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Chapter LXVII: Welcome to the Forty Thieves

“What were they after? The gifts?”

Not all the gifts,” Aladdin said to Jasmine. He held up a staff with a large, emerald jewel lodged in the center. “This is what the King of Thieves wanted.”

With all the other great stuff, why go for this thing?” the parrot, Iago, asked loudly.

Your question is mine to answer!” a divine voice echoed from within the staff.

The jewel from staff began to shine with incomparable brightness, forcing everyone from the room to look away. Aladdin released the staff in the process, but the staff merely levitated towards the center of the room, held its place vertically, and projected an image of a glowing, yet transparent celestial woman.

The King of Thieves sought my sight to find the ultimate treasure,” this mystic being responded.

Did someone say treasure?” Iago eagerly asked, intrigued yet again.

Genie?” Aladdin whispered, searching for an explanation.

Oh, looks like an oracle.”

I see all that has been,” said the Oracle. “And all that will be.”

Uh oh, uh oh, definitely an oracle, tells the future, uh oh.” Genie started to stammer in a funky accent. “Girlfriend, where were you registered?”

Okay, you know all, so tell all,” said Iago. “ Where is the treasure? You know… the ultimate one?”

I am bound by the rule of one,” answered the Oracle, holding up her index finger in display. “One question, one answer.”

I only want one answer!” Iago exclaimed. “ Where is… the ultimate… treasure?”

You have already asked your one question,” the Oracle countered, raising her tone of voice.

You mean before?” Iago asked, flying up to the face of the Oracle. “Oh, that wasn’t a question! That was… uh, thinking out loud!”

Genie stretched up towards the obnoxious parrot and yanked him back.

Very loud,” said Genie, before letting Iago go again.

Aladdin, we could learn anything,” Jasmine started. “ About our lives, our future!”

You have but to ask,” said the Oracle.

I know what my future is. My future is you. But my past—it’s a blank,” Aladdin replied, holding Jasmine’s hands while he explained. “My mother died when I was just a kid. And I never even knew my father. I had no idea where I’ve come from.”

Your question is your choice,” the Oracle added. “But, remember the rule of one. Choose carefully.”

Oh, sure, she warns him about the one question thing.” Iago muttered quietly on the side. In response, the magic carpet sends him flying with a swift kick in the rear.

I don’t think you can help me,” Aladdin quickly decided. “ My past isn’t just one question, it’s a million questions.”

Ah, but mere questions about your past can be answered by your father…”

My father?” Aladdin gasped when he heard those words from the Oracle.

Knowing what Aladdin was thinking of, the Oracle opened up a dimensional rift, showing the image of Aladdin’s father as he was in the present time. Aladdin gazed on, utterly amazed, as did the rest of the people in the room.

My father is alive…?”

Later on, after quite a bit of soul searching and with the support from Jasmine, Aladdin finally decided to proceed with asking the Oracle about his father. Originally, he refused to go through with the idea, believing that his father was not worth searching for.

Have you chosen your question?” the Oracle inquired upon its summon.

I have,” Aladdin answered.

Then ask.”

Aladdin paused for a moment, almost forgetting how to ask such a simple question. “Where is my father?”

Follow the trail of the Forty Thieves,” the Oracle answered, pointing down the horizon. “Your father is trapped within their world.”

The Forty Thieves? Is he hurt?” Aladdin suddenly released a barrage of questions. “How long has he been there?”

I am sorry,” the Oracle answered, fading away from sight. “But I can only answer… one question.”

Aladdin looked to the point where the Oracle pointed, wondering how he should embrace his quest.

“So that’s about it,” said Aladdin. “A pretty wild morning and afternoon if you ask me.”

“Yeah,” said Sora, hanging onto the magic carpet as Aladdin, Abu, Iago, Kairi, and he zipped along the side of a mountain.

“Wait!” Aladdin whispered with urgency, stopping the magic carpet in its tracks. Slowly and quietly, the group landed and made their way behind some rocks. Just a few years away stood the same marauders that Sora and Kairi saw just a few hours ago: the Forty Thieves.

The thieves were lined up along the shores of the sea. They simply stood there, as if looking towards the horizon at the low moon. At least, that was what Sora and the party believed, until one of the thieves, the only masked one that Sora and Kairi made eye-contact before, raised one hand in some sign of authority.

“Well, they got nowhere to go,” said Aladdin. “We got them trapped.”

“We? They are forty thieves!” Iago exclaimed. “We are: you, a rug, a monkey, a spunky boy, a scrawny girl, and me. Wait, don’t count me.”

“Hey!” Sora and Kairi protested.

“Shh, they’re just… standing there,” Aladdin noted.

Before long, the apparent leader of the thieves stretched his hand forward towards a side of a far-off cliff in the middle of the sea.

“Open Sesame!” he called out with power and conviction.

Instantly, the waves of the sea intensified and, as if some otherworldly force has displayed its might, caused the waves to blast each other apart. The result was a path across the sea floor leadings towards the cliff in the horizon. Sora and the rest of the group looked onward without any sense of believing what they had just saw. The Forty Thieves rode on, though, as their horses galloped through the sea as if it were a daily routine for them.

“Let’s move!” Aladdin called out, realizing that in order to succeed in this pursuit, they had to follow the thieves wherever they may ride. He called everyone back on top of the magic carpet. “Hang on!”

Maintaining a good distance behind the thieves, just so they could sneak into wherever the thieves were heading undetected, the group successfully navigated through the waves that began crashing down after a short period of time. Nearly getting smothered by the dangerous waters, the group barely made it in through the stone gates of the cliff. Everything seemed to be timed to an exact second; the group entered a split second before all the rocks sealed the entrance, just a moment before the sea closed up again, and everything returned to normal.

Sora and Kairi were the first to step off the magic carpet and get a decent look around their immediate vicinity. This may be the hideout of the Forty Thieves. Sora decided that it had to be just from noting the random jewelry and ornamented goods that occasionally decorated the barren, rocky walls.

“This must be where the thieves go when they’re not stealing from people,” Sora whispered to Kairi. “Just look at all this stuff.”

“Yeah, but I wonder if they got anything from Agrabah?” Kairi wondered.

“Look over here, you two,” Aladdin called.

Weaving through a short maze of rocks and debris, the group stopped behind a few large boulders and looked only a few feet ahead at what seemed to be the meeting area for the thieves. In the center stood a large, bulky man with some of the most threatening features Sora had ever seen in his life. The man must have stood more than six feet in height, had biceps probably thicker than Sora’s head, and in addition, was equipped with three golden claws on his right fist.

In the center of the room, just in front of the brawny man, was the same man that split the sea with his command earlier on, the same man who Sora and Kairi managed to make eye-contact with in Agrabah. This time, the man was unmasked. If Sora recalled correctly… he resembled a certain someone. Disregarding any further thoughts, Sora refocused his attention on the thieves’ meeting.

“…But these are the king’s plans,” the muscular man was saying. He pointed to an empty wooden table that was in front of him. “This is what we have to show for our trouble in Agrabah. Nothing!”

In anger, the man smashed the table into a frenzy of splinters and shattered planks, drawing some murmurs from the crowd of thieves.

“Sa’luk seems really… ticked,” a thief stated amusedly.

“Your time draws to a close, Cassim,” Sa’luk continued, approaching the one who appeared to be—

“Cassim?” Aladdin whispered, mostly to himself. “My father?”

“If you’re talking about spilling my blood,” Cassim answered with confidence and authority. “Well, I just don’t see that happening.”

“Then let me open your eyes!” Sa’luk bellowed as he wound up for a deadly strike.

Before the clawed fist could land, Aladdin leapt from his hiding spot and tackled Sa’luk from behind. At the same time, both Sora and Kairi stepped out with their Keyblades drawn, but they were quickly faced with spears and swords from the nearby thieves.

“Run! I got him!” Aladdin yelled out to his father.

However, the somewhat humored, though bewildered Cassim did not move a muscle, but looked onward at the sight of Aladdin struggling to maintain hold of the muscle-bound Sa’luk.

“I’m Aladdin! You’re my father!”

Finally, those words entered the ears of Cassim like direct uppercut to the face. Almost falling backwards, Cassim retained his footing and stared at a sheathed dagger that Aladdin dropped at his feet.

“I don’t know about your father, boy,” a furious Sa’luk snarled as he yanked Aladdin off the ground. “But I’ll send you to meet your other ancestors!”

“Let him go,” ordered Cassim. His eyes never left the sheathed dagger in his hands. “The boy… is my son.”

Sora and Kairi glanced each other in curiosity, but both of them felt a brief moment of relief.

“Ooh,” a thief that had a dagger to Sora’s throat gasped. “So the boy is the son of the King of Thieves!”

“That guy’s the King of Thieves?” Kairi whispered to Sora.

“Somehow I always had a feeling that he was,” Sora whispered back.

You are the King of Thieves?” said Aladdin, getting off the ground after Sa’luk tossed him aside.

“Like it or not, boy, we are blood!” said Cassim.

The King of Thieves slowly walked towards Aladdin for the first time since meeting. Their eyes never left the other’s, somehow in their minds and hearts, they knew who the other was, even if they had never met before prior to the event.

“Look at you,” Cassim continued, putting his hands on Aladdin’s shoulders. “I thought I’d never see you again. Has it been so long?”

“Blood or mud,” Sa’luk interrupted. “The boy is an intruder and we have rules for intruders.”

Again, thieves in the surroundings muttered words of agreement, some even clapping and stamping their feet in support.

“He has found our secret lair!” Sa’luk shouted for the whole hideout to hear. He pointed to Aladdin and then to Sora and Kairi, along with Abu and Iago. “He has seen too much. He must die. They must all die!”

Again, Sora and Kairi both forced themselves free with their Keyblades and shoved some surrounding thieves away from them. However, whatever mild actions they did were not enough to force the thieves to retreat. Iago and Abu were simultaneously captured.

“Die?” Iago shrieked in panic. “He’s your son! I’m his friend! Cast the vote for mercy here!”

“Yes, Cassim. Mercy would be so like you,” Sa’luk said in a mocking tone. “Soft and weak.”

After a period of silence, though the only sounds were the quiet murmurs of some thieves, there was no decision. Aladdin, Sora, and Kairi all had their eyes on Cassim, the King of Thieves, and awaited his decision.

“Kill him,” said Cassim, shrugging at the words.

Aladdin, Sora, and Kairi all felt their jaws drop at the choice of words as the thieves made their move upon the trespassers. Iago and Abu simply decided to cover their eyes in case the worst did happen. Sora and Kairi were both ready to defend themselves, however, but it seemed unnecessary since Cassim did not appear to be finished yet.

“Or…” the King of Thieves added, his voice instantaneously stopping all the thieves’ actions. “The boy could… yes! The boy could… no…”

“What? What? The b-boy could what?” a thief sputtered in anticipation.

“Nothing,” said Cassim. “Probably a bad idea.”

“Let’s hear it!” some other thieves shouted enthusiastically.

“Well, it seems to me that… oh, never mind…”

“What?” even Sa’luk grimaced in impatience and curiosity.

Pacing around for a moment, building up the already dreadful suspense, Cassim acted as if he was pondering something of paramount importance. Even Sora felt as if the long silence was completely pointless. Kairi, on the other hand, simply tapped her feet in waiting.

“The boy,” he finally said after what felt like endless hours. “Could face… the challenge.

The words were instantly met with “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd of thieves. Thus, it seemed like the King of Thieves’ decision was a splendid one. The wise choice gave Sora and the group a chance to avoid imminent violence and chaotic brawls and gave the thieves some entertainment of sorts.

“That’s that,” Cassim concluded with authority, strolling over to Aladdin’s side once again. “My son shall face the challenge.”

“And I,” Sa’luk added, displaying his deadly metal claws. “Shall be the one to test him.”

He pushed Aladdin over to Sora and Kairi, who held up Aladdin before he could lose his footing. The bullish Sa’luk chuckled sinisterly as he departed, leaving Sora, Kairi, and Aladdin idly standing before the challenge would ensue.

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Some time later, in the midst of the dark, rain-filled night, Sora, Kairi, and Aladdin stood alongside each other as they waited to find out what their challenges were. Lightning streaked across the night sky, adding an even more ominous effect to the already appalling situation.

“What’s going on, Dad?” Aladdin asked in an irritated tone, disappointed in the fact that his own father was putting him through such conditions.

“Oh, the challenge is simple enough. Only one man survives,” Cassim answered casually. He handed Aladdin the family heirloom, the ornamented dagger. “You’re my son, you’re the advent man. Knock him dead, kid. Seriously.”

Sa’luk loomed in the shadows, only highlighted by the light from the occasional bolts of lightning firing across the rainy skies. For some reason, now the brute of a man appeared even more threatening and baleful than ever.

“What about Sora and Kairi?” Aladdin asked his father. “What are they going to do?”

“Oh, these two,” Cassim laughed. He looked over his shoulder towards two more thieves. “Your friends will be going against these two men. Separately, of course.”

Standing far apart from one another, Sora, Kairi, and Aladdin each faced their opponents in three separate one-on-one duels. Aladdin probably had the worst of luck, since his opponent was the merciless Sa’luk. Sora had a tall, muscular man covered with scars. This was most likely an experienced fighter that had been through many brawls. Sora figured he should keep a wary eye out at least. As for Kairi, her opponent was a thin, flexible man with a turban. Whether or not he was strong or weak, Kairi could not tell. Common sense told her to be cautious, nonetheless.

As soon as one of the thieves smashed his scimitar’s blade into the ground, the battle was to commence. In the split second that followed, both Sora and his opponent clashed straight into each other, sending sparks flying between their blades. Kairi initiated the attack on her opponent first while keeping an eye out for suspicious activities. And finally, Aladdin planted his feet firmly and braced himself as Sa’luk lunged forwards with his golden claws fully extended…

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