Written by: Kanemaki Tomoco
Original Plan: Nomura Tetsuya and Watanabe Daisuke
Illustration: Amano Shiro
Copyrighted by Disney Enterprises, Inc and Square Enix. No profits are gained from these unofficial fan translations.
In front of the Replica, who had lost to Sora and escaped, appeared a red-haired man—Axel. “Hey—Fake… no, Riku.”
“What do you want,” asked the Replica, panting heavily and glaring at Axel.
“The Hero was strong, wasn’t he?” smirked Axel, moving closer to the Replica. “Naminé says that strong’s her type, too.”
The Replica was silent. He looked down, biting his lip. What went wrong, I wonder. Why do I hate Sora so much, I wonder. The Replica was still lost inside his vague memories.
“What do you think, Riku? Do you want to try getting even stronger?”
“What do you mean.”
Axel threw a card at the Replica. “If you use this card, you can get even stronger. How’s that sound?”
“Why are you helping me,” asked the Replica, staring at the card on the floor. It was pitch black with nothing on it at all.
“Cause I wanna see the Hero defeated too, see.”
There’s some hidden side to Axel’s words, the Replica thought intuitively. But, I don’t have enough power to win against Sora the way I am now. That fact doesn’t change.
“Well, let’s go—Riku.” The Replica picked up the card and headed for the door he could see ahead. “Yeah—Hold the card up to the door. Then, you can get even stronger.”
Tempted by Axel’s words, the Replica held the card up to the door. Watching him from behind, Axel broke into a grin, and disappeared.
After crossing through Traverse Town, the town of meetings, Riku found himself in a world filled with huge lotus flowers. He didn’t recognise it.
“Who’s memories are these, then…,” Riku muttered, swinging the Soul Eater down on Heartless. No matter what the deal with these memories is, if the Heartless—the darkness—was going to follow Riku around, defeating it was all that was left. If he couldn’t win against his own darkness, there was no future in sight for Riku. Riku ran, ran, ran.
In the marble hall, empty of people, Donald looked around nervously. “I thought Riku would be waiting here for us again, but…”
“He’s not here, is he. Maybe he lost the urge to fight Sora?” Goofy continued. He and Donald gave Sora a worried look. So far Riku had been lying in wait for them each time they’d left a world, but this time he wasn’t there.
“I hope so, anyway…,” Sora said, as if to himself, brows drawn.
Three shadowy figures watched the scene in a crystal ball. Larxene raised a prettily shaped eyebrow, and glared at Vexen. “What’s going on, Vexen? ‘Riku’ is meant to listen to you, but where is he? What’s he doing?”
Axel was grinning beside her. “He’s hiding on purpose, to draw Sora in, see. So you better get that ball rolling,” Axel said to Larxene before looking at Vexen.
Right now, Riku—no, the Replica—must be wandering the worlds. Axel smiled to himself, knowing all his plans were going well.
“I’m soooo sorry. I just get so confused, never knowing whether Vexen’s research is worthless or not~”
“Silence!” Vexen was shaking slightly with rage.
“Aww… the truth hurts, doesn’t it? Didn’t ever think you were so naïve~”
“Let me give you a piece of my mind—”
The fights that break out between those two are always so predictable. Here we go—the star of the show has appeared.
Marluxia had appeared between Larxene and Vexen, breaking them apart. He was the one in charge of this castle. Axel glanced at the man, and folded his arms. Naminé, only just visible in the corner of his eye, dropped her eyes like a cornered little animal. He could see her trembling.
“Vexen, the truth is, your operation has ended with failure. Do not disappoint us again.”
For a moment, Vexen’s pale face flushed red, as if his vigour had returned. “Disappoint you—get off your high horse! You are Number 11 of our Organisation. I am Number 4, and not about to take orders from the likes of you!” Vexen yelled, looking as if he’d grab Marluxia in rage at any moment.
“However, this castle, and Naminé, were entrusted to me. In this place, opposing me is treason against the Organisation.”
Larxene laughed as if Marluxia’s words were unbearably funny. “Traitors are destroyed. Those are the rules~”
That’s right—Traitors are simply destroyed. Those are the Organisation’s rules.
“In the name of the Organisation, I declare your operations a failure. I’ll report your blunder to the Superior for you.”
The Superior—a man who once had a different name, and different memories. He’s the true fake. The man who stole the name Ansem—
“Hey—wait! You can forgive such a small thing—such a small thing, surely!”
Marluxia grinned at Vexen’s begging. “Under one condition,” he said, quietly.
Vexen looked up. “Condition?”
“Destroy Sora by your own hand.”
As he faked surprise at the order fired upon Vexen, on the edge of his vision, Axel noticed Naminé’s shoulders shaking.
On the other side of the door was a world with a beautiful sunset.
“Where am I…?” Blinking his eyes against the dazzle of the setting sun, the Replica looked around. “Can I really get stronger… in a place like this?” The place was filled with a terribly calm atmosphere. In this castle people take back their lost memoires—that’s what they said, but I don’t recognise this place at all. Compared to the dark despair filling my heart, the atmosphere in this town is so warm.
The Replica began to walk casually. There was no sign of Heartless in the town. Suddenly, the air wavered.
A blond-haired boy tore past the Replica on a skateboard. He didn’t seem to notice the Replica.
The boy rode his skateboard along the sloping road, and the Replica chased after, until he came to a wide space, a plaza. It was dotted with shops. But, there wasn’t a human to be seen. The Replica sighed, and began to walk through the plaza.
“What the hell was that…”
He couldn’t see the blond boy anywhere, as if he’d been an illusion.
The Replica began to wander the town dyed in sunset. As he went on, he came to a deserted corner on the outskirts of town. There he found a large hole in a part of the wall.
“…Wonder if there’s something through here,” he muttered, and drew nearer to the hole.
Finally getting out of the lotus forest, Riku came face to face with a giant Heartless—Trick Master. Without even flinching, Riku threw all his force into a jump and brought the Soul Eater down on the Trick Master’s arm.
“—All these—Heartless—,” Riku said as he landed, angry at himself, and the Trick Master’s arm hit Riku at the same time. Sent flying, Riku just managed to grab the ground with the tips of his fingers. In the same fluid motion Riku kicked off the wall and slashed out at the Trick Master again. His fingernails were broken up from the friction against the ground.
I don’t care—I have to defeat it. So I can see Sora again—So I can put an end to my own darkness.
Ducking through the hole, the Replica found himself in a dark forest. He began to walk slowly, looking all around. A melancholy atmosphere dominated the forest. The Replica thought it was exactly like the inside of his own heart.
Why couldn’t I win against Sora—why do I want to fight Sora? Because Naminé hates him, that’s why. If Naminé never wants to see Sora again, then I have to stop Sora. It should be a simple reason. But then why is my heart so horribly gloomy… The Replica clenched his fist around Naminé’s charm in his pocket. I definitely made a promise to Naminé. That’s not a lie… So, I have to defeat Sora.
Far off, he could see bright sunlight. Trying to sever his anxiety, the Replica broke into a run. He ran until—he stood before a huge mansion.
“…Sora?” There, he could see Sora and Vexen facing off. It seemed the two of them hadn’t noticed the Replica’s presence yet. They were yelling about something.
“What, you’re here too, are you—Riku.”
The Replica turned at the sudden voice from behind. Standing there was Axel. “What the hell are you trying to pull—Hey, you said I’d get stronger if I came here—”
Axel grinned. “Did I say something like that?”
“Did you trick me?”
“No, nothing like that—just watch, Riku.”
The Replica turned, and Sora and Vexen began to fight. With the aid of his companions, Sora was definitely doing Vexen some damage.
“He’s definitely a strong one, isn’t he?”
The Replica watched Sora in silence. Sora’s strong, yes… But.
“I don’t care about that! Turn Riku back to normal!” Sora yelled, poking his Keyblade into Vexen.
“Aw hell. If I don’t get going soon, things are going to get nasty,” Axel said, almost to himself.
“Back to normal? You fool… you don’t understand a thing. There’s nothing left for that Riku but to sink into the nothingness of darkness.”
Vexen’s words shook the Replica. What…? I’ll sink into the nothingness of darkness…?
“Haha, wasn’t counting on that,” Axel laughed, as if it was no big deal.
“What do you mean?”
Axel grinned. “You go on ahead—I have to clean things up here.”
The moment Axel said so—the Replica’s body was wrapped in light.
“What?!” The next instant, the Replica was standing in the usual huge hall. “What just…” What the hell just happened? I have no idea. The nothingness of darkness? And what is that Axel guy plotting? What should I do? My head is—splitting.
I hate Sora!
Naminé definitely said so. Wait, did she really? My memories are getting fuzzier and fuzzier. The one thing I know for sure—is that I am to protect Naminé from Sora. That’s why I have to defeat Sora. I have to protect Naminé. The Replica repeated it to himself over and over, and then—he felt someone coming. It was Sora and his friends.
Sora walked right past the Replica without noticing him. “Sora… If you keep going, you’ll hurt Naminé,” the Replica said to Sora’s back. The Replica had begun to believe in this as the truth. That there couldn’t be any other truth.
Sora spun around. “You still want to fight me? But Vexen, that guy who was controlling you, is gone!” he shouted.
The Replica frowned for a moment. Vexen was controlling me? But—his feelings for Naminé erased all doubt. Yeah—I promised Naminé. “I’m stopping you, to protect Naminé. That’s my heart,” said the Replica slowly, readying his blade.
“Why can’t we protect her together!”
There’s no way Sora and I could ever protect her together. Because—Naminé hates Sora. “I’m the one who protects Naminé! I promised her I would since forever ago!” the Replica yelled.
That night, we—we definitely made a promise. “When we were little, one night heaps of shooting stars came falling down. Naminé was scared, asking what we’d do if a star fell on the island, so I told her. I said, even if a star falls down here, I’ll protect you, Naminé—”
“That’s—just like Sora’s story!” Goofy yelled, cutting through the Replica’s story.
“What do you mean?”
“But… But I made a promise to Naminé then. On the night of the shooting stars, to protect her!”
Sora’s insisting that his memory is the same as mine. “Don’t lie! You weren’t even there then!” the Replica shouted. That night—it was just the two of us. Sora wasn’t by my side.
“Riku, you’re the one that wasn’t there! I even have a charm that Naminé gave me that night!”
“See!” Sora pulled a charm out from somewhere near his chest, and it was—exactly the same as the one the Replica had.
“Why do you have that—Oh, I see…” The Replica closed in on Sora, blade still readied.
“That thing is a fake! The real one belongs to me!” the Replica shouted, pulling out his own charm.
“Wha—what is this!”
“I’ll destroy that fake!” The Replica jumped, lashing out at Sora.
“Wah!” Sora just managed to stop the Replica’s attack with his Keyblade.
“It’s not a fake! I got this from Naminé!” Sora shouted, too.
Trying to repel Sora’s words, the Replica pushed Sora back. “Mine is real!”
“My pendant is the real one!” The Keyblade caught his blade forcefully, and the Replica was sent flying.
“—Ugh!” He stood, panting heavily. Why—can’t I win? Why—do we have the same memory? Is this the nothingness of darkness I’m falling into—? Doubt after doubt began to spin through his mind.
“Riku!” Sora shouted, but—the Replica ran away, rejecting him. The Replica didn’t notice the pendant tumble from his pocket.
In a dark room in the castle basement—Lexaeus appeared in front of Zexion. It seemed he was coming back from having been out.
“What’s wrong, Lexaeus?” Zexion asked.
For a second, the expression showing on Lexaeus’ face was one of displeasure mingled with fear. Then, he said in a calm tone, “Vexen was annihilated.”
“Yes, I sniffed out as much. The scent of Axel destroying Vexen’s existence. For fellow Organisation members to do such a thing—It is deplorable.”
I can’t read from Zexion’s expression whether—he means this from the heart or not.
The lights of the dim room were the only things shining on them.
“Sora’s the problem. He was powerful enough to defeat Vexen, and he’s still under Naminé’s control. Soon enough he’ll be Marluxia’s puppet,” said Lexaeus, and he looked down.
However, Zexion pressed him further. “In that case, what do we do? Do we destroy Sora before he falls into Marluxia’s hands?”
Destroy Sora—Lexaeus slowly widened his eyes. “That won’t be necessary. If Marluxia is to gain the light that is Sora, then we will take the darkness.”
“…You mean, Riku?” Zexion said. Lexaeus nodded, and disappeared.
In a corner of the room with the huge crystal ball, Naminé sat on a chair with her eyes lowered. Right about now—Sora will be heading to that island. I’m on that island—and, Sora will let go of the last fragment of memory.
“Naminé.” Naminé looked up at the call. Axel was standing there. She always had a strange sense that this man of the “Organisation” was out of place. “You’re all he has left,” he said quietly. Naminé looked down again.
That’s what I rearranged his memories for. But I can’t do anything now.
“You’re the only one who can save him.” Naminé looked up. She didn’t really understand what Axel was trying to say. “Do I need to say it again? You’re the only one who can save him.”
“But… it’s too late,” Naminé replied in a small voice. Everything is already in motion—and it’s all too late.
“It’s too early to say that, isn’t it?” Axel moved closer to Naminé, and looked right into her face. “Hey, Naminé. Did you notice? Marluxia isn’t here right now.”
“What are you saying…”
Axel grinned. “I’m saying, there’s no one here who’d stop you.”
That’s—in other words, you won’t stop me? Naminé stood up slowly.
“Don’t screw it up.”
Naminé gave a small nod, and flew out of the room. Axel watched her go.
“…Heh heh heh…,” he laughed. “Hahahahahah. It’s finally getting interesting. The battle’s all set up.” Axel walked casually over to the crystal ball, and watched the image of Sora shown in it. “So then… Sora! Naminé! Riku! Marluxia! Larxene! This clash better be one hell of a show; I wanna enjoy this, okay?” he said, with a smile, touching the crystal ball.
In it appeared—the Replica. “…And you are the last trigger to pull—Fake,” murmured Axel, watching the Replica run through hallways inside the crystal ball.
Naminé raced down the castle’s stairs. Sora should be in that white room by now. If I don’t hurry—I won’t get there in time.
That instant, Naminé ran into something.
“Ah—” Naminé took a defensive stance, thinking it was an Organisation member, but it was the Replica.
“…Naminé!” he yelled, face sheet-white. Naminé’s shoulders trembled.
“…Riku… No… Replica…,” Naminé said in a small voice, but it didn’t reach the Replica.
The Replica was shouting. “Hey, Naminé! You told me you hated Sora, so—You told me you didn’t want to see Sora, so—so I thought I’d protect you, and—but, Naminé… he had the same pendant as me, and… What is this?! Naminé!” He clutched his head.
“…I…” Naminé looked down for a moment, then gazed straight at the Replica. “I’m sorry,” she said, in a small voice.
The Replica grabbed her shoulder forcefully. “Sorry—what do you—”
“I created your memories,” said Naminé, slowly and clearly. “Yours are fake ones. No. Sora’s memories are fake, too. See, I am a witch… who can manipulate memories.”
“My memories are… Sora’s memories are fake?”
“I created his and your memories by connecting chains of memories. And your memories are fakes I made by linking the chains of Riku’s memories—and then I simply filled them into a doll that Vexen built.” The Replica sank down to sit on the floor, like Naminé’s words had sapped all his strength. “I’m sorry… I made a mistake… Which is why I have to go.”
The Replica buried his face in his hands. “What do you mean! Tell me, Naminé!” he shouted. Naminé moved away from him. Naminé turned her back on the Replica and broke into a run.“Wait! Naminé!” Naminé kept running without even turning back at the sound of his voice. “Naminé—!” The Replica’s shout didn’t reach anyone.
The hall he’d finally reached was filled with a horrible smell. The sign of the wavering presence made Riku stop stock still, readying the Soul Eater. “I can tell from that stink. You’re a ‘nobody’ too, aren’t you.”
A figure appeared at Riku’s words; Lexaeus. “I am Lexaeus. You live up to your reputation, don’t you, Riku. You’ve done well to get this far. Excellent. But for someone this powerful to be afraid of the darkness… what a waste.”
Riku frowned. “I’m not… scared,” he said, almost to himself. “I’m—”
“I can tell,” Lexaeus interrupted in an easy tone. “You could control the darkness. Discard the weakness of being afraid of it, open your heart and seize the darkness.”
“What if I said no?” was Riku’s reply, a question filled with impatience. I have no need for the strength to take and gain the power of darkness. I want to be strong—with my own strength, nothing more.
Lexaeus smiled for a moment, then he readied a huge axe-like blade. “You’ll lose both your darkness and your light, and disappear here!” he shouted, and in that instant, a huge dark power shot out of him. It was powerful enough to remind Riku of Ansem.
The impact made Riku shake. “Urgh?!”
“This is the power of darkness! The owner of a weak heart who is afraid of the dark will not defeat me. Now, give up! Open your heart to the darkness!”
Riku swung the Soul Eater up over his head and charged at Lexaeus. “I’m—not afraid of the dark!”
“Hah! Liar! You’ll get stronger and stronger—and if you don’t accept that darkness, you—will break!”
Lexaeus’ blade sent Riku crashing into the floor, impact shattering it, lumps of marble scattering. Lexaeus shattered one in his fist. “Ugh—-!” Riku jumped, avoiding the shards flying at him, over Lexaeus’ head and behind him, twisting his body just before landing and slashing at Lexaeus’ back.
“Come on!” he shouted, dealing a long barrage of damage to Lexaeus. But.
“Not quite!” This time Lexeaus threw his weapon at Riku. It bounded off the floor and up at Riku, causing him to grunt and fall to his knees.
“…I… won’t lose to someone like you… won’t lose to something like darkness!”
Staying bent low, Riku shot out for Lexaeus’ chest, cutting up with the Soul Eater. “Nugh… such power…” Lexaeus slumped to his knees. Riku jumped back, trying to keep distance between them, his breathing roughly.
“What’s wrong… Lexaeus…,” he called, panting harshly. I can defeat you… without using the power of darkness. “Darkness… isn’t all it’s cracked up… to be. I… win.”
Lexaeus smirked. “Huh… I’ve lost, no other way about it. But don’t underestimate me! The darkness that will come forth when I perish will swallow you whole!”
In the next instant, an even bigger impact than the darkness that had shot out at the start of the battle attacked Riku once again. “Wh—what!” Powerful darkness surrounded him. Finally, the darkness wrapped around him, and he couldn’t see a thing.
“Hahahahaha! This is the power of the Organisation’s No. 5… of I, who was once that man’s beloved disciple!” With those final words, Lexaeus’ body, too—was wrapped in darkness, and faded away.
This is—darkness. Darkness, stretching out forever and ever on every side… Riku stood there, alone. “What… happened to me…,” he muttered, looking around. “Where am I…?”
“I can see…,” a voice whispered. “I can see…”
“Lexaeus?!” Riku yelled.
“Riku…,” the voice rang in his ears, sounding like a sneer. “I can see your heart…”
“No, you’re wrong! This strong stink of darkness… You can’t be?!”
“Yes… Remember… Let me rise up in your thoughts, your heart…”
Riku remembered this presence—the smell. This smell… yes. “Ansem!” Riku yelled. It was the name of the darkness that had nested inside him.
“Heh heh heh heh… Riku… You called my name. You’re… thinking about me, aren’t you…”
The voice made chills rip down Riku’s spine. That memory—I never wanted to remember. The awful feeling the moment Ansem took over my body…
“You’re afraid… of my darkness, aren’t you… That’s good… The more you think of me, the closer my restoration becomes… and when I finally awaken… I will… take your heart and…”
Riku found himself shrinking back. The darkness feels like it’s crowding in on me, closer and closer. The darkness—is after my heart.
“Control it!” Riku heard, and in that instant, the man was standing right before him.
That man—Ansem. Riku couldn’t move, felt like his whole body was turning to ice under that cold stare. How can I escape from the darkness? How can I escape from Ansem? Ansem’s gaze—pierced through Riku.
“Riku, no! Don’t let Ansem take you!” came a second voice from somewhere, and a beam of light shot straight at Riku.
“That voice—Your Majesty!” Riku yelled, and the light surrounded him.
“You bastard King!” Ansem’s shout was drowned out by the light.
“Ugh…” Riku came to, and found himself lying in the hall. I feel a bit unsteady—but I’m not injured anywhere. “Your Majesty… did you protect me?” Riku muttered, slowly getting to his feet. “Your Majesty! Where are you? Please, answer me!”
He searched the hall desperately, but the King’s figure was nowhere to be seen. He couldn’t hear his voice, either. “You’re by my side, aren’t you… Your Majesty…” Riku clenched his fists against his chest, and a small call rang out.
Riku, you’re not alone.
With the feeling that he’d heard the King’s voice from somewhere—Riku finally started walking again.
It’s a lie… There’s no way my memories are fake! She lied! The Replica ran after Naminé, who had already disappeared. I have to make Naminé take back what she said. And I have to protect her from Sora. Sora’s memories are the fakes… He opened a door to find many halls. In the middle stood Naminé and Sora, talking about something. I have to protect Naminé from Sora…
“That’s because, Sora, I went into your memory and—”
At that moment, the Replica shouted out. “How about I explain!”
“Riku!” Sora yelled, surprised.
“It’s so simple. Your memories are nonsense. It was never you who was meant to protect Naminé, it was me, but you came barging in! You’re manipulated by fake thoughts, Sora!” The Replica ran at Sora’s chest, and swung his blade down.
“Stop!” Naminé screamed, but her voice no longer reached the Replica. Sora inhaled sharply, blocking the Replica’s attack with his Keyblade.
“I’m the one who protects Naminé!” the Replica yelled, springing back, distancing himself, then swinging his blade down at Sora again.
“Just stop! Riku!” Trying to tear himself away from her scream, the Replica sent Sora flying back. “Sora!” Naminé screamed.
“Ugh… Riku…” Sora tried to stagger to his feet as the Replica slowly walked towards him.
“I win.” The Replica brought his blade up over Sora’s head.
“Riku, you can’t!” Naminé screamed. But the Replica swung his blade down at Sora.
“Stop!” Naminé screamed, and the whole area was wrapped in light.
The Replica’s vision misted over. He made a small noise. His vision rolled. There was no strength left in his legs.
Naminé’s voice sounded far away.
He could hear Sora calling him.
But… I don’t understand. I’m…?
Sora’s voice is so far away… I hate you. So why would you call my name out like that?
Just as if he were sinking, the Replica let go of the last of his consciousness.
Continue to Chapter 7: Rejection