Chapter 8: Hollow Bastion Part 1
(Sorry this is so late. This wound up being a lot bigger than I expected, so I'm breaking it up a bit more. I'll try and get the next few chapters out quickly. We're closing in on the finale here! Hope you enjoy!)
They made their way to Traverse Town, so a repairman named Cid could upgrade the Gummi Ship with the latest navigation equipment.
James rolled his eyes, "You guys should've said something about needing to upgrade the ship before I showed Sora how to open the Gate."
Donald let out an awkward chuckle, "Guess we forgot in all the excitement."
Goofy nods, "Yeah, but who woulda thought it'd make the ship get all jumpy like that. A-hyuck!"
James groaned, "I think 'jumpy' is an understatement, considering it bounced from one random World to the next until we cut power." He says with a sigh before turning to Sora, who had been unusually quiet during the conversation.
He had his head hanging low and a frown covered his face.
Donald turned to the boy, "Sora!" He exclaims.
Goofy turns to Sora as well, "Now, just remember what Donald said to ya: no frowning, no sad faces."
Sora shakes his head, "How can you be so cheerful? There's still no sign of your king." He tells them, "Aren't you worried?"
Donald smirks, "Aw, phooey."
Goofy smiles as well, "The King told us to go out and find the key bearer, and we found you. So as long as we stick together, it'll all work out okay. Ya just gotta believe in yourself, that's all."
James nodded, "They're right, Sora. Besides, I've seen him in action. He's plenty capable of fending for himself. I'm sure we'll catch up to him sooner or later."
Sora looked at them, "Just believe…"
James smiled and pulled out his Wayfinder, "Hey, Sora? Check this out. Does it look familiar?" He asks.
Sora examines the purple charm and scratches his head, "Well, it's shaped like a Paopu Fruit." He says.
James nods, "That's right, and they have a similar power." He tells the boy, "You see Sora, whenever we make a friend, we bring a part of them with us. And likewise, we leave a part of us with them. So, no matter where I am, or how far away my friends may feel," he takes Sora's hand and places it on the Wayfinder, "with this Wayfinder, they'll always be with me." Sora's eyes widen as the Wayfinder starts glowing a variety of different colors before shining out yellow and then fading. James pulls away and puts the Wayfinder around his neck, "My friends give me strength, no matter where they are. Let them be yours as well, Sora, and you'll be able to do incredible things."
Sora smiles and closes his eyes for a brief few moments, and opens them in shock, "Huh?" He asks as he looks around.
Goofy eyes the boy, "What's the matter?" He asks.
Sora blinks before averting his eyes, "Um, nothing." He then muttered to himself, "Kairi? Did you call me?"
Only James was able to hear it, and hummed in thought, "Kairi's Heart is growing restless after being so close to her body back in Neverland. We can't waste any more time. This needs to be our final stand." Just then, Cid returns to inform them that the upgrade is complete and the ship is ready for takeoff.
When they step foot on the World of Hollow Bastion, James gasps, "What?" He asks as he feels the aura of the World.
Sora turns to look at him, "What's wrong, Jim?"
James looks back at him, "I've been here before." He says slowly, "But… it was completely different back then. What could have happened?"
Just then, Goofy points upward, "Gawrsh, look at that!" He calls out.
Sora looks to the horizon, where a massive castle stands intimidatingly, "I know this place…"
James shakes his head clear, "No more time to waste. Kairi is here, as well as Riku." He then faces Sora, "We are most likely going to have to fight him. Are you prepared to do that?" He asks.
Sora's face hardens as he nods, leading the group along the pass.
The four of them hurry along the floating stones until they are greeted by the site of Riku, staring down against a massive beast, draped in a purple cloak.
James' eyes widen, "The Beast?!" He mentally screams, "Last I saw him, Belle had traded herself for her father to save him. He's been her jailer ever since. Despite my best efforts, Belle wouldn't let me rescue her. Saying that it'd only anger him. I never thought he'd leave his castle, so why is he here?"
Riku looks down at the Beast in curiosity, "No vessel, no help from the Heartless… So, tell me, how'd you get here?"
The Beast growled and placed his hands on his chest, "I simply believed. Nothing more to it." He told the boy, "When our World fell into darkness, Belle was taken from me."
James' eyes widen at that, recognizing it from how Sora described what happened to the Destiny Islands.
The Beast looks up at Riku, "I vowed I would find her again no matter what the cost. I believed I would find her. So, here I am. She must be here."
James was surprised by this statement, "Judging by his tone, it almost sounds like he cares for her. But…. How?"
The Beast then bares his fangs, "I will have her back!"
Riku raises his clenched fist, "Take her if you can." He challenges.
The Beast lets out a vicious roar before leaping up at Riku. The boy summons his Soul Eater sword and, in a masterful move, deftly evades the Beast's claws before running the monster through with his blade.
Beast falls to the floor as Sora and the others rush over, "Stop!" Sora yells, standing in front of the Beast as Donald and James use their magic to treat his injury.
Riku smirks wickedly, "So, you finally made it. About time. I've been waiting for you." He tells him, "We've always been rivals, haven't we? You've always pushed me as I've always pushed you."
Sora looks at his friend, "Riku…"
Riku's smirk disappears, his face becoming emotionless, "But it all ends here. There can't be two Keyblade Wielders."
Sora swipes his hand in front of him, "What are you talking about?" He asks.
"Let the Keyblade choose… its true master." Riku states, holding out his hand.
Kingdom Key is summoned to Sora's hand and starts to be pulled to Riku. Sora grips it tighter, trying to fight against it, but the Keyblade simply vanishes from Sora's hands entirely, materializing in Riku's hand instead.
Riku examines the Keyblade, "Maleficent was right." He says, infuriating James, "You don't have what it takes to save Kairi. It's up to me. Only the Keyblade Wielder can open the Secret Door… and change the World."
Sora looks back at Riku, "But that's impossible. How did this happen?" He asks, still reeling from being abandoned by the Keyblade, "I'm the one who fought my way here with the Keyblade!" He calls out.
James sighs, "It was never really yours, Sora." He says gently, "The Keyblade was meant for Riku, but it latched onto you when Destiny Islands fell. But in spite of that, you were truly able to make it your own, for however brief it may have been."
Riku scoffs, "You were just the delivery boy." He then pulls out a wooden sword, "Sorry, your part's over now. Here, go play hero with this." He says as he tosses the wooden sword to Sora.
Sora drops to his knees, his hands supporting him up, as he sits in place, feeling wholly defeated as Riku walks away.
Donald and Goofy walk past, "Goofy. Let's go." Donald says, "We have to remember our mission."
Goofy looks away, "Oh! Well, I know the King told us to follow the Key and all… but…" He turns to Sora, unmoved from his position.
Donald simply says, "Sora. Sorry…" and walks off, with Goofy following behind him.
James sneers at the both of them, "The King is truly fortunate to have such loyal companions!" He spits sarcastically as they leave.
James looks at Sora, feeling a horrible sense of déjà vu. For a brief instance, he can see himself thousands of years ago, on the battlefield after the war was over. Tears streaming down his face as he wailed in despair at what was lost.
James gets down on one knee in front of Sora, "It really hurts, doesn't it?" He asks the boy, "Losing everything, all that you fought so hard to earn, only to be left with nothing in the end. Not even being granted the knowledge of knowing you made a difference." He leans forward to Sora, "It's the worst feeling imaginable, and yet, you can't give up."
Sora shakes his head, "What's it matter? I don't have the Keyblade anymore! I'm nothing without it…"
James shakes his head, and puts his hand on the boy's head, "If you were nothing without the Keyblade, then it never would have come to you in the first place."
Sora looks up at the man, tears still streaming down his face, "Riku has fallen to Darkness, too far deep for us to help him. If he is to be saved, it'll be by his own power. There's nothing we can do for him, but Kairi needs you! You're the only one who can save her, Sora. And besides, you do have a Keyblade."
Sora blinks, "What are you—"
He is interrupted by James putting Starlight into his hands, "I trust my Keyblade to you Sora. Until yours returns to you, I will grant you all my strength."
Sora looks in awe at the Keyblade in his hands, "But, what about you?" He asks.
James chuckles, "Oh, don't worry. I have a spare." He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and holds out his hand.
He finds himself here, once again, with Master Ava smiling at him.
He smiles back, "I don't know if I'm really ready yet, Master. But I know what I have to do."
He takes a few steps forward, "For your vision, which has kept me going."
He takes a few steps more, "For all the friends lost along the way, that I'll never forget."
He stops in front of the Vulpes Keyblade, "And for Sora, who needs me right now. I will take up your mantle. And be the new Master of Union Vulpes." He grips the handle and raises it upward.
Ava's smile widens, "I know you'll succeed, Master James. I have always had faith in you, from the moment we first met in Daybreak Town." She becomes enveloped in Light, "May your Heart be your Guiding Key, Foreteller." She then vanishes as all around him becomes white.
Back to reality
James' entire body is engulfed in white until Vulpes becomes visible, and James smiles with his new attire.
He was adorned in sacred robes that resembled Ava's in design, but were purple, the same shade as his Starlight, and there was no fox-shaped helmet atop his head. On his chest was a small breast-plate of armor, where his Wayfinder was currently merged with, standing proudly at the center of the plate.
He turns back to face Sora, "Come on, let's go save the Worlds."
Sora smiled, "Yeah! I'm with you, Jim!" Just then, the Beast rose to his feet and started slowly walking towards the castle before dropping to one knee, still suffering from his injury.
Sora rushed over to him, "Hey, don't move. You're hurt." He says.
The Beast looks to him with a snarl, "Why… Why did you… you come here?" He asks, "I came to fight for Belle."
James walks over to him cautiously, "I guess you've changed a bit since I last saw you." He tells the Beast.
Beast looks in his direction and nodded, "Belle… it was her… kindness that… that gave me hope." He then rises to his feet, "And though I am on my own, I will fight. I won't leave without her. That's why I'm here."
James stops him as he tries to walk ahead, "In your condition, if you try and fight your way through, you won't leave at all." He argues.
Sora grips Starlight, "Me too. I'm not gonna give up now. I came here to find someone very important to me."
James smiles, "Then it sounds like the three of us are going in together." He states. The other two nod before following the newly minted Foreteller into the depths of Hollow Bastion Castle.
After sneaking and smashing their way through the sewers in equal parts, the trio finally arrived in the entry hall. Beast looks to his companions, "Be on your guard. They're close, I can feel it. Are you ready for them?"
James looks down to Sora, "Beast and I can handle Donald and Goofy if we have to, but Riku is your adversary. You must defeat him with your own skill." He tells him.
Without a word, Sora begins walking forward when, all of a sudden, Beast senses a presence behind him.
He whips around, "Belle?" He asks hopefully, only to be met by a Heartless, who fooled him with her image. Outraged, Beast charges after the Heartless, with the doors closing and locking behind him.
James narrows his eyes, "We can look for him later, right now we have to focus on the task at hand." He says as he glares at Riku, Donald and Goofy.
Riku stares at Sora, "Quit while you can." He tells him.
Sora glares back, "No. Not without Kairi."
Darkness envelops Riku, as he enters his Dark Armor, "The Darkness will destroy you."
Sora clenches his fists, "You're wrong, Riku. The Darkness may destroy my body, but it can't touch my Heart. My Heart will stay with my friends. It'll never die!"
Riku makes a cocky smirk, "Really… Well, we'll just see about that!" He then fires a Dark Firaga at Sora.
Before James has the chance to intervene, Goofy outruns the blast and uses his shield to protect Sora, "Sora ain't gonna go anywhere!" He says defiantly.
Riku glares, "You'd betray your King?"
Goofy shakes his head, "Not on your life! But I'm not gonna betray Sora, either, 'cause he's become one of my best buddies after all we've been through together!" He looks behind him and gives Sora a thumbs up before looking back at the other two, "See ya later, Donald. Could ya tell the King I'm really sorry?"
Donald balls his fist, "Hold on, Goofy! We'll tell him together." He says before running to join Sora's side, "Well, you know… All for one and one for all."
Goofy nods, "I guess you're stuck with us, Sora."
Sora looks at the both of them, "Thanks a lot… Donald, Goofy."
Riku retains his confidence, "How will you fight without a weapon?" He asks his former friend.
Sora smiles, "I have one." He says, summoning Starlight into his hand, "Not that it really matters. I know now I don't need the Keyblade. I've got a better weapon. My Heart."
Riku scoffs, "Your Heart? What good will that weak little thing or a borrowed Keyblade do for you?" He asks as he summons Kingdom Key into his hands.
Sora looks onward, unflinchingly, "Although my Heart may be weak, it's not alone. It's grown with each new experience, and it's found a home with all the friends I've made." He says as he looks to Donald, Goofy and James, "I've become a part of their Hearts just as they've become a part of mine. And if they think of me now and then… if they don't forget me… then our Hearts will be one. Doesn't matter what weapon I have! Or even if I have no weapon at all! My friends are my power!"
With this declaration, Kingdom Key vanishes from Riku's hands, and appears in Sora's in place of Starlight, which reappears in James' hand.
He looks at his Keyblade with a smile, "Never had a single doubt." He says before looking to Sora, "Congratulations, half-pint. You really are among the Keyblade's Chosen now."
He then looks to Riku, "And you were never worthy of it to begin with." He tells the boy, "To try and break one's spirit until there's nothing left is not what a Keyblade is for. It is a symbol used by those chosen to protect the Light, as well as all they hold dear from the threats of Darkness." He then points to Riku, "You, who would so quickly and willingly allow Darkness to rule over your destiny could never know its true potential." He then recalls Starlight, "But I understand that words cannot sway you. So, I leave your fate to Sora." James then leaps into the air, landing on one of the support columns to observe the coming battle, "Show him, Sora. Show him what it means to be a true Wielder of the Keyblade."
Riku draws his Soul Eater and charges at Sora. Sora rolls out of the way of Riku's initial attack to get behind him, hitting with a Sonic Blade, sending him flying towards Goofy, who knocked him back with his shield as Donald hits a Blizzara, hurtling Riku straight into a flurry combo from Sora.
Riku parries one of Sora's attacks and nails him with a swooping slash attack, but Sora gets his bearings and counter attacks hard. Donald heals Sora's injury as the boy clashes blades with Riku, giving Sora the strength he needed to overpower him and attack once more. But Riku uses his speed to land multiple blows against Sora.
The two sides go back and forth for some time until Donald and Goofy are knocked away and unconscious.
Riku kicks Sora into one of the pillars, "Where are your friends now?" He yells.
Sora's eyes widen before he glares back, "They're with me! All of them! Genie!" Using the strength of his Heart, Sora calls the Genie to appear.
The big guy flexes his muscles, "Don't you worry about a thing, pal of mine! One clobbered clocker coming up!" He declares before firing off a massive barrage of magic based attacks that Riku struggles to get out of.
During this, Sora summons Tinker Bell as well, who uses her own magic to restore Sora's energy. Just as Genie offers a sayonara, Sora calls on more power and brings forth a large lion that Sora addressed as "Simba" and a small dragon that is apparently named "Mushu."
Mushu unleashes an endless volley of fireballs at Riku, who fails to block them all properly and his Soul Eater is knocked away. Simba takes advantage of this and unleashes a devastatingly powerful explosion that crashes Riku into the fountain.
The young boy gets up just in time for Sora to leap up and hit him one final time with his Kingdom Key to take Riku down.
Riku staggers roughly back up to his feet as his Dark Armor fades away.
James revitalizes Donald and Goofy as he returns to Sora's side. He smiles at the boy, "You've done well. I knew you'd learn how to master the strength of your Heart." Sora smiles and nods before turning back to Riku, who runs off.
Beast returns to the main room as well, "So, your Heart won this battle." He says. Sora turns back to his newest friend and nods.
James approaches the Beast, "We should all keep going. Kairi, Belle, and the other Princesses are all here. And it's up to the five of us to save them."
(A/N: That's it for this chapter! Couple of quick things: First, thank you guys, as always, for your patience in my updates. College is very difficult for time management, especially these days. Second, I need your opinion on something. If I were to send James to the world that would have him take part in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" Would you guys want to see that? I'm trying to plan out the next few books ahead of time and really want your opinion on this particular one. Also, feel free to send me any recommendations. Finally, I don't know when the next chapter will be out, but I'm aiming for later this week at the earliest. Until then, Read and Review!)