched as Melody was reunited with her parents. She threw herself upon her mother, the animosity between them destroyed with the sea witch.

“Oh Mom, I’m so sorry!” 

“No, sweetie, I'm the one who’s sorry. I should have told you the truth.”

“I didn’t mean to hurt anyone, I just thought...I’d be a better mermaid than a girl.” 

“Oh Melody, it doesn’t matter if you have fins or feet, we love you for who you are on the inside. Our very brave little girl.” 

“Just like your mother.” King Triton smiled at his granddaughter. “I don’t blame you for wanting to live with us merfolk, and because you’re my granddaughter, I will give you a choice. You can come to Atlantica with me, or you can return to your home on land.”

Her eyes widened and she glanced at her parents, back at her grandfather and then to her three new friends. She looked at them a little longer, as if waiting for them to advise her on the right decision. But they only smiled. 

“It’s up to you.” Kairi said. 

Melody thought for a few moments then her eyes lit up. 

“I have a better idea!” She said. “The sea is a part of me, but so is the land. Most of my life I’ve been walled away from one world and kept in the other! Well, no more walls! Let’s all be together! Humans and merpeople!” 

Ariel’s eyes sparkled with joy and pride. She couldn’t have thought of a better choice herself. They embraced once more and then Melody ran to her new friends, throwing her arms around Kairi. 

“Thank you! For helping us!” 

“Of course, Melody.” Kairi held her tighter and regarded her with a kind smile. “You’re a remarkable girl, do you know that?”

“Thanks. So are you! Those key swords, they’re amazing! I want one!”

“They’re called keyblades!” Kalai giggled. “But I don’t think your grandfather would like it if you had one.” 

“Even so.” Smiled the king. “Know that you three girls are welcome to return to Atlantica anytime you wish. And when you see Sora again, give to him my most kindest regards.”

Kalai and Elrena glanced at their friend, the mention of Sora always seemed to darken her mood. But not this time, there was a new glow in her face that they had not seen before, almost like accomplishment. She certainly deserved it, if it weren’t for her, Melody would have drowned and she wouldn’t have managed to get the trident back to her grandfather. They were certain that Sora couldn’t have done better. 

“We will!” Kairi beamed. “We promise!”

 

~~~

 

Back home, they reported their success to Aqua who rewarded them with an interesting looking charms. She explained to them that they went on the end of the chains of their keyblades and that they would soon see why they were special. Elrena and Kairi quickly fell asleep while Kalai spent the evening with Lauriam, showing him the many pictures she took on her gummiphone and musing about how nice it was to have legs again.

“But you make such an enchanting mermaid.” He smiled. “You both do. I wish I could have been with you.”

“Maybe next time. By the by, were you and Ven successful in Radiant Garden?”

“Not as successful as we would have liked.“But we are on the right track. And I imagine the seventh and final Princess will be revealed soon.”

“I hope so.” 

She closed her eyes and rested her head upon his chest. Her legs moved closer to his and he responded by caressing them softly. Her eyes opened and she giggled. 

“I may make an enchanting mermaid.” She said, blushing a little. “But there are some things that legs are better for, if you know what I mean.”

“I do, Rosebud.”

Lauriam flashed her a devilish expression and quickly moved down to place several kisses along her thighs. Kalai squirmed and giggled more as his hands and lips worked faster and he held her legs tighter to keep from moving. Something about having to use a tail for so long was making her legs particularly vulnerable to his sensual teasings.

“Enchanting as a mermaid. But even more enchanting as a maiden.” He locked his intense blue gaze with her fluttering violet one, running his fingertips slowly down the underside of her thigh and making her yelp with anticipation. “A pity Elrena has already retired. But not too much a pity since I don’t have to share...”

 

~~~

 

KEYBLADE OBTAINED!

~Kindred Harmony~

Raises max MP and increases damage done by water based attacks. Also has long reach to deal good physical attacks. 

Affinity  Spirit ~ Ariel

Affinity Limits ~ Some keyblades hold a special power you can call upon to aid you in battle. Some are spirits that you can summon while others are fantastical bursts of power and magic.

 

~~~

 

Chapter Text

~~~

 

Lauriam and Ventus were getting close to finding one of their fellow Union Leaders. They had reason to believe that at some point she had found herself in Radiant Garden. But she had vanished and they were now trying to track her down. Lea and Isa were assisting them but it seemed like every hint lead them to a dead end. 

There was something else they were searching for, Lauriam in particular. He had been fascinated with the replicas that helped revive  Roxas, Xion and Namine and was curious to see if such a vessel could be used to revive his sister at some point. Even was naturally interested in using his research to further help others, but they had so little data on Strelitzia's heart that there was not much he could do at the moment. Much to Lauriam’s disappointment. 

So much time they were spending in The Capital of Light that they did not accompany the girls on their first few missions. Though not much had occurred after awakening the light in Princess Melody. One night when the guys had returned later than usual, Lauriam went up to Kalai’s room to see that she was asleep. Elrena was sitting beside her.

“I heard her crying in her sleep. I think she’s having bad dreams again.” She said. 

Lauriam sighed. Kalai had never been a sound sleeper and he knew she occasionally experienced nightmares. In his mind he recalled a moment one rainy night in Castle Oblivion where he had been awoken by her crying in her sleep, it was the first time he had ever seen her cry and when he finally determined that Nobodies could have the capacity to feel. He saw her shift in her sleep and the blonde stroked her hair comfortingly.

“I...thought I’d stay with her tonight.”

It was so sweet, and so very unlike how Elrena normally was. Though her temper had cooled, Larxene was still in her. The blonde could see the smile rise on her lover’s face and quickly changed her tone.

“Don’t you dare tell her I was here tonight! I’d never hear the end of it!”

“You know, Elrena, we all know you are a sweet girl deep down. You can drop the facade.”

“Shut up!”

But he could see the blush rising to her cheeks. He smirked and took a seat beside her.

“I don’t think my sister would have reached out to you if she didn’t see what a sweet person you truly are.”

“Oh, Lauriam…” The blush on her face darkening. 

“And we see it too. That’s why Kalai and I put up with your more...spicy moments.”

“Spicy?! What the hell does that m…”

“Shhhh.” Lauriam placed a finger to his lips and shifted his eyes to the sleeping form beside them. Then a thought came to him and he summoned his Chirithy with another sigh. “I know she fears them, if only she knew how useful they can be.” The creature looked up at him expectantly, he smiled and stroked it’s head. “Banish the nightmare.”

As the first light of dawn passed through the sky, Kalai felt a certain warmth in her sleep. She woke to find herself enfolded in the arms of her blonde lover on one side of her and her pink haired lover on the other. A smile came to her, though she still suffered from nightmares, she knew that her life now was happier than she could ever imagine and for that she was grateful. She placed a kiss on each of their cheeks as she drifted back to sleep, not noticing the cat like creature that had vanished just as her eyes were first opening.

 

~~~

 

A few days later...

 

“WHAT DID YOU AND VEN MAKE THIS TIME?!” 

Kalai’s screams and Elrena’s laughter echoed down the hall as she and the Tyranto Rex gave chase to the brunette and she found herself running for her life for the third time that week. Somehow this particular one was scarier than the others. She jumped down the stairs and summoned Graceful Destiny, quickly transforming it into a hoverbike.

“Ha! Can’t fly! Can’t catch me!” 

“That’s what you think!” The blonde laughed. “Dino Boy wasn’t the only thing we made!”

With a wave of Elrena’s hands a Ryu Dragon appeared and took to the sky after her lover. She tried to avoid them but found it difficult while still trying to keep from crashing into any of the cliffs. Eventually she gave up trying and returned to the ground, tumbling and falling into the grass. 

“I told you, Princess! You’re going to learn to love them!”

“How can I learn to love them when you’re always sicking them on me?!” 

“Ugh!” 

She clapped her hands and in the next moment, the Dreameater was gone. But she continued to laugh while Ventus looked genuinely concerned. 

“They’re not like Heartless, they won’t hurt you.” He said. “Why don’t you like them?”

Kalai hesitated, honestly she was not completely sure why she was afraid of Dreameaters. A memory then came to her mind from her days under Master Xehanort, of several darkly neon colored bats coming out of nowhere and causing havoc in the lab when she was alone. 

“I’ve...seen creatures like them before.” She began. “But they were evil.”

They glanced at each other and then at their friend, this was the first time either of them had heard this. That’s when Elrena recalled something similar; one of the old man’s butt-boys had kept Dreameaters. Not the benevolent spirits that she and Ventus were fond of, but evil nightmare spirits. And he had been a particular thorn in Kalai’s side. She was beginning to understand and helped her lover up from the ground.

“Not all Dreameaters are nice.” She said. “But remember how my Tatsu Seed saved Kairi from drowning?”

“I do…”

“They’re a lot like the ones who own them.” Added Ventus. “If your heart is evil they’ll be evil but if your heart has light, well, you get the idea…”

“If you really don’t like them, I promise I won’t tease you with them again. But my opinion still stands, one day you will! “

 

~~~

 

Truthfully, Kalai knew her fear of dreameaters was irrational, especially after all she had seen thus far. The chirithies were strange little creatures with their ability to talk without mouths, but they weren’t malevolent in the slightest. Her mind returned to her last days in the Organization and the abominable creatures that would occasionally harass her when she was in the lab minding her business. She recalled having a particularly awful nightmare one day and then waking up to find a strange looking reptilian creature hanging from the ceiling above her. It had tried to attack her but her Nobodies defended her.

But the creatures that her friends kept were not like that, even if they had the tendency to chase her around at the behest of Elrena. She was curious and decided to spend her evening in the castle’s library to see if she could learn more about them. It was in this state that Lauriam found her after returning from yet another fruitless visit to Radiant Garden. 

“Ven told me about what happened this afternoon.” He said, pulling up a chair beside her.

“I know, I know, I’m irrational.”  She replied.

“Do you remember what you often said when we were in the Organization? That you feared nothing?”

Kalai made a face. It was true she had often said that, but it was just a farce. She honestly feared many things but she knew that such weakness would never be acceptable. 

“When one goes for so long fearing nothing,” He went on. “I suppose it's understandable to fear something so...well, anyway…” His voice trailed off as he glanced down at the text she had been flipping through on his arrival, text about the Sleeping Worlds and the spirits that inhabited them. “Judging by what you’re reading, I’m guessing you are trying to overcome your irrational fear?”

She smiled in agreement.

“Well then, what better way to overcome fears than like this?”

“Huh?!”

There was hardly time for her to comprehend his words before Lauriam clapped his hands together and summoned his chirithy. Kalai flinched and the odd cat creature appeared in a swirl of light. It stared up at her, head tilted as if it were curious about her and why she feared it. It’s owner smiled.

“I know, I know she’s pretty. But staring is rude, say hello to Kalai.” 

“Hello, Kalai.” 

It was like talking to a large plush toy but as she glanced at it, it actually began to seem kinda cute in a weird way. Cautiously she stroked it’s head and was surprised by the little cooing sounds it made. She also found this cute and patted it again just to hear it once more. Then she pointed to the little pouch around its neck.

“What do you keep in there?” 

“Normally it’s used to keep the lux that we would gather for our Unions.” Lauriam answered. “But sometimes they carry other things. Show her, Chirithy.”

It rummaged through it’s pouch for a moment or two before pulling from it a pink rose, thornless and beautiful, and handing it to Kalai. A red tint appeared on her face and her heart began to warm.

“You’ve clearly taken on some of your master’s personality.” She giggled, taking the rose. 

“Chirithies are very much like the wielders they serve.” He smirked. “As are most dreameaters. Kindhearted wielders naturally have sweet spirits like this little one. But if a wielder is corrupted by darkness then the spirit will turn into an evil nightmare.”

“Evil nightmares…” She repeated. “that...explains a lot. I’ve encountered Nightmares, that younger Xehanort clone kept them. Sometimes he’d set them off in the lab just to piss me off. But…” Stroking the chirithy’s head thoughtfully. “If they were as sweet as this one, I don’t think…”

“Oh? Did someone say ‘sweet’?”

The chirithy went through it’s little pouch again to reveal a candy wrapped in silver foil, it was one of Kalai’s favorites. How did it know? It handed the candy to her and then another to it’s master, and giggled as it watched the lovers feed each other. Lauriam glanced down at the chirithy with a teasing smirk.

“What? Don’t be jealous.”

“Like you said, very much like the wielder it serves.”

“And there’s more to them than that.” he motioned for his chirithy to sit in his lap. “Dreameaters, the gentle kind, they have the ability to banish nightmares in those who sleep, and show happy dreams in their place.”

The more she glanced at the odd cat creature, the more Kalai felt herself growing to like it. Though it had only one expression, she felt as though she could still read it’s feelings in how it behaved. This chirithy was shyer than the ones belonging to Ventus and Elrena, but probably had the sweetest personality out of all three. Finally she picked it back up with a new smile, her fears were melting away.

“She really is pretty, Lauriam.” It said, looking as though it was actually smiling.

“No need for flattery, little cat.” She grinned. “I like you now.”

“Thanks, but I’m not a cat!”

“Chirithy, how about you keep my Rosebud company tonight.” Smiled Lauriam. “You can help her and make sure she has good dreams again.”

“Again?” Her eyes widened a little. “Wait, a few nights ago, I...had an awful dream about the old man but all of a sudden, it just vanished and was replaced with…well…” She blushed, too embarrassed to say what her sweet dream had been. But he could make an educated guess and smirked again. 

“Would you like Chirithy to give you even more sweet dreams tonight?”

Kalai did not have to be asked twice, anything to help with her usually bad sleep. She kissed her lover goodnight and took the creature back to her room. For a while they talked more about dreams and the place where it had come from. She learned that the sweet creature she now held had once been a nightmare but at some undetermined moment, it had returned to it’s true form when it was reunited with its master.

“I don’t like nightmares, and I didn’t like being one. I’m glad Lauriam is back to normal. Elrena too!”

“So am I.” 

Though truthfully Kalai felt that there was still much about them that she did not know. But the old days were over, even if she had fallen in love with them as Marluxia and Larxene, she could easily fall in love with Lauriam and Elrena. They certainly made it easy for her. 

 

~~~

 

That night, Kalai slept peacefully with the chirithy by her side. In her slumber she experienced many happy dreams about her friends, her family back in Radiant Garden, and of course dreams about her two lovers. She was grateful to the creature and she was happy that she was no longer afraid of it. 

While she slept there was certain activity going on in her room that only the chirithy noticed. When morning came, what had happened was revealed to her: now sitting beside her were two Dreameaters different from all the others she had seen before. One was green and yellow, the other purple and yellow, and both resembled rabbits. The second they were aware that she was awake they jumped into her lap, much to her amusement. 

“Like them?” Lauriam stood beside the doorway, approaching her with a grin of great satisfaction at his creations. He pointed to the green and yellow one. “This one is a Me Me Bunny. The other is called a Majik Lapin. A certain someone told me you liked bunnies so I thought what better Dreameater to call your own but one of these?”

“For me? How sweet of you!” 

But her attention was for once was not on him but the creatures that she was now playing with. The Majik Lapin was sweeter and more playful while the Me Me Bunny seemed to be very much like herself, sweet but also temperamental and getting easily annoyed if it was not getting its way. And it was the latter that she liked best. 

“I’m going to name you Mimi!” Laughed Kalai. “Because I am completely unoriginal! But who is the other one for?”

“The one who first told me that you like bunnies.” He replied. “How would you like to join Elrena and I on our visit to your home?”

It was for Adelen, of course! Since Kalai had not visited Radiant Garden much after her first visit after her exam, her youngest sister had become somewhat attached to the other keyblade wielders that did visit the castle. She had expressed interest in learning how to wield one so she could join Kalai on her adventures and Lea had promised to teach her once he became a master. If he ever became one that was. 

“On your way to Radiant Garden, you three?” 

Terra greeted her, Lauriam and Elrena as they were making their way out to the forecourt. They confirmed this and Terra took one look at Kalai’s new pet in her arms and smirked.

“Well now, never thought I’d see the day. When Kalai would be holding a Dreameater and NOT screaming!”

“What did I say before, Princess?” Grinned Elrena. “That you would grow to love them? Remember?”

Of course she remembered, but naturally she did not want to give the blonde the satisfaction of admitting that she was right. Even if she was.

“Hmph!”

“Hmph!”

Mimi mimicked her, right down to how she folded her little arms together, resulting in all four of them laughing at just how similar she sounded to her mistress. 

 

~~~

 

KEYBLADE OBTAINED!

~Joyful Spirits~

What this keyblade lacks in reach it makes up for magic and affinity power. Occasionally deals critical blows.

Affinity  Burst ~ Fantasmic 

 

~~~

Chapter Text

~~~

She sat beside the fountain, gazing up at the twilight sky and contemplating many things. No. What her brother had told her could not possibly be true. Though they may be in different unions, they all had the same goal in mind: to safeguard the light. What would be the point in wielders turning their blades upon each other? 

True there had been much tension in Daybreak Town as of late, but the competition between the Unions had always been fierce. One Union might collect more lux than another, but they all did so for the same reason. But what reasoning would there be in bringing forth certain doom upon the world? And surely the Foretellers would not allow such a thing to happen, right?

“There you are.”

Her attention was turned to him as he took a seat beside her, with her kind smile she silently greeted him. She was never much of a talker, even towards those she loved best. 

“Have you been giving more thought to what I told you earlier?” He asked. 

“I have.” She replied, her eyes lowered. “I...just still can’t believe it…”

“Master Ava would not divulge such a thing to me as a joke. I...really believe this is going to happen.”

He could see how her hands subtly trembled in her lap and took one into both of his. It was obvious that she was scared and truthfully he was scared too. But come what may, he had to see to it that she would not get involved in this coming war. And now, especially since he had been informed that he would lead one of the new five Unions, he would be in a position to protect her. 

“There’s still one thing I don’t understand,” She said. “If only those who are Dandelions will escape to the new world after the war, what will happen to everyone else?”

His grip on her hand tightened a little, he knew the answer and deep down, as much as she did not want to admit it, so did she. When the war came, all those who did not join Master Ava’s Dandelions would most definitely perish. And they would be leaving them behind knowing this. But she was not a heartless girl, how could they knowingly leave everyone else behind to their deaths?

“You must join the Dandelions, Strelitzia.” He said. “Promise me you will, I don’t want to lose you!”

For the first time since he had approached her, Strelitzia’s eyes met those of her brothers. He was always so kind, so caring, and always seeing to her best interests. She was still uncertain, but for his sake she knew what she had to do. 

“I promise, Lauriam.” She replied, with far more confidence than she felt, earning his smile nonetheless. 

“Master Ava will be making a speech here in a few days. And after that, our special training will begin. I’m going to try to convince more to join us so it may be awhile before I can see you again. But no matter what, do not get involved with any of these recent clashes. Understood, Little Flower?”

She nodded her agreement and Lauriam affectionately patted her head and left the Fountain Plaza. Leaving Strelitzia alone to continue staring up at the sky and continue thinking. 

That would be the last time brother and sister ever saw each other.

 

~~~

 

Of all the flowers, there was one that always stuck out to Lauriam upon his entry into the gardens behind the castle. They had a unique appearance that may have seemed odd to some but in his mind, that’s what made them beautiful. With their pointed stems and vibrant orange petals, they truly resembled a vibrant Bird of Paradise that were their namesake. They were always his favorite, and of course, they were her favorite as well. 

It was still early so he was alone. He had been thinking about the past more as of late, when humanity first returned to him, memories had been slow to return to him. It seemed that he could recall nearly everything up to the calamity that befell the place that was supposed to their sanctuary, a sanctuary that had turned out to be only a prison. But one of those last things had been his immense sorrow at realizing what had happened to her. In that moment, something in Lauriam had died, died and was replaced with rage. And everything beyond that was black, almost like darkness. 

You must join the Dandelions, Strelitzia. Promise me you will, I don’t want to lose you!

But he had lost her. Even as a Nobody he had known that it was Strelitzia that called out to him in his dreams, even if he did not yet remember who she was and what she meant to him. He had been powerless to keep her safe just as he had been powerless under Xehanort. And it was that darkness that brought suffering to Sora and Namine. As if that darkness was a response to his rage.

Now things were different, Lauriam had been given a second chance and he had found love, love that he honestly felt he was not deserving of. Why did Elrena and Kalai care about him so much, when for such a long time all he wanted was to control them? What was it that they saw in him that he did not see in himself? Whatever that was, he was grateful for it and it was their love that was helping his heart heal. There was now one last thing he needed to make his heart completely whole again. 

Kalai could count on less than one hand how many times she had seen him cry, even though he had seen her cry countless times. But she knew that whatever he didn’t express outwardly he kept locked in his heart and it was her hope that as time passed, he would reveal more of his heart to her. So quiet were her footsteps and so immersed he was in his thoughts that he was not aware of her presence right away and was surprised when she placed her hand on his shoulder. She apologized.

“Don’t apologize, Rosebud.” He smiled in spite of himself. “I was too caught up in my own thoughts again.”

This is what he said, but she could see the tear streaks upon his face, she replaced her hand on his shoulder with her head. 

“You seem to be very caught up in your thoughts as of late, dear.” She said. “Elrena and I are concerned.”

Lauriam sighed, Elrena had always cared about him, even in the old days. How could he have never seen it? And what had he done to be so lucky to have such a sweet girl like Kalai? 

“Don’t be concerned.” She made a face at this, asking that was the equivalent to asking her to jump off the mountain ledge and she said so. He laughed a little and ran a hand through her hair. “I’ve been thinking a lot about the past is all. But I promise I’m fine.”

“I understand.” She smiled and kissed his cheek. “Which reminds me, when you’re done here, Aqua wants us all in the throne room. But it’s still early so don’t rush.”

With another kiss she left him and made her way back to the forecourt, but she could see how his attention was so fixed upon the flowers he was tending to, the ones bearing the name of his lost sister. Kalai lingered for a few moments and watched him with a heavy heart. She remembered the first time he had ever told her of Strelitzia, about how it was her voice that haunted him as a Nobody. 

And that’s when she heard his sniffs and almost on instinct, she felt the tears burning through her eyes as well. 

“Forgive me, Little Flower.” 

 

~~~

 

As it turned out, there were two pieces of news that Aqua had to share with her pupils, one bad but the other possibly good. The bad news was that the dark fairy Maleficent had resurfaced. She had been searching for the Princesses of Heart with the hopes of unlocking Kingdom Hearts and with it, the power to plunge the worlds into darkness. It was unknown what her plans were now but Aqua was certain that they could not be good. 

“Master Yen Sid was the one who informed me of this.” She said. “But he did not tell me of the second piece of news, for that, he requested that you five go to his tower at once.”

It was a somewhat awkward them all to be back in the Mysterious Tower now that they understood that three out of five of them were not fully trusted by the sorcerer. Though Lauriam, Elrena and Kalai hoped that their successes on their missions and how well they worked with the other former Guardians of Light would eventually raise them in his esteem. There was no reason their past mistakes should have to determine their future. 

“I’ve been keeping a close watch over the worlds.” He said. “Waiting for the seventh and final Princess of Heart to awaken. Last night the stars brought me news of a certain little star that may very well be her.”

With a wave of his hand an image appeared of a little girl with ginger orange hair, holding a teddy bear. She was wide-eyed and timid and couldn’t have been more than six or seven years of age. They all gazed at her thoughtfully but none so much as Lauriam. 

“What is her name?” He asked. “And why does she look so sad?”

“Her name is Penny.” Was the answer. “And her distress could have something to do with the world in which she is located.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I can definitely sense a light in this little girl, but there is so much darkness in her world, whether or not she is our seventh is yet to be seen.”

“Light...clouded by darkness…” Murmured Kairi.

“Even after the worlds were restored, some still held more darkness than others. Worlds that the Heartless are more naturally drawn to. Devil's Bayou is one such world.”

“And that’s where we’ll find Penny?” Elrena asked.

“Yes. If she is indeed our seventh, Kairi should be able to know at once. I will continue to watch over the situation here.”

“You can count on us!” Ventus smiled. 

Yen Sid nodded at them and then rose from his seat to approach them. He brought his hands together and then  opened them to release a cloud of light particles in their direction. 

“I am casting a spell upon you five that will protect you in this particularly dark world.” He explained. “The magic will also assist you in your task, what the magic does is dependent on what challenges you face, understand?”

“Yes, Master Yen Sid!” They said in unison. And with that the sorcerer walked over to his crescent shaped window and summoned the portal that would take them to Devil's Bayou.

“May your Heart be your Guiding Key.”

 

~~~

 

Traveling the Lanes Between always required coming into contact with the darkness as the wielders moved from one world to another, keyblade armor naturally protected them from this. Even so, when they exited the portal and first set foot in the new world, they could hardly tell whether or not they were still in the Lanes Between. Such was the darkness surrounding them and the feeling only increased when they were immediately jumped by a group of Neoshadows. 

“Pureblood Heartless! We don’t normally see so many of them outside the Realm of Darkness.” Remarked Elrena. 

“I can see what Master Yen Sid was talking about.” Kairi replied. “The darkness here, it’s almost sickening.”

“Keep your armor on.” Lauriam said, “All of you. Until we get a better feel of this place.”

They soon realized that they were on something of an island surrounded by ominous looking trees and murky waters.The air was so thick with a sense of tension that it could probably be cut through with a keyblade. They encountered more heartless, this place truly was almost identical to the Realm of Darkness.

“This place gives me the creeps.” Ventus remarked. 

“Yeah I feel like we’d be safer in Halloweentown.” Kalai replied. 

Through the mass of trees they followed a sliver of moonlight that lead them to a clearing in the woods where they decided to rest. Kairi looked out beyond the clearing to see what lay ahead.

“We’re on the edge of the water.” She said. “From here I can see...well...it looks like an abandoned old boat.”

Elrena and Kalai looked out beside her, the blonde pointed out to a few flickering lights coming from the boat’s windows and what seemed to be movement. Perhaps it wasn’t abandoned after all.”

“For the life of me.” She scoffed. “Who would want to live in a forsaken hell pit like this?!”

“Look!” 

Kalai pointed to a moving figure emerging from the boat. From the light inside, it appeared as a large shadow, only to become smaller as it came closer to the bow. It was a little girl.

“That has to be Penny!” 

“What? Let me see!” 

Lauriam had been sitting in the middle of the clearing with Ventus and Kairi. Now he jumped up and practically pushed his ladies out of the way to catch a glimpse of the little girl. She was gazing up at the sky with the same look of sadness covering her face. In her hand was a bottle with what appeared to be a note inside, she dropped it into the water. 

“Penny? Penny! Where are you, little brat?!”

An angry voice called out to her, with one last look at the bottle and up to the sky, she ran back in. And Lauriam was certain that he saw tears in her eyes. 

“Oh, that poor little flower.” He murmured. “We have to do something!”

“I agree, but…” Kalai sighed. “...we still have a mission. We have to find out if she’s a Princess of Heart.”

“Even if she isn’t, she clearly needs help!” 

“Remember what Master Yen Sid told us before.” Ventus spoke up. “Order must be kept, if she’s not a Princess of Heart than we need to leave and…”

The pink haired man shot his friend a rare look of anger that silenced him at once. He was about to say something before the group was ambushed by another pack of Neoshadows. They made quick work of them and decided that they would stay in the clearing overnight, surely daytime would have to come to this world sooner or later and when it did, they would form a plan to get closer to the little girl. In the meantime they would sleep in shifts of two or three and take turns looking out for heartless.

Sometime later, Kairi was wandering the forest while Ventus and Kalai tried to rest. Elrena found herself unable to sleep even though she had the chance to, her mind was too focused on other things. She sat beside Lauriam as he continued to look out towards the boat, looking out for any sign of Penny.

“Cute kid.” She said. “Sucks she has to be in this hell pit.”

“It’s no wonder Yen Sid was unsure about her.” Lauriam replied. “She’s so vulnerable, how could such light survive in a place like this?”

“The seven Princesses of Heart are supposed to have hearts strong enough to push back any darkness.”

“I understand, but even the brightest of lights can be snuffed out. We know that better than anyone…”

The blonde sighed, she knew what he was thinking about and truthfully, she was thinking the same thing. There was only one person in the world he had ever called “Little Flower.” In her mind she struggled with herself for a few moments before deciding to wrap her arms around her lover and rested her head against his shoulder. It was rare for her to show affection uninstigated but she could see he needed it and in a way, so did she.

“I don’t care what Yen Sid says.” He went on. “Princess or not, we can’t let this little light be snuffed out. I won’t allow it!”

 

~~~

 

Morning came and with it the number of heartless began to decrease, enough for them to feel safe removing their armor. Lauriam, Elrena and Ventus called upon their chirithies to investigate the boat. 

“No one’s there!” Said one of the creatures. “The boats completely empty!”

“That can’t be.” Replied Lauriam. “I know we saw her there last night.”

“Are you sure, Chirithy?” Ventus asked. “No one at all?”

“No one at all.”

The creatures vanished, leaving the five wielders to think over the matter. 

“Think we should go check out the boat ourselves?” Kairi asked.

But just as she said that, they all heard a voice that sounded like that belonging to a little girl. From their hiding place they looked out and saw it was Penny. She was being dragged back to the boat by a fat and malevolent looking man followed by two fierce gators. Kalai and Elrena held Lauriam back by his shoulders almost on instinct. 

“If that dumb ol’ diamond’s so important why don’t YOU go get it?!”

“Just wait ‘till Madame Medusa gets down here, little brat. Then we’ll see how long you keep sassing.”

“I’m not afraid of her, unlike you!”

He dragged her back to the boat and angry shouting ensued. From what the wielders could hear it sounded like Penny was indeed there against her will, forced to search for some diamond stuck in a well. But she was not being agreeable to her captors. 

“Now you just stay in your room until Medusa gets here!” 

With the slam of a door they could hear Penny’s impassioned cries. It was almost too much for Lauriam and it was all he could do not to storm the boat and go to her.

“Kairi,” He began. “Do you sense the light in her?” 

Kairi hesitated, eyes closed as she tried to get a feel for its presence. She sighed and shook her head.

“It must be that darkness!” He concluded. “That bastard with her had enough on his own, and this so-called Medusa! I can’t imagine!”

“Come on.” Ventus said. “Let’s go find this well. Maybe if we can find the diamond, we can help her escape!”

It sounded like a good idea and with that they made their way north, in the direction they saw Penny and the man had come from. At once they could understand, in an awful way, why Penny was being used for such a task. The hole was deep but tiny, none of them could get more than a leg down into it. Ventus called upon his chirithy once more and tasked it to see if it could find the aforementioned gem and if there was a way to get it easily. 

After a few moments before they heard a rumbling coming from down below. Kairi flashed a beam of light down the hole and gasped when she saw the space below flooding with water. Frantically, they called for the dreameater to return but it did not right away and Ventus began to panic. It appeared just then, with what could easily be read as distress.

“The water was coming in from an even deeper hole! That whole place is flooded now!” It said. 

“And the diamond?” Kalai asked. 

“No freaking way they’re gonna get it anytime soon!” The creature wildly waving its little arms for emphasis. “It’s far faaaaaarrrr back in the cave inside a skull! And you have to get past the other hole to get there! If that girl tries to do it, she'll be a goner! I don’t know…”

“Alright! We get it!” Snapped Lauriam.

“This is terrible!” Kairi said. “To use her in such a way!” 

“We’re getting her tonight! We must!”

 

~~~

 

The hours before nightfall were agonizing for them all but none so much as for Lauriam. No one could tell him why he now had such a burning need to rescue the little girl. But there was something burning within him that he felt he could not ignore. In his mind flashed a memory of another girl very much like Penny and in a very similar situation, being held against her will to perform a task at the behest of her cruel captors. But in this case, he was one of the captors and he was the one mistreating her. Something he felt he could not forgive himself for, even if she ever did.

In a place so saturated with darkness, even daylight did not last long. Soon, though not soon enough for them, the sun went down and nighttime came. The five wielders had returned to their clearing in the forest where they had a good view of the boat. It was decided that they would wait for an opening once the man holding her seemed occupied, then one of them would help shepherd her to the clearing. 

Of course, nothing was ever that simple. With the return of night came the almost immediate return of Heartless. They had been hounded by the monsters throughout the night with the result that they had gotten very little rest.Though more prepared for them this time, the monsters seemed even more relentless than before. At one point Kairi was cornered by a pack of three that Elrena and Ventus only just managed to vanquish. The younger girl was safe, but not unscathed. 

“We’re going to run out of potion soon.” Remarked the blonde. “Ugh! Where’s a Moogle Shop when you need one?!”

“Maybe we should return home then come back?” Kalai thought out loud. 

“No!” Lauriam replied. “Absolutely not! Not without Penny!”

And so they stayed there, waiting for the opportunity to act on their plans. Just when it seemed like the opportunity would never come, it finally did. But not in the way they imagined. Elrena had summoned her Chirithy to keep a stealthy watch over Penny and soon returned to tell them that she was gone but was now making her way into the forest. As though she was taking the initiative to escape herself! They all gasped. 

“Where is she now?!” 

“She’s going through the swamps! Not too far away!”

As soon as the creature had said this, the windows on the boat all went bright. Her absence had been discovered. The two gatos from before went off into her direction. 

“We don’t have much time!” Lauriam summoned Divine Rose and the others followed suit with their blades. “Let’s go!”

As quietly as they could, the wielders followed the Chirithy but found it difficult through the darkness and the lack of vision. And of course the Heartless had not let up. And that’s when Lauriam stepped on something soft, picking it up, he saw that it was a teddy bear. The exact same one that Penny always carried. He motioned for the others to stop. 

“Teddy?” A soft whisper called out. From a group of bushes they saw her, mere feet away from them now. Penny looked around her, clearly panicked, but not yet aware of their presence. “Oh no, Teddy! Where are you, Teddy?”

~~~

“Brother!” 

With every flash of lightning flooding into the room, her body trembled all the more, Lauriam held her tighter, doing his best to comfort her.

“It’s alright, Little Flower.” He soothed. “It will be over soon, you’ll see.”

“You don’t think I’m silly?” She asked, “I’m fifteen and yet I’m still afraid of thunder and lightning?”

“Of course not.” He laughed a little. “We all have things we fear, even I do.” 

“Really? But you’re always so brave! What could you possibly be afraid of?”

“I’m afraid of losing you to the darkness.” Was his answer.

Strelitzia looked up into his kind blue eyes and smiled. Somehow it was nice to know that even her brave big brother had fears of his own. 

“But don’t worry, I will stay with you until the storm passes if you wish.” He patted her head and returned her smile. “I will protect you.”

~~~

Lauriam could see the beginnings of black pools under her feet even before any of his companions saw it. The thing that burned in him to help her began again stronger than ever before. That's when he heard Penny's scream, he understood it now and knew he could not stay hidden any longer.

“Lauriam!”

“No!”

“What the hell are you doing?!”

The warning of the other wielders were not even heard as he jumped in front of Penny and struck down the Neoshadow that formed in front of her. So shocked was she at seeing such a monster, and the one who had slain it, that she could not utter a single sound. The Heartless taken care of, he knelt beside the frightened girl with a gentle smile.

“Are you alright, Little Flower?”

Penny did not respond with words, she looked up at him with a confused and frightened look in her eyes. With his shoulder length hair and purple armor, he somewhat resembled a prince from a fairy tale story. Had her message of distress reached this man after all? Slowly he extended a kind hand to her, but she did not take it. Not yet.

“Don’t be afraid, I’m not going to hurt you.” When she did not respond again he held out the teddy bear to her. "Does this belong to you?"

At once her eyes lit up and she took the bear into her arms, when she looked up at him again, there was a new little smile on her face that caused his own to widen. From the bushes Kalai and Elrena watched him with warmth tickling their hearts. It was not Penny that Lauriam was reaching out to, though neither would say such aloud. And so endearingly sweet was the scene that they almost forgot their irritation with him for nearly blowing their cover. 

“Are you here to help me?” Penny asked timidly. 

“I am, Little Flower.” He replied. “And I’m not alone. My friends and I will take you away from this place.”

“Oh really? Really?” 

“Shhh.”

He placed a finger to his lips, though still smiling, and gently pulled her to her feet. A turn to the bushes with a certain look to the hidden wielders told them to follow him and Penny from where they were, back to the clearing. She kept a hold of his hand but he was moving so quickly that she found it hard to keep up. He could see this and was about to pick her up when more Heartless appeared in front of them.

“They never want to make it easy, do they?!” 

But something was happening. As Lauriam was taking down the Heartless, he heard the surprised and alarmed screams of his companions. He then turned around and saw that the Heartless were gone but so was Penny, and he couldn’t understand why. That’s when he looked up and saw everything towering above him. 

“What the hell is this?! Penny? Penny!” 

He had shrunk! The others must have shrunk as well, that would account for their screams. He grabbed onto a branch to keep from falling into the swamp and summoned his keymobile to move around. After a few moments he could see that Penny was gone, somehow in the chaos of the sudden Heartless and the wielders becoming small, they had been separated. 

There was nothing else he could do but try and meet up with his friends, no doubt they had made their way back to the clearing and were probably just as confused as he was. This couldn’t be the “magic” Master Yen Sid had cast upon them, could it? What good would it be for them all to be as small as mice?! 

“If we were to be given magic, I kind of wish Aqua had been the one to give it.” Kairi said, trying her best to laugh when Lauriam returned to them. But Kalai and Elrena were in no mood for jokes.

“What were you thinking?!” Asked the blonde sharply. “We had a clearly thought up plan and you go and screw it up!”

“And now we’ve lost her!” The brunette snapped. “Who knows where…”

“How was I to know we would all shrink at random?!” He retorted. “It’s not my fault! It’s that damn sorcerer's fault!”

“UGH!!”

“So I was supposed to let that Neoshadow get her?!”

“Can you lovers stop quarreling for a sec?” Ventus snapped. “Try to remember why we’re here!”

“I haven’t forgotten! But they…”

“Look!”

The arguing was momentarily stopped by Kairi pointing towards the boat. The gators had succeeded in finding Penny and were now dragging her back, kicking and screaming all the while. Lauriam bit down hard on his lip to keep from shooting any angry words to his ladies. The burning inside of him was now that of rage, rage and, as always, powerlessness. 

Five gummiphones all rang in unison. Kalai was the first to pick hers up. It was their master.

“Kalai, are you five still in Devil’s Bayou?” Aqua asked. 

“We are.” She replied. “But something happened, we don’t know how but…”

“Master Yen Sid just informed me, Penny is not the seventh Princess of Heart. There is light in her, but not the sort belonging to a Princess. He is certain now. As such, there's no reason for you five to be in such a dangerous world. Come on back to the castle.”

To tell the truth, this news couldn’t come sooner. They were down to one potion left among them and the Heartless in this world were on a mission to make their lives (and their efforts) Hell. And now because of this strange magic, there was only so much they could do. Returning home seemed like the most obvious decision and they all thought so, all but one.

“We can’t do that.” Lauriam said to her. “Princess or not, she’s in trouble. Would you have us just leave her behind? What about the Heartless?”

“I understand what you are saying, believe me I do. But these orders to return are from Master Yen Sid. We cannot afford to lose any of our new generation to the darkness.”

“Implying we don’t have the wherewithal to withstand it on our own.” His anger was returning. “This is not the Realm of Darkness, though it may seem that way, we are more than capable…”

Aqua could see that they would not come willingly. She sighed and hung up. Kalai made a face but after a few moments she could see her body disintegrating into particles of light, the same was happening to her friends. They were disappearing!

 

~~~

 

It was the same faulty magic that had made them small that had summoned them back to Land of Departure. Those were Lauriam’s thoughts as he and his friends addressed Master Yen Sid via gummiphone sometime later, barely attempting to conceal his contempt. 

“What was the deal in making us all small?!” Asked Ventus. 

“As I said before, the magic has no set way of working.” Replied sorcerer rather casually. “It adapts to assist in whatever trials you find yourself in.”

“And just HOW would making us as small as mice assist us in helping Penny?!” Snapped the pink haired man. 

“I do not owe you any further explanation. It would do no good in any case. I’m sure Aqua has informed you.”

“That Penny isn’t a Princess of Heart.” Kairi said. “Honestly, I could not sense the light in her like I did with Melody. But I didn’t want to say anything because she looked like she needed our help.”

“That is very kind of you, Kairi.” Yen Sid nodded. “But not necessary. That place teeters on the edge of complete darkness, which is why you encountered so many Pureblood Heartless there. It was a long shot but now that we know for certain that Penny is not our seventh…”

“...then we should leave her to her fate is what you are saying!” Lauriam cut him off. “Sorry, Master but that is one order I refuse to obey!”

“Hmph, I figured as much.” A grey eyebrow raised in irritation and slight amusement. “So you would disrupt the world order with your presence, Lauriam? I should have expected as much from you, given your history. I wonder, do Kalai and Elrena feel the same?”

His words struck them like a knife. Again with the mistrust?! Hadn’t they proved themselves already by now?! Even if Lauriam was out of line with his desires, his heart was in the right place. Kalai felt a burning sensation of shame rumble in her gut and she bit her lip to keep from crying. Elrena lowered her head but her fists were clenched. Only one among them dared to answer back. 

“AND HOW THE HELL WOULD YOU KNOW WHERE OUR ALLEGIANCE LAY, OLD MAN?!” Blue eyes flashed with anger. “What do you ever do but sit up in your high tower and dictate to us what to do without EVER doing ANYTHING yourself! You couldn’t even give proper guidance to Sora and that’s partially why he’s now lost!”

“Lauriam!” Kalai and Kairi gasped in unison.

“It’s true! The Power of Waking is something not even Aqua understands! And most masters who do are not even taught it until AFTER they show the Mark of Mastery! How was he to know what danger lay in using it the way he did if it was never explained to him?! Sounds like recklessness to me!” 

“Lauriam stop!” Ventus pleaded but his friend would not be silenced. 

“And it was your own faulty magic is why we were not successful in helping Penny in the first place. Princess or not, that world is swarming with Heartless. We want to help her and you have the AUDACITY to question our motives?!”

He stormed out of the throne room and down the stairs to the front door, none of them bothered to go after him. Kalai and Elrena looked at each other for a long while and then to the gummiphone where Master Yen Sid was still sitting there in thoughtful silence.

“We’re sorry.” Kalai began. “He didn’t mean…”

“Don’t lie!” Elrena snapped. “He meant every word of it. But you know his intentions are good and so should Yen Sid!” To the master. “Was that really called for?”

Not bothering to wait for an answer, the blonde grabbed her lover’s arm and dragged her after Lauriam, who was now standing in the forecourt. Keyblade in hand, he looked as though he were about to leave. 

“Wait!” The brunette said as she came behind him. “I know you mean well. But remember that magic? If you go back you might shrink again and then what?”

“I don’t care! I’m not leaving her down there with those horrid people and those horrid Heartless!” 

“It’s too dangerous to go alone!” She was beginning to cry. “Why would you…”

“Only a heartless person would knowingly leave such an innocent creature in such a situation! I don’t care what Yen Sid says! I’m not leaving her!”

Kalai took a few steps back from him, her heart was swelling with emotion. It was actually very beautiful, his care for the girl despite knowing her for only a few moments. He had always been a passionate person, even when he supposedly had no heart. And she could see how deeply that passion ran. Elrena could see it too, but she was more astute. Or rather, she was more blunt.

“Of course, you have to help Penny.” She said. “But I’m curious, Lauriam. Is it Penny you need to rescue, or is it someone else?”

Lauriam turned to Elrena with surprised anger. As always, her bluntness could see through the truth. But while he often had found it amusing, now he found it presumptuous and maybe even callous. He would not stay a moment longer and donned his armor. Without another word, he summoned a portal and was gone. 

~~~

Chapter Text

 

~~~

 

“Have you given more thought to my proposal?”

She glanced up at him involuntarily, a shiver running down her spine. Of all her captors, he was the one who frightened her most; not because of what he ever did but of what he didn’t do. Unlike the others, she could not easily read him or his motives but at the same time she knew they were not good. There was an underlying sinister air to Marluxia that followed him wherever he went. It was something she could feel before he even entered the room and when he left, it would still be there, lingering like a deceptive poisonous aroma. And she was in his control. 

“Namine, did you hear me?”

Of course she had heard him, but she did not respond. Her fingers clutched the little doll in her lap that had been given to her. Though she was one of them, Namine was not afraid of her, quite the opposite. Alixka was gentle and kind and she had seen enough already to know that the Lord of the Castle held her in high regard. Her presence made captivity almost bearable. 

Marluxia walked up to her and plucked the angel doll from her hands.

“It doesn’t matter either way if you agree or not.” He said. “You have no choice in the matter. But I thought a little kindness would make this more agreeable to you.”

Kindness? He was depriving her of one of her few solaces just as he was now depriving her of the doll. And he was holding it over her nose as a bribe to force her to use her powers for cruelty and deception. Kindness?

“If I do what you say…” she began timidly. “...then...you’ll let me see Alixka again?”

“You will do as I say regardless, my dear.” He chuckled. “But if you do so willingly and without complaint then yes, I will allow you two to spend time together.”

“Allow?” The way he spoke did not sit well with her and temporarily emboldened her. “So you’re just going to keep me here? What if she…”

“She will be instructed not to come near you until I say different, before your pretty little head gets any ideas.” Marluxa had moved to other side of the room but now re-approached her. Namine quickly lowered her head but he forced her gaze to his with a hand under her chin. The way he smiled down at her made her almost nauseous with fear. “As I said, you have no choice but if you are amenable, you will have a friend before Sora comes to you. And if you are not, I will lock you in this castle and you be alone for all eternity.”

His eyes shifted away from hers to see a decorative bird cage sitting beside her bed. As if to prove his statement he brought her gaze to the bird cage and made sure she saw as he placed the doll inside and shut it tight. She understood.

“I’ll do as you say, Marluxia!” Her voice broken with pleading. “I won’t put up a fight, let me see Alixka again, please!”

Marluxia glanced down at her with a smile of great satisfaction. Gently, he patted her soft blonde head.

“Good girl. It is late now, tomorrow your work begins. Once I’m satisfied with Sora’s progress into the castle, Alixka will pay a visit to you.” 

Tears were coming to her eyes but she slowly nodded, unable to do anything else. In the distance thunder could be heard, a storm was coming. 

“Could you...keep the light on...please?”

He did not respond, only turning off the light and shutting the door behind him. 

 

~~~

 

Of course the faulty magic had not worn off and Lauriam was still the size of a mouse. And the reduction of size did not reduce the number of Heartless. Perhaps it was foolish to return on his own after all. Though strong, without his companions or being normal sized, there was little he could do.

He watched out in helpless despair as Penny stood on the boat looking up into the sky, silently praying that the kind prince had not been a dream and that he would soon return to save her. Watching her was almost unbearable, as was his need to help her. Maybe if he could just do this, this one thing and do it right, then perhaps...

“You have no choice in the matter. But I thought a little kindness would make this more agreeable to you.”

No. There was no atonement for his mistakes. Even so, he continued to watch Penny, hoping he would not fail her as he had failed another. 

 

~~~

 

Normally, Kalai would not feel any reservations at approaching her Master when she needed guidance. In many ways Aqua was like an older sister as well as a teacher. But after what had happened, she could not help but feel apprehensive. 

“I know you’re there, Kalai.”

Slowly, Kalai made her presence known and entered the library, Aqua knew of her dark past as well as the dark past of her lovers. What could she be thinking now? Did she agree with Yen Sid? 

“May I have a word, Master?”

“Of course.” She smiled. “Though I can already imagine what’s troubling you.”

“Lauriam didn’t mean any disrespect! He just, when there’s something he cares about deeply, he...doesn’t seem to have any moderation. I’m afraid that passion may have insulted Master Yen Sid and diminished the trust between us.”

“The trust between us?” Aqua tilted her head thoughtfully. 

“I know...he doesn’t trust us. He had warned Ven and Kairi against us on our first meeting in his tower months ago. Our hearts were never fully on the side of light, no matter what we did.”

Aqua gazed at her pupil, she could see what a truly kind person she was. Since returning to the Realm of Light, her own perceptions of what was light and what was darkness had changed significantly. And with the addition of these former Organization members into her household, they were changing still. She motioned for Kalai to sit beside her.

“Kalai, what I’m about to tell you now is something I haven’t told to anyone else; not Master Yen Sid, not even Terra. Those who know I had swear to secrecy.”

The brunette glanced up at her with curious eyes. When she promised to keep the secret between them, Aqua leaned in to her and told her an awful truth that many around her knew part of but not fully. This was the first time she was confiding the full truth to anyone. Kalai could feel her heart pounding with every word before stopping entirely at the worst part of all. 

“But...HOW?!”

“Sora…” A sad smile coming to her face. “He pulled me back before I could fully drown into the abyss.”

She pulled back from her young pupil to study her expression. It was blank and for several long moments there was silence between them. Finally she spoke again.

“Just because I’m a Master myself, doesn’t mean that Yen Sid and I necessarily agree on everything. My own Master instilled in me a great aversion of darkness. But he also said that there was more to light than meets the eye. I now see that the same can be said about darkness.”

Besides her Master status, something in Kalai had always prompted her to hold Aqua at a standard higher than any other. As a keyblade warrior, she seemed so omnipotent, beyond anything she could hope for herself. But with this confession, she could see that they were honestly the same where it mattered. It was bewildering but also comforting, even Masters could be human. Even Masters could be fragile.

“There is darkness in nearly every heart. But I don’t believe that you, Elrena, or even Lauriam are not worthy of trust. Otherwise I would not have opened our home to you three. Yen Sid, he means well but he too can be misguided.”

“Master Aqua, are you saying what I think you’re saying?”

“Lauriam is currently in Devil’s Bayou, alone and against his wishes. But I’m certain he’ll need assistance soon. And I’m certain you and the others will do what you truly feel is right.”

It was not exactly the advice Kalai was hoping for. But the more she thought about it, the more she realized what Aqua was really saying to her. And in her heart, she couldn’t agree more. She surprised herself by throwing her arms around her Master. Aqua laughed but before she could return the embrace, Kalai pulled back, embarrassed she had allowed herself such do something so audacious, as she felt it to be. In the next moment she was on her feet and bowing. 

“As always. I value your guidance.” She said respectfully. “Thank you, Master.”

“Anytime, Kalai. And I told you before, just call me Aqua!” 

 

~~~

 

“About time, Princess! I’ve been waiting!”

Armor clad and keyblade in hand, Elrena looked up at Kalai standing at the front doors of the castle. She smiled.

“It’s not like he’ll be able to do much without us!”

“Then let’s go!”

“Wait up!”

The brunette turned her head to see that Kairi and Ventus were now behind them, also wearing their keyblade armor. 

“Even Masters can be wrong sometimes.” Said Ventus.

“And part of our duty is to eliminate the Heartless.” Kairi added. “We should go back for that reason alone.” 

“I’m glad we’re all thinking the same thing.” 

“Then quit standing there and arm yourself!” Elrena pointed her blade at her with a grin. “We’re all waiting on you!”

 

~~~

 

It was just as well that they returned to Devil’s Bayou when they did, Lauriam was just about to give up all hope when he saw his four friends appear out of a portal. He was surprised but their presence was not unwelcome, even if they too were still small.

“Five wielders are stronger than one any day!” Kairi grinned. 

“I’m sorry we did not follow behind you right away.” Kalai added.

“None of that matters now.” Lauriam replied. “What matters is helping Penny. That’s where we should direct our focus.”

“Hmmm…” 

Ventus took a few steps towards the center of the clearing, which now seemed to stretch on forever because of his size. He glanced up at the sky.

“A long time ago, I went to a world and for some reason, I arrived there just as small as we are now.”

“Ven!” Said Elrena. “You never told us this!” 

“I never really thought about it until now.” He shrugged. “But there was this mouse named Jaq. I helped him make a dress for his human friend and he helped me learn to manage being so small.”

Kalai laughed a little. “If only we had a mouse to help us.”

This was the last thing said between them before their attention was returned to the boat. Somehow it seemed more gloomy and ominous than ever before. And Penny was trying to escape again. 

“Penny? Penny, answer me!” 

“That voice!” Kairi gasped. “It has to be that Medusa lady!”

“That awful witch keeping her in this terrible place!” Lauriam added. 

As if on cue, the horrid woman appeared, her gators following. She was just how Lauriam had envisioned she would be. And despite being so small, they could all see the slivers of darkness surrounding her. 

“Bring her back, boys!” 

The gators were released and Medusa started up a smaller boat of her own, ordering her accomplice to light flares for better vision. The wielders summoned their mobiles and took to the air. 

“Kalai and me will go after Medusa.” Kairi said to Lauriam. “You, Elrena and Ven go after Penny.”

The girls made their way towards the boat, Kalai followed behind Medusa while Kairi went in the opposite direction. She was trying to turn back around when her notice was taken above her as a crimson flare illuminated the sky, followed by another. Kairi tried to dodge the rockets but found it difficult to do so in addition to moving out of the way of fallout. 

“Don’t worry, I got you!”

Kalai summoned a gust of wind that pushed the flare away from her friend but there were so many that she could not deal with them all. They huddled together and that’s when they saw the bird. 

“What the hell is THAT?!”

The bird was carrying two mice, something they found odd but there was no time to think more on the subject. The flares had struck them and they were now plummeting to the earth below, one of the mice falling faster than the other while the other tried to catch her. 

“Mayday! Mayday!”

The mice caught each other and Kairi caught the mice while the bird continued to plummet. Kalai summoned more wind that helped the bird stay afloat long enough for her to direct him back to their clearing. Another flare passed between them and knocked them both to the ground. It took her a few moments to realize what had happened, she glanced at the bird and then at the dirt beneath her. At least they had the good fortune of not landing in the murky waters of the swamp. 

“Lookout below!” 

Kairi and the mice followed them soon afterward, making contact with the ground. Kairi helped one of the mice to his feet while Kalai helped the other.

“Are you alright?” She asked. 

“Thank you, darling.” The mouse replied, But I’m fi...a person! You’re a person!” At this, Kalai laughed a little.

“Yes, and you’re a mouse.” 

The mouse looked her up and down and then placed her little paw on the top of her dark brown hair. Kalai was a little taller than her, but it was still a shock considering most humans towered over her. 

“But why are you so tiny?” 

“It’s a long story.” Kairi laughed as well. “Hey, what are your names?”

“I’m Bernard.” Said one of the mice, taking the hand of his companion. “And this is Miss Bianca.”

“Clear the runway! I ain’t hanging around this creepy place long!”

As quickly as he made his fiery rough descent, the bird spread its white wings and was gone. They watched him leave as the other wielders returned at the same time, looking slightly dumbfounded to find Kairi and Kalai now accompanied by two mice. Hadn’t the latter just been wishing for the exact thing?

“We saw the flares.” Said Lauriam. “Are you hurt?”

“Not at all.” Kairi said, smiling. “And look what we found! This is Bernard and Miss Bianca!” 

“Well now. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Ven and Kalai’s conversation is what summoned these two to us.” The pink haired man grinned. “There’s now nothing stopping us from saving Penny!”

“Penny?” Miss Bianca asked. “You know Penny?”

“Looks like you do too.” Ventus replied. “She’s being held captive by some witch named Medusa! She needs help!”

“Yes! Yes! That’s why we’re here! Penny sent a message in a bottle and it found its way to our foundation.”

The same bottle we saw her drop when we were first here. Lauriam thought as Miss Bianca continued. 

“We were sent here to help her. And now with all of us together…”

Her words were drowned out by the rusty rumbling of a boat nearby, it was Medusa, still looking for Penny. The seven all looked out at her with disgust etched on their faces. 

“By the light of Kingdom Hearts, I swear I will drown that witch into the everblooming darkness!” 

“Kingdom Hearts? What is that, darling?”

Lauriam did not have time to answer her as they heard another rumbling very close to them. It didn’t sound like it was coming from the water this time and they all looked around them. Elrena gasped when she realized what it was and motioned for the others to see, poor Penny had been caught by the gators after all. 

“Come on! Not a moment to lose!” The pink haired man called upon his mobile and instructed Bernard to hop on beside him. 

“Oh! So we actually have a plan this time?!” Elrena asked sarcastically.

“We’ll figure it out later! Let’s just go to the boat! That’s where there taking her!”

Kalai pulled Miss Bianca to her mobile and the five returned to the sky. They made it back before the gators and placed themselves on a windowsill and watched as Penny was returned kicking and fussing. Medusa returned soon afterward and they watched as she admonished her blundering accomplice. 

“Why did you let her escape?! What’s your excuse this time?!” 

“It was your idea to use a little girl for this!” 

“You aren’t thinking as usual! She’s the only one small enough to get my precious diamond! You didn’t leave her in the cave long enough! At the next low tide I’m going to put her there myself and keep her there until she finds it! Simple as that!”

“She’s insane!” Gasped Miss Bianca. 

“We have to get her out of here tonight!” Bernard replied. 

“We gotta find her first.” 

Kalai pointed to a window on the upper floor of the boat where they first saw the girl drop the message in the bottle. They watched as Penny sat on her bed, looking despondent and broken. There was no doubt she had tried to escape countless times, each ending in the exact same way.

“Penny-dear! Auntie Medusa wants to talk to you!” 

“Ugh her voice is so rage-inducing!” Scoffed Elrena. 

“You Ven and Kairi stay here with Miss Bianca and Bernard. Kalai and me will go see what happens.” 

The lovers entered the boat together and followed behind Penny to another room where the witch was sitting at a vanity. They hid themselves by another window and listened to their conversation.It was like watching a little lamb being confronted by a wolf in sheep's clothing. And the slivers of darkness that were once only faint in appearance were now as obvious as the moon in the sky. 

“I know you want me to find that diamond,” Penny began. “But I tried as best as I can. Honest!”

“Well we have to try harder mustn't we?” 

“And when I find it, you’ll send me back to the orphanage? Like you promised? Otherwise how will I get adopted?”

“What makes you think anyone would want a homely little girl like you?”

At this, Kalai had to all but throw herself on Lauriam to keep him from doing something unwise. It made her equally as sick but she knew that they had to first form a plan. They returned to their friends and waited for Penny to return. She was holding her teddy bear and there were tears in her eyes that became full on crying the moment she returned to her bed and buried her face into the covers

 “Don’t worry, Teddy.” She sobbed. “We’ll be alright.”

It was too much for them to bear a moment longer, They jumped down from the windowsill and went to the crying girl, making themselves known to her at last.

“Little Flower.”

Lauriam gently tapped her hand. Tearful eyes looked up to him and widened in amazement at what they saw, it was the prince from before! But something had happened, why was he now so small? And there were mice with him too. She gazed at them with cautious curiosity. 

“Don’t cry, Penny.” Whispered Miss Bianca. “We are here to help you.” 

“Where did you come from?”

“We found your bottle with the message inside.” Bernard replied. “We’re here to rescue you. These five are going to help us.”

“Did you hear that, Teddy? Our plan worked! But, didn’t you bring anybody big with you?”

“It’s only us. But we will all find a way together!”

“You, you're the prince!” Penny took Lauriam into the palms of her hands, he smiled up at her. "We've met before!"

“I’m so honored you remember me, Little Flower. Are you ready to leave this terrible place? We must go tonight!”

“Hold on!” Kalai spoke up. “What about those abominations guarding the front?”

Kairi agreed and so did Elrena. It was decided that they would wait until the next day to make the escape, they formed a plan, went over it multiple times and then once more before they were certain nothing could go wrong. In some ways, it was just as well that the wielders were so tiny, this plan may not work otherwise. Ventus and Miss Bianca were thrilled with the idea of the plan they had conjured and even Elrena was beginning to feel a little more than excitement at finally taking care of the awful woman and her awful creatures. 

At on point they heard Medusa’s grating voice shout out for her assistant and that’s when they knew it was time to call it a night. They stayed with Penny as she slept but only Kalai and Lauriam stayed awake. This was the first time they had spoken alone since he had returned to this place alone and the pain of their last conversation was still with her.

“Is she...very much like your sister?” She asked cautiously.

“She is.”He replied sadly. “But perhaps I’m not the one to ask this, because I...I…” 

His voice trailed off but Kalai understood. She took his hand into hers. 

“You’re trying to save your sister, through saving this little girl. Is that it?”

Once again he had been discovered, perhaps she had been taking lessons in astuteness from Elrena. 

“I admit there is more to it than that. Losing Strelitzia is only one of the many sins I must atone for. You know that. Better than anyone else.” 

“As I said, you have no choice; but if you are amenable, you will have a friend before Sora comes to you. And if you are not, I will lock you in this castle and you be alone for all eternity.”

“I’ll do as you say, Marluxia! I won’t put up a fight, let me see Alixka again, please!”

“Good girl.”

Their eyes met each others, in his she could see a wave of shame and regret and in her mind she recalled a memory she had tried her best to bury. Of stark white walls and her yelling at him while she comforted the terrified girl he had been tormenting mentally. Her eyes burned but for his sake she refused to cry.

“Lauriam, you must stop blaming yourself for what happened to your sister. Please.” She said. “But beyond that, I think it’s time.”

“Time for what, Rosebud?”

“There is more than one way to atone. After this is all said and done, you, Elrena and I need to make a visit to Destiny Islands.”

 

~~~

 

The sun had barely enough time to stretch it’s light across the horizon when Medusa and her accomplice kicked open the door of Penny’s room to take her back to the well. Kalai, Lauriam, Elrena and the two mice jumped into her pockets as was their plan. Kairi and Ventus were told to stay back at the boat and wait for a message from Elrena’s chirithy to tell them that it was time to put their plan into action. 

Penny really did not want to return to the dark hole and none of them wanted her to go either. Medusa snatched her teddy from her and forced her down the well, threatening to keep it if she did not comply, naturally she did so. At once the trio could see what the chirithy had meant by there being no way they would be able to find the diamond but they knew they had to in order to stall for time. Fortunately the creature had shown them where it was so the search was not a long one. Now they just had to find it before the tide came in and they all drowned. All the while Medusa was admonishing the girl for not performing this near impossible task in a time that suited her and threatening to leave her down there forever if she didn’t hurry. 

Across the giant hole, Lauriam created a makeshift bridge of vines that helped the mice find where the gem was hidden inside the skull. They agreed that it was too dangerous for Penny to try and get it herself so Kalai and Elrena attempted to strike it with a limit. As the skull shattered the water began to flood the cave and the diamond was nearly lost. Penny quickly grabbed it and everyone grabbed onto her as the watery vortex nearly swallowed them. Kalai tried to push the water away with a gale but being so small, her spell had next to no effect. Thankfully Penny just managed to grab the bucket with the diamond and pleaded to be brought up to the surface, which she finally was. She couldn’t go dying just yet, not until the witch got her gem. 

Medusa snatched it from the girl at once and began to argue with her accomplice just as quickly, the time was coming soon to act. With the chirithy dispatched, the trio managed to escape Penny’s pocket and make their way back to the boat by themselves. While they were moving, something happened, it was shocking at first but it honestly could not come at a better time. Nearly the second they reached the boat, the faulty magic wore off and they were returned to their normal size! From the window of Penny’s room, they could hear Ventus and Kairi laughing and shouting out for joy.

“Hey! Quiet up there!” Laughed Elrena. “Or you’ll blow our cover!”

“They aren’t here yet!” Retorted Ventus. “But let’s be ready!”

 

~~~

 

They arrived not too long after this, the captors still quarreling while one of the gators held onto Penny by the jaws. Medusa was still holding the teddy bear and was now armed with a gun, she pointed it at her accomplice and Penny and held them up by a wall. The darkness in her was growing. 

“I’m leaving with MY diamond and there’s not a thing you can do to stop me!”

“Double crosser!”

“Shut up! If either of you try to follow me, you get blasted!” 

With one of the vines Lauriam had given them, Bernard and Miss Bianca were creating a trap for the horrible woman by pulling it from one side to the other while the trio watched them. This was all according to plan but being returned to his full human size had emboldened the young man and he felt it was now to do what he felt he should have done a long time ago.

“Gimme back my teddy bear!” Cried Penny. “You promised!”

“Teddy goes with me, my dear.” Her laughter was low, psychotic and unsettling. It was only a matter of time before the darkness took her and he would wait not a moment longer.“I’ve become very attached to…WHAT?!”

“Lauriam!”

“Damnit! Why can’t you ever follow the plan?!” 

“LET HER GO!” 

He stormed in on them, Divine Rose pointed at Medusa with murderous intent, his eyes flashing with blue rage. So eager was he to finally avenge the little girl that he completely forgot about the gun in the witch’s hand. The sound of a shot going off prompted the girls to rush in after him and they gasped to find their male lover holding his arm as a growing spot of red stained his white blouse. Rage bloomed into their faces and their blades were drawn. 

“OH NOW YOU’VE DONE IT BITCH!” Kalai spat out. 

“What did I tell you about playing the hero?!” 

Elrena snapped at Lauriam as she helped him to his feet, quickly casting cure. The brunette cast a protective gale in front of them that reflected the ensuing gunshots. At one point Kalai managed to swipe the teddy bear from her hands to reveal the diamond now couched within it’s body. The accomplice ran for it desperately but the blonde pointed her blade at his neck while her lover helped Penny escape the whole scene. The captors gave chase but the ladies of the keyblade would not allow them to escape as well. 

Up above, Kairi and Ventus could hear the commotion and knew it was now their cue. The redhead jumped from the balcony and was immediately confronted by the gators. 

“You’ll have to work for your meal, boys!” She laughed. “Try and catch me!”

The monsters obliged her and she led them to an old elevator on the main floor of the boat where Bernard and Miss Bianca were waiting. The female mouse sat dangling on one of the makeshift vine-ropes while her companion held her and the gators charged eagerly at the bait. At just the exact moment he pulled her away and the ensuing crash trapped the creatures in the elevator like a cage. Kairi took the mice into her hands with another laugh. 

“Oh that was amazing! Good job, Kairi!” Miss Bianca smiled. 

“Oh I just brought them here, you two did the hard part.” She replied.

Ventus had hurried down to the hold of the boat and found several boxes of flares and dynamite that he thought would make a good distraction while the others were helping Penny escape on Medusa’s swamp mobile. He and his chirithy cast fire and watched with delight as they all began to spark at once. 

“Yeah! Let the fireworks fly!” 

“Is this really necessary?!” The creature asked only slightly sarcastically.

Meanwhile the trio were struggling to start the swamp mobile and Kairi hurried to help them. Medusa caught up to them but Elrena managed to strike her with a ribbon of lightning before she could do anything to hurt them, that’s when she got an idea. 

“All this needs is a good spark!” 

With her keyblade, she summoned more lightning to the engine and it did just the trick. The mice hopped on while the wielders followed on their own mobiles behind, forming something of a barrier behind her. 

“GET BACK HERE WITH MY DIAMOND!!!”

Medusa screeched with rage and the darkness finally overpowered her. She was consumed with it and emerged as a grotesquely vicious Heartless, her flame red hair split into several appendages that resembled snakes. Her rage consumed her accomplice and soon the entire boat, making her even larger and even more savage as she chased after them. The wielders forced their attention to her.

“Oh how I’ve longed for this moment!” Lauriam said, laughing in a way that was almost maniacal. 

“Bernard! Miss Bianca! Help Penny get out of her to safely!” Kairi called out. “We’ll take care of this monster!” 

They lured her to an island where being on solid ground would give them the upper hand. Even so, Medusa was clearly directing her focus on Penny and the mice escaping with her diamond. Kalai, Elrena and Kairi took to the sky above the Heartless, taking turns casting magic and performing blows while the guys continued to guard the escapees. At one point Kairi jumped from her mobile and landed on the monsters, finding herself surrounded by flaming snakes that she made quick work of with a few spells of water. 

But the chase was soon becoming tedious and monster would not relent. In one final effort to reclaim what was “rightfully” hers, Medusa leaped forward towards Penny, causing a huge wave. At the last moment, Lauriam put himself in front of it to ensure their escape and Ventus came to his aid. 

“The boys need our help!” Kairi shouted. “Guys, let’s finish this!” 

Kalai and Elrena joined the younger girl on the monsters back, their friends knew what they had in mind. Everyone pointed their blade to the air and summoned a limit consisting of a huge burst of light in the form of a lux star. The limit consumed Medusa as she made one last wail of desperate rage and vanished into dark nothingness.

 

~~~

 

“Will you guys be alright?” Kalai asked when they finally met up with their new friends. 

“Now we will!” Bernard smiled. “We’ll get Penny to the nearest police station and they can take it from there.” 

“On this is so wonderful!” Miss Bianca added. “Isn’t it, Penny? That we were able to rescue you!” 

“I’m glad I sent that message in the bottle!” She replied. “If I didn’t, no one would have found me.” Her wide eyes gazed up at Lauriam, shining with joy. “You’re big now!”

He chuckled and knelt beside her, patting her head with great affection.

“You are far more precious than any diamond, Little Flower.” He said. “And one day, a kind mother and father will see that as well and give you a true home.”

“Do you really think so?”

“I don’t think so, I know so.” From his hand, a Cornflower appeared that he handed to Penny. “This flower represents hope. Hold onto it until your wish comes true.”

She took the flower from him and hugged him, he returned the embrace wholeheartedly. 

“Thank you for helping us, Lauriam. Thank you all of you!”

Elrena helped the swamp mobile start up again and Penny and the mice went off into the horizon. Somehow, as they left, the sun began to shine just a little brighter and the world did not seem so immersed in darkness. Kalai and Elrena turned to each other with a knowing glance before directing their attention to their lover. 

“Wherever she is.” The blonde murmured. “She is smiling on us, and smiling on her big brother too.” 

“I imagine she couldn’t be happier.” The brunette added, placing her head upon his shoulder. He smiled at her before she decided to make a face at him. “But that was still reckless of you! We had a plan for a reason! So you wouldn’t get shot!”

But there wasn’t anything truly admonishing in her tone and he laughed and placed a kiss upon her forehead followed by one on Elrena’s. 

“Sometimes I get so consumed in my feelings, I don’t always think.” He sighed. “But I wanted so much to help her. To have a second chance to do something right.”

“You’re chance will come soon!” Ventus chimed in. “The guys at Radiant Garden are close to finding Skuld. And there was a photo of Ephemer in Ienzo’s gummiphone. It’s only a matter of time! You gotta believe that!”

“In the meantime.” Kalai glanced up at him. “As I said before, there is more than one way to atone for past sins. I feel like you’ve atoned for your ‘sin’ against your sister well enough. It’s time to atone for something actually done.”

 

~~~

 

Aqua arranged everything with Riku, this had to be done with extreme delicacy and could not be a surprise to her. Though she had always felt safe around Kalai, it was a different story entirely with the others, especially him. It was with great anxiety that the wielders made their way to Destiny Islands a few weeks later.

Namine tried her best not to look at him, not directly. Her gaze stayed upon Kalai and occasionally shifted to Kairi or Ventus. Anyone but the one in front of her now. Riku stood beside her, providing an invisible barrier of protection to her. Though he did not know all of what had transpired on the upper floors of Castle Oblivion, he knew enough just by seeing how the blonde trembled involuntarily at the mere sight of him.

“I have no right to ask for forgiveness.” Lauriam began. “And I do not ask for it, I have come here only to tell you how deeply sorry I am, Namine. And I ask only for you to understand this.”

She did not respond, in her mind she was giving thought to his words but her fear kept her silent. Her eyes shifted back to Kalai, a gentle and encouraging smile came to her face that began to set her heart at ease

 

“He’s kind to you He doesn’t treat you like he treats the others. But I...I’m still afraid of him. I’m sorry.”

“Stop apologizing, Namine. You can’t help how you feel. I wish I could give you better advice besides just telling you not to be afraid and to do what he says.”

“Do you always do what he says?” 

“I came to visit you that night after he told me not to, didn’t I?”

 

From his hand, a white flower appeared that he offered to the blonde. 

“Tulips, they represent many things but one of them is heartfelt apology. White, honest, pure and new. A new beginning.”

Namine was hesitant to accept the flower and she glanced again at her friend. She thought about Ansem the Wise and how cruel he had once been to her. He had also been extremely remorseful as well and he had helped bring her back to humanity. If he could atone, why not Lauriam? 

With the smallest of smiles, she allowed herself to take the flower.

~~~

“She wasn’t even one of the seven!” Aced scoffed as they watched the scene from Maleficent glowing orb. “Why risk annihilation by the Heartless for a mere little girl?!”

“And again, this is why you’re the bear.” If Gula had not been wearing a mask, he surely would be rolling his eyes. 

“And you forget,” Invi added. “Lauriam and Ventus were strong enough to be two of the Dandelion leaders. Ava would not have picked them otherwise.”

“Still it was reckless.” Ira shook his head. “If we are to rely on these children to lead us to the final Princess of Heart…”

“Enough!” With a wave of her hand, the foretellers were silent and the witch took a few steps away from them towards their leader. 

“Just give them time. In the meantime, my accomplices will continue gathering the light, the seventh princess is sure to be revealed soon. 

“Nope, not ‘soon’. She already has.” 

Maleficent's eyes widened a little at Luxu’s statement as he emerged from the shadows, the coveted black box beside him.

“She had already been chosen by Kingdom Hearts before the other six even inherited their own light.”

“Really? Another verse from The Book of Prophecies?” 

“Perhaps. You’ll find out soon enough.”

“I had better.” She smiled malevolently. “After all, we had a bargain, did we not?”

“Oh of course. Most definitely!” His responding grin was as laced with malice as her own. “And just wait till you see the main event to come!” 

Maleficent raised an eyebrow at Luxu as he passed by her and stood beside Ira and Aced. He took a glance at the five wielders and his grin became even wider.

“May your Heart be your Guiding Key.”

 

~~~

KEYBLADE OBTAINED! 

~Luminous Dawn~

Raises max strength and restores MP relative to the amount of damage taken. Also increases damage of critical hits.

Affinity Spirit ~ Marahuté

~~~

Chapter Text

~~~

“Ugh! Dressing up is so not my thing!”

“Stop being sour! Look! This would be so pretty on you!”

“Do I have to wear gloves?”

“All the ladies wear them! Quit your bitching!”

Lauriam followed the sounds of groaning and giggling down the hallway to Kalai’s room. He and Ven were already packed and Kalai was supposed to be doing the same but instead she, Kairi and Elrena were still looking over various dresses and shoes, Mimi sat upon a pillow on the bed, her large round eyes gazing up at them expectantly. When the blonde carelessly tossed a string of pearls in Mimi’s direction, Kalai scoffed. 

“Just cause you aren’t looking forward to this doesn’t mean you have to take it out on my baby!” she said.

But the Dreameater did not seem bothered at all, instead placing the pearls around her own neck and joyfully spinning around. Kairi giggled.

“She’s alright! I think she wants to go to the party too!” 

“Ohhhh!” Kalai picked up her pet and gently booped her nose. “I’m sorry, sweetie. But Dreameaters aren’t allowed to go! But you’re still going to Radiant Garden with us! You’ll get to play with Antoine while we’re off on our own!” Antoine was the name that Adelen had given to her Majik Lapin Dreameater. 

It was time for the bi-anual gathering of provincial lords in the Capital of Light. For two weeks they would hold council with Ansem the Wise to discuss the governance of the kingdom and make decisions together on the future. This would be the first time the lords would gather since Radiant Garden’s restoration. But the girls were not as interested in the political aspect as they were the fete that would be held towards the end of their gathering. Kalai’s grandmother had been invited, and Kalai would never pass up a chance to see her or any of her other family. Her friends had decided to join her. 

Lauriam continued to stand in the doorway, not making himself known right away, instead watching as they made their final preparations. A smile came to his face when Elrena turned her nose at another dress that Kairi held out to her, claiming again that it was not her style. That’s when he tapped on the door. 

“Doesn’t that belong to Master Aqua?” he asked, pointing to the blue dress Kairi was holding. “You should wear it, Elrena. Perhaps some of her magic will wear off on you!”

“I like that idea!” Kalai grinned. “And maybe some of her niceness will wear off on her too!”

“Fuck off!”

“Language! Not in front of the child!” 

“Hey! I’m sixteen!” laughed Kairi. 

“I'm talking about Mimi! You know she mimics what she hears! Anyway, Elrena, we have to get going soon so hurry up and pick something!”

Rolling her eyes, the blonde reluctantly took the dress from Kairi. At least it was not as frilly as the other options, which is what made it tolerable for her. 

“Are you sure you and Terra do not want to come with us?” Kalai asked Aqua as they prepared to leave. “My uncle said that you are more than welcome to attend. And I’m sure my dad would love to meet my teacher.”

But Aqua smiled and declined the invitation regretfully. She and Terra had plans to visit King Mickey while they were gone and beyond that, there was a lot of reading to catch up on that she could now do without anything else to think of. 

“I promise we’ll come next time! Give my regards to your family,” she said. “And I hope Elrena gets some good use out of that dress, I haven’t worn it in ages!” 

“Have fun, guys!” Terra added. “Make sure Ven doesn’t stay up too late or party too hard!” 

“Hey!”

“And don’t let him drink anything!”

“I’m not a kid anymore!” His Chirithy glanced up at him.

"Don't worry, Terra. I'll make sure he behaves himself!"

"Gee, thanks! Thought you were on my side!"

The boy was laughing though, so was Kalai. Ven and Terra were so much like she and her own sisters and could easily have been brothers in another life. It was going to be great seeing them again. This was going to be a wonderful week home. 

 

~~~

 

But something had happened. She could tell the moment she and her friends exited the portal and were greeted by Adelen standing alone at the front doors of the castle. Instead of her usual delighted face at seeing her sister, Adelen looked troubled, almost angry. She returned Kalai’s embrace only half heartedly and continued to look uncomfortable. Kalai glanced at her thoughtfully.

“Not happy to see me?”

“Of course I am!” she quickly replied. 

“Then why the long face? Look, I brought the whole gang with me. Why do you look so…”

“They're here!” she spat out irritably. “They’re here for the noble’s gathering!”

“Who, Sis? Who’s here?”

Adelen twisted her lips into a reluctant smirk. “The new lord-governor of Halcyon and his sister.”

“Huh? I don’t underst…oh...oh no...” That’s when it hit her, like a knife in her chest. No. Please  not them! 

Kalai had four younger siblings in all. While she had developed a happy accord with two of them, the other two she would have been happy to never see again, a sentiment  Adelen shared with her. She and Iris had come to the capital in part because of a falling out with Lucio and Lucia, and part of that falling out was their father’s harsh treatment of Kalai all their lives as well as their rejection of her. 

But provincial government posts were hereditary in Radiant Garden, held only by the main seven noble houses, so of course they would be here. Kalai’s stomach twisted with anxiety and a faint sense of anger that she could not conceal from her companions. Kairi reached out to her.

“Kalai, what’s wrong?”

The older girl responded by impulsively jerking her body around, pointing Graceful Destiny in a manner that suggested creating a portal. Adelen understood and threw herself on her sister. 

“No! No please! Don’t go!” she pleaded. 

“What’s the matter, Rosebud?” Lauriam asked. 

“Iris is stressing herself to tears with the party preparations and Lea and Isa went off to Twilight Town!” She went on, saying, “the other apprentices are all caught up with meeting the lords and I’m all alone here! Please!” 

Kalai stopped herself, lowering her blade before the portal could be fully summoned and looked down at her sister. She had been so young when all of this had happened, but she understood enough to know why she would want to leave. And she had never really told her other friends about her family besides her father, grandmother and the siblings she was fond of. As terrible as it was, part of her was still somewhat ashamed of it all. A kind hand was placed upon Adelen’s shoulder, but her words were directed to Lauriam. 

“My other two siblings are here,” she said. “I...don’t really get along with them.”

“So much so that you want to go home?” He tilted his head thoughtfully at her. “Can they really be...”

“They really are, Lauriam!” Adelen spoke up. “You’ve never met them so you don’t…”

“Sis!” 

Her words were cut off by one of the large doors being opened and Iris’ cheerful voice as she walked out to greet them. Beside her was a girl slightly older than her but younger than Kalai, dressed in an elegant green sundress with her strawberry blonde curls pinned in a stylish updo. At once her frosty blue eyes locked with those of her older sister, the air surrounding them heavy with unspoken animosity. 

But to Kalai and Adelen’s surprise, a smile came to her face, though the smile did not reach her eyes. Lucia embraced her but it did not feel genuine in the slightest, and it was all she could do to not push her away. Elrena raised an eyebrow at her. It may have been less than three minutes but she could see that this girl couldn’t be more fake if she were one of Vexen’s prototype replicas. 

“It’s been quite some time, hasn’t it, Kalai?”

Not enough time in my opinion! 

Iris could sense the tension and rather awkwardly tried to break it. 

“Uh...well...Kalai...I know this may come as an unpleasant shock...” she began. “But...I...uh...well, Lucia…”

“Ma sœur aînée!” Lucia’s smile became wider, though still did not seem as genuine as she hoped. She took her hand into hers for good measure. “Let bygones be bygones! 

“Excuse me?!” 

“How about we all go inside.” 

Iris tried again to break the tension, not waiting for Kalai to possibly turn her down by taking her by the arm while her friends followed them into the castle. Immediately she went up to her own room while the others went to theirs. Thankfully they did not run into Lucio. 

 

~~~

 

Now alone, Kalai could think about what the had just happened. She didn’t have much time to think, because soon after everyone was settled, Iris tapped on her door, hoping to give better explanation to this turn of events. Adelen was right behind her. Kalai wasted no words. 

“What the hell is up with Lucia?!”

“Yes, Iris!” Adelen jumped on the bed beside her older sister, seeming just as confused she was. “What the hell is up with her AND Lucio?! Why are they trying to be nice now?”

The redhead knew this moment was going to come sooner rather than later, though the fact had not prepared her for what she would say to Kalai when it came. She knew first hand all that they had done to make her life a living hell, and she had even helped sometimes. What could she really say? 

“Well, they arrived here a few days ago. Since Lucio took over Father’s position as governor of Halcyon, they are well in their right to be here.” She took in a deep breath as she gathered her thoughts. “I admit I was unsure about them being here as well, especially since I knew you and the others were coming. I...never really told Uncle Ansem about everything that had happened before Adelen and I came here.”

“Why the hell not?”

“Because, I...thought my silence would help keep a sense of peace between us. Like it or not, we are all still family.”

“They are not MY family!” 

 “I know! I know! I wasn’t thinking! I didn’t think we’d ever see them again but I was wrong. I spoke to your father about this and he said that if we could learn to be better people then they could too and to wait until they arrived before making assumptions.”

“Fuck that!”

“Adelen!”

“I don’t care! Why should Kalai forget everything just to…”

“FORGET?!”

“I’m not asking her to forget!” The emotion in her voice began to rise. In an awful way, forgetting was just what she was asking, at least until the gathering was over. But Iris had her own bitterness she was trying to forget as well. “I’m just asking, if it seems like they’re trying to be cordial, it’s the least we can do to…”

“Hmmm.” A glint of sarcasm came to Kalai’s face. “I happen to recall when you and Adelen arrived here that you called them both, in your own words, fucking horrible people you never wanted to emulate!” 

“My statement still stands! I never expected you to accept Adelen and me and I don’t expect the same for them, I just...just...UGH!!!” All the feelings that Iris had been holding back at that moment suddenly burst forward and she threw herself sobbing upon her sister. “Uncle Ansem put me in charge of the party planning, everyone in the castle is counting on me! Ienzo said that he believes in me but…” Kalai and Adelen shared a secret smile.”...but I’m a wreck! The reception is tomorrow night but there is still so much to do! Lucia seems like she’s trying to be better, all I’m asking is if you would give them a chance!”

She continued to cry and her sisters could tell that she had been holding it in for quite some time. Kalai did not respond but she could see the stress that Adelen had mentioned and felt that if it were in her power to lessen it, she should. In her mind she tried to suppress a sharp memory from her childhood where their mother had brought her a pretty new dress to wear to a party she was hosting. But Lucia had tore a hole in it and in the end she was not allowed to attend because Lord Rowan refused to let his wife have it fixed or buy something else. She spent that evening alone in her closet, once again excluded from the family. 

But none of that could matter now.

“Stop crying, Sis,” she said at last. “Ladies shouldn’t cry in front of others, do you remember? That’s what Mother used to say to us.”

Iris stopped her crying long enough to give a little laugh at the memory. They all missed her so much. 

“I’m not going to lie, I don’t like this at all, and deep down I know you don’t either. But in the end, this gathering is for the lords and the last thing we need is family strife getting in the way. I’m no longer the angry little crybaby I used to be.” 

She lifted Iris’s face to meet hers and gently wiped away her tears. The redhead gazed at her sister, understanding this was a lot to ask of her. But she herself was a peacemaker at heart, she hated conflict and if this could be one less thing to distress her, then all the better. Clearly Adelen did not think so though. 

“You two can pretend all you like,” she said stoutly. “But I don’t like it! You know she stole my harp!” 

“Lucia did not ‘steal’ it; she’s going to perform at the reception tomorrow!” 

“Well Kalai is here now, let her do it!” 

And with that, Adelen reached over Iris and took Kalai by the hand, dragging her to her feet and down the hall. Iris followed behind them. They went downstairs to the parlor where their harps were kept, at once they could hear the rather pleasant sound of someone playing, Kalai and Adelen hardly tried to conceal their annoyance at seeing their least favorite sister playing the younger girl’s instrument while Lauriam and Kairi sat watching her. She stopped her recital and smiled at them, only slightly more genuine than before. 

“What do you think? It’s the piece I’m performing tomorrow. It’s called..”

“Merry-Go-Round of Life,” answered Kalai. 

“Oh, you know it?”

“How could I not? It was a favorite of out mother.” She turned to Lauriam with a mischievous grin. “As you can see, music is a skill shared in my family. Shall I?” 

Of course he was not going to turn down such a thing, especially since Kalai now appeared in better spirits, she went over to another harp in the far corner of the room. It had been so long since she had sat at her old instrument that she stared lovingly at it for a few minutes, recalling her lessons with Even and all the times she would play for Namine in Castle Oblivion. Lucia raised an eyebrow at her.

“Oh, does that one belong to you?” With cool politeness. “The model is kind of old, wouldn’t you say?”

Kalai did not bother to acknowledge the jab and raised her hands to the strings, closing her eyes as she thought about the music in her head. Lucia was was about to say something else when she began playing the same song, but in a slightly different style with one or two less mistakes than her sister had made. Afterward she smiled again at her instrument. It was the first song she had ever learned because her mother had loved it so and it had been her secret hope she would one day play it for her, a long time ago. And she said so.

“Your mom would be so proud, Kalai,” Kairi smiled. 

“Yes, Rosebud.” Lauriam agreed. “You are right about musical skill running in your family. Wonderfully done, wouldn’t you agree, Lucia?”

Lucia did not respond. Her eyes were upon her sister. Apparently her playing had greatly improved since leaving home and as hard as she tried to hide it, she could not conceal her envy. Envy and contempt. Iris could see the storm clouds forming and that’s when she was struck with an idea.

“Sis, you have to perform tomorrow…”

“What?!”

“...with Lucia! You two could duet.” 


“Huh?!” 

“Pourquoi?!”

“I think it would be nice, don’t you think so? You two are so talented and two harpists would be so much nicer than just one!” 

Both gaped at their younger sister, unsure of what to say but equally confident that their skills were superior to the other. Though Kalai was more willing to at least pretend.

“Good idea, Iris,” she smiled. “Let’s make our mother proud, alright, Lucia?”

Again she did not respond  though she knew that she had to agree, at least for now. But damn she was not expecting this to sting so much. Back home, Kalai had been forbidden from playing their mother’s harp and was more or less treated as a pariah by everyone. Her father had encouraged it. 

“Lucia?”

Things had changed. She may have been her father’s favorite but he was now gone and with him his influence over how her bastard sister was treated. If she did not know better, she would say that they could almost be considered equals now! 

“If you’re not up to it, we can have Adelen…”

“No! No!” Kalai’s voice returned her mind to the present. She still had appearances to keep after all. “The idea is agréable.”

“Then it’s settled. I’ll let our uncle know later. I’m sure he’ll be pleased as well.”

For their sisters’ sake, they both smiled as she left the room with Adelen. Kalai decided to stay a little longer to reacquaint herself with her harp and her two friends decided to stay with her. It  was almost as though she was becoming a different person whenever she played. Lucia remained at her instrument as well, tying her best to not appear bothered by her sister's presence. 

“That portrait in the hallway,” Lucia began, endeavoring to start a conversation. “The one of you in the blue dress - do you know who painted it? The style is very similar to the artist that did our last family portrait.”

“I’m...not sure. But I know it was the same man who painted me Iris and Adelen earlier this year.”

“Oh! Iris showed us that one when we came in!” Kairi smiled. “Those paintings really make you look like a princess! I know you don’t like being called that but...” 

“I don’t mind,” Kalai giggled. “It’s more so…”

“I agree with your friend,” said Lucia with a small laugh. “It's almost as if you…” She bit her lip suddenly, remembering that she could not make such an obvious snub just yet. “...I wish daddy had not excluded you in our family portrait. You give off such a grace that…”

But she was evidently not as good at giving compliments as she was insults, and her statement involuntarily insulted her sister with the bitter recollection. The awkwardness in the room was thick enough to cut through with a keyblade. Thank goodness for the wonderful timing of Ventus when his head popped up through the doorway.

“Lauriam, the meetings are over for now,” he said. “Ienzo said he has something he wants to show Elrena and me. It might be about…”

He did not have to finish his sentence. With a kiss on Kalai’s cheek, he rose from his chair, but not before whispering something to her that made her raise an eyebrow at him.

“You might not like it, but she’s doing her best. She’s still your sister so stop being so hard on her.”

What the hell did that mean? But before she could say anything he was gone and soon afterward Kairi decided to follow, leaving her and Lucia alone with their harps and their mutual antipathy. Kalai wanted to leave as well but something told her that it might not be the wisest course of action since she had promised Iris that she would try to be amenable. But how could she, with someone who had been raised from the cradle to despise her? For a long time there was only silence between them save for the notes of their harps. 

“What did you say to Lauriam about me?” she asked.

Lucia merely gave her a self satisfied smirk that required no words for Kalai to understand. Anger began to burn in her stomach. It was just like the days before she came to live in this castle. She bit her lip, not wanting her hurt to appear on her face, and continued plucking notes on her harp. The younger girl watched her intently; listening to her playing and, unbeknownst to her, trying to find errors to point out. When there were none she tried copying her style with little success. This made Kalai’s face light up. 

“That’s a G,” she said rather casually. “But don’t worry, I used to get that part wrong a lot before. If you like...”

“If I require your advice I’ll ask for it! It’s not like you know what your doing!”

“Clearly I do,” she responded, with a little smile in spite of herself. “You got that part wrong a few times now.”

“Only because my harp isn’t properly tuned!”

“Don’t blame the instrument for the errors of the player. If we’re going to duet we must be in harmony with…”

“Oh shut up! It’s not like…”

“Come on, Lucia. Don’t be like that. What about letting bygones being bygones?”

“You didn’t really believe that did you?! Goodness, Daddy was right. You are a half-wit!”

Her words stung but at the same time Kalai was thankful. At least she knew where things stood. Perhaps now without Iris or Adelen present, she would further drop her facade. She gave her sister a reluctant grin.

“You haven’t changed one bit, have you?” 

“What did you expect? I don’t even want to be here!”

“Then why are you? Your father was never one for meeting with the other lords, I remember that much.”

Lucia took her eyes away from her harp and turned to Kalai with a look she did not understand. It was undoubtedly cold, but in a strange way also sad. 

“Lucio’s future as lord-governor is in jeopardy!” she said. “He is here to see if he can shake some sense in our crazy uncle!”

Kalai glanced at her in a slightly confused manner. The politics of this realm had little interest for her and she was hoping Lucia would explain further. And she was more than happy to.

“Ansem the Wise is considering abolishing the hereditary governance system! I know your education was on the scant side but I’m sure…”

“And whose fault was that?!”

“...I’M SURE you are aware that  it has always been the lords that rule over the provence and answer to our uncle, as it should be. If what he’s proposing goes into affect ANY person will be able to become a governor provided they are ‘competent’...” she put exaggerated emphasis in the word, as if the idea of anyone besides a noble doing such a thing was laughable. “...and the citizens vote for them!”

This did not seem like such a terrible thing to Kalai’s mind. The only reason the seven noble houses were even able to hold onto their power for so long was because of archaic rules that had little bearing in these days and times. Lucia went on. 

“Apparently this idea came to our uncle because of some so-called ‘restoration committee’ that took on the job of building the capital back when those dark monsters were driven out. All of them commoners.”

At this, Kalai bit back an angry remark. Those “commoners” were her friends, the ones who helped her when she ended up in Traverse Town. And it was true, the nobles had little to no hand in restoring this realm to its former glory. It gladdened her that Ansem the Wise could see this and still relied on them to help run the Capital. He owed it to them.

“What’s worse is that most of the other lords actually AGREE with him! They may be fine with handing their power over to those who don’t deserve but not Lucio! I doubt you would understand how terrible this is, considering your...background.” She gave her sister an imperious look. “But power must stay with the lords. If not…”

“You’re right, I don’t understand!” Kalai replied at last, not even bothering to hide her anger at this point. “It sounds like Lucio could still keep his position so long as the people of Halcyon vote for him. And since your father was also in the mythril industry, it’s not like you’ll lose your wealth. So what’s the problem?” Her lips curled into a smirk of her own. “Are you afraid of the people seeing him for the pompous jerkass he really is and…”

“That’s NOT the point, Kalai! That’s not how things should work!”

“How things should work? What does it really mean to be noble?”

“To be blessed in a way unlike regular people!” She got up in a huff, pointing to a portrait of their uncle that was hanging above them. “In that sense, should Ansem the Wise give up his power as well?!”

Kalai would not honor her with further response. Her glare was sufficient enough. No. Lucia had not changed at all, still every inch her father’s daughter, as she was Dilan’s. And from what she said, it was obvious that Lucio had not changed either. How could she believe it would be any different from before? But in the next moment she saw something in her icy blue eyes that was almost sympathetic. She returned to her seat and held her face in her hands.

“Lucia?”

“It’s not fair!” she said, sounding almost as if she might cry if her pride would have allowed for such a thing. “Everything was all well and good before Daddy…”

A sick feeling struck Kalai in the chest. No matter how much she disdained them,  Lucia did not deserve to lose her father in such a way and her remorse surrounding that had not faded. 

“He and mother always fought because of you! You don’t deserve to be happy! Irissa and Adelen left because of you and now Irissa might one day end up becoming queen! She doesn’t deserve it either! Why can’t I ever…”

“Lucia!” Kalai snapped. “None of that is my fault and you know it! It’s not my fault if your father taught you only to be arrogant and envious! It’s not my fault if…”

“Don’t talk about him like that! He was a thousand times a better man than your father could dream of being!” She pointed an accusing finger to her.” Who knows, mother might still even be here. But because of him, because of YOU...”

The guilt Kalai felt was immediately extinguished and replaced with rage. She jumped up into her face, looking very much as if she were about to smack her across the face, as Lord Rowan had often done to her. But she only just stopped herself. To fly into rage would be just what Lucia would want to justify whatever she had told to Lauriam about her. This really was like the old days, with Lucia goading her temper and her falling into it. 

“How’s everything going?” 

They turned to Iris now standing in the doorway, immediately the expression in Lucia’s face transformed from malice to benevolence. Kalai’s face changed as well, taking a few long breaths to help quell the remaining anger in her chest. 

“Très bien,” she said. “Kalai was actually just helping me with that one progression I was having a problem with.”

Kalai suppressed a scoff at the obvious lie. 

“I’m glad.” Iris smiled. “In any case, I’m taking Kairi into town to do some shopping. Care to join us?”

A tiny smile managed to come to her face. This sounded like a nice idea and she was about to say so before Lucia spoke up again.

“I’ll go with you guys. But Kalai, didn’t you say you didn’t want to leave the castle until Lady Anila arrives?”

This honestly had not occurred to her but she knew that the younger girl could care less about if she saw her grandmother or not. She was only saying that to keep her from joining them. It didn’t matter though, Kalai had promised Iris that she would be civil and so she would be, even if Lucia would not afford her the same courtesy. Her violet gaze locked with the icy blue gaze of her sister. 

“You're right, Lucia,” she said, smiling more. “You guys have fun in town, I’m going to continue practicing for the time being.”

Lucia’s eyebrow quirked, not expecting her sister to accept the exclusion so easily. But all the better in the end, she did not care for Kalai’s acceptance after all. Iris on the other hand…

“Very well.” She turned to leave and grabbed Iris’ hand, the silky material of her green dress making a swishing sound at the brusqueness of her movements.”And while you're at it, would you mind tuning Adelen’s harp for me please? I can’t play on it in its current condition!”

“We’ll be back later, Sis. I’m glad you guys are trying to get along!”

Kalai watched them leave, biting back angry tears at the sound of Lucia’s laughter mixed with Kairi’s, echoing down the hallway. She really didn’t care either way about going with them, but it was the principle of the matter. It made sense to her now why Lucia and Lucio were kissing up to Iris and Adelen, but clearly they did not see the need to do the same for her. Not that she cared. 

But how could Iris just see past that? After all that had happened? Wouldn’t it better for their uncle to see what awful people they were and act accordingly? Was maintaining the peace until the lords departed that important? 

And as she gave more thought to these things, her head fell against the shoulder of her harp, the few frustrated tears she had been working so hard to hide finally showing themselves. Kalai had been only eleven when Lord Rowan had her sent away to this place. It had upset her at first but in time she had grown to love this place as a true home. But now, for the next few days until they departed, she felt as if this place would now become just as much a prison as her family home had been. 

 

~~~

Chapter Text

~~~

“Not exactly the homecoming you were hoping for, huh?”

Kalai stretched out on her bed as Elrena sat beside her, giving her one of her rare looks of concern. She gazed up into her bright green eyes, the only ones she could look to for understanding at this moment. 

“He may not have meant it to be this way.” she said. “But sending me to live here was probably the kindest thing Lord Rowan had ever done for me.”

“Ya know, I saw your brother talking to Ven. He was telling him about some instance when you picked a fight with him as kids and you ended up breaking your arm.”

“Picked a fight with him?! More like he pushed me!”

“But why are they such assholes to you? I don’t get it.”

“Because!” with a twisted smirk. “I have the audacity to have another father than them!”

“So? Iris and Adelen have the same father and they…”

“Iris and Adelen actually have decency in their hearts. More than can be said for anyone else in their family!” 

She turned around to press her face to the pillow, certain that tears were returning and not wanting her lover to admonish her for it. But instead Elrena continued to gaze at her with sympathy. Not having any relations herself, she could not really understand Kalai’s heartache, but anything that upset her also upset Elrena by default.

“So are you really just going to put up with this crap until they leave?”

“I don’t have a choice.”

“Hmph! You’re better than me! I’d just tell your uncle that they’re full of shit and..”

“It’s my fault really, and I...don’t want to be the cause of more strife.” 

“How is any of this your fault?”

But the moment the blonde asked this, she heard more muffled sobs coming from the girl beside her and she knew that she shouldn’t have asked. No, none of this was Kalai’s fault, but if only Elrena could understand. Understand the idea of feeling that she carried with herself for most of her life; that she was a mistake, that her very existence was an unforgivable sin and the further sin that had been committed as a result of her sorrow. She tried to think of something to change the subject but there was then a knock on the door. It was Kairi.

“How could I have forgotten how beautiful this world is?” she said with a smile. “I lived so much of my life in Radiant Garden and yet I feel like only now am I really experiencing it.”

“I’m glad.” Kalai removed her face from the pillow and returned her friend’s smile, wiping away her tears in spite of herself. “So, where are the guys? Still in the computer room?”

“No, I think your brother is with them in the library now that the meetings are done for the day.” Sharpness stabbed at Kalai’s chest but she continued to smile as Kairi sat on the bed beside her and Elrena, looking as if there was something on her mind. “You know, I...always wished for sisters of my own, but I never had any. So I’ve always thought of you and Elrena as my sisters.” 

“Oh, Kairi.” 

She sat fully up now to face her young friend, Kairi had been her first real friend and in many ways, she was like her sister too. But the next thing Kairi said brought the sharp feeling back to her chest. 

“I don’t understand why you and Lucia don’t get along. She seems nice, just like your other sisters. They seem to get along too and seem like they want to put the past behind them.”

“Did Lucia tell you that?” Elrena discreetly took Kalai’s hand, knowing that her temper was at risk of showing itself. “What else did she tell you? I’m curious.”

“That you two used to fight a lot, that you used to bully her because her dad preferred her over…”

“EXCUSE ME?!” Her violet eyes burned with angry tears. “More like the other way around! Did she tell you about all the times she got me into trouble and destroyed my things because her father…”

“Kairi,” for once, Elrena was attempting to be the voice of reason. “I think you’re chains been pulled. Same with the guys. I think this is why Kalai wanted to go home.”

“But…” Kairi hesitated, “she’s so nice. Actually, I think you two are a lot alike. Especially with your love for music.”

“That’s ALL we have in common!”

“But Iris and Adelen seem to be getting along with her. So I don’t understand why…”

“HOW COULD YOU BE SO STUPID?!” The words flung from her mouth without her even realizing it, and she quickly turned away from her friend with shame. Kairi was hurt, but she was at this point more curious than anything. She had never seen Kalai this way. 

“I...maybe if you would…”

“I’m sorry.” sighed the older girl. “I..shouldn’t have snapped. I...I just…”

“If you would just tell us why you don’t like them. Why you’re so upset. Then...maybe…”

Kalai could not hear her, in her mind the apparition of that horrible nightmare played in her head. She had done her best not to think about it until now. But no matter what she was feeling, Kalai knew that she had to help keep the peace for the time being. And no matter what they had done to her in the past, she had little to no right to be angry. Not after what she had done. She got up in a huff.

“If only you knew…”

“I would if you told us.”

“IT DOESN’T MATTER! IT NEVER MATTERED!”

She ran out of the room, leaving Kairi and Elrena staring behind her, confusion and concern stirring within them and hoping that maybe her father would be a better comfort to her than they clearly were. As she made her way down the hall, she paused when Lucia happened to be walking the opposite way. They glanced at each other, if Iris had taken after their mother the most in regards to appearance and personality, then Lucia had surely taken the most after Lord Rowan. Kalai glared at her and turned the other way. 

 

~~~

 

There were few places in the castle where Kalai could really hide besides her room and her closet. Thankfully there seemed to be no one in the courtyard, that would be a perfect haven for her. Sitting upon the bench and gazing up at the evening sky, she felt her tears beginning to return, but she did not bother holding them back. She recalled what their mother had often said, and what she herself had said to Iris earlier that day, that ladies should not cry in front of others. 

But Kalai was no lady, and crying came to her as easily as breathing. As did anxiety. How much longer could she keep her feelings in her heart before they threatened to fully show themselves? But still, a promise was a promise. Hopefully no one would be around when that time finally came.

“How did I know to find you here?”

Nothing could be more welcome to her in that moment than the kind voice of her father. She hurried to dry her eyes with the back of her hand as he took a seat beside her, but Dilan understood her frustration and placed a kind arm around his daughter. He kissed her forehead but did not say anything more for a few moments, instead studying her dejected expression and trying to decide what to say next.

“Forgive me for not coming to greet you sooner.” he said at last. 

“No, I know you and the others were busy.” she replied. “Though I can’t say your presence is unwelcome. After the day I’ve had.”

“I can imagine.” with a gentle little smile. “And I can imagine it has not been a tolerable situation for you.”

“Iris wants me to try and be cordial to them, I don’t want to cause any strife. But Lucia…she...she hasn’t changed at all! I don’t know how much longer I can pretend.”

Dilan hummed with understanding. If anyone could understand her, it was him. 

“If you had arrived a day or so sooner, I would have told you the same thing as your sister.” he said. “But I’ve seen enough to see how feckless that would be. You know my fondness for Iris and Adelen, and for the sake of the love I still bear for your mother, I was willing to show them civility. But after today…” He hesitated for a long time.

“Daddy?”

But he did not respond to her, not with words, Instead he rose to his feet and walked over to a small stone storehouse on the far side of the garden, where practice weapons were kept. From he it pulled out two wooden lances, handing one to his daughter. She gave him a slightly puzzled look, but took it all the same. 

“Though you now are a warrior of the keyblade, I do hope you have not forsaken your skills with the lance.”

“Never.” she laughed a little, her first real smile since arriving here. 

“Very well.” Dilan pointed his lance at her with half serious and half mirthful. “Then allow me to test your skills, to see that they have not stagnated.”

Kalai did not understand this, but she was never going to turn down an opportunity to spar. After all, it was one of her few means of an outlet for her inner turmoil. Their battle commenced and to his delight he could see that she was as strong as ever even if she had not held a lance for nearly six months. As they fought, she noticed that he was giving her more openings to attack than usual. It was not in her father’s nature to hold back but she remained on her guard. Then, without warning, Dilan spun around and lunged at her from behind. It surprised her since it was something he had always chided her for but clearly that did not matter now. 

When he went to attack her again, she was more prepared and guarded him with ease before attacking in the same way. That’s when his movements suddenly became more relentless. Weapons clashed, but he fell back some, giving her another opening. Kalai grinned as she swung her lance to deal the final blow but again to her surprise, he regained his composure at the very last moment and blocked her attack, disarming her and pointing his lance in victory. She blinked in slight disbelief before she began to understand that he had been feigning weakness, and she had fallen into his trap. A smile came to her face and soon she was laughing in spite of herself. He laughed too. 

“A self assured opponent will always overestimate themselves.” he said. “Appear weak when you are strong. And strong when you are weak.”

“That’s from The Art of War.” she replied.

“Yes, and do you understand why I attacked from behind?”

“Because...to know your enemy, you must become your enemy.”

“Yes, my sweet girl. I am glad you have not forgotten.” he smiled as he took the lance from her and put it away. “As this lesson applies to your siblings, Lucio and Lucia are arrogant and self assured. If you appear to consent to their deceit, it will become easier to expose them for what they truly are. Adelen and I already understand and soon enough, so will everyone else.”

A wave of warmth mingled with relief washed over Kalai and she could not help but embrace her father. In the end, it did not matter what Lucia said, Dilan was the best father in the world and a far finer man than her father ever was. Their mother had known that and it would not surprise Kalai if she was just a tad envious of the fact. 

“Thank you, Daddy. I will try to keep my feelings in check for now.” she said. “But there is still something I don’t understand. Why are they being rude to you?”

He was about to answer her when they were interrupted by the presence of Ienzo. Kalai grinned, always happy to see him.

“I hope I’m not interrupting anything.” he began. “But Dilan, your mother, Lady Anila, she’s arrived and is now in the library. I’m sure you and Kalai are anxious to see her.”

Of course she was! Her grin widened as she took her father’s hand and pulled him back to the inside of the castle. He smiled at her and then leaned into her to whisper something.

“As to your question, you are about to understand now.”

 

~~~

 

It was all Kalai could do not to twist her face into a look of revulsion when she saw her grandmother sitting at the long table in conversation with her brother. One she wanted nothing in the world more than to see and the other she would give anything in the world to avoid. Of course Lady Anila regarded her with delight while Lucio greeted her with a warmth so obviously counterfeit that she would have respected him better if he had been downright cruel, as he usually way.

“You’re just in time, my dear.” her grandmother smiled after hugging her for a long time and kissing her son. “Your brother and I were just discussing what your uncle is proposing.”

“Oh?” Lucio raised his eyebrow with curious annoyance mixed with slight amusement. “Kalai, this woman is your grandmother?”

“She is.” a thinly veiled smile of pride came to her face as she looked up at her father and then back to Lady Anila. “My father’s mother.”

Looking at the three, the family resemblance was obvious, in more ways than one. Where at all there was Rowan blood in Kalai’s veins, he could not tell and he did not want to. His lips curled into a sly smirk as they each took seats at the table beside him.

“Your grandmother is convinced that abolishing hereditary governance system will be a good thing for the realm in the long run.” he said. “Naturally I am not so convinced, and it can’t be said that she does not have her own personal interests in the matter.”

Kalai made a face at the obvious slight but Lady Anila merely laughed, seeming not to take offence at all. 

“I cannot say you’re wrong, Lord Rowan. I do have my own interests but they are not only for myself.”

“I don’t understand, grandma.”

“What they mean,” Dilan began. “Is that your grandmother is currently the leading candidate to become the new governor of her province. Once the elections begin.”

“WHAT?!” she turned to Lady Anila, her eyes wide with surprise. “Really? But, are you sure that you’re up to..eh..I mean..uh…”

“Really, Kalai! I may be turning eighty seven this winter but I assure you I am as fit and capable as if I were half that…”

“I think what you meant to say, Sir, is IF the elections begin!” Lucio interrupted, hardly endeavoring to hide his irritation. “Ansem the Wise is making his final decision the day after tomorrow and while I mean no offence to your mother, I intend to fight this decision to the last. The other lords may like the idea but I do not! The nobles must keep their power over the provinces for a reason.” 

There was a long pause after this, Kalai could understand now why he and Lucia were being so rude to her father and it was all she could do not to slap him right then and there. But Lady Anila remained calm, still smiling.

“Let me ask you something, young man.” she began. “You come from a long and proud line, in your veins you carry the blood of our king. But tell me, what does it truly mean to be noble?”

When Lucio did not respond, she gave him another question.

“What makes up the largest source of economy for your province?”

“The mining of Mythrils.” he answered quickly and smugly, it was his father’s trade after all.

“No, that is the second largest. The first is actually the mining or Serenity ores which is partially where the name Halcyon comes from. Do you know the other reason?” Naturally he did not. 

“It is also the name of a little bird that is common in your province. Now, do you know the  population number? No. Wait. I’m going to assume you don’t so I’ll just tell you, it’s 22,734 according to the most recent census. Now, if I understand all these things about your province despite never visiting it, what makes you think I am not capable of governing my own?”

“I’ll tell you why, because you are under the assumption that nobility equates to superiority. Young man, it does not. I have lived in Radiant Garden for more than forty years and through the reigns of three kings. I have also had kings and queens for my companions in my youth. And I will tell you that though your blood makes you noble, your heart does not. True nobility starts there and if you are to keep your position of governor of Halcyon province you had better learn that sooner rather than later.”

Lucio gaped a little at the old woman’s audacity, his mind working overtime to keep his composure. Kalai gaped a little too but for a different reason. But Dilan smiled at his mother, refusing to conceal his pride at her “audacity”.

 

~~~

 

Between Dilan’s advice to her and Lady Anila’s little speech, Kalai finished her day in higher spirits than she had begun it. She spent the rest of the evening with Aeleus and Adelen and being able to be with them again was a big help to her mood and she even made a point of being openly nicer to Lucia, much to her surprise. 

Peace was also restored among her friends but they were still curious about the animosity between Kalai and Lucia. Especially since the former of these two said so little. 

“Whatever happened between us, it doesn’t matter anymore. Or better yet, it can’t mater now.” This is what she said to Lauriam much later that evening as they were preparing to go to bed. Elrena was with them and made a face at the obvious lie. 

“You know, Princess, shouldn’t keep your feelings pinned up in your heart.” she said. “I’m not saying to go off on people like I do, you probably don’t have the gall for that, but you’re only hurting yourself by not allowing yourself to feel like you want to.”

Kalai sighed and fell back onto her bed, looking up at the ceiling and giving thought to what Elrena had said. Mimi appeared before her, sitting on chest and causing them to smile. 

“See? Your baby is worried about you too!”

“Lucia and Lucio have told us many things about your childhoods,” Lauriam spoke up. “But not once have we heard anything from your own lips. I...may not fully understand your feelings since…” his voice trailed off but Kalai understood and smiled at him, reaching out for his hand. 

“I...I’m just worried if you really understood then...you wouldn’t look at me the same way.” An image of sadistic gold eyes and a shadowy spear flashed in her mind and she tightly shut her eyes. “That...you won’t…”

Her words were silenced by his lips against her own, their kiss was loving and slow, and very much overdue. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer to her, but he pulled back to gaze into her eyes. 

“Silly Rosebud.” he said, his voice soft but somewhat sad. “Do you still love me after all I’ve done in my past? Do you still love Elrena?” They already knew the answer and kissed each other again. “There is nothing you could have done, or ever do, that will erase our love for you.”

“That’s right!” Elrena pulled Kalai away into an embrace of her own. “No matter what, you’ll always have us!” She held her tighter, kissing her while Lauriam smirked.

“Leave some of Kalai for me, if you don’t mind!” 

The blonde continued to kiss her, giving her male lover the finger. This prompted him to roughly pull the brunette away, laughter ensued that was slightly too loud not to be heard from outside and Lucia just happened to be passing by. Disgust washed over her face at the idea of what her sister was doing but at the same time something strange burned in her that she did not understand or like. She recalled an instance the previous day when she happened to come across Iris and Ienzo in the library, laughing together in a similar way. There had been so little laughter in her own life after her father had died and certainly not like this. 

It was unfair, why was she not happy? She knew the reason but Instead of staying around to ponder the thought longer she walked off in a huff. The hallways were dark but she continued walking quickly, trying to get as far away from her thoughts as she could. It didn’t surprise Lucia when she ended up in one of the gardens, sitting upon a stone bench and glaring up at the sky. But no sooner was she there when she he heard something strange coming from the bushes, she jumped up in reflex.

“Who’s there?!”

There was no response and for a moment Lucia thought she had imagined it, but as a precaution she did not sit back down and instead walked further into the garden, away from where she thought the sound came from. But the sound continued and soon she began to feel like she was being followed, though she still did not see anyone around besides herself. Taking a deep breath, she told herself to calm down. 

Nothing was there. That’s what she told herself before the sound began again and to her horror she realized where it was coming from; slithering in the grass not too far from her was a dark creature that appeared to resemble a snake with glowing yellow eyes. She was about to scream when as quickly as it appeared it was gone, vanishing in a puff of darkness. Lucia stared dumbfounded at the figure that appeared before her, cloaked in purple and white with her face hidden behind a white scarf and a serpents mask. 

“You must be careful, young miss.” said Invi. “Darkness attracts darkness, more so at night.”

“Who are you?!” Lucia snapped. 

“That is not important. What is important is that had I not vanquished that Heartless, then you would…”

“I didn’t ask for your help!”

“Nevertheless I gave it.”

Lucia glared at her but there was something in her manner that she could not help but feel intrigued by, her eyes shifted to the weapon in her hand.

“That thing in your hand, it’s called a keyblade, isn’t it?”

“How do you know?”

“My...step sister carries one, so do her friends.” At this, Invi smiled. Apparently this was not a dead end after all. She was about to say something when several serpent heartless appeared before her. Lucia jumped but Invi did not seem bothered. That’s when she understood. “Those snake monsters, they’re under your control?!”

“Now why would you say that?”

“Snake monsters, snake mask, I should think it’s obvious!” Invi laughed a little, she did have a point. Her scarf had fallen and Lucia could now see half her face, causing her to smile in spite of herself. Whoever this mystery woman was, she was rather interesting. Slowly she felt her guard lowering, though she did not abandon her imperious tone. “What are you doing here anyway?”

“I am looking for something.” replied the older girl, “or better yet, I am looking for someone. My search has brought me to this castle.”

“Looking for someone?” Lucia glanced at her curiously. “Could you possibly be looking for my step sister?”

“I would not know, perhaps.”

“Hmmm.” She placed her face in her hand, the burning feeling in her heart was still there but not as intense as before and slightly dulled by the presence of this oddly alluring trespasser. “If she is the one you’re looking for, what do you plan to do with her?” Invi did not respond to this but she did not have to, a malicious smile came to Lucia’s face. “I’ll help you find her on one condition.”

“Condition?”

“Take Kalai away from here with those dark creatures of yours! I don’t care where you take her just get her away from me!” 

“Is there...a particular reason you want to get rid of Kalai?”

“Do we have a deal or not?!”

Invi hesitated, she could see the darkness brimming within Lucia. Though at the same time, could she herself really be considered on the side of light anymore? Even if it was all for a greater good, had she not just recently been given the ability to summon Heartless? The very monsters she had fought for so long? 

Even further, she did not yet know if Kalai was the one she was searching for. Still even if she was not, she may very well lead her to the one she actually was searching for. And this young lady, though a little on the contentious side, had actually agreed to help her. How could she not agree to this?

“We have a deal, young miss.” she smiled. “I will return tomorrow evening and you can help me.” Lucia continued to stare at her as a black and purple portal appeared before Invi and she dissapeared in it, her curiosity about her increasing with every moment. But she said nothing more. “May your Heart be your Guiding Key.”

 

~~~

 

The reception the following evening went off without a hitch, it was almost as if the tension of the previous day had not existed. Kalai and Lucia made a great show of getting along that seemed almost genuine to all except Elrena and Adelen, though they said nothing. Iris couldn’t have been happier, her anxiety finally beginning to abate. 

“I know Kalai is only putting up with them because I asked it of her.” she said to Ienzo as they were preparing the harps and chairs in another, smaller reception room nearby. “Do you...think it was wrong of me?”

“I don’t think it’s wrong if they can learn to grow past their animosity.” he replied.

“When Adelen and I first came here, I never imagined that Kalai would forgive us or that we would be as close as we are now. I think it would be wonderful if we could all now grow to love each other like the family we never were when my father was alive.”

“Your kindness knows no bounds, Iris.” Ienzo smiled. “That’s one of the many things I find so wonderful about you.”

“Oh…” she blushed. “I...uh...thank you…”

Unbeknownst to them, their conversation was being watched by two pairs of familiar, mischievous eyes. They giggled to themselves with Kalai reluctantly pulling Adelen away just when it seemed like their conversation was getting good. But their amusement was immediately marred when they returned to the great hall and saw their other sister in what seemed to be a deep conversation with Lauriam, Elrena stood beside him, clearly annoyed. They went over to them.

“Oh, Kalai!” Lucia actually managed a genuine smile, albeit a very small one. “I must say, you have such a charming boyfriend!”

The way her eyes fluttered did not sit well with the older girl and she bit back an angry remark. 

“I’m glad you think so.” she said. “But do remember, the keyword is ‘my’. My boyfriend.”

Elrena giggled but so did Lucia in spite of herself. In a bold move, she took Lauriam’s hand in a way that surprised him and his lovers. He was at a loss of what to do but his companions glared at her, even Adelen could not hide her disgust at the obvious affront to her favorite sister. 

“Oh don’t be that way! I’m sure Lauriam can appreciate, well, le superiror des deux. Isn’t that right?”

He had been willing to be polite and cordial before, but now he was beginning to see why his ladies were not fond of her. Still he continued to smile. Though his eyes were on Kalai.

“Oui, mais ce n'est pas toi ma chérie.”

“Il peut voir passé votre joli visage à votre cœur laid.” 

Kalai spoke up, causing Lucia to be betrayed into something of a jump, the look of confidence fading from her face. Up until that moment, she had been pretending not to understand when Lucia switched languages to insult her in front of Lauriam, now she found no use in pretending. Elrena didn’t understand a bit of what they were saying, but she knew a good comeback when she heard it and bust out into laughter. 

Iris returned with Ienzo at her side, she clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention.

“Attention, good lords and distinguished guests of this realm.” she began. “If we could all now assembled in the reception room, that would be greatly appreciated.”

It was now time for Kalai and Lucia’s harp recital, the younger girl stared coldly at her  older sister as they took their place at their instruments. Anger and embarrassment pricked at her but she tried her best to ignore it, she knew very soon her ire would finally be vindicated. In more ways than one. 

Kalai did not notice the cruel eyes upon her, she was watching as the guest assembled. She noticed Even sitting at the front with Ansem the Wise and gave him a little smile, soon she would show him how well all her lessons with him had paid off. That's when she noticed that her sheet music stand was empty, not that she didn’t already know the song completely by heart. 

“My uncle thanks you for presence this evening.” Iris said once everyone was seated, two pieces of paper were in her hand. “As a conclusion to this evenings gathering, we have arranged some musical entertainment, graciously provided by my two elder sisters; Lady Kalai and Lady Lucia.”

Iris placed the two sheets of paper beside her sisters, on it was sheet music. Kalai’s eyes glanced down casually at her sheet and widened with horror when she realized that the music did not match for The Merry-Go-Round of Life , but instead for another song called Carrying You , a song she barely knew. Her heart felt as if it would jump in her throat, it was all she could do not to become sick or get up in reflex. 

Damnit, Lucia! She thought. You are responsible for this! I know it!

She took one last look at her sheet music, trying her best to get a feel of it before she heard the sound of Lucia’s harp beginning. Her teeth sunk into her lower lip but she forced her fingers to begin working the strings of her instrument. It was a song she had heard her mother play once or twice and the melody was not so complex but since Kalai had no time to practice it, she could only perform so well. 

Lucia naturally swept through her performance with ease while Kalai continued to bite back tears of frustration. Her playing was not so bad but she made numerous errors too obvious to conceal, one to many in her mind. Her eyes involuntarily shifted towards her spiteful sister and the satisfaction in her chilingly serene face was enough for her to begin tasting the salty tingle of blood in her mouth from biting her lip too hard. At last the song was over, it could not come soon enough in Kalai’s mind.

You may be able to fool Iris but I will never be fooled! Peace be damned, I will never forgive you for this!

Everyone applauded the two harpists, though it must be admitted that a look of slight confusion was etched in the faces of Kalai’s sisters, friends and those of her uncle and the other apprentices. She normally played so well, what had happened? Kalai and Lucia rose, made respectful curtsies, but the older girl could no longer bear anymore of this humiliation and ran out of the room as quickly as she could, much to the further confusion of those who cared for her, especially Iris. Lucia did not seem bothered in the slightest and accepted the praise of the other guests with great pride.

“What happened?” Iris asked. “Didn’t you and Kalai agree to switch out the songs last night? I figured that she would have enough time to…”

“I would not think too much about it.” Lucio spoke up. “You know Lucia and Adelen were taught by a very revered musical instructor. I can’t imagine whoever taught Kalai could have taught her even half as well.”

“I beg your pardon, your lordship!” Even’s face was betrayed into anger. “I was the one who taught Lady Kalai! And I assure you…”

Lucio quickly rescinded his statement, embarrassed at having unknowingly insulted his uncle’s second-in-command. Dilan glanced at him and then at Lucia, his eyebrow raised.

“Hmmm, my daughter is no greenhorn when it comes to her beloved instrument.” he said. “If she agreed to change the program, she would have done so with the utmost confidence in her skills. I wonder…”

“I’ll go check on her!” Lucia quickly spoke up, rushing out of the room before the guard could say anything further. Iris followed behind her, as did Lauriam and Elrena. 

“How can you even DARE look at me like that?!”

Violet rage burned in Kalai’s eyes like a wildfire, raging and ready to tear Lucia a part as the younger girl with cold inspity. They were in the library, far away from everyone else. She did not have time to respond before Iris, Lauriam and Elrena finally caught up to them. Kalai wasted no words.

“Iris! Who told you to change the music?!” 

“What? I..I thought you two had mutually agreed to change it. Because...because…”

“Because it was our parent’s wedding song.” a small smile came to Lucia’s face. “Don’t you remember, Irissa?”

Kalai could no longer hold back her anger, she let out an impassioned sob and jumped towards her sister, only barely being held back by Elrena, who didn’t really want to but felt that she should. She and Lauriam held her for a moment before she pushed them away and ran out of the library, crying still. Iris watched her, tears also beginning to form at the realization of what had happened, and her own unknowing hand in it.She turned to Lucia.

“Disgusting, uncouth, impudent little brat! How dare you steal your mother’s pendant?!”

‘I didn’t! I didn’t! It was Irissa and Lucia! I saw them…”

SMACK!

“And you tell lies! Go to your room!”

“WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM?!” Iris practically screamed at her sister. “It’s obvious the darkness in our father did not die with him, but was inherited by you! Did our mother have NO influence on you at all?!”

 

~~~

 

Tears practically blinded her vision, but somehow Kalai still managed to run down the halls towards her room. It was her intention to once again take refuge in her closet, but as she made her way closer to her room, she heard something that alarmed her in spite of her sorrow. It sounded like Mimi, it sounded like her crying.

“Mimi?!”

The door swung open and she gasped at the sight of Mimi and Antoine, holding each other with childlike horror as they were cornered by three grotesque serpent Heartless. But Leon and the other members of the Restoration Committee were patrolling the outside of the castle, how did they get in here?!

But now was not the time for questions, motherly instinct set in as Kalai’s blade was drawn. She made quick work of the monsters but as quickly as they vanished, more appeared. Mimi and Antoine tried to help Kalai but she used a gale to push them away, casting a protective barrier around them as she continued to fight off the Heartless. One slithered towards the door into the hallway and she decided to pursue it, lest it get loose in the castle. 

More snakes appeared, too many for Kalai to take on alone without help, but she tried nevertheless. One jumped at her, spitting poison that splashed on her gown and caused the lavender fabric to disintegrate and burn into her skin. Another coiled around her now exposed leg, pulling her down to her knees. She screamed out for help.

“So, you must be Kalai.”

Her eyes darted up towards the figure that approached her, the snake carved in her mask told her that this person was the one responsible for these monsters. She struggled to her feet, trying to take a fighting stance. 

“Interesting, I don’t really sense the light in you. Even so…” Invi summoned her blade, one unlike any Kalai had seen before. “I promise you will not suffer needlessly. Perhaps your light will still lead us to the one we are searching for.”

“Shut up!” 

Her blade clashed with Invi’s without a moment’s hesitation. Though Invi was vastly more skilled and the hallway gave her little space to really fight, Kalai refused to hold back. But the Foreteller quickly subdued her, freezing her wind attacks and striking her relentlessly with several colorful orbs. 

Kalai raised Graceful Destiny in front of her, trying to guard but Invi swiped it away with ease. She extended her hand and was about to summon a dark portal when she was quickly struck down by an unknown force. Lauriam appeared in a blinding light and jumped in front of Kalai. 

“Stand back!” he shouted. 

“Wha...what’s going on?!” 

He did not answer her, instead separating himself into multiple copies of himself that all attacked Invi at once. This was not a skill Kalai had ever known her lover to have. She did not understand this but the Foreteller did.

“You!”

“Leave her be, Invi!”

“Why are you…”

“Kalai! Kalai!”

The brunette jumped to her feet with stupefied horror as she saw Lauriam, Elrena and Lucia running to them from down the hall. If Lauriam was with them, then who had just protected her? Before she could ask this, the fake Lauriam vanished in a flash of light and pink petals. The real one rushed to his lover while Elrena stared at Invi, equally dumbfounded, too much so to summon her weapon. The Foreteller turned to her. 

“Master Invi!” she gasped. “It’s really you...but...why?!”

Invi banished the remaining Heartless and summoned a dark portal without answering her. Lucia made a face at the Foreteller.

“Hey! We had a deal! Did we not?!”

“Kalai is not the one I am searching for.”

“That doesn’t matter! You said…”

“Lucia! You and Master Invi know each other?!” 

Lucia turned to Lauriam and was momentarily too distracted by his question to notice Invi vanishing in the black and purple fade, vanishing without saying another word. 

 

~~~

Chapter Text

~~~

 

~Secret Report I~

For more than a thousand years, I have been laying in wait for this moment. The Keyblade War has played out for a second time just as Luxu said it would all those centuries ago. My former comrades have awaken from their own vigil, brought forth from time to aid Luxu in the second stage of his role. And as they prepare for the inevitable, so must I. 

I have watched over my own descendants throughout time and seen as my legacy has been passed down from generation to generation. And now, one of them, along with her four companions (three of them former Dandelions, also brought forth through time!), is coming forth to stand against the darkness. Just as we five thought we were doing the exact same thing, all those centuries ago.

I am not yet sure what Luxu’s first move will be. So for the time being, I will continue to move in the shadows; watching over these five and when needed; I will lend them a helping hand. After all that has happened, it is the least I can do.

--Unknown 

 

~~~

 

Though Kalai had been vindicated in her undying hatred for her elder siblings, she was not satisfied and continued the rest of the week in intense melancholy even while her family and friends went out of their way to be kind towards her, especially Iris. Lauriam and Elrena agreed not to tell Ansem the Wise about the incident with the Heartless or Lucia’s involvement on the condition that they stay completely away from their older sister and meddle no longer with their uncle’s plans.

In the end, it did not matter whether they meddled or not. The lords voted in favor for ending the hereditary governance system with a vote four to two. Elections for new governors would begin in the spring. They departed for their respective provinces two days after the reception, with Lucio and Lucia agreeing mutually to never set eyes upon their “horrid” siblings ever again.

While the trio agreed that Kalai’s uncle nor any of the apprentices should know about the Heartless, they still told Kairi and Ventus, particularly since they felt the latter should know about Invi. Hadn’t the Foretellers perished in the Keyblade War? If Invi was alive, did that mean that the others were alive too? AND WHY WAS INVI CONTROLLING HEARTLESS?!

“Master Invi was the leader of my union before the war, before Master Ava recruited me for the Dandelions.” Elrena told her friends on their last evening in the Capital when they were alone in the library together. “Streletzia was also in my union, that’s how we came to know each other.”

“But how did the war even start?” asked Kalai. “Or better yet, why were there unions to begin with? It just sounds like a recipe for disaster.”

“Beats me.” Ventus shrugged. “We always just figured it was because the Master said so.”

“When the Dandelions formed,” Lauriam added. “Myself, Ven and the other new union leaders mutually agreed not to split the unions for that very reason.”

“Now I’m even more confused than before!” Kairi said. 

“How do you think WE feel?” Elrena tried to laugh, but the frustration in her voice betrayed her. “The separate Daybreak Town was supposed to be a safe place for us all and it came crashing down! We thought the Foretellers were dead and then somehow we are transported more than twelve hundred years into the future! We three are technically older than that old geezer! And come to find out one of the Foretellers may be evil!”

“We don’t know yet if she is evil.” Lauriam replied. 

“What do you call controlling Heartless then?! What do you call attacking Kalai then?!”

“Yeah, I don’t know who this Master Invi is but if we cross paths again, she’s getting what’s coming to her tenfold!” the wielders laughed at Kalai’s intrepidity. “She said...the was looking for someone. She mentioned light. Do you think…”

“I don’t know what to think anymore, Rosebud. We are still trying to figure out what happened after our world broke down.”

He sighed and placed his face in both of his hands, raking his fingers through his hair. Kalai placed her head against him. There was a long silence between the five before Kairi spoke up again. 

“Kalai, do you remember that story my grandma used to tell us when I was little?” 

“I do.” 

“The more I think about it, the more I now see. Grandma’s story, it was about the first Keyblade War. I wonder, if she was once a Master, do you think she would know more? Maybe…”

“Kairi, do you know where your grandma lived before Radiant Garden?”

“She told me a long time ago, but I forgot. Some place that began with an S.”

“Scala ad Caelum?!”

“Yeah! That’s it.”

“That’s where my grandma is from too!” the smile on Kalai’s face became wider. The other wielders smiled too, realizing what she was thinking. “Your grandma still lives in Destiny Islands. We can pay a visit to her sometime in the future but for now…”

 

~~~

 

“So! You’re Masako’s girl!” Lady Anila held Destiny’s Embrace for a long while, smiling at it as well as the wielder. “We were girlhood friends, your grandmother and I. Along with Princess Ilysia. Of course our grandchildren would one day become wielders and friends!”

Kairi and Kalai smiled at each other, both of them trying to imagine their grandmothers as girls their own age, training together in a world long gone. But in the next moment the woman’s attention was directed to Lauriam, Elrena and Ventus.

“The other apprentices told me of you three.” she said. “Never in my life did I imagine I would ever meet someone from the Age of Fairy Tales. We always believed that maybe one of Masako’s ancestors lived in that time but we know next to nothing about them.”

“One of my grandmothers?” Kairi’s eyes widened. “One of MY ancestors?”

“That story your grandmother told you, Masako’s own grandmother told it to us. It’s a tale that has been passed down in her family for generations.” 

“Lady Anila, Ma’am.” Elrena began. “Were you guys ever taught anything regarding the Keyblade War? Or better yet, what happened after?”

The elderly woman sat back in her chair, closing her eyes and thinking for a long time. 

“That book, is that...The Book of Prophecies?”

“Not the actual book, it’s just an abridged copy. We aren’t allowed to see the full version and the original book is way too old to even touch without it turning to ash.”

“Can I see?”

“No way! Only Eraqus and I are allowed to look in it!”

“Aww, come on!”

“Those are the rules, Anila. I’m sorry. You know I’d happily show you if I could!”

“You Royal Masters with all your secrets!”

“Ilysia’s husband.” she began. “He was a descendant from one of the original masters in the Age of Fairy Tales. It was those masters that founded Scala as the first true world after they all scattered as a result of the War. We were all taught about the Keyblade War but no real details of it.”

“ Masako and I always suspected that Ilysia was told more as a part of her preparation to marry into Scala’s royal family. Unfortunately, she perished in the Realm of Darkness decades ago and with her, anything she could possibly share with you.”

“What about her husband?” Lauriam asked. “Is he still alive? What’s his name?”

“His name is Eraqus.” she replied, “However, I do not think he is still alive either.”

“He’s not.” Ventus’ eyes lowered and his face darkened. “He was our Master, Aqua took over Land of Departure once we all returned there after…”

“Then perhaps Eraqus shared some of these things with Aqua.” Kairi smiled. “We can ask her about it when we get home.”

“Thank you for all your help, grandma.” Kalai placed her arms around Lady Anila and she returned the embrace wholeheartedly. 

“I don’t know how much help I was.” she laughed. “But you’re welcome nonetheless, my dear. I do hope you five find the answers you seek.” Her attention then turned to Lauriam and Elrena with a knowing look. “I believe you two are a little too old to fancy my grandchild. Nevertheless, I hope you two continue to treat her well.” 

They couldn’t help but laugh at this. After all, along with Ventus, Lauriam and Elrena could easily be more than a thousand years old, though they appeared not much older than Kalai or Kairi.

 

~~~

 

The wielders prepared to return to the Land of Departure later that day. All in all, their visit to Radiant Garden had been a success and Kalai would be returning in a few weeks for Iris’ birthday. They were still confused about what had happened with Invi but they hoped that maybe Aqua would have answers for them on their return. 

Kalai was still feeling sad but learning more about her grandmother and being able to spend time with the sisters she actually liked helped to lift her spirits some so she was not completely depressed when she said goodbye to her castle family.

“I hope you will forgive me for what happened with the sheet music.” Iris told her. “I swear I will make it up to you a thousand and one times over when you come back.”

“You can make it up to me by never falling for their shit ever again!” she replied.

“I won’t! I promise! You, Adelen, our uncle. Even your father and the other apprentices. You guys are my true family.”

“And her husband too!” Adelen whispered to her oldest sister. “Well future husband. Soon enough, you’ll see!” Kalai giggled, she had no doubt on that matter. Lauriam created a portal, he and the others donned their armor and were off. 

But soon after entering the Lanes Between, the wielders were suddenly seized by a strong sensation; a strong and heavy sensation. It was almost like darkness, that which was stronger than what was normally seen in the Lanes Between. They all sensed it, all except Kairi.

“I don’t feel darkness.” she said. “But...light. I can feel a powerful presence of light.” she pointed towards the distance to a bright beam that seemed to be calling to her. “There! It’s coming from there! It feels so warm, even from here I can feel it. It’s so much like...like Melody!” 

“A Princess of Heart!” gasped Ventus. “It has to be! There’s still one more we need to find!”

“Only one way to find out.” said Elrena. “We should check it out!”

“Shouldn’t we wait until it’s confirmed by Aqua or Yen Sid?” Kalai asked. 

“Maybe.” Kairi replied. “But at the same time what if…whoa!”

Something like a large shadow passed by the wielders, it rammed into Kairi, knocking nearly off her hoverboard. She fell back, trying to maintain her balance. 

“What the hell was THAT?!” 

There was no time to answer when the shadow came at her again, this time her friends were ready with Kalai summoning a barrier to protect them. The shadow continued to fly around, apparently trying to separate them. It had the appearance of a giant phantom but when it spread out it’s large cloak, it revealed upon it’s back the sigil of a Heartless. 

“It might be going after that light!” Elrena said. “Or at least trying to keep us from it!”

“Well we can’t let THAT happen!” Ventus circled the monster, trying to corner it away from his friends but it was relentless. It’s cloak, flapping like large wings,  beat wind against the boy as Elrena managed to catch him before he fell back off his own hoverboard.

“Leave them alone!”

Kalai tried to push the creature away with her own wind to no avail. It seemed to temporarily forget about her as it gave chase to Ventus and Elrena, towards the light. She, Lauriam and Kairi followed them before the Heartless suddenly turned its attention to them and once again pushed them away, this time knocking them far from the light into a portal, separated from their friends. 

“Asshole!” Elrena summoned a stream of thunder that only slowed the phantom heartless down a little before it continued to chase them. “Ven! We gotta find the others!” 

“I know! I know we...aaaahhhh!” 

Opening it’s cloak once more, several smaller winged heartlesss were formed that surrounded the two. They caught each other’s hands, determined not to get separated from each other as they were wind pulled them closer and faster towards the light.

“Hold on!”

These were the boy’s last words before he and Elrena were engulfed by the blinding whiteness, and in the next moment, found themselves plummeting to the ground of a new world. 

 

~~~

 

The first thing Kalai noticed when she finally opened her eyes was how the sky seemed to go on forever, how the grass and trees towered over them.  

Oh no! Have we shrunk again?!

“Are you alright, Rosebud?” 

Lauriam and Kairi loomed over her, that’s when she realized for the first time that their clothing was different. But that wasn’t the most surprising thing, they had wings! And when she finally sat up and tapped her own back, she realized that she had wings too! 

“What happened to us THIS time?!” she asked, half groaning and half laughing.

“I think...we’ve become fairies!” 

Kairi stood fully up and spun around, taking a good look at her transformed self, she also touched her wings, but found that they would not move. Kalai reached out for her with one hand and summoned a soft wind but this did not help her friend fly. 

There must be some trick to it. She thought. We’ll have to figure it out soon if we’re going to last long around here. And we need to find Ven and Elrena too!

But learning to fly would have to wait. No sooner were they all on their feet did they find themselves surrounded by a hoard of Heartless. 

 

~~~

 

From a docked pirate ship, Maleficent watched as a bright spark of light fell to the earth. That there was a shooting star in the middle of the day did not phase her in the slightest. A smile came to her face as her precious raven flew to her and perched himself upon her staff. With a nod of his head, she knew that her plan had succeeded after all. 

The wielders had been separated and soon, unbeknownst to them, they would lead her to the powerful source of light that she and her cohorts could imprison for her own purposes. And if they were lucky, they may even be able to capture the girl wielder that could take them to the final Princess of Heart. Luxu explained to her that if they could capture her before her light had a chance to fully awaken, they could use it to their advantage. 

“So, tell me again why we’re even humoring these bozo’s?!” Pete stood behind her. “After all we went through trying to find it, why don’t we just swipe that box?!” 

“Silence!” she waved her hand at him dismissively. “I’ve already explained it to you! Don’t you think I would have done just that if I could?!” Pete fell back a bit, she always had a way of keeping him in his place simply by the raising or lowering of her voice She went on.

“Of course we will ‘swipe’ the box. But first I have a debt to pay. Now that I have the Book of Prophecies in my grasp, it will be only a matter of time before we can truly have the upper hand for our own plans.” Maleficent took a few steps away from him, turning around to face him as she prepared to leave. “In the meantime, you are to stay here. Continue to assist Hook and that masked wielder. If what they said is true, we need only to find that girl wielder and she will take us to the Princess of Heart.”

The dark mistress vanished. The moment she was gone, Pete looked out towards the island, sulking still at having to one again play lackey for the others. Just what was she planning? Or better yet, just what was even in that box anyway?

“Ready to go?”

His questions would unfortunately have to wait, one again. Pete suppressed a groan as he was approached by Captain Hook and Gula. 

“We’ll start at the Indian Camp.” Gula said. “Then we can check out the forest.”

“Very well then.” Captain Hook nodded. “My man and I shall stay aboard the ship.”

“Huh?! And why do you two get to skip outa work!” 

“Need I remind you that you two are aboard MY ship!”

“I’m with Pete on this one.” replied Gula. “Luxu and Maleficent told us all to look for the source of light, and for that girl wielder. Besides, Captain,” turning to him with a sly little smile. “I wouldn’t want to stay here long if I were you…”

As if on cue, a distinct ticking could be heard from below them. Captain Hook was betrayed into a jump and flung himself against his accomplice. 

“Smeeee!” he cried out, shivering against him. “That blasted crocodile! He has it out for me again! Ohhhh, why won’t he just leave me be?!”

“Oh, don’t you worry about him, Capt’n!” Mister Smee placed him back onto his feet and pulled him insistently to the shore. “But maybe you should go with them, that way that ol’ croc can’t get to you! I’ll stay here with the ship.”

Captain Hook was too preoccupied with the ominous tick-tocking to raise any objection. Anything to get away from the creature that took away one of his hands, and anything to keep it from getting his other hand. 

“Fine, FINE! I’ll go with these two!” he said. “Come on, men! Not a moment to lose! And don’t forget to watch for that blasted Peter Pan!”

 

~~~

 

“Ven! Ven!”

He was conscious, but was slow to open his eyes, such was the heaviness of his fall. Groaning, he forced his body up and finally looked around him to find Elrena beside him and, to his surprise, someone he had encountered before. It was Peter Pan!

“Thank goodness!” smiled the boy. “I was worried Tink may have to kick you awake again!”

“You alright?” Elrena asked, pointing to a nearby oak tree. “You slammed into that tree over there but thankfully your armor protected you.” to Peter Pan. “You know Ven?”

“Sure do! We go way back! And here Tink and I thought we’d come across a shooting star!”

Ventus smiled a little in spite of what had just happened, then he looked around once more for any sign of Lauriam, Kalai or Kairi. 

“Did the others fall with us?”

“No one but you and your friend here.” replied Peter. “Did you have others with you?”

“Yeah! But we got separated, not too long after we got pushed into this world.”

“Maybe they're here somewhere!” Elrena thought aloud. “That’s the most obvious possibility, that maybe they ended up someplace else.” 

“Peter, you know Neverland pretty well. You mind helping us find our friends?”

“Sure thing! Any friend of yours is a friend of...oh...hey!” The fairy kicked at his nose, shaking her little head and clearly annoyed. “Oh, come on, Tink! They need us! We can look for that light later!”

“Light?! What light?!” Ven asked, recalling why they had considered coming here in the first place.

“Oh, well the other day, the Lost Boys were spying on that codfish Hook. He was talking about some powerful light with some witch…”

“Witch?!” 

“Maleficent! For sure!”

“I don’t know but all we know is that the light is somewhere on the island; we thought it might be some kind of amazing treasure! Tink and I were gonna go look for it but…” The recollection seemed to only make Tinkerbell angrier. 

“Well if Maleficent is involved, I’d rather we look for our friends first!”

“We can still search for it!” Ventus smiled. “We can do both! Look for our friends and the treasure!”

 

~~~

 

“Lauriam, no!”

A large heartless resembling a hawk was flying into a bed of blue tulips and he gave chase to it. Kalai and Kairi tried to distract it away from him but were caught up trying to take down another heartless on their own. The creature was about to scatter the flowers asunder when Lauriam managed to strike it down at the very last moment. The girls managed to take down their own heartless as well, the last of them for now. 

“Where there’s light there’s darkness.” Kalai said.

“And where there’s darkness there’s heartless!” Kairi added. “Looks like we were brought here for a reason after all.”

“Look there!” 

From the petals and the trees, little faces began to show themselves. Though hidden when the heartless appeared, the fairy inhabitants now found themselves curious about the unfamiliar trio that had managed to vanquish them. One in particular, a fair redhead in pink, seemed especially fascinated with Lauriam, floating around him in a way Kalai found slightly uncomfortable. 

From a shimmering beam of light came another fairy with wings of gold, whose very being seemed to be made of light itself. Far more radiant than all the other fairies combined. From her gracious demeanor, and from how the redheaded fairy quickly lowered her head in respect, the three could tell that this must be their queen. 

“Well, I’m certain I have never seen the likes of you three before.” she smiled. “Nevertheless your presence is not unwelcome. I am Queen Clarion and this is Pixie Hollow.”

“We are pleased to make your acquaintance, Your Majesty.” Lauriam replied. “And you are correct to presume we are not from around here.”

“We lost two of our friends,” said Kairi. “Have there been any other strangers here recently?”

“None but yourselves, my dear.” the queen laughed a little. “However, those monsters have arrived recently. They’ve been a menace to the inhabitants and yet you three are the first to be able to do something about them!”

The three exchanged glances, they knew that they should try to find Ventus and Elrena. But at the same time they were all curious about what was drawing the Heartless to this world, if there could possibly be a Princess of Heart here. 

“Still.” the queen went on. “You three are more than welcome to search for them here, we certainly could use your help destroying those monsters.”

“Of course!” Kalai smiled. “But, Your Majesty, our wings…” 

Queen Clarion smiled, knowing exactly what she was going to ask before she even said it. With a gentle touch of her hand, Kalai’s wings illuminated and came to life and she did the same with Lauriam and Kairi. At once they could feel themselves become lighter and soon they were actually floating.

Once they seemed to be getting the hang of flying, the queen vanished, leaving them to the curiosity and good cheer of the other fairies that had been watching. The first to approach them was the charming redhead. 

“I can’t thank you enough for keeping those devils away from my tulips!” she took Lauriam’s hand with great eagerness. “I just planted them and blue tulips are sooooo hard to grow!” He gave her a good natured smile but Kalai glanced at her with curious annoyance. The fairy laughed. “Oh dear! Where are my manners? Name’s Rosetta, I’m a garden fairy.”

“Pleased to meet you, Miss Rosetta. And yes, blue tulips are quite a rarity. Even with magic…”

“RIGHT?! And then with those monsters it’s been even harder. But you came just in time!”

“We all did!” Kalai spoke up, the way Rosetta was gazing at her lover was very similar to how Lucia would and made her feel more and more awkward by the moment. “Anyway, Lauriam, if there haven’t been any sign of our friends, then perhaps you me and Kairi should…”

“There is no hurry, Rosebud.” he replied. “I’m certain our Ven and Elrena are fine and we will come across them soon enough.”

“Oh yes! Please stay awhile! And if you want, I can show you all around Spring Valley and the rest of Pixie Hollow too! How about it, Lauriam, Kairi and, Rosebud was it?”

What had begun as awkward annoyance turned to full on irritation at her pet nickname being used by anyone but Lauriam. It did not help matters that Rosetta bore something of a resemblance to Lucia and that Luariam seemed to be taking a liking to her. 

But Kalai said nothing as she allowed Rosetta to guide them through the many patches of flowers in the valley, pointing them out from time to time and sharing more than a few laughs with her lover. 

“This may seem like a difficult question, Rosetta.” Lauriam began. “But of all the flowers that grow here, which is your favorite?”

“Roses for sure!” she beamed. “They smell so sweet and can mean so many different things depending on their color.” The fairy flew above them, briefly taking a seat on a pink rose petal. “Like pink roses, they represent…”

“Elegance and sweetness.” he replied. 

“Right!” she then moved a little ahead of them, stopping at a bunch of red roses. “And these represent…”

“Romance, and passion as well.” the garden fairies lips curved into a flirtatious smile. 

“You do know your flowers, I’m impressed.”

“Red is a passionate color, I should think it’s obvious!”

“True!” she laughed and then went over to a bunch of purple roses. “And do you know what purple roses represent?”

“Majesty!” Kalai spoke up at last, purple roses were her favorite after all. Well second, after the flowers that shared her name. Lauriam smiled but Rosetta did not respond. 

“And what’s YOUR favorite flower, Lauriam?”

“Another rare type, though that is one of the many things that makes it so beautiful.” Kalai allowed herself a small smile, she knew exactly which flower he was referring to. “My little sister is named after them.”

“Oh! That is such a beautiful name!” Rosetta grinned. “And there are Strelitzia growing in Summer Glade! Let’s go there next!” 

Now the garden fairy grabbed Lauriam’s hand with ant enthusiasm that brought Kalai’s irritation with her to full on jealousy. She knew it was petty, but something about seeing her lover with such a pretty girl (who was not Elrena) made her feel sick inside. After all, she did not really feel herself very attractive and often wondered what it was about her that attracted Lauriam’s attention. 

“Is something wrong, Rosebud?”

“It’s...nothing. Just still worried about our friends is all.”

“We can check for your friends in Summer Glade, after I show you three the Strelitzia’s. And then I can show you the Golden Meadow of Sunflowers!”

“Oh I love sunflowers!” said Kairi.

“As do I. They’re a favorite of my little sister!”

Kalai remained silent. If only more heartless would show up, then maybe there would actually be a reason for them to stay here. 

 

~~~

 

This is NOT what I signed up for when I agreed to help Luxu bring back The Master!

These were Gula’s thoughts as he, Pete and Captain Hook ran for their lives deeper into the forest, having been discovered trying to infiltrate the Indian Camp and thanked for it with several arrows shot in their direction. Some of the tribesmen had even begun to chase them and it was all they could do to keep away. 

A sharp hand caught his arm and swiftly yanked him into a nearby bush, nearly ripping his sleeve. He made a sound of anger but quickly understood why Hook had done it, hidden in the bushes, the natives soon passed them. At least they wouldn’t have to worry about them now.

“Not the best idea I guess.” sniveled Pete. “M..maybe we should go back to the ship!”

“Fine by me!” Hook replied. “If you’re content to return to Maleficent empty-handed!” 

Naturally Pete was not. At the behest of the captain, he summoned another bird heartless and instructed it to search the island further. Having wings, it could reach some places they couldn't and at a faster pace.  Hook took one last look out from them and then jumped to his feet. 

“The indians are gone!” he said. “Let's get a move on!”

Pete whimpered again but followed nonetheless, but Gula trailed behind. This really was not what he thought he’d be doing when he had been revived on that fateful day in the Keyblade Graveyard more than a year ago. Everything still seemed so vague, even how he was even alive now. And loath was he to admit it, he was beginning to wonder if Luxu was taking him and the Foretellers for a ride. 

There was something else that was on his mind as well. Although Luxu had told them what had happened to her, Gula was still wondering about Ava. He knew she was alive, Invi had said so, but where was she now? Why had she gone off on her own? Why hadn’t Luxu summoned her from the past? Was she the traitor after all? The more he thought about it, the more perplexed he became. 

“Guys, I’m going to go off on my own for a bit.” he said to Pete and Captain Hook. “We’ll cover more ground that way.” 

Knowing they were unlikely to agree, he vanished without waiting for their response. Maybe now alone with only his thoughts for company and not those blunderers, he could think more on the matter. 

Why are you doing this?

Gula jumped at the sound of a familiar voice. Looking around, he found that he was still alone. No. It couldn’t be. When he did not hear her voice again for another few minutes, he surmised that it was likely all in his imagination. Still, he was beginning to sense something, perhaps it was the light the others had spoken of. No, this didn’t feel like light, more like darkness. Whatever it was, it was certainly strong. Strong enough to pique Gula’s interest and draw him further into Neverland, towards Pixie Hollow. 

 

~~~

 

“Why the hell is Master Gula here?!” 

While exploring the island, Ventus, Elrena and Peter Pan had come across Captain Hook with Pete and Gula. It was all they could do not to gasp and blow their cover. Gula had been Ventus’ Union Leader before being recruited by Ava so seeing his former master with villains was more than a little shocking to the boy. Elrena made a face. 

“Sorry, Lauriam. I know you didn’t want to jump us to conclusions.” she said. “But right about now I’m inclined to do just that!”

“I’m not sure what your talking about.” replied Peter. “But anyone on the side of that ol’ codfish can’t be good news!”

“Alright! We’ve been wandering around for a while and there’s no sign of the light or any treasure. Can we please look for our friends now?”

“Of course!” Peter soared up above them, getting a better look around them from a higher perspective. “Let’s head back to my hiding place and enlist the help of the Lost Boys, ‘member where my hiding place is, Ven?” 

“Sure do!” 

He smiled but Tinkerbell evidently was not interested in fully abandoning their treasure hunt, if only out of indignance. She kicked Ven’s nose before making a face at Peter and Elrena. 

“Seriously, WHAT is her problem?!” asked the blonde sharply. 

“Oh don’t mind her.” Peter chuckled. “That’s just how she acts when she can’t get her way, which is a lot.” turning to the fairy. “Cool down, Tink! They need us! What would you do if I went missing, huh?” At this, the fairy merely shrugged in an exaggerated show of pretend indifference. “Fine! If you don’t want to help them, then to heck with ya!” 

This did not seem to bother Tinkerbell in the slightest. She made another shrug, rolled her eyes and flew off. 

“Hope we didn’t piss her off too much.” Elrena said with a small laugh.

“She’ll be fine!” Peter replied. “She’ll probably go off to Pixie Hollow to talk about me to all her fairy friends but’ll be back here before sundown for sure!”

“Tinkerbell is kinda like you, wouldn’t you say, Elrena?” Ventus gave his friend a mischievous smile. “Whenever we make you mad, don’t you get just like…”

“Shut up!” 

“See, you do!”

“TAKE THAT BACK!”

“Yep! Just like Tink!” 

‘UGH!!!”

The blonde gave chase to them, but Peter Pan had the advantage of flight and soon took Ventus by the hand and helped him also fly out of her way. They both laughed while she glared at them.

“And just WHY can you two fly and I can’t!”

“Anyone can fly, if they believe! Have you ever tried?”

“Not without a keybike!”

“Here! Let me help you!’

Peter spun around Elrena, sprinkling golden pixie dust around her that would help her take flight like he and Ventus. But even after a few moments, her feet remained on the ground. Apparently she did not yet believe in it hard enough.

 

~~~

 

WHAT made me think I would be alright on my own! 

As fast as her new wings could take her, Kalai tried to get as far away from the hawk that was now pursuing her, an actual hawk and not another heartless. 

Oh yeah! That damn Rosetta! Why can’t this bird go chase HER down?!

She had gotten fed up with the way Rosetta was so obviously flirting with Lauriam and even more fed up with how he and Kairi did not seem that concerned about finding Elrena and Ventus. As much as Kalai loved flowers, her botanic knowledge paled in comparison to the charming garden fairy. And as much as she found this world beautiful, they were supposed to be there for a reason. 

But one good thing had come of this. A light fairy by the name of Iridessa had told her about the source of all magic in Pixie Hollow, the pixie dust  tree. It was pixie dust that gave Kalai and her friends the ability to use their wings and she had gotten the idea that maybe the powerful light that Kairi sensed came from that tree.

Unfortunately, neither Kairi or Lauriam seemed in much of a hurry to go find it. Rather deciding to take a swim with Rosetta, Iridessa and another fairy named Silvermist. In a fit of frustration Kalai decided to fly off on her own. Now being chased by this relentless bird, she could see what a mistake that had been. 

Circling around a large tree, the hawk was beginning to let up it’s chase and that’s when Kalai had an idea. She circled the tree again a few more times before summoning a powerful gale that knocked the bird off it’s balance. It slammed into the tree before falling to the ground. Landing on a branch, she watched with satisfaction as the hawk glared up at her before taking flight in the opposite direction. Hopefully it would not bother her anymore. 

“Not bad! I’d say you could almost keep up with me!”

Her eyes darted upwards to see a new fairy she had never seen before, grinning down at her from a branch above and dressed in her favorite color of deep purple. Kalai smiled in spite of herself and that seemed to be invitation enough for the fairy to come down to her level. 

“You’re one of the newcomers!” she said. “I heard about you, but I didn’t think one of them would be fast-flying like me!”

“I don’t know how fast I am.” Kalai laughed. “I think any fairy would be fast flying if they were being chased by…”

“Oh please!” the fairy scoffed. “Fast-flying fairies are NEVER to be compared to others! We are a very rare talent, my darling. And the way you handle wind is nothing to sneeze at either!”

Despite her current feelings, the praise did warm her heart some. But clearly her dejection still showed on her face because in the next moment the fairy was sitting beside her, tilting her head with coquettish interest. 

“So how is Pixie Hollow treating you, my dear?”

“Well enough I guess…it’s just...” Kalai hesitated, wondering if she should tell her true feelings to this fairy. But she seemed nice enough, something about her actually kind of reminded her of Elrena. 

“Just what?”

“Nothing.”

 “Speak up!”

“It’s...nothing!”

“Your face says it’s something!” she poked her cheek in a way Kalai found annoying but endearing at the same time. She really was like her blonde lover.

“My boyfriend came with us.” Kalai began. “He loves flowers, so do I but he seems to be really getting along with a certain garden fairy.”

“I see.” the fairy gave a little half-smirk, understanding exactly what was wrong. “By any chance, is this garden fairy named Rosetta?”

“Yes!” her temper was returning at the recollection but not as badly as before. At least this fast-flying fairy seemed to understand her. “I know he is irresistible, at least to me he is, but…” Suddenly her mood darkened and the fairy could see that.

“But?”

“Sometimes I wonder why he likes me. I’ve liked him for a long time and…” her mind returned to a moment in her early days with the Organization, when she had been watching him in his greenhouse for a long time before running away before he could sense her presence. “I know he loves me but sometimes I feel like I’m not good enough for him. Rosetta is...very pretty.”

“Yeah, I guess she is pretty.” the fairy nodded with sarcasm. “But she’s also bubble-brained, boy-crazy and hates mud of all things! Like seriously! How can a garden fairy hate mud?!” Her laughter at Rosetta’s expense made Kalai laugh too, but then she became serious once more. “Jealousy isn’t a good look. If anyone knows that it’s me. Whatever Rosetta has going for her, fact still is that your boyfriend loves YOU, my dear. And I can’t blame him. Fast-flying fairies are the best fairies after all!”

“You’re just saying that cause I assume you’re also a fast flyer!”

“SO WHAT?! It’s true! A frilly little garden fairy can have NOTHING on you!” she flew several strong circles around Kalai for emphasis. “With your hold over the wind, I’m sure you blow him away!”

“That’s so cliche!”

“Even if you aren’t as fast as me!”

“Is that a challenge?!”

“Maybe!”

“Get back here!”

The fairy continued to laugh, rushing to the highest point of the tree and laughing as Kalai just barely managed to tie with her. But before she could say anything else, the fairy flew back down the tree and out into the open air. This time Kalai had less difficulty keeping up with her and found that the fairy could also summon wind of her own. Soon they were both in an undeclared competition with each other.

“Hey! You never told me your name, fast-flyer! I’m Kalai!”

“I’m Vidia!”

“Well Vidia, prepare to eat my wind!”

“Not if you eat mine first!”

“Ha!”

Though Vidia may have succeeded in bringing a smile back to Kalai’s face, she was not about to lose to her. Was she not her father’s daughter?

 

~~~

 

Meanwhile in Summer Glade, Lauriam and Kairi were beginning to worry about Kalai. They knew she had gone off on her own but that had been some time ago. Since it wasn’t likely that she knew her way around Pixie Hollow, they wondered if she may be lost. 

“Kalai mentioned wanting to see the Pixie Dust Tree.” said Kairi.

“Kalai?” Rosetta asked. “I...thought her name was Rosebud.”

“Oh no.” Lauriam replied with a little smile. “Her name is Kalai, Rosebud is just my little nickname for her because…” Smiling more. “She is as beautiful, charming and as sweet as a new budding rose.”

The garden fairy raised an eyebrow at him before the realization suddenly struck her and her face became as pink as her dress. 

“Wait a sec! Kalai is...your girlfriend?!”

“Why yes, yes she is.” his voice sounding very matter-of-fact. “Why? Did you think…”

He did not continue his sentence and the blush on Rosetta’s face darkened as she realized what she had been doing for the last few hours. Iridessa and Silvermist gave each other a knowing look, as if to share a private joke before the water fairy decided to speak up. 

“Well if your girlfriend mentioned wanting to the Pixie Dust Tree, that should be the first place we look for her.”

“It’s in the center of Pixie Hollow.” added Iridessa. “We can take you there!”

 

~~~

 

It was just as well that they had decided to go there next. When they arrived, they found Queen Clarion standing outside the entrance along with her seasonal minister fairies. Something was wrong, they could tell by the look of concern in her glowing face.

“There seems to be a heavy presence of darkness coming from where the dust flows.” she said. “We’ve evacuated all the fairies and dust keepers from inside until we figure out where the darkness is coming from.”

“Heartless maybe?” Lauriam asked. 

“Only one way to find out!” Kairi replied. 

The wielders flew up to the entrance while their new fairy friends opted to stay behind. They could definitely feel something and half hoped that maybe Kalai would already be here. But when they reached the inside of the tree, something happened to block Lauriam’s entrance. It was like an invisible wall that separated him from Kairi. She turned around with fear, worried that whatever was in the tree might be something she could not handle. Pointing her keyblade, she tried to destroy the barrier to no avail and Lauriam told her to go on without her. 

Like a shimmering gold waterfall, the pixie dust cascaded down from the center of the tree making a lumous pool in the center. Kairi was immediately drawn to it and at once she knew that this had to be the powerful light that she had sensed before. Kneeling beside the golden pool, she ran her fingers in the golden dust and felt as if her very being was being rejuvenated a thousand times fold. And strangely enough, she could no longer sense any darkness.

A voice. 

Long ago, people lived in peace. Bathed in the warmth of light. Everyone loved the light.

She gasped and turned around to see who was now beside her. But no one was there and Kairi was still alone. 

Then people began to fight over it. They wanted to keep it for themselves. And darkness was born in their hearts.

Her grandmother’s story! She knew those words like she knew the back of her head. But the voice, it was not that which belonged to her Lady Masako. Still it was so gentle, so warm, and strangely enough, very familiar. 

The darkness spread, swallowing the light in many people’s hearts. It covered everything and the world disappeared. But small fragments of light survived, in the hearts of children.

It was as if the voice was placing her in some sort of trance. Without realizing that she was going it, Kairi closed her eyes and began to recite the words of her grandmother’s story, in unison with this gentle new voice.

“Even in the deepest darkness, there will always be light to guide you. Believe in the light and the darkness will never defeat you.”

Your heart will shine with its power and push the darkness away.

At the final lines of the story, Kairi opened her eyes just as a bright light began to form in front of her, taking shape into that of a person. But Kairi was not afraid, only shocked as the light faded to reveal a young woman a little older than herself. A young woman cloaked in pink and white with the mask of a fox hiding half her face. 

 

Ava knelt beside her descendant, regarding her with a kind smile. 

 

“Hello, Kairi.”

 

~~~