[Sanctuary]
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[Sanctuary]
[Sanctuary]

Chapter LII: Keyhole of the Kingdom of the Sun

With a strong push, and most notably, without knocking, Sora and Kairi burst into the palace’s main entrance. It was early, so neither Sora nor Kairi expected anyone to be awake at the time, except the guards, of course. But there were no guards in sight. The peculiarity of the scenario both troubled and intrigued the two Keyblade-wielders. Any dwelling of royal class should have at any rate some guards patrolling the estate, inside or outside. As of yet, they met no guards outside and have seen no guards inside.

Sora and Kairi walked slowly past the golden lobby through the golden hallways. The hallways were brightly lit, not by candles or incandescent light, but through numerous, wide-open windows that were lined from one end of the hallway to the other. And because of the long hallways, the many windows allowed enough light in to brighten the entire palace. As the run continued to rise, the shadows became more visible.

Their goal was the find Kuzco, and based on most designs of palaces or castles, the emperor or king would be found either in the deepest room of a stronghold or at the highest position. Sora and Kairi decided to venture further into the palace, hopefully finding Kuzco at some point. As they climbed winding staircases (paved with more gold and more open windows on the sides) and past more hallways, periodically, Sora and Kairi pass by a few guards. All were asleep or appeared sedated in some way. The sightings did not significantly bother the two, but they took notice nonetheless.

Finally, Sora and Kairi made their way to what seemed like the center of the palace, a grand, golden ballroom or of a similar sort. Just at the end of the room was a gigantic podium-like structure, topped with an intricately designed, gold and diamond-ornamented seat. Anyone with any common sense would conclude that the chair is the throne chair. However, there was no one in that seat.

“What the heck?” Sora exclaimed in a discouraged tone. “We came all this way for an empty chair. That’s great.”

“It’s really quiet here,” Kairi said. “Maybe he’s somewhere else? Another room?”

Sora scratched his head and took the suggestion. Turning around, Kairi and he resumed their search. Most of the palace seemed the same. By drawing a map of the palace in his head, Sora noticed that the palace seemed symmetrical, thus making the search slightly easier.

All of sudden, Sora heard some voices; finally someone awake? Kairi heard them too and stopped to listen for a moment. The voices were drawing nearer: one sounded creepy while another sounded… fairly normal. Sora and Kairi quickly dodged to one side of the hallway, behind a half-opened door, and continued to watch and listen.

“…Kronk, darlin', I must admit you had me worried… when you mixed up those poisons,” the creepy voice sounded. “But now that Kuzco is dead, all is forgiven.”

Sora and Kairi looked at each other, wide-eyed.

“Ah,” the normal, but slightly thick sounding voice responded. “Oh, yeah, yeah. He's... he's dead, all right.”

Now the two people slowly dragged their feet past the door Sora and Kairi were hiding behind. One was Yzma, the really, really, really wrinkly, sagging, old woman and the other one was Kronk, her dim-witted assistant.

“I mean… you can't get much deader than he... than he is right now,” Kronk stammered. “Unless, of course, we killed him again…”

Yzma stopped walking and creaked her bony face towards Kronk, suspiciously and evermore creepily.

“…I suppose…” she croaked. “Kronk?”

Kronk was spastically glancing out the window, down the hall, at his silly propeller hat.

“…Kronk,” Yzma said again impatiently. “…Kuzco is dead, right?”

Kronk stopped playing with his propeller hat. Yzma grabbed him by the collar-area of his shirt.

“Tell me Kuzco is dead!” she said. “I need to hear those words!”

Kronk shifted his eyes left to right to left and back to Yzma. “Do you, uh,” he sputtered. “Need to hear all those words exactly?”

Yzma’s face turned bright red as she squawked raucously, “He’s still alive?!”

“Well, he’s not as dead as we would’ve hoped.”

Sora and Kairi gave each other a high-five?just a bit too loudly.

“…What was that?” Yzma muttered.

“Squirrels?” Kronk guessed, rubbing the back of his head.

“In the palace?” Yzma grunted. “…Kronk…”

“Well, it sounded like it came from here,” Kronk said, walking towards the room Sora and Kairi were hiding in.

Reacting quickly, Sora and Kairi ran further into the room and both hid in separate closets a split second before Kronk opened the room’s door.

“Huh,” he said. “It must’ve been squirrels. I don’t see anyone else.”

“Kronk, there are definitely people in here,” Yzma groaned again as she entered the room herself. “…And no squirrels!”

Yzma scanned the room, from desks to chairs, to draperies, to the windows. She walked by the closets that Sora and Kairi were hiding separately in, but she did not open them. Then something brushed her ankle.

“What the,” Yzma gasped. She looked down and slapped her forehead. “Are you kidd?”

Kronk leapt into the room gleefully. “See? Told you it was a squirrel!”

Yzma muttered vulgarly under her breath and stormed out of the room with Kronk following afterwards.

Sora and Kairi both came out at the same time and sat on the carpeted floor. Both sighed and glanced at each other, towards the open door, and to the squirrel, which scampered out of the window. Yzma and Kronk’s voices could still be heard from down the hallway.

“Never thought we’d get saved by a squirrel,” Kairi whispered.

Sora shrugged. “Eh, even if she did find us, I doubt she would be much of a threat. And that big guy doesn’t seem like the guy who can clobber us.”

“Ah-ha!” Yzma shouted out, her skinny little head zipping back to the door. “I knew there were others in here?other than squirrels!”

Kronk waddled back and eyed Sora and Kairi curiously. Yzma remained lodged in her stiff position, her long, gaunt index finger pointed at the two Keyblade-wielders. Kairi took note of how Yzma was exceptionally well dressed, but she was utterly hideous as a whole.

“Y-you…” Yzma continued. “You heard us, didn’t you?”

Sora shrugged. Yzma snapped her fingers.

“Kronk,” she started. “Dispose of them.”

Uh oh, Sora thought as Kronk began charging towards Kairi and him. The brawny man seemed mentally slow, but he was surprisingly agile, taking Sora and Kairi by surprise. In an instant, Sora found Kairi and himself flying out of a window. Luckily, they were on the first-story floor, so they suffered no injuries whatsoever when they landed on the grass outside.

Yzma slapped herself on the forehead again.

“You lousy excuse of a?you…” she stopped and slapped her forehead once again. “You call that disposing? No wonder you couldn’t finish off Kuzco.”

Kronk scratched his head. “Well, um, I didn’t know if you wanted me to, y’know… really dispose of them.”

“Never mind, Kronk! Never mind. You and I have to get out there and find them. If they talk, we are through!”

Back outside, Sora and Kairi pondered about what they have just learned. Apparently, there were three sides to the conflict in this kingdom of the sun. There are Heartless roaming the area, which was certain. The emperor of the kingdom transformed into a llama, and was conspired against. Sora and Kairi know who the conspirers are, but who can they tell? They were travelers of unknown statuses and reliance. At the meantime, though, they had to leave the premises. Sora could hear the clicking of Yzma’s heels nearing them and Kronk’s blabbering voice.

“Sora, look!” Kairi suddenly said excitedly.

Sora looked to the nearby forest. A large man and a llama were running towards Kairi and him. Was it Pacha and the emperor? Sora squinted and made certain the accuracy of his guess.

Pacha came stumbling forward to Sora and Kairi, panting and sweating from probably half a day’s worth of running. Kuzco seemed fairly exhausted too, not saying a word at all. In a moment, Yzma and Kronk came onto the scene. Now it is Kuzco and Pacha on one side, Yzma and Kronk on the opposite side, and Sora and Kairi standing in between. Kuzco, perhaps not knowing his situation too well, blurted out first.

“Yzma! I am so happy to see you… for once.”

Yzma raised her eyebrows in confused, disbelief. Kronk scratched his head again. Sora and Kairi glanced at each other. Sora took a few steps over to Kuzco and whispered the news to him. Kuzco leapt up.

“What?!”

Kairi nodded, agreeing with whatever Sora just told the young emperor.

“But… but,” Kuzco sputtered. He faced Yzma and Kronk. “Your whole world revolves around me! Come on! You two are nothing without me.”

“I think I left something in the oven,” Kronk said and slipped away.

“Yo! I’m not done with you yet!” Kuzco shouted. “Yzma, I order you to call him back! And then, change me back to a human! Do you have any idea how hard it is to be a llama? I can’t pick anything up!”

Kuzco demonstrated by clicking his two heel-toes together, making pathetic attempts at picking up a small twig.

“You see, you see?! Change me back into a human, now!”

Yzma played around with her fingers for a moment, pondering…

“Nope.”

In an instant, Yzma dashed off after Kronk, leaving Sora, Kairi, Kuzco, and Pacha out in the field. Sora and Kairi summoned back their Keyblades.

“Come on,” Sora called. “We have to follow them! Do you have any idea where they headed off to, your highness?”

Kuzco tapped his feet in thought. “Hmm, could be Yzma’s laboratory… Yeah, that should be it?let’s go!”

They ran after Yzma and Kronk, only to fall down a trapdoor the moment they reentered the palace. It was one of Yzma’s typical trapdoors that led to her laboratory. Although none of them expected it, it only made it more convenient for Sora, Kairi, and the rest of the group. They slid down a shaft, one after the other, spiraling downward until they fell through a small, loosely hinged door. Crashing through first, Sora quickly recovered from the fall and drew the Oblivion. Kairi followed suit and armed herself with the Oathkeeper.

Kuzco’s first action was to scout the laboratory for any magical potion that could transform him back into a human being. Unfortunately, when Kuzco approached one of Yzma’s potion stands; all he could find was dust and empty vials and beakers, with a few full beakers, all of the wrong creatures.

“Looking for this?” a voice called.

Yzma, with Kronk next to her, stood on the opposite side of the laboratory. She held a small vial with a stick figure stamped on the side: the human potion.

Kuzco took a breath and inched towards Yzma.

“Okay, I admit it,” he started to say. “Maybe I wasn’t as nice as I should have been. But, Yzma, do you really want to kill me?”

Yzma chuckled. “Just think of it as you're being let go… that your life’s going in a different direction… that your body’s part of a permanent outplacement…”

“Hey,” Kronk interrupted. “That’s kind of like what he said to you when you got fired?”

“I know. It's called a cruel irony… Like my dependence on you,” Yzma snarled. She tossed Kronk a knife. “Finish them off.”

Kronk paused, staring down at the knife he held in his hands. His conscience spoke to him.

Hey, you’re not backing down, are ya, big guy? a voice in his head asked.

Then another voice cut in.

Sorry I’m late. So what’d I miss?

“Well, Yzma just tossed me this knife and asked me to, you know, take them out…” said Kronk.

At this point, everyone in the laboratory were staring awkwardly at Kronk. Sora and Kairi looked at each other in confusion. Kuzco and Pacha tilted their heads in bewilderment. Yzma let out a groan of defeat.

“And then this guy popped up,” Kronk continued. “And then we waited for you, and quite honestly?”

“Kronk! Why did I think you could do this?” Yzma roared. “This one simple thing… It's like I'm talking to a monkey!”

Whoa now! one of the voices in Kronk’s head sounded.

“A really, really big stupid monkey named Kronk!”

Ouch.

Yzma wasn’t done yet. “And do you want to know something else? …I've never liked your spinach puffs. Never!

That’s it. She’s going down.

From above, the wicked shall receive their just reward.

Kronk looked above. A chandelier hung on the ceiling, held up by a rope.

“That’ll work,” Kronk whispered to himself.

He flung the knife at the rope, severing it, sending the giant chandelier crashing down towards Yzma. The skinny, old woman looked up at the plummeting object and made no move. The chandelier struck, forcing Sora, Kairi, Kuzco, Pacha, and Kronk to look away. However, when they opened their eyes, they were in awe, surprised, and somewhat dismayed at the sight. Yzma, being as gaunt as she is, fit through the center of the chandelier without getting touched. Broken glass and light pieces were scattered around her, but nonetheless, she remained unharmed.

“Strange,” Kronk noted. “That usually works.”

“And so does this!” Yzma yelled, pushing down a lever on the concrete wall. With the motion, a hatch opened under Kronk, sending the big man falling through.

“Ah,” Kronk said as he fell. “Should’ve seen that coming. Whoa!”

“Give me that vial!” Kuzco hollered as he charged at Yzma.

Yzma evaded Kuzco, ripped off the label on the vial, and dropped it along with dozens of other vials of the same colored potions. All the potions were unlabeled, sending Kuzco into a frenzied and discombobulated state.

“Which one, which one?” Kuzco mumbled.

“Better hurry,” Yzma chuckled. “I’m expecting company.”

In a matter of seconds, groups of royal guards stormed down from the stairs, all equipped with lances, spears, and shields.

“Kill them!” Yzma shouted. “They murdered the emperor!”

Kuzco’s eyes widened. “No, wait! I’m the emperor! It’s me… Kuzco!”

Pacha dropped down next to Kuzco. “No use, just take them all and run!”

The guards stampeded towards Kuzco and Pacha. Immediately, Sora and Kairi jumped in between, parrying the lunges and jabs from the spears and lances, allowing Kuzco and Pacha to escape. With minimal effort, Sora and Kairi pushed the guards back.

“Get them!” Yzma shouted. “Get?”

The guards fled in a completely disorderly fashion, yelping and babbling at the same time. Yzma peered over her shoulder and found three enormous dragonflies hovering noiselessly behind her. Panicked, Yzma turned to run, but bumped into another giant creature: a crazed-looking jaguar. Thinking she became delusional, Yzma rubbed her eyes and looked around the laboratory. She gazed upwards and found herself staring into the beady, glowing eyes of a giant crow.

Screaming at the top of her lungs, Yzma ran through the creatures, wildly flapping her arms towards the stairs. Sora and Kairi let her go, now facing a totally different situation than they had originally envisioned.

One floor up, Kuzco and Pacha continued to run; somewhere, anywhere, as long as they can test the potions until they find the right one. In a short time span, Kuzco managed to transform into a cow, a horse, a deer, a penguin, and even a hermit crab.

“We’re not getting anywhere with you picking the vials,” Kuzco complained. “I’m picking the next one!”

“Fine by me!” Pacha yelled back.

“Give me that one.” Kuzco drank one of the potions. Poof. He instantly became a blubbery whale. He scowled at Pacha. “…Don’t you say a word…”

A screech sounded from a few yards ahead of the two. Kuzco recognized the creatures as the same ones that attacked him only a day ago in the forests. Giant dragonflies.

“W-what on Earth…?” Pacha sputtered.

“Toss me another vial!” Kuzco barked. Poof. A llama. “Yay! I’m a llama again! …Uh, wait…”

“Run!” Pacha yelled.

Meanwhile, in Yzma’s laboratory, Sora and Kairi fought back-to-back, clearing out the swarming Heartless animals. With a fully charged ball of fire, Kairi could take out at least half a dozen Dragonflies. Sora mixed the battle with combinations of magic and swordplay. Periodically, situations called for Reflect spells. And in other occasions, any injury required immediate Cure spells.

Due to the fact that the battle occurred at daytime, Maleficent’s crow could not revive the fallen Heartless. As soon as Sora came to realize that Maleficent’s crow led the assault, he directed all his attention and strength at the accursed creature. As soon as Kairi slashed away the last of the Heartless, she also focused solely on the giant crow.

In futile attempts at summoning more Heartless, Maleficent’s crow was knocked forcibly into the concrete wall, followed by an intense beam of pure fire from Kairi’s Keyblade. Without a sound, all that was left in the wall was a gaping hole, smoldering with embers and covered with thin, black smoke.

“Sora, look,” Kairi whispered, pointing at the molten hole in the wall.

A faint light radiated, without a doubt on its own and not from the fire. The blade of the Oblivion gave off the same color of light.

“The keyhole!” Sora exclaimed.

Voices yelled from the stairs. Sora and Kairi turned to see Kuzco, now a kangaroo, and Pacha dashing down the stairs, pursued by large groups of Heartless varieties, not just the local animal ones. At the same time, more voices sounded. Through the ceiling came Yzma, caught between the claws of a Dragonfly Heartless. Quickly, Sora pointed his Keyblade at the keyhole, fired a magical beam of light, and locked it. The Heartless dissipated instantaneously around the traumatized Kuzco and Pacha. Yzma dropped from midair, face first, and landed flatly on the concrete floor.

Yzma was about to get up until she was flipped back a few feet by a tile. Out emerged Kronk, as cheerful as ever.

“Wow. What are the odds of that trap door leadin’ me back here?”

Sora and Kairi smiled victoriously at the scene.

“Well, here goes,” Kuzco said solemnly.

He picked up the final vial from Pacha’s hands and poured the purplish liquid into his mouth. A glow emanated from him, his animal form disappearing as his body morphed. Arms and human hands appeared, the legs extended as Kuzco returned to an upright stance, and finally, his human face became visible.

[Sanctuary]
[Sanctuary]
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