KH The One In the Middle

Discussion in 'Written Works' started by tamale, Dec 9, 2021.

  1. tamale Ice to see you!

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2010
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    Cisgender Male
    Location:
    The Realm of Sleep
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    I've been working on this on and off since May the 4th, trying to get it ready to dump on AO3. It's still not done, but the first half or so of it is, and I'm kinda tired of hanging onto it without that sweet, sweet validation. So here's the first half! And hopefully sharing it here will help motivate me to finish it lol.

    Anyway: This takes place after Melody of Memory, so there are some spoilers for that. And if you recognize the title, you'll know exactly what and who this is crossing over with (though there are some other hints before the reveal). Enjoy!



    Something about the Keyblade Graveyard felt...wrong.

    No, wrong wasn't quite the right word, Kairi thought. Maybe...off. Different. Charged. Granted, the one time she'd been here before was when Xehanort and his Organization had been riling things up. Maybe this was what the Keyblade Graveyard normally felt like?

    Either way, Kairi kept her guard up. She left her Keyblade unsummoned, but she could feel energy thrumming in her palm, the weapon ready to leap to her hand.

    She'd come alone. "You sure that's a good idea?" Lea had said when she called him on the Gummiphone to tell him her plan.

    "Riku and Mickey are busy investigating Quadratum and Scala ad Caelum, and Aqua isn't back from the Realm of Darkness yet," she replied. "I can't just sit around and do nothing. Besides, it's not like Xehanort is around to try anything anymore, right?"

    Lea frowned at that. "I'll go with you," he said.

    "Thank you," Kairi said sincerely, "but I just—I need to do this myself. For me."

    Lea sighed. "I guess I know the feeling," he said. "But if something goes wrong—"

    "Then you know where I am, and I can call you."

    "Okay," he relented. "Be safe, okay?"

    "That's the plan," was Kairi's chipper reply. "Thank you, Lea."

    As the wind blew through the Graveyard, keychains rattling across the barren desert in a rising hissing noise, Kairi certainly felt very alone and exposed. But she clung to her certainty that she needed to investigate here on her own and continued trudging forward.

    Investigate what, though? Xehanort's labyrinth had sunk back into the rock upon his defeat; that would have been the first place to look. Kingdom Hearts, gratefully, no longer loomed in the sky. May your heart be your guiding key, she'd been told by...somebody. And here she was, trying to follow that directive. But what was it guiding her towards? What was she looking for?

    The wind blew harder, and Kairi raised an arm to shield her face from the coarse, rough sand that kicked up, not at all like the sand on Destiny Islands. Irritated, she kept pushing on, part of her bemoaning that it was going to get everywhere. But with each step she took, the wind increased, until she found herself in the midst of a sandstorm. She pulled her hood across her nose and mouth and squeezed her eyes shut as the sand blasted across her. One moment the wind would be blowing straight against her, and the next it would be driving her to the side, and she stumbled as she tried to keep walking. The Gummiphone in her skirt pocket thumped repeatedly against her thigh in the whirling winds. Between it and the storm and her own swirling thoughts, she stopped.

    ...No. No, she wasn't going to let a little bad weather get in her way.

    She thought of Sora. She thought of him yawning and stretching on the play island's beach. She thought of him desperately clutching her hand as they drifted apart from each other at the End of the World's collapse. She thought of their drawing on the cave's wall. She thought of joining him in battle in The World That Never Was. She thought of welcoming him home as he washed up on the beach after defeating Xemnas. She thought of sitting with him in a tree and sharing a paopu fruit. She thought of the two of them finally striking Xehanort down together. She thought of holding his hand as they took in the wide blue vista of The Final World.

    "Be with me, Sora," Kairi murmured.

    And she took a step forward.

    Just like that, the sandstorm dissipated. The winds fell still, the sand fell to the ground—or had either even been there in the first place? She slowly lowered her arms and cracked her eyes open.

    She stood at the bottom of a canyon basin, which surprised her; she hadn't felt herself walk downhill, let alone fall. Oddly-shaped crags and cairns stood around the basin, and when her eyes followed them up to the sky, she jumped when she saw that the sun had already sunk mostly behind the stone above her, the oranges and purples giving way to deep dark blue. Moreover, the stars dotting the sky were unfamiliar to her—there was variation, of course, from world to world, but she could usually find at least a few she recognized. This sky was entirely alien.

    She was shaken from her racing thoughts when a voice echoed throughout the canyon: "Who disturbs my solitude?"

    Kairi, faintly, had a bad feeling about this.

    She looked around for the voice's source. "...Hello?" she said, the thrumming in her palm growing. "Who's there?"

    The ground beneath her shook. Then—there—she whirled to see one of the larger rock formations shifting, growing taller—expanding?—no, unfolding—until before her sat a quadrupedal being the size of a large house, covered in craggy plating, with an ox-like face and what looked like an enormous red beard, gazing balefully down at her with glowing white eyes.

    "I believe," he said, "that that is what I asked you."

    Somehow, Kairi managed not to gape open-mouthed. "Well," she managed. "My... My name is Kairi. I...don't really know how I got here, actually. I didn't mean to disturb you; I was...looking for a friend..." She trailed off as the being dipped his head down to peer more closely at her.

    "Ah!" he suddenly said, and Kairi jumped. "Daughter of Ashla!" He inclined his head and drew back. "You honor me with your presence, child."

    Kairi's heart skipped a beat. She didn't know her parents. "Ashla?" she repeated.

    "Ashla," the being said with a nod. "The Light. You are one of the Pure Hearts, are you not?"

    "I..." She blinked. "I suppose so."

    "You suppose?"

    "No—I mean—well—I am," she said, feeling foolish. "I am one of the Pure Hearts. I'm sorry, I—didn't think there were many people who knew about them. Us. The term I was told is 'Princess of Heart'." She hesitated. "Who are you?" she asked. "And where exactly is this?"

    "I am the Bendu," he said. "I am the one in the middle, between the Ashla and Bogan, the Light and Dark. As for where we are," he continued, "you know just as much as I, my dear."

    Kairi's shoulders slumped. "So you don't know, either."

    "Did I say that?" He stroked his beard. "Very well, then, we are lost."

    Kairi looked askance at the Bendu. A test, then. "I'm definitely in a different world than I was," she said slowly. "And it's got to be pretty far away from where I was. I've figured that much out." When the Bendu said nothing, she continued, "It could be that I don't know any of these stars because I'm in the Realm of Sleep—but I think I'd know if I was in the Realm of Sleep, wouldn't I? And how would I have gotten there? As far as I know, it's not exactly a place you stumble into." She paused. "Well, but we all go there on some level when we dream, don't we?" Tapping her chin, she admitted, "I guess I can't rule it out after all."

    "Well reasoned," said the Bendu with a short nod. "Reason may only take one so far, however. Tell me, Kairi, Daughter of Ashla: where do your feelings lead you?"

    Her feelings... Her heart... Often those led her to Sora, or to Riku, but they were both beyond her reach; she could feel the futility of her attempt to trace those connections. They weren't severed—she'd feel if they were—they simply...led nowhere. She shifted her focus. Aqua? The further she traced that connection, the more a sticky sourness filled her senses; she was still in the Realm of Darkness with Terra and Ventus. Ah, but then! If she was able to sense that— "We're in the Realm of Light," she said, her voice solid and certain. "In a world far, far away." But there was something more, something she couldn't quite put her finger on. The distance she'd traced her connection to Aqua had felt yawning in a way beyond the distance between worlds, beyond the distance between the Realms of Light and Darkness. Yet at the same time it hadn't felt so far at all. Time travel? part of her wondered, but time travel didn't work like this.

    She shook her head. "What this world is doesn't matter right now," she said. "The details of it, anyway. I'm here now, for whatever reason, so that's what I need to focus on."

    The Bendu smiled down at her. "Some become so lost in the pursuit of knowledge that they discard prudence," he said. "You are wise to consider what is most pressing." Kairi couldn't help but preen a little at the compliment. "And on this wise," he continued, "I believe you said something about searching for someone? A friend?"

    "Yes!" Kairi said. "My friend, Sora. Well, I'm not so much looking for him—I know where he is, more or less. One of my other friends has gone there to find him." She sighed and looked up past the Bendu to the unfamiliar night sky. "I just hoped that maybe I could...I don't know. Find something to help from this side of reality?"

    The Bendu went very still. "Reality?"

    "That's right. Sora got trapped in—unreality? That's what Ansem the Wise called it. Or fiction."

    The sky suddenly seemed terribly dark and the Bendu suddenly seemed terribly large. "I know of this Sora of whom you speak," he spat. "A meddler. One who perverts the laws of nature for his own selfish desires!"

    "What? No!" Kairi protested. "Yes, he broke a taboo, but he wasn't—isn't selfish!"

    "No?" the Bendu thundered. "His actions had nothing to do with his childish attachment to you? You, who he treats as little more than a cherished possession?"

    "I am nobody's possession," Kairi snapped, swinging an arm out and feeling her Keyblade materialize. Yet she considered how her entire life she'd been shuffled around as a bargaining chip. By Xehanort's incarnations, Riku, Organization XIII... "Sora is the most selfless person I know. The worlds would have all been consumed by darkness by now if not for him!"

    "And what of it! Has darkness not just as much right to exist as the light? Why is it that the darkness is forbidden from dominating the light, yet the light is free to scour the darkness from every corner of existence?"

    Kairi faltered. Then, pushing her doubts aside, she said, "If you're not going to help me get Sora back, then I'm going to go find someone who will."

    "Will you, now? How?"

    "I don't know! I just know that Sora's my friend, and he's helped me when I was in trouble over and over, so now that he's in trouble, I'm going to help him back!"

    "The boy toyed with powers beyond his ken, heedless of warning, and is paying the rightful price for such transgression," the Bendu declared, and wind began to whip violently through Kairi's hair. "In reclaiming him, you would violate the same laws."

    The earth shook, and his eyes glowed yellow. "Pure Heart or no," he said, his voice dropping to a thunderous rumble, "this cannot be permitted."

    Lightning flashed overhead, and swirling dust and mist obscured the Bendu from view. His visage then billowed from the clouds overhead, his eyes boring through the darkness like searchlights. Kairi gasped.

    "I BRING DEATH!" he boomed.



    [INFORMATION: Defeat the Bendu!]