Written by: Tomoco Kanemaki
Original Plan: Tetsuya Nomura and Masaru Oka
Illustration: Shiro Amano
Copyrighted by 2012 Disney and SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD.
Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance]: Side Sora
Chapter 8: The World That Never Was
The place Sora arrived was—
“This is the Organisation’s…”
Sora looked up at the familiar buildings. Neon signs glowing against a pitch black sky. This is the Organisation’s base, the ‘World That Never Was’. But, something’s different about it. I don’t know what it is, but it feels off. Besides, this world shouldn’t be trapped in sleep.
On his fingers, Sora counted out the number of sleeping doors released so far: first there was Destiny Islands, then Traverse Town, Quasimodo’s La Cité Des Cloches, Kevin and Tron’s The Grid, Pinocchio’s Prankster’s Paradise, then Mickey and the others’ Country of the Musketeers, and another Mickey’s Symphony of Sorcery. That was seven of them. In that case, the exam should be over, and he should have been returned to Yen Sid. Does this mean there’s a final exam here, or something…?
“You still half-asleep, there?” came a sudden voice.
Sora readied his Keyblade. “Who’s there? Show yourself!” I know that voice—it’s Xigbar. Wasn’t he destroyed?
“This was a bit of a pain to set up, but it’s over now.”
Sora jumped back as a bolt of sharp red light was fired his way. Sure enough, where the shot of light had come from, on top of a building way above Sora’s head, stood Xigbar. Xigbar jumped down to the ground, and his lips twisted into a grin.
“You, too? Why are—”
“Let’s do the big reveals in order, Sora, Roxas,” Xigbar began, spreading his arms dramatically wide. “First, if things had gone according to plan you would have gone back to the world you came from, so why are you here in this world? The answer is simple: you’re here upon our invitation. We made good use of the moment you dropped to sleep.” Sora remembered. The moment he dropped to sleep—when they had defeated Ursula on Destiny Islands, and were thrown into the stormy ocean. “We’ve been with you since that moment, guiding you along.”
A vague memory of seeing someone in a brown robe in the ocean floated to mind. He then also remembered the silver haired boy he’d met wherever he went, and Xemnas.
“So right from the start… That guy in the black coat, and Xemnas…”
“Ding-ding-ding,” said Xigbar, pointing at Sora and smirking again. “To travel through time to the moment that world fell into sleep, you had to have been there in the past at that very time and place. I’m sure you met him back then, too, that guy in the robe. Yeah, it was set in stone from that day on that you’d be coming here today.”
“There’s no way!” Sora yelled at Xigbar, who was strolling past him. That’s not possible. I met him back then? Where? Well, ages and ages before this exam, on my very first journey, I did meet a man in a brown robe on Destiny Islands. What did he say?
‘This world has been connected.’
And then what?
‘You understand nothing. You know nothing.’
Who… who was that guy?
“Yeah, it is pretty over-the-top. Pretty hard to believe, right? And that’s exactly why you never saw it coming.”
This moment was already set in stone, since before I left Destiny Islands? That’s just…
“Your schedule is out the window, now,” Xigbar said as he kept walking, gesturing exaggeratedly. “See for yourself: you’re supposed to be back in the real world, but your body hasn’t changed back. You’re never going to wake up again. Bottom line is, it doesn’t matter whether this place is real or a dream.”
“I get it, it doesn’t matter, then,” Sora said, staring at Xigbar’s back. Then, he called his Keyblade to hand. “But, you guys are the enemy, clear as day.”
Sora readied his Keyblade, glaring at Xigbar.
“Ooh, great angry look, as always. But, here is where I tag out. We’re on a complicated schedule here.”
Xigbar rolled his shoulders as though he were bored, and vanished—only to reappear in the air. Then, he pointed his Arrowguns at Sora and fired: twelve bolts in all. The bolts stabbed into the ground, where they transformed into black coated figures. And then, the last bolt, the one right in front of Sora, transformed into the silver haired boy that Sora had met over and over on this journey.
The boy held his hand out to Sora. “Let’s go together.”
He looked so much like Riku had on that day, the day they’d left Destiny Islands, when he’d held out his hand.
Then, in that instant, Sora felt his vision blur.
My head feels heavy. I feel like I’m going to fall over. What—
“Sweet dreams,” Xigbar told him.
And then, Sora fell into a deep sleep.
He could hear the sound of waves. The sun was dazzling. Sora opened his eyes to blinding light. He was on Destiny Islands. His island home. Standing down by the shore was the silver haired boy. But, something about him seemed a little different. His clothes were definitely different. And then, someone was walking over to the boy—the brown robed man.
“Yes… this is where it began,” came a sudden voice, and Sora looked over in the direction it had come. Sitting beside him on the sand was, also, the silver haired boy.
“At this point, I still hadn’t realised that he was me. He threw away his own body to set me on my journey.”
“What do you mean?” Sora asked the boy. ‘At this point’—’he was me’… So, the guy standing over there is this guy sitting next to me right now. And the guy in the brown robe who walked up next to him is also him? That’s this guy? I don’t know.
“That’s Xehanort, as only a heart, the being you and your friends called Ansem.”
Sora looked up, and the brown robed man was standing right in front of him. Just as he started in shock, Sora lost consciousness and fell to sleep once more.
When he came to, night had fallen on Destiny Islands. And, he saw the brown robed man entering the secret place, with himself—Sora—following after.
“Yes, this is the point in time Xigbar mentioned just before,” the silver haired boy told Sora, who was shocked and confused.
Sora remembered what Xigbar had said. Me, from just before this world was swallowed by the darkness…?
“In order to travel through time, you must first have discarded the flesh. Ansem first sent me on my journey, then came here, to this time, this place. With that, everything up until today was set.”
“What do you mean by that?” Sora asked again. “Are you trying to say he knew everything?” My journey, and the journey of this boy in front of me, was set…?
The boy shook his head. “No, not everything. After this, Ansem possessed Riku’s body, and experienced the flow of time as it happened.”
“So he only knew everything up to that point? Then why was it set in stone that I’d come here today?”
Just then, a boom loud enough to shake their surroundings sounded. It had come from the cave. Sora’s eyes jumped to the cave automatically, to find Kairi’s body flying out towards him as though she’d been blown out.
Sora threw his arms out to catch her. But, her body slipped right through him. Then, once again, Sora fell into a deep sleep.
This time, it was Traverse Town. The first town, once he’d been to many times. The sky was filled with stars. But, one was fading—and Sora saw his own body, so many of them, falling down from the sky. Or, I’m falling too—are we all me? I don’t even know. This really is like being in a dream. Sora gently floated down to alight on the ground.
He could see versions of himself running all about the town. They were wearing the clothes he’d worn when he’d set out on his first adventure. Walking, running, fighting, falling down—and also…
“You’ve been here many times,” said the silver haired boy, who had apparently appeared by Sora’s side yet again. “Your first journey, your journey through memories, your journey through data, and now your journey through dreams. You’ve repeated it like deja vu.”
Just then, the King—Mickey—came running down the stairs to second district, and headed for third district. Then Donald and Goofy walked in, right through Sora’s body, talking about something among themselves and looking up at the sky. Then they began heading towards second district. Pluto was behind them, too.
Sora found himself starting after the two (and pet). As he did, Pluto came running out of the alley alone, passing through Sora’s body once again on his way to third district.
Sora tried to chase Pluto. But, he couldn’t catch up.
And then, Sora collapsed into sleep.
When he opened his eyes again—
“This is…? I’m back here?”
That’s right, he was in the World That Never Was. Right in the spot where he had met Xigbar and fallen asleep. The King, Donald and Goofy came running out in front of Sora.
“Wait, your Majesty! Donald! Goofy!” Sora cried, reaching out a hand, but the three ran away without so much as a backwards glance. Sora moved to follow them, but someone appeared in his path. It was a blonde girl in a white dress.
Yes, that’s Kairi’s Nobody, the witch who can manipulate memories—Naminé.
Naminé bowed her head, lowering her gaze, and then smiled faintly, before breaking out into a run, as though fleeing from Sora.
“Wait! Naminé!” Sora dashed forward and grabbed her hand. “There’s something I want to tell you. I meant to tell you when this was all over.”
But, when Naminé turned around, she had changed into a girl Sora had never seen. She looked a lot like Naminé—like Kairi… a black haired girl. She was wearing the Organisation’s black coat.
“Who are… you?” The instant the words left Sora’s lips, somewhere deep inside his chest began to ache, and he realised a tear was rolling down his cheek. “What? Why am I…?”
Sora touched the tear on his own face. Why am I crying? This has happened before. That time—it was in Twilight Town, just before I left. When I said goodbye to Hayner and the others and got on the train under the sunset, I was really sad. Is this tear the same as that…?
The girl put up the hood of her black coat, and tugged her hand free. Then, she ran away.
But, she didn’t stop running. She was going to get away, but Sora couldn’t follow. My head feels so heavy. The world is spinning. But no. I have to chase her. I have to find that girl. Sora broke into a run.
The city was filled with a strange, nasty air. Meow Wow was tagging along behind him. He couldn’t remember whether Meow Wow had been with him before or not. And, he didn’t know if he was running along the top of a building, underneath it, or up the wall.
The world is warping….?
I feel heavy all over. My head is so heavy.
“Mew.” Meow Wow wound around his feet. But even that felt like it was warping.
I have no idea whether this is real or a dream. Sora stomped his foot down. Where am I?
In front of him stood someone in a black coat, their back to him. It’s that girl.
“Hey,” Sora called out to her. “Wait, tell me who you are—”
The figure in the black coat turned around, taking their hood down. It was—
“Roxas…” A blonde boy. My Nobody. Roxas smiled quietly, looking at Sora. “If you’re here too, then this has to be a dream…”
Roxas shook his head, but remained silent.
“Come on, say something.”
The smile disappeared from Roxas’ face. “I thought it could have worked out, if I’d been you.”
“But,” Roxas continued, “it really has to be you.”
“What do you mean?” It couldn’t be Roxas, it has to be me, what does that—
“There are so many hearts connected to yours. You’re me, you feel my feelings too.”
That’s not true. Sora shook his head. “You’re wrong… You’re you, Roxas, not me. I wanted to tell you, you should have been allowed to exist as yourself.” Yeah. I’ve thought that all this time. Roxas isn’t me, so why does he have to be inside me?
Roxas gave a small laugh. “Sora,” he said, “that’s exactly why it has to be you.”
Roxas took both Sora’s hands in his own, and gripped them tightly. In that instant, a flood of feelings flowed from him.
This is—sadness? It hurts. My chest hurts. What should I—
And then, Roxas was gone. All that was left behind was his sadness.
Not again. Is this their doing, too? What do they want to show me?
“What do you want to show me?” Sora yelled. His voice faded into the empty sky.
Sora, don’t go chasing the dreams.
Doing that will only lead you to the abyss, and you won’t be able to wake up.
Sora couldn’t hear any voices. There was no one there. He stared down the path he was on. I’m sure something’s waiting for me up ahead. But, all I can do is keep going forward.
Snapping to it, Sora realised Meow Wow was with him.
“I’ll keep going.” Sora set one foot forward. Even if there’s something waiting or me up ahead, I’ll keep going.
Sora made his way through a chasm of strange buildings. And ahead on the path, he could see—Riku and Kairi.
“Riku, Kairi, I finally found you!”
Sora ran over. But, when they turned around, Riku and Kairi warped unnaturally.
Then, the two of them transformed into two people Sora had never met. Riku had become a tall man with brown hair, and Kairi was a blue haired woman.
“…Who are you?”
The two of them gazed at Sora in silence, smiling faintly.
“Ven,” the man called out to Sora.
“Ven,” the woman repeated.
Ven? Who’s that?
They each stretched a hand out. Feeling as though he ought to take their hands, Sora reached out. But, their figures began to warp once more. They turned their backs on Sora, and started walking—turning into Riku and Kairi. Sora tried to chase after, but his body wouldn’t move properly.
So heavy. Is my body heavy, or is the air heavy? I don’t know.
“What… is this….”
Sora! Don’t chase it! Wake up, Sora!
I think I just heard a voice from somewhere. That voice—I feel like maybe someone’s been calling out to me this whole time.
The two people he’d been trying to chase changed once more from Kairi and Riku into the pair he’d never met. But, Sora’s vision warped worse and worse. He tried to follow, but he couldn’t catch up.
Where—where am I?
A bright light shone into his face.
His vision was drowned in blinding light.
Then, Sora found himself standing in Destiny Islands.
He could hear the familiar sound of the waves. Under the setting sun, Riku and his own younger self were running.
That’s right. Riku and I used to play tag on the beach all the time, just like this. I remember that. But—
The blue haired women Kairi had changed into just before was now smiling at the young Riku and Sora. I don’t… know her. I don’t remember. My chest hurts.
His vision swam. Standing there by the shore was—Ansem!?
The instant the thought crossed his mind, Sora fell once more into sudden sleep.
Sora’s knee hit the ground, like he’d fallen out of the sky.
“That was close. There you were about to get woken up, after all the trouble of putting you to sleep a second time.”
The voice belonged to Xigbar. Sora desperately tried to get his breathing under control, his chest aching.
I’m out of breath. It hurts.
“I knew it… You were the ones… behind…. the illusions…” Sora glared at Xigbar as he tried desperately to stand.
“No?” Xigbar shrugged. “Those weren’t illusions, you were dreaming. We were the reason you were asleep, sure, but the rest wasn’t us. You should ask that ‘heart’ you put so much faith in.”
“Yeah. My heart was aching. That’s why I was following them.”
It ached so, so bad. Sadness—pain. So many other feelings. Sora had never felt a pain like that before. Hatred, sadness, fear, envy, fright, resentment, pressure, jealousy, doubt, pain, despair. Who do these feelings belong to? Roxas? That girl? Whoever those two called out to—Ven? Someone else?
“Huh, I guess our plan went so smoothly because of your heart, then. Troublesome thing, the heart,” Xigbar said, teasing as always.
Troublesome thing—the heart. Is that really how it is? But, I’ve been thinking. “You guys, you yourselves have hearts, don’t you?” Sora asked.
“Axel, Roxas, Naminé—and that girl, too. I felt Roxas’ emotions, and they laughed together, got mad… and felt sad.” The pain in my chest is everyone’s pain. “The tears they cried are proof of that.”
Xigbar snorted. “So you finally noticed.”
And then, a corridor of darkness opened up behind Sora, and the figure that appeared was Xemnas.
“Indeed. We may have lost our hearts, but we did not stay that way. Individuals varied, but some among us were forming hearts inside us.”
Some of them were forming hearts—
“A heart is something that buds, that is to be nurtured and raised. Our experiments bringing forth Heartless were attempts to control the mind, and make it renounce the ego. Even if one were to lose their heart in such a fashion, one will beget a heart in the vessel of their flesh, as many times as it takes. We, too, were divided into heart and flesh, Heartless and Nobody, but I knew we would grow hearts once more.”
The pain of those Nobodies who grew hearts again—Roxas. And Axel. There must have been others. Then why—
“Then…! Then, why did you lie to them and tell them they had no hearts?” Sora asked Xemnas. The pain—sadness—born from thinking they had no hearts all along.
“The true goal behind Xemnas—and Xehanort—forming the Organisation was to take all the empty husks that had been made to throw away their hearts, and use Kingdom Hearts to plant the same heart and mind into them,” Xigbar said from behind Sora, who turned to look at him.
Husks that had been made to throw away their hearts—in other words, they were going to plant another heart into those who couldn’t bear the pain…? Or, did they actually do that?
“They were going to turn all the Organisation members into Xehanort.”
“All of them… into Xehanort…?” Plant Xehanort’s heart into empty hearts, that’s just… “How could you trick your friends—And you, you’d stop being yourself, do you want that?”
Xigbar’s lip curled into a smirk. “I’m already half Xehanort.”
Sora stared into Xigbar’s golden eye. “What…” I don’t understand. What did he get out of throwing away his own heart and becoming Xehanort? I don’t get it. And what was Xehanort trying to do by planting his own heart in other people?
“However, with some of insufficient strength, some who didn’t comprehend our thoughts, and some who schemed rebellion—most of those chosen for the Organisation were not suitable for our goal.” Xemnas’ voice was slow and leisurely. “But, that too was within our expectations. Knowing the foolishness of the heart, we were able to achieve other goals. And now, this will be the Organisation’s final mission.”
“Just stop! Hearts aren’t tools for your experiments and schemes!” The heart isn’t foolish. And, it’s not something for strangers to play with.
Sora called his Keyblade to hand, and readied it at Xemnas. “They’re bonds, born from the feelings we have when someone touches our lives, ones that can connect us to those we love and who love us, no matter how far away they are. They’re what make me strong.”
But, Xigbar only laughed. “That’s it right there!” he said, pointing at Sora, who turned to him. “The only reason you have the kind of strength you do is because you are connected to other people’s hearts. You yourself never truly had the capacity to be a Keyblade Wielder in you. But, don’t worry, we’ll accept you into our ranks. We’ve got a capacity for you.”
“I don’t care whether or not I myself have the power to wield the Keyblade,” said Sora, staring at the Keyblade gripped tightly in his hand. “So long as everyone’s hearts can become strength through me.” Right now this Keyblade is connected to everyone’s hearts—to Riku, to Kairi. To the King. To Donald, Goofy, Roxas, to friends made by people other than me. “That’s the power of the Keyblade—the hearts I’m connected to, they are my power!”
Connected hearts—feelings, memories. Even the painful memories make me strong.
“No matter how strong you are, you’ve already…,” Xigbar began, but he faltered as he sensed the great power behind Sora. “Ugh… whatever, doesn’t matter what kind of power you have. Not here. Xemnas! The rest is up to you.”
Xigbar disappeared into a corridor of darkness, leaving Xemnas behind. He floated into the air, spreading both his arms slowly, his dreadful power pulling all the surrounding buildings up and behind him.
Then, a gigantic building was flying straight at Sora. Sora bore the blow under his Keyblade, then glared at Xemnas.
“I’ll put the sigil of the recusant into your name once more,” Xemnas said.
Sigil of the recusant…? What’s that?
But, there was no time to think. Sora blocked Xemnas’ advancing attacks with his Keyblade. Xemnas was holding the same blades of red light—Ethereal Blades—he had wielded the first time Sora had fought him. Sora parried, and riposted. But darkness wrapped around Xemnas’ body, moving him elsewhere instantaneously.
“Is that all your hearts can do?”
No. I won’t lose. There’s no way. My strength is everyone’s strength. Just then, Meow Wow appeared once more by Sora’s side, bouncing about and helping Sora recover little by little. I have it, too. It’s fought by my side all this time.
Sora leapt, Keyblade swinging straight for Xemnas’ chest.
Xemnas pulled himself right back, putting distance between them, then took control of more buildings, sending them raining down at Sora.
Sora jumped onto Meow Wow’s back, and together they dodged the buildings, jumping towards Xemnas as he continued to rise.
“Sorry for this!”
Sora kicked off Meow Wow’s back, boosting himself high enough to swing his Keyblade down at Xemnas’ head.
Xemnas blocked with his Ethereal Blades, nearly sending Sora flying.
No, it’s okay. I won’t lose. Absolutely not. Even if I use all the strength left in me, I won’t lose. “So long as I am connected to all their hearts, I won’t lose!”
The two of them hurtled headlong towards the ground. They struck it together, Keyblade and Ethereal Blades clashing. And then, the final attack—Sora gathered power in his Keyblade-wielding hand.
“This is my power!”
He flicked the Ethereal Blades up, and stabbed Xemnas in the chest.
Xemnas’ body floated into the air, wreathed in darkness—but, Sora was at his limit, too.
He toppled over backwards, arms and legs spreadeagled. I’m hurting all over. It hurts to breathe. But, I beat him. He tried desperately to get his breathing under control. So tired…
Just then, a figure appeared right in front of Sora: the silver haired boy.
Sora looked up at the boy from the ground, panting softly. “You again—”
“You make it too easy—Perhaps you thought you’d won, but you lost the moment you dove this far in. You’ve fallen into the abyss of sleep, and you’re exhausted, which means you can no longer return to the real world.”
“What do you mean…?” I have no idea what he’s trying to say. I’m just so tired. I can see some kind of weird black smoke coming from me. What’s happening…?
Sora tried to stand, but his body was too heavy.
“I’m sure I’ve already told you. It wasn’t the Sleeping Keyholes that guided you here. You were being led from the beginning, dancing on our strings.” The boy pointed at Sora’s chest. “The sigil of the recusant inscribed on your chest is proof.”
Sora looked at his own chest. On the chest of the new clothes he’d thought Yen Sid had prepared for him—someone had inscribed the letter X.
The silver haired boy drew the letter X in the air, slowly.
“Yes, thanks to that sigil of the recusant, we always knew where you were. You experienced doubt over it before, didn’t you? Why were we following you? It’s because you are necessary, Sora.”
Uhh… I’m… so sleepy…
“Well, to be precise, we need your empty husk, the thirteenth vessel of darkness.”
Sora’s vision warped and wavered. The silver haired boy before him warped too, and blurred.
“Why was it set in stone that you’d come here today? Because I know: I followed my path, and I’ve seen everything that’s happened until this point. Not even time travel can change reality. All my selves throughout time who changed form will meet here today, and we will welcome you as the thirteenth member. Set in stone, all of it.”
The silver haired boy knelt beside Sora and looked into his face.
“…What’s… gonna happen…”
I don’t have the energy to move. I’m so sleepy. So sleepy—It’s taking everything I have just to keep my eye on him. No, it’s taking everything I have just to keep my eyes from closing.
“My knowledge of events ends here. All my selves are gathered here, and I can’t see any further into the future. Soon I will return to my own time, and go with the natural flow of time once more. Even though I have knowledge of this future, once I have gone back, the memories and experiences will return to nothing. However, the path I must walk will remain in my heart as guide, and I will journey to the outside worlds, as my heart tells me.”
I can tell, my body is covered in darkness.
I—what’s going to happen to me…? Am I… going to fade… into the darkness… again…?
Sora used the last of his strength to call for his precious friend. “…Riku—” Riku’s always helped me, no matter what. But this time—Riku. I’m sorry, Riku. I—
“Your heart will sleep forever in the depths of darkness, and your flesh will become our new vessel. The light has fallen into the darkness. Goodnight, Sora.
I can barely see. I’m covered in darkness—
And so, Sora fell down into the deepest darkness.
But, there, a light gently nestled close to him.
A kind, warm light.
The light was a fragment of a heart. The heart of a boy who had been sleeping within Sora.
Within the darkness the light grew brighter, illuminating Sora.
As he was about to sink into the darkness, the light burst forth.
It enveloped Sora’s body as armour.
They’ll all have their birth by sleep: the time for their awakening approaches.
Sora only slept on—
Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance]: Side Sora finished! The story continues in Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance]: Side Riku.