Two weeks later, I stood at the back door to a run-down house, the place we had agreed on for me to hide for a few days, completely under the radar. It was an old Victorian-style house, painted a dark indigo colour that was flaking off to reveal a pale brown, and the porch seemed to be rotting in certain places. Vines crawled up the sides of the building, burrowing cracks in the wood.
This was going to be fun.
I reached for the door, half expecting it to fall off its hinges, but it swung open cleanly, not a squeak to be heard. I smiled. Zexion had probably gotten someone to fix it up secretly without making it look fixed. To add to the illusion of abandonment, I guess. After all, the windows were all boarded up in case I had to venture up from the basement. Stepping through the doorway, I saw that I was in the kitchen. I walked over to the sink and turned the tap on. Clean water, sparkling clear, poured out. Good, I thought to myself.
I started to explore the house, ignoring the second floor, not quite trusting the rickety-looking staircase. It was habitable enough on the ground floor, anyways. The furniture in the living room was covered with thin plastic sheets to keep the dust off, but those could be removed. There was a bathroom, fitted with one of those claw-footed bathtubs, and a closet full of clean, non-dusty towels. There was also what appeared to be a spare room, what looked to have been used as a library, shelves lining three of the four walls. I felt a slight disappointment at the fact that the tomes had been removed, but I knew they had probably been removed when the person last living here had moved out.
Satisfied with my findings, I headed to check out the basement. The stairs were silent as I went down them, and I felt along the wall for a switch, but found none. Then, straining my eyes in the darkness, I spotted a thin chain catching the light from upstairs. I walked towards it, hoping there was nothing in the way for me to trip over in the darkness, and tugged lightly on it. I was rewarded with a bright fluorescent light bulb glaring into my face, and I was blinded for a moment as my eyes adjusted.
The basement wasn’t special. There were shelves on one wall, stocked with canned food. A mini-fridge sat beside a small cot piled with blankets, and when I checked it, I saw that it was stocked with a variety of pops and a few water bottles. Also beside the mattress, on the other side, was a pile of clothes – probably spares of Sora’s since someone might catch on if my own stuff went missing from my room in the Organization. And since Sora and I were the same size, it wasn’t that far of a stretch to wear his clothes.
Pleased, I collapsed on the cot and almost cried when Axel’s scent wafted up from the pile of blankets – he must have stuck one of his own in the pile. I pinpointed which one it was, threw the rest on the floor and curled up, the soft, slightly worn blanket wrapped around me like a fabric cocoon. I sighed in content, quickly drifting off to sleep.
Faking my own death had been harder than I had expected, and I was wiped out.
The next few days were pure torture. To make sure there were no suspicions of my apparent ‘death’; I was completely cut off from any outside contact. I wasn’t even allowed to so much as take a peek outside.
And all I had for amusement was my mind; which was more of another torture device at the moment that a form of entertainment.
As far as I knew, my part of the plan had gone well, and Xemnas didn’t expect a thing. I had gone up to him a little less than a week ago and asked if I could get another solo mission since I had done so well on my last. I had suggested sighting a target, so I could prove my strength.
Xemnas had said he would consider it, so I sent word via an anonymous messenger that the plan was in motion. A few days later, Could had been sighted, and I did recon, bringing the information to Xemnas along with the rumor that he was fighting for Sora. After some convincing that I could handle myself, Xemnas had agreed to send me out the next day on a solo mission to dispose of Cloud. I had acted eager, and some of it hadn’t been an act. Sure, I had been nervous, but I was anxious to get it all over with and rid myself of the Organization.
When I confronted Cloud, I hadn’t had to fake my nerves – just what they were about. I knew my brother would never seriously hurt me, although he still had to injure me to make our fight look realistic. After all, Cloud had chosen an area with an audience – witnesses, if you will.
We fought for almost an hour straight, and I still wonder where Cloud had gotten that kind of stamina – I had started tiring out after half an hour. But when he decided we had fought enough, he had tossed a bomb at me, a fire and shrapnel mix. It had exploded at my feet, as planned. Since the shrapnel was on a bit of a delay, I had let the edge of the flame engulf me before shielding myself with Oathkeeper’s protective light. I was sure to let myself burn a little first, and I weakened the protective shell around me so the shrapnel could do some minor damage, before dropping it just before the fire completely dissipated, leaving singed and bloody body visible. I had collapsed, making every muscle in my body go limp, and had heard Cloud walk over to me, sword still at the ready as he ‘checked’ for signs of life. After muttering “Good, he’s dead,” under his breath, he had grabbed ahold of my ankle and dragged me to the river a side-street over. Before he had tossed me in, he had discretely placed a snorkel-like device that would allow me to breathe underwater in my mouth.
I hit the water hard, and it had taken all my strength to not tense up, and to just let myself float like a dead body down the river.
After what had felt like forever, I had felt three stones hit my back, a signal we had devised to let me know I was far enough from the main city to get out of the water. When I got out, Riku had given me a change of dry clothes and a brown cloak, along with the directions to my current hideout.
Everything had gone according to plan so far. The rest was up to Axel.
My gut twisted as I thought of his role in the plan. Certain parts shouldn’t be too hard, but still…
He had to wait a few days after my “death”, pretending to grieve, then storm into Xemnas’ office, demanding to be sent after Cloud so he could extract his revenge.
Everything hinged on Xemnas granting him that privilege. If he didn’t, then Zexion would have to come up with something else to get Axel out. But if it did work, Axel would have to face Cloud – and unlike with me, they would actually fight, not just fake it. If Axel followed the plan, then he would pretend to get overly worked up during the fight, losing control of his supposed anger. Under truthful circumstances, Axel’s magic would go insane without his mental barrier keeping it under control, so that was what they planned on simulating.
“Using magic is tricky. Your amount of power is constantly fluxuating, and it is possible to drain your magic, at which point, your body starts to use your life force to continue manipulating your magic. Most people pass out before this starts happening, their bodies having a built-in safety switch that prevents from killing themselves accidently. However, since I’m pretty sure Axel is not one of those unlucky few born without a failsafe, he will still have to be dealt a finishing blow for him to die. Or appear to die, in our case."
Since it was virtually impossible to drain your magic, Axel had to actually push himself to the edge – putting his life in danger by doing so. It would take him a few days for him to fully recover, and since he would be injured as well…
I shivered at the thought of what Cloud had to do. I imagined that oversized sword of his piercing Axel’s side, missing the vital organs by a few millimeters. If my brother slipped even half a centimeter, I would never be able to see Axel again.
“Please, Ax, don’t die…”