Chapter 2: Waiting for You

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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.
Thanks to fellow fan-translator final-ace for providing the copy of this novel.

Axel sat on the edge of the wall, waiting for the right time to come.

The right time— the right moment to rescue Kairi.

Xemnas isn’t here right now. So, what about Saïx? Xigbar? Luxord?

He had no confidence. For someone who talked so big, he had no confidence. Perhaps he was trying to make himself feel the emotion called fear.

The sign of someone’s presence wavered nearby, and Axel looked up as though in fright.

“…What, you?”

Standing there wagging his tail at Axel was a large brown dog.

“Pluto,” Axel called, and the dog—Pluto—leapt at Axel and licked his face.

“Hey, I said quit that. Do I smell like the King or something?”

At Axel’s words, Pluto let out a huge bark.

Pluto, unafraid of anything, jumped right into the darkness of between. Kairi was the same.

This isn’t the time to be hesitating in a place like this.

Axel hugged Pluto, pressing his cheek to him.

“Shall we?” Axel asked, and Pluto barked in reply.

Axel stood up slowly and headed deeper into the castle.

From the city walls you could see a huge castle rising high towards the sky. Sitting on the walls of the shining garden, Radiant Garden, Sora and the others were eating sea salt ice creams.

“Do ya reckon Hollow Bastion will be okay now?” said Goofy, licking his ice cream.

“Leon and the others are here, so I’m sure it will,” said Sora, staring out at the castle in the distance.

“Splendid castle, ain’t it. I wonder how the Beast and the others are doing?” Goofy squinted, as though looking at the huge castle was reminding him of Beast’s Castle.

“Daisy…,” Donald sighed, seemingly reminded just like Goofy of another huge castle—of Disney Castle, where his girlfriend was.

“I’m sure everyone’s doing just fine,” said Sora, turning to Goofy and Donald.

Yeah, I’m sure everyone’s doing fine. If Riku and Kairi are doing fine, that would do for me.

I want them… to be fine.

“Hmm…” Donald, who had finished his ice cream first, tilted his head to one side. “Hey, Sora,” Donald called out.

Sora was staring distantly at the castle. “Hm?”

“We’ve had this ice cream, haven’t we?”

Sora shrugged. “Well, yeah, we’re having one now?”

“No, not that!” said Donald, flapping up and taking a photograph from his pocket.

“Now that you mention it, there was a sea salt ice cream put in with this photo, wasn’t there?” said Goofy, still eating his ice cream. Beside him, Sora peered at the photograph.

Here in Hollow Bastion, when we were surrounded by a bunch of Heartless, we were suddenly swallowed up by darkness that someone had opened up. Inside that darkness ‘someone’ had left a photo and a sea salt ice cream inside a box. That photo was of Hayner, Pence, Olette, and… Roxas.

Roxas… it’s a familiar name, and also one that those guys from the Organisation say a lot.

What on earth does that photograph mean?

And why on earth was Kairi where Hayner and the others are?

Roxas, Axel… and Kairi. Are those three connected somehow?

“Wonder how Hayner and the gang are doing?” Goofy said, placidly, and Sora looked up.

Just then, the sun sinking over the castle shone into Sora’s face.

It’s dazzling—

That’s right, I’ve been in a place where you can look down over the town just like this some time before, eating sea salt ice cream with someone.

Was it… with Hayner and the others?

No… I feel like it was someone else… I don’t know.

“I want to go see Hayner and the others,” said Sora, and Donald and Goofy nodded.

“If we go see them, maybe they’ll know the secret behind this photo,” Goofy said, and Sora hopped down from the castle wall.

“Let’s go to Twilight Town.”

If we do, maybe we’ll solve a few mysteries.

Impatiently, Sora broke into a run.

On the path up the steep hill in Twilight Town, in front of the bulletin board, Hayner and Pence were taking as always about where Kairi possibly could have gone. Standing a little way away from them, Olette was kicking at the small stones by her feet.

“I hope Kairi’s okay…,” Olette murmured with a sigh. She looked up at the sky, and took that munny pouch from her pocket.

The little embroidery was something she had worked her guts out on while her mother taught her. It had seemed like Kairi was going to be a really close female friend to Olette.

I can’t talk to Hayner or Pence about embroidery, but I’m sure I could with Kairi… and maybe we could talk about other things, things you can’t talk about with boys…

“Lazing around like always, I see,” came a sudden voice, and Olette looked up to see Seifer and his entourage assembled there.

“What do you want,” Hayner replied, disagreeably.

“Don’t really want anything from you,” Seifer said with a grin.

“Seifer’s busy, ya know,” Rai butted in from behind Seifer.

“We’re busy too so don’t hold us up,” said Hayner, glaring, and Seifer turned his back on him and began to walk away.

“Where are you going,” said Hayner. “That’s not your turf.”

Seifer turned casually. “Did you hear the rumour that suspicious guys have been going in and out of the haunted mansion?”

“…Huh?” said Olette, the first to react to Seifer’s words.  “What does that mean? Please tell us.”

“Those guys… Do you remember Sora?”

“Of course we remember,” Hayner returned.

“Those silver guys that Sora defeated… as well as a man in a black coat have been going in and out of the haunted mansion. That’s the rumour.” That’s all Seifer said before he walked away.

In his wake, Olette was lost in thought.

“Suspicious guys at the haunted mansion…? I wonder if this will just turn out like the ‘seven wonders’ rumour did,” said Pence, lacing his hands behind his head.

“The rumour about the girl was a masterpiece,” said Hayner, light-heartedly. “Even though it was just a curtain moving in the wind.”

“Hey… Seifer said something about those silver guys that Sora defeated, didn’t he,” said Olette, back still turned to Hayner and Pence.

Hayner tilted his head. “He did, but what of it, Olette?”

Beside him, Pence took his hands from behind his head like he’d noticed something. “And now that I think about it, the guy chasing Kairi was… a man in a black coat,” he said, folding his arms.

“What are you going on about? Both of you now?”

In front of head-tilting Hayner Olette turned to meet the gaze of Pence, whose arms were still folded, and they spoke at almost the same time.

“The haunted mansion!”

“It’s the haunted mansion!”

They nodded to each other and broke into a run.

“Hey, w-wait a minute you two!”

Hayner took off after them in a hurry.

“What do you mean?” he asked Pence, who he had caught up to.

“See, the haunted mansion must be the place that connects to that other world—that other Twilight Town!” Pence explained as he ran.

Hayner tilted his head. “Huh? Huuhhh… We’ll check it out in any case,” he said, apparently satisfied for the time being.

“Hurry, hurry!” said Olette, and Hayner and Pence sped up.

Riku gripped the Soul Eater, stock-still and glaring at DiZ.

A room inside the haunted mansion—a white room.

“No—Riku,” Naminé said, raising her voice. At her words Riku lowered the Soul Eater and pulled his hood back up. He turned his back on Naminé and DiZ with a small frustrated sound.

A small sigh from DiZ broke the silence. Riku turned.

“Your goal is, as always, vengeance, isn’t it—Ansem the Wise.”

“No…,” hedged DiZ—no—Ansem the Wise.

“So you were going to lie back, sic us on them, and then pretend you didn’t know a thing.” Riku’s voice was thick with malice.

“No, you are wrong,” said Ansem the Wise. “I’m not the one who left, Riku. You two did. That was only natural, of course but—”

Riku drew a chair and sat down. “You came here with a purpose, right?”

He looked up at Ansem the Wise. Ansem shrugged, and took three ice creams from his breast pocket.

“First of all, how about you have an ice cream?”

“…Do you think I’m an idiot?” Riku said disagreeably. From beside him, Naminé took two ice creams, and held one out to Riku.

“Riku,” Naminé called, but Riku made no move to take it.

Ansem the Wise bit his ice cream before speaking.

“I… must apologise to you two.”

Riku stared at him, still silent.

“I will not ask you to forgive my foolish self, possessed by revenge. However, I would like you to at least let me apologise. I’m sorry.”

At those words Riku stood up from the chair and turned his back on Ansem the Wise once more. Naminé stared at his back in worry.

“There was a weakness to you… your heart, that made it vulnerable to the darkness. However, there was also a strong hope. You made the darkness your own power, and you…”

“Did you come here to spout this at me?” Riku said.

Naminé was looking down, still holding the ice cream out at Riku.

Ansem the Wise shook his head quietly, and continued. “Naminé, Roxas and Xemnas. The Nobodies of those who had strong hearts are unique beings. My—no—our theories were of no use at all. The world changes when touched by a strong heart. Not just the world. Even people—and even Nobodies change.”

Naminé looked up.

That’s—yes, that’s the secret of the heart. When in contact with a special being, worlds, hearts—everything changes.

“Riku. Your level of strength is also something special. I want you to save the worlds somehow. This fool pleads you. I will do anything for it.”

Back still turned on Ansem the Wise, Riku stood silent, rooted to the spot.

Deep inside the castle, Axel was looking up at a small basket-like cage that hung from the ceiling. Beside him sat Pluto, who had come along, wagging tail whapping on the floor as he also looked up at the cage.

“Kairi,” Axel called to the girl he knew was inside. As he did, Pluto barked. Kairi’s face appeared through the bars.

“You’re…”

Axel gave Kairi a slightly twisted grin. “Axel,” he said, looking up at her. “Got it memorised?”

Kairi gave a small nod.

“This is… my bad, ok. I’m responsible for you getting trapped in this place. Hold on, I’m gonna help you now.”

Axel opened up the darkness  of between, and Pluto bounded inside ahead of him.

“I’ve been waiting, Axel,” came a voice from behind.

“…I just knew you’d show up.”

Axel turned with a smirk. Saïx was standing there.

“It’s all good, Kairi! I’m gonna help you—for sure, okay!” Axel shouted, not taking his glare off Saïx.

Behind him, the darkness of between began to close.

“What do you have to say for yourself—you traitor!”

The massive claymore rose up behind Saïx. At the same time, Axel clenched his fists around his chakrams.

His body felt somehow unwilling.

I don’t want to be erased… but, it wouldn’t be so bad to be erased here.

Axel blew out a big breath and leapt, as flames jumped up to encircle them.

“—Fool!”

The claymore moved to block Axel’s attack. Saïx himself hadn’t moved a muscle.

I’m at an overwhelming disadvantage. Well… I knew that even before we started the fight. My power isn’t enough to beat Saïx. But, even so, I didn’t want to hesitate. I had to clear a path. I wanted to understand… that hope. Yeah, the hope that Sora and Riku see.

Saïx smirked.

“You should lose everything!” he said, as the point of his claymore went through Axel’s chest.

Axel was thrown, his body hitting the ground with force.

I don’t want to be erased.

I can’t go down here.

I shouldn’t be erased.

Why am I doing this?

For who’s sake?

For Roxas… for Naminé, and Riku, and for myself.

There are still things left that I should do.

There are things I have to do.

Axel got shakily to his feet, and grinned.

“Never underestimate the Organisation’s number one at getting away!”

Behind Axel the darkness  of between opened up once more, swallowing his figure up into the darkness.

“Axel!” Kairi yelled.

“Escaping, are we!” said Saïx, chasing after, but the darkness wisped away right before his eyes.

Touching down in Twilight Town for the first time in a long time, it seemed peaceful as always. Sora looked around, feeling tension ease in his chest.

“Looks like nothing’s changed,” said Goofy, also seeming somewhat relieved.

“Let’s go see Hayner and the gang.”

Sora ran off towards the usual spot.

“Sora! Over there!” screeched Donald, and Sora turned.

“What, Donald—Wahh!”

At the end of Sora’s gaze was the crack in the wall that lead to the haunted mansion. Out of it countless Nobodies were spewing out and coming right for them.

“What’s going on?” said Sora, blocking Nobody attacks.

“Maybe they’re comin’ from that old haunted mansion?” said Goofy, doing much the same thing.

“Priority change: let’s give the Usual Spot a miss and head over there,” said Sora.

At his words, Donald waved his staff firing magic, and he and the others headed for the crack in the wall to the haunted mansion, felling Nobodies as they went.

A sea salt ice cream was melting in each of Naminé’s hands. Riku was glaring, unmoving, at Ansem the Wise.

“Roxas…”

Just as Naminé was about to quietly ask her important friend for some help, their senses flickered, and the darkness of between opened up in a corner of the room.

“The Organisation again…!”

Riku took one step closer to the dark hole, Soul Eater in hand. At that moment, Naminé gave a shout.

“Axel!”

From inside appeared the red-haired man of the Organisation—Axel.

“Yo.”

Axel moved shakily up to Naminé, a hand pressed to his chest, and with a glance up at Riku, bit one of the ice creams she was still holding.

“Now that’s salty…,” he said in a small voice, and sank heavily into the chair. His breath was coming jaggedly.

Naminé rushed over, dropping one of the ice creams in her hand onto the floor.

“Axel—are you wounded?”

“It’s nothing, don’t worry about it. Look, more importantly…” Axel jerked his chin towards the darkness behind them. “If you go through here you’ll go right to where Kairi is. Go, hurry.”

“Got it—Come on, Naminé,” said Riku, looking back at Naminé as he began to walk.

Naminé looked at Axel, worriedly. “But Axel’s…”

“Leave me an ice cream, Naminé.” Axel stole the last ice cream from Naminé’s hand, and smiled at her as she stood there staring at him. “I said go. You wanted to meet Kairi, didn’t you?”

Naminé gave a small nod at those words. Tears were sliding down her cheeks.

“What about you?”

“I gotta bring Sora and the others there.”

Naminé clasped her hands over the hand Axel was holding the ice cream in.

His hand was cold.

“Thank you Axel… See you later,” Naminé said with a smile, and Axel nodded quietly.

“See you later, Naminé.”

Naminé nodded in return, and ran into the darkness of between after Riku.

“What are you gonna do, Ansem the Wise?” Riku asked, half his body sunk into the darkness.

But Ansem the Wise shook his head quietly and said, “there are still things I must do. Just as he does.”

At those words Riku gave Ansem the Wise a sharp look.

“Go. Save Kairi,” Ansem the Wise urged, and at last Riku and Naminé nodded and in turn their figures were lost in the darkness.

The two left in the white room both blew out an almost synchronised sigh. Finding it funny, Axel snickered and ate some of the sea salt ice cream.

“How about treating that wound?” Ansem the Wise asked Axel.

“…We Nobodies just vanish as we die okay,” said Axel, and he put the ice cream in his mouth and stood up. “Besides, maybe now I can finally go see Roxas.”

Axel threw the ice cream stick on the ground, and opened up the darkness of between before him again.

“Bye then—Ansem the Wise,” Axel said, a smile rising on his face as he gave a leisurely farewell.

King Mickey, having arrived in Twilight Town, looked around and took a deep breath.

This presence… There are lots of presences here in this town. Sora… Riku, Donald and Goofy, Naminé, Axel, and… Ansem the Wise. I wonder what it means there is in this town. This town smells the way Traverse Town once did.

King Mickey tilted his head. At that moment, a Nobody appeared.

“Even here…!”

King Mickey defeated the Nobody with the Keyblade in his hand, and headed towards where everyone’s presences were coming from.

After running to the haunted mansion, the first people Sora and his friends met were Hayner and the others, lying defeated on the ground.

Sora ran over in a hurry.

“Hey! Are you okay?” he said, helping Hayner to his feet but Hayner, completely worn out, simply collapsed down hard on his butt again, looking up at the sky. Donald helped Pence up, and Goofy helped Olette.

“We came here looking for Kairi. And then those silver guys attacked…,” Hayner said, heaving a sigh.

“That’s dangerous,” said Donald, running over to Hayner.

“You guys shouldn’t feel responsible for that though…,” said Sora, but Hayner interrupted.

“That’s not it, okay,” said Hayner, standing. He sounded a little angry. “It’s that something terrible has happened to a friend of ours, right?”

“Oh yeah… You guys are all Kairi’s friends too, aren’t you?”

Hayner gave a big nod, and turned to the haunted mansion.

“There’s this rumour that suspicious guys have been going in and out of this mansion,” Hayner muttered, and Olette ran over.

“We think this place is the entryway to another Twilight Town.”

“Another Twilight Town?” Sora repeated.

Donald titled his head. “What do you mean?”

“Goofy, show me that crystal you’re carrying,” said Pence, and Goofy got the munny pouch from his pocket and took out the crystal inside.

“Look, I made that bag myself. There should only be one in the whole world, right?” Olette took a munny pouch from her pocket, too.

“And this is what you got from Seifer before. You forgot it here recently, right?” Hayner produced the crystal that had been taken from the trophy.

“There are only one of Seifer’s trophies. And there should only be one of each of the crystals, red, blue, yellow and green. But you have one too,” Pence explained.

“Hey, where did you get those two things?”

“Umm…,” said Sora. He turned to Goofy.

“We got the bag from the King. Inside was a train fare and the crystal,” said Goofy. Donald nodded, too.

“See? There has to be another place exactly like this town. Olette’s bag and the trophy came from there. If you think of it that way it makes total sense!” Hayner explained, and Sora and his friends exchanged glances.

Sora tilted his head. “What makes sense?”

“That there would be things that disappeared from here that must have gone over there,” said Pence.

“Like Kairi,” Olette added.

“Oh!” Sora agreed, and that moment—Nobodies appeared up out of the ground.

“Wah!”

Everyone edged back together, readying their stances, when a shadowy figure knocked all the Nobodies away.

“Watch out!”

“Your Majesty!” Donald and Goofy cried out together.

Standing there was the King—Mickey Mouse. King Mickey defeated all the Nobodies in an instant, and then grinned.

Donald ran over to him.

“What are you doing here?!”

“I found out where Ansem is. How about you guys?”

“Someone left us a hint about where Kairi is,” Sora replied.

We came here thanks to that photo and the sea salt ice cream…

“Hint? Who?” the King asked.

“…Probably Riku,” Sora replied, closing his eyes for a moment. Then he looked at the King.

“If you think so, Sora, then I’m sure it was,” beamed the King.

“Is Riku… okay?” Sora asked him.

“If you think so, Sora…,” the King began, but Sora took a step forward.

“Your Majesty, you have to tell me what you know sooner or later!” Sora said, almost yelling, and the King turned his back on him.

“…I can’t say anything.”

“Your Majesty! Why?” Sora pressed.

“…I don’t want to break my promise.”

“Then… you promised Riku?” Sora asked, and the King’s hands flew to his mouth.

Sora pumped his fist and jumped around. “Yesss! Then I can see Riku too!”

“Riku?” asked Hayner, watching the situation.

“My best friend,” Sora replied happily, and Hayner and the others grinned at each other.

“Hey, Your Majesty?” Olette asked, walking over to the King and peering at his face. “You got the bag you gave to Sora from Riku, didn’t you?”

The King furrowed his brow and looked away.

“You promised you wouldn’t say anything, didn’t you?” Olette asked further.

The King scratched his head. “…Well I’m in a spot…”

“Anyhow!” Donald shouted, energetically.

“Yeah, let’s go… Kairi and Riku are waiting!”

Sora’s hand curled into a fist, and he turned to the haunted mansion.

Naminé and Riku ran through the corridor of darkness.

I wonder how many times I’ve run through this space now. With Axel… and with Riku. But that’s definitely over now too.

I wonder how much longer I’ll be able to exist as myself like this. Right from the beginning, I… never existed. I am a horribly vague existence, like somebody’s shadow.

I wonder what Axel will do now.

Axel… he’s a sad Nobody.

No… all the Nobodies with the misfortune to be born into this world… are sad.

Roxas, Axel, and even Xemnas.

Why were we born, I wonder.

We without hearts. In the end we weren’t granted hearts.

Really?

Do we really not have hearts?

I bet Axel holds the same doubt.

But, the thing inside us that feels like a heart… in the end maybe it is nothing more than an illusion we feel because we were touched by Sora.

That said… that’s right, even if we feel like we have a heart, a Nobody’s heart is somewhere else.

Somewhere far away.

Are we trying to go back there?

Continue to Chapter 2: Waiting for You

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