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Chapter Nine: The Land of Dragons, Part II

Zen, Jone and Lesa looked at their superior. "Interesting," he said.

Zen folded her arms. "What? What's so interesting?"

"Sora has the flashbacks whenever he thinks of Kairi," he explained. "And that means that he has a weakness."

The three helpers thought about it. Zen sighed. "You mean that it seems like Sora finds Kairi a little more than a friend?"

"Uh, DUH!" Lesa exclaimed. "I think just about everyone knew that!"

"Shut your mouth."

"Make me!"

The man faced them. "That's enough. We don't need any horsing around at a time like this. I have new plans in mind." He started pacing around. "When they go to Hollow Bastion, I want Jone and Lesa to find a way to lead Sora into our trap."

"I already have a plan for doing that." Jone stated.

"Good. For now, I want you to find a way to get them to go to Hollow Bastion."

Zen tapped her foot. "Master, I also have a plan of my own."

"And what would that be, Zen?" the unknown man inquired patiently.

She smirked. "Riku's been on the dark side before. I want to try to get him to go back to it. He might be useful in capturing the other two." They waited for a response.

"The plan is complicated," the dark man said. Zen held her breath and he simpered. "But I like it. It just might be what we need."

"Sure, and give miss perfect over here all the credit," Jone murmured.

Zen faced him, frowning. "I'll have you know that I've been through whatever you've been through and stuff ten times worse. I'm smart, unlike you two, so if any plan of ours; other than Master's, that is; can only work with me."

"Since when?!" Lesa exclaimed.

"Since you two came along and made everything worse."

Jone clenched his teeth. "Zen, I'm sick of you always going about how you're the best at everything!"

"That's because I am!" Zen retorted.

"Well, you're definitely not as great as you make it-"

"I said that's enough!" their leader shouted and shot a fireball from his left hand. It hit a wall, barely dodging Jone, and the three immediately stiffened up.

"I apologize, Master," Zen said. Jone rolled his eyes.

The man calmed himself and looked at the three. "If you want this plan to work, you all better work harder than you ever have before in your life. Those three are not people you could take down easily: they're not your average person. And there's something about that Sora that aggravates me so much... he literally doesn't know his own strength. So, since Zen's explained her plan, Jone, why don't you tell me yours?"

Jone smirked. "Envy." Everyone seemed to listen more. "I'm gonna make Sora jealous."

"And how are you gonna do that?" Lesa questioned.

"Kairi."

The man nodded. "I have some creative subjects. Well then, go forth and carry on your orders." He turned his back to them. "And do not fail me." The three bowed, gave each other looks of hatred, and vanished.

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Sora gazed at the palace where the Emperor lived. ‘This is where we beat Shan-Yu last,' he thought. ‘I wonder what Kairi would have thought if she was there.' He still didn't completely know why almost every time he thought about something, he would end up thinking about Kairi, also.

"Sora," Kairi started to say. He looked at her. "Have you been to every world?"

"I doubt it. It's probably impossible for anyone to see every world," he responded.

"Oh."

Sora smiled when she turned her head. ‘I don't know why, but... I wanna say something about her. I just...'

‘Don't know what to say?' Roxas finished.

‘Exactly.'

‘Tell her that you think she's the most beautiful girl in the world and that you'd do anything for her and that you love her and-'

‘Okay, Roxas, that's taking it a little too far. And, for the hundredth time, I DON'T love her. She's just my best friend.'

‘You're the one who's been wanting to know what it is that's different about her. And I'm telling you what it is. You're just not listening.'

‘Roxas, I think I can figure it out on my own. It shouldn't be too hard.'

‘Okay, but don't blame me for the reason you're still gonna be wonderin' what it is the rest of your life. And just about everybody else thinks so, too, Sora. But let me tell you something I learned: love can sometimes be obvious, sometimes it can't.'

‘You learned that?' Sora questioned, a little surprised.

‘No, but it sounded cool, didn't it?'

‘Gee, Roxas, I feel so much better knowing I've got a genius that knows everything about everything with me,' Sora stated sarcastically.

‘I never said that.' Roxas vanished again.

Everyone walked inside the Emperor's palace. It was very big and, even though it was another palace, the style was different from the Disney Castle or Jasmine's palace in Agrabah. Sora looked ahead and saw the Emperor, who was sitting in the throne. The Emperor stood up and glanced at all the people waiting for him to tell them what he wanted. He put his hands together. "Fa Mulan. I am glad to see you have arrived."

Mulan bowed. "I was only following my orders, Your Highness."

"And I see you did not come alone."

Sora shook his head. "Nope."

Donald elbowed him. "Sora! Where's your respect?!" Sora smiled, trying to cover up his embarrassment.

The Emperor chuckled. "That's quite alright. You're the boys who helped Fa Mulan, aren't you?"

"That's us," Sora stated. "Just doin' our job."

"Oh, no. It's quite different than that. You never had a responsibility to China, yet you assisted us, anyway. You joined the Imperial Army with Fa Mulan. That is true hero's work." Sora grinned. "And Fa Mulan did the most spectacular thing I've ever seen. I had never even thought that a woman would be the savior of China. And even though her duty was to stay at home, she came to replace her father so he would not get injured."

‘Wow,' Sora thought. ‘That's why she joined the army?' He looked at her for a moment. ‘She must be pretty brave to do something like that.'

"But now," the Emperor proclaimed, changing the subject, "Shan-Yu's army is ready for another attack. We have a strong enough army, yes, but I would rather handle the matters more gently than fighting. There is another kingdom not far from here that I plan to form an alliance with. Three princesses shall marry the princes from that empire, and then our armies will combine. Shan-Yu will not even think about attacking us then."

Mulan looked a little worried. "But, Your Grace, an arranged marriage?"

The Emperor motioned for Mulan to get closer to him. "My daughters are already set up for this."

Mulan was surprised. "I-I'm sorry, I had no idea..."

"That is fine, Fa Mulan. You don't need to apologize. But I would like for you to take the princesses to that kingdom."

Mulan nodded. "Of course."

"Now, Captain Li Shang. How many people do you think would need to accompany you?" Shang smiled. "Three."

"Three groups?"

"Three men."

The Emperor seemed surprised. "That is not very many."

"There won't be any need for fighting. And besides, these men are the strongest,"

Mulan cut in, "the bravest,"

"and definitely the best for this mission."

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Sora saw three of the men from the army get kicked out of a store. They were covered in bruises and had black eyes.

"Ow..." one of them complained.

"That's the last time we go in there!" They looked up and saw the others staring at them. "Mulan! Shang!" they exclaimed. They got to their feet. One of them pointed. "Hey, it's that Sora kid. And Donald and Goofy and... uh, who are they?"

"Guys, these are my friends: Riku, Kairi, Kisara and Nioto."

The short one got in front. "Well, I'm Yao, and this is Chien-Po and-" The skinny one grabbed Nioto's hand flirtatiously. "And I'm... Ling."

"Get your dirty hands off me!" she exclaimed and threw him to the ground. Sora tried hard not to laugh. Riku, Kairi, Donald and Goofy stood in astonishment and Kisara had a hand over her mouth, also trying not to giggle.

"Uh... hi," Ling said and his face fell flat on the ground.

Nioto brushed her hands together. "Martial arts: it can help." Ling stood up and joined the rest of his group.

"Anyway," Shang cut in, "we need some warriors to help us on our journey. We have to take three princesses with us to an outside kingdom."

Yao looked behind him. "Well, we'd be leavin' behind a few broken hearts, but we'll do it."

"Great," Mulan stated.

"When do we leave, Captain?" Chien-Po asked.

Shang grinned. "Tonight."

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That night they went back to the palace to get ready to leave. The Emperor had told them that it should take three days to get to the other kingdom. Sora found that a little interesting, the longest he had ever been in a world was about a day or two. Three days seemed pretty long to him. The Emperor introduced the princesses as Ting-Ting, Mai and Su. Sora watched as Yao got them into the carriage.

"Hi," Kisara, who was secretly standing right beside Sora, said. Sora jumped, surprised.

"What'cha thinkin' about? Hmm?" Kisara asked.

"Nothing. But don't scare me like that!"

"I do that a lot. If I don't scare you, then I'm probably sick or something."

"Well, that's good to know," Sora stated sarcastically.

"I know it is," Kisara replied smartly and walked away.

Kairi ran up to Sora and grabbed his arm. "Come here, I have something really important to tell you!" She pulled him away where no one else could see them.

"What is it?"

"I got really bored, and then I found something out. Something we could do."

Sora raised an eyebrow. "Really? Like what?"

"I dunno. But this is what I wanted to tell you." She stood there for a moment, motionless. Then she tapped him on the shoulder and took off in the opposite direction. "You're it!"

Sora laughed. "I don't think so!" He chased her around and finally caught her. She stopped dead in her tracks, breathing hard.

"Worn out?" Sora questioned.

Kairi nodded. "It seems like just yesterday we were playing around like that on Destiny Island, doesn't it?"

"Yeah. Before any of this Keyblade and Heartless stuff." Sora recalled his childhood: he grew up with Riku on Destiny Island. One day, when Sora was about seven, he found Kairi unconscious on the beach. He woke her up and told Riku about it, and they became the best of friends for the rest of their lives. Sora remembered carving the picture of Kairi into the cave walls of the Secret Place while she was carving a picture of him. The drawings had changed, though. A year ago, they drew themselves giving paopu fruits to each other. Sora also remembered that the Secret Place was his and Riku's hideout. Until Kairi came along, that was.

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"Hey, Sora, why can't I come in?" a boy that lived on the island, Tidus, asked.

"Because it's for me and Riku!" Sora replied, a little aggravated.

Tidus put his hands on his hips. "And what about that girl? She comes in here all the time."

"Kairi can come in because she's special!"

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‘Yeah,' Sora thought, ‘she is special. We've been best friends almost forever, and now... I'm not even sure what we are.' Sora glanced back at the others. "Guess we should go, huh, Kairi?"

"Yeah, I guess." The two friends headed back to the others and set off ahead for their journey to the outside empire.

The next day, Sora noticed Riku running toward him. "Hey, Sora, you wanna race?"

Sora put a hand against a nearby wall, tired. "I dunno, Riku. We've been walking for a really long time and-"

"Or are you just chicken?"

Sora stood upright and folded his arms. "Alright, if you're gonna be that way about it, you're on."

Kairi got in between them. "Are you two gonna race again?"

"Duh!" the boys exclaimed at the same time.

Kairi giggled. "Okay, then, you two. On your marks, get set, GO!" The two boys took off in the direction of the trail. Sora felt exhilarated from running against his best friend again. He was so used to racing on Destiny Island that it seemed pretty average. Until an unexpected visitor arrived, that was.

"Riku, stop!" Sora called out.

Riku stopped running and turned around. "What?"

"Something doesn't feel right."

"Sora, if you're afraid you're gonna lose-"

"No, that's not it. It's like there's something dangerous around here. I just don't know what it is." They heard a rustling noise and spun around. Nothing was in sight, but the two made their Keyblades appear, anyway.

"Riku, you remember that attack we did with Xemnas? The one where you gave me your Keyblade for a moment?"

Riku nodded. "Yeah. But let's not do that. I'd recommend you use your Master Form and I back you up, just in case it's an ambush."

"Got it." Sora had a special weapon with him all the time: he had four other forms he could use. They were the Valor, Wisdom, Master and Final Forms, each where Sora had new abilities and his clothes changed color and design. Valor Form enabled Sora to move quicker, gain an extra Keyblade, and its color was red. Wisdom Form allowed Sora to float on the air temporarily and its color was blue. Master Form was both of them combined and was yellow, and Final Form was the most powerful of all and was white. Sora didn't use them often, but sometimes (especially when he got stuck in a bad situation) he had no other choice. And he always had two Keyblades in Valor, Master and Final Forms: Valor he had his regular Keyblade and the Oathkeeper, Master he had his regular one and the Oblivion, and Final had both the Oathkeeper and Oblivion. Sometimes he himself got confused.

Then the boys heard a loud scream from behind. "The girls!" they exclaimed and ran back to the others. They saw a bunch of Nobodies attacking them and were surprised.

"How many times are they gonna come?!" Sora wondered outloud. "Are we ever gonna have one day without Heartless or Nobodies or Organization XIII?!"

"Doubt it," said Riku. He took off in the direction of their friends to help fight off the Nobodies.

Sora was just about to follow when a bright light flashed in front of his eyes, blinding him temporarily. When it disappeared, everyone was gone and he was in complete darkness. He clutched his Keyblade harder. "What's going on?!"

"I do not want you in this world yet," the same, dark voice from Beast's Castle stated. Sora grimaced, remembering him very well.

"Tell me what the heck's goin' on before I do something I don't wanna do!"

"You've frightened me to death," the voice said sarcastically. "I want you to get to a certain place as fast as possible, so I'm moving you and your friends on to the next world."

Sora didn't understand what he was talking about and was confused, but he held onto his anger. "Where is this, ‘certain place' and why do you want me there?!"

"I'm afraid you won't be finding out any time soon..." The bright light appeared again and Sora was knocked unconscious.

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