Chapter 7: Friends

Page

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. 

xxx

Axel was waiting there in the lobby.

“Today, as punishment, I have to go on your mission with you,” laughed Axel, spreading his arms exaggeratedly.

“Punishment? Why is going on a mission with me punishment?”

“Well, cause it’s like babysitting, I guess,” Axel said, heaving a fake sigh.

“You’re terrible!”

“Honestly. You’d think they could let me rest for one day at least, coming home tired like this…?” Roxas smiled at Axel’s comical tone. “We’ll go just as soon as you hurry up and get ready.”

“Okay. Just wait a second. I’ll go buy some things.”

Roxas went and spoke to the Moogle.

“Ummm…”

“Glad to see you here, kupo… today you look happy or something, kupo.”

Hearing the Moogle say such a thing made Roxas feel strange.

Nobodies don’t have hearts, but I look happy…?

“Let’s hurry, Roxas.”

“I said okay.” Roxas turned to Axel, behind him. “Don’t you have to buy anything?”

“I’m a can-do man, so I got ready ages ago.”

“How exactly are you ‘can-do’, kupo?” mumbled the Moogle.

“Yeah, how exactly are you ‘can-do’?” Roxas repeated.

“In ways darling children like you don’t understand,” said Axel, scratching his head. Roxas and the Moogle looked at each other and laughed.

“…let’s hurry up and go.”

“Roger,” Roxas answered, laughing.


xxx

Today’s mission was heart collection in Agrabah.

When he had killed a few Heartless, Axel stopped.

“Did something happen?” Axel lifted a finger to his lips. Roxas looked doubtful. “Hm?”

“That guy…”

Where Axel was pointing, a large creature that didn’t seem like a Heartless—Pete—was hanging around, large body quivering.

“That guy… what’s he doing in front of that wall?” whispered Roxas.

“Aha!” Pete hollered, almost at the same time.

“What?”

Pete pressed the wall and it moved slowly, opening up a path.

“Now, I can finally get there!” Pete disappeared over by the wall.

After waiting a moment, Axel and Roxas drew closer to the wall, and peered through to the other side.

It seemed to open up into the desert.

“Okay, let’s follow him, and try not to get caught.” Axel stepped through onto the other side of the wall.

“Huh? But today’s mission is heart collection, right? We can’t just change it however we—”

“If we find any shady characters, it’s also an important mission to check them out,” Axel half-lectured, hands on hips.

“It’s not like violating orders?”

“You gotta play these things by ear… got it memorised? If we collect hearts after we chase this guy, then we won’t be violating orders, will we?”

“…yeah, you’re right.”

Somehow, I think he gets it, but he doesn’t seem to…

“Let’s go.”

Roxas chased after Axel in a flurry.


xxx


They went through the hole in the wall. Planted in the middle of the desert that opened up on the other side was a carved statue of a tiger, its mouth opened wide. Even from a distance, it was easy to see that its mouth was big enough to let people pass through. Pete entered it, looking about nervously.

Axel and Roxas followed after him, keeping an even distance.

“There just had to be a cave like this…”

The place the two had gone down into was a stone cavern that seemed to have been made by someone for some purpose, not naturally formed.

Pete could not be seen.

“I’m surprised how big this cave is… looks like we lost him,” Axel shrugged.

“What’ll we do?”

“Can’t be helped… this is as far as we’ll chase him. Let’s switch back to doing heart collection.”

I guess we don’t have to investigate any further, thought Roxas. “So we don’t have to look for him?” Roxas asked Axel, with a strange look on his face.

“Yeah… We didn’t find out what his goal was in the end, but I reckon finding this cave is enough for today. Plus, searching this huge cave would be a pain in the ass.”

“So… it’s not an important mission to check out shady characters?” asked Roxas, surprised at how Axel would leave the following here, calling it a ‘pain’.

“That would be violating orders,” said Axel, teasingly.

“I get it. First of all, let’s go back to the city,” said Roxas, laughing.

The two of them returned to the city together.

xxx

They defeated Heartless inside the city. Collecting hearts in itself wasn’t a very difficult thing.

“Will we RTC soon?”

“Yeah.”

Just as he was about to head for the place where the dark corridor was opened, Axel held him back. Ahead of the two stood men and women who seemed to be residents of this world.

A woman with long, beautiful black hair, wearing gorgeous clothes that looked like something that would belong to royalty was clasping her hands worriedly to her chest, and looking at a man.

“Are you okay, Al? Shouldn’t you rest a little?”

“I’m fine. Even if we can’t do much, we gotta try and rebuild the city while the sandstorm is settled,” Aladdin—Al—replied, but the woman looked down, an even more worried look on her face.

“That’s true, but… if you go on like this, you’ll collapse.”

“I said I’m fine, Jasmine. We don’t know when the next storm will come. We have to rebuild the city before the next sand storm comes.”

Restoration of the city has definitely come along since the last time I was here. Storms probably haven’t come for a while, either, I guess.

“If only Genie was here, at a time like this…”

The woman—Jasmine—murmured, head still down.

“Even if Genie was here, we can’t rely on magic. It’s our city, and we have to restore it with our own strength.”

“Yeah… you’re right.” Jasmine finally raised her head, and a small smile could be seen on her face.

“Well, I gotta run.”

“Wait, I’ll help too.”

Aladdin and Jasmine walked in the direction of the shops.

“I wonder if that guy we saw before has any connection to those two.”

“Hm… guess we’ll find out someday,” answered Axel, sounding harassed. “Let’s hurry up and RTC.” He started walking. Roxas chased after him in a flurry.

xxx

On the clock tower, the two of them ate ice cream side by side.

“You’ve gotten more cheerful,” said Axel, peering into Roxas’ face.

Really? Maybe, thought Roxas. Something’s changed about Axel, too, since Castle Oblivion.

I don’t really know what’s changed, so I can’t really tell him properly.

“You, too. You’re brighter, too, Axel.”

“Really? If that’s true… maybe it’s his influence.”

“Huh?”

“Nah, it’d be from laughing and eating ice cream like this, the two of us. Because of you,” said Axel, smoothing it over.

Who does he mean by ‘his’, I wonder.

Oh yeah, Xion’s still not here.

“So Xion’s not coming today, I guess…” Roxas muttered.

I feel kind of uneasy because we haven’t been able to meet. It’s a tiny bit like the feeling I got when I was told that Axel might have been annihilated.

I don’t like it when people go.

Axel ate his ice cream in silence.

xxx

He woke up to an average morning.

Xion wasn’t in the lobby today, either.

“Hey, Roxas,” called Axel, and Roxas turned.

“Axel… have you seen Xion?”

Axel looked around, scratching his head. “Hm? Xion? Haven’t seen them, come to think of it.”

“It’s been over ten days now,” muttered Roxas, looking down. He hadn’t seen her since he’d woken up.

“Straight after Xion joined the Organisation, I left for Castle Oblivion, so I don’t really know much,” said Axel, crossing his arms.

Even though they promised to eat ice cream, the three of us…

“I’ll ask Saïx for you later. Xion’s your friend, right?”

“Yeah… thanks, Axel.” Roxas nodded, and Axel patted his shoulder encouragingly.

“So, go get your mission over and done with quick.”

Watching Roxas walk away, Axel sat on the sofa beside him.

I haven’t met with Xion since I RTC’d.

Before I went to Castle Oblivion, I’d only seen their figure in the lobby a few times. Haven’t even spoke to them before.

In the first place, I’m not even really sure whether it’s a girl or a boy, and I’ve never seen their face.

Roxas said that Xion’s a friend.

When did he make friends with that always-hooded guy?

After checking that Roxas and all the other members of the Organisation that were in the lobby had disappeared into dark corridors, Axel stood and called out to Saïx.

“What’s my mission for today?”

“Have you finished your report on the Hero?”

Axel shrugged at Saïx’s demanding tone. One necessary job was to submit reports on some investigation missions.

“Nah, not yet…”

“Why did you think you were made to go out with Roxas yesterday, straight after coming home?” Saïx asked, wearily, heaving a sigh.

“…So I could write a report comparing Roxas and the Hero, right?”

“Thanks to you, there aren’t many people around to work. Hurry and hand in your report, and then go on your mission,” ordered Saïx, eyes dropping to the information in his hand.

“Yessir… oh yeah, I wanted to ask about Xion…”

Saïx looked up. His expression was strangely tight. “You shouldn’t be in contact with Xion, though.”

“It looks like Roxas is worried about where Xion is, that’s all.”

Saïx blinked, as if thinking for a second, then he said, “Because they are making contact.”

Looks like Saïx has a lot of thoughts about Xion.

“So, where did Xion go?”

“Still on a mission to put down a large Heartless, and isn’t back,” said Saïx, disagreeably.

“You’re just going to leave it as is?”

Sometimes, for whatever reason, our missions get dragged out, and we can’t return to the castle for several days. But, it’s a whole ‘nother ball game when they just ‘aren’t back’. There’s the possibility that they have been annihilated.

“I’m not ‘leaving it as is’. I have sent dusks out to investigate, however, they haven’t found anything yet. That’s all,” said Saïx, staring at Axel.

Axel knew, from having known Saïx a long time, that when Saïx’s expression was like this, he was thinking about something important. Axel waited for Saïx to finish thinking, and speak.

“…I see. So you’re going to make contact with that thing soon, are you?”

“What do you mean?”

I know this has something to do with the Hero and Roxas. But, Xion is connected to that too?

If so, then I’d understand why Roxas would let them in. But, I don’t remember Xion ever putting the hood down, or even speaking a single word. Perhaps they let their hood down while I was in Castle Oblivion?

“You, who has been in contact with both Roxas and the Hero, will find it fun to make contact with that thing.”

“You’re not answering me, though.”

“When you’ve made contact, you’ll understand. You absolutely must hand in the report today. Tomorrow, I’ll make you and Roxas search for Xion.”

When he says that, there’s nothing to do but give him the report.

It feels like he’s dangling bait in front of my eyes, but whatever.

“Yessir. I shall write the report,” Axel shrugged, and headed for his own room.

xxx

Not sleeping much in the end, Axel wrote the report, and, deciding time was probably up, he headed for the lobby.

To be honest, report writing is really hard. It’s a huge pain in the ass to think about what to report, what not to report, which parts to lie about…

No one was in the lobby.

Axel sat down on a sofa, and gave a big yawn. Even Nobodies need sleep. Just like that, he folded his arms and closed his eyes.

I just want to take a tiny nap…

“This is not a place to sleep,” came a sudden voice in the silence, and Axel’s eyes snapped open in surprise.

“What… oh, you, Saïx.”

“What do you mean, what.” Saïx glared down at Axel, unpleasantly. “Have you handed in your report?”

“Of course I have,” replied Axel, stretching.

“If so, then head off on your mission with Roxas, as planned.”

“Yessir.”

Saïx left Axel cracking his neck as he stretched, going to stand in his usual spot.

After a short while, Demyx and Luxord appeared in the lobby, with Roxas finally appearing after them.

Axel got up off the sofa, stretching for the millionth time, and called out to Roxas. “You’re late, Roxas.”

“Sorry… I didn’t really sleep well,” said Roxas, rubbing his eyes.

“I asked Saïx about Xion,” said Axel, and Roxas looked up. “Looks like she went out on a mission, and still isn’t back.”

Roxas looked down, worriedly. “So… does that mean she failed her mission…?” Pushing Roxas’ shoulder, Axel started walking towards Saïx.

“We’ll find out when we’re there.”

“What are you talking about?” Roxas pressed, and Axel smiled.

“Today’s mission is to go look for Xion, you and me.”

“Really?!” Roxas stared happily at Axel.

“Why would I lie? We’ll leave once you’re ready.”

“Let’s hurry and go!” Roxas ran towards Saïx.

“Hey hey, you gotta get ready properly. We don’t know what’s out there.”

“I’ll be fine,” said Roxas, and turned to speak to Saïx. “Where’s our mission today?”

“Twilight Town. Hurry and go look for Xion.”

“Got it.” You could think of Roxas as a little bit forceful at times like this, for some reason. “Let’s go, Axel.”

“Yessir,” Axel responded. Roxas looked at him, irritated, and then opened the darkness beside him. He stepped inside.

xxx

Twilight Town was wrapped in the same sunset.

“I wonder where Xion is…?” Roxas looked about, worriedly.

The corridor had opened up above the stairs in the alleyway.

“Xion’s mission should have been to put down a large Heartless. That means there’s a high possibility that Xion is wherever that guy might be.”

Roxas seemed to be thinking hard about Axel’s guess. “Well, it’s good it wasn’t a different world. I know pretty much all the places here. Let’s gather information in the town.”

“If it was a large Heartless, then it would have to be a wide place, right? Aren’t the wide places in order here?”

“That’s right. The widest place from here is… the empty lot?”

“Yeah… let’s go.”

The two climbed down the stairs in front of them, into the vacant lot.

“There’s no sign of a Heartless…” muttered Axel. Beyond him, beside the vacant lot benches, two of the town’s children were talking about something. Of the usual three, it was only the hot-tempered boy and the girl.

“Olette, where’s Pence?”

“He went to check up on something by himself again today. He went into the tunnels.”

So, the girl must be called Olette. Pence is the boy who isn’t here… probably that chubby kid.

The boy whose name was yet unknown tilted his head. “That reminds me. Lately, he’s been acting funny, whispering about something…”

Axel and Roxas listened to the conversation between Olette and the boy without hiding their presence.

“You think this has something to do with Xion?”

“Hm… Maybe, maybe not.”

“Oh yeah. Yesterday, when I went into the usual spot, he quickly hid something.”

The boy crossed his arms. “Huuuh… Pence is weird. What’s he up to?”

Even though those three are almost always together, it looks like they each have their own concerns, and even go around on their own sometimes.

They said something interesting, too.

“Where do you think the ‘usual spot’ is?” muttered Roxas.

Axel shrugged. “Guess we just have to look. Roxas, got any clues?”

“Well, our ‘usual spot’ would be on the clock tower, but…”

“That’s not what they mean, though,” Axel grinned.

I want to hurry up and find Xion, and eat sea salt ice cream at the usual spot.

“Those three must have a special place for just the three of them.”

“Was there place like that?” Axel thought hard.

I thought I knew everything about the inside of this town, but nothing comes to mind. “It’s a special place for just three people, so I think it’d be a place people don’t come, somewhere not that big.”

“Our special place is like that too, hey… well, first of all let’s walk and look for it.” Axel set off in the direction of the tram square.

“Like, inside the tunnels?”

“Was there actually a place like that in the tunnels?” Axel said, immediately denying Roxas’ guess.

We’ve run through every nook and cranny inside those tunnels on previous missions, and there wasn’t anywhere that looked like someone could hide in.

A certain place crossed his mind.

“…Under the tracks?”

“Where’s that…?”

It seemed as if Axel didn’t know of the place under the train tracks.

“See, there’s this place like a storeroom with a fence door on it, on the corner where we came out today.”

‘Under the tracks’ was a storeroom-like place beneath the rails on which the train ran.

That place went largely unnoticed, and being small, it looked perfect for three people to gather in.

“Oh yeah, now that you’ve mentioned it, there is that place. Will we go have a look?”

xxx

A dusty smell clung to the air in the place under the rails. Floating dust particles sparkled in the light shining through the cracks in the train tracks above their heads.

“So this is the usual spot, right…”

“If there’s nothing here, we should just go look somewhere else,” Roxas answered, walking around the room. There was a couch, and a dartboard. And, there was a definite sign of people. There were signs that people were always coming and going.

“Hup!” Axel threw a dart at the board.

“Search seriously, okay.”

“This much is okay, I reckon.” Axel threw one more dart, which stuck nicely in the dead centre.

Now that I think of it, when I looked at that dart board just now, not a single one was stuck in it. “Where were those darts in the first place?”

“Over in that drum.” Axel pointed at an oil drum in the corner by the entrance.

“Here’s… huh?”

“Hm?”

Roxas peered behind the drum. A scrap of paper had fallen down there. “There’s a scrap of paper…” He picked it up. What appeared to be a map of the town had been drawn on it.

“Looks like a map,” said Axel, peering into Roxas’ hand.

“There’s lots of other stuff written on it.”

“Strange stone steps… friends on the other side of the wall… an echoing cry in the tunnels… another self… wriggling baggage…?” Axel read out, baffled.

Roxas read out the last of them. “Lastly, a ghost train, and a haunted mansion… seven written in all.”

“What the hell is this?” Axel brought the map closer to his face.

“…This map was hidden by that guy… that Pence guy, wasn’t it.”

“So, you reckon Pence will know what this is if we pop the question to him, as they say?” Axel asked in response, shrugging.

“So, looking for Pence is next on the list, as they say?” Roxas shrugged too, theatrically.

“Don’t copy Xigbar,” Axel laughed.

“You were the one doing it just before, weren’t you, Axel?” said Roxas, also laughing.

The two laughed for some time, then looked at each other.

“They said just before that Pence went into the tunnels, didn’t they… let’s go, Axel.”

And so they left the space under the train tracks… the usual spot for those kids.

xxx

Pence was in a room deep in the tunnels.

“Hey, Pence,” Axel said all of a sudden, startling Roxas a little.

Isn’t it Organisation regulation that we mustn’t make contact with humans?

Pence looked up at Axel, slightly uneasy. “…Who are you?”

“There’s a little something I wanna ask.”

“Huuuh? If I’d know, I guess it’s okay.”

Pence looks suspicious of us, but it seems like he’ll give us an answer.

“We’d like you to tell us if anything’s changed in this town. There are heaps of weird things here, right…? Like, the strange stone steps, for example…”

Roxas watched Axel and Pence’s exchange. For him to think of a question like that, when he’s only seen the map…

“It looks like you guys are investigating the wonders of this town, too.”

“Uh… yeah, I guess.” Axel nodded a little exaggeratedly.

“Hmmm… Really, I wasn’t going to tell anyone until I’d investigated them all, but… okay, I’ll teach you what I’ve learned about the wonders of this town,” said Pence, lowering his voice a little, as if he were talking about something of grave importance. “I tried my best to investigate them, but the truth is, the wonders of this town are…”

Roxas held his breath.

“…mostly good rumours.”

“Huh?” What are you thinking, Roxas was about to say, but he stopped himself, barely.

“The strange stone stairs that you brought up just before were also just a silly joke.”

“So you’re saying this town is incredibly peaceful.” Axel sighed in defeat, probably thinking the same thing as Roxas.

“But, there was the very best wonder.”

“Very best…?” Roxas repeated.

“Yeah. I’m talking about a tree in the forest on the outskirts of town. There is one tree in the whole forest… if that tree is shaken, it stirs violently…” regaled Pence, in an eerie tone, and Roxas and Axel exchanged a look.

“What do you reckon? I still haven’t investigated that place, though. There’s also a rumour that even though there shouldn’t be anyone there, there’s some kind of presence.” Pence’s expression suddenly snapped into a grin.

Roxas tilted his head. “I don’t really get it.”

“Yeah, that’s why it’s a wonder. Since I don’t know the cause, I think I’ll go and check it out properly later.”

“I see,” Axel nodded.

“Well, I’m going back to investigating the town. Don’t spread what I’ve told you around, okay?” said Pence, and he left the room.

“In the end, we didn’t find out a thing,” said Roxas, with a mingled sigh. We didn’t find out a single thing about Xion.

“Nah, that’s not true. He said there’s some presence in the forest outside of town, right? Maybe that was Xion’s target to put down.”

Axel’s right. Pence had already solved most of the mysteries. And the wonder that was still unclear… is the one with a high chance of being connected to Xion.

“Okay, let’s go have a look at that place.”

Roxas and Axel headed for the forest outside of town.

xxx

It’s no good.

I don’t know what to do.

Xion sat in the forest on the outskirts of town, hugging her knees. It was chilly in the forest, the air damp.

No matter how many times I wish, the Keyblade won’t come to me.

I can’t use the Keyblade. I can get on to some degree with magic, but I can’t report back if I defeat huge Heartless and a heart doesn’t come out. I’ll expose to Saïx that I can’t use the Keyblade.

And… maybe I’ll be annihilated.

What will I do? What should I…

At that moment, Xion heard a familiar voice, and she looked up.

“Around here?”

It was Roxas’ voice.

It’s not strange for Roxas to be in Twilight Town.

Next to him is… a redheaded member of the Organisation. It must be Axel, Roxas’ friend.

The two of them were looking up into the trees.

Hidden in those trees was a huge Heartless—Vanish Lizard.

Shaped like a chameleon, it was a Heartless that could become invisible in a transparent state and hide itself.

Xion has fought it just once with magic, and then fled.

The trees shook.

“Heheh… looks like we hit a winner.”

A large presence slipped out of the forest, running towards the haunted mansion.

“Let’s go Roxas, no losing time now.”

“I know that!”

Roxas and Axel sprinted after it.

Xion took a determined breath, stood up, and followed after the two.

xxx

In front of the haunted mansion, the whole of the huge Heartless—the Vanish Lizard—was obvious.

Roxas readied his Keyblade. “So this is Xion’s target?”

“Probably. I guess it vanished and hid in the forest,” said Axel, also gripping a chakram in each hand.

“And Xion is?”

“Well, seeing what it can do, I’d say she’s probably still looking for it.”

Axel wrapped himself in flames.

“What’ll we do?”

“Do I even have to say!” He shot fire at the Vanish Lizard.

“Got it!”

Roxas ran at the Vanish Lizard too, Keyblade in hand, and both of their attacks exploded at about the same time.

Just then.

A shadow rushed into the area—someone wearing the black coat of the Organisation.

“Xion!” Roxas yelled.

That’s Xion… I guess? Axel couldn’t tell whether that person, hood still up, was Xion or not.

But, it seemed to him that Roxas could tell it was Xion, even with the hood up.

“Roxas!” Preoccupied with them she was left open for a moment, and the Vanish Lizard sent her flying with its tail.

At that time, Axel heard Xion’s voice for the first time. It was the voice of a little girl.

“Xion!” Roxas went to run to Xion, but Axel grabbed him by the shoulder.

“Roxas—defeating that thing comes first for now!”

“…Yeah.” No sooner than he’d answered, Roxas turned back, and brought his Keyblade down on the Vanish Lizard.

I thought the same thing when we went on a mission together the day before yesterday or whenever it was, but Roxas has gotten strong.

It’s different from normal growth… I wanna suspect something else, something more has happened. Maybe it’s got something to do with Sora.

Axel went to give Roxas cover, throwing a chakram at the Vanish Lizard.

“Let’s go!” Roxas leapt, and the blow that connected wounded the Vanish Lizard mortally.

Its body disappeared wrapped in light, and just the heart floated up.

Not even indulging in the significance of defeating a huge Heartless, Roxas ran to Xion, and helped her stand.

“Xion, are you okay?”

“…Roxas…”

Her hood still up, Axel couldn’t tell what her expression was at all.

“Are you injured?”

“Thank you… I’m okay… but…” The voice coming from under the hood was small and thin.

First of all, it’d be better to move somewhere else.

“We’ll get into the details later. First of all, let’s move. You guys go ahead to the clock tower,” said Axel and he started walking.

xxx

Axel bought three ice creams from the usual shop, and walked slowly towards the clock tower.

I wanted a bit of time to think. Time to think about these things I can’t understand.

Why would Roxas get so worried over Xion…?

I can’t think anyone could trust someone who hides their face, their expression unknowable.

It’s funny to speak of trust and reliance between Nobodies, members of the Organisation, in the first place, but even so, I’m not satisfied with that.

 

We promised to eat ice cream together, the three of us.

How did Xion get Roxas’ trust so far as to make that promise?

I’d have a rough time trying to explain how I got his trust, but I was his very first mentor, and I was the one who made contact with Roxas, and I meant to look after him in my own way.

But Xion is different.

What on earth happened while I was at Castle Oblivion… Axel thought, as he climbed the stairs up the clock tower.

“Well, I can think all I want, but it can’t be helped,” he muttered quietly, and walked up to where Roxas and Xion sat side by side. “Were you waiting?” Axel called. He walked behind them, and sat on the very end, giving Roxas and Xion and ice cream each.

“Here ya go.”

“Thank you…”

That was the first conversation Axel and Xion had ever had. Her face was, as always, hidden deep in her hood and shrouded in darkness, so that he could not see her expression.

Roxas started gnawing on his ice cream right away, but Xion just sat there, holding it.

“Your ice cream’ll melt,” Roxas told her.

“…Yeah,” Xion nodded, but she still didn’t move.

“What’s up? Hurry up and eat it.”

At least, I can tell from her voice that she’s female. But, I don’t know a single thing other than that.

And, I don’t really like hanging out with girls. Press the wrong button, and women fly into a bad mood.

Roxas looked into Xion’s face. “Did something happen?”

It’s like he can see her expression, but he shouldn’t be able to.

Xion stayed silent.

With no other choice, Axel opened his mouth. “If you’ve got troubles, you tell them to your friends… right? Roxas.”

Roxas nodded, and said, “We’re… friends, right?”

“At those words, Xion finally spoke. “I can’t… use the Keyblade anymore.”

Keyblade? What does she mean? Does that mean Xion can wield the Keyblade too? I hadn’t heard that. If Xion is a Keyblade Wielder, I can sort of accept that as the reason why Roxas would let her in.

“If I can’t use the Keyblade, I can’t complete missions.” Even under the hood, they could see that her shoulders were trembling.

“What on earth happened?” asked Roxas.

Xion shook her head. “I don’t know… But, if I don’t destroy Heartless with the Keyblade, even if I free the heart from it, it will only go and turn into a Heartless again. All I can do is make them stop existing for a while.” They could hear a slight shake in her voice, too. “I have to collect hearts. And so, if I can’t use the Keyblade… I… am useless.” Xion hung her head. Her melting ice cream dampened her hand.

“Can’t something be done, Axel?” Roxas begged, but Axel shrugged.

“Something…? There’s nothing we can do. Without a Keyblade, she can’t collect hearts.” I didn’t even know until just now that she ever was a Keyblade Wielder.

“Like this… I… will get turned into a dusk…”

I’m no good at listening to a girl who sounds like she’s about to cry.

“We’ll never let that happen.” Roxas’ tone was just a little strong.

The words ‘if you’re going to say something like that, then do something yourself,’ got as far as Axel’s throat, but he swallowed them.

Roxas is the only one who can wield the Keyblade. It’s not like she could take his.

“So we can’t let that… wait.” Axel glanced at Roxas.

“Did you think of a way?” Roxas asked, happily. Beside him, Xion stayed silent, face hidden in her hood.

“Roxas, you should just do your best.”

“Huh?” Xion said, just as Roxas asked “…What do you mean?”

This is the first time I’ve felt Xion look at me, thought Axel. “Until you can use the Keyblade again, Xion, you two should make sure to always stick together. That way, no one will figure out that you can’t use your Keyblade.”
“I see…!” Roxas smiled.

“But, you’d have to try twice as hard from now on, Roxas.”

“I’ll do my best,” said Roxas giving a strong nod.

But, Xion looked worried. “…Is that okay?”

“Of course it’s okay!”

“But…” Xion cast her eyes down again. The ice cream in her hand was mostly melted.

“When you’re in trouble, you can count on your friends, right, Roxas?” Axel said, and Roxas smiled, looking at Xion.

“Friends… Axel… are you my friend, too?” Xion asked, in a feeble voice, and Axel unconsciously turned his gaze away, to look at the sunset. He was at a loss as to what he should tell her.

I don’t know why. But, maybe the reason is, Xion is Roxas’ friend now. I can’t see Xion’s face… but, it makes me think that there’s something special about Xion. I didn’t get that impression at all when I first saw her.

“If you’re a friend of Roxas’… you’re a friend of mine,” Axel answered, looking back over at Xion.

What?

For a second, his breath was knocked out of him.

The raven-haired girl, hood off, was looking right at Axel.

When did she take it off? While I was watching the sunset just now? And that face… looks just like Naminé.

What does this mean? Whose Nobody is Xion?

“Thank you… Roxas, Axel.”

“It’s fine, so hurry up and eat your ice cream,” Axel replied, covering that he was shaken, and Xion finally began to eat her melting ice cream.

The setting sun shone on the three of them.

xxx

The next day… was the 75th day since Roxas joined the Organisation.

“Morning, Roxas,” Xion called, as he entered the lobby.

Her voice is cheery.

Axel was also there, in a corner of the lobby.

“Morning,” greeted Roxas, a smile surfacing on his face.

“Thank you, you know.”

“Yeah.”

Both of them looked at Saïx.

If they couldn’t get his permission to go on missions together, they wouldn’t even get to start.

But… we discussed that, too, yesterday with Axel.

Axel, standing in the corner with an innocent face, winked at him.

“Let’s go,” said Roxas, and Xion nodded, and the two of them walked over to Saïx together.

“Saïx.”

“Huh, Roxas.” Saïx ran his eyes over the information in his hand. “Today, your mission is…”

“Before that, I have a request. Could you please let me and Xion go on missions together?”

Saïx raised his brows.

“I think it’s… no good…” said Xion, in a small voice.

“I wonder what would make you think that at a time like this, when we already don’t have enough hands…”

Axel cut off Saïx’s scolding. “It’s okay, isn’t it? Working together, these two newbies could finally work at least as much as one person, right?”

Saïx turned to Axel with a sour look on his face.

“If we can go together, I think we’d even be able to handle harder missions,” Roxas added, immediately.

Saïx shook his head slightly.

So it’s no good after all. Roxas looked at the floor. But, the answer was unexpected.

“…I see. Okay.”

Roxas and Xion suppressed their joy, and nodded.

xxx

After watching Roxas and Xion leave, Saïx turned to Axel, standing behind him.

“What did you intend to do.”

“What did I intend to do? Offer some friendly help?” Axel replied, and grinned at Saïx.

“Whatever… maybe it will be convenient after all.” Saïx forced his mouth to relax.

“…What do you mean?”

“Now that you’ve made contact with Xion, what are your impressions?”

Returning my question with a question. Saïx never answers me at times like this. “I don’t have any impressions or… it’s nothing… it’s just how it looks, right?” Even if I ask about Xion now, I don’t imagine Saïx would answer.

“Heh heh… that’s right, it’s just how it looks, isn’t it,” Saïx laughed. “You have to hurry up and head off on your mission, too. You’re investigating a new world.”

“Roger that,” Axel answered, opening a dark corridor straight away, and stepping inside.

The dark corridor isn’t pure darkness; it’s dimly lit.

Axel stopped walking.

Just how it looks…

I’m pretty sure Saïx shouldn’t have met Naminé before, but he probably knows what she looks like from data. That would mean that whatever Xion is, it’s just how she looks.

Those two look awfully similar.

Xion is a Nobody with a relation to Naminé. Actually, if I were to take a guess based on how she looks, she’s probably a Nobody born at the same time as Naminé. The special Nobodies known as Xion and Naminé must have been born in some kind of shape from a Princess –Kairi—who had no darkness in her heart.

That’s just how it looks… the answer is that the two who look similar are connected.

The same bond between Sora and Kairi has probably become the bond between Roxas and Xion. That’s why Roxas was drawn to Xion like that, not even knowing what she looked like.

And, maybe there’s something ‘convenient’ about Roxas and Xion working together.

Axel started walking again.

Even so… I wonder why I care about those two like this.

Is that the power of the Keyblade Hero?

xxx

The mission with Xion was to investigate the cave in Agrabah.

There was an accident that involved barely escaping a cave-in, but they finished the investigation by and by.

“We managed to… escape, didn’t we,” said Xion, heaving a deep sigh of relief.

“Yeah, key word is ‘managed’, though.”

After a brief moment, Xion pointed over Roxas’ shoulder. “R-Roxas… behind you!”

“Huh?” Roxas spun around, and there was… not a human.

That thing, swaying around, was…

“…A carpet?” said Roxas, suspiciously. The carpet rubbed against him, enticingly.

“W-what is this?!”

“Roxas, are you okay?” Xion touched the carpet, uneasily. But, the carpet didn’t seem to hate it in particular.

“Ah, ahh… it doesn’t look like… an enemy…”

“It seems to like you, Roxas…”

Roxas tilted his head. “Why me?”

“I dunno.”

“Uwah?!”

This time, an exceptionally large, blue, bearded man was floating in the air next to Roxas, arms folded. He didn’t seem to have any legs, somehow. He’s not human, is he?

“W-who are you?!” Xion shrieked. Then, fluttering right and left, the mysterious person brought his face up to Xion.

“Who?! Did you just ask who I am?!”

“Ye… yeah.”

That large mouth opened, still in a grin. “Okay! Then let me introduce myself. I, who wants to hide something, was once the genie of the lamp, Genie! And this here is my companion, the magic carpet! Pleased to meet you!” Genie took Roxas’ right hand and shook it, then whizzed around.

“P-pleased to meet you….” I don’t really know what to do, faced with a greeting like that.

“Wait, wait, wait! You have to have more energy! You can’t get happy with a gloomy face like that on, right?” Genie insisted, pushing his face in as close to Roxas’ as possible.

“Y-yeah…” Roxas stepped back, escaping him.

“So, who are you?”

“Uh… um…” I can’t reveal what I really am.

While he was lost thinking for an answer, Genie began to yabber as he pleased. “I was just about to go see how the city’s doing, when Carpet here said ‘there’s an acquaintance here’, and flew off.”

“Acquaintance? Me, and… this Carpet?”

“Yeah! So, I came to see, wondering who it was… and here I find you guys, who I’ve never met!” Genie waved his hand around, and tilted his head. “You wrong, Carpet?”

Carpet shook the upper half of its body… rather, the upper half in denial of Genies words.

“…You said you came to see how the city is doing… are you talking about the city in the middle of the desert?” Roxas asked, and Genie nodded wildly, spinning and treading on steps in the air.

“Yeah, that’s Agrabah, where my number one best friend Al is.”

“Best friend…?” That’s the first time I’ve heard those words.

“The truth is, right now, Genie and Carpet are right in the middle of our much-desired world trip.” Genie, who was speaking so happily, became a little lonely-looking.

“But… I got a bit worried about my biggest and bestest friend Al… so I popped back to see how things are.”

“Worry? So, you worry about best friends?” Roxas asked, and Genie dabbed at his eyes with a white hanky he’d pulled out of somewhere.

“You worry and worry! Are things going well with Jasmine… has the city changed at all… so many things I’m interested in, I can’t contain myself…”

“I don’t know anything about this Al person… but it looked like the city was in the middle of being repaired.”

“Yeah, a sandstorm came. They say it was terrible.”

“What?!” Genie flew high in the air. “For such a terrible thing to happen while I was away! Okay, wait! I’ll fix the town right back the way it was with my magic…” Genie raised both hands high.

“But, the guy called Al said that they wanted to rebuild the city with their own strength, without relying on magic,” said Roxas, repeating the conversation he’d overheard when he’d come to this world recently with Axel.

Genie hung his head, sadly. “Oh… If Al said that, then I don’t have a role…”

“You won’t fix the city?” Roxas asked, tentatively.

“Al said he wouldn’t rely on magic, right? I want to fix it for him, but you gotta respect your friend’s wishes.”

“Your friend’s… wishes…” So, even if you mean for something to be for your friend’s sake, their wishes are still more important?

Roxas looked at Genie, thinking. Just then, something poked him in the back. Xion whispered in his ear, from behind. “Roxas, we have to get back.”

“Ah… yeah,” Roxas nodded, and right before his eyes, Genie and Carpet soared into the sky.

“But, I could still help a little!” Light shot from his fingers, and the sandstorm at the edge of the desert disappeared. “Now the city is safe! Come to think of it… who are you guys?”

But—when Genie turned around, no one was there.

xxx

“So, the mission went without a hitch?”

Xion and Roxas turned back at the same time. They each had an ice cream in their hand.

Twilight Town—on top of the clock tower.

“Yeah, looks like we did okay, somehow… thanks to you, Roxas and Axel.”

“That’s good,” answered Axel, sitting in his usual place, and starting to eat his own ice cream. “Hey, where did you guys go on your mission, anyway?” he asked, after a moment of eating in silence.

Roxas looked puzzled. “You and me went there before, Axel… um…”

“Agrabah, wasn’t it?” Xion answered, from beside him.

“That city in the desert, I see,” Axel added.

The conversation trailed off there.

The three of them ate their ice cream.

By and by, the sound of the distant train reached them, and finally, Xion opened her mouth. “That Genie person seemed very worried about that Al person. And then he said that you have to respect your friend’s wishes.” Xion bit her ice cream, swinging her feet.

Axel leaned his head to one side. “Your friend’s wishes, huh…” It feels like I have heard that before, a long time ago, when I was human.

“Cause Genie said he’s a guy called Al’s number one best friend,” said Roxas, looking at Axel.

“Best friend… that’s different to a friend, isn’t it?” Xion added, also looking at Axel.

“It’s the same kind of thing,” Axel replied, and Roxas and Xion looked at each other.

“…Best friends…” Roxas murmured, and the conversation trailed off again. This time it was Axel, finishing his ice cream, who broke the silence.

“…If I had to, I’d say that it’s like one rank above ‘friend’.”

“Then how is it different to a friend?”

Axel gazed at the sunset, not answering Roxas’ question.

Nobodies can play at being friends, but I don’t think it’s possible to play at being best friends. I don’t know how to answer.

Axel narrowed his eyes against the setting sun, and said, “Well… I don’t have a best friend, so I don’t know.”

“Oh…” Roxas said. Xion didn’t say anything.

The setting sun shone on the three of them.

xxx

The time is ripe…

A great heart has at last appeared before us.

Rage… hatred… sadness, and happiness.

All gathered together are the fruits of the heart… that is Kingdom Hearts.

The world will begin to reform from now.

Gentlemen!

In order to gain more power, and, in order to have hearts of our own…

All gathered together, we Nobodies must not forget our goal.

To gather hearts, to have hearts of our own, to not let the heart mislead us.

xxx

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days: Vol 1. The 14th Complete! The series is continued in Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days: Vol 2. Go to the Sea

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