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Chapter IX: The Mind Keeper

Riku’s mind was swirling as he felt himself slipping in and out of consciousness?or so it seemed that way, but he felt himself standing sturdily. Eventually, his dark, voided surroundings dispersed and began to resemble the familiar tropical paradise of Destiny Islands. Normally, Riku would be able to differentiate between illusions, as this falsified version of the islands evidently was, but being that he was semiconscious and heavily dazed, Riku could not help but wander aimlessly into the deception set up for him.

As he continued to stroll absently past the shores of white sand into the lush greenery, another dark portal opened up in front of him. To this, Riku took notice of. Thus, the young warrior was sucked in without showing any resistance.

But just as the illusion vanished with the portal that claimed Riku, in the dark atmosphere two other figures appeared, equally dazed and bewildered. Sora and Kairi stood their ground, waiting to regain control of their senses and for their minds to fully clear. Unbeknownst to the two, Riku was already transported to another world.

At the sounding of a creak and a perplexing bubbling noise, Kairi first fully regained her awareness and realized the dark void was once again sucking Sora and her into the ground. Trying her best not to panic, Kairi struggled to pull Sora forward and get him to start walking. All of a sudden, Sora started to stagger, but he commenced walking, ever so slowly.

“Sora, are you okay?” Kairi asked.

He was still traveling between dream and reality. He mumbled something.

“Sora?” Kairi asked again. She gently shook her friend and patted his arm. “Sora, stop scaring me like that. Wake up!”

Sora groaned quietly and began limping. “Argh!” he cried out as he became fully conscious of his physical being and his surroundings. He knelt down.

Kairi was about to kneel down with him, but remembering that the void was capable of enveloping them and?who knows what else, she bid Sora to stand up and continue to move. “What’s wrong? We have to keep moving, Sora. The grounds going to suck us in again if we stay still in one spot.”

Sora groaned again as he tried to stand and regain his balance. “I’m fine, but I think I might’ve sprained or even broken my leg…”

“Oh no. And you call that ‘fine?’ Sora…” Kairi frowned as she examined Sora’s leg. “Actually, it’s your ankle… but that’s what you get for jumping! You bum?”

“Hey, better just me breaking my leg than both of us getting butchered by Heartless.”

Very noble, Kairi thought. She smiled and Sora awkwardly smiled back.

“Hey you, lean on me. I’ll help us get out of here.” Kairi suggested.

Sora poked his ankle and winced. “Umm, if only I could remember that healing spell. I could easily heal any injury.” He scratched his head.

Cure, sounded Roxas’ voice.

Yeah, I think that’s it, Sora noted to himself.

He muttered the Cure spell, directing the power at his ankle. Kairi watched curiously as a green, smooth wave of energy wrapped around Sora’s ankle and melted through his skin. Sora twitched his ankle and rotated it a few times and nodded with satisfaction.

“Alright. I got it, it should be fine now,” he declared.

“You really are something, Sora,” Kairi commented.

And that comment won her another awkward smile from Sora.

To the two friends’ fortune, the darkness gradually cleared, but sadly only to reveal the same decimated towns and villages as before. Though they were no longer in Korale, as they stood in the center of a different village, the relative aura emitted from the environment felt the same for both Sora and Kairi. What persisted in troubling the two was the lacking of townsfolk. Not one resident appeared before them ever since the Highwind landed on Destiny Islands.

A fleeting image. Sora immediately dashed in the direction of the mysterious being. Kairi hurried after Sora, afraid to lose sight of him as the two did with Riku. Keyblade drawn in one hand, and another fist full of Fire magic, Sora pursued his target onto the shoreline. It was the northern shoreline, as Sora clearly remembers the same pier, homes, and?to his sudden longing reminiscence, the Secret Place. Sora gazed around the shoreline for the being he was chasing. He quickly pivoted in alarm and faced the sounds of footsteps, but sighed, as it was only the footsteps of Kairi catching up to him.

Sora carefully asked Kairi to remain as quiet as possible. He resumed scanning the shoreline and then… the pier. Sora caught the sight of the being and once again immediately dashed towards his target. The being was cloaked and looked all too familiar.

“Who are you!” Sora growled. “Are you the one that’s been trashing my home!”

The cloaked figure leapt from the pier and landed directly in front of Sora. The glowing Fire magic continued to burn and channel in Sora’s hand as he gripped firmly his Keyblade in his other hand. The figure, whose face was hidden under the hood of the cloak, initially glanced at Sora’s Keyblade, and then at Sora’s anger-stricken face. The mysterious being then pulled back the hood to reveal a female face. Clearly she wasn’t a Heartless. Or so Sora hoped. But she definitely seemed like one of the members of the dreaded Organization XIII.

“I could’ve sworn I wiped you all out,” Sora muttered. He pointed his Keyblade at her face. “Tell me. Who are you and why are you here?”

The cloaked woman laughed quietly at Sora’s valor. “You know, common courtesy bids you to share your name first, young Keyblade-wielder.”

Sora eyed his adversary suspiciously. “My name’s Sora, and?”

“Yes, Sora, I already know who you are. Maleficent has told me oh so much about?”

“You work for Maleficent!” Sora bellowed as he lunged at the woman. “So you are a Heartless!”

“Please,” the woman scoffed as she grabbed the tip of the Keyblade and swung Sora over her shoulder. Kairi gasped and rushed to Sora’s aid. “A Heartless? No. I’m no Heartless. I may not have a true heart, but I’m no Heartless.”

“So you’re a Nobody,” Sora spat. Kairi helped pull him up and he resumed his fighter stance.

“That’s correct, my dear. You may call me Sarlix, or… the Mind Keeper.”

“Sarlix, the Mind Keeper,” Sora reiterated silently to himself. “One question then, Mind Keeper, are you in charge of the Heartless invasion here?”

Sarlix turned her back to Sora and waved her arms in exclamation. “Heavens, no! I wouldn’t stand ten feet from a Heartless. Those creatures give me the creeps,” she turned back around to face Sora. “But, my Heartless half, Syx, is in charge here. Bah, she looks nothing like me though. A hideous figure.”

Sora and Kairi looked at each other in confusion; apparently both of them had the same question. “T-then, if you’re not in charge here, what exactly are you doing here in the first place?” Kairi asked.

“Oh, little girl, I was supposed to capture all three of you. But alas, you two managed to escape from my?”

“Ugh, you took Riku!” Sora roared. He charged forward again at Sarlix who disappeared instantly into a column of black smoke.

“Now, now, Sora. Riku is perfectly fine. No need to worry!” Sarlix’s voice resonated through the gloomy air of Destiny Islands. The echoes dissipated in a few seconds and all was silent again.

Sora pounded the tainted sands on the shoreline and Kairi slowly sat down by his side.

“Hey, we’re just going to have to find the… umm, Heartless version of Sarlix right now. Maybe we can still save the islands,” Kairi advised.

“Right,” Sora responded after a moment and rubbed his forehead. “We hunt down Syx, make sure all the townspeople are okay, and then meet everyone at the Radiant Garden and search for Riku.” He couldn’t believe they were all being separated again!

Kairi could sense Sora’s fear of being separated from all his friends, so she put her hand on his shoulder in sign of support. “I’m not going to leave your side, Sora. We made a promise before to come back to each other. We worked too hard to see each other again, so I’m not about to have us separated.”

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