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Chapter LXV: Welcome to Agrabah

It has come to my attention that since there was a period of time that I haven't updated as often, many readers have forgotten what had happened so far in the story. Well, of course that's mostly my fault for not consistently updating (but hey, at least I'm keeping the story alive). So, there are two ways to solve this issue:

1. As readers, if you want to obviously, you can - and I recommend this - reread or skim the chapters preceding this one. I mean, even I do this. It's a whopping 65 chapters right now, with almost 300 pages on Microsoft Word!

2. As a writer who wants readers to stay with me, I can devote one chapter to go over pretty much all the major events that happened so far in the story (in Sora and Kairi's point of view), just for the sake of readers who don't want to go back and review the previous parts of the story.

It's up to the readers. If some of you want me to write a fill-in chapter to refresh your memories, I'll gladly do it. If not, well, no harm, no foul. I still suggest skimming the previous chapters, though.

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Sora and Kairi were dropped off on the outskirts of Agrabah, in the arid desert dunes. The old city could be seen in the distance, past the hazy air generated by the relentless heat. Both Sora and Kairi agreed that being dropped off in the desert could give them the chance to explore. Although Sora was somewhat ready for the desert heat, feeling prepared and actually being in the situation were two entirely different scenarios. As for Kairi, whose only experience of heat came from balmy summer days on the sands of Destiny Islands, the unforgiving rays from the scorching sun did her no good at all.

“Sora, we’re going to die out here,” Kairi yelled out in complaint. “To think that being trapped in a desert with you would be fun…”

Sora, who was walking considerably farther ahead of Kairi, spun around and raised an eyebrow in question.

“What!” he exclaimed. “Is that the only reason why you agreed to being dropped off in the desert in the first place?”

“…Ye—” Kairi started to answer, a slight blush appearing on her cheeks. “I, um… nope.”

Sora sighed, not knowing how to respond. It was about time that he realized that this was not the same Kairi that patiently waited for his and Riku’s return nearly two years ago. Here she was, by his side, for once the two not separate from one another.

But Sora did not know exactly what Kairi’s opinions or feelings were of him. In addition, Sora did not want to even consider asking, not knowing how he would respond to the unknown answers. What did he think? Of course he thought about how the two of them got along with each other over the years. And of course the relationship was nothing like the bond between Riku and him, with other guys his age around Destiny Islands.

Excuse me, Sora thought to himself. Kairi’s a girl.

So he stopped in his tracks and scratched his head in wonder. Sora considered Kairi his closest friend. A little too close? Not as close as could be? Or could be closer? Ought to be? This was probably the first time he had ever conjured up the questions. He did truthfully and sincerely want to share a legendary Paopu fruit with Kairi. Did Kairi want to? Would she want to? Again, Sora never really thought about it, but neither did he want to find out at the moment.

Their journey so far had brought them closer. That, Sora knew was true. If the two of them were to be separated in the present moment, Sora felt that he would break. Would he have in the past? Perhaps, but Sora knew not in the same way. What was this feeling?

“Why’d you stop, Sora?” Kairi asked from behind his back.

“I-I, uh—” Sora sputtered, caught by surprise in his mind-boggling thoughts. “Nothin’. Just thinking about some… some stuff.”

“Oh?” Kairi asked humorously as she nudged Sora forward. “Keep walking, and you can tell me about it, okay?”

Sora did start walking again, but he had no intention on telling Kairi anything. Not yet.

“Um, it’s a guy thing,” Sora replied, improvising. “Yeah, you won’t get it.”

“That’s a dumb excuse,” Kairi said with a frown.

“Maybe some other time?” said Sora, smiling as wide as possible to better the situation.

Kairi returned Sora’s smile playfully. Knowing what was on Sora’s mind was not so important to Kairi that she had to have it. It did not matter to her if Sora chose not to say something, since she knew that he never meant her any harm. It simply became mutual over the years, as the two of them gained unique respect for each other.

Maybe,” Sora teased, turning around and blocking Kairi’s path.

Suddenly, the earth began to rumble, like a miniature earthquake. Without warning and acting purely on reflex, Sora grabbed Kairi by the arm and pulled her to the side.

“Watch out—!” Sora called out.

Moments before landing on the hot sand, Sora and Kairi looked to their left and caught sight of a group of marauders on horseback charging straight towards Agrabah. It was a frightening sight, as each rider carried lethal swords, scimitars, and daggers. There had to be at least three-dozen, Sora estimated, probably around forty. Meanwhile, Kairi had a mixture of surprise and fear in her facial expression; not exactly sure what she felt more of.

The riders were all wrapped in robes or tunics, most of them had their heads and faces covered, much like bandits. Perhaps these marauders were some variety of criminals, or maybe raiders. However, Sora was not too concerned about that at the moment.

Oddly enough, not a single marauder appeared to notice Sora and Kairi, as they continued their rampage towards Agrabah without pausing at all. The chaos generated great plumes of sand, kicked up by the powerful horses. Unable to stray too far without becoming aggravated by the sand, Sora and Kairi had no choice but to stay where they were until the sand cleared.

“Ugh, Aero!” yelled Sora, as he refused to wait any longer. From the tip of his Keyblade came a pillar of whip-like wind, twisting and turning in a helical fashion as the Aero spelled drilled through and cleared the air from sand.

“Nice,” Kairi complimented. “I kinda wish I can master that one day.”

“I’m sure it’ll take you no time at all,” said Sora, trying to sound as genuine as possible, though he figured Kairi would definitely deny the fact. “I think your magic can pass mine soon enough.”

“Huh!” Kairi said with a small laugh, crossing her arms. “I bet you’d like to see that.”

“I sure do,” said Sora, crossing his arms in return. “Now c’mon, we better get to Agrabah fast and see what’s happening.”

“Don’t you think we should deal with the Heart—” Kairi started to say. “Hmm, actually we haven’t seen any Heartless so far… so maybe.”

“Heartless or no Heartless,” Sora answered, keeping his Keyblade slung over his shoulder. “We’re gonna go check out Agrabah for some answers, so might as well see if those guys on horses are any problems.”

Kairi nodded. Without wasting another moment dwelling on scattered thoughts, the two of them broke into a run as they made their way towards Agrabah, which seemed to be less than a mile away. The trail of horse tracks could still be seen in the smooth sand dunes of the desert, though occasional gusts of wind made quick work of eliminating the prints. Now positive that the riders were heading into Agrabah, Sora beckoned Kairi to speed up alongside him.

After about ten minutes of steady running, Sora dismally noticed that the riders had already entered the city, as the remaining trail of horse tracks lined directly to the main gates of Agrabah. As for Kairi and him, Agrabah was farther away than they had thought. Sighing in slight annoyance, Sora picked up a little more speed and crossed the dunes along with Kairi. The closer they got, various sounds from the city could be heard.

Battle sounds.

As soon as they reached the colossal entrance to the city, Sora almost felt his jaw drop when he witnessed an alleyway full of broken pottery, shattered vending stands, and scorched rooftops. Quickly making way inside with their Keyblades equipped and held tightly, Sora and Kairi rushed inside and scanned their environment for foes.

They did not have to wait to fight either. As a matter of fact, the two of them did not even need to fight. Soon enough, the raiders that intruded the city fled one by one out from where they came. This time, one of them, a middle-aged, but masked man, gave Sora and Kairi a quick glance before making an exit. It seemed that Agrabah’s guards have done their work and succeeded in driving off the invaders. It was still quite peculiar, as neither Sora nor Kairi knew what the current situation was.

“Augh!” a gruff voice sounded close to where Sora and Kairi were standing. “Not again!”

“Heartless,” Sora muttered as he stamped his foot down into the dusty dirt to maintain his fighting stance.

“There they come,” Kairi whispered.

Some remaining clay pots broke open, as they became Pot Spider Heartless. The corners of darker alleyways began to spew out Bandit and Luna Bandit Heartless. As if their circumstances were not bleak enough, Sora let out a quiet, irritated groan as he caught sight of several Fat Bandit Heartless spawning amidst the panicking city guards.

“Sora…” Kairi gasped, pulling on one of Sora’s sleeves. “What are those things doing…?”

She pointed as a small cluster of Pot Spider Heartless, each following the other, close enough that they seemed to be connected. Sora shot a bolt of lightning at a group of incoming Bandits, easily slaying them before looking over to Kairi. Letting out a somewhat more audible groan of annoyance this time, Sora hurriedly launched an attack against the group of Pot Spiders.

Before the blade of the Oblivion could strike, the chain of Pot Spiders slid away, just a hair out of reach. Kairi let out a quick yelp as the leading clay pot exploded, revealing a typical head of a Heartless. The last pot exploded as well, revealing a set of serrated, horned antennae. There were seven pots connecting between the head and the tail, creating a menacing Pot Centipede Heartless.

“Kairi,” said Sora, now calm and collected. “I’m going to handle this one. Can you take care of the other ones?”

Shaking off the baffled feeling she was locked with, Kairi nodded and took on the task without wasting time.

“Oh yeah,” Sora added, dodging a potent electric zap from the Pot Centipede’s tail. “Try not to use anything fire related against those fat ones. Trust me, I think burning them will help them more than you.”

Avoiding a ball of fire shot out from the mouth of a Fat Body Heartless, Kairi gave Sora a smirk as she emulated his actions.

“I see what you mean,” Kairi responded. “Watch this—”

From the tip of Kairi’s Oathkeeper came a clear sphere of water. Kairi shut her eyes, concentrating on the magical essence that she was carefully working with. Before some of the nearby Fat Bodies could get any closer, Kairi unleashed a torrent of water magic, eradicating the Fat Bodies along with smaller Bandits who were caught amidst the assault. It was a completely efficient and flawless attack. Sora could not help but widen his eyes in amazement.

“Wow, Kairi—” said Sora, halting his comment while he evaded a physical slash from the Pot Centipede. “That was… I mean, really, really amazing—”

“Why, thank you Sora,” Kairi answered blissfully, nonchalantly charging up a ball of fire this time. Before long, she launched a wave of fire magic this time at a bunched group of Bandit Heartless, destroying all of them without nary a mess. “It’s not like I just sleep and eat when we’re not doing anything!”

Sora parried another slash from the Pot Centipede before countering with his own chain of hacks and slices. By cleanly cutting off the electrically charged antennae at the Heartless’ rear, Sora easily disabled the Pot Centipede’s ability to use magic-based attacks, along with the Heartless’ ability to sense and judge. It was a lucky break for Sora, as the powerful Heartless would have posed to be a decent problem had the Keyblade master not been able to land a clean attack.

Taking advantage of the dazed and nearly inoperative Pot Centipede, Sora launched another barrage of vertical and horizontal slashes all over the Heartless’ body. The crippled Heartless was now no issue for Sora, as his continued onslaught of attacks easily triumphed over the beast.

“Hah, well,” Sora said to Kairi, as he watched his foe dissipate into the dusty air. “Told ya, you have knack for magic.”

“Psh, this is nothing compared to yours,” Kairi replied with slightly pouted lips. “I have a long way to go.”

Laughing together with a new sense of accomplishment, Sora and Kairi made quick work of the remaining Heartless without breaking too much sweat. But because they know there are Heartless in Agrabah, they know that they have to go through the same keyhole-search routine.

The instant the last Heartless was defeated, dark portals opened without warning all around Sora and Kairi, completely catching the two off guard. Swarms of Heartless poured out, but they were not Heartless that were usually found in Agrabah. The Heartless that appeared were generic Heartless, such as Shadows, along with some specialized ones like Rhapsodies.

Before the Heartless could take advantage of Sora and Kairi’s shocked states, Sora quickly unleashed a Magnet spell, with Kairi immediately following the action with her own. Sora then fired off a wave of lightning towards the tightly clustered Heartless, destroying a respectable total. However, the combination was not nearly enough, as the defeated Heartless were rapidly substituted by more Heartless that spewed from the dark portals. They were actually being overrun, much to Sora’s own surprise.

“Alright, I’m coming guys!” a voice echoed from above.

Sora and Kairi looked over their respective shoulders and into the air, searching for the origin of the voice. It was extremely familiar for Sora, though he could not think clearly at the moment with all the chaos around him.

Sora and Kairi continued to slash away at the Heartless that got too close to them; the two of them continued to hold their ground. When the situation began to appear more and more dire, a timely blast of magic across the group of Heartless surrounding Sora and Kairi fizzled away their foes.

“And some for you, and you, and you, and you, and you,” a different voice called out, with each “and you” matching a blast of radiant, magical energy. It was yet another very familiar voice for Sora.

“Uh,” Sora sputtered.

“Genie, the ones over there, near the bazaar!” a man in a white, royal robe yelled out.

“Sora?” Kairi asked in a confused tone. “Is that guy riding on a carpet?”

“…Y-yeah,” Sora stammered. “That’s, uh, Aladdin, a friend of mine from here.”

What’s with that outfit? Sora wondered.

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