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Chapter LVII: Endless Questions

“I’ll watch over her, kid,” Phil said solemnly to Hercules.

For Hercules, everything around him seemed still, everything was quiet, and he felt as if the world stopped spinning. He recovered his divine strength, but for some reason, all the strength he has seemed powerless to handle the situation he was stuck in.

“You have to go,” Phil whispered again, while trying to support Meg’s limp head.

“You’re gonna be alright,” Hercules said quietly to Meg. “I promise.”

He whistled to Pegasus and hopped onto the magnificent horse’s back. Sora and Kairi could only shift their eyes uneasily from Hercules to Meg and then to each other. Sora tried to use his Cure spell to aid Meg, but he could only go as far as easing the pain. Meg suffered too much damage from being half-crushed by the giant stone pillar.

“Let’s go, Pegasus!” Hercules roared powerfully.

“Hercules, watch it!” Sora yelled out suddenly. He whipped out his Keyblade and fired a streak of lightning at a black object that appeared from thin air. It instantly dissipated, but Sora knew there were more. There were Heartless here… aerial ones. Kairi also called out her Keyblade and stood firmly next to Sora, both of them eyeing the sky above them.

“Go,” Sora added to Hercules. “Go and get Hades, Hercules. We’ll cover you.”

Hercules nodded and patted Pegasus’ strong neck before taking off and soaring into the twilight sky. As soon as Hercules and Pegasus took to the sky, the Heartless began appearing all over the remains of the city, all over the ground and all over the sky. Pegasus neighed in surprise before accelerating far into the horizon. Sora and Kairi drew the Heartless’ attention away from the departing hero by fire barrages of fire, lightning, and water, knocking out many of the Heartless on the ground and sky. Before long, Sora and Kairi found themselves staring at the beady, glowing yellow eyes of Heartless of all sizes.

Kairi gently touched Sora’s arm with her free hand. He nodded subtly to her. In unison, they charged forward, Sora towards his left, and Kairi towards her right. Simultaneously, they hacked away at the Heartless on the ground, elegantly parrying the attacks of the feeble Heartless while evading the attacks of the more brutal ones. One after another, the Heartless dissipated into the air from the Keyblade slashes. Still, even though he did not break a bead of sweat, Sora realized that there were probably way too many Heartless for Kairi and he to handle alone.

At the moment the two young Keyblade-wielders thought that they were fighting a gradually losing battle, a black lance blew right past Sora and into the crowd of Heartless that stood before him. And with one pull back from the lance, at least a dozen Heartless were torn apart and evaporated into a cloud of thin black smoke. Sora glanced behind him and saw the mysterious Kain twirling his long lance. The armored warrior’s eyes continued to display its powerful burn. The more Sora gazed at Kain, the more dragon-like Kain appeared. His bluish-black armor was already in the shape of a dragon?his burning eyes only added to the effect.

Kain casually looked towards Sora before rotating the hilt of his lance and then lunging forward a ridiculous length to skewer another dozen Heartless. He recovered back and backtracked a few feet next to Sora. He was at least two heads taller than Sora; his lance by itself was about Sora’s height.

“You’re very skilled,” Kain said in a somewhat monotone voice. He added a smirk. “You remind me of an old friend of mine…”

Before Sora could open his mouth to say anything, Kain leapt high into the air, higher than Sora could imagine anyone can normally go, and slammed straight into another crowd of Heartless. While airborne, Kain almost magically dodged all the attacks from the aerial Heartless. When Kain plunged back down, he annihilated all the flying Heartless that were in his path and caused a great force wave on the ground that eliminated all the standing Heartless within a huge area. Sora was astounded by this power. He could perform a similar attack by leaping into the air and blasting the ground with his Keyblade, but his ability could only knock out at most five or so weaker Heartless.

When Kain landed back on the ground and the dust and smoke cleared, Sora could still see many Heartless remaining, but in between the swarm of Heartless was a giant crater that had the black dusty smoke of what remained of the Heartless Kain destroyed. It was the result of the tremendous power that was displayed before Sora, leaving the young warrior awed.

Kairi managed to hold out on her own and quickly joined up with Sora when she had the chance. Kain had already moved on to combat the remaining Heartless swarms, while Sora and Kairi both took a moment to idly watch the warrior cleave his way through the battlefield.

“Whoa,” Sora whispered with one eyebrow raised in wonder. “Where did Phil dig this guy up?”

“Who knows; there are so many worlds out there,” Kairi whispered back. “He could be from anywhere.”

Sora easily beat down two Heartless that snuck up behind Kairi and him. While Kain remained occupied with the swarm on one side of the decimated city, Sora nearly forgot that there were more on the opposite side, along with more in the sky. Kairi spent most of her time acting as a sharpshooter, gunning down the airborne Heartless one by one with her spells. Time-consuming, yet painstakingly efficient, the three warriors progressed bit by bit. It wasn’t as if Sora never faced such a challenge before. In his past couple of years fighting alongside Donald and Goofy, there were Heartless swarms just like the ones he had to deal with at the time being. As soon as some of the Soldier Heartless were vanquished, Large Bodies popped out of thin air and buckets of Shadow Heartless poured out of the walls of crumbling buildings.

Unfortunately, the scene did not rattle Sora until he spotted the emergence of Nobodies. At first, only Dusks and Assassins came into view, but before Sora could even survey the rest of the battlefield, Berserkers and Dragoons fell from the sky and rumbled the earth around him. Shaking his head in dismay, Sora stood his ground with the Oblivion tightly gripped in both his hands. Meanwhile, Kairi began to back off as her attention switched from the aerial Heartless to the exponentially growing number of Nobodies on the battlefield. Even Kain, who was working with ease, soon slowed his slashes down as he took note of the grave changes in the arena.

“Looks bad,” Kairi murmured glumly to Sora.

“Could be worse?” Sora tried to joke.

Portals opened up a few yards ahead of the two Keyblade-wielders and out dropped two more Nobodies.

“Like that,” Kairi sighed. “It’s Sarlix and that other?”

“Sarlix and Xymgrel,” Sora groaned. “Wait?”

The two Nobody commanders appeared wounded, as they did not stand up right away when they landed on the ground. Sarlix remained knelt down while Xymgrel staggered with one hand clutching his ribcage. As they struggled miserably to stand and walk, the Nobodies that convened around the city turned and launched themselves upon the Heartless swarms. Much to Sora, Kairi, and Kain’s surprise, what seemed like a lost cause suddenly became the light.

“What…” Kain started to say as he eased from his battle stance.

“I don’t really understand, either,” Sora admitted. The battle began to grow more similar to the previous battle at the Radiant Garden when the Nobodies pivoted alliances and attacked the Heartless. Sora still gripped his Keyblade firmly as he awaited the approach of Sarlix and Xymgrel.

As the Nobody commanders drew closer, Sora noted that Sarlix’s right arm dangled limply, as if it was broken. Xymgrel’s black cloak was torn at numerous locations and angles; his partially revealed arm was bruised and cut. What could have possibly happened to them? Sora wondered alarmingly. A brief feeling of sympathy welled within Sora, but he quickly brushed it off.

“What happened to you two?” Sora asked coolly, showing relatively no particular interest. “Get into a little accident on your way here?”

“What do you want?” Kairi inquired without hesitation.

Sarlix found the energy to let out a choked-up chuckle, but she ended up gasping and staggering afterwards, which slightly threw off Sora’s little act. The female Nobody grinned a defiant grin after regaining her posture. She was caked in blood, sweat, dirt, and other debris, a walking mess. The more Sora analyzed her, the more sympathetic he felt for the Nobody. Still, he mentally slapped himself out of his questionable attitude. He averted his eyes from Sarlix and took a moment to examine Xymgrel’s condition. The male Nobody did not seem to have fared any better than his female companion.

“…We’re still looking around for stuff,” Sarlix replied to Kairi’s question. “Same as before…”

“What kind of crazy research do you two go through that’ll make you end up like this?” Sora sputtered. He had a hard time imagining what the answer to that question would be.

“Following Ansem’s steps,” Sarlix continued ever so feebly. “You know the deal… trying to find the places he visited, trying to figure out this darkness and light and heart junk?”

“If you really wanna know,” Xymgrel cut in, though his tone did not sound too energetic. “It doesn’t seem like our Heartless counterparts like us too much?”

“Not that they did to begin with… or rather ‘liked’ anything?” Sarlix mumbled meaninglessly.

“They attacked you?” Sora asked.

The two Nobody commanders nodded gravely.

“We held them off, alright,” Sarlix tried to brag. “They warped away after a bit…”

“Yeah, that’s because we got away first…” Xymgrel grunted.

“…Shut up,” Sarlix spat.

Sora did not know how to respond. He still hated the Nobodies, especially those that reminded him of Organization XIII. He did not want to be involved with Nobodies in any way, nor did he want to be anywhere near Nobodies. Still, he found himself just staring at the two Nobodies in front of him while the battle around him continued unceasingly.

“What will you do now?” Kairi asked innocently. She was never skeptical of the two Nobodies. In comparison to Sora, Kairi pictured Sarlix and Xymgrel as more human than emotionless entities. Sora considered them purely as beings with no hearts, just like the Heartless.

Xymgrel briefly glanced at Sarlix, as if asking her if he should respond. He flicked off the dried blood near his eye without wincing.

“We read all of Ansem’s Reports. All of them, multiple times, word for word,” Xymgrel started. “We only came here because we knew you were here?”

“How?” Sora interrupted. That latter information troubled him. He felt himself lose his balance all of a sudden as he felt an abnormal ache in his head.

“If you’re close by, I’ll know it,” Sarlix hummed. She opened her eyes and released her hold on Sora. Kairi quickly grasped onto Sora’s arm to keep him from toppling over. At the same time, she shot Sarlix a spiteful look. The female Nobody shrugged. “He wanted to know,” she added flatly.

Sarlix waved one hand through the air for a few seconds, just as the last remaining Heartless were gone. That ordered the Nobodies summoned earlier to retreat back into darkness. Xymgrel rolled his eyes and continued.

“We knew you were here… so we decided to come and ask you some questions to clarify what were written in the papers. Heh, and it just so happens that our aid came in handy.”

“Get to it then,” Sora said impatiently while massaging his head. “We’re actually here to do something?”
“Seal the keyholes, lock the world away from darkness, save it from the Heartless, all that jazz,” Sarlix broke in. “We know.”

“Roxas and Naminé,” Xymgrel said slowly and articulately.

Sora and Kairi looked at one another.

“What of them?” Sora asked.

“Whatever happened to them?” inquired Xymgrel.

Sora and Kairi looked at one another again.

“Roxas and I were reunited at some point,” Sora answered. “He’s in me.”

“And Naminé rests within me,” Kairi added.

This time Sarlix and Xymgrel looked at one another, more so in confusion.

“Really,” Sarlix said. “That’s something.”

Sora and Kairi shrugged. What else can they say? How else can they explain it? The fact that Roxas never explained much to Sora and Naminé never clarified anything for Kairi left both Keyblade-wielders wondering for themselves. Even though Sora was certain that he could occasionally hear Roxas’ voice somewhere within him, he did not know how to communicate directly with Roxas. At the same time, Kairi never had the experience. Ever since Naminé fused back with her, she heard nothing and felt nothing. There was no separate voice within her; none that she had noticed anyway.

“That’s all you know? You’ve never spoken with your Nobody halves?” Xymgrel continued to ask.

“Pretty much,” said Sora. “I mean, I fought Roxas once in another realm, but that’s it. That was pretty much the only other time I met him.”

“I saw Naminé when I was locked away by the Organization… other than that I don’t really remember much,” Kairi tried to recall.

Sarlix and Xymgrel looked at one another for any other explanations.

“Then… what happened to Kingdom Hearts?” Xymgrel asked.

Sora shook his head. “No idea. I can’t explain it. The only ones that probably know the true Kingdom Hearts are probably King Mickey and,” Sora scratched his head. “Ansem… who’s not around anymore…”

“Why does Maleficent want to seize this Kingdom Hearts so badly?” Sarlix asked.

Sora shook his head again. In response, the two Nobody commanders simply nodded, though glumly, but with calm expressions on their faces, as if actually understanding their situations somewhat more. They channeled a dark portal and began stepping into it.

“And you two,” Sarlix said before departing. Sora and Kairi looked up curiously at a smirking Sarlix. “Maleficent’s got her Heartless hounds on us day and night. If you never see us again… well, good luck facing off with her.”

The portal closed off, erasing all signs of the two Nobody commanders ever setting foot on Theban grounds. There were no signs of any Heartless or Nobody that were in combat just minutes ago. The entire city was quiet. The only signs of life at the moment seemed to only be Sora, Kairi, and the warrior Kain. In a moment, Kain pulled back his lance, slung it over his back, and turned to leave.

“Wait,” Sora called to the warrior. “Kain. Where are you heading to now?”

“Away,” Kain answered plainly. “I don’t understand the story regarding darkness and light. But I do understand that you two have duties to fulfill; duties that are not for me to intrude upon. They are reserved for you two only, it seems. You best be off.”

Without another word, Kain took a running start before leaping far into the sky, bound for who knows where. Sora and Kairi stood in the same position for quite some time already, not knowing what to think, what to say, or exactly what to do next. Their meeting with the two Nobody commanders left them wondering who is fighting who. Light against darkness, the Keyblade against the Heartless. What becomes of the Nobodies?

Sora shifted his feet around and faced the sea. Kairi stood by him, unusually quiet. Day after day, her recent travels with Sora informed her more as to what has happened in the past years that Sora had been through that she had never fully understood. As for Sora, he only thought that he knew everything that has happened regarding Kingdom Hearts.

“So,” Kairi finally said to break the silence. “Should we go find the others? Or do you want to figure out where Hercules went?”

“Hmm, let’s see,” Sora wondered out loud while gazing into the hazy skies above the sea. “I have a good hunch as to where Hercules went… and I have absolutely no idea where King Mickey and the others are.”

“We should go back and check out Meg and Phil first,” Kairi whispered. She tried smiling. “And then maybe we'll go find Hercules since that's seems like the smarter choice...”

Sora nodded. He hoped for the best. He could not picture how Hercules would react to any news about Meg that was other than positive.

“Let’s go,” Sora finally said.

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