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Chapter XXV: Battle for the Radiant Garden: Part II

At the ratio of about a thousand to one, the group did not like their odds. For over a mile they could see the vast sea of Heartless. There were more Heartless here than Sora has faced in all his journeys combined. Deeply troubled, Sora had to figure out what to do and where exactly did all these Heartless come from?

“King Mickey, I really want to find out why there are so many Heartless now,” Sora grimaced. “Didn’t we accomplish anything on our past journeys?”

“Remember, Sora, the Heartless are first born from the darkness of people’s hearts. Then these Heartless hunt and steal more hearts from others. It’s the way the Heartless multiply their numbers. When left unchecked, well…” Mickey gestured to the enormous Heartless army before them. “This is what happens.”

“How will we ever get rid of them all?” Sora asked.

“The balance between light and darkness are unequal right now. When light and darkness are balanced, there will be fewer Heartless?”

“Your Majesty, but, but… that doesn’t answer my question. I asked how are we ever going to get rid of the Heartless for good?” Sora retorted in frustration. “Sorry…”

“It’s okay, Sora. You can be angry. I don’t have a solution for you right now, but I know there is one. We’ll find it and get stop the Heartless forever.”

Reluctantly, Sora had to back away from the subject. There was no solution, which means he will have to keep on fighting. He, Kairi, Riku, and the king all had to. They were the wielders of the Keyblades, the warriors representing the light.

“Tell him about the guy we bumped into. And about Maleficent,” Kairi whispered to Sora.

“Oh,” Sora wanted to smack himself for forgetting. “King Mickey…”

“Sora?” Mickey responded, his Keyblade summoned for action.

“Before Yuffie found us, we bumped into umm… I forgot his name. This Nobody guy working with Sarlix and Maleficent.”

“Xymgrel?” Mickey suggested.

“Yeah! Him. I don’t think he and Sarlix are on Maleficent’s side anymore. Because of that, Maleficent is here now with that Heartless army.”

Mickey frowned and turned to look at the approaching army. “Maleficent’s here? Drat, then this battle will be harder if she’s around to command the army. As for Xymgrel and Sarlix, Sora, don’t trust anythin’ they say until we have definite proof!”

Donald, Goofy, Cloud, Aerith, Tifa, Yuffie, Cid, Barrett, and Vincent all gathered around Sora, Kairi, and Mickey. It was twelve against maybe twelve thousand or more. Plans? They had none. No one was expecting a giant Heartless army to pop out randomly in the Radiant Garden. Sora, Kairi, and Mickey all had their Keyblades in their hands. Donald had his wand and Goofy had his shield. Cloud had his monster sword, Tifa had her combat gloves, Yuffie had her oversized shuriken, Cid had his spear-like lance, Barrett had his mechanical gun-arm, Vincent had Cerberus, his three-barreled pistol, and Aerith had… Aerith didn’t need any weapons. If the group had a plan, then they would have already executed their offense. But without a plan, confidence was lacking and catastrophe seemed imminent.

Without warning, a few Armored Knights, Neoshadows, and other types of Heartless scaled the walls and snuck onto the ledge where the group was waiting. The onslaught had begun. At high ground, the party had a slight advantage over the Heartless, but it was only one out of many they would need if they wished for victory.

The Heartless army traveled from the direction of the old restoration site of the Hollow Bastion Restoration Committee. This peculiar observation intrigued Sora. Didn’t the army Kairi and he saw come from within the first borough? Feeling a sense of dread, Sora sought out Mickey, who was blocking off a few Shadows.

“Your Majesty, I don’t think this is the army Kairi and I saw,” Sora muttered apprehensively.

“…What?” Mickey asked, alarmed and confused.

All of a sudden, a battalion of varied Heartless arrived on the staircase between the bailey and the first borough, where the party was camping on. Slowly, the moderately sized army approached the ledge towards the group. Even though this newly arrived Heartless army was smaller than the one that approached from below the ledge, it still outnumbered the party about a hundred to one. With a new front opened, the party had to split their attention and focus in two different directions. That is, until a third factor joined to draw more attention.

Maleficent emerged out of a green explosive conflagration that seemed to have been generated more out of fury than out of ambitions of conquest. She appeared to be looking for something… or someone. Sora advanced towards her with his Keyblade in front of him in defense. Maleficent sneered and pointed her staff at Sora.

“Where is he? I saw you talk to him before!” Maleficent screeched.

“What are you talking about?” Sora countered.

“Xymgrel,” the sorceress hissed. “He’s hiding from me. He and that pitiful Sarlix. They’re both pathetic. You’ve ran into both of them, where are they?

“Why should he tell you!” Kairi yelled, stepping forward next to Sora.

Maleficent squinted at Kairi in contempt. Her staff was still pointed at Sora. It seemed time passed more slowly around them as the Heartless and the rest of the party were locked in combat. Maleficent waved her staff in the air to conjure the all-seeing mirrors, though it resulted in nothing but green and purple smog.

“Those wretched fools think they can outsmart me…” Maleficent muttered angrily to herself.

“So they did betray you, huh, Maleficent?” Sora scoffed. “So much for your control over the Nobodies. Seems like they’re a bit smarter than the Heartless?”

“Dear boy,” Maleficent cackled feverishly. “In this game, quantity outplays quality.”

She pointed at the Heartless ocean that spanned across the bailey. Sora could see the glimmering of the myriad eerie yellow eyes that glared back at him. In the meantime, Maleficent pointed her staff back towards his face.

“I do not need the Nobodies. They are nothing but tools to me in directing the powers of darkness,” said Maleficent.

Sora’s eyes widened as Maleficent prepared to fire a beam of dark energy at him. However, the sorceress unexpectedly switched her target from Sora’s face to the wall behind Sora and Kairi. Maleficent fired, and the shot blasted a hole through the wall and drove a figure out of it. The surprises never ceased to end as Sora and Kairi witnessed Sarlix emerge out of the darkness.

Waving, the Maleficent’s ex-Nobody commander summoned a squad of Dusks and Assassins around her. Sarlix smirked in satisfaction towards herself and in mockery towards Maleficent.

“Nothing but tools, eh?” Sarlix chuckled. “Then what a valuable tool you’re giving up, Maleficent!”

“Fool. I created you and you defy me?” Maleficent snarled. “What is your purpose now then? Your Heartless half is under my control. You shall never be complete as you will exist from this point on as nothing more than a Nobody.”

“By the way,” a gruff voice sounded behind Maleficent, startling the sorceress. “In my opinion, I think quality outplays quantity.”

Xymgrel rose from a dark puddle behind Maleficent and called forth a group of Berserker Nobodies. Before they could make a grab at Maleficent, the sorceress teleported into the air over the ledge. Here, time really seemed to stop as Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and the others all glanced upwards at the floating Maleficent.

“It’s Maleficent!” Goofy shouted out.

Total chaos ensued as Sarlix and Xymgrel began calling forth Nobody forces through portals of their own. Changing their targets, the Heartless abandoned Sora and the others and jumped off the ledge onto the bailey to combat the growing number of Nobodies. Sora grunted in puzzlement and annoyance as he ran over to Sarlix and Xymgrel. Kairi followed closely behind.

“Why are you doing this?” Sora questioned. “Are you helping us or not?”

Sarlix and Xymgrel took a quick look at each other before answering. In an instant, Xymgrel pulled out his rapier and pinned Sora to the wall with the flatter side of the blade. Still, the pressure caused Sora to gag. Kairi swung the Oathkeeper at Xymgrel’s head in defense, but the speedy Nobody grabbed her with his free hand and yanked Kairi into the air by her wrists.

“Listen, kid,” Sarlix muttered to Sora, ignoring Kairi. She held out a black, leather case. “Inside are these report papers by some guy named Ansem. Heard of him?”

Here we go again, Sora thought to himself, trying to resist the pressure exerted onto him by Xymgrel. “Yeah. As a matter of fact, I have heard of him,” Sora grumbled.

Sarlix chuckled as she crushed an attacking Heartless with a ball of energy shot from her scepter. She turned her attention back to Sora.

“What was that again?” she asked.

“Can you let me go so I can breathe?” Sora pleaded as calmly as possible.

Xymgrel released Sora and Kairi and Sarlix tossed the leather box at Sora.

“These reports by Ansem. They tell a lot about you and of your previous trips across the worlds,” Sarlix accounted. “Have you read them?”

Sora flipped through the familiar papers that he had gathered over time during his past journeys. Of course, Kairi had no idea what Ansem’s Reports were all about. Kairi did nothing more than look vaguely at the papers.

“Yeah. These reports were lost and I collected them together over time…” Sora began. “Wait?how did you get your hands on these in the first place?”

“Maleficent had them,” Xymgrel explained. “Your king over there placed the Reports in the Temple Key Museum. That’s when Maleficent stole them and turned me into… this.”

“Look, Sora. We just want to find out some more info about Organization XIII, the Nobodies, the Heartless, and the Keyblade. Everything is pretty much just confusin’ bogus to us,” Sarlix interrupted.

“Maleficent will become a greater enemy than she has in the past if she read all of Ansem’s Reports,” Sora noted. “I bet that’s why she stole the Reports in the first place. To learn more about the Heartless and the Nobodies.”

“Indeed,” Xymgrel agreed. “In the meantime, Sarlix and I will be conducting research of our own. Do not get in our way.”

“Heh, seriously, you two better not. Neither should your friends. As for now, we’ll take care of Maleficent and her weakling Heartless,” Sarlix added. “So get your friends out of here.”

“What? And abandon the Radiant Garden?” Sora exclaimed.

“You can’t possibly think it’ll be that easy to get rid of us,” Kairi murmured.

“Suit yourself,” Sarlix said, shrugging. She and Xymgrel turned away and leapt off the ledge to join the havoc being wreaked by their Nobodies and Maleficent’s Heartless, leaving Sora and Kairi pondering and recollecting the words that were just exchanged.

The other party members eliminated the remaining Heartless and Nobodies that fought on the ledge. Mickey leaned by the railing blocking the sides of the ledge and observed the ruthless combat between the Heartless and the Nobodies.

“Has circumstances really turned in our favor?” Vincent asked quietly. “Have the Heartless and Nobodies really unallied with each other?”

Mickey sighed, relief that the Heartless and Nobody numbers were dwindling before him and nervousness for whatever awaits on the journey ahead of them all.

“I really hope so, Vincent,” the king sighed again.

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