Short chapter! Yay! No warnings for this one, but next chapter will be really violent. Really violent. Yup. But not this one! Spoiler: Chapter 21 - Meeting the Master Sora woke up the next morning to the smell of bacon, potatoes, and toast. Slowly, he opened his eyes, surprised to find himself covered with a blanket. He vaguely remembered sitting with Riku, Dick, Chip, and Dale last night, and the hot chocolate making him really, really sleepy. What he didn’t remember was getting a blanket. Quickly looking around the room, he saw that Riku had a blanket. Dick did too, and a pillow. Actually, there was two pillows laying on the floor, and an extra blanket tossed against the wall. And the smells and sounds of cooking bacon coming from the kitchen. Carefully removing his blanket, he grabbed Chip off of his shoulder and gently placed him on the still warm covering. Lifting Dale, he put him next to his brother. Then he nudged Riku. And again, harder this time. He kept poking at Riku’s side until he swatted his hands away, a rather annoyed expression on his face. “Cut it out Sora. Seriously, one of these days – hey, is that bacon?” Threat left unuttered, Riku stood up. He waited while Sora shook Dick awake, then the chipmunks, then the five of them went to investigate. The table was piled high with food. Bacon, eggs, three different types of hashbrowns, a small mountain of cut fruit, toast, pancakes, waffles, a pot each of tea and coffee, and four large jugs of orange, apple, berry, and mango juices. As they watched, another pancake was flipped onto the pile by Jason, who was supervising all four burners on the stove and probably whatever was in the oven as well. After a moment of them standing in the doorway, Jason noticed their presence. His eyes were covered in their usual shades, and the lines on his skin were worryingly darker than they had been before Pride Lands. Not a black kind of darker, but noticeable. “Oh hey guys. Seriously, how much sleep do you people need? Lazy asses.” Well, at least that hadn’t changed. Dick recovered first. A smile overtook his face, the likes of which Sora had never seen before. So bright as to almost be blinding, it wiped away every trace of stress that had been building up for the past few days, and was infectious enough to put smiles on everyone else’s face as well. “Jason, you made breakfast?” He dove at the table, grabbing a plate and loading it high. He couldn’t see his eyes, but with the face Jason was making, Sora guess he was rolling them. “Well, yeah. I don’t see anyone else doing it. Can any of you even make anything edible?” “Can you?” Riku asked cautiously, poking at a pancake with a fork. Sora understood the concern. As delicious as all this looked, Jason didn’t seem the type to know how to cook. “Mmfd mf mfrfrfed,” Dick said around a mouth full of waffles. Swallowing, he tried again. “You’d be surprised. Jason doesn’t cook often, but when he does, it’s on par with Alfred’s. And he can make waffles.” And with that, he stuffed another strip of bacon in his mouth, making small sounds of infinite pleasure. That was good enough for Sora. He started loading up his plate, pouring generous amounts of maple syrup over everything. “Wait, so Alfred can’t make waffles?” Jason forked a few pieces of fruit onto Dick’s plate. “Nope, those are the one thing he can’t make.” He shuddered. “Like paste.” Sitting down in his own spot, he filled his plate and grabbed a glass of mango juice. They spent a good long while in each other’s company, long stretches of silence punctuated by forks scraping on ceramic plates and compliments to the chef. Finally, the mountain of food miraculously cleared, Dick asked, “So Riku, how long to Yen Sid’s Tower?” Riku checked the clock on the wall. “Any minute actually. We should probably get ready for landing. Um,” looking down at the mess of plates, glasses and cutlery, he added, “You can just leave everything here. Merlin spelled everything to clean itself when the room is empty.” Jason raised his eyebrows at the comment. “That’s convenient. Wish I could get that for Roy’s room.” They left, heading to the control room. They picked up the blankets on the floor and returned them to the rooms, then strapped in for landing. This Yen Sid person lived in a very strange place. Or at least, that was what Jason thought as he walked up the tower to get to the rumoured man the others were putting so much stock into. The building itself seemed disproportionate, and there were funny dark corridors leading to unknown rooms filled with who knew what. The four were traveling up a long winding staircase in the dimly lit building. With each story they travelled Jason felt himself becoming more and more nervous. That in turn made him scowl. Why should he be nervous? If the others were right, this whole mess would be said and done in no time at all. But despite this thought, Jason felt fear steadily build up in the back of his head. It was when they were standing in front of the huge oak doors at the top of the tower that Jason noticed the fear he was feeling was Xehanort's darkness. In fact, its presence had been gnawing at him increasingly throughout the long walk up the stairs. Good, thought Jason. Let it be afraid. He decided with a sense of finality that it was definitely the darkness that was scared and not him. With a creak, Riku pushed the old wood doors open and they all stepped into a large dark room. Jason gazed around at the high bookshelves and funny pictures and mirrors lining the walls. The whole place was darkly lit, making the yellow tinge of the room look tan. Jason held back a shudder. If all be told the place gave him the creeps. Then his eyes came to rest on the old man sitting in the middle of the room, staring right at him. He stared right back, taking in the eccentric look of the guy. His face seemed learned and stern, while his long beard and robes clearly said he was a magician. Jason almost smiled; it was like something out of a Harry Potter book. nudged his leg, and he looked down to find the other three kneeling and bowing to the old man. Startled he dropped down too. Apparently this guy must be pretty important if they were supposed to bow. Jason wouldn't have bothered but all those long discussions and lessons about manners with Alfred were still drilled firmly into his brain. Why hadn't Riku and Sora warned him this guy was so well respected? After a few seconds Yen Sid waved his hand, allowing the four to stand again, Jason a bit stiffly because if truth be told he was still rather sore. Sora stepped forward humbly. “Thank you for meeting with us Master Yen Sid. We really need your help.” The old man nodded. “This I know.” He said in a deep wise voice. “I have been awaiting your arrival for quite some time now. Sora, Riku, it is good to see you are both well. Dick, Jason, I have heard quite a lot about you from our mutual friends.” He glanced at Sora and Riku then back at the other two. “It seems you have gotten yourselves mixed into the fight between light and dark.” “It's an honor, sir.” Dick – forever the charmer – said, taking another half bow. “And yes we have. My brother here needs some help. And we had been told that you could be one of the only people who might be able to.” He gave Jason a half glance before continuing. “See it's a long story, but-” Yen Sid put up his hand, stopping Dick in midsentence. “I am aware of young Jason’s predicament,” he said. “Riku has already thoroughly described it to me. And from the markings on your skin Jason, it seems time is of the essence.” “He collapsed on the way here Sid.” Riku said. “I didn't know, but I brought him to a place that triggered some old memories of his, which made him vulnerable. Xehanort's darkness took over, and we had to remove it by force… It… it wasn't pretty.” That was news to Jason. Dickhead told them about Ethiopia!? Not surprising he supposed. The old man nodded. “If we do not permanently remove the intruding darkness now, this process will likely need to be repeated. That is why it is vital we are pre-emptive.” Jason fidgeted uncomfortably while Dick looked worried. “What do we have to do then? I'll help with whatever you tell me to, to get this thing away from my brother!” “Ah,” Yen Sid sighed. “That is good, for your skills will likely be necessary.” This confused Jason. He thought getting rid of Xehanort’s darkness would be a task only he and his own darkness could face, maybe with some of the old guy's advice, yet Dick was nodding as though he had been planning on being included from the beginning. Yen Sid rested his hands in his lap and contemplated the two crime fighters carefully. “The darkness inside of you is fighting for dominance of your heart. Therefore, in order to win control of your heart like before, you must face and defeat the darkness in battle.” That came as an abrupt surprise. “What!” Jason spluttered. “But, how?” “There are two ways to face an intruding darkness. The first is to fight it alone in one’s heart. But this way would not be advisable seeing as Xehanort’s darkness already has such a strong control over you physically.” Jason nodded. He could feel the darkness steadily growing. Tackling it head on would probably not be wise. The thought had occurred to him to go to that strange place he and his darkness met, and just punch the thing, maybe knock Xehanort’s darkness off of it or something. It was his contingency plan actually. But he knew that if he was thinking that, so was the darkness. It would be prepared for him, and since that seemed to be the place it had planted itself, the chances of him succeeding didn't seem so good. “The second, is to enter a dream world, and face this creature and all of the darkness in your heart, with the help of your brother.” “The dream worlds!” Sora exclaimed excitedly. “I hadn't even thought of that!” “Me either.” Riku admitted. Dream world? What the heck? But before he found that out, Jason had another question he had to ask. “Why only Dick? Why can't Sora and Riku come and help me kill this thing as well?” Dick seemed confused about this too. As far as he was concerned, the more people helping to defeat this thing, the better. “Riku and Sora are not connected to your heart in the same way your brother is. Only half of this battle will be physical. One cannot help you defeat what plagues your heart without understanding it.” “Uh huh.” Jason said raising an eyebrow skeptically in the process. “And how do you know that Dick understands me that well?” The old man almost smiled. Almost. “The connection between families creates special bonds that bind the heart in unique ways. Your brother will not entirely understand that which haunts you Jason, but he will be able to assist.” Catching a glimpse of Dick’s grin made Jason scowl even more. Crossing his arms, he felt the darkness push aggressively on his consciousness as his vision flashed a deep yellow, and decided to bite back a few retorts. “Fine, whatever. Let's just get it over with then.” Riku hissed at Jason's disrespectful tone, but Yen Sid stood up suddenly. “Let this be a warning to you both, that if you are unable to defeat the darkness in the dream world, it will take over you at the time of your defeat, and drive itself into your vulnerable hearts. You will be lost to the darkness forever. There shall be no return.” Yen Sid's voice was stern, and the two couldn't help but shudder at his warning, but they nodded their understanding. “One question before we go in.” Jason shifted, hand straying unconsciously to his chest. “My darkness, the one that was there before Xehanort popped in. What’ll happen to it?” The old master frowned. “By this point, it has been taken over completely by Xehanort’s darkness. Defeating it will release both you and your darkness. After that, it is entirely up to you. I would recommend eradicating it as well. Darkness begets only darkness. However,” he held up a hand to stem Jason’s angry protest, “it seems as if your darkness only has your best interests at heart, so to speak. If you believe you can coexist, it may just be prudent to allow it to.” “Right then.” The magician said lifting his hand. “There isn't much time, and we need to act quickly. Are you prepared?” Dick flexed his shoulders and nodded while Jason let out a long breath before grunting his consent. “Good luck then,” the man said, before a bright flash plunged them into darkness.