Episode 6: Axel—Seven Days

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Written by: Kanemaki Tomoco
Original Plan: Nomura Tetsuya and Nojima Kazushige
Illustration: Amano Shiro
Translations: Goldpanner
Copyrighted by Disney, Square Enix and Touchstone Pictures. No profits are gained from these unofficial fan translations.

The First Day

The big moon—Kingdom Hearts—shone down on the world. It was called the world that never was, but, rather than never having been, it was more properly a world not supposed to have been. It quietly existed in the deep darkness between worlds.

In this world that wasn’t supposed to exist, there were things that shouldn’t have existed.

They were nobodies.

Axel stood on the castle balcony looking up at the moon, frowning slightly.

Why did I ever meet that hero from that world who wanted to exist, when I don’t exist? Was it the world’s intention? Why did we come to be?

No matter how much he thought about it, no answer came.

There’s some kind of answer out there, right?

“You shouldn’t be allowed out.”

Axel understood the sudden voice to be that of Saïx. He didn’t answer, motionlessly looking up at the moon.

Roxas had been gone for three days. So far, he had not been forgiven for leaving everything. Since Axel had helped Roxas leave, he had been suspended from duties, and had been spending the time idly inside the castle. Spending that time vague, and in doubt.

“How is your injury?”

“Injury?” Axel turned just his face to look at Saïx. “What are you talking about?”

He waited for an answer, but none came, Saïx as expressionless as always.

“An assembly will he held shortly,” Saïx announced.

“Guess th’ssembly’s bout that, then?” Axel said, his words coming out distorted, looking back up at the moon.

I don’t even want to know whether there’s something in my vague memories.

Perhaps Roxas has already been erased?

“We know Roxas’ location.”

At Saïx’s words, Axel lowered his eyes, and sighed.

Roxas still exists.

“Let’s hurry, Xemnas is waiting.”

At last, Axel turned to face Saïx.

“…Lord Xemnas, isn’t it?” Axel returned.

Saïx didn’t reply to Axel’s crooked teasing grin.

X

The stark white circle of marble seats was freezing cold all the time. Of the thirteen seats, more than half were empty, and the coldness was even more palpable. Plus, they were uncomfortable to sit in.

“At last it seems we’ve found him.”

“Roxas? Or the hero—?”

“Both.”

Axel was only half-listening to Xigbar and Xemnas’ conversation, disconnectedly; his gaze was fixed on a vacant seat. The thirteenth seat, though big for his little body, was Roxas’.

He’d sat there the same as me now, listening in boredom as the other members talked. What had Roxas been thinking about the whole time?

We’d spent so much time together, but I don’t know what Roxas had been thinking about.

I always meant to understand. I was acting like I did.

You who has no heart, what were you feeling?

“The time has come for us to move, it seems—”

Axel frowned at Xemnas’ words.

What if—I’d stopped Roxas properly, that time?

If I’d told Roxas the entire secret, would it have turned out like this?

But, I couldn’t betray the organisation.

No—to be honest, I’ve already betrayed the organisation.

In that castle, I was the one who let Riku and Naminé meet, which made a big mess for the organisation.

But, I didn’t complete the betrayal. I’m still uncertain.

From the time I met my best friend Roxas, from the time spent in Castle Oblivion, I’ve continued to struggle with doubts.

“We’ve gotta take some measures then?—Axel.”

Axel looked up, startled. Xigbar was staring straight at him, grinning like he was making fun of him, just like always.

“You’re the one with the most details on the heroes—isn’t that right?”

Axel nodded quietly at those words, and stretched his body against the back of the chair. He looked at Xemnas.

“Where is Roxas?”

“Are you familiar with the expression, “right under one’s nose”?”  Xigbar said, still teasingly.

“You don’t mean—”

Xigbar’s words reminded him of one place.

“Twilight town…” Axel muttered to himself. All the members’ eyes concentrated on him.

“And the hero is also there?” asked Luxord from beside Axel, who was lost in thought.

“We expect he’s there with Roxas,” answered Saïx.

“Let’s get him then! We can scatter through that town and search for him—”

Cutting across Axel, Xemnas opened his mouth.

“That’s right—but Roxas isn’t in that town.”

“What do you mean?”

Saïx and Xemnas glanced at each other, and then Xemnas spoke.

“It would be better for Saïx to explain afterwards. For now let it suffice to say you’re taking Roxas back.”

X

Deep inside the castle of the world that never was, there were silent rooms. Once, they had been research facilities, and there was an enormous computer with various data stored on it. Axel had heard it was the same computer Ansem had once had, salvaged and put here.

“You know something of computers, right?”

Saïx sat in the pallid light from the computer screen. He opened up a window on the screen; a map of Twilight Town.

“What’s the point of stupid details like that at this late a date?”

“That’s not Twilight Town,” said Saïx, and tapped a few buttons. Four white dots showed up on the map, spread here and there.

“What’s that?”

“Dusks. They have orders to pursue Roxas.”

On the monitor, the white dots moved around. One of them was still, fixed at the haunted mansion point on the map.

“Don’t do things so half-assed. You can send dusks after him, but that doesn’t mean Roxas will just come back. I’ll go.” Turning back, Axel opened a dark portal between them, but Saïx held him back.

“Let’s look.”

“’Let’s look’? I don’t get you,” Axel shot back, irritated.

We know where Roxas is, so why don’t we just go and get him right away?

“That isn’t Twilight Town, so perhaps that world’s Roxas is also not the Roxas you know.”

Not understanding Saïx’s words, Axel glared at the monitor.

That’s an image of Twilight Town, all right. But what am I supposed to understand from just white dots?

“What’s happening?”

“This is a world made of data by an unknown person,” Saïx said, turning to Axel.

“Whatever that means,” said Axel, irritated, not taking his eyes off the monitor.

“In order to lock Roxas away—no, in order to seal his memories away, and then switch them with those of the hero, they created a virtual space. The world itself was probably constructed from Roxas’ memories too.”

“Someone who could do that…”

Could it be the one I know who can manipulate memories at will; the ‘golden haired nobody princess’?

“Naminé the memory witch probably has something to do with it,” said Saïx, beating Axel to the punch. “You’re the one responsible for losing track of her whereabouts.” Saïx swung round on the chair, and looked up at Axel. “In the process of pursuing Roxas, we found that virtual space. Yesterday was spent trying to invade it. But at present, only dusks can slip through.”

“Can’t you send me in straight away?”

Saïx frowned. “Didn’t I just say only dusks can be sent in there?”

“If you can send dusks, you can send me. It’s not like we nobodies are that different from each other,” said Axel, eyes fixed on the monitor.

Nothing can change the basic fact that none of us, neither dusks nor higher-order members, are meant to exist.

“Any moment now’s fine,” said Axel, dead serious.

Saïx sighed. “I can’t send you if I don’t know whether or not you can come back.”

“So Roxas is in some kind of weird place where we don’t even know what’s happening to him, oh, is that so—did you really think I’d be satisfied at that??”

Axel was getting more and more worked up, and at last Saïx shrugged, worn down.

“It happens in an instant. I can’t secure it.” Saïx went to the back of the computer and got some equipment. “This will convert your form into data, which can be sent into that world. Is it ok? It really is only an instant.”

Axel nodded at Saïx’s words and stood in front of the device. Saïx stabbed a small button. A light shone from the device, and Axel’s figure disappeared.

X

He was in Twilight Town. It seemed no different to the town Axel had been to countless times. He could see figures climbing the slope from the plaza to the station. Roxas was over there, with three kids around him. The children were familiar; Axel had been to Twilight Town with Roxas many times, and remembered coming across them. But he hadn’t seen Roxas ever make contact with them.

Roxas laughed at something one of them said.

“Roxa—”

The name slipped out before he realised, and the world shuddered.

He noticed Saïx standing before him.

“Satisfied?”

This was the world that never was—back in the dimly lit innards of the research facilities.

“I was against the orders to break you in there, and try to have you return with Roxas.”

Standing in front of the equipment, Axel finally lifted his face to look at Saïx, mouth twisted like a smile.

“Because I’m the traitor?”

“It’s absolutely unthinkable that you could bring Roxas back. But for the purposes of breaking into a world fabricated from Roxas’ memory, you are the easiest. That’s why you were chosen.” Saïx stood up from the chair, and leaned to whisper in Axel’s ear;

“You’re the biggest thing remaining in Roxas’ memories.”

X

The Second Day

In a world made from his memories, Roxas has three friends his age, but I’m not there.

In his own room, Axel rolled over in bed to look at the ceiling.

To find out how to stay longer in that virtual space, Saïx had said more time was needed. Axel wasn’t. That meant he was back to being grounded.

Maybe a body without a heart just disappears, if it’s got nothing to do, Axel thought.

Nobodies have no hearts. Pretending to be humans with hearts, we laugh, get angry, make expressions. We can think, but… but we don’t have hearts.

In that world, Roxas was laughing.

Like he was having fun.

Like he’d always lived in that place.

It’s a place of lies Naminé made from his own memories, but, maybe, that’s the real Roxas. Not clad in a black coat, but playing with friends his own age, laughing, eating ice-cream, wandering around—like Sora.

Axel got out of bed and got something from a drawer in the small shelf at his bedside. Then he sighed heavily, and opened a dark portal beside him.

X

In Twilight Town, the sun glowed red as it set. From the top of a clock tower, Axel watched the sunset vaguely, a sea salt ice-cream in his hand.

The sound of the train could be heard; bells rang out.

The fond sight of the sunset was the same as always.

Those three kids—dunno their names—are climbing the slope to the station, as usual. Yelling out as they kick a ball.

Those three are friends to the Roxas of another world. I hadn’t thought Roxas really noticed them. But… maybe Roxas always wanted to try out playing like that, Axel thought, emptily.

Roxas had no memories from when he was a human. So, I wouldn’t expect him to have memories of ever having played.

Axel watched the kids playing with the ball, distantly. The sea-salt ice cream in his hand dripped on his glove.

“Ah damn, it’s melting.”

Axel bit on the melting ice cream as he watched the kids below him.

The clock tower’s bell rang out, telling the time.

I hate wasting time like this.

I’d rather just get some order I didn’t really understand, and be moving around.

We don’t have hearts, but we think too much about stuff, and get tired just thinking.

But maybe now that’s okay, if it helps me sleep.

The sun is sinking—

It should be the same sunset as always. Why does it look different, somehow?

Maybe it’s because Roxas isn’t here.

Axel ate the ice cream and stood up, turning away from the sunset.

The sunset—was shining on Axel’s back.

X

The Third Day

Saïx sat in front of the computer, tapping away on the keyboard.

“First of all, a test.”

“Got you,” said Axel, nodding.

He stood in front of the huge device set up beside the computer. From here he’d be converted into data and fed into the virtual space, the same as two days ago.

“It didn’t take as long as I thought,” said Axel, idly, to Saïx’s turned back.

“There’s a hole in the virtual space. Someone could go back and forth through it, like you did.”

“Who’s going back and forth?”

“We haven’t got that far,” said Saïx, finally looking back at Axel. “Don’t do anything to Roxas yet. The bottom line is, we can only send you in as an experiment.”

“I get it.”

At Axel’s unenthusiastic reply, Saïx turned indifferently to the computer and resumed typing on the keyboard. “We’re going.”

“Ok.”

Saïx pushed a small button. From the big device a blue light shone, and Axel’s figure disappeared.

X

Axel had appeared on top of the stood on the roof of a house in the plaza.

“Is this the virtual space they made, then,” muttered Axel, looking around at the familiar streets. He hadn’t had time to confirm it two days ago, but now he could see that right down to the shops, everything was a perfect copy. No matter wherever or however you looked, it was Twilight Town.

Suddenly, he felt a presence, and looked down at the street.

A familiar golden haired boy was walking there.

“Roxas…” Axel muttered, and clenched a gloved hand.

That moment, he noticed a girl in front of him, also looking down at Roxas. He recognised that golden hair and white dress.

I didn’t think we’d meet again in a place like this.

The girl was sitting still, like she was hiding up on the building, watching Roxas.

Is this world really something she made, then? Someone’s helped her—no, is she helping someone? Maybe she’s being used? Like we used her, once.

This is my last chance to take Roxas back, so shouldn’t I make use of her again?

“Yo, Naminé.”

The girl called Naminé slowly turned and looked at Axel. Her expression froze.

“You—”

Obviously Naminé was wary.

That’s to be expected.

She would have thought I was destroyed in battle against Sora, in Castle Oblivion. If I saw members of the organisation who were meant to be dead, I’d be wary too.

Above all, it’s that she has escaped the clutches of the organisation and been drawn in by someone else.

Opposite Naminé, Axel shrugged his shoulders, and smiled. “Looks like you and me have some kind of destiny, doesn’t it?”

“…Axel…”

“I’m not a ghost, you know?”

Naminé cast her eyes down, a worried look on her face. Axel went to stand beside her, at the edge of the roof, still watching Roxas walking on the street. Naminé was gazing down at Roxas too.

“What do you intend to do?” asked Naminé.

“Just what I’ve been ordered to do,” answered Axel, after an instant of thought.

“You shouldn’t be here.” Naminé frowned, brooding in silence. Axel’s eyes flicked to Naminé.

“…And you?”

“Me?” Naminé repeated in place of an answer, returning to silence.

“Why are you here?”

Naminé finally turned her face up to Axel.

“Please, Axel. Don’t come here. He is here. Return to the other world.”

“‘He’?”

Naminé frowned slightly. It didn’t look like she intended to explain.

“Sora won’t wake up without me. Roxas is already advancing towards a future with Sora. He won’t return to you—no, he can’t return.”

At Naminé’s words, Axel exhaled loudly. “Can you believe that?” he said sharply, eyes trained on Naminé. Her expression was sad.

“Maybe even you will be erased.”

 I don’t care.

“Axel—”

Naminé raised her voice. But Axel didn’t move, gazing after where Roxas had run off to.

“I’ll make sure with my own eyes,” Axel muttered, with a wry smile.

“—Axel…” Naminé called, but it only reached his turned back. Axel kicked off the roof without answering, pursuing Roxas.

X

Axel watched silently as Roxas battled dusks in the centre of an empty lot. Instead of wielding a keyblade, Roxas gripped a stick in his hand.

Has his strength been locked away somewhere with his memories? He’s fighting so clumsily.

Then, the world went distorted. After an instant of dizziness, Roxas was holding a keyblade.

Something happened in that instant, in this fake world. I don’t know what, but, just a guess.

If this space is something someone created, it’s probably possible to manipulate time here.

Perhaps Naminé, or someone working with her, interfered with the world. And so now, Roxas is holding a keyblade.

Is it possible for us to interfere with this world in the same way? Guess I still don’t know.

The downside is, this world can probably warp or something with me still in it.

As Axel watched, thinking it over, Roxas destroyed the dusks.

Roxas seemed to have the situation under control, so Axel opened a dark portal, and his figure disappeared from the counterfeit Twilight Town.

X

In contrast with Twilight Town’s soft sunset, this world was filled with pallid chilly light, the same as the light from the computer monitor.

“So you’re back,” said Saïx, glancing over his shoulder, and then he faced the computer again.

“In that world, can you stop time?” Axel asked, looking at Saïx’s back. Saïx’s hands stopped moving, and he looked up at Axel.

“I was just thinking of exactly that. When you were moving around, part of the data stopped moving. It seems we have short command over time.”

“So we could stop it from this side, then.”

“However, there’s also a possibility that our friends over there will stop us. If they know where you’re moving around over there, they can forcibly stop your movement too, I suppose,” Saïx told Axel, turning to the keyboard again. “Tomorrow we’ll stop time over there. For that I’ll do some other work but… come back with Roxas within that timing. Time is short.”

“Got it,” Axel responded as he separated from the computer, headed for the door.

He stood in front of it, and turned back. “Aren’t you going to ask how Roxas is?”

But Saïx gave no reply.

X

The Fourth Day

Even in a place where sunlight cannot penetrate, and it’s unknown whether time even flows, there is morning.

Waking up in bed, Axel stared blankly at the ceiling.

Today I have a mission to bring Roxas back.

Failure won’t be forgiven.

If I was asked whether I’m confident I’ll succeed… I wouldn’t really know.

That day, exactly seven days ago, Roxas went to seriously pull out of the organisation, and I couldn’t stop him, or even fight. Why, I wonder.

I couldn’t stop Roxas.

I couldn’t stop Roxas as he went to betray the organisation.

“I’m… lonely, aren’t I…” muttered Axel, in a small voice.

 X

In the room where the computer was planted, Axel stood in front of the forwarding device.

“Don’t tell Roxas all the extra details. His chain of memories is in a broken state; don’t say anything that would stimulate him. Now, return with him.” Saïx spoke with his back turned, as always. “Time is short. Do you understand.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Axel answered, sounding hassled, and pulled his hood right up.

Then he declared quietly to himself, “I’ll bring him back with me, even if I have to drag him.”

“Go.” Saïx pushed the button with a finger, and Axel’s figure was wrapped in light, then disappeared.

 X

It seemed like people were gathering at the empty lot in the middle of town.

Cheers rang out from the centre, where Roxas and a little boy wearing a big hat were fighting, tightly gripping artificial sticks.

In that battle, Roxas was slightly the inferior.

“What are you doing, Roxas…” Axel muttered, looking down on the affair from the roof of a house.

I wouldn’t have expected Roxas to have such trouble against a child like that.

Having it brought home to him that it wasn’t the old Roxas down there set Axel’s teeth on edge.

The boy in the big hat leapt, and the world went still. The boy became a dusk, and pounced. Almost at the same time, two more dusks appeared around Roxas.

That kinda thing, is it.

If that boy was really a dusk, no wonder Roxas had had trouble.

But then again… I wouldn’t have expected Roxas to lose to a dusk either.

“These damn things–” Roxas muttered, and the second he readied his toy sword, it became a keyblade. “So you’re telling me to fight…!”

Roxas smashed the dusks down with the keyblade in his hand.

That figure overlapped with that of the Roxas who had routed heartless on duty—the real Roxas.

The dusks defeated in the space of a breath, Axel jumped off the roof and applauded. Roxas turned around, gripping the keyblade.

“Who are you?!”

“Roxas, all right, fight-fight-fight~!”

Roxas’ expression hardened in answer.

Obviously he’s wary.

Axel slowly stepped up, not taking his eyes off Roxas, who glared with all his might.

“You really have forgotten, haven’t you…” Axel muttered, and sighed.

There’s nothing left of me inside Roxas’ memories.

But maybe… maybe he’d remember if he saw my face.

Axel slowly pulled back the hood.

“It’s me? You know, Axel?”

“Axel?”

But Roxas was only repeating the name.

“So you don’t remember a~nything? I see–it wouldn’t have been too much for the dusks, then.”

If he’s this gone, there’s nothing to do but bring him back, even if I have to drag him.

Calling chakrams to his hands, Axel looked at Roxas.

“Wait. Please explain what you mean.”

At Roxas’ question, Axel paused.

That’s different. The open hostility is gone.

Maybe, just maybe, shards of memory concerning me remain somewhere in Roxas.

If that’s true, then I still have hope.

But, there’s no time.

“This place is a town created by some guy, ok? That means there’s no time to explain. First of all, I’ll take you back with me, conscious or not. Explanations come after that.”

Then, the surrounding scenery contorted.

“Shit,” Axel muttered.

Is time resuming?

Suddenly, Roxas hurled the keyblade at the ground.

“What’s going on!”

The keyblade slid over the ground, spinning.

Roxas was always like this.

Although he was a nobody, his emotions blew up like he was human.

Laugh, get angry, be sad, it was like Roxas had a heart.

To try and calm him down–like another day–Axel called—

“–Roxas.”

Roxas lifted his face, as if he was answering Axel’s call, and in that instant the keyblade appeared back in his hand.

“Number Thirteen, Roxas–the man chosen by the keyblade.”

Maybe… it’s the first time I’ve called Roxas that.

Axel readied the chakrams, looking at Roxas. Roxas’ expression twisted.

“I get it… then I guess we may as well fight!” Roxas cried out, levelling the keyblade.

“Wouldn’t have it any other way… Roxas!”

Axel launched a flying kick into Roxas. The force sent Roxas smashing into the ground.

I haven’t fought Roxas like this before. And, the Roxas I know isn’t the kind of guy who’d be knocked down by something like that.

“Let’s burn!”

Flames errupted from his hands. Taking the hit directly, Roxas was thrown to the ground again.

“Hahah! ‘Sokay, Roxas!” laughed Axel.

Maybe it would have been better to have fought him like this sooner.

Roxas stood, and came at him with force. Axel caught the keyblade with his chakrams and forced it down, Roxas’ face in point-blank range.

“How like you, Roxas!”

“Axel… what do you know?”

It’s not the first time Roxas has asked me that.

I know.

Yeah, I always know the things Roxas doesn’t.

I know things I can’t tell Roxas.

That’s why… I definitely couldn’t go.

“…I can’t say right now.”

“Please tell me!” Roxas cried, forcing the keyblades up.

That moment, the world warped again. There was a strange electronic sound and a light shone in the centre of the plaza, and then a man stood there. Red bandages wrapped around his face–and a red mantle.

I’ve seen him before.

The mystery guy who sneaked into Castle Oblivion–DiZ.

“Of course, it was you…!” Axel jumped, and threw a chakram at the man.

You’re the one who made this twisted virtual world–!

But, Axel’s chakram hit a wall of light in front of the man, and was deflected.

“Roxas, this man’s words have no meaning!” said DiZ.

That’s a lie.

They definitely have meaning.

I–

“Roxas, don’t let him confuse you!” Axel yelled, and Roxas turned. “Roxas!” Axel called, once more.

How many times have I called his name like that, I wonder.

“Roxas!” DiZ also called.

And then Roxas covered his ears.

“Hayner…”

I don’t know that name he muttered. It’s probably–those kids–Roxas’ friend’s name.

“Pence… Olette…”

This Roxas’ most important friends’ names.

This Roxas wouldn’t call my name like that.

“Hayner! Pence! Olette!” Roxas cried, Axel sprang–into a dark space.

 X

A dark city.

A dark, sunless city.

A dusky castle in the middle of a city shone down on by a glimmering moon.

Thrown onto the stone pavement, was Axel.

“Ow…”

Axel stood up, clutching his head tightly, and looked up at the glittering neon sky.

That man–the man who’d inspired something in Riku at Castle Oblivion–his name is DiZ.

The things that happened at that castle were under his control to a degree. But, I don’t know who he is or what his aim is.

“Surely–“

Axel started walking to try and drown out the doubts welling up inside.

After I’ve given my non-report, I don’t know what they’ll say.

To make matters worse, they don’t trust me right now.

X

Clutching his sharply stinging head, Axel turned for the deep inner rooms of the castle.

Entering the room, an unusually flustered Saix turned to face him, standing up from the chair.

“I have returned,” said Axel, putting on politeness, and Saix knitted his scarred brow.

“Why did you come back?”

“If you hadn’t noticed, I was thrown out, dumped right outside the castle. Nothing I could do,” Axel answered, and looked at the small white dots moving on the map on the monitor.

Roxas can’t be brought back by freaking dusks.

But, maybe I couldn’t have done it either.

Axel stared at the monitor, unmoving.

“Let’s report, Axel.”

Axel turned his gaze from the monitor, and stared at Saïx. A frown flickered across his face, and instead, he asked in return, “did the invader report of Castle Oblivion come from Zexion?”

“What is this about.”

“One year ago, Sora and Riku, and then Mickey. There was an invader other than those three. The report was?” Axel asked, firing words. Saïx answered after a bit, deep in thought.

“It didn’t come.”

“The invader appeared all of a sudden, and then got forced out of the space.”

That was one year ago–the incidents of Castle Oblivion. The mysterious invader who had appeared from the castle basement.

Why or how that man who held different aims to the organisation had entered the castle, I don’t know.

“Are you saying, a companion of Naminé? He’s probably the one who was behind the concealment of her whereabouts, too.”

“That guy’s name is DiZ,” Axel said, staring unmovingly at the monitor again.

 X

The Fifth Day

From the castle balcony, Axel gazed vacantly up at the moon floating above his head.

I’d say I felt pretty down.

Haziness was lodged deep within his chest.

I’ve received a summons to see Xemnas today.

I can pretty much guess what it’ll be about.

It’s about yesterday’s task.

We know that the one manipulating Namine is DiZ, but that doesn’t tell me what’s going to happen.

I couldn’t bring Roxas back.

As a member of the organisation, the only thing left is that fact.

And, as myself, what’s left is–Roxas doesn’t remember me even a little.

Maybe there’s shards of memory left in there somewhere.

But, already Roxas doesn’t call my name, like that time.

Hayner! Pence! Olette!

Those are the names of the friends important to Roxas now.

Axel hung his head, and let out a small sigh.

X

Is it just my imagination, or is the air in here more opressive than usual?

All the organisation members are gathered in the room of stone. And, I know all the members’ eyes–Xemnas’ eyes are turned on me.

Hidden by hoods as always, I have no clue what their expressions are like.

“Destroy Roxas.”

The command was given in the usual deep voice.

“Destroy him!? Wait, please, that’s way too fast!” Axel shot back, instantly, the organisation members’ eyes concentrated on him.

“It’s an order. Why are you hesitating? Aren’t you the one who mercilessly punishes those who turn their backs on the organisation?” Xaldin said, from the third chair. Xemnas’ expression was hidden under the hood, like the others.

“He hasn’t turned his back. He just can’t come back yet!”

As the words left his mouth, Axel knew he was lying.

It’s a lie.

The day I saw your retreating back, Roxas, you turned away from the organisation.

But, because of this, you must return.

Before I’m turned unto a dusk. Before you’re destroyed.

“If he does not return, he will be punished. If you go against this order, it’s you who will be punished,” said Xaldin, as spears floated up beside him, pointing right at Axel. Axel glared at Xaldin, and tension flowed thick in the air.

Xaldin’s spear stabbed with force into Axel’s chair.

But, Axel didn’t move.

Xemnas raised his hand, calling for restraint, and then turned his hand to Axel.

Light gathered in his hand; a flickering sign.

“I get it. Then I’ll do it, I’ll do it!” Axel spat.

Xemnas raised his arm, and disappeared. One after the other, members continued to disappear.

Axel stared at the centre of the room, arms folded, unmoving.

X

The breeze touched his face.

The sound of the bell could be heard.

Axel narrowed his eyes against the dazzle of the setting sun.

On top of Twilight Town’s clock tower–the usual spot–Axel was sitting like he always did, biting a sea-salt ice cream.

It was one year ago.

The first time I ate ice cream here with Roxas.

And, from then on, we ate ice cream here countless times.

Like the things that happened recently, it feels like something from a really long time ago.

An important recollection–memory.

If Roxas remembered them for me, I’d be happy.

That’s why now, they seem so old, and sad.

I don’t have a heart, but I know this is sadness.

Loneliness, sadness.

X

The Sixth Day

My head is buzzing, I can’t pull myself together.

I couldn’t really sleep.

From his bed, Axel stared blankly at the ceiling.

It wasn’t necessary for nobodies to have a human-like lifestyle, but rest was necessary.

Other than being told today’s mission, I didn’t really do anything yesterday. Maybe in reality it’d even be okay to have called it a day off.

A holiday…

“Didn’t get to go in the end,” muttered Axel, and he got up.

Today I have to destroy Roxas.

I cannot betray the organisation.

From the little shelf at his bedside, Axel took a white envelope, and looked at it vaguely for a while. Putting it in his pocket, Axel got up off the bed and left the room.

A short while after Axel had entered the room, Saix still hadn’t said a word. As he typed away at the keyboard, working, the pallid light radiating from the monior gleamed on the already pale Saix.

“Top of the morning to you, sir,” said Axel, in a put-on tone, but Saix turned to Axel disagreeably.

“Have you finished preparations?”

“Of course,” Axel shrugged, smiling.

“I sent dusks in before you in numbers. Think of failure as leading to immediate erasure.”

“Certainly, sir,” said Axel, and he bowed exaggeratedly.

“Was that supposed to be a joke, Axel?”

“That’s not too far is it?”

“…It’s not at all funny.” Saix resumed typing on the keyboard.

Maybe, this is the last time I’ll see Saix, too.

Thinking, Axel looked at the seated Saix’s back.

“We’ve known eachother for a pretty long time, haven’t we?”

Ignoring Axel’s words, Saix continued typing on the keyboard.

“Say something. Have you even thought that maybe I can’t erase Roxas?” Axel said, in a playful tone, and Saix finally looked up. “It’ll be all right. Cause I’m tough.” Axel puffed out his chest.

“How stupid,” said Saix, and for a moment he smiled. “Let’s hurry up and prepare. Time is limited. The hero will wake up soon, too. I’ll send you in right in front of Roxas.”

“Okay.”

Axel stood in front of the sending device. Saix rested his finger on the button.

“I’m off the~n!”

Waving to Saix, Axel’s figure disappeared.

X

The instant he was sent, the setting sun dazzled his eyes and he shut them for just a moment.

And then, Axel identified Roxas, who had whirled around to face him.

“Look here, I’ve been given these nasty orders. If you don’t come back with me, I’ve gotta destroy you.”

They were at what this Roxas would call the ‘usual spot’. Roxas had been just leaving the little warehouse under the railway. He stared at Axel.

“We’re… best friends, right?”

“Yeah, but, I don’t wanna get turned into a dusk…” answered Axel, scratching his head, then he stopped moving.

What?

What did he say?

“You mean you remembered?!”

“Y…eah…” Roxas nodded, giving a vague smile.

“Really!”

If Roxas remembered the organisation–if he remembered me, maybe we could talk out a way where he doesn’t have to be destroyed.

But Roxas was watching Axel, unmoving.

All of a sudden, doubt flickered, because he’d always been with Roxas. Because he remembered what Roxas’ expression was like when he said something delicate.

Is Roxas lying?

“But, you know. Just to make sure. So, umm… what’s our boss’s name?”

The instant Axel asked, Roxas moved, picked up a fallen stick from the ground.

“…Roxas?”

Roxas gripped the stick and glared at Axel.

“So it’s not that…”

From Roxas’ expression, he felt open hostility.

If he’d remembered me–no, he’d probably turn hostile even if he did remember.

“–Axel” Roxas called out. Axel shrugged, and summoned the chakrams.

That instant–the world warped, and when he came to, Roxas wasn’t there.

It’s the same as that time. When I first saw Roxas in this world.

“The Roxas I know isn’t there anymore… I understand…” Axel muttered, as if to confirm it, glaring at the sun ahead.

Is Roxas really gone?

What should I do to meet that Roxas again?

Theis Roxas who’s lost his memories–I can’t be friends with him again, I guess.

Maybe we could become friends again, if we had the same amount of time.

But I know Sora’s waking up. There isn’t enought time left.

Axel guessed that Roxas didn’t disappear, but had gone somewhere while time was stopped.

Following Roxas, Axel broke into a run.

X

Dusks were hanging around in the forest around the haunted mansion.

A huge number of dusks have been sent into this world; I can feel it.

“It’s gotten serious at last–no, maybe they just don’t have faith in me,” muttered Axel as he ran, grinning.

Emerging from between the dusks, he sensed a battle ahead of him.

In front of the gates at the haunted mansion, a man wearing an organisation coat was destroying dusk after dusk.

“He looks tough…”

Axel stopped, and between him and the man, a dark portal opened.

And then appeared–Namine.

“Don’t hurt Roxas more than this–please.” The man stopped moving at Namine’s words. “We’re nobodies, things that aren’t allowed to exist. But–this is too awful.”

At Namine’s words, the man lowered the sword he held, and picked her up.

Maybe, Namine’s not my enemy right now.

No–Namine’s never been my enemy.

Because she’s nobody.

Axel turned to Namine. “Is Roxas inside that mansion?”

With a surprised face, Namine froze. “…Axel…”

But the man turned, lifting his sword at Axel. “Who are you?”

I’m not obligated to explain myself to some bogus organisation member.

Axel silently raised his chakrams in the direction of the man.

“He’s Axel… Roxas’ best friend. A nobody. A member of the organisation… but…”

Axel laughed, interrupting Namine’s explanation.

“Namine, you and I have the same goal.”

“It’s the same, but–not the same. But, there’s no time for explanations now. I’m sorry, Axel.”

The instant Namine said that, a dark portal opened behind her and the man. And then, they were swallowed up and their figures vanished.

“Hey!”

Axel ran up, but the way to the closed gate was blocked.

Some kind of special barrier-like thing has been put up; looks like I can’t just go in.

Roxas is inside this mansion, no mistake.

Axel turned back to the dusks, and lifted a hand. “Will you guys work for me?”

One by one, the dusks went over the gate and the walls surrounding the mansion. A great number of them were wounded and faded away on the barrier.

No matter when I see the dusks–to see those guys, nobodies like me–destroyed, it doesn’t feel good.

Makes me think about how someday I’ll be erased in the same way.

One dusk found a seam in the barrier.

Axel threw a chakram in there, and entered the mansion’s garden.

X

The system didn’t look all that strict inside the mansion. The dusks had even gotten inside. They had probably been sent directly by Saix, from the computer in the world that never was.

The dim and dusty atmosphere reminded Axel just a little of the world he was usually in.

And then, there was a sign–a scent.

It was just like Roxas’ boyish presence.

Axel climbed the stairs, following the sign of Roxas, and turned to a room on the left. He opened the door, and there was a little library.

“Cheap piece of crap device,” Axel muttered, and kicked a desk left in the room with all his might.

Stairs leading to a basement appeared with a light. The basement was enclosed in inorganic metal; clearly different to the atmosphere of the rest of the town. A place made by a different person. At the bottom of the stairs was a door, and beyond that was a room where a gigantic computer was planted. It looked a lot like the computer that was in the world that never was.

On the big monitor in the centre of the room, which showed an image of a boy–Sora, it seemed.

“…Sora,” Axel muttered, and moved his feet forwards. He found himself in an oversized room with nothing in it.

“Why is the darkness open in this place?”

In a corner of the room, the mouth to a dark portal was open. But, it seemed like right now invaders couldn’t come in through there. It seemed like something made by some special method.

Suddenly, the sound of something being smashed resounded from the next room. Axel turned.

The one making that sound is–probably Roxas.

He probably found out somehow how that big computer had shut him up in this world.

No, maybe he remembered.

About Sora–about the organisation, about me.

So what happens now?

What should I do?

Axel stood in front of the door, which upon opening would reveal Roxas, and let out a big breath.

Is there really no way left?

Is there no way but to destroy Roxas?

Can I destroy Roxas?

Thoughts still scattered, Axel opened the door.

“Axel,” Roxas called.

“So this time, you’ve really remembered?” Axel asked Roxas. Roxas nodded slightly.

But–it’s too late.

“How happy!” Axel summoned the chakrams. “But, it’s too late!” Axel yelled, and radiated one big gush of power. Axel’s power was that of fire.

Encircle myself with Roxas, inside the flames.

Am I able to destroy Roxas?

Probably not.

I knew I couldn’t.

I reckon Xemnas, and Saix, knew it too.

But–

Maybe we can disappear together from here, and go somewhere.

Just then, a change came over the keyblade-wielding Roxas.

“Two?!”

Roxas gripped a keyblade in each hand.

I think I’ve seen one of those keyblades somewhere before. But, I can’t remember.

He seemed to be remembering something–but, as if shaking that off, Axel flashed a grin.

“Let’s go then, Roxas.” And then Axel jumped. Roxas’ keyblade blocked Axel’s blow.

To the time they’d fought recently, the power was incomparable.

That’s close to the old Roxas–no, maybe he’s stronger than the old Roxas.

“Axel…” Roxas called.

“What, Roxas.”

“I–”

And then, Roxas’ body trembled, and he swayed.

“…Roxas?!”

Roxas fell against Axel, and Axel caught him in his arms instinctively. Shaking himself free from Axel’s hands, Roxas glared at Axel again. And then swung the keyblade.

Thrown back by the force, Axel fell to his knees.

That one blow was almost fatal.

Silently, Roxas stepped closer.

“Axel…” The hostility had vanished from Roxas’ eyes.

I can’t find the spirit to fight this Roxas anymore.

Here–there’s nothing but to fade away.

“Let’s meet again in the next life.”

At those words spoken with just a hint of a smile, Roxas nodded quietly.

“Yeah. I’ll be waiting.”

There was something funny about Roxas’ serious answer, and Axel laughed.

“Silly… you’d have a next life, but…” Axel said to Roxas–and his figure disappeared in the darkness of a portal he’d opened behind him.

X

The Seventh Day

This is Twilight Town.

There is the usual spot, the usual town. On the edge of that town.

In the dazzle of the setting sun, Axel slowly came to.

Don’t know how long I’ve been asleep.

He had arrived here wounded, and then passed out.

The only thing I do know is that I failed my duty.

And that probably–Roxas returned to Sora.

Just that.

Axel got up, and screwed up his face at the pain that ran through his chest.

I don’t know what happens now… or what I should do.

I was told I’d be destroyed if I disobeyed this command, and I failed it.

Failing is considered the same as disobeying orders, isn’t it.

But.

Axel thrust his hand into his pocket, and took out the white envelope.

The memories of me and Roxas haven’t faded away.

For now, just that’s fine.

“…Really feel like some ice cream,” Axel muttered, watching the sunset absently.

We were always together with the sunset.

We talked about all kinds of things in that place.

I think it’d be good if we could talk and eat ice cream there again someday.

Now, there’s nothing but that.

I only hope for that.

The setting sun was shining on Axel.

X

The End

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One thought on “Episode 6: Axel—Seven Days

  1. rei

    Why is this novel so………magnifique?! Thank you for the novel. I feel kind of depressed after reading Axel’s side of the story. It’s really sad…

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