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.
The same old white ceiling. My same old room.
But, something’s changed. I don’t get what, though.
This is my room. I’m a member of the Organisation. No. XIII… Roxas.
But, something’s different.
Roxas sat up in the hard bed, and slowly shook his head.
He felt incredibly fuzzy.
How did I fall asleep yesterday? I don’t remember… I don’t get it.
Going to get out of bed, Roxas noticed seashells, left by his pillow.
What the hell is that. I don’t really get it.
I don’t get anything.
Roxas left his room and started walking, feeling like his body was remembering to go to the lobby on its own.
That’s right, I gotta go there and do a mission. But, I’m so confused.
He walked down the corridor and into the lobby, but no one was there.
“…Axel…?” Roxas muttered unconsciously. The name of his friend. He touched his mouth.
They said that Axel might have been annihilated. I remember that.
Annihilation means turning into nothing. Xigbar told me that.
That world… that world painted with the sorrowful sunset. Where was that again?
I can’t remember. I don’t really get it. What happened to me?
On the other side of the glass that served as the walls of the lobby, it was neon and darkness, just like always. In this world, you never really knew whether it was morning or night.
Roxas opened a dark corridor beside himself, and headed for that world.
If I go to that world… Maybe Axel, or Xion, will be there.
Sitting on top of the clock tower, Roxas watched the clock tower detachedly.
No one was there.
A train was running far away. Even further beyond that, the setting sun was sinking.
Roxas turned at the sound. “Xion…” Standing there was the raven-haired girl. “What happened to me?”
“You slept for ages.”
“Ages…?” Roxas narrowed his eyes at Xion’s answer.
Ages… so, it didn’t happen yesterday.
“Saïx was saying we didn’t know when you’d wake up,” said Xion, sitting down beside Roxas.
“But, it’s great that you did wake up.” Xion smiled happily, tilting her head and looking at Roxas.
“Well, I still feel like a zombie.” Roxas shook his head slowly, and Xion shouted in laughter, causing Roxas to laugh too.
Their giggling trailed off, and Xion slipped her hand into a coat pocket, and took something out.
“Here you go.” It was a little shell.
Those… were also left by my pillow.
“Those shells… I collected them every time I went on a mission.”
The shell she left in the palm of his hand was light, dry, and kind of pointless.
But, I wonder why… I’m getting some kind of weird sensation.
“Try putting it to your ear,” said Xion.
From deep inside the shell, a sound could be heard… like the wind… the sound of waves.
If you close your eyes, the sound of waves is all you can hear, thought Xion. I don’t know why, but I think, maybe… this is familiar. I wonder why the sound of waves makes me feel this way…
Did I dream this? Or is it something else?
I feel like I’ve listened to the sound of the waves and watched the sunset with someone else, just the two of us, before.
Yeah… just like listening to the sound of waves from this shell with Roxas, on top of the clock tower.
And so, Roxas’ daily life resumed.
After that, he knew, thanks to Xion, that he’d been sleeping for twenty days.
Yesterday was the fiftieth day since I joined the Organisation. So, today’s the 51st.
I wake up, go to the lobby. That’s fixed.
Roxas stepped into the lobby to find Xigbar, Saïx and Demyx there.
Xion wasn’t there, probably already out on a mission.
It’s good that I got to see her yesterday, thought Roxas, vaguely. That shell… the sound of waves.
First, I’ll restock my items at the shop.
“Didn’t think I’d see you, heart you collapsed, kupo. Don’t push it too hard, kupo!” said the moogle, with a worried sort of face.
“I’m not really pushing it.”
“Really, kupo? I’ve got some new stock, kupo!”
During the exchange, Roxas bought some items. As he headed towards Saïx, Xigbar called out to him.
“So you’re finally up? While you were sleeping, all the guys at Castle Oblivion got annihilated, as they say.”
Words wouldn’t come.
All of them… no. All I’ve heard is that someone was annihilated.
What’s happened to Axel…
“So you’ve finally woken up,” Saïx called, too, and Roxas looked up.
“Were the members that went to Castle Oblivion really all…”
“We are investigating,” stated Saïx, cutting him off.
“You don’t know anything?”
“Nothing I can tell you, at least. You’ll be taking your missions alone for the time being. The facts are, we’re short of hands.”
If they’re investigating, does that mean there’s a possibility that they’re not all gone?
“Hurry up and head off.”
From the missions that Saïx had prepared, Roxas chose to head to Agrabah, and set foot into the Darkness Between.
Today’s mission was something at a world she hadn’t been to before; Beast’s Castle.
The Darkness Between led to a place like a large entrance hall. The atmosphere in the gloomy castle was a little bit like that of the Organisation’s castle, Xion thought.
Today’s mission was to defeat Heartless shaped like dogs and collect hearts.
When I’ve finished the mission, I’ll buy ice cream, and go to the Twilight Town clock tower. I want to eat ice cream with Roxas.
When I’m with Roxas, I get this strange feeling. I thought so yesterday.
It feels like something about Roxas’ atmosphere has changed slightly since he fell asleep.
Climbing the stairs from the entrance, she found a huge door. It opened out into a wide, sunny room. It looked kind of like a dance hall.
And, right in the middle of the hall was the target Heartless.
“Okay… I’ll hurry up and beat this thing.”
Now, Keyblade in hand… thought Xion, and that instant, something felt wrong.
The Keyblade didn’t come.
They Keyblade she’d come to expect to be able to use, ever since the day she’d fought alongside Roxas, wouldn’t come.
Releasing an ominous breath, the Heartless charged at her.
Stepping aside in a flurry, Xion tried once again to imagine the Keyblade into her hand.
But, that moment, the Heartless sent her flying.
I’ll lose like this…!
Panicking, she chanted some magic. She didn’t know any strong magic, but she thought shewould be okay.
A little ball of flame hit the Heartless, which luckily went up in flames.
Right now, there’s no way to defeat it except with magic.
Xion fired an endless chain of magic.
The mission could be finished by reporting to Saïx.
But, I can’t bring myself to face Roxas like this.
Returning to the castle, Xion have her mission report.
I must report how many Heartless I defeated, and also how many hearts I collected to make Kingdom Hearts complete.
“Couldn’t you obtain any hearts?”
“…I defeated it with magic at the last minute.”
It’s okay not to report that I couldn’t use the Keyblade… isn’t it.
“What do you think the Keyblade is?”
“What…? A key for gathering hearts…”
Of course I know that the Keyblade is a special key. Without the Keyblade, hearts can’t be collected.
“That’s right. Get that meaning into your head. If you people can’t use your Keyblade, you wouldn’t even be in a position to rank among the Organisation’s lowest. Learn this well, and use your Keyblade to destroy the Heartless for certain.”
“…Got it. I’ll be careful from now on.”
I must have only been feeling unwell today… tomorrow, I’ll be able to use the Keyblade like always, I know it.
Xion left the lobby after him.
It felt to Roxas that every day was the same one, repeating over and over.
I wonder why I think like that. The missions are different each day.
Even if he went to the clock tower, no one would come. Not even Xion.
I don’t know what this feeling is called.
I don’t think I’ll ever see Axel again.
There was a tightness deep in his throat, like it was being squeezed. Painful.
He asked Saïx about the members who went to Castle Oblivion almost every day, but he only ever replied that they were ‘investigating’.
At least, if I could see Xion… if we could talk to the clock tower, maybe something would change. But, for whatever reason, I haven’t been able to meet her in the lobby in the morning, or on the clock tower after missions.
Maybe she went somewhere on a long mission, like Axel.
But… Saïx was in a bad mood after I asked him about Axel. I can’t really ask him what happened to Xion on top of that.
He went back to the clock tower every day, holding that faint hope, but no one showed up.
I definitely can’t use the Keyblade…
Xion defeated the last Heartless with magic, and sat down where she was.
If Saïx yells at me for not being able to get hearts, I don’t have any more good excuses.
What should I do…
Even deeper in than the Round Room was Xemnas’ lab.
There were rooms that seemed like laboratories all over the castle, but only a restricted few members were allowed to go to this one.
Xemnas and Xigbar were there.
“I don’t like it.”
“What are you talking about.”
Xigbar, sitting on a sofa at the side of the room, said “I’m talking about how all the guys who went to Castle Oblivion got annihilated by the Hero.”
Xemnas, who was writing something, stilled his hand.
“Making the Hero dispose of Marluxia was fixed from the start. D’you give the order?”
“That is correct… what did you want to know?”
“Even so, having everyone annihilated just doesn’t fly, as they say. You can’t say the test project is turning out to be a winner, and half of us founding members getting annihilated has to have been unplanned, right, Xehanort?”
“…What an old name,” Xemnas said, mouth twisted, laughing at it.
At the name from once, when he had been a human, when he had been that person’s pupil… and, when he had fought with them.
“So, the annihilation wasn’t planned… those guys just got tangled in the net, as they say, didn’t they?” Xigbar looked at Xemnas.
“In any case, at least we have two Keyblades with us. Over here, the project is going well. Though our numbers have been halved, our plan hasn’t changed,” said Xemnas, simply. His eyes dropped to the papers by his hand, and his pen returned to running across the page.
Xigbar shrugged, and disappeared from the room.
Roxas woke up and headed for the lobby, like always.
Today was the 71st day since he had joined the Organisation. He hadn’t seen Axel or Xion for a long time.
Entering the lobby, Xigbar called out to him. “Heh heh… what a long face. Did something happen?”
Nothing happened. I couldn’t meet anyone, not even at the clock tower. It’s too difficult to answer him.
“Well, the castle’s sure gotten quiet fast. I guess this ain’t a bad number of people after all, as they say.”
At that moment, someone barged into the lobby.
“What a racket…” muttered Xigbar. It was Demyx.
“Did you hear, Roxas?? It sounds like all the guys at Castle Oblivion really did get annihilated!”
Roxas hadn’t thought he’d hear that from Demyx all of a sudden.
“…Did Saïx tell you that?”
“Yeah! He said the Nobodies they sent to check it out reported it. Seems there wasn’t anyone in that castle at all. I am SO happy they didn’t make me go. It would totally suck to get annihilated, right…”
Demyx rattled on, talking fast. Roxas didn’t know what to say. He dropped his head, and Xigbar laughed.
“Wha… what’s with you, old man?”
“Us un-annihilated ones will have to work hard keep things ship-shape, as they say,” said Xigbar, peering into Demyx’s face.
Demyx shrugged. “Uh… yessir, I shall work very hard!”
“And you’ll do your best too, right, kiddo?”
Even after replying, Roxas stayed standing there, paralysed with shock.
“When you’re ready, hurry up and go on your mission. Today you have Twilight Town,” called Saïx, entering the lobby. Roxas couldn’t even gather the will to ask him if everyone really did get annihilated.
Every time I asked, Saïx would answer the same thing without fail. We’re investigating. Today, I wish he’d tell me that again.
But, I’m scared to ask.
I’ll never see Axel again.
I don’t know what to call this feeling.
I hate being here.
Thinking that getting out of that place would be a million times better, Roxas started walking.
Tearing furiously around Twilight Town, Roxas destroyed Heartless. He didn’t really understand why, but he had to do it.
All of them gone… annihilated. I can’t see him again.
Thinking about it made him want to run.
What the hell is this?
Dashing into a back alley, Roxas swung his Keyblade down on the last Heartless.
A heart floated up from the vanquished Heartless and vanished.
Just then, Roxas could hear clapping coming from somewhere.
“Yo! Roxas. You haven’t changed! Fight fight fiiight!”
Roxas turned, and standing there was… Axel.
“It’s been a while, hasn’t it?” Axel walked casually towards him. “What’s the matter? You look kind of dazed there,” grinned Axel, and he laughed, just like always.
I don’t know what to do.
“…They said all the members who went to Castle Oblivion got annihilated…”
Axel stuck out his chest. “Well, I’m pretty tough.”
I feel weird, somehow.
But I know. Axel probably… isn’t really as strong as he says.
“…I was worried, okay.”
“Worried? Nobodies like us don’t have hearts to worry with, you know,” said Axel, and Roxas was finally able to smile.
I’m so glad it didn’t turn out that I couldn’t see him again.
So, of course, we have to… at the usual place…
“I’ll go buy the ice cream!”
Roxas dashed away.
He must have meant for me to wait at the usual spot, thought Axel, and he headed off first to the clock tower.
In the end, he had been the only one to come back from Castle Oblivion.
I don’t care about that in itself, but… I also lost track of Sora, Riku, Naminé and the other intruders.
There are too many rooms in that castle that I don’t really understand.
And, I still couldn’t find that room.
Axel turned at the sound of Roxas’ voice. Roxas stood there panting hard, an ice cream in each hand, looking happy.
Axel squinted at him. Taking an ice cream with a smile, he looked anew for similarities between Roxas and Sora.
“This your treat?”
“Well, today is special,” said Roxas, sitting down beside him.
Roxas feels more and more like Sora when he smiles. Well, I didn’t actually get to see Sora smile in that castle.
Anyway, we Nobodies were born when our Others became a Heartless. So, fundamentally, we Nobodies just can’t know every single thing about our Others.
There was only one person that Axel had known as an Other, and was still in touch with. It was even more unlikely, in fact impossible, for his Nobody and Other to meet at the same time.
Because, essentially, Nobodies and their Others—as in, the human who became a heartless—don’t exist at the same time.
But Roxas, right here, is a special Nobody. He doesn’t only wield the Keyblade; he also exists at the same time as his Other. That’s like, defying the rules of the universe. But, I’ve heard that the Keyblade reflects the will of the universe. Are the rules and the will different?
He was staring unthinkingly at Roxas’ profile.
Roxas noticed his gaze. “What. Is there something on my face?” he said, eating his ice cream.
“No… I have to go report to the boss man… I know he’s gonna yell at me!” lied Axel, biting his own ice cream.
“So you haven’t gone back to the castle yet?”
“Hm? Oh, yeah…” Axel nodded, gazing out at the sunset.
I haven’t been away that long… but it feels long enough.
“Then why did you come here?”
Because before going back to the castle, before seeing anyone else, I wanted to eat ice cream here with Roxas.
And also, I wanted to make sure that Roxas really was Sora’s Nobody.
I don’t know which was more conscious on my part.
But, I’m afraid to just confess the feelings I have right now.
“I need to steel my heart for the scolding I’m about to get,” Axel shrugged.
Roxas nudged his shoulder. “You don’t have a heart, remember?” And then he laughed.
This is a strange sensation.
This feeling… what is it now… that’s right, the feeling that I’ve gone back to when I was a human.
Something’s buzzing somewhere inside my body.
“Hey, your ice cream’s melting. Hurry up and eat it,” said Axel, trying to hide it.
“Yeah.” Roxas bit on his ice cream, too. Then he opened his mouth. “While you were away, I ate ice cream here with Xion.”
Xion… the 14th. Don’t remember much about that one. Besides, I’ve never seen them with their hood down.
“We promised to eat ice cream together, the three of us, once you were back.”
Why do those words feel so horribly unexpected?
“Xion… is my friend,” Roxas said, quietly.
Axel flopped down into his own bed, and stared at the ceiling.
“What happened to the report?”
Saïx had appeared there. Axel sat up, and looked at him.
“Not even a word of slight appreciation?”
“I’ve heard that Naminé’s whereabouts have become unclear,” said Saïx, not showing any sign that he had paid any attention to Axel’s teasing words.
“She disappeared. Wonder where she is now?”
The answer contained no lies.
Well… I was the one who sweet-talked her into it. But I lost track of her after that.
“Did you search every room?”
“Every? You know all too well that ‘every’ would have been impossible, right?”
In Castle Oblivion, there’s a room that no one has ever set foot in.
That’s even the reason that castle exists.
“Did you find that room?”
“If I did find it, I’d report it properly,” said Axel, and Saïx sighed exaggeratedly.
Under a certain definition, Saïx is the one who pretends he has a heart most of all, but he doesn’t have one, thought Axel.
To change the subject, Axel got up out of bed, and went over to Saïx.
“In any case… you were right about Marluxia being the traitor,” Axel whispered in his ear.
“Humph… all those in the way were rounded up and sent there, that’s all.”
Saïx is probably telling the truth.
Those other members of the Organisation were in Saïx’s way… no, in our way.
But, I wonder why I can’t help being sarcastic about it.
“Don’t tell me I was one of those?” Axel asked, laughing, and the scars on Saïx’s forehead moved slightly along with his expression. Looks like he didn’t appreciate that joke.
“Well, you came back safely, so it doesn’t matter.”
Axel thought of asking whether Saïx had been worried about his safety, but couldn’t be bothered putting him in a worse mood. Maybe the memories he has of anger and displeasure are really strong.
Axel shrugged, and reported one last thing.
“I took care of Zexion.”
Saïx turned his face up, and stared at Axel. Facing that gaze, Axel kept talking.
“It’s all going according to your plan… for now.”
Continue to Chapter 7: Friends