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Chapter XXII: Battle for the Radiant Garden: Part I

“What is it?” Sora asked.

“Nobodies!” Donald screeched.

Mickey pulled open the door and rushed outside for a better view. Undeniably, there were Nobodies floating around the streets of the first borough and Mickey knew for a fact that the entirety of the Radiant Garden was probably under attack. Sora and the rest of the group stepped out of the house shortly and stared at the scene.

Sora whipped out his Keyblade. Fighting all the Nobodies here would just be like fighting the Heartless invasion of the Radiant Garden (then Hollow Bastion) on his last journey. Back then, Leon, Cloud, Yuffie, Tifa, and Aerith were all on the same side defending the world from destruction. In a way, Sora looked forward to fighting alongside everyone again.

Cloud stepped forward beside Sora, with his colossal sword in one hand, and his blue eyes appearing as if on fire.

“You ready, Sora?” he asked.

“Yeah. Hey, how did Tifa find you after you all left?”

“Like she said,” Cloud paused. “Light is easy to find.”

“So how are you gonna use this new light of yours?”

Cloud smirked. “Who said anything about ‘new?’ I probably just never noticed it.” He leapt high into the air and landed many yards away into a cluster of Nobody Dusks. Cloud detached his sword into two separate pieces and began slashing in every direction, destroying the Nobodies with ease and efficiency.

Sora, watching Cloud battle the first few Nobodies, charged ahead to join the battle.

“Sora, wait!”

Sora turned around to see Kairi running up to him, the Oathkeeper gripped tightly in her hand.

“I’m coming with you.”

“Us too!” Donald and Goofy sprinted up to Sora and Kairi, both with their weapons drawn.

Sora nodded. The four of them continued to charge forward, swinging their Keyblades, wands, and shields alike, obliterating every Nobody that stood near them.

Further back, Barrett transformed his mechanical hand into a gatling gun and Vincent began loading Cerberus, his three-barreled pistol. Tifa leapt onto the roofs of houses to get a better view of the situation. To her dismay, there were plenty of Nobodies scattered all over the first borough all the way into the central marketplace.

Yuffie leapt up and landed next to Tifa. Yuffie held her oversized shuriken in one hand and a small, gleaming orb in her other hand. Tifa raised an eyebrow.

“Materia, Yuffie?”

“Umm… hey, you never know when they’ll come in handy!” Yuffie exclaimed and dove down into another squad of Nobodies, using her shuriken for both melee and ranged combat.

Bullets sounded behind Tifa’s head, forcing her to cover her ears. She turned around to see an armored Nobody dissipating into the air. She could hear Barrett cursing from below.

“Damn, girl! You gonna just sit there and force us to cover you or are you gonna help kick ass?” Barrett bellowed.

Tifa smiled and joined Yuffie. On the opposite side, Cloud was having a fairly easy time cutting down Nobody forces. Sora, Kairi, Donald, and Goofy had their shares and were making progress. Tifa and Yuffie effortlessly beat down the Nobodies in their area. Barrett and Vincent stayed near the rear and provided cover by aiming and shooting down whatever Nobody seemed to be getting too close to their friends.

It seemed to be a controlled situation, as Mickey noted. He fought off a few Nobodies just the same, but his goal at the moment was to find out who summoned the Nobodies here in the Radiant Garden. Not known for any temper outbursts, Mickey tried his best in containing his seething anger. It had been many years before the Radiant Garden returned to its normal state. For many long years, the majestic world was Hollow Bastion, a crude, dark emulation of the once glorified domain. And now that the Radiant Garden was finally fully restored, outside menaces threaten to crush the vulnerable world once again. Mickey wanted nothing more at the moment than to stop the ones in charge of the assault.

Climbing onto a ridge by the bailey at the outside border of the first borough, Mickey found an astonishing number of Heartless and Nobodies. With this terrifying army, Mickey was sure that Maleficent had to be somewhere nearby controlling the swarms. However, two hooded figures appeared before Mickey instead. Surprised, Mickey swung his Keyblade in a circular motion and nearby took the head off one of the hooded figures.

“Must you be so aggressive, Your Majesty?” one said.

Mickey backtracked a few feet and glared tentatively at his opponents.

“Gyl?err, Xymgrel…”

Xymgrel and Sarlix pulled back their hoods and drew their weapons. Xymgrel had a rapier-like sword, serrated and appeared capable of cleaving through any material. Sarlix had a scepter, decorated with a glowing purple orb filled with dark magic. They both approached Mickey, who stood his ground.

“Sorry, king, but I need you to get out of our way,” Sarlix murmured.

“We have a job to do,” Xymgrel added.

“And what is this ‘job’ you’re doing?” Mickey asked angrily. “Why are you even lettin’ Maleficent control you? Don’t you two realize? You still have your free wills…”

Sarlix pushed Mickey to the side with her glowing scepter. Xymgrel moved forward next to Sarlix and peered over his shoulder at the furious king. Neither of the two Nobodies responded.

“Sorry, King Mickey,” Xymgrel mumbled.

The two Nobodies ascended the stairs leading to the first borough. Before doing so, they waved their hands in the air and dozens of Dusks descended around Mickey. Slashing his Keyblade around, Mickey proved the Dusks to be of little challenge. He checked back to the stairs, but with Sarlix and Xymgrel already out of sight. It will take a lot more than a few ordinary Nobodies to stop me.

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Sora kicked away a Dusk that was clinging over Goofy’s shoulders. He was beginning to feel exhaustion overtaking him. He saw Donald panting, his internal magic supply slowly depleting. Goofy was also panting with fatigue, though he continued to show signs of great stamina by forcefully tossing his heavy shield at his enemies. Kairi was standing, slightly slouched. To Sora’s wonder, Kairi still had the energy to fight.

His attention on his friends caused Sora to drop his guard. In a split moment, a group of Assassin Nobodies tackled Sora from under the ground and knocked him into the brick wall of a house. Victimized by the ambush, Sora winced with pain as he staggered to get up from crippled position. He was battered and bruised and his arm ached whenever he tightened his grip around his Keyblade.

Sora counted six Assassins and a small squad of Dusks heading his way. With a quick mutter, Sora used his remaining supply of internal magic to cast Cure on himself. Although his wounds quickly disappeared, he still felt the weight of exhaustion clawing at his mind and body. As quickly as he could, Sora charged at his opponents, jabbing his Keyblade into whatever he came up to first.

A few yards away from Sora, Kairi continued her fight alongside Donald and Goofy. The three of them were agonizingly tired, but they kept a constant, steady rhythm while combating the Nobodies. When Kairi saw Sora get brutally knocked into the wall, she sprinted over to his aid. Unfortunately, the path was not conveniently cleared for her. Dusks blocked her way, but other than that, shadows began emerging as Shadow and Neoshadow Heartless began surfacing from the town’s concrete foundation.

“Kairi!” Sora roared as he witnessed his friend getting pinned to the ground by Nobodies and Heartless alike. Without hesitating, he abandoned the Assassin Nobodies he was chopping up and rushed to save Kairi.

His Keyblade glowed as the presence of Heartless neared. Almost instantly, the Shadows and Neoshadows redirected their attention to Sora and leapt off of Kairi, who was still being pinned to the ground by Dusks.

“Let… go of her!” Sora roared, ripping and lacerating every single Heartless that charged at him. Adrenaline surged within him as the only thought in his mind was not of exhaustion, but of Kairi.

Sora tackled the Nobodies to free Kairi. He continued to struggle with the Dusks until someone landed next to him. Sora peeked over and found himself staring at Cloud. The wielder of the enormous sword punched away the few Dusks that were left wrestling with Sora. Cloud helped Sora off the ground and beckoned him away.

“Go help your friend. I’ll go help Donald and Goofy,” said Cloud.

Not even thinking about arguing, Sora quickly thanked Cloud and ran over to Kairi, who was still lying on the ground.

“Kairi,” Sora whispered. “Kairi, are you hurt?”

“Not really…” Kairi groaned quietly.

Sora scowled. He needed a specific answer. “Let me see?”

He gently lifted Kairi off the ground and hurried into Merlin’s house. He placed Kairi on the nearest couch and tried to inspect her.

“Sora,” Kairi let out a weak giggle. “It’s nothing really.”

“Then why do you sound like you’re in pain?” Sora snapped, almost yelling. Then he noticed Kairi’s sudden frown. “Sorry… please, just let me?”

Sora gently lifted up part of Kairi’s tank top and found himself staring at a long red gash. It wasn’t deep, but it looked painful. Sora sighed, relieved that it wasn’t a life-threatening wound.

Kairi smirked at Sora’s sudden calm expression. “See? Told you it wasn’t anything.”

Sora shook his head. “It’s still painful isn’t it?”

“Well…”

There was no need for an answer. A cut like that will hurt no matter how resistant the person is, Sora thought to himself. He got up from Kairi’s side and ransacked the living room for potions.

Kairi knew what Sora was looking for. “Sora, there’s one right there, on the bookshelf,” Kairi whimpered in pain. “Ow…”

Sora grabbed the potion bottle and sprayed some of its content on Kairi’s wound. He closed the bottle and placed it on a desk near Kairi.

“Here. It’ll heal soon… just wait for it. If you need any more, the potion’s right there.”

“Thanks…”

Sora summoned his Keyblade again and began stepping back out into the open.

“I’ll be right back. Stay here, okay?” Sora said, almost begging.

Kairi craned her neck at Sora and frowned. “But I want to fight next to you. And hey, I’m actually doing pretty well for a first timer.”

“Of course. You’re a great fighter. But please, just stay here until you’re fully healed.”

Without waiting for another one of Kairi’s protests, Sora ran out to join his other friends in combat.

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Mickey speedily ascended the stairs and first located Donald and Goofy, who were fighting alongside of Cloud. The three of them seemed to be holding up nicely. Mickey felt slightly more reassured, knowing that his comrades were still in control. However, he completely lost track of Xymgrel and Sarlix. Not allowing panic to take command of his actions, Mickey calmly ran through the borough, alerting Cloud, Donald, Goofy, Yuffie, and all the others that he passed by of the two Nobody commanders that were now on the loose amongst them.

On one corner of the first borough, Sarlix appeared through a dark portal. On another side of the borough, Xymgrel stepped out of his portal. Both Sarlix and Xymgrel were separated, but they decided to do so just so they could command their own respective squads of Nobodies and Heartless while exploring and searching for the warriors they were following from Midgar.

On Sarlix’s side, to her misfortune, she ran into Sora, who appeared more furious than anyone she had ever seen before. Sora’s teeth were clenched and his eyes depicting a deathly stare. His Keyblade was gripped so tightly that Sarlix could swear that she saw blood dripping from the hilt of the weapon. More so, however, was Sora’s stare that rattled Sarlix. The Keyblade-wielder was mad. Really mad.

“Sarlix…” Sora hissed, emphasizing each syllable. “I’m… going… to kill you…”

“Not today, Sora,” Sarlix said. “I’m not here for you.”

“I don’t care!” Sora yelled. “You’ve been causing enough trouble for me as it is!”

“Well then…” Sarlix began. “What do you plan on doing now? Will you just come straight at me? Or will we have to play a game of patience?”

Sarlix closed her eyes and Sora began to feel his mind convulsing like it did on Destiny Islands. How can I fight something I cannot see, hear, or smell? he thought irritably. He collapsed onto his knees and grabbed his head for any chance of comfort. Sarlix opened her eyes again and walked past the tormented Sora.

“Next time we meet, Sora, I’ll give you another chance to swing that Keyblade of yours at me,” Sarlix whispered in Sora’s ear.

The only thing he could sense was the sound of Sarlix’s footsteps fading away into the sounds of swords, guns, and other clashing noises in the background. The power of Sarlix’s mind manipulation was so immense that Sora could not see or feel anything. He could only hear faint, obscure sounds. In time, after kneeling on the cold ground for who knows how long, Sora felt his control over his mind returning, as well as regaining his senses of sight and touch. Shaking his head to snap himself out of the aftermath of Sarlix’s mind manipulation, Sora dashed as quickly as he could in pursuit of Sarlix. Whatever is waiting for me, I will face it.

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