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Chapter XLIV: Hidden Hesitation

Pete woke up from his comatose state and squinted his eyes at his surroundings. For a moment he forgot where he was, though he was still not certain of his current location. He was sitting in a chair behind a large stone desk. How he got there in the first place, Pete did not know. The room he was in was compact, extremely stuffy. What made it worse was that the only opening in the room was a small door serving as an entrance and an exit. Trying not to think or even wonder about his predicament, Pete made a move towards the door. But just when Pete put his hand on the door handle, it opened towards him, catching off guard and smashing him into the wall.

“You lived,” she said.

Pete felt dizzy after having his head squashed between the door and the stone walls, but he remained aware enough to identify the person that stood before him. Maleficent. Pete dreaded this moment. He would have preferred fighting all of Sora and all of Sora’s friends, along with all the Heartless and Nobodies combined at the same time rather than catching a glimpse of Maleficent.

Maleficent waved her wand in a circular motion and in a split second, her two Heartless commanders appeared by her side. Pete sank onto the ground and stared at Maleficent, Syx, and Grymox, his mouth hanging open in horror. Pete knew for a fact that he was physically strong, but in comparison to Maleficent, whose magic and usage of terror and darkness outweighs any power he knows, Pete felt like he was a single ant against a hungry anteater. And now Pete recognized the two Heartless commanders as the two Heartless that dragged him into Maleficent’s stronghold in the first place. Syx and Grymox were unlike any Heartless Pete had ever seen. There was something that sparked in the Heartless’ eyes. It was intelligence… and possibly even spirit, though they lacked true hearts.

Pete was still analyzing Maleficent and her Heartless commanders when the dark sorceress bent down to level her face with his. A sneer was all Maleficent gave Pete. Syx and Grymox snorted in response. Pete remained wary.

“And so you lived,” Maleficent repeated herself. “And though you lived, what were the odds that you found your way back to me again?”

Pete hopped upright only to have Maleficent’s wand at his neck. In shock, Pete planted his whole backside to the wall.

“Tell me, Pete,” said Maleficent. “How did you make it out of the darkness?”

Pete gulped. He did not know where this conversation was going. Will Maleficent find some way to toss him into the darkness again? Or will fortunes look fondly upon him and allow him to leave this appalling place?

“I… umm… uh,” Pete stammered. “I-I like what you did with the place, Maleficent?”

Maleficent raised both her arms in a threatening pose, green flames emanating from under her cloak and robes.

“Ah! Alright!” Pete burst out. He was not sure how to explain. “Err… I found a door floatin’ in the darkness?”

“A door in the darkness,” Maleficent cut in. “Interesting.”

“Yup. And I went through that door and found my way out?”

“This door,” Maleficent interjected again. “Where did it lead?”

Pete scratched his head. What did Sora say to him before?

Sora shook his head. “Why are you here on Destiny Islands and how did you get here?”

“Destiny Islands.”

“Destiny Islands, huh,” Maleficent repeated to herself. “Sounds like a very familiar place…”

“It’s the Keyblade boy’s home,” Pete added.

Maleficent’s eyes lit up, a new fire burning in them. “Is it now?” she inquired excitedly, with a sinister tone. “How interesting this is indeed! Perhaps you are still worth something?”

“Now listen here, Maleficent,” Pete interrupted. “I ain’t workin’ for you no more! I just want to get the heck outta here. You can keep all this darkness and Heartless business to yourself and count me out!”

Pete turned towards the door but was blasted back into the chair on the opposite side of the room before he could pull open the door. Maleficent, Syx, and Grymox loomed over him.

“You are a fool. I’m afraid you’re not going anywhere,” Maleficent said calmly. “I think I will assign you one more job before I truly release you, Pete.”

“And if I finish this… job, I am free to go?” Pete asked eagerly.

Maleficent smirked, which drew the attentions of Syx and Grymox. “Of course, Pete. Of course.”

“Oh, good!” Pete cheered. “Now what will humble ol’ me have to do for you?”

Maleficent snapped her fingers and Syx and Grymox both lifted Pete off the chair, both Heartless commanders each seizing one of Pete’s arms. Pete looked alarmed as Maleficent whispered into his ear.

“I want you and my two dear Heartless commanders to search and destroy two pests. Two Nobodies?I’m sure you remember what the Nobodies are, the out-of-existence beings?named Sarlix and Xymgrel. They’re the Nobody halves of my two Heartless here. I want you and my Heartless commanders to defeat them, and put an end to their miserable existences.”

Pete scratched his head again. “Umm… how will I know what they look like?”

Maleficent cackled. “You won’t need to work too hard in finding them. Syx and Grymox, my two Heartless here, they will find Sarlix and Xymgrel in no time at all.”

The dark sorceress summoned a dark portal. “Two more things. One, annihilate whoever tries to hinder your duties. And two… “ Maleficent squinted her eyes towards Pete. “If you try to run from me, I will hunt you down and make you a Heartless myself.”

Shuddering at the thought of becoming a Heartless, Pete quickly saluted Maleficent and dove into the dark portal. Slowly following were Syx and Grymox, both appearing unusually distraught.

“And what is the matter with you two?” Maleficent snapped. “Does this concern your Nobody halves?”

We have no hearts, I don’t care about our Nobody halves,” said Syx.

“Then what is with the indolence?” Maleficent asked bitterly.

Do we really have to work with that bumbling idiot?” Grymox snorted.

“Yes,” Maleficent responded flatly and pointed her wand towards the closing portal. “Now be gone with you! Both of you!”

Syx and Grymox alternately nodded in respect, turned, and departed in through the dark portal. Maleficent chuckled to herself. It seems that she has just gained new ground. If there were doors in the darkness that lead to other worlds, by all means they become new pathways into worlds. Before a world’s keyhole is locked, doors that lead to the world from the darkness stay fully open for any traveler in darkness to enter through.

Then again, once a world’s keyhole is locked, the door floating in the darkness will close, along with any other routes that may link the world with other regions. Nonetheless, these doors of darkness provide an alternate route. For Maleficent, these new routes in the darkness are perfect for her Heartless. Maleficent, satisfied with her new knowledge and realization, slipped away to hatch her next series of diabolical plans.

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Sora, Kairi, and Will, the three of them completely waterlogged, found themselves finally on dry land. It seemed as if they were drifting in the cold seawater for hours since their escape from the Flying Dutchman. Working fast, Will gathered up firewood and Sora and Kairi contributed by casting Fire on the wood, creating a fairly large bonfire. The three of them gathered around the warmth in their drenched clothes, hoping daybreak and the sun would arrive soon.

Eventually though, before dawn approached, Sora, Kairi, and Will all fell asleep from the immense fatigue and chill suffered from drifting in the open sea. And they all stayed asleep for quite some time, for when Will woke up first, the sun was already high in the air. Their clothes were finally dried as the bonfire made the night before dying out into a few sparkling embers. Will looked out into the sea, hoping to find some sort of vessel suitable for carrying a few additional passengers.

With great fortunes, Will spotted a trading ship of some sort slowly approaching the strip of land where Sora, Kairi, and he were temporarily residing on. Will waved frantically as the trading ship came only a few yards off the strip of land. Captain Bellamy of the ship looked down from the wheel at Will and then the sleeping Sora and Kairi around the sizzling embers.

“You there,” Bellamy called to Will. “What sort of trouble might you be in?”

“Oh, no trouble at all,” Will responded casually. “Except that my comrades and I are a tad stranded on this piece of land. Would you mind taking us to the nearest port?”

Sora raised his head up a few inches as he woke up. Kairi was still sleeping a couple of feet away from him. In the sky, a flare of light shined as a small dot shot through the clouds. This drew Sora’s attention and woke him up completely. He dashed to the shore, running past Will and the trader ship, completely ignoring the potential new ride. He looked up again, and saw the flying ship. The Celsius! Spastic from bliss and astonishment, Sora tried to draw the Celsius’ crew’s attention by firing a great bolt of lightning in the air.

Five hundred yards in the air, Sora looked like nothing more than the world’s smallest flea. However, the constant lightning bolts created enough flashes and noise to catch Donald’s attention. Donald, who was playing the role of lookout, saw bolts of lightning shooting in different directions in the air. Unless it was a wild electrical Heartless, Donald could think of no other living being that knew the arts of thunder magic.

“Your Majesty!” Donald exclaimed. “Look down there! I think someone’s trying to contact us!”

The piloting Mickey looked down from the cockpit and flew the Celsius closer to the land. Sighing a breath of relief when he identified Sora, he set a course to land.

Down on land, Sora also sighed a breath of relief as he noticed that the Celsius had begun its descent. Sora then went back to Kairi to wake the girl up.

“Kairi,” Sora whispered as he gently shook Kairi awake. “Hey, I think the king and the others are gonna land nearby!”

“R-really…?” Kairi asked hesitantly, yawning. As she finally came to her senses, her eyes widened. “Really! That’s great! But what about Will and Elizabeth and… and the compass and Jack Sparrow and… the key and the chest?”

Sora wrinkled his nose as he thought for a moment, then tilted and slowly shook his head. “I don’t think we have any further duties here, Kairi. Our purpose here is to seal the world’s keyhole, but I think the keyhole I sealed the last time I was here is still locked. There are no Heartless here?”

Kairi nodded in understanding. “Okay,” she said. “But… let’s come back sometime and see how everything is and how everyone’s doing, okay?”

“Okay,” Sora agreed. Will slowly jogged over to them.

“Alright, you two. We just received permission to ride aboard the Edinburgh Trader. They will take us to the nearest port…”

“Will, I don’t think…” Sora said carefully. “That Kairi and I will be going with you.”

“Oh,” Will said.

“We have other things we need to take care of,” Kairi explained.

“Ah, I see,” said Will. “I remember, Sora, that you were a traveler of some sort. Dealin’ with the Heartless again, I presume? That is quite alright. I only seek to save Elizabeth. And to do so, I will need Jack’s compass.”

The Celsius landed nearby shortly. Will bowed to Sora and Kairi. “It was great to see you again, Sora. And great to meet you, Kairi. Good luck faring on your journeys.”

Will turned and headed towards the Edinburgh Trader. Mickey, Donald, and Goofy stepped out of their Gummi Ship and watched Will leap on board the trading ship alongside Sora and Kairi.

“We’ll come back to visit, Will!” Sora called out. “Good luck saving Elizabeth!”

Will bid his farewell with a saluting motion as the Edinburgh trader departed out into the open sea again. Sora and Kairi turned to Mickey, Donald, and Goofy.

“That was Will Turner, right, Sora?” Goofy asked. “I remember him.”

“What happened to Elizabeth?” Donald asked.

“And Captain Jack!” Goofy exclaimed.

“Yeah, Jack Sparrow! Where’d he go?” Donald asked.

“Phew,” Sora exhaled. “Long story.”

“Then let’s fly off,” Mickey said. “I assume everythin’s pretty much settled here?”

“Mhm,” said Kairi. “No Heartless here.”

Mickey nodded satisfyingly and beckoned everyone to climb back on board the Celsius. Mickey planned on dropping Sora and Kairi off on a different world to lock another keyhole then fly the Celsius to yet another world so Donald, Goofy, and he could work on another keyhole. It was the only way to battle with time, which leaned in favor of Maleficent. With Maleficent’s growing number of Heartless, and who knows how many open worlds with unlocked keyholes, the task laid before Sora, Kairi, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy became exceedingly dire. In addition, Riku was still missing, and his search is yet another task yet to be carried out.

The Celsius blasted off into the sky. The next world and keyhole, the next venture, waited.

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