Written by: Kanemaki Tomoco
Original Plan: Nomura Tetsuya and Nojima Kazushige
Illustration: Amano Shiro
Copyrighted by Disney, Square Enix and Touchstone Pictures. No profits are gained from these unofficial fan translations.
Missions were given one at a time from Saïx, every day.
On the 9th day, Roxas’ mission was with Marluxia. It was at Twilight Town, same as the day before. There wasn’t much sign of people. Just the setting sun, shining over the town.
It seemed like missions—or rather, training—was to continue in that town for a while yet.
“You’re Roxas, aren’t you. Let’s re-introduce ourselves. My name is Marluxia. I’m Number XI,” said Marluxia, in a gentle tone, looking at Roxas.
It was the first time he’d brushed with a keyblade wielder, even in his memories. He’d heard of them, though.
As a Nobody, he couldn’t see anything special about the boy standing in front of him.
“What should I do today?” said Roxas, his gaze shifting slightly from Marluxia.
“Today, your mission is to collect hearts. Can you bring out your keyblade?”
“—yeah,” Roxas nodded, and made the keyblade appear in his hand.
The blade, shaped like a giant key, shone in Roxas’ hand.
It was the first time Marluxia had seen a keyblade.
“So you’re Number XIII, the one chosen by the keyblade,” muttered Marluxia, without realising, but Roxas didn’t show any special reaction.
Just then, as if called by the keyblade, a Heartless appeared.
The black-bodied thing was a Shadow, a low level Heartless.
“So the small fry have come out—Roxas, it’s sudden, but please show me the power of the keyblade. Defeat that Heartless.”
Whether he’d been listening or not, Roxas ran at the Heartless, keyblade in hand. There was no hesitation in his movements. Roxas swung the keyblade down at the Shadow, which faded away with a few blows. Marluxia had been hoping for strength that would bring a Shadow down in one blow, but as a yet newly-awakened Nobody, this was to be expected.
“The thing you just defeated was a Heartless called a Shadow.”
“…Heartless,” muttered Roxas, still gripping the keyblade.
“The Heartless are beings of darkness that roam about, searching for hearts. There are two kinds of Heartless. One is the Pureblood type, such as the one you just defeated. Hearts do not emerge from Pureblood Heartless, even once defeated.”
“So how are hearts gathered?”
“Defeat Emblem Heartless. Those ones.”
Little Heartless had appeared in the air in front of them.
Once more, Roxas ran into the throng of Heartless.
His agility wasn’t good, as expected. Just then, from a defeated Heartless, a heart floated up and vanished into the air.
It was the first time Marluxia had seen a ‘heart’ being collected before his very eyes.
If those hearts could be collected… but before that, there’s something that must be done.
Even so—the keyblade has marvellous power.
If that power was in my hands…
Roxas defeated all of the Heartless. He turned back, breathing hard.
“Is that okay?”
The keyblade disappeared from his hand.
“Yes—the things you defeated this time were Emblem Heartless. Unlike with those Shadows from before, after defeating them, somebody’s heart emerged, didn’t it. Today’s mission is to collect those hearts.
“How are those hearts collected?”
Marluxia was a little surprised at Roxas’ question.
How can a keyblade wielder not know such a thing?
“If you defeat Heartless with your keyblade, they get collected.”
“…What happens to the collected hearts?”
The continuous questions showed that Roxas didn’t know a thing.
Marluxia took a breath, and told him.
“They gather in the great Kingdom Hearts.”
“Kingdom Hearts?” Roxas tilted his head.
I haven’t seen the real thing, either. But the name, as the ‘outcome of research’, was let known to me.
“The goal of our Organisation is to complete Kingdom Hearts. In order to do so, we must gather hearts.”
“Gather hearts—so, everyone else in the Organisation is gathering hearts too, I guess.”
“Only the keyblade can free hearts completely.”
“Huh?” Roxas’ voice rose, as if he was surprised.
“We—in other words, except for you, when those of the Organisation defeat Heartless, the hearts aren’t collected. The released heart will, in due course, become a Heartless again. Heart collection is something special that cannot be performed with anything but the keyblade you wield.”
Roxas’ gaze dropped to the ground, as if he were thinking.
It appears that they really haven’t let Roxas know anything. Is he not being told? And, are these things that Roxas should be learning from now on? When Saïx put me in charge of this mission, I did not receive any special instructions. All he said was to teach him how to gather hearts.
“For the sake of our Organisation, defeat Heartless, and complete the great Kingdom Hearts—we’re counting on you, Roxas,” he said, and Roxas nodded.
He had just finished reporting to Saïx, in the lobby.
“It looks like you’re progressing fairly well.”
“Are you resting properly?”
“Resting?” Roxas asked.
“Whether you’re sleeping properly or not. Keeping yourself clean also comes under resting. It’s a mission to make sure you can perform on missions.”
Saïx wasn’t very satisfied with Roxas’ answer.
“Arranging equipment and understanding your own skills is the same thing. And so, from today, you are to keep a journal.”
“Yes, in order to understand yourself.”
Saïx handed Roxas a notebook.
“You don’t actually have to hand it in or anything. That is all. Go back to your room and rest,” was all Saïx said, and he went ahead and left the lobby.
In the lobby, members who had finished their missions were talking and relaxing. Roxas watched the members, sensing a strange sort of feeling in the air.
In the lobby was—Larxene, Demyx, and Luxord.
“What are you looking at,” Larxene sniped. Roxas looked away, flustered, and met Demyx’s eyes this time.
“You can’t play some kinda instrument, can you?” Demyx said.
“Instrument? What’s an instrument?”
“Like one of these.”
A strangely shaped weapon appeared in Demyx’s hands.
“It’s my sitar. Will you? Listen to this.”
Demyx touched the weapon, and a strange sound rang out.
“Shut up with that noisy thing!” yelled Larxene, disagreeably, and Demyx shrugged his shoulders.
“Which one’s noisier, anyway…?” Demyx mumbled, looking away.
“Huuuh? Did you say something, cranky-pants?” Larxene stood up from the sofa.
“…In life, such pleasures are necessary, too.”
Luxord had slid in to stand in front of Larxene.
“Eh, whatever. I’ll be saying goodbye to that racket soon enough.”
“What do you mean?” asked Demyx, forgetting he had been yelled at.
“It’s got nothing to do with peons like you. Later.”
Larxene left the lobby.
Behind her, Demyx played his sitar once more.
“That woman is such a pain in the ass!”
“One of the finer points of the fairer sex, is it not?” said Luxord, stroking his beard.
“Don’t really get you there, man. Right, Roxas?”
“I… don’t really understand,” replied Roxas.
Women are a pain, I guess? I don’t really understand what a woman is, anyway.
“Ah, you’ll understand someday,” grinned Luxord.
The next day, Roxas was in Twilight Town again, with Zexion.
Zexion, who had been the youngest member of the Organisation until Roxas came, was watching Roxas’ movements, unwaveringly.
If the keyblade did not exist, our plan would not succeed.
It’s contradictory, saying that we are searching to seek what we lost ourselves, Zexion thought, recalling their former research. I don’t think our choice to research the Heartless, and their creation process, was a mistake. But, as a consequence, we lost our own hearts.
“Was that okay?” asked Roxas, who had finished his mission.
“Very good job. I hope that you will want to complete your next mission in such a positive manner, too. Is there anything you’d like to ask?” Zexion asked, and Roxas stopped moving.
Zexion had meant for Roxas to persistently ask questions about the mission, but the words that came from Roxas’ mouth were unexpected.
“What is Kingdom Hearts?”
Zexion hesitated for a moment on how he should answer.
But, Roxas continued, not noticing Zexion’s manner.
“Defeating Heartless and gathering hearts makes Kingdom Hearts, right? Are we going to do something, once we’ve made Kingdom Hearts?” Roxas asked, in rapid succession, and Zexion was lost in thought for a while.
How should I answer…
Roxas’ gaze was fixed right on Zexion.
“…The goal of our Organisation is to fuse with the people’s hearts of kingdom hearts, and become complete. All the members of the Organisation are nobodies, missing hearts—that is to say, since the time we were born into this world, we’ve lacked hearts.
Of course, I wonder if he can understand that explanation.
And then, is it necessary to make Roxas understand?
“So, does that mean I don’t have a heart, either?” Roxas asked, looking strange.
Perhaps he still doesn’t understand what a ‘heart’ is yet.
Before, that me, who researched, and had a ‘heart’, thought he understood a little of what a ‘heart’ was.
The uplifting feelings from the time I had a ‘heart’, engraved in my memories, cannot be felt any more. Now I can only remember, and work hard to try and taste it once again.
“Yes, that’s right. We members of the Organisation do not have hearts. That is why we seek them. Complete Kingdom Hearts, an aggregation of people’s hearts, and merge—in order for that to happen, Heartless must be defeated with the keyblade you wield, and hearts gathered. In order to achieve the Organisation’s goals, each member of the Organisation is given their own role. Your role is to defeat Heartless with the keyblade, and collect hearts.”
But—I’ve heard that Roxas has no memories.
If so, it means he doesn’t have memories from the time he had a heart either, like we do. Perhaps even feeling that he has no ‘heart’ is difficult.
Roxas listened to Zexion’s explanation, looking as if he was thinking about something to himself.
“Is there anything else you would like to ask?”
“…Ah, no.” Roxas shook his head.
I wonder if Roxas understood about the ‘heart’—, Zexion thought suddenly, stepping into a corridor with Roxas.
Having finished his mission, Marluxia called out to Axel.
“I heard that you’re coming to Castle Oblivion, too—”
“News travels fast.” Axel stopped walking, and looked back at Marluxia.
“Well, you and I have different missions. You’re going on matters of the ‘keyblade hero’, I see.”
“You’re well informed, aren’t you?”
“The members being made to go over there know that sort of thing,” he answered. Axel shrugged. “Aren’t you interested? In the keyblade hero.”
That’s the truth. I’ve got no reason to have special interest.
“Were you not showing interest in Roxas?”
“Can’t help it, I’m sort of in charge of him,” Axel answered, and turning his back on Marluxia, started walking.
But, the next words made him stop.
“So you wouldn’t be interested, even if you heard that Roxas is the Nobody of that keyblade hero—?”
Turning around without realising, Axel looked at Marluxia, eyes narrowed. It didn’t look like he was lying.
Seeing Axel’s state, Marluxia laughed. “How honest. Just like a human.”
“Is that a compliment?”
“Perhaps it is a compliment, for what it means to have reactions as if one had a heart,” Marluxia said, a bewitching smile still pasted on his mouth.
“So? Is that all the business you have with me?” Axel asked. Marluxia gazed fixedly at Axel.
A few days later, Roxas was in Twilight Town with Axel.
“This is the second mission I’ve been on with you, isn’t it.”
“Yeah—” Roxas nodded, and gripped the keyblade.
Today’s mission was to gather hearts, too. It boiled down to Heartless extermination.
“Will we go?”
Roxas broke into a run at the sound of Axel’s voice.
I thought he’d have done heaps of missions by now, but I heard from Saïx that this is the first real one.
Roxas was moving with far more agility than the first day he’d gone on a mission, and behind him, Axel was acting as back-up, throwing his chakrams at Heartless.
We Organisation members, other than Roxas, can’t get hearts even if we defeat Heartless.
In other words, when I go out on a ‘heart gathering’ mission with Roxas, supporting him becomes my role.
But Roxas was running, swinging the keyblade, without even looking back at Axel. His movements were pretty admirable. When he had gathered enough hearts, Roxas finally turned back to Axel.
“That’s it, isn’t it.”
The keyblade vanished from Roxas’ hand.
Beads of sweat stood out on Roxas’ forehead, as he steadied his heavy breathing.
“So what do we do now?” asked Axel, in a light tone.
“What do we do…? I planned on reporting to Saïx and then sleeping in my room, like always.”
Close, but no cigar.
Axel peered into Roxas’ face, scratching his head.
“You know, Roxas…”
Just then, the town’s children—the three from before—ran past Axel and Roxas.
“Hurry up, Pence!”
“Loser treats the winner to ice cream, you know!”
Seems like Roxas and those kids are destined to run into each other or something.
Roxas was watching the children’s backs strangely.
He didn’t seem to remember that he had seen them the first time he had been with Axel.
“That was the town’s children, just now.”
Roxas narrowed his eyes. Axel was surprised by his reaction.
“Do they all do that?”
Axel didn’t really understand what Roxas meant.
“Running around in a pack like that, and, making noise—” Roxas asked, and Axel thought that his expression was a little different than it had been up until then.
Perhaps he’s remembering something from his past, when he spent time like that.
“That’s… something people with hearts do, I guess?”
“A heart, is it…”
Roxas hung his head, and looked at the ground. Axel scratched his head, sensing some kind of pain-in-the-ass atmosphere in the silence.
And then he said, “Will we have some ice cream, too?”
I don’t know what I should say.
I just want to eat ice cream and talk with Roxas in that place like we did the day we met, that’s all, but I’m getting the feeling that I’ve gotta dress it up in different words or something.
Roxas probably—wouldn’t understand, if I didn’t.
After taking a breath, Axel said, “Because we’re friends, see.”
Saying it is really freaking embarrassing. But, saying it out loud gives it significance.
And I couldn’t think of any other excuses.
“Friends eat ice cream together, talk about stupid things and laugh, that sort of stuff. Like those guys from before, for example.”
Roxas looked up at Axel, a strange look on his face.
“Alright, let’s go.”
Axel started walking towards the milkbar, as if he were fleeing from Roxas’ gaze.
Children were talking to each other in the open space in front of the clock tower.
Does that condition have deep meaning?
Roxas watched them as he ate his ice cream.
I can feel a greater sense of self from Roxas than he had the day we first met, or the day of his first mission.
But, it’s still hollow and cold, somehow. That’s something all nobodies have in common.
Roxas lifted his face.
What was I going to say, again?
“When we’ve finished a mission, let’s eat ice cream here again. It’s boring to just go back and forth between the castle and missions, right?”
Even I’m surprised at those lines.
Just like the things I said before, even I wasn’t expecting it. But, it just popped out of my mouth automatically.
Roxas looked at the children in the open space again, with a strange look on his face.
It was probably just my imagination, but I thought I saw Roxas smile just a little.
“Well, I won’t be able to eat ice cream here for a little while, though.”
Roxas’ eyes went wide.
“It’s been decided that I’m going to Castle Oblivion for a while, starting tomorrow.”
“You still don’t know anything but Twilight Town, do you? But there are heaps of worlds out there, and the Organisation has a castle in another in-between world. That’s Castle Oblivion. Got it memorised?”
“…So there are places like that…” Roxas looked down. “When do you come home?”
“Hm—I wonder when. When I’m back, let’s eat ice cream here again.”
Roxas’ gaze followed a train, running in the distance.
“Well, I’ve gotta head back soon. Heaps of stupid things to get ready.”
“Oh, then I’ll also—”
“You relax and eat your ice cream. See ya.”
Axel stood up, opening darkness on the side of the clock tower, and his figure vanished.
Roxas was left alone.
“…It’s salty…” Roxas muttered, gnawing on his ice cream.
Just then, Roxas saw that something was written on the ice cream stick, and put the rest in his mouth in one go.
“What is this…”
‘Winner’ was written on the finished ice cream stick.
Continue to Chapter 3: Roxas and Xion