Chapter 10: Simple and Clean
(A/N: Here it is at last! The finale for the third book in my Kingdom Hearts! Gonna say this right now, I have no idea when I'm gonna be able to get book 4 out. Since I got midterms and the holidays on the immediate horizon. But don't worry, I won't leave you with nothing exactly. I won't say why, exactly, but let me just say, keep an eye on my SAO trilogy in the coming months. Now, please enjoy!)
Goofy looked back as he clutched onto James, "What about the Keyhole?" He asks.
"Let's just get out of here!" Donald replies.
James nods, "He's right! Besides it's not like we can do anything about it without—" he stopped himself short, not wanting to openly say that Sora is dead.
Kairi says nothing, but jumps off of James' back.
He stops and returns to his feet, "What are you doing?" He yells.
Kairi shakes her head, "I can't leave them behind!"
"We can't stay here!" Donald argues.
James picks Kairi up and hoists her over her shoulder, "I don't wanna abandon them either, but there's too many Heartless for us to fight and protect you and the other Princesses at the same time!" He then starts running with Donald and Goofy as they race back to the Gummi Ship.
When they reach the entrance hall, a lone Shadow blocks their exit. James sets Kairi down behind him, "Stay back!" He says as he draws Starlight.
Donald clutches his wand, "I'll take care of him!" He says. The Shadow approaches them quickly, but Donald begins to strike the Heartless repeatedly over the head.
Everyone looks on in surprise at the fact that the Heartless isn't trying to fight back, or even defend itself. It's just standing there.
Donald glares, "Confounded Heartless! Get lost, will ya?" He shouts. Just then, the Shadow turns to look at Kairi as James continues to shield her.
Kairi blinks as she peers out from behind him, "Sora?" She asks, "Is that you?"
James grits his teeth, "It very well may have been Sora once." He tells her, "But he allowed Darkness to consume his Heart so he could save you. Sorry Little Red, but there's nothing left of the Sora we knew."
Just then, they became surrounded by an increasing number of Heartless.
Donald and Goofy entered the fray while James stayed back to protect Kairi. Kairi looks to the Shadow from before and moves to protect it, "This time, I'll protect you." She says determined. All the Shadows jump at James and Kairi. Kairi quickly turns and embraces the one Shadow closely, "SORA!" She cries out.
Just then, a blinding light poured through the Shadow, and it regained its original form as Sora, who was holding Kairi tight against him. Sora held her gently in his arms, "Kairi, thank you." He says.
Kairi slowly opens her eyes and is shocked at the sight of her dearest friend, "Sora…"
"Sora!" James, Donald and Goofy yell simultaneously.
The reprieve is short lived, as a new horde of Heartless quickly surrounded them.
Everyone took up their weapons with Kairi ducking in the middle of them when Beast lets out a mighty roar and starts chasing the Heartless away, "Go! Now!"
Sora looks back to him, "Come with us!" He says.
Beast shakes his head, "I told you before, I'm not leaving without Belle." He tells the boy, "Now, go! The Heartless are coming!"
James grips Sora's arm, "He's right, we're out of time!"
Sora looks down, "All right. Let's get out of here."
With that, the group quickly escaped from Hollow Bastion. James looks to Sora, "Take us to Traverse Town. Kairi will be safe there while we prepare for our next attack."
Sora nods and begins to plot a course, "Oh and…" he says hesitantly. Sora looks back to see James glaring at him with tears in his eyes, "You better not scare any of us like that again!" He shouts.
Sora gasps before smiling, "Alright. I won't, sorry."
James sighs, "It's good to have you back, half-pint." He tells him, "The boy was able to come back from being a Heartless… there's no doubt in my mind. If Sora can be saved from that, then so can the others! Aqua, Ventus, Terra… I'm sorry it took me so long to get myself back to normal, but now I'm more determined than ever! I will find you! And save you!"
When they arrived, Sora went with Kairi to find Merlin, knowing she'd be safe with him while James followed Donald and Goofy to a man named Leon.
After basic introductions, James started to explain what all happened at Hollow Bastion. Leon stared thoughtfully at James, "So the Darkness is flowing out of that Keyhole…"
The girl sitting on the bed named Aerith spoke up, "No wonder there are more and more Heartless everywhere. The only way to stop them is—"
Sora walks in and summons Kingdom Key, "Seal the Keyhole, right?"
James nods at the boy, "Correct. And with Kairi's Heart no longer inside you, there shouldn't be any difficulty this time."
Leon turns to the kid, "But no one knows what will happen once it's sealed."
Sora looks down, "Well, we can't just stay here. We have to do something. I've got a friend back there."
James nods, "I'm with Sora, if we don't act, all the Worlds will fall to Darkness! And I'm not going to let that happen."
Leon nods, "That's right. You have one more friend to worry about. Riku's Keyblade must have been born of the captive Princess' Hearts—Just like that Keyhole you saw." He then looks to the doorway, "Of course, without Kairi's Heart, it remained incomplete."
James nods, "And with that Keyblade destroyed, the Princesses have all had their Hearts returned to them. But right now, their only protector is a lone Beast. Powerful as he is, he won't be able to fight them off for much longer."
Sora goes off to say goodbye to Kairi and Aerith approaches James, "Excuse me, James?" She asks.
He turns to her with a small smile, "Just call me Jim. What's up, Aerith?"
Aerith looks downward, "Well… I was just uh… wondering… Along your travels… did you ever meet a man named Cloud?"
James lowers his eyes, "Yeah, I did once. But it was a long time ago, I don't know where he is now, or even if he's alive."
Aerith becomes noticeably disheartened by this information.
"Oh…" Goofy then walks up, "Don't worry, Cloud's doing just fine!" He tells them, "Donald, Sora and I met him a while ago."
Aerith smiled widely, her eyes gleaming with hope.
James smirks, "Seems to me he's pretty important to you."
Before the conversation can go any further, Sora comes back through the door and says he's ready.
James looks down at him, "You've grown a lot since we met at Wonderland. Both as a person, and as a Keyblade Wielder. But this is gonna be dangerous, and you've already risked so much." He says as he stares at Sora with a serious expression, "Last chance to stay back."
Sora shook his head with a smile, "Not a chance!" He says enthusiastically.
James sighs, "Why did I know you'd say that?" He says happily.
And so, the four friends take flight towards the Hollow Bastion for the final confrontation with Ansem.
When they returned to the Hollow Bastion, they are greeted by the Beast.
"Where's Belle?" Sora asks.
Beast looks up at the intimidating fortress in front of them, "Still in the castle."
Goofy looks on concerned, "Against her will?"
Beast shook his head, "No, I think she stayed for a reason. The other Princesses are inside as well."
James nods, "It's to give us a fighting chance." He tells the group, "With the Seven Princesses of Hearts gathered together, the full power of Light itself is at their command. Even with Kairi's absence, their powers combined makes for a very effective counter energy to repel the energy." He then turns to face Sora, "It is my duty to protect the Princesses at all costs. So, it'll be up to you to fight Ansem and close the Keyhole."
Sora nods, "Don't worry, Jim. You can count on me to handle that guy!"
Beast steps forward, "You may need my strength, I'll go with you."
James smiles at his four friends, "If there's nothing else to discuss, let's go save some Princesses!" And so, they rush towards the innermost sanctum.
As they move up the stairs in the library, Beast sees Belle turn to face him. He lets out a strange noise that is filled with relief, "Belle!" He breathes out as he hurries to embrace her, which she returns.
James and the others quickly follow behind, "It's been a long time, Belle. Glad to see you're safe."
Belle nods at him before looking to the group as a whole, "You've come to seal the Keyhole, right?"
Sora nods immediately, "Please, be careful." She warns, "The Darkness is raging deep inside. We've been holding it back, but we can't hold out much longer."
Sora smiles up at her, "We'll take care of it." He says confidently.
James nods, "And I'll focus on protecting the other Princesses." He then looks to the Beast, "Something tells me you have all the protection you could want." He says with a soft smile.
Belle's smile grows warmer as she places her hand gently on the Beast's arm.
"You stay here and protect her Beast. We can take it from here." The Beast was about to object, but James raises his hand to stop him, "I won't take you away from who you care for so much. Not after all you've done to get her back in the first place."
Beast is rendered speechless, before smiling, "Thank you."
As they get closer, they spot Cinderella and Aurora on one side, with Jasmine, Snow White and Alice on the other. Cinderella sees them and smiles, "I knew I could rely on you to return!" She says cheerfully.
James smiles back with a nod, "I'm glad to see you're unharmed, Cinderella. Do you know where Ansem is?"
Her smile fades as she shakes her head, "Gone." She says simply.
Aurora takes a step forward, "When the Keyhole appeared, Darkness poured out of it. It swallowed Ansem, and he disappeared."
James' brow creases, "He probably went inside the Keyhole of his own volition. The guy's ballsy, that's for sure."
Cinderella looks at the group with worry in her eyes, "Though Ansem is gone, the flood of Darkness hasn't stopped. We're working together to hold it back."
James puts a hand on each of their shoulders, "Well, you're not doing it unguarded anymore. I'm staying back to protect you all." He then turns to Sora, "That puts you three on the front-lines Half-Pint. Think ya can handle it?"
Sora smirks, "Without a doubt." He says before running on ahead with Donald and Goofy in tow.
James walked over to see the other three.
He bows his head at Jasmine, "We've never formally met, Princess Jasmine. I am James, but everyone calls me Jim. I'm a friend of Aladdin's."
Jasmine smiles at me, "Ah yes! Aladdin told me about you!" She says before bowing as well, "Thank you so much for helping him and Abu so much in the past."
Snow White smiles at him, "I haven't seen you since I was saved from my step-mother's curse."
James nods, "I only wish I could've stopped her from doing that to you. Please forgive me." Snow White giggled and happily told him there was nothing to apologize for.
He sighs before turning to Alice, "But I do owe you an apology, Alice. I failed to properly protect you."
Alice shook her head, "Nonsense. You did your very best, as you're doing now. I'm so very honored to have you as a friend."
Just then, a swarm of sword-arm Heartless began to swarm the room.
James summoned both Starlight and Vulpes, "All of you! Get behind me!" The Princesses heed his instructions and huddle to the wall behind him.
James then summons his new Foreteller Grade armor. With the same basic design, however his cape has the Vulpes symbol on it, and his helmet has been re-designed to be a Fox head's.
"I won't let a single one of you get past me!" He screams before charging at the army of pure darkness.
Five of the Heartless leapt at James to attack from above, but with his two Keyblades, James blocks all five of them, and parries with a silently cast Thundara to bring them down. He then quickly swings Starlight in a circular vertical slash to kill four more Heartless that tried to ambush him before using Vulpes to cut through another four enemies.
His armor obtains a green aura as his speed increases to zip throughout the room and pick the monsters apart one by one until there's nothing left to oppose him in the room.
Before anyone can celebrate, a hooded man in a black coat approaches James, "An excellent feat of strength. You are no doubt worthy of the grandeur your armor presents." Says the man in a deep, refined voice, "However, I cannot risk you re-uniting with your young friend. So, I will ask you politely to cease your little crusade."
James re-summons Starlight, "Who are you? Are you working with Ansem? Or, perhaps you know him better by Xehanort."
The hooded man visibly flinches, causing James to smirk, "It was a clever disguise, but the similarities between the old bastard and Ansem are too numerous to ignore." He then deepens his stance, "If you return Terra to his original state, I'll spare you and Xehanort, you have my word. Otherwise I'll be left with no choice."
The hooded man chuckles at this threatening bargain, "My, you are quite the detective, to have strung such a conspiracy together like that. Or… perhaps you've simply gone mad?" He then raises his left hand, "Regardless, I can see you're not interested in my offer, so let's skip straight to the part where it gets interesting." He then snaps his fingers and countless Fairy and Nightmare Dream Eaters are spawned into the room as the hooded man vanishes into Darkness.
James isn't allowed a moment of contemplation as he is immediately assaulted by monsters he's never seen before.
Relying on his instincts, he jumps into the fray, both Keyblades drawn as he slashes through a tall rhino monster before cleaving past two elephant monsters that creates a domino effect for James to take advantage of. With a blue aura surrounding him, he casts Aeroza to rip hundreds of Dream Eaters to shreds, only for countless more to take their place.
James uses his lightning quick reflexes to hack, slash and cast his way through a seemingly endless horde of relentless beasts. Soon though, the sheer numbers begin to drain James, as he quickly runs out of power to cast any more spells and his assault noticeably slows.
Despite this, he still leaps up for another dive-bombing attack, as a fencing frog disarms him of Vulpes. He continues to fight with just Starlight, successfully hacking through hundreds, perhaps thousands more.
James was unable to keep count because, at this point, he is so fatigued that his mind is beginning to blur everything around him. Soon enough, the Dream Eaters finally overwhelm him and he is shoved under a massive dog pile that beats relentlessly at him as the Princesses shield their eyes from the sight.
Just then, however, a demon wind shuriken flies through the dog pile, scattering what members it didn't kill before a vicious Firaga blasts a small horde. The Princesses look to see Leon, Yuffie and Aerith enter the fray. Leon and Yuffie take up defensive positions around James as Aerith uses her healing abilities to get him back on his feet.
With what little power he has left, James and Aerith join forces to cast Meteo, and wipe out the rest of the monsters that remained.
James removes his battered helmet, gasping for breath as he does so, "Thank Ava you all got here when you did. What are you doing here, anyways?"
Leon smiles, "We knew you guys would need backup, so we had Cid put an Airship together for us to follow and back you up."
Yuffie looks around the room, "Where's Sora? Didn't he leave with you?"
James lets out a grunt of effort as he rises back to his feet, "I sent him on ahead to face Ansem while I stayed back to guard the Princesses."
Aerith smiles, "Well we removed the Heartless between the entrance and here, so we should all hurry to meet up with him." James nods as Leon moves to support James as they all march towards Sora.
They soon reach the same room they were in last time, this time with Sora, Donald and Goofy, fighting a Behemoth in the Depths of Darkness, where the Keyhole resides. They arrived in time to see Sora deal the killing blow.
"Sora. You did it." Leon says. Sora turns and heads back into the room towards the source of the voice.
Sora sees the three Traverse Town residents and is shocked, "What are you guys doing here?" He then jumps when he sees the battered and exhausted James sitting against a nearby wall, "Whoa! What happened to you, Jim?" He asks in concern.
James chuckles, "It turns out I gave you the easy job. I'd be dead right now if it wasn't for them." He says, gesturing to Leon and his allies.
Aerith looks up to the ceiling, "This is our childhood home." She tells Sora, "We wanted to see it again."
Leon cast his gaze aside, "It's in worse shape than I feared. It used to be so peaceful…" He says with remorse.
Aerith shakes her head, "Don't worry." She tells him, "If we defeat Ansem, all should be restored. Including your island, Sora."
James nods, "She's right. That's why you have to defeat Xe—Ansem. It will undo all the damage he's done, and return the Worlds to their proper balance." Sora nods, with more determination than ever before flowing through his body. He goes into the Depths of Darkness once again to stop Ansem and end his evil once and for all.
Before he leaves, however, Leon looks to Sora, "We may never meet again, but we'll never forget each other."
Aerith places a hand to her heart, "No matter where we are, our Hearts will bring us together again."
Yuffie smiles, "Besides, I couldn't forget you even if I wanted to." She jokes.
Sora swings his head to her, "What's that supposed to mean?" Despite his tone, Sora had a happy smile on his face that was shared by everyone in the room. Sora is then called to hurry up by Donald and Goofy.
James looks to the boy, "Sora." He says, making him turn to face James, "Good luck." Sora offers him one last nod before hurrying to fulfill his destiny.
For James, it's a torturously long wait, as he is able to little more than rest due to his lingering injuries and fatigue.
Soon enough, however, James senses a noticeable shift in the energies that permeate all of Hollow Bastion. The lingering evil that was tainting the World was gone. Light was beginning to flow back into all that surrounded him.
James knew exactly what this meant and smiled, "You did it, Sora. And with the Worlds secure and the Princesses safe, I can start my mission to save my friends."
He quickly uses his Keyblade to create a lane to the Space Between Worlds and flies aimlessly as he enters a deep thought process. "Aqua is in the Realm of Darkness… and I don't know how to get there as of yet. And who knows what Xehanort has done with Terra. That only leaves Ven. Luckily, I know exactly where to find him!"
He hurries through the void and heads to where the Land of Departure once stood, "Ven! Aqua! Terra! I'm sorry it took me so long, but you just gotta wait a little bit longer… I promise I'll save every last one of you!"
(Curtain! That's it for this story! Sorry again for everything taking so long for me to update this. I had gotten distracted by my newest responsibility: Twitch streaming! That's right, I as Kohga Nightbane work alongside my buddy Tyler Crux to play video games stupidly for the entertainment of the masses. We are currently looking for more followers. So if you like GTA stupidity and Paper Mario antics, head over to /tyler_crux so you can catch Boss and Bernard on the weekdays, and Crux and myself every Friday and Saturday night starting at 6 pm Central time. If you like what you see, make sure to follow the channel and spread the word to your friends. If we get to 50 followers, we'll play Pokémon Platinum in a Nuzlocke challenge. And we'll even name our Pokémon after our followers! Normally, I'd hype up the next book in the KH series I'm doing, but like I said, who knows when I'm gonna get it updated, so I'd rather promote my buddy Crux instead. Until then, LATER NE—
Kiba: What's up?
Ninja Writer: The hell are you doing here? I thought I stopped doing this bit!
Kiba: You think I'd let you get away with closing this off without mentioning how James will watch Sora be pushed to the brink of himself as memories get tampered with and destroyed in book 4: Darkness' Requiem!
Ninja Writer: *sigh* Fine then, but you might as well do the damn thing already.
Kiba: READ AND REVIEW!)