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Chapter LIX: Into the Crevices

The sun has long set since the turmoil ended in Thebes. Before long, though, the Celsius landed back at the entrance to the Coliseum. The gates were locked, but just a little further off in the distance, a reddish glow clearly emanated. It pulsated unnaturally, the aura of evil unmistakably spewing out of the Underworld’s entrance.

The group thought no further and sprinted past the gates and into the Underworld. It felt just like before for Sora, as the eerie fog that was there the last time he entered remained the same. It felt clammy around exposed skin, yet the body felt an unusual force of heat within. It was unlike the feeling of leaving a wintry atmosphere and entering a furnace, it felt as if the body was enveloped with ice and being stewed in a pot of boiling water from within at the same time. It was a peculiar feeling, and it was surely very uncomfortable.

As the group descended deeper into the Underworld, various sounds could be heard. There were supernatural howls from lost souls and the spirits of those passed away long ago. From time to time, the thick fog from before would wisp by with a short hissing noise. Although this feeling was not entirely new to Sora, no living being could ever get used to the air of the dead. From just whiffing the air, Sora felt his lungs squeeze out like a dry sponge.

Further off, a hideous roar could be heard. Sora figured it was the Underworld’s three-headed guard dog, Cerberus. He had fought the demonic beast before, and it was no mere dual. Sora knew Cerberus was a great force to be reckoned with, especially for anyone fighting alone.

Just as Sora and the group moved deeper into the caverns of the Underworld, one of the nearby iron gates blasted open, revealing the three heads of the demonic Cerberus. Reacting within a split second, Sora, Kairi, and Mickey grasped their Keyblades and faced the giant creature. Donald and Goofy also stepped up with their weapons, carefully observing the beast. With a terrifying bellow, Cerberus squeezed through the gates, only to collapse onto the cold soil as soon as it revealed its whole being.

“What the,” Sora quietly mumbled as he hesitantly walked forward in curiosity.

As soon as Sora got too close, Cerberus’ three heads responded by viciously snarling at Sora, each one reaching forward to try to take a bite out of the Keyblade master.

“Easy!” a voice called from above. At the same time, the heroic Hercules popped up from Cerberus’ back and released a crushing blow upon the beast’s neck, knocking the whole creature down to the ground with a powerful rumble. “That oughta teach ya.”

“Hercules!” the group called out in unison.

“What are you guys doing here?” Hercules asked as he dusted off his hands. “Not here to pull me back are you? ‘Cause you know my mind’s made up.”

“No one’s gonna stop you, Hercules,” Sora answered. “But we’re all here to help in case you need it.”

Kairi and everyone else all nodded.

“We’ll get Meg back!” she exclaimed.

“Thanks everyone,” Hercules said with a smile. “If you don’t mind then… I think I have some business to attend to.”

Hercules yanked on the ears of Cerberus’ center head, causing the great beast to yelp in almost a comical way. The demon dog wobbled back onto its feet again, with Hercules in command, sitting atop the middle head. One of the side heads glanced up and snarled at the hero, but Hercules clobbered it down, silencing it. Once Cerberus realized that it was no longer in control, it let out a dismal grunt and ceased its struggling.

“Okay,” Hercules finally said. He pulled on the middle head’s ears to get its attention. “Now I want you to take me to Hades, got it?”

Seeing that it has no choice in the matter, the once powerful Cerberus turned down one of the Underworld’s deep corridors without a sound. Sora was amazed. He could vividly recall how much effort it took for him to take down the Underworld’s guard dog. Now he stood there, watching Hercules take command of Cerberus, doing nothing more than releasing a few simple punches here and there. He looked around him, especially at Donald and Goofy, who both know especially well how much of a foe Cerberus was for them. And as he suspected, the expressions on Donald and Goofy’s faces matched his.

As Cerberus stomped off with Hercules in the captain’s seat, the rest of Sora’s group followed closely behind, weapons tightly grasped in case something goes wrong. Hades must know he has visitors. He wouldn’t be much of a god, Sora thought to himself. Thus, the group was well prepared for some welcoming party, aside from Cerberus.

“Keep an eye out, everybody,” Mickey alerted everyone. “This place has the smell of trouble from floor to ceiling.”

“Good choice of words, Your Majesty…” Sora groaned as he noticed the shine his Keyblade was giving off parallel to Shadow Heartless squirming out of the floor and oozing down from the ceiling. Immediately, Sora and Kairi stood with their backs against each other, their respective Keyblades in hand. Mickey, Donald, and Goofy stood their ground, their own weapons gripped firmly in their hands.

“Get goin’!” Mickey called to Hercules. “We can handle this.”

Hercules nodded. With a swift tug to Cerberus’ ears, he resumed his trek down deeper into the Underworld.

“Oh, these things give me the creeps,” a voice sounded from a nearby corridor.

“Shut it!” another voice hissed. “We got this. Hades will feed us to the river of souls if we mess this up!”

“…Before or after he burns us?” the first voice griped.

“Who’s there?” Donald quacked angrily as he shot a bolt of ice to demolish a small cluster of Shadow Heartless.

Following those words, two heads peeked out from a neighboring corridor no more than three yards away from Sora and Kairi.

“Who, us?” they both responded in unison.

“Ugh, they’re gross,” Kairi mumbled.

Out came Pain and Panic, the two impish demons of somewhat miniscule sizes. Panic, the green, skinny, and rather spastic half of the duo, feverishly chewed on his sharp nails in anxiety. Pain, the reddish, overweight, and rather hot-tempered member, nervously glared and scanned the surroundings.

“Who are you two?” asked Sora, as he pointed the Oblivion towards the two demons. “Did Hades send you?”

“Yes, he did!” Pain said with a snicker. “We’re actually here to escort you all out of here?”

“…Are you asking us?” Sora asked confusedly.

“Yes,” Pain grumbled. “N-no! I mean, we’re gonna get rid of you all!”

“Psst,” Panic interrupted his comrade. “Hercules ain’t here?”

“Eh?” Pain grumbled again as he quickly searched around the small groups of Shadow Heartless and Sora’s party. “You’re kidding? Hades said he’d be here!”

“If you’re trying to get rid of us,” Sora taunted as he sliced through another Shadow. “You’re gonna have to do better than this.”

“What’ll we do? What’ll we do?” Panic babbled with near incoherence. “If we don’t find Hercules, and if we don’t get rid of these kids… we’re doomed!”

“Then,” Pain said as he rubbed his chin in thought. “We’ll just do what we’re good at.”

“Failing…?” Panic wondered out loud.

“No!” Pain shouted out in exasperation. He leapt out into the open amongst the remaining Shadow Heartless that stood in front of Sora’s group. Momentarily, the imp began to grow larger and larger, though his maximum size was no taller than Sora himself. With a sudden flash of light, the blubbery Pain transformed into a giant Neoshadow Heartless.

“Oh! Shapeshifting!” said Panic. “I gotcha!”

Without wasting a second, the skinny Panic followed through with Pain’s act and also transformed himself into a oversized Neoshadow Heartless.

“They’re Heartless?” Kairi marveled with some apprehension in her voice.

“You kiddin’?” one of the giant Neoshadow Heartless spoke with Pain’s voice. “I guess you’ve never met shapeshifters before!”

Shapeshifters? Sora repeated in his mind. He ducked as the other giant Neoshadow, claws extended, flew right over him.

“Sheesh, this kid’s fast,” Panic said in awe.

“Can we beat these two?” Kairi whispered to Sora.

“Definitely,” answered Sora.

“They’re fast though.”

“We’re faster.”

“Hurry up and get them, you two!” Donald protested impatiently. “We’ll get all these other Heartless! C’mon, Goofy!”

“Hyuck, okay,” Goofy chuckled amusedly.

The imp duo and the Shadow Heartless were the least of Mickey’s worries. He wondered where the world’s keyhole was. Even though the Shadow Heartless were very easy to defeat, the numbers will never fall unless they seal the keyhole. It would have to wait though. In the meantime, all he had to do was to ensure the safety of the others around him.

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Riku found himself at the entrance to what appeared to be vast ruins after traveling across a sea, south of Balamb, and further past fields and plains. It was a peculiar sight. Riku figured he would have had a much more fulfilling journey across this world if he knew some history about it. Nonetheless, it was too late for him to go all the way back to Balamb Garden to ask Leon.

Riku stood around in front of the ruins, mostly absentmindedly, as he looked up at the sky, beyond the clouds in the horizon where the sun seemed to be breaking upon the hours of dawn.

Scurrying noises.

In alarm, Riku pivoted to see what was approaching him from behind. It was just a few moments too late, as a small green creature, no more than three feet tall stood right in front of him. Riku, who was about twice as tall, nearly missed the creature. It wore a beige-colored cloak and carried a strange lantern in one hand, which really intrigued Riku. It resembled a lizard, and appeared harmless, so Riku decided to ignore the critter.

As Riku turned around to face the ruins, however, the green creature released a black wave of energy, blasting Riku high into the sky and far into the surrounding plains. With a painful crash onto the dusty ground, Riku groaned as he tried to struggle to his feet.

“What… the… heck…?” Riku grunted in anguish. He was far more confused and surprised than enraged.

Look back on the lizard-like creature, Riku’s first impression on it completely changed. Though it still had the same idle, emotionless, and almost peaceful look to it, the sudden appearance of a butcher’s knife in its free hand made it seem much more dangerous, as well as oddly disturbing.

The creature slowly waved its butcher’s knife, as if threatening Riku. In turn, Riku checked his battered body for any stab wounds. The Keyblade-wielder breathed a sigh of relief to find no serious injuries. But, while he patted down his body, Riku realized he lost the Griever keychain Leon gave him as a gift. He cursed himself for taking it off his Keyblade in the first place. Riku diverted his attention back to the green fiend that nearly stabbed him. To his dismay, Riku found the creature bending over and picking up the keychain, which was left behind when he was blasted into the air.

“Argh, give that back!” Riku roared.

In alarm, the critter pocketed the Griever keychain and slowly waddled into the ruins. Riku staggered to his feet, spat on the ground in annoyance, and began his slow trudge to recover his stolen keychain.

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Maybe Final Fantasy fans knows of this green creature...?

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