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Chapter LX: Centra Ruins

Stupid… why… so annoying, Riku continuously nagged to himself as he descended into the ruins. Even if it wasted his precious time, Riku knew he had to retrieve the Griever keychain. One reason is because it may be a powerful weapon in his arsenal. Another reason is because it was a gift from Leon, passed down to him. Thus, he must hold onto it. He had to get it back from that green creature.

There were many collections of lore along the walls of the dimly lit ruins. Near the entrance, the narrow passageway, seemingly crushed because of some destructive event in the past, was especially filled with lore. It was in some writing that Riku could not decipher, but they bore resemblance to writings of most well developed, civilized societies. Occasionally, there were some written in very old-fashioned English, perhaps by neighboring establishments at the time period? Regardless, Riku took the effort to make out the writing.

Cease battle against the beings Tonberry, ere wanion the Tonberry King shalt bear upon thee?

“Tonberries,” Riku muttered. What…

Riku concluded that those words seem to have been written by a second party, by someone?or something?who dealt with the Tonberries at some point. He guessed that the Tonberry King must obviously be the leader of the pack. But the lore seem to be ridiculously ancient, how long have the Tonberries been down in the ruins for? Riku pondered. He moved onto another piece, engraved in cracked stone.

Beware our knives of pain!

Well, that one sure seems to stand out, Riku thought in surprise. It was a message engraved on an ancient slab of stone, but it seemed peculiarly out of place with all the other lore. Those few words seemed almost… mocking. Perhaps the ones engraved with the Tonberries’ native language were all as directly worded as the one that Riku just took note of.

That was enough, though. Riku now knew that it was a Tonberry that took off with the Griever keychain. He definitely underestimated the short, little critter. Though he was sure they would pose no serious threat to him if he does not let down his guard, Riku knew that he had to stay alert if he wanted to stay alive in these dark ruins.

Riku dashed deeper into the ruins, to what seemed to be a separate section in the ruins. A stone statue of a gargoyle guarded it, making it impossible for Riku to enter. Nonetheless, the Keyblade-wielder attempted with all his physical might to push the statue away. When the effort proved to be completely futile, Riku tried a combination of magic, light and dark, to move the obstacle. Still, oddly enough, the gargoyle statue did not budge.

Upon a closer look, Riku realized that the statue served more as a door than a mere path blocker. Imprinted across the front of the statue were six slots. It must be a combination lock, Riku presumed. He should deal with the puzzle later, after he gets his keychain back. He doubted that the Tonberries designed the lock. They may be sophisticated enough to build lanterns, carry butcher knives, wear clothing, and create lore, but Riku still doubted that they were cunning enough to design locks.

“I am Odin,” a voice echoed mightily through the ruins just as Riku ventured away from the statue and deeper into the ruins.

“Who’s there?” Riku answered, one hand clasped around the hilt of his Keyblade. He pivoted around and around, glanced above and below him, but noted nothing that stood out as alive. “Odin…?”

“To him who doth vanquish me,” the voice continued with the same powerful demeanor. “I grant my august powers.”

Subsequently after the final word, an uncanny bell-like chime tolled twenty times, which Riku stood by and counted. He stood there for a minute, and in exactly one minute, the chime tolled nineteen times. Without wasting another second, Riku decided that he did not want to remain in the ruins until the chime becomes completely silent. He had a grim feeling that the countdown does not signify salvation of any sort. He had less then nineteen minutes. Riku realized that he must recover the Griever keychain and get out of the ruins before then.

Scurrying noises behind him, just like before.

“You!” Riku shouted as he spun around and faced this newcomer. Just as he thought, he looked straight into the eyes of a Tonberry.

The Tonberry seemed somewhat confused, as it tilted its head to one side in curiosity. In one hand it held the same lantern, and in the other it held a deadly butcher’s knife. However, as if nature beckoned it to, the Tonberry began to slowly inch towards Riku.

“No, you don’t!” Riku yelled out. He charged towards his foe with his Keyblade glowing with dark magic. “Not this time!”

He slashed across horizontally, leapt into the air, came back down to the ground with a vertical strike, and finalized the attack with a moderate explosion of dark magic. Riku flipped back a few feet and held his stance, waiting for the black smoke to clear.

The smoke cleared though, but Riku threw his head back in disgust. The Tonberry still stood its ground, though it stopped creeping towards him. Riku pointed the Way to the Dawn at the Tonberry, warning it to give up on the spot. After a momentary standoff, surprisingly, the Tonberry began to shuffle away in tears. Riku stood aghast, nearly dropping his Keyblade in the process.

“I’m sorry!” it cried out as it scurried back into the darkness.

The bell chimed fifteen times, forcing Riku back into reality.

I wasted too much time, he scolded himself. I have to get the keychain back.

Riku turned to resume his trek through the ruins, only to be distracted once again by the familiar sound of scurrying noises. He halted, speedily scanning his surroundings: front, back, left, right, above, below. Again, Riku threw his head back in disgust as he found himself surrounded by Tonberries. One was trouble enough if he let his guard down, how in the world was he supposed to manage against hundreds? Or thousands? Riku couldn’t tell. For all he knew, there were probably more lurking in the darkness behind all the ones that faced him at the time being.

The bell chimed fourteen times.

I’ll have to cut my way through, Riku finally decided. He charged up his Keyblade with the same dark magic from before.

“Come get me,” Riku muttered to the Tonberries.

As all the Tonberries began to inch towards him, step by step, Riku lunged forwards with his arm fully extended with his Keyblade. He blasted a purplish black sphere of energy through the line of Tonberries that stood directly in front of him, sending them all flying into the depths of the ruins. For those that closed in on him on the sides, Riku sliced horizontally in a windmill fashion, knocking back and knocking out a good portion of the Tonberries that were engulfing him. Some that came to close tried to jab Riku with their knives, though luckily, Riku had a few seconds to sidestep out of the way.

The bell chimed thirteen times.

One, two, ten, twelve, fifteen. Riku kept pushing through, cutting and blasting away at the Tonberries in the way. The defeated Tonberries let out their cries and scampered back into the darkness. The remaining ones continued to close the distance between Riku and them.

The bell chimed twelve times.

Eighteen, nineteen, twenty. Riku sped up the pace and began to leave the remaining Tonberries behind him. He was much too fast, and those that continued to stand in his way were sent flying. Riku slowed down for a moment to check his progress. The Tonberries were far behind him now, much to his liking. He had less than twelve minutes?

More eerie chimes. Eleven minutes.

A wave of energy came from behind Riku, nearly blasting him away. It was a good thing that Riku was still on high alert, and thanks to his absurd reflexes, Riku quickly evaded the attack by leaping high into the air. It was a similar black wave of energy as before, when a Tonberry knocked Riku into the sky outside of the ruins. However, this one was much larger, much faster, covered a much greater area, and obviously much more powerful. Just as Riku figured, the Tonberries were still pursuing him, as slowly as ever.

The bell chimed ten minutes.

As if on cue, all the Tonberries that were tracking Riku fled the scene. All these Tonberries that Riku had already faced, none of them seem to be holding the Griever keychain. Somewhat aggravated, he gathered up a mass of dark energy and fired it off into the many Tonberries that were fleeing.

“Sorry!” they all cried out simultaneously. Riku thought it was almost comical. He decided to head back to where he came from, hoping one of the fleeing Tonberries was the one with the keychain, and hoping the keychain was dropped somewhere. Time was gradually running out, he had better act quickly. But what caused the remaining Tonberries to abruptly flee? Certainly not because of him, since after everything Riku had already demonstrated, none of the remaining Tonberries seemed to have given up on pursuing him.

Suddenly, a loud stomp came from directly behind Riku. Immediately, the warrior spun around and pointed his Keyblade towards the new foe.

“Just another one,” Riku muttered as he faced another Tonberry. “Wait…”

It took Riku a split second to realize that this Tonberry was far larger than the two-footers that he had faced all this time. It was nearly six feet tall, not quite as tall as Riku was, but still much more massive than the rest. It also bore a simple, golden crown on its head and still held a butcher’s knife and a lantern in both its hands, albeit considerably larger ones. Then Riku remembered the lore he had read near the entrance to the ruins.

“Tonberry King,” Riku grumbled to himself. “Right…”

A sudden speed boost from the Tonberry King caught Riku by surprise. He did not expect the Tonberry King to be that fast. Fortunately for Riku, he was able to hold up his Keyblade to block a straightforward lunge by the Tonberry King. The creature was strong, as Riku could feel his knees buckling under the unrelenting force from the Tonberry King.

A subtle shine caught Riku’s attention. He couldn’t help but let out a quick mix of a gasp and a sigh of relief when he noticed the Griever keychain dangling on the stubby hilt of the Tonberry King’s butcher knife. Riku had no time to wonder how the keychain got there in the first place, but at least now he had a reason to defeat this creature. With a surge of adrenaline, Riku found the strength to push the Tonberry King’s knife to one side and launch a counter-attack. But once again, the Tonberry King caught Riku by surprise as it used its porpoisefin-shaped tale to clout Riku to the floor before the counter-attack landed. Responding quickly, Riku rolled out of the way just when the Tonberry King made a powerful stab towards him.

Now’s my chance! Riku thought quickly. The Tonberry King’s thick blade was momentarily stuck in the ground, allowing Riku to quickly dash past and tear off the Griever keychain. The Tonberry King growled, slightly in annoyance. It stomped over to Riku and waved around its lantern, as if asking the Keyblade-wielder to hand back the keychain. Riku gave the creature a smirk and attached the Griever to his Keyblade. Immediately, it transformed into a brand new blade. The hilt was entirely silver, complete with the signature lion engraving, and the blade became black obsidian. Mixed with red decorations, the new blade appeared both angelic and demonic. Compared to the unmodified Way to the Dawn, the Griever custom was much lighter in weight, the blade was much longer, though thinner, and Riku could feel a peculiar energy generating from the vividly ornamented hilt.

Finally, the Tonberry King began to charge at Riku, but this time the Keyblade-wielder was fully prepared. With two strong vertical slashes, Riku released two bolts of black flames, something even he did not recognize. The first bolt of fire struck the Tonberry King directly in the abdomen, stunning it in its onslaught. The second bolt blasted straight into its chest, catapulting the Tonberry King into the air and into the ruins walls. The powerful magic was beyond overpowering for the Tonberry King, as the creature slid to the ground and ceased to move.

Riku slowly approached the fallen king and picked up the dropped butcher’s knife. The blade was a good ten inches long; one good stab at Riku would have ended it all for him. Riku breathed a sigh of relief when he took a good long look at the Tonberry King. When Riku made the decision to start heading out of the ruins, he noticed the Tonberry King’s broken lantern began to fade away. He glanced at the giant butcher’s knife nearby, which was also disappearing. Riku then looked behind him at the defeated Tonberry King. Not surprisingly, it was fading away. Riku stayed there for a moment, watching the creature disappear into nothingness.

He was wrong, though. As soon as the Tonberry King’s body seemed to have fully vanished, Riku noticed a small, rectangular piece of paper in the air, slowly drifting down to the spot where the Tonberry King had fallen. Riku cautiously walked back to the patch of ground, he looked up to the roof of the ruins, almost certain that he saw a ray of light emanating from above. The card on the ground sparkled briefly before it darkened. Progressively, an image of the Tonberry King was carved into the card. When it was completed, Riku bent over and picked it up. It was simple: just a small, though fairly thick, piece of paper with an image of the Tonberry King engraved on it. He decided to examine the card later and pocketed it.

The bell chimed two minutes.

Riku nearly forgot about the time. He tried to tear open a portal to escape the ruins, but for some unusual reason, he was unable to. In any attempt, the portal magic fizzled in the air. Instead of wasting time, Riku immediately made a run back for the exit. Hopefully two minutes would be enough for him to get out of this place. As he sprinted through the messy passageways, he noticed the glowing yellow eyes of Tonberries around him. Attempting to ignore all of them, Riku tried to speed up and avoid any more conflicts or distractions. However, it was a miserable attempt as he found himself blocked by Tonberries.

He cursed. Now what? he asked himself.

One of the Tonberries pointed to his pocket, where the Tonberry King’s card resided. Riku confusedly reached in for it and took it out to show the crowd of Tonberries. The bell chimed only one time. Riku felt a bead of sweat slide down one side of his face.

“The King,” some of the Tonberries said.

“I’m sorry,” said Riku in a hasty tone of voice. “I had no choice.”

None of the Tonberries seem to have any responses.

“Maybe,” Riku continued. “You would like to keep this card…”

Riku bent over and handed one of the Tonberries the Tonberry King’s card. When it took hold of it, nearby Tonberries inched over to take a closer look. Then the Tonberry handed the card back to Riku.

“You are,” it started to say. “A strong warrior.”

Riku took back the card and eyed the Tonberries curiously as the crowd began to separate, creating a path for Riku to walk through.

“What about your leader?” Riku asked.

“We will make a new one,” some random Tonberry answered from the crowd.

The rest of the Tonberries waved their lanterns and piped in agreement. Riku smiled for a moment and nodded to the Tonberries. He was glad this whole escapade could perhaps end on a good note. Quickly, he resumed his escape from the ruins. The clock was still ticking. There was less than a minute remaining.

There was the exit, and Riku sped up in anxiety. Just a few more yards…

“The weak shall perish,” the divine voice from before echoed. “The strong shall triumph.”

The entrance vanished just before Riku could reach it and the ruins became pitch black.

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