Chapter 2: Vacation

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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. 

xxx

Outside the window, the moon—the heart-shaped moon—floated. Axel watched it, still sprawled on his bed. There was still a little time before he had to leave on his mission.

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

For these past few days, I’ve been thinking about the meaning of Xemnas’ words. To not let the heart mislead us? What does that mean? Whenever I’m alone, these thoughts just float around in my head the whole time. I don’t know why I have to think so much about it. I bet the other Nobodies don’t. 

The heart… emotions. I think about their origins. Contemplate it. Reason about it. When did I start doing this?

The truth was, Axel knew when. Maybe I’ve been pretending I hadn’t noticed.

Yeah… I started thinking about this stuff when Roxas—no, Roxas and Xion joined the Organisation. The two of them have gone along growing as Nobodies, and in that process no doubts have been thrown at me. 

As for how it’s been since Xion and I became close… that’s only since I came back from Castle Oblivion.

Anyhow, I have to admit that something is changing inside of me. Before this, I wouldn’t have thought about those kinds of things. Changing… why am I changing?

I called it ‘contemplating’, but it’s just rambling. 

Axel felt the waver of an unexpected presence, and sat up in bed.  “Don’t just barge in here—you could at least knock,” he said, in an unpleased manner.

Saïx was standing next to the bed. Axel looked away from him and stared at a speck on the wall. However, seeming to not notice Axel’s attitude, Saïx began to speak in his usual tone.

“How has Xion been acting?”

“S’not like I’ve been keeping watch in particular, so I wouldn’t have a clue,” Axel answered in a sulky tone.

“You seem quite close,” Saïx continued.

For a moment, Axel thought about the reasons Saïx could have for being so interested in Xion. I already know why Roxas is special. The Nobody of the Keyblade Hero is going to be special.

But, I still don’t have the information to decide how Xion is special compared to other Nobodies. I wanted to know, but now I already understand that it would be useless to ask Saïx to tell me.

“What, am I meant to report even that to you? If you don’t need anything, get out,” said Axel, getting up out of his bed with a violent movement.

Speaking of changes, my relationship with Saïx has, too. I think it’s changed slightly since I’ve had time with Roxas and Xion. I couldn’t really say how, though.

“You and Xion are on the same mission today.”

“Thank you ever so much for going to all the trouble to tell me that,” Axel answered, facing the mirror and starting to get ready.

“I need you to go to Castle Oblivion again soon,” said Saïx, watching Axel’s face in the mirror. At those words, he finally looked at Saïx.

“Orders from ‘Lord’ Xemnas?” Axel asked, lips curling.

Saïx didn’t reply to that. “That castle still has secrets. Even there, there are unknown places—”

“Unknown places?” Axel interrupted. He turned his gaze back on his own reflection in the mirror. “You’re talking about that chamber. I’ve scoured the place and I haven’t found it. It won’t be discovered that easily.”

The tension in Saïx’s pursed lips slackened a little. “Very well, I’ll tell you something you’d like to hear. Xion was born in that castle. Just like Naminé was, in that castle.” Saïx was silent for a moment. “The place Naminé and Xion were born—sounds like a place you’d like to go, am I right?”

That’s bait. But there’s no skill in simply taking the bait.

Axel snorted and turned to Saïx. “Well, well, well… it sounds like the one who wants to go to that castle isn’t me, it’s you, am I right?” Axel said, as he stepped past Saïx, out of his field of vision. “Cause if you go to the chamber that Xemnas is searching for—you’ll figure out his true goal, right?”

“The Chamber of Repose, and its twin, the Chamber of Awakening,” Saïx began, back still turned.

“Xemnas has a goal that he hasn’t told anyone. A clue towards it should be in the Chamber of Awakening. If we can get out hands on it, we’ll have the advantage in every conceivable way—for our goal, too.” At that last word, Saïx turned and looked at Axel.

I know… our goal. As for that, there’s no preference.

Axel sighed, and said, “Vexen and Zexion were in your way. That’s why they were taken care of—so you’d reach the top of the Organisation, right?” It’s almost like I’m telling myself this.

Us not having hearts doesn’t mean our behaviour means nothing.

It doesn’t mean we can’t think. Doesn’t mean we don’t have goals. Acting for the sake of those is something both humans and Nobodies share.

“I do the dirty work, so you better get to the top.” I’m not lying when I tell him this.

Axel looked as Saïx. Saïx stared back.

Yeah… we have a goal.

Saïx turned his back on Axel.

“In a few days, you’ll be sent to Castle Oblivion on a solo mission. Be expecting it,” said Saïx, leaving the room.

Alone, Axel clenched his fists, and followed Saïx out of the room.

xxx

Going to the lobby, Axel found Xion gazing idly out the window. Roxas wasn’t there yet.

“What are you looking at, poppet?” asked Xigbar, putting a hand on her shoulder. Axel sat down on the sofa, listening carefully to their conversation.

“…I was just looking at Kingdom Hearts.”

“You that interested in it?”

Xion turned to look at Xigbar. “I was thinking how pretty it is,” she replied.

Xigbar began to chuckle, then outright laugh. So Xigbar found something funny in what Xion said? I still don’t really understand how that guy thinks.

“Did I say something weird?” asked Xion, looking at him strangely.

“No—you’re growing up into a fine young thing, as they say,” he said, and laughed his head off.

It’s probably that… since the Keyblade returned to Xion, even though she hasn’t gone on missions with Roxas, she’s keeping calm and composed. If that’s what he means by growing up, then it’s true, but I don’t know why that would make him laugh this much. 

“Hey! You guys talking about something interesting?” said Demyx, poking his head in.

“Poppet’s a lot more useful that you, yanno.”

“Huuuh? I don’t get it,” Demyx shrugged.

A little late, Saïx entered. “Xion.”

Xion looked up, and trotted over to Saïx. Matching her timing, Axel stood up from the sofa.

“You have a mission with Axel. Hurry and depart.”

“With Axel?” Xion turned to look at the man. Axel nodded in answer, and smiled.

“It’s the first time we’ve worked together, isn’t it.”

“Don’t go holding me back, now.”

“That should be my line.”

Saïx was watching them joking and laughing together. Axel noticed Saïx’ slightly reproachful gaze, and stopped laughing. Xion put on a meek face, as if she’d noticed too.

“Oh yeah, where’s Roxas going?” Axel asked Saïx, trying to wipe away the oppressive atmosphere.

“Investigating a new world with Xigbar.”

“Ohhh…”

There’s definitely some meaning in Saïx’s instructions. He doesn’t just pair members randomly and send them out with instructions. I bet there’s some kind of objective behind pairing Xion and I, and Roxas and Xigbar.

But, I don’t know that objective as of yet… I don’t even know if he’s not intending to tell anyone, or if he’s actually being ordered to do it like this. 

“Hurry and depart.”

“Yessir.” Axel turned his back on Saïx and started walking, stepping into a dark corridor.

xxx

My head feels kind of heavy, thought Roxas, heading for the lobby. I’ve been dreaming a lot lately. The dreams are terribly vague. Well, maybe they’re full of bright worlds, but when I wake up, only vague memories are left. And then, when it’s time to get out of bed, I still feel tired, just feeling like I didn’t sleep well. 

“You sure dragged your feet. Axel and co. already left,” Demyx called when Roxas entered the lobby.

“Axel and who?” Roxas asked, the question slipping out of him.

“Axel and Xion are doing a combo-act today. I love those, so much easier~”

I see… it’s pretty rare for Axel and Xion to have a mission together.

A voice butted in. “And your mission is with me, kitten.” Roxas looked up at the owner, Xigbar.

“Cut it out with the weird nicknames.” I don’t really like being called kitten.

“Haha! You like kiddo better? But Poppet’s got the best one, right?

Poppet is Xion’s nickname. Why does Xigbar like those weird nicknames so much? Roxas stayed silent.

Xigbar wrapped an arm around Roxas’ shoulder. “Well, today the two of us have a whole new world. Let’s go, kitten,” he said.

He gets on my nerves for so many things, but since we have work to do, I have to suck it up.

Roxas brushed Xigbar’s hand off, and went over to Saïx to ask the details of the mission.

xxx

Axel and Xion had headed for Twilight Town. Defeating the Heartless that appeared in the town and collecting their hearts were basic missions to Xion and Roxas. And, it was Axel’s job to accompany.

Coming out of a back alley and halfway up a hill, a huge swarm of Heartless appeared. Xion destroyed Heartless after Heartless with her Keyblade, causing hearts to float up into the air.

The way she moves, you wouldn’t even think she’d ever forgotten how to use that thing for even a moment. She’s almost as—no, she’d probably be even stronger than Roxas. 

In any case, I don’t really get why I had to go on a mission with her right at this time. There are certainly a fair few Heartless, but with the force Xion has now, I think she could fight just fine without my help.

“These Heartless here are the last, I think.”

“Xion, fight fight fight~” Axel clapped, as she turned around.

“What are you doing?”

“What am I doing… I’m praising you, you know.”

“You’re weird,” said Xion, laughing.

Just then, Axel suddenly felt like Xion’s face had blurred, and he rubbed his eyes.

“Is something wrong, Axel?”

“Nah…” For a second, the Xion I saw there had the face of… Naminé.

Xion and Naminé look very similar to begin with. But they aren’t exactly the same; their hair colour is different. But, just now, for just an instant, Xion’s hair was blonde.
What is this?

“…Axel?” The face peering anxiously at him was Xion’s again.

What happened just now?

“Haha, maybe someone cast a weird spell on me,” Axel glossed it over, laughing and scratching his head.

“Are you okay?” Xion was still looking anxious.

“I said it’s nothing. Let’s keep going.”

“…If you’re fine, then okay, but…”

“I said I’m fine. Come on, let’s go.” Axel started walking ahead.

“Wait,” said Xion, following. Turning back, she was still Xion—just like usual.

If she doesn’t… change, then what happened must have been just an illusion. The two of them—

Xion and Naminé—look so similar, I must have just seen it like that. It’s not something to worry about.

“Let’s hurry up and clear this up,” called Axel, standing at the entrance to the tram plaza at the top of the hill, gripping his chakrams.

There were many Shadows hanging around in the plaza.

“Okay.”

Xion gripped her Keyblade, and ran at the Shadows.

xxx

On the other side of the light, a whole new world opened up before them.

Roxas stepped out of the dark corridor, and looked around.

The atmosphere of this world was similar in some way to Agrabah, probably because of the huge stone buildings and the dry packed earth.

The name of this world was, of course, Olympus Coliseum.

“Soooo then, let’s investigate like crazy and get our asses home,” said Xigbar, looking back at Roxas.

“What are we investigating?” Roxas asked. He had known that they were here to investigate the world, but he didn’t know the concrete details.

“We’re checking out whether there’s anything here. Maybe there’ll be someone who could join the Organisation.”

Xigbar’s answer was a little unexpected. Lost in thought for a moment, Roxas then voiced the question that surfaced. “Hey, what kind of people can join the Organisation?”

“You know about Nobodies, right?” Xigbar asked in return. As Roxas searched for an answer, Xigbar started explaining. “When someone with a strong heart loses that heart to the darkness, it makes a Heartless. Nobodies… are a rare thing born when that happens. And then, we, the Organisation, are a gathering of Nobodies of those who had the strongest hearts, you see.”

It’s the first time I’ve heard half of that.

“So all the members of the Organisation are special…” Roxas muttered unconsciously.

“Heh heh…” Xigbar laughed. “Special… and you and Xion are special Nobodies, even amongst us.”

“Huh?” I don’t really get what he’s saying. Axel did say something similar, but it feels like he meant something slightly different. 

As Roxas went to ask, a Heartless appeared in front of the two of them.

“Oops—no time for talk. We’re clearing these up, Roxas.” Xigbar gripped the Gun Arrows in his hands. A little late, Roxas summoned his Keyblade, and ran at the Heartless.

The Heartless in the shape of a canon were a bit of a pain, but because Xigbar was there, they were able to destroy the Heartless without much trouble.

Xigbar is so strong, Roxas thought, sighing and making his Keyblade disappear, when suddenly, someone was taking to him.

“Heeeey! I’ve been waiting for ya!”

“Huh?”

Turning, Roxas found a being that was kind of like a beast and kind of like a human standing there.

It’s got big horns, but it’s pretty short.

“I’ve been looking forward to you coming! So, here we are. Let’s get this show on the road! We’ll begin your training.”

“Uh… I…” How do I explain…

The creature in front of Roxas silenced his stuttering with an all-knowing face.

“I get the picture. I getcha. You’re that applicant pupil Herc told me about. I saw the way you fought and I knew at a glance. I’m Phil. I’ll train you.”

Herc? Phil?

Stuck, the creature named Phil circled Roxas, and ended by touching Roxas through his coat.

“Wargh! What are you doing!”

“Hmm… That Herc’s sent me a pretty wiry pupil… I’ll have to see what I can do!”

“Wh—pupil?! We’re…” Trying to do something to clear up the misunderstanding, Roxas turned to Xigbar. “Huh?! Xigbar?”

Xigbar was gone.

“You’re talking mumbo-jumbo. Hey, what’s your name, kid?”

“R-Roxas,” he replied, accidentally obedient.

“Okay, Roxas. I’ll go ahead and set up your training. You hurry up and follow me to the Coliseum.”

Speechless, Roxas watched Phil rush back into the huge stone building–shrine?

What the hell just happened?

“Heh heh heh…. An applicant pupil…”

Surprised at the laughing voice Roxas turned, and this time Xigbar was properly there.

“…Where did you go?”

“I decided to hide. We of Organisation XIII have—as we say—a general rule of secrecy, yanno,” said Xigbar, as if it was obvious.

“Yeah, but…” what was I meant to do?

“It’s a good thing though, isn’t it, Roxas?”

“Huh?” I have no idea what he is talking about.

“Now, we can investigate in plain sight. As his pupil, you can infiltrate them. Heh heh heh… perfect job for you, isn’t it?”

“What does that mean?”

“Hee hee hee… weeell.” Laughing, Xigbar opened a dark corridor beside himself.

“You going back?”

“The excellent mister student applicant is going to investigate for me, isn’t he. Do a good job, now.”

Speechless again, Roxas stared as Xigbar disappeared.

xxx

Axel watched the sunset vaguely, then bit his ice cream.

“Roxas is late, isn’t he,” Xion said. She had already finished hers.

They’d been able to complete their mission comparatively easily. Because it had been in Twilight Town, it hadn’t taken them any time at all to make it to the usual spot. It was obvious that they would arrive before Roxas, but it felt like he was a little late even so.

“Hope Xigbar isn’t picking on him,” said Axel.

“Yeah,” Xion nodded.

The conversation broke off.

Now that I think about it, maybe this is the first time it’s been just me and her here.

“Hey, Axel,” Xion began.

“Mm?”

“Watching the sunset like this, and talking… it feels like a long time ago, I did this same thing with someone.” It was the first time Xion had spoken about something like that. She looked down, as if she was searching for the words to continue. “…I get that feeling from looking at the ocean, too.”

She took something from her pocket. It was a seashell. “Yeah, the ocean… I feel like I’ve been there, talking with someone, just like this… somewhere I can hear the sound of waves.” Xion stared at the shell.

“You’re saying you have memories?” Axel asked.

“Not really… no, but…” Xion shook her head. “I don’t know… maybe these are memories.”

“Hm… I wonder.”

Again, silence passed between them.

The ocean… seashells. Only one thing comes to mind. They must be Sora’s memories.
I know as much as I could find out about the memories that Naminé scattered in Castle Oblivion. At Sora’s home—Destiny Islands—a blue ocean spreads out to the horizon. 

And, the charm Sora carried to remember the promise he made to Kairi was made out of seashells, wasn’t it…?

At the same time, there were memories of the Princess—Kairi. It’s only natural that Kairi is very strong in those memories, if Xion and Naminé are connected. Because Naminé is Kairi’s Nobody.

No, it’s possible to think that that Xion is the one directly connected to Kairi.

Who’s Nobody is Xion?

Now that I think about it, it wasn’t an illusion when I saw Xion and Naminé during our mission.

It feels like there must be a reason.

“You have memories, don’t you, Axel?”

“Generally, yeah. They’re not much use for anything, anyway,” Axel replied, looking at Xion. Her expression seemed lost somehow.

“Roxas doesn’t have memories just like me. Roxas and I… I wonder if we were so similar before we became Nobodies.”

Axel had no answer for that. I still can’t tell anyone what I’ve guessed. The plans that the Organisation are carrying out, the things we are trying to do, and then this time I spend with Roxas and Xion. Feeling how each clashed with the other, Axel narrowed his eyes and stared out at the sunset.

The Organisation—no, Xemnas—seems to think of all the members of the Organisation as pieces in a game. Saïx and I were aiming to take advantage of that. But now…

The train ran by, blowing it’s whistle.

Where the two sat in silence, Roxas finally showed up.

“Sorry I’m so late,” he apologised.

“You’re late, Roxas,” said Xion, putting the seashell back into her pocket. “We already finished eating,” she smiled. Roxas sat down beside her.

“Xigbar went and left me there alone. Turned into a solo-mission after all.” Roxas started eating his ice cream.

“Good job then,” said Axel, slipping the stick from his finished ice cream into his pocket.

“He’s terrible, that Xigbar.”

And so, the three of them began their usual small talk, smiling together.

xxx

The days never changed. Waking up hazily, Roxas headed to the lobby. He had been going on missions alone for a while now, and he felt quite tired.

“Morning…” he called, entering the lobby, but no one was there. Light from Kingdom Hearts poured into the empty room.

Going over to where Saïx normally stood, Roxas found a note pasted there.

Holiday Today

“Holiday…?” Roxas repeated, quietly. He didn’t know what the word meant.

What am I meant to do?

Well first of all, there’s no one here in the lobby. So, it doesn’t look like I’m meant to be here. Wait a minute, I think I remember Demyx having said a little while ago something about hoping we’d get a holiday soon.

Roxas left the lobby. Walking down the hall, he found Axel.

“Hey, Roxas. Haven’t had a holiday in a while, have we?” Axel seemed in better spirits than usual, despite not having a heart.

“It’s my first time.”

Axel ducked his head. “Is that right?”

Roxas looked up at Axel, brows drawn for a moment, and said, “hey, Axel. With these ‘holidays’, what am I supposed to do?”

“Huh? What are you on about?”

“I don’t know… what I’m meant to do,” Roxas confessed meekly, looking down.

Without a mission, I have no idea what to do.

“Do what you like.”

“What I like… I don’t have anything I like,” Roxas answered, and Axel let out a surprised puff of air. “What are you gonna do, Axel?”

“Me, well… sleep and sleep and sleep.”

“Isn’t that what you usually do anyway?” I don’t really get what he means.

“Usually, I’m making do with how much I get.”

He really wants to sleep that much? I dream, most times I sleep. Without realising, Roxas fell into deep thought.

“Well, I’m off. Spend your time well, okay?” Axel turned to go.

“Hey, wait a second, Axel!” Roxas grabbed his coat.

“What is it? You not gonna let me sleep?” Axel yawned, stretching.

“Oh, what are you two doing?” It was Xion, stopping as she happened to pass by.

“Did you see the note?” Roxas asked.

“Yeah, I did,” she answered.

“What are you going to do, Xion?”

“Hey, I’d better be getting back to my room,” said Axel as Roxas was in the middle of asking, stretching widely again.

“Uh… o-okay…” Roxas nodded uncertainly, and Axel walked away. So he’s really that sleepy…

“Roxas?”

“Ah, so yeah, what will you do, Xion?”

“I’m going to train,” said Xion, smiling.

“Train?”

“I have to get even better at using the Keyblade. How about you train with me?”

I don’t really understand the point of swinging the Keyblade around if I don’t have a mission. 

“I’m fine thanks…”

“Okay, well I’m going then. If you change your mind, let’s do it together.” Xion too hurried away.

Left all alone, Roxas sighed. Do what I want… what should I do? What I like… something I like… ice cream?

Nothing else came to mind.

Roxas started walking.

xxx

Passing by the usual back alley, Roxas started heading for the cheap sweets stand in the plaza. It was the first time he’d been to Twilight Town so early without it being on a mission. Walking down the stairs, he headed for the open space.

“Wow! Awesome!” He could hear a girl’s voice.

“Hang in there!”

In the middle of the open space, the three kids Roxas often saw in Twilight Town were playing with a ball.

“Argh! No! That’s it for me!”

The bad-tempered kid fell down spread-eagled on the ground.

“Ahh… so tired.”

What on earth were they doing?

“Huh? What’s up?”

The girl—Olette, right—had seen Roxas, standing there unthinkingly. She looked at him.

“Hm? Hey, you’re…”

It’s the fat kid who gave us information when we were looking for Xion… Pence.

Pence ran over to Roxas. “Hello!”

Not knowing what to do, Roxas nodded. “…Mm.” I’m supposed to do all I can to not make contact with the inhabitants of a world, but… 

But, Roxas was really interested in what the three had been doing.

“You’re by yourself today? Did you find that friend you were looking for?”

“…Mm,” Roxas nodded.

Olette popped her head out from behind Pence. “You know him, Pence?”

“Yeah, we talked together a little while ago.”

“I see. Pleased to meet you! I’m Olette.”

She’s putting her hand out. Ummm, what am I meant to do?

“I’m Pence… but I told you that before, right? And that’s Hayner over there,” said Pence, introducing the boy who had finally got up off the ground, and was giving Roxas a sharp glare.

“What were you guys doing?” asked Roxas, slightly nervous.

“We were practicing performing!” Pence began to explain.

“That’s hitting a ball up without letting it fall on the ground, and keeping a good tempo. It’s pretty tough,” continued Olette.

“Hayner is pretty much the best in town. Right, Hayner?”

Pence turned to Hayner, who walked over, holding a stick as if it were a blade.

“You… haven’t seen your face around. You got some business with us?”

“Not really… I was just passing by.” That’s all I can say if he’s gonna talk to me like that.

“Huh… well if you don’t have any business with us, hurry up and get out of here,” Hayner said, unpleasantly.

“Excuse me, Hayner! That’s no way to speak to someone!” Olette scolded.

“Uh… sorry about that. Don’t worry about him,” Pence followed. But Hayner was still glaring.
Just as Roxas was thinking maybe he should leave, Hayner spoke. “You, have a go at performance.”

“What for?” asked Olette, surprised.

“It’s fine! Here.” Hayner handed the stick-blade to Roxas. Taking it, Roxas was then handed a ball by Pence.

“Hit the ball up in the air with the blade. You win if you hit it the most times.”

“Got it. I’ll have a go.”

Roxas hit the ball, then ran to where it was falling down. Then he hit it again.

“Wow! Awesome!” Olette yelled.

There’s something fun about slicing in a rhythm like this.

After having hit it dozens of times, his sweaty hand suddenly slipped and the ball fell to the ground.

Olette and Pence ran over. “I’ve never seen such a great performance!”

“Me neither! That was amazing!”

I wonder what Hayner thinks… Roxas was thinking, when Hayner strolled lazily over.

“You’re all right. Guess I was wrong about you.”

“Um, okay…”

“I shouldn’t have gone off at you before. My bad,” said Hayner, looking away.

Gone off at me? What does he mean?

“Hayner was just cranky cause he lost to Seifer at performing,” Pence whispered into Roxas’ ear, snickering.

“Yo, enough with the life story here!”

“Heh heh heh.”

“You shut up too, Olette!” Hayner’s face was going red with anger.

There’s something… funny about this. Roxas couldn’t help his lips twisting into a smile along with them.

“Y-you’re laughing at me too!”

This is so much fun.

The four of them looked at each other, and laughed together.

Parting from the three kids, Roxas bought ice cream, and went and sat up on top of the clock tower. Right under him, Roxas could see the three kids playing some game that looked like tag in the station plaza.

“He’s going that way!”

“I’ll get him!”

“Huff… I’m too tired for this running around!”

It looked like Hayner and Olette were ‘it’. They chased Pence as he toddled away.

Roxas bit his ice cream.

“Of course you’d be here.” Turning, he saw Axel standing there. “Ahh~ I had a great sleep.” After a long stretch, he sat down beside Roxas.

“Got you!” Hayner’s voice echoed around the plaza.

“Come on… I’m tired, you guys…” He plopped down on the ground.

“Must be the summer holidays for the kids in this town… Nah, the summer holidays are a little further away, I’d say,” Axel murmured. Roxas looked at him.

“Summer holidays…? What are those?”

“They’re some thirty days of holidays that humans enjoy,” Axel said, smiling.

“Thirty days? What would they do with themselves for that long… I didn’t even know how to fill one day,” Roxas said idly, watching Hayner and the others.

Today was nice because I happened to spend time with Hayner and the others, but if I had thirty days, I’m sure I’d be screwed.

“No way. They get a tonne of homework, and they’ve gotta play every day. There’s so much to do that the time’s over before you know it.”

Roxas finished his ice cream. “Hmm… I think I could handle about seven days, maybe…” he said, hugging his knees.

It would definitely be fun to have about seven days in a row like this one, I think.

“Well, most kids spend the whole thing playing with their friends. Then when the summer holidays are almost over, they do the homework together,” Axel said, as if he was remembering.

Maybe, Axel has memories of summer holidays from when he was a human…?

“It’s fun to play with friends… I’d forgotten, since becoming a Nobody,” Axel said, almost to himself, and looked at Roxas. “So, what did you get up to?”

“I knew the two of you would be here,” Xion said, over the top of Axel. Roxas looked up, to see that she had appeared beside him.

“Where were you, Xion?” Roxas asked.

“I didn’t go anywhere, I was just training, but… I gave up. How about the two of you? Did you go off somewhere together?”

“Axel was asleep the whole day.”

“What! That’s such a waste~!” Xion said, loudly.

“Unlike you two, I’m busy every day, so I was pretty tired.”

“Like the two of us have nothing to do and aren’t tired!” Xion interrupted his excuse. The three of them laughed.

“Back to missions again tomorrow,” Axel remarked.

“Another holiday would be nice,” said Xion. Roxas nodded.

From far off, the sound of birds chirping could be heard.

“Oh yeah. I won’t be able to see you guys for a while,” Axel said quietly, suddenly.

“…Huh?” Roxas and Xion said at the same time, in surprise.

“I’m getting sent out on investigation for a few days.”

“Where?” Xion pressed, but Axel just stretched like always, and grinned.

“It’s. A. Secret.”

“What? What’s with that?” Roxas protested.

Axel shrugged. “It’s a classified mission.”

“So, you can’t even tell us?” Xion complained, pressing further.

“Everyone’s got secrets they can’t even tell their friends. Got it memorised?” Axel said. There was a smile playing on his lips, but his voice was slightly deeper than usual.

“…Secrets…” Roxas repeated, unconsciously. Do I have secrets like that…?

Xion looked down too, as if lost in thought.

In the heavy atmosphere, Axel laughed. “Haha. I’m kidding. Saïx gets on my case if I blabber too much about missions, that’s all. You guys be careful too, yeah?”

Those words of Axel’s are probably very important advice. 

When Xion became unable to use the Keyblade, I don’t know what would have happened without Axel there. I think I probably wouldn’t have been able to do anything. 

“…Got it,” Roxas nodded, meekly.

“Don’t go doing stupid things while I’m gone, you hear?”

“Hey, we so wouldn’t,” Xion replied.

“I wonder now… can I really trust you guys?”

“You’re terrible!” Xion protested. Finding something funny about the situation, Roxas huffed.

“Hey, what are you laughing about, Roxas… hee hee,” Xion laughed. Axel couldn’t help but laugh along.

It’d be nice if the three of us could always be like this, laughing together.

Yeah… like the three kids in this town.

xxx

Returning to the castle, Axel walked the hallways alone, heading for his own room.

We don’t have holidays very often, but that’s okay, really.

“So you’ve finally come home.”

Axel turned to face the owner of the voice. There’s only one person who’d say something like that to me—only Saïx. 

“I’m free to do what I want with my own holiday, aren’t I? Am I supposed to consult everything with you?”

But there was no reply. After a slight pause, Saïx spoke. “You’re getting too close to those two.”

“Yessir, understood sir,” said Axel, and Saïx turned away.

Is that all he wanted to say? Axel wondered, and started to walk away. But, that moment, he heard Saïx speak. It was in a small voice, but he really did hear it.

“You’ve changed…”

Listening to Saïx’ footsteps echo, Axel looked down at the ground.

“Changed, have I…” he said, in a small voice.

xxx

Continue to Chapter 3: Battle Against Riku

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