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NemesisSP

Kingdom Hearts: The Other Story

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Hehe, sorry it has taken awhile. It was actually because I restructured the next two chapters, which this one originally led into. I'll explain more later, but for now, I'm just hoping I'll be on schedule!

 

As for Stitch and Omega, yep that will be a relationship that's gonna be a major element of this story.

 

No need to apologize! The important thing here is that the update is finally here! And I loved it to bits! :3

 

Ah, so you were restructuring the chapters, huh? Well, I can't wait to see the end results once you've posted them here! :D

 

Ooh, a major element, you say? That has me intrigued! I can't wait for more! ^_^

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Secret Report 1 


 


I sent the boy and his friends on their way, on a journey that could hopefully lead me one step closer to Kingdom Hearts. Maleficent and the Seeker are already putting their own plans into motion, but it means little to me. I’ve seen their future. All I need to do is bide my time while I wait for it to happen.


 


Still, Maleficent will no doubt try keeping her eye on me and it would be best to keep her eye from wandering where I don’t wish for her to see. I will need to play along if my own plans are to be fulfilled. So I intend to alleviate her doubts about her enemies.


 


I will tell her that the foolish King won’t be a problem. He’s already disappeared from this world and will not pose a threat to her. A half-truth, but it’ll suffice for now. Once that is done, I'll wait a bit before I share my latest experiment with her. No doubt she'll be pleased by the result.


 


She has warned her comrades about Sora but has left them in the dark about Omega. It would seem she doesn’t truly trust them enough to know about this other Keyblade wielder? Perhaps. Or does she have trust in me to keep Omega on the road I set out for him?


 


Heh, I don’t think Maleficent trusts me any more than she does the rest of her ensemble. 


Edited by NemesisSP

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Ooh, interesting! This sounds like it's a report from old man Xehanort himself! If that's the case, then that's badass, because that means we're seeing his perspective on things as a whole as they are moving along! I've always loved the secret reports in the Kingdom Hearts series, and this seems to be the start of an interesting set of secret reports! :D

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This chapter sucks. At least as far as I'm concerned. That's why it took so long to get it done, it was structurally important, but it wasn't interesting to me. So I really struggled with it. So in this case, I'd appreciate the honest truth so I can make sure no chapter is as bad as this and possibly fix it for release on my other accounts.

 

Sorry for the wait, by the way, it was inexcusably long. Chapter 7 is not gonna be that long.

 

 

Chapter 6: The Coliseum

 

It was almost three years ago that Iris had first met Omega and his friends. She had just been transferred to the same Garden facility due to a glowing recommendation on her behalf. The Garden’s reputation for producing some of the best students and fighters preceded it and Iris had been eager to start proving her own worth there just as she had at her old school. Plenty of other students were already trying to live up to the high standards the Garden demanded, especially with the news that the Heartless threat was growing stronger and more worlds disappearing. Several students had gained popularity through sheer tenacity much like Iris had. Stories of several students having braved the age restricted areas to fight real monsters instead of the simulated ones the school would only allow them to do. Rumors that usually turned out to be greatly exaggerated for self-gratification of the central figures.

However, there were those rumors that had actual weight to them. A group of three friends who were almost never seen apart, Omega, Lulu and Zell were at the top of the class charts in almost every way. All three were skilled combatants to the point that they were already being allowed to tackle real monsters despite being under the age of 15. Lulu’s magic prowess was unparalleled and she ranked high in academics as well. Zell, on the hand, was the star of the martial arts club and had already proved an exceptional mechanic and information gatherer. Lulu had been described by many as aloof but willing to lend a hand when necessary, while Zell was stated to just be a fun, if perhaps over-excited person to know.

And then there was Omega, a prodigy if there ever was one they said. Almost everything he tried he excelled at and even when he didn’t the results were higher than one expected. He had also been reported to have a mastery of weapons no other student could possibly possess. Omega had even been officially reported as the only student to have finished off the strongest monster the Garden offered for training not only solo, but at the mere age of 10. His reputation among the students was almost legendary and plenty of rumors and stories surrounded him. Whether they were true or not was uncertain, since who Omega was as a person only Lulu and Zell knew and they refused to talk about him to others. He rarely interacted with anyone besides them to the point where a popular interpretation of him was that he was a smug and holier than thou figure who thought himself better than anyone else. Many also just claimed he was a misunderstood figure who people just wished to bring down out of jealousy.

Iris didn’t know and, quite frankly, did not care. She did not care about the rumors at all, the only thing that interested her were the facts. It was more important that she make her own way in the school, not because she wanted fame, but because she had to get stronger. With the Heartless growing stronger, she needed to be prepared for them. And if that meant trying to struggle in the shadow of these three, she was going to face it head on.

Nothing was going to stop her.

 

SeeD produced Gummi Ships were, by necessity, designed to be able to go for long missions and trips without visiting SeeD associated worlds for repairs and resupply. As such, they came equipped with fully functional living conveniences, such as an onboard kitchen, restrooms and separate bedding for larger groups. This particular model even came with four two-person rooms as a result. While it was only Iris, Hope and Irvine currently, the possibility of new members more than justified the necessity. An unlikely possibility, but one that had to be prepared for regardless.

Despite these necessities, though, budget concerns still kept them from being comparable to a high class cruise ride. They were designed more for function rather than comfort. It was also up to the assigned crew to make sure the ships were maintained and functional. However….

“This Gummi ship sucks.” Iris said bluntly as she looked at the specs. “Irvine, you were supposed to keep it up to snuff! Just what have you been doing?!”

“I did! That old guy at the accessory shop told me these were the best upgrades.” Irvine said indignantly.

“Are you sure? Because it seems to me that you got the cheapest.” Iris said as she clicked through the screen. While she didn’t necessarily understand everything that was shown, she did know enough to get a general idea. And the stuff she did know was what was worrying her.

“Hey, it’s just because we haven’t optimized everything, alright?” Irvine said defensively.

“Well, it’s not completely terrible.” Hope said as he also looked through some screens. “Some readjustments and this ship will be much better.” He looked up at Iris. “It should be fine to fly for now, though.”

“I suppose it could be worse.” Iris conceded as she sat down in the pilot seat. “But if we break down halfway there, it’s not as if we’ll be able to hitchhike afterwards.”

“Heh, I don’t think that’ll be too much of a problem, Iris.” Hope said as he looked through some other windows on his console. “We’ve got plenty of supplies and if we have any problem, we’ll just head back to Traverse Town.”

“Good, then we’ll go talk to the old guy and see if Irvine is telling the truth.” Iris said, smirking a bit as Irvine voiced his complaints. Though otherwise she paid him no attention. “Any suggestion on where to start?”

“The Olympus Coliseum would be a good place to go. It’s one of those worlds that has a lot of strange characters coming and going.” Hope said, pulling up the files on it. “It’s also not too far away from here. With any luck we should be able to find out something.”

“What sort of strange characters?” Irvine asked.

“Well, reports vary.” Hope said as he briefly looked through it. “Tournaments and various other contests are held there, so anyone who can travel through the different worlds will try to enter them. They could be upstanding or shady; by all accounts it doesn’t really matter. It would seem that the only thing that does is whether they are skilled enough for it.”

“Like you said, then, it’s the best place to start. So, if no one has any complaints,” Iris said as she started up the ships engines. As she did so, a large smile came over her face. “It’s about time to leave this sleepy town behind!”

And as the ship sped away from Traverse Town, Iris couldn’t help the growing sense of excitement that was coming over her. Even despite everything that had happened, even if it was just for this moment, Iris felt free.

Nothing could stand in her way.

 

The trip to the Olympus Coliseum did not take that long and they managed to avoid having to get into any fights with Heartless ships. Though perhaps that was simply dumb luck rather than Iris’ piloting skills. Not that she was complaining, of course. Iris really didn’t want to see just how far she could push this ship in its current state. Even after piloting it for just a few minutes, she found it much more sluggish and unyielding than most simulators had suggested that it should be. Iris just hoped it wasn’t a misleading simulator.

The world itself was certainly different from Traverse Town had been. The architecture had lots of columns and large statues of some people of importance that the trio couldn’t begin to try and figure out. Traverse Town had also been perpetually stuck in night time, so the bright sunlight was something to get used to after so long of being without it.

The townsfolk didn’t even both looking the direction of the three as they walked through, even though by looking at what they were wearing it was clear that they weren’t from around here. At first, that made Iris worry, but Hope had a quick answer for why this was the case.

“Remember, plenty of stranger looking people than us have come by here. No doubt everybody here is just used to this kind of thing.”

“I suppose, but it still feels so odd.” Iris said, her forefinger and thumb pressed against her upper lip.

“Stop worrying so much, Iris.” Irvine said. “It just means we don’t have to worry about answering awkward questions.”

Finding people to talk to, though, was proving harder than Irvine made it out to be. Most of the citizens just brushed them aside or were overall indifferent to them. Some gave them notices, but none of the information panned out. It seemed that Omega’s group had not been here. Or at least it seemed that way. Hours under the baking sun made everything seem longer.

“This is taking a lot longer than I expected.” Irvine admitted.

“Ya think.” Iris said irritably. She turned to Hope. “Any ideas?”

“All that’s left is the Coliseum.” Hope said. “If they were here, then that would be the best place to check.”

“Wouldn’t they be trying to stay under the radar, though?” Irvine asked.

“It depends.” Iris said, thinking back a bit. It seemed so obvious now that she mentally kicked herself for not insisting they head to the Coliseum first. “If there’s a challenge there that they couldn’t resist, they would go for it. Remember, Omega once took down the strongest monster at the Garden.”

Hope caught on to what she said and it was clear he too was feeling just a bit stupid for not thinking about it. “Oh yeah, how could I forget that?”

“The problem of thinking too much.” Irvine said, casually and smugly. “Got to go with the flow sometimes, let the thoughts just come to you naturally.”

“Shut up, Irvine.” Iris and Hope, deflating Irvine immediately. However, there was an unspoken agreement when they looked at each other that they’d need to try not to make that mistake again.

Before they could head there, however, a scream came from behind them. Iris already figured before they turned around that Heartless were attacking the citizens. When they turned to survey the attack, they found a fairly large amount of small Heartless like Shadows and Soldiers attacking the citizens, along with some larger ones like Fat Bodies. It would be an easy battle. Iris looked at the others to make sure they were ready and they nodded. Iris pulled out her sword and charged at the Heartless, a quick stab forward instantly taking out a Soldier. A couple of Shadows immediately tried lunging at her, though she managed to sidestep away from them. Just in time for blasts of ice to strike and then freeze them solid. Hope then threw a ball of fire at the frozen enemies and they exploded into a big pillar of flames, incinerating them instantly.

“Nice move.” Iris said another Soldier tried to lunge at her, only to be stabbed through the chest by her blade and then kicked away. Irvine then followed that up by shooting the Heartless, finishing it off instantly. He quickly gave Iris a thumbs up and she returned the gesture.

“Wow, you guys are really good!” A cheerful voice called out and a large, muscular and handsome man jumped into the fray along with them, picked up one of the Large Bodies and proceeded to toss it at a group of Heartless like a ball. He didn’t even look winded after doing so. It left Iris very impressed.

“Not so bad yourself.” Irvine said as placed his rifle against his shoulder for a second.

“Still, mind if I tag in?” The man asked.

“Knock yourself out.” Iris said as she sliced a Soldier in half.

It didn’t take long after that for them to mop up the rest of the Heartless. Once every last one was exterminated, a crowd of people attempted to come up to

“Thanks for the assist.” Iris said.

“Not a problem! Though, I don’t think you really needed it.” The man chuckled a bit. “I’m Hercules. Who are you?”

“I’m Iris and these two are Hope and Irvine.” Iris replied. “I’m not sure if that’s entirely true though.”

“Well, either way, you three seem like you’re very strong. You think you’d be interested in trying out for the Coliseum?” Hercules asked.

“We wouldn’t be against it.” Hope said as he walked up closer. “But, I’m afraid we’re not going to be staying very long.”

“Really? That’s too bad, we already had three other good fighters decline too.” Hercules said in slight disappointment, but smiled. “There’s always next time, though.”

Iris looked at Hope and Irvine and could tell they were all thinking the same thing. “Three fighters?” Iris asked. “Do you happen to know their names?”

“Well, I do believe they gave their names as Lulu, Zell and Omega.” Hercules replied. The look of surprise on their faces must have been very apparent, because he continued. “Do you know them?”

“We’ve been looking for them.” Hope explained. “How long ago were they here?”

“A couple of days ago, but they didn’t stick around all that long.” Hercules said. He frowned a bit as he added, “Sorry, though; I don’t know where they were headed afterwards.

“That’s alright, thanks for that.” Iris said.

“It’s no problem, it’s a true hero’s duty to help everyone, after all.” Hercules said as he smiled proudly. Iris chuckled a bit.

“I don’t know anything about a ‘true hero’s duty’, but it’s appreciated regardless.” Iris said.

“If you guys change your mind, feel free to hit up the coliseum anytime. Just say that Hercules sent you.”

“I’ll take you up on that.” Iris said with a sly smile on her face. Hercules waved a bit and walked off.

“That was a bit more helpful than I think he realized.” Hope said as soon as he was gone.

“You think you can pick up the trail?” Iris asked.

“I think I can, but I won’t know till I try.” Hope said. “It’s been a few days, but I think I could probably track the route they took.”

“We don’t have any time to lose then.” Irvine said. “Let’s head back to the ship.”

 

 

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Chapter 7: The City of Airships

 

Stitch could barely contain his excitement as he looked around the city they were standing in. It looked much like Traverse Town in terms of the building designs, but everything seemed more alive than Traverse Town. People of various species walked the streets, happily talking with each other if they stopped, or angrily shouting because they bumped into another person. Kids were out playing around, either with each other or pulling pranks on someone! A few kids were even running from an adult who they clearly had been messing with!

 

And then there were the airships up in the sky. They weren’t like the space ships Stitch was used to; they were more like boats that flew in the sky rather than float through the ocean. Every few minutes another one came by and then another. They were all heading towards the large castle or away from it.

 

“Impressive, right?” Zell said to Stitch. He was also looking up at the castle. “I’ve never been to Lindblum myself, tho’ I’ve wanted to see this for a long time.” Stitch kind of liked Zell. He was trying a bit hard to be cool, but Stitch appreciated it, even if he had mostly ignored him up till now.

 

“We’re not here to gawk at the ships, Zell.” Lulu said. The same could not be said of Lulu. Stitch did not like her one bit and he knew she returned the sentiment. Her cold, high and mighty attitude really got on his nerves in a way that he didn’t really remember feeling since Gantu. But biting Lulu or anything would not help endear himself to her friends either. “We need to gather information.”

 

“I know that, Lulu. But it’s not often we get to come to places like this.” Zell said, his cheerful attitude not dented in the slightest by Lulu’s coldness. “I’d love to go and figure out how those airships work.”

“Don’t we have a spaceship?” Lulu retorted.

 

“What’s your point?” Zell replied. Stitch chuckled a bit at that. He also wanted to know more about those airships… and deep down felt the urge to try to mess with them. But those days were long behind him! Stitch had no doubt that he could resist the urge to be bad.

 

Lulu sighed and shook her head at Zell. She looked forward at Omega, who was reading the contents of a tiny book that he had pulled out of his pocket. “Got anything to add?”

 

“Not particularly.” Omega said, his eyes not leaving the book. Stitch had even more mixed feelings about Omega than he expected. Although Omega was nicer to Stitch than Lulu, Stitch had a hard time figuring him out. Ever since he had let Stitch join the crew, he had mostly kept to himself. An impressive feat, since Stitch was bunking in the same cabin on their ship. He never saw Omega crack a smile and he never talked about himself in anyway. Stitch had tried to get him to do so and Omega would just ignore him. Despite this lack of luck, Stitch wasn’t going to give up on trying. Otherwise trying to get Omega to help him would be even more difficult that it already was. Omega looked through the book a little before closing it up and putting it back in his pocket. “However, since we might be here for awhile, it’s hardly fair to keep Zell from checking it out if he wants.”

 

Lulu wasn’t amused by this, but she just shook her head. “Very well, if you wish to waste your time on that, be my guest.” Lulu said. “In the meantime, I will be gathering information. We’ll meet at the hotel at the end of the day, yes?”

 

Both Omega and Zell nodded in response as Lulu walked off into the crowd. Zell immediately went off towards the castle while Omega headed off in the opposite direction of him. Stitch wasn’t sure at first who he was going to go with. He really wanted to check out the airships, but at the same time he still wasn’t sure if he could resist playing around with them. So he went off after Omega instead, who was heading into some kind of building not too far away. Stitch managed to follow him in before the door closed.

 

They had entered a small pub by the looks of the furnishings, and not exactly a very nice looking pub in Stitch’s opinion. Though it was fairly full, so perhaps that was just his opinion. It was a diverse crowd, from humans to what looked like small hippos. One particular individual that stood out looked like a large rat in a red coat and hat.

 

Omega had already gone up to the bar and sat down in an open chair. The bartender almost immediately appeared in front of him that made Stitch jump a bit. He wore a vest and had a ridiculously long mustache that he kept messing with. “Hello lad, never seen you here before.”

 

“I’m just passing through for a couple days, along with a few friends.” Omega said, as he pointed to Stitch to Stitch as he sat down. “You have anything you’d recommend?”

 

“Well, there’s always today’s specialty, Soup du Silence.” The bartender said proudly, stroking his mustache even more now. Though if he thought that’d get a reaction out of Omega, all he got was a blank stare.

 

“And what is that supposed to be?” Omega said flatly. The bartender looked dejected by that.

 

 

Airship Hanger

 

“This. Is. Awesome!” Zell exclaimed as he watched a ton of mechanics of various species working on a very big variety of different airships. One that had particularly caught his attention was one that was clearly being built for luxury.

 

“Like what you see, young man?” A mechanic said. He looked a lot like a raccoon, just a lot bigger and a bit broad shouldered.


“Definitely! I wish I could get a closer look.”


“Yeah, we get that a lot.” The raccoon mechanic said. “Sorry to say that it probably won’t happen.”


“I know, jus’ wishful thinkin’, I guess.” Zell conceded, but still watched the ship being built. “How do you make ‘em fly?”

 

“You don’t know?”

 

“Nope, new to this place!”

 

“Aha!” The mechanic said as he leaned against the railing. He pointed at an engine that was being installed on the ship. “Well, see that there? That engine is run on a substance called ‘Mist’.”

 

“’Mist’”? Zell repeated.

 

“Yup, Mist. We’re a bit farther up from it, but below the city and canyon, I’m sure you’ve noticed a thick fog, yes?”

 

“Yeah, I noticed that too. I didn’t think too much about it, though.”


“I’m not sure how you don’t know that much about Mist, but it isn’t something you want to handle without caution.” The mechanic said.

 

“Huh? What does that mean?”

 

“Means stay away from the Mist, kid.” The mechanic said as he headed in the other direction. “Sorry, I have to head back to work.”

 

“But I still have lots of questions, mind if I help out?” Zell said.

 

“We have deadlines kid, I can’t really babysit you.”

 

“Hah! I’ll have you know I’m a bit of a mechanic myself.” Zell said as he put his knuckles on his hips proudly. “No need for babysitting at all.”

 

The mechanic looked back at him. “You aren’t playin’ me, are you?”


“Of course not!” Zell proclaimed proudly, puffing his chest out as he placed his knuckles on his hips. “I’m perfectly capable of providing any kind of mechanical know how you might need.”

 

“It’s true.” A calm voice cut in. Zell turned to see Lulu walking right up to them.

 

“Lu? What are you doing here?” Zell asked.

 

“To keep an eye on you, of course.” Lulu replied dryly. “You always do tend to get yourself into antics, after all.”

 

“I thought learning about airships was a waste of time?” Zell said sarcastically.


“At the time. Though as I walked up I couldn’t help but hear you two talk about this Mist thing and I wanted to know more.” Lulu walked up to the two of them. “It’s most interesting sounding.”

 

“Great.” The mechanic said sardonically. “Look, I gotta get to work, so if you want to join in, fine. I suppose I’ll give you a crash course in the Mist.”

 

“Perfect.” Lulu looked from the mechanic to Zell. “After you.” Zell gave her the stink eye, though that only produced a small, amused smile from.

 

 

Industrial District – Tavern, one hour later

 


The crowd in the tavern looked in Stitch direction in shock, horror and disgust as Stitch dug into the food without bothering to grab a spoon. Even the rat lady, who had maintained a stony expression throughout, looked thoroughly annoyed by the mess and noise that Stitch was making as he did so. The bartender looked absolutely mortified as Stitch ate.

 

Everyone was reacting in some way and Stitch took pleasure in that.

 

That is, everyone except for Omega.


“You better wash your face, or I’m not going to pay for you.” Omega muttered as he picked up his glass and took a drink. He wasn’t even looking at Stitch as he said this, he just swirled his spoon around the bowl in front of him to get the rest of his food.

 

Stitch responded with a ‘bleugh’ noise, but grabbed a nearby towel and wiped the leftover bits of soup from his face.

 

“How was it?” The bartender asked, trying to save face after witnessing Stitch eating. “Make you feel happy and satisfied?”

 

“Well, that was pretty good, I’ll admit.” Omega said as he pushed the empty bowl away from him. “Not sure I’d use those ingredients though.”

 

“You’re breaking my heart, boy.” The bartender grumbled as he took the dish away. Stitch kind of felt sorry for him, though only because he had just been told off by Omega for supposedly having poor table manner. Omega was just being rude for no real reason, he thought!

 

Omega just sat there drinking his water, though, completely ignoring Stitch and the bartender. He seemed to be deep in thought, though whatever it was he was thinking about Stitch couldn’t tell.

 

The doors to the pub flew open and a cheerful whistle was heard. Stitch turned around to see a short, blond haired teenager walking up to the counter. He was wearing quite a lot of blue and had a monkey tail! “Well, looks busy today! That’s a nice change of pace, Bobo!”


“Your name is Bobo?” Omega asked, though the barkeep ignored him.

 

“Very amusing.” The barkeep replied in a tone that was decidedly unamused. “Back in town already, Zidane?”


“Oh, come on, don’t be so salty.” Zidane said as he sat down between Omega and the rat lady. Almost immediately, he turned to the latter and began flirting with her! “Hey, have I seen you around here before?”

 

“You know perfectly well you’ve seen me before, Zidane.” The rat lady replied in annoyance. “Must you go through this motion every time we meet up here?”

 

“Oh come on, Freya, don’t be like that.” Zidane waved his right hand a bit. “You know I’m just teasing.”
 

“I wish you wouldn’t.” Freya muttered into her drink.

 

“Always the killjoy.” Zidane shrugged as he turned his attention over to Omega. “I know I’ve definitely never seen you before.” He held out a hand. “Name’s Zidane.”

 

Omega reached out and shook his hand briefly. “Omega.”

 

“Well, nice to meet you, Omega.” Zidane smiled. “What brings you to town?”

 

“I’m looking for someone.” Omega said. “A man with black hair and purple eyes, wearing a black coat. Seen anyone like him?”

 

Zidane crossed his arms and tilted his head. “Can’t say I have, though my troupe and I just got back ourselves.”

 

“Troupe? Are you an actor?” Omega asked. Stitch wasn’t sure, but it seemed like Omega was genuinely interested even though his expression hadn’t changed. His full attention was on Zidane, so it certainly seemed like it.

 

“I don’t want to brag, but yes!” Zidane said proudly. “The Tantalus Theatre Troupe is full of top notch performers. We go all around in the hope of spreading joy and entertainment.”


“Is that what we’re calling your antics?” Freya snidely commented.

 

“Ignore this sour sport.” Zidane looked at Omega again, particularly at his note book. “What are you writing down there?”

 

“Jokes and one-liners.” Omega said with a completely straight face, though Zidane clearly wasn’t fooled for a second, but he let out a good hearty laugh.

 

“Ha ha ha, I guess I could buy that. But you look more like a warrior.” Zidane noted as he looked Omega up and down. “You here for the Festival of the Hunt? If I recall it’s coming up soon.”

 

“I’ve seen some signs for it, but I can’t say I know what it is.”

 

“It’s a competition they hold every year,” Freya cut in before Zidane could answer. “Monsters are brought into the city and scattered throughout the streets for 12 minutes. Those entering the competition must slay as many beasts as possible for points.”

 

Omega leaned forward a bit, looking more interested than Stitch had seen him before. “Sounds like you’re very familiar with this competition.”

 

“I always enter.” Freya said simply. “But usually there’s no challenge anymore.”

 

“Perhaps you should enter?” Zidane said. “After all, you might like it.”

 

“I’ll think about it.” Omega said as he got up, then dropped some munny on the counter. “Nice talking with you. Come on, Stitch.”

 

“Leaving already?” Zidane asked.

 

“I think I got all I need.” Omega said, which left Stitch confused as they left the pub.

 

 

Theater District

 

Lulu walked out of the tram that she and Zell had taken to the Theater District and looked around.

 

“Quite the town.” She said as Zell followed her off.

 

“Very much so.” Zell said.

 

“So what do you think about the Mist?” Lulu looked at him with a serious face. “Think it’s anything to worry about. Zell crossed his arms and looked down.

“I can’t say. He didn’t really say much, did he?” Zell said. “At least, not what we might’ve needed to know.”

 

“Yeah. I wonder if he just wanted to get rid of us.” Lulu shrugged. “I guess it doesn’t matter. We can always investigate further. We’ll just let Omega know when we’re done.”


Zell looked at Lulu, puzzled. “We’re not going to let him in on this now?”

 

“What does it matter?” Lulu said, a bitter tone to her voice now. “He makes unilateral decisions all the time. It’s just what he gets.”

 

“Ya know, that sounds pretty petty, dontcha thin-“

 

“I don’t recall asking for an opinion.” Lulu snapped. Zell recoiled at that and decided not press the issue. He’d have to wait for the right moment, otherwise he’d never get a word in. Lulu could be very unreasonable sometimes, same with Omega.

 

“Alright, alright.” Zell said, waving one hand dismissively. “Forget it. So what do you purpose we do?”

 

“I thought that was obvious. We’re going to search for a way down to the Mist.” Lulu replied.

 

“’kay, but how?”

 

Lulu fell silent for a moment. “Well-”

 

“Lost, are we?” A horribly familiar voice said behind them. Lulu and Zell immediately turned around to see the man in black standing right there. Both were alert at once, ready to attack the moment they needed to. The man in black chuckled and walked past them without the slightest hint that he considered them any kind of threat. “Please, let’s be civil, shall we?”

 

“Civil with a man who murdered thousands of people?!” Lulu retorted. “You can’t be serious?”

 

“Oh, but I am.” The man said as he turned around to face them once more. “You see, if we’re not going to be civil, then I’m afraid that it might just happen again.”

 

“That sounds like you’re already planning it!” Zell said and before Lulu could do anything, he rushed at the man, ready to punch him!

 

“Zell!”

 

The man just smiled malevolently.

 

Business District - Inn, three hours later

 

The room they were in was a pleasant room, probably one of the nicest rooms Stitch had been in for a long time. He sat on the bed he had picked out when they first entered and bounced a bit on it. Omega had sat down on his own bed, quiet as usual, not giving Stitch any kind of notice. He just looked thoughtful about something and it got Stitch curious.

 

“Something wrong with Omega?”

 

Omega’s eyes looked in Stitch’s direction, but again there was no indication of any kind emotional response from. “I’m not sure.” He answered after a moment.

 

Stitch tilted his head at that. “Oh?”

 

Omega’s eyes turned away. “I was thinking that Lulu and Zell should have been back by now.” He crossed his arms. “It’s not like them.”

 

He got up to look out the window, his arms still crossed. It was night time and the lights from various houses and the street lamps illuminated the more quiet streets. Stitch wasn’t sure if he honestly thought he’d spot them or not, his face had still not changed in any kind of way about this.


Still, he couldn’t help but get the feeling that Omega was genuinely worried, despite not showing it. And he wasn’t sure he understood at all, because these three didn’t really seem like friends at all. Why did he seem to care so much?

 

Stitch didn’t understand. And he wasn’t sure he liked this at all.

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Excellent, I was waiting for this! And I hadn't noticed that you had posted Chapter 6! I feel like a fool for not having read up on it sooner! But anyways, I thought both chapters were amazing! And I think Chapter 6 was pretty great! It had a lot of exposition, and I always dig that in a story. And as for this latest chapter, I was so happy! I love how you characterize Stitch and the way he observes Omega and his friends. That's just awesome! And Alexandria! You put in the world of Alexandria! At first I was playing the guessing game, and when you mentioned Mist, I assumed this was Baron, the country in Final Fantasy IV, but with the whole talk of different species, I was like: "Nah, that can't be." I was going to think Ivalice from XII, but when you described the rat in red clothing, I'm like: "Yep, it's Freya!" Love that you're using Final Fantasy IX in your story! Keep up the excellent work! :D

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On 4/24/2019 at 3:35 PM, The Transcendent Key said:

Excellent, I was waiting for this! And I hadn't noticed that you had posted Chapter 6! I feel like a fool for not having read up on it sooner! But anyways, I thought both chapters were amazing! And I think Chapter 6 was pretty great! It had a lot of exposition, and I always dig that in a story. And as for this latest chapter, I was so happy! I love how you characterize Stitch and the way he observes Omega and his friends. That's just awesome! And Alexandria! You put in the world of Alexandria! At first I was playing the guessing game, and when you mentioned Mist, I assumed this was Baron, the country in Final Fantasy IV, but with the whole talk of different species, I was like: "Nah, that can't be." I was going to think Ivalice from XII, but when you described the rat in red clothing, I'm like: "Yep, it's Freya!" Love that you're using Final Fantasy IX in your story! Keep up the excellent work! :D

Thanks and glad you enjoyed the chapters. I wanted this arc to be the point where the reader might go "well, this story was fine to begin with, but now it's really good." Though whether or not it will reach that point is yet to be seen.

As for FFIX, that's good to hear, because that particular game will have some major presence within the story.

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Chapter 8: The Man Called the Devil

Lulu groaned as she woke after what seemed like hours. Her vision was obscured, and at first she thought it was just her eyes adjusting, however after blinking a few times realized it was, in fact, a thick fog around her. She stood up and tried looking around, but could barely make out anything in front of her.

“Zell!” She cried out into the fog. “Zell, where are you!?”

Lulu heard a groaning noise to her left and looked in that direction. It was still hard to make out, but she thought she saw a body on the ground. Without hesitation, she rushed over to see if it was Zell and hopefully that he wasn’t injured. It was Zell and thankfully he was fine, just a little dazed looking as he got up.

“Lu?” Zell asked as he tried to get up. He stumbled a bit, then fell back, before finally managing to get to his feet. “What happened? Where are we?”

“I’m not sure.” Lulu said. “I just remember that we were walking around town and then the next thing I know, we’re here.”

“Ugh, if even you can’t remember- ow!” Zell grabbed his left arm. “I’m really sore. You okay, Lu?”

“Yes, I’m fine.” Lulu said as she held out her hand then waved it. Green light surrounded Zell, then quickly faded.

Zell breathed a sigh of relief and rotated his arm a bit. “Thanks for that.”

“You’re welcome.” Lulu replied, then looked around into the fog again. “I have this really strange feeling.”

“What is it?”

“I’m not sure, but I definitely think we need to find some shelter before night fall, whenever that is.” Lulu said as she looked around. As soon as she did, she spotted a light nearby. A light she was absolutely certain had not been there a second ago. “Zell, look!”

Zell did so and his reaction suggested he didn’t catch on like she had. “Oh yeah! That wasn’t too hard.” He said as he ran over to it. Lulu reluctantly followed him to a small shack, the light they saw coming from the window. It looked like it had been abandoned for quite some time, as there was no sign of anybody.

“Wow, this is pretty convenient!” Zell said as he walked around.

“Yes, perhaps a little too convenient.” Lulu said, gazing over to the fire. “Yes, it’s just too convenient.”

“Huh?”

Lulu groaned and folded her arms. “Did you hurt your head as well? Think about it.” She said. “We wake up here with no memory of what happened and there just happens to be a little shack just a few feet away?”

Zell gritted his teeth and clenched. “I get that… but what other choice do we have?” He said.

Lulu said nothing. He had a point, even if she didn’t like it. “I don’t know.” She muttered. “However, we should at least remain alert.”

“Of course.” Zell replied. “I’m not a complete idiot, you know?”

“I sometimes wonder about that.” Lulu said, though she found herself smiling a little. “Though, I am starting to regret not meeting up with Omega again.”

Zell nodded. “Yeah, having him around would certain help.” The fire crackled a bit and they could hear the howling of wolves a good distance away. “Why don’t you get some rest, Lu? I’ll take first shift.”

“Hah, nice try hero, but you were in worse shape than I was. You rest up first.”

“But-“

Lulu cut him off before he could finish, “No, I insist, Zell.” She said. “Please.”

Zell’s fists clenched, his shoulders tensing up. “… alright, you win, Lu.” He said. “Just don’t try and do it all by yourself.”

“I’ll try not to.” Lulu said as she gave a small smile. “I’m not that reckless, you know.”

Zell loosened up with that and grinned in return.

 

Lindblum Business District, Inn – Several hours later

 

When Stitch woke up, he found himself complete alone and with no sign anyone else had been in the room with him. Lulu and Zell’s beds were completely untouched and the one Omega had picked looked like it too despite Omega having been there last night. Though, Stitch hadn’t really been sure if Omega had been asleep or not at all.

As Stitch got out of bed, he saw a note on the nightstand next to him. He grabbed it and read it. The message on it was short and blunt, just like how Stitch usually expected from him.

Went out, be back later. Do not leave the room.

Omega

Stitch snorted disdainfully, crumbled up the note and tossed it onto Omega’s bed. There was no way he was going to stick around this room when he had an entire city to explore! So much to see and do and if a little mischief was on hand, Omega need not know. And even if he did, it’s not like he could prove anything.

Feeling wide awake now, Stitch immediately went out the door, down the stairs and out the inn doors into the bustling city streets. He didn’t have any real plan on what he’d do, but that wasn’t going to stop him. Though the first thing he probably should figure out was where Omega was. If he was gonna have fun, it’d be a huge inconvenience if Omega just suddenly showed up in the middle of it.

It didn’t take him long to figure it out…

“Somehow I knew you weren’t going to stay put.” Stitch’s ears perked up and his body tensed. He slowly turned around and saw Omega leaning against the wall of the inn, his arms folded, apparently having waited there for some time. “Seems a problem we’ll have to talk about if we want to keep working together.”

Stitch’s snorted, his eyes narrowing. “You aren’t my boss.” Stitch said.

“You can think that, but I do have your only ride.” Omega said and Stitch’s eyes widened at the implication. “So, I think that indeed makes me your boss.”

The corner of Stitch’s lip twitched. He didn’t think that Omega actually would just leave him behind, but he kept surprising Stitch often enough that it wasn’t something he was going to take a chance with. “…fine…” He muttered.

“Good.” Omega said as he unfolded his arms and walked past Stitch. “I did have stuff I wanted to do, though. If you stick by me and behave yourself, I’ll let you come along.”

Stitch grumbled and followed Omega. The more he hung around him, the more Stitch didn’t think he liked Omega.

 

“Have you seen these two?” Omega said as he held up a sketch of Lulu and Zell to the store clerk. She looked it over and shook her head.

“I’m sorry to say I have not.”

“That’s fine, thank you for your time.” Omega said as he walked off, Stitch following him as he did. They had been at this for several hours now and hadn’t found any sign of Lulu and Zell. Stitch couldn’t care less, particularly with Lulu, but Omega’s insistence on looking for them had won out. Stitch really couldn’t tell why he cared so much, since he seemed apathetic at best to them. Still, Omega had made it clear that he was in charge and that Stitch needed to fall in line with that.

At the same time, Stitch was so bored! A city full of interesting things and he was stuck looking for two idiots he didn’t care about. And it was now almost night time and all of the interesting places were deciding to close up! It’s like Omega was punishing him and for no particular reason, because Stitch couldn’t figure out what he could have done to deserve this. It was made even worse by the fact that when he wasn’t asking around, Omega was window shopping.

“Hmm, this might be a good place to grab some port.” Omega said as he wrote a note down in his little book. “Might need to make sure my permit is available, but it doesn’t seem like there’s any alcohol regulations here.”

“Can we go see the airships?” Stitch begged.

“No.”

“Come on, please?”

“No.”

“Pleeeeeaaaaaaaaaase?”

“No.”

Stitch grumbled and folded his arms. “Omega sucks.”

“Whatever.” Omega said as he continued writing down notes. Stitch pulled on his bottom eyelids in frustration. An entire day wasted! This couldn’t get any worse as far as Stitch was concerned.

“Help! Someone help!”

Omega and Stitch looked to see what looked like a Moogle with a large backpack running away from a large group of Heartless. Stitch tilted his head a little bit in confusion, as while he was sure it was a Moogle, it looked quite different from other Moogles he had seen and interacted with back in Traverse Town. It also seemed a little odd to him that so many Heartless would be chasing one Moogle, especially since there were still other people around town who hadn’t gone in for the night. But he supposed it was just another weird Heartless thing and found he didn’t really care about the why! All he cared about was that this was his chance for some action!

Stitch smiled in glee and his blasters were out now. “Akootah!” He jumped at the Heartless and started shooting at them. Their attention turned from the Moogle to him, but they didn’t stand a chance against the Experiment. Stitch hopped over one, blasting it into oblivion as he did, then slid under another when it jumped at him. It too met a flashy end courtesy of Stitch’s plasma pistols.

“Heh heh heh heh!” Stitch was much happier now than he had been all day! Sure it might not have involved scaling buildings to sneak into the castle or any number of fun things he could do, but blasting Heartless was always fun! He just kept on blasting them until they either fled or

However, it escaped Stitch’s notice that some Heartless were still going after the Moogle. By the time he took notice, though, Omega had already dealt with them. His Keyblade was in hand and several pink hearts were floating away from black mists where the Heartless once stood. Stitch looked around and noticed that all the Heartless he hadn’t been shooting at were also all gone now and he quickly made the connection. Stitch hadn’t even noticed that he had even moved or started attacking the Heartless.

It annoyed him very much. Omega had once again taken his fun away from him! Stitch was beginning to lose patience with the teenager! No amount of help with looking for Lilo and his friends could be worth putting up with this.

“You done?” Omega said as the Keyblade disappeared. “Because I think you scared the poor guy senseless.” And indeed, the Moogle was curled up on the ground, his bag a few inches away. Stitch scowled and folded his arms. Like he really cared!

Omega knelt down in front of the Moogle. “You okay?”

The Moogle uncurled and got up. “Y-yeah, thanks for the help. I’m Stiltzkin.”

“Name’s Omega, and the trigger happy fellow there is Stitch.” Omega said and Stitch stuck his tongue out at him in response. Naturally, Omega took no notice to the gesture.

“No problem. Why did they gang up on you like that?”

“I don’t know. I just-“ Stiltzkin began to explain before Stitch decided to go over and yank on his pom-pom to look it over. “Ow ow ow!”

“Stitch, what are you doing?” Omega said with at best mild annoyance.

“Just checking. Doesn’t look like a Moogle.”

“That doesn’t mean you can play with his pom pom.”

“Have to be sure it’s not a trick!”

“I am a Moogle! Let go of my pom pom!”

“Moogles just look different depending on the world. Sometimes they retain the same form, sometimes they have a slightly altered form.” Omega explained. “I’ve seen it plenty of times. Now let the Moogle go.” He said that last bit in a much sterner voice, and Stitch recognized it as an order, not a request. If he didn’t, Omega might just really leave him behind.

“Bah!” Stitch let go of Stiltzkin’s pom pom and crossed his arms again in a pouting fashion. Stiltzkin straightened himself out and looked at Stitch with extreme irritation, but Stitch didn’t care.

“So anyway,” Omega said, ignoring Stitch, which infuriated Stitch even more. “Why were those Heartless ganging up on you?”

“Well, I can safely say that they weren’t really chasing me.” Stiltzkin explained as he went over to his bag.

“What do you mean?”

Stiltzkin reached into the bag and pulled out an elaborately designed book. “I’m pretty sure they were after this.”

Omega looked at it with some interest and even Stitch was now a bit intrigued, but he tried not to show it. Why would the Heartless be after some random book? It didn’t make sense to him.

“What’s so special about it?”

“Well, this is a special book. I found it on my journey through many different worlds.” Stiltzkin explained. “This is a Grimoire and inside it is another world.”

“Am I to assume by “another world”, you don’t mean in the joy of reading kind of thing?” Omega said. “How is that possible?”

“I’m not sure myself, but I have been inside it and I can safely say that it is its own world.” Stiltzkin said as he placed it back in his bag. “And the Heartless probably wanted it like they want all other worlds.”

“Yeah, I can see that.” Omega put his forefinger and thumb on his chin in thought. “I’ve been to a few worlds over the past few years, but I can’t say I’ve ever come across that before.”

“Unsurprising.” A soft-spoken, yet cold voice said. It was a voice that Stitch recognized immediately. A voice that he had hoped he’d never have to hear again, but knew he would. But even that knowledge didn’t help prevent that cold feeling that crept up his spine. “Such tomes are rare and have more than likely already suffered the same fate as countless other worlds have.”

The three of them all turned to look at the source of the voice, as the man in black was standing right behind them. Stiltzkin immediately hid behind Omega, while Stitch just stood frozen in place.

Omega didn’t hesitate.

 “Looks like you saved me the trouble of finding you.” He declared as he summoned his Keyblade.

“Are you really going to attack me, Omega?” the man in black said. “Last time it didn’t go very well for you, if I recall.”

Omega’s lip twitched, but he didn’t back down. “A nameless man who destroyed an entire world. At the least I’m going to make it an option.” The man just chuckled in response.

“Oh, still trying to play the hero.”

Stitch felt his heart sink into his stomach as he stood face to face with the man in the black right in front of him. That horrible half smile on his face, the glint in his purple eyes. Stitch was frozen with fear as he watched Omega and the man talk, ignored by both as he felt a panic attack start.

“I suppose if you must have a name to call me by, I’ll give you the same name I gave Maleficent. Nero Diabolus.”

“No wonder she felt quick to ally with you. That name just sounds like a comic book villain name.” Omega retorted.

“Names are only important when we want to display a certain image to the onlooker.” ‘Nero’ said as he placed one arm behind his back and gestured at the spot where the Heartless had been moments earlier. “The Heartless, for instance, have no use for such names, being mindless, pathetic and interested in only collecting hearts and growing in numbers. We are the ones who give them names because it is convenient for us. Easy for us to distinguish which is which. Just like this name is convenient for deals with Maleficent and her followers.”

“Fascinating stuff, but is there a point to all of this?”

Nero smirked. “Not one I wish to impart on you at this time.” He said as he pressed the fore and middle fingers of his left hand against the rail overlooking the city. Stitch flinched as he came closer to them, and he was aware that Stiltzkin was now paying attention to him instead of the man in front of them. “Not when I have other things in mind for you to do.”

“And you assume I will just do whatever it is you have in mind?”

“Willingly, no. I know you, Omega and following orders and doing what you are told has never been a strong suit for you.”

“You don’t know-“

“-anything about me!” Nero finished for him. “Oh my young friend, nothing could be further from the truth. I know you better than anyone else ever will.”

Omega grunted, clearly trying to hold back what he wanted to say. Stitch watched the two talk and couldn’t comprehend how Omega could talk to this man like this. Wasn’t he at all scared?

Nero didn’t seem to care either way as he continued, “You will enter the Festival of the Hunt tomorrow and you will win it. And you will win it using the Keyblade.”

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“I assure you I’m not.” Nero replied, his smile never once wavering. “I was disappointed you left Olympus before you went to compete in the Coliseum.”

“We had more important things to do!”

“Which is the reasoning I’m sure Lulu used in order to get you to leave.” Nero said. “I’m sure it burned you up inside having to take orders from her. Especially since you’ve always wanted to compete in those games.”

“That is completely different!”

“Is it now?” Nero chuckled a bit at that. “Well, now she and Zell aren’t around to talk you out of it this time and you can indulge in all the fighting you want.”

The meaning of his words was clear to everyone present and Stitch’s stomach went dead. He hadn’t really taken into account that the man in black had kidnapped Lulu and Zell and even worse, he hadn’t cared at all. Even if he didn’t like them, he wouldn’t have wished that one anyone!

“What did you do with my friends?” Omega said through clenched teeth.

“Oh, don’t worry, they’re fine.” The man said. “For now anyway.”

“Comforting. How about you bring them back?” Omega said.

“If you win, they will be returned to you, unharmed.” Nero said. “Of course, you can also go and rescue them yourself. They are in the valley below Lindblum, in a little cottage twenty miles from the cliff side.”

Omega looked momentarily taken aback and Stitch couldn’t blame him. He hadn’t expected Nero to just give away the location of where he’d hidden Lulu and Zell. The fact that he was, though…

“What is your game?” Omega said. “You wouldn’t tell me this for no reason.”

“You’re catching on fast, my friend.” Nero said. “You see, it is almost impossible to get down to the valley, what with the Mist and all the monsters and such. Not to mention the only way down is sealed off in Lindblum castle. Going down to the port won’t help you either, since they aren’t near it and by the time you got there through the port, the Festival of the Hunt would start.”

His smile widened and Stitch grew even colder. Stiltzkin also looked terrified, even though Nero hadn’t acknowledged his presence at all since he got here.

“And if you aren’t there, then I might just have to unleash an army of Heartless on the city.” Nero finished and let the words sink in. For once, Omega didn’t have a retort, he didn’t look confidant and more important, he looked genuinely worried. Stitch was seeing more expression from Omega now than he had in all the time he had known him and that worried Stitch even more. He could clearly see Omega’s thoughts now and it was clear he was scrambling for a way out of it.

“Well… then I’ll just-“

“- go right now.” Nero said. “I suppose you could do that, but at the same time there’s no guarantee you’d make it back up here before the Heartless attacked, is there? Oh what to do?” His eyes closed and he put his left wrist on his hip. His eyes opened again and immediately turned to look at Stitch himself. They had now changed from purple to a piercing crimson. “I suppose, then, that I shall make it easier for you.”

His eyes made contact with Stitch and he immediately froze up, not from fear, but from a feeling he had hoped he’d never feel again. Suddenly his arm spasmed and pain flared up as he grunted. Omega and Stiltzkin both turned to look at him. He clutched his head as it felt like his skull was about to slip open, only to spasm again before he lost his vision momentarily in a flash of bright green light. This was a sensation he had many times over the past two years, but somehow this was different! A buzzing noise also rang in his ears and Stitch tried desperately to shake the feeling off. He head indistinct voices trying to call out to him, shapes blurring in front of him and someone’s hands grabbing his shoulders, trying to steady Stitch.

But the damage was done, and the pain was too much for him to take. The last thing Stitch saw before he blacked out was Omega’s face filled with concern and worry… He was trying to say something, but Stitch couldn’t hear him…

And in that moment, all Stitch could say was. “Stitch sorry…. Stitch so sorry.”

 

To be continued….

 

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Ooh, snap, what a thrilling chapter! Things are getting intense, and omg, poor Stitch! This precious cinnamon roll must be protected! Him being in pain is too much for my poor little heart! :'(

I love that you added Stiltzkin from IX to the story, I always liked him! And the man in the black coat is a very intriguing villain so far! Great work! Sorry that I took so long to comment! I've been busy with life!

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20 hours ago, The Transcendent Key said:

Ooh, snap, what a thrilling chapter! Things are getting intense, and omg, poor Stitch! This precious cinnamon roll must be protected! Him being in pain is too much for my poor little heart! :'(

I love that you added Stiltzkin from IX to the story, I always liked him! And the man in the black coat is a very intriguing villain so far! Great work! Sorry that I took so long to comment! I've been busy with life!

Glad you like some of the stuff in this chapter. However, I can't guarantee that this will be an isolated incident with Stitch.

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Chapter 9: Reluctance

 

Zell and Lulu sat in front of the little fireplace, exhausted and eating some rations that they kept on their persons. They had been out all day in the Mist trying to figure out a way back to Lindblum, to absolutely no avail. A steep cliff, a river and some wooded areas were the only thing nearby. They couldn’t call their ship down due to interference with the Mist either. They were well and truly stranded.

And it didn’t help that there were monsters lurking around outside.

“What do you think we should do next?” Zell said as he took a bite out of the ration bar.

“I’m not sure.” Lulu replied as she took a bite out of her own bar. It tasted very bland, but was packed with enough protein to make up for it. It wasn’t the first time they had had to eat these bars, so she was used to it. Still, she really would rather have been eating something a bit tastier. “I suppose we could try to find some kind of entrance in the Cliffside. It’d be a bit risky, though.”

“Yeah…” Zell said. “We might even have to abandon this place just to make any headway.”

Lulu looked around the little hut. They hadn’t tried going too far away from it, even though they might have found a way back up to Lindblum if they did. It was dusty and looked like it was falling apart. Or at least, that’s what it seemed. But it really felt like this place had been deliberately built like it was on purpose.

Both Lulu and Zell knew that there was something suspicious here, and perhaps against their better judgment had stayed. Plus, the more they were out in the Mist, the more tired and irritable they became.

“How do you think Omega and Stitch are doing?” Zell asked.

“Probably doing better than we are.” Lulu said dryly, but she was sure her own worry was plain. “The Target might be planning something similar for them.”

Zell punched the ground in angry. “Darn it! Just what does he want!?”

Lulu looked at the crackling flames. “I really don’t know. I just hope they’re okay.”

Zell looked at her. “Feeling a bit more accepting of Stitch then?”

“No, not really. He’s a little pain in the butt.” Lulu retorted. “Still, I do realize that Omega probably had a good reason for bringing him on board. It’d just be nice if he’d fill us in on that.”

“I’m sure he’ll tell us eventually.” Zell said. “Maybe we should actually talk it out with him, though?”

Lulu nodded and was about to say something when a terrible chill flew up her spin. It was a feeling that had crept on them ever since they got here, on and off, but at a consistent rate. Lulu tensed up and could tell that Zell had felt it too.

Without verbalizing anything, they both slowly crept to the window. As far as could be seen, there wasn’t any activity out there. But Lulu could just tell that some kind of creature was lurking out there in the Mist. It wasn’t a Heartless, though, that much they could surmise. In fact, they hadn’t encountered any Heartless while they were down here. The reason for that Lulu couldn’t begin to speculate on, and it didn’t make the situation any worse.

Zell placed his hand on the handle to the door and looked to Lulu for confirmation. Lulu took another quick look out the window again and nodded. Zell opened the door and slowly made his way out of the hut. Lulu followed him and together they checked the perimeter, again finding nothing. However, there was still that sense of unease over them. There was something out there, just waiting to strike.

“I’ll take the first watch this time.” Zell said and Lulu didn’t protest. She was just really hoping that Omega and Stitch were alright.

 

Lindblum Business District, Alley

 

“Stitch! Stitch, say something!” Omega shouted at Stitch, but Stitch didn’t respond. He had just collapsed against Omega’s arms, trembling, but unmistakably unconscious. Omega held him in disbelief, trying to figure out what happened in his head. It all led to one conclusion.

He turned to face Nero, his expression and voice filled with rage. “What did you do to him!?”

“You couldn’t begin to imagine the extent of what I’ve done to Experiment 626.”

“Why!? Why are you doing this!?”

Nero smirked. “To make you stronger.”

That was the last thing Omega thought he would say. That was what this was about? Was that why he destroyed Trabia? Was that why he was holding Lulu, Zell and Lindblum hostage? And Stitch?

Stitch’s body shook so violently that Omega had to tighten his grip. “You… you would hurt so many innocent people just to make me fight monsters? Just to make me use the Keyblade and become stronger?”

“Of course! My dear Omega, nothing is more important than you getting stronger.” The man said, his smirk widening as his eyes narrowed. “And I will force you to get stronger through any means.”

After he said that, he seemed to just fade away, as if he weren’t there to begin with. Omega didn’t waste any thoughts on where he might have gone as he took off his jacket and placed the still trembling Stitch in it. Stitch let out a little wheezing moan, but didn’t wake.

Stiltzkin, who had been understandably frozen in fear this entire time, slowly approached. “Umm, sorry… but what was that all about?”

He looked up at the Moogle. “I wish I could tell you, but I don’t really understand myself.” Omega said as he got up, holding the wrapped up Stitch to his chest.

“W-what are you going to do?”

“Well, as you can see, I don’t have many options.” Omega coolly said as he turned and looked around. He wanted to make sure that no Heartless was lurking around, as fighting them while holding Stitch would have been a chore. Perfectly doable, but not necessarily the most practical approach to take in this situation.

“Let me come with you!” Stiltzkin piped up. Omega stopped and turned back to look at him. Stiltzkin, who seemed to recoil a bit, but continued. “I mean, the Heartless might come back and I still have this book on me.” Omega just continued to look at the Moogle in silence, which clearly made him uncomfortable. “Maybe… I might be able to help your friend there, at least.”

Omega didn’t really need to think about the offer. In truth, he hadn’t actually intended on leaving Stiltzkin behind. As it happened, Omega had some suspicions he wanted to confirm concerning that book and this meeting. That Stiltzkin might be able to help out was just a bonus as far as he was concerned.

Before he could respond, however, another voice chimed in from overhead. “I wouldn’t say no to that. Moogle magic is very powerful, after all.” From some rooftop nearby, a short figure dropped down in front of Omega and Stiltzkin. The figure had blond hair, was well dressed and had a tail. Omega recognized him immediately.

“Zidane.”

“Oh, so you remembered me! That’s great.” Zidane said cheerfully. “Makes things a bit easier that way.”

“What do you want?” Omega said bluntly, while Stiltzkin stood there trying to make sense of everything. Omega could sympathize with his confusion, but had other things to worry about. “How long have you been here?”

“I’ve been around for a bit.” Zidane explained. “I was looking for the right moment to jump in.”

“Have you been following me?” Omega said. “Don’t think I don’t know a thief when I see one.”

“Seems I’ve been figured out.” Zidane said, in that same annoying friendly tone he had at the diner. “Though, rest assured, I’m not here to steal anything from you.”

“So you’re just out for an afternoon leisurely stalking?” Omega said dryly.

“Not exactly.” Zidane said. “I’ve been hired to keep an eye on you and your friends.” He put his hand up up to stop Omega from responding to that. “I know, you probably are not happy to hear that, but I will explain everything once we’re away from possible Heartless attacks.”

Omega snorted in exasperation at this short thief’s tone. He was the one who started this whole conversation at this moment and now he was trying to take the lead? Who did he think he was? However, another moan from Stitch made Omega calm down a little. Much as he hated it, he would have to wait till both Stitch and Stiltzkin were safe before he pressed the issue further.

“Fine, you better.” Omega said darkly to Zidane. He looked down at Stiltzkin. “Alright, follow me closely.”

Stiltzkin nodded and picked up his bag.

 

Business District Inn, an hour later

 

Omega tucked the blanket under Stitch’s chin and turned to Stiltzkin. “You sure?”

“Maybe… but even Moogle magic has its limits.” Stiltzkin said uneasily. Omega hadn’t been sure if he would even want to help after Stitch’s behavior towards him, but was grateful that Stiltzkin didn’t seem to care too much about that.

Omega didn’t say any of that, though. He just nodded, then looked at Stitch’s sleeping form. “Well, I appreciate anything you can do.” He told Stiltzkin before turning to Zidane, who was sitting on the window, looking calm with that annoying smile of his, while also having a good getaway next to him.

“And you,” Omega started in a completely different tone, one that showed his overall contempt. “You have exactly thirteen seconds to explain yourself before I decide to hack you into little pieces.”

“Oh come now, is that anyway to treat a friend?”

Omega just narrowed his eyes at him. “I’m gonna make this clear, Zidane. You and I are not friends. You are just someone who might be an ally at best and an obstacle to take down at worst.”

Zidane shrugged and shook his head. “Ah, you’re just as hardheaded as I was told.” Zidane said. “My group was hired by a man named Arcanus to keep an eye on you and help you out when we can.”

If he were expecting Omega to be surprised to hear this, he must have been very disappointed.

“Obviously the guy can’t take a hint.” Omega folded his arms and turned away from Zidane and watched Stiltzkin taking out several bottles of potions, ethers and any other things that Omega assumed he would be using on Stitch. The latter was squirming around, still clearly in pain. Omega wondered if he was dreaming. He pushed the thought away and turned back to look at Zidane. “Look, I don’t your help, especially if he’s offering.”

Zidane scratched the back of his head. “You really don’t like him, do you?” He said. “But, I’m not just going to break my contract. I stick to what I do.”

“Honor from a thief, that’s a rarity.”

“You can make the tired jokes, but the way I see it, you aren’t going to be getting rid of me so easily.” Zidane confidently placed his hands on his hips. “You need me.”

“Debatably.” Omega said as he cracked his neck. “Now would you prefer to leave by the door or, my preference,” Omega went and began opening the window, “thrown out the window?”

If Zidane had thought Omega was serious, it didn’t seem like it. It was clear, though, that he wasn’t about to give up without a fight.

“I know how to get down to the valley.” Zidane said and that made Omega pause, the window halfway open. Seeing he had the advantage, Zidane continued, “And my group can get down there and rescue your friends for you while you fight in the Festival.”

Omega looked back at Zidane. “You aren’t lying to me, are you?” He said in icy cold tone. Stiltzkin stopped what he was doing to listen. Zidane continued to stand his ground, though.

“No, absolutely not.” Zidane said. “I’m not trying to trick you, or take advantage of you. I just want to help you.”

“A lot of people have said that to me,” Omega said, approaching Zidane, “They often have secret agendas.”

“Yeah, well I don’t.” Zidane said, clearly not going to back down and unintimidated by the taller teenager. “And again, what choice do you really have?”

Omega and Zidane stared at each other for quite a while. The tension in the air was stifling, but Omega knew that Zidane was absolutely right. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, as much as he didn’t want the help, he knew he had no real choice. Whatever it took to save all three of them.

“Fine.” He looked away and back to bed where Stiltzkin and Stitch were. “I better not regret this.”

Zidane placed his hand on Omega’s shoulder as if they were all chummy and flashed a half-smile at him. “No worries, you won’t.”

The corner of Omega’s lip twitched. This already sucks.

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Chapter 10: The Festival of the Hunt

 

Lindblum Castle, Aircab Station

 

Omega leaned against the wall of the starting area, his arms folded and attempting contemplation. Something made more difficult by Zidane next to him, still acting annoyingly chummy. It took serious willpower to not beat him senseless, as the guards would no doubt not allow contestants to actively fight each other or worse. And he couldn’t afford to get disqualified or arrested.

“What’d you do with Stitch and Stiltzkin?” Zidane asked.

“They’re on my ship.” Omega replied.

“Ah, isn’t that breaking the rules?”

“Moogles travel to whatever worlds they want to go to with their own powers and even set up shop in many. And they leave holograms behind to run the shops when they aren’t in that world. It’s hardly a secret to them.”

Zidane chuckled a bit and kept up his barrage of questions, “And not worried about interfering with the ‘World Order’?”

“Not particularly.” Omega said, feeling as he did so his patience slowly eroding more and more.

“I’m starting to wonder if SeeDs have any regulations.” Zidane noted.

“They’re all bendable.”

“Well, how about-“

“You’re planning on just annoying me all day, aren’t you?” Omega asked dryly.

“Not all day.” Zidane replied, patting Omega’s shoulder. Omega just narrowed his eyes at him, but said nothing else. “Oh come on, don’t be like that.” Zidane said as he gently hook Omega. “No use in giving me the cold shoulder like that. We’re allies in this, after all.”

“I’m being blackmailed into doing while my friends are being held hostage.” Omega said, his contempt managing to seep out a little. “We’re allies only because you claimed you could help. Or did you forget that?”

“Hey, I’m just trying to help.” Zidane said. “Can’t look a gift Chocobo in the beak, can ya?”

“You just love the sound of your own voice, don’t you Zidane?”

“He sure does.” It was not Zidane who answered, but rather Freya, the rat woman from the bar. “Be thankful you aren’t a pretty woman.”

“Everyone’s picking on me today!” Zidane replied with a very fake sigh and even faker whiny tone.

One of the guards approached them. “We’ll be ready to start in just a few minutes. The rules are simple, you just have to go hunting for monsters within the town. You’ll have about an hour to kill as many monsters as possible or you can wait to try and slay the Zagnol.”

“The Zagnol?” Omega asked, his attention piqued this time.

“It’s a big, nasty fellow with very sharp horns.” The guard explained. “It is quite a fearsome foe.”

Then that was the one Omega would go after. If he could kill it, then everything would work out perfectly. Or at least, it seemed like it. There was no doubt that that man hadn’t factored such a creature into his plan. Still, it was Omega’s best option and not taking it down would allow someone else to do it instead and he couldn’t risk that.

“Now that we got the basics down, it’s time to talk about prizes. Each participant may choose a prize should they win the Hunt.” The guard said, which just greatly annoyed Omega even more because he was just saying obvious things now. The guard turned to Freya. “What do you wish for, madam?”

“I will ask for a specially made spear.” Freya said.

The guard nodded and looked at Zidane. “How about you?”

“I’ll just take some munny.” Zidane said, his hands behind his head again.

“So kid, you got anything you want for a prize?” The guard asked him. Omega didn’t even turn to look at him, he handed over a piece of paper. “Oh wow, this is unexpected. That’s quite a reward you want. You planning on making a feast with this?”

“More or less.”

Zidane whistled at that. “Seems you quite confident.”

“This won’t be much of a competition.” Omega said dryly. Zidane placed his hands behind his head and laughed as if Omega had told a funny joke, while Freya looked offended by the idea that she wasn’t being taken seriously by him. Omega didn’t really care either way. He didn’t have time or need for pleasantries, not with so much at stake. He could only hope he could rely on Zidane to fulfill his end of the deal.

 

???

 

Lulu hadn’t slept at all that night and she had a feeling Zell hadn’t either. They hadn’t had much chance to do so with some kind of creature stalking just outside the hut they were in. There was always the possibility that whatever it was would burst through the door and finally attack them. However, it hadn’t yet done so, though Lulu suspected it really was only a matter of time.

“Lu… you think it’s safe enough to make a break for it?” she heard Zell ask.

“I don’t know.” Lulu said. “We could probably beat whatever that thing is, but where will go?”

“Anywhere could be better than this.” Zell replied. “I mean, it’s an extremely obvious set up.”

“You don’t have to tell me twice…” Lulu said. “It’s not helpful.” She looked out the window again, hoping to catch a glimpse of the creature. “Still, we may just have to risk it.”

“Alright then.” Zell said as he went to the door and reached for the knob, just stopping inches from touching it. “Ready?”

Lulu held out her hands and one of her Moogle dolls appeared in them. She nodded, kneeling down as she did. “Ready.”

Zell took a deep breath and then wrenched the door open. The moment he did, the Moogle doll jumped out of Lulu’s hands and ran out the door and into the Mist. And as if drawn to it, what had been stalking them throughout the night appeared… yet they couldn’t actually see what it was! Finally, it made sense why they hadn’t been able to find it during the night. It grabbed the Moogle doll, which made it look like it was floating. And that was its big mistake, as Lulu started channeling fire magic through the doll. It unleashed an explosion that stunned the creature, allowing Zell to rush forward to try and punch it. He manage to land a hit on it, causing it to stumble back, as well as a strange reaction to occur. The skin that they had managed to strike took on various shades of dark grays, as well as black. The emblem of the Heartless was on its chest.

“It’s a Stealth Army.” Lulu called out to Zell, charging electricity through her doll. He jumped back to allow Lulu to send a burst of thunder magic through her doll at it, keeping it stunned so that Zell could continue to strike it with several kicks and punches. Each spot that was hit became visible, just like the initial strike. A large, chameleon like monster, this was a rare, but dangerous, Heartless. And one they could really use Omega’s help with, though by themselves it could be doable.

Still, Lulu knew they couldn’t keep this up indefinitely, as she felt her magic reserves deplete with each spell cast. Eventually, she would have to have her doll retreat so she could recover her energy, leaving Zell to find by himself. After hitting the now partially visible Heartless with ice magic, her limit was hit and the doll ran back to her. The lack of additional magic power meant the Stealth Army was much quicker to counteract, doing a quick swipe with its arms that managed to send Zell flying. Winded, but not down, Zell recovered and jumped up into air, managing to land a powerful kick onto the creatures back, knocking it down again, the Heartless then responded by gathering energy into its.

“Zell, to me!” Lulu called out, running towards the Stealth Army and Zell did so. Just as the monster unleashed blast, Lulu felt her magic return to her and cast her spell. The moogle doll floated in front of them, glowed and a magic barrier appears around them. It looked like it was made of glass almost and when it was struck by the beams, it shattered and flew outward, little bursts of energy following them. The two of them were unharmed, but the monster was hit and collapsed again. Not wasting another moment, Lulu charged for another powerful blast of fire and flew it at the creature.

The chameleon like creature shrieked in pain and fell still. Though, it wasn’t destroyed, it might have been down for the count… for now Lulu nearly collapsed, but Zell managed to catch her.

“Nice one, Lu. You okay?” Zell asked her, rather worried.

“Yeah… I’m fine. We just have to destroy this and we’re home free.” Lulu said, offering a small grin at Zell. Zell snorted and grinned back.

“Home free, perhaps.” A voice called just out of sight. Lulu and Zell looked up to see the man in black appear, as if out of thin air as he had so many times before. Lulu and Zell steadied themselves, but knew they weren’t going to be able to fight this man in their state. “Back to the stars, to chase what is so near, yet still so far.”

“Didn’t know you were a poetry nut.” Zell spat. “I’d stick with destroying worlds, though, since yours stinks.”

“Oh, my wayward children. Still no manners, I see.” The man said, that slight smile still on his lips as he placed his hand on the Stealth Army’s horn. “Though, you’ve been in the Mist for at least 36 hours, so perhaps it was unavoidable.”

“And what exactly was the point sending of us here?” Lulu said, managing to regain her breath and ability to stand on her own feet. “Just to get us angrier?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” The man asked as he examined the Heartless. “I had hoped to see how a Heartless would react to the Mist, to see if it’d become stronger when exposed to it. But sadly, it seems a slow infusion of the substance was not enough.” He stepped backward from the Stealth Army and before the duo could say anything, he raised his hand at it. Suddenly, the Mist around them began to be sucked into the large Heartless, as if it was water in a vortex! The Heartless bellowed again, as if in pain, shaking uncontrollably like it was going through a seizure! The vortex of Mist suddenly stopped and the Stealth Army let out another shriek as red and black armor suddenly appeared on its body.

“Ah, how interesting.” The man said as he checked out the Heartless’ new form. “Yes, this should suffice.” He snapped his fingers and the Heartless suddenly disappeared! Lulu and Zell grew even more tense. It had already been enough to take it down normally, but having to do it again in an upgraded form?

The man chuckled malevolently. “No worries. I have someone else who will fight this Armored Sneak.” He said, a glint in his violet eyes that Lulu did not like. She had a feeling just who he had in mind to fight his powered up monster. However, he did not elaborate further and instead looked up. “Ah, I see they’re finally here. Must have been drawn to all the fireworks.” Lulu and Zell looked up to see a small airship floating down to them. “Give my regards to Omega when you see him.” The man said as he faded away.

Before they could even fully regard everything that they had just witnessed, the airship landed and two individuals they’d never met before jumped out. One was a burly looking fellow bit a bandana over his eyes and a rather shabby looking clothes. The other was a short man with red hair that swished back, with his eyes covered by a belt, and several pieces of skin, including the left side of his face around the eye, looking liked patches of leathered showed on to him. The bigger one spoke first.

“Ah man, seems we were a little.” He said. He looked kind of brutish, but there was a way to how he talked that suggested he was far more sophisticated than one would expect.

“Naturally.” The second man said stoically. He too also had an air to how he spoke that didn’t quite match his physical description. “But that does not matter,” He pointed to Lulu and Zell, “we’re here for them, remember?”

“And just who in the Hell are you?” Zell nearly shouted, looking ready to start punching again.

“Calm down, your buddy sent us to grab you.” The bigger man said. “The name’s Marcus and that’s Blank.”

Lulu, at that moment, could not care less what their names were. “Omega would have come for us himself. Where is he?”

“He’s off competing in the Festival of the Hunt.” Blank replied. “Perhaps you heard about it before you got trapped down here?”

“Yeah, I did hear about it. But why would he be competing in that instead of savin’ us?” Zell asked.

“I think it’s best to talk about it on the way back.” Marcus said, going over to the side of the airship, which it’s landing ramp now open.

“Besides, we saw that Heartless you took down.” Blank said, his voice grim. “I have a feeling I know where it’s going to be next.”

Lulu grimaced and knew they were right. That “Armored Sneak” as it had been dubbed was going to be set loose on the town. “Thank you for the help.” She said as she stepped onto the airship, Zell following her, though much more silently.

Lulu and Zell walked into the small cabin, only to find a familiar mechanic working it. “Of course it’d be you two.” The mechanic they had met the other day said in a sardonic tone. “I’m not sure why I’m surprised.”

“Hey, I remember you!” Zell said, his mood suddenly lifted slightly, though Lulu wasn’t sure why. “Oh, it’s so good to see a familiar face, Mr… um?”

“Never you mind.” The mechanic interjected in a grumpy tone. “You two nitwits and your buddy are making me miss the festival with my kids.”

“Okay, why’s he here?” Lulu asked Blank as he jumped in.

“We needed an airship to get down and he’s something of an ally.” Blank said. “He also won the Festival of the Hunt a few years ago and we figured we might need an extra hand.”

“I still don’t understand what the Festival has to do with anything.” Zell chimed in.

“Well, you see,”

“Yeah yeah, all fascinating stuff, can we get going, or what?” the mechanic interrupted again, checking the engine as he did.

“Of course, don’t need to be so snippy.” Marcus said as he grabbed the wheel. “Ready whenever you are.”

“Hope you guys are ready to jump in if you need to.” Blank said as he leaned up against the railing. Lulu’s gut tightened even more than before. She really hoped Omega was okay.

 

Lindblum, Business District

 

The wolf creature let out a cry as it fell to the ground before falling silent. Marking it as his fiftieth kill, Omega continued on to his next target; the Zagnol. If his calculations on the time were right, it would be released into the business district in just a minute and if it was, there’d be no doubt that he’d be the winner in this sick game.

Omega stopped and took a moment to listen for any noises that would lead him to his target. He did hear something, but it wasn’t something he wanted to hear.

“Seems like I got here first.” Zidane said as he sat on high wall, eating a piece of fruit. “Though, no worries, I’ve not done much critter killing myself.”

“How thoughtful.” Omega said as he turned his attention back to the surrounding area. Zidane jumped down to join him. “Then I don’t need to make it clear that the Zagnol is mine.”

“Of course. What do you take me for?” Zidane inquired in a sheepish tone.

“I think he takes you for a backstabbing thief.” A voice from above them rang. Omega and Zidane both looked up to see Freya on the roof of a building. She jumped down to join them, a look anger still on her face. “Not that it wouldn’t be an apt description.”

“Freya, why must you break my heart so much?” Zidane said. Freya ignored him and approached Omega, who didn’t blink or back up as she did. The tension in the air was thick, but that wasn’t going to stop him.

“Can’t I help you?” Omega inquired in his best polite voice. Freya seemed to take more offense to that.

“I know you two are conspiring to get you to win. And I will not have it.”

“Oh? Is that it?” Omega shrugged.

Zidane sighed. “You know, it’s not very polite to eavesdrop on a private conversation.”

“Have such conversations where people won’t eavesdrop then.” Freya retorted.

“Look, Freya, I’m not helping him win. I’m just-“

“Don’t bother.” Omega interrupted. “Sorry, but I am going to win this.”

“I’ve been the victor of this hunt for years and I respect and honor it.” She replied, her voice full of anger. “You-“

Omega’s patience was at an end though and he coldly cut her off. “Look, I don’t care about winning or this hunt in general. I don’t care about any prize or any fame that could come with it. At the end of the day, I’ll be leaving this town and I don’t plan to come back anytime soon.” He narrowed his eyes at Freya. “I am still going to win this and nothing is going to stop me.”

Before Freya could reply, and Omega could tell she wanted to, there was a loud thudding heading their way. As expected, the Zagnol was there, by the fountain in the square. It was definitely larger than the other monsters that had been released into the streets, with its large hooves and horns looking particularly dangerous. But Omega had seen worse and as he summoned the Keyblade to his hand again, out of the corner of his eye, he saw that both Zidane and Freya had also readied their weapons.

The Zagnol began to charge at them… and then suddenly was pushed to the ground as if by an invisible force. It lay quite still, dead from the impact. The sudden abruptness of this startled the three of them.

“Well, this is… definitely different.” Zidane said. “I guess he wasn’t going to keep his end of the deal after all.”

“Of course he wasn’t.” Omega said, bracing himself more than before. Freya’s anger had now turned to confusion.

“What is going on?”

“A complicated story. One we would be best to save for later.” Zidane said. “All you need to know is that that is most likely a Heartless and a big one, no doubt.”

“I could figure that much out, Zidane.” Freya looked to Omega, though he didn’t look back. “Then I suppose this has something to do with you?”

“Do you want to keep talking or let that thing stay loose?” Omega said. However, he was not going to wait around for her answer as he dashed forward, he brought the Keyblade down to strike at the invisible creature, only to hear a clang of metal, a brief flash of color expanded from the impact. He had hit the arm of what looked like either a Stealth Sneak or Army, only this one had armor covering it. The creature pushed its arm in a backward swipe, which Omega only barely managed to dodge via a backflip. He landed on his feet as Zidane and Freya ran up to him.

“That was pointless.” Zidane said.

“Was it though?” Omega retorted. “We know exactly what we’re fighting now, don’t we?”

“Yes, and it looked very heavily armored.” Freya said, just as the Heartless roared and tried charging at them. Thinking quickly, Omega threw a blast of fire magic in front of them, which struck it and again made it temporarily visible. All three of them jumped out of the way, sending the creature hurtling into one of the stands, which had some kind of foul smelling food in barrels. Whatever it was, the juices from it managed to get all over the Heartless, which was momentarily stunned.

“If I’m right, there’s a weak spot we can very easily exploit.” Omega said. “Plus, we can use that smell to our advantage.”

“How’d you managed to figure that out in the two moments it was visible?” Zidane inquired.

“It doesn’t matter right now.” Omega said. “What matters is if we can hit it, we can take it down in one strike. We just need a clear, visible shot of it.”

Zidane shrugged as the Heartless began stirring. “Fine, I suppose I shall help you out.” He looked at Freya. “How about it? Think you could let that Heartless stay loose?”

Freya snorted, as if insulted by the question. “It would not do to let such an abominable creature live.” Freya said. “However, I demand to know exactly what is going on once we’re done.”

“Zidane can handle that.” Omega said as he surveyed the buildings while the Heartless was still down. “Alright then, Freya, stay on the rooftops, then when me and Zidane manage to make it visible, aim for the eyes or the neck.”

Freya nodded and without hesitation, jumped onto the roof. Omega looked at Zidane. “Well, if it’s all about making the creature visible, I think that fountain back where it showed up will help. Think that’ll work?

“Of course.” Omega said bluntly, as he had seen the Heartless got back up and then could see juice and vegetables falling off of its arm, making it a bit easier to see it now. It tried to swing its arm at Omega, who managed to parry it with the Keyblade. The Heartless shrieked in some pain as the armor became somewhat visible again, though it quickly faded as its eyes started to glow and a quick burst of energy homed in on them. Omega and Zell dodged, moving closer to the fountain they hoped to draw the monster to. It wasn’t a very smart creature, as it followed them, trying to swipe at them as it did. Eventually, they managed to get in position in front of the fountain. Omega held the Keyblade in front of him in a defensive position, as did Zidane with his daggers and, sure enough, the creature took the bait. It swung at them one last time, though both dropped their defenses just in time to dodge again. The fountain broke apart from the force of the blow. Water immediately flew into the air and down on the three of them. The water fell down on the Heartless, its silhouette now clearly visible.

Immediately, Freya jumped right onto the Heartless’ back, her spear managed to hit a groove in the armor. Not enough to get fully through, but enough to cause damage. The Heartless shrieked in pain, lurching backward as it briefly became visible again. And along with it, it’s bare and vulnerable underside was exposed. Omega lost no in rushing at the Heartless, stabbing the Keyblade straight through its chest. The creature let out one final shriek and fell to its side. Its body then vanished, releasing a blue heart like apparition that eventually faded away as well.

Omega let out a sigh of relief as it did. Zidane whistled, then patted Omega on the arm, the water from the fountain still raining down on them as it did. “That was impressive. How did you know its underside didn’t have any armor?”

“When I struck it the first time and it blocked me, I got a chance to see it when it became briefly visible.” Omega explained, looking at the place it had vanished. “I have fought Stealth Sneaks or similar Heartless before, but we do have data on them. I’ve never seen one like this before.”

“What about having Freya strike the head?”

“Well, isn’t it obvious? The eyes were not covered by the helmet so it could use its eye beams better and joints are always more lightly armored.”

“Well, that is true.” Zidane said. “Still, you’re full of many… surprises.”

Omega raised his eye brow and was about to ask what Zidane meant by that, but Freya moved forward. “Now that this is taken care of, I would like that explanation before the crowds come back down.” Freya said.

Zidane scratched the back of his head again. “Oh geez, it’s really quite a long story, Freya.”

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Chapter 11: Letters

 

Lindblum Business District

 

“Seems you have quite the enemy.” Freya said simply after Zidane had finished explaining everything. Omega didn’t respond, he just leaned up against the wall. “Seems I might have misjudged your motivations. Though your attitude, I certainly did not.”

“Would you rather I go around with a big fake smile?” Omega retorted.

“No, but you could treat your allies a bit better. Zidane might be annoying, but he’s reliable enough.”

“Awww, you do care, Frey.” Zidane said.

“Don’t call me that.” Freya said dryly.

‘Yes, he might be. Might be annoying that is.” Omega said. Zidane chuckled a bit at that, though Freya didn’t. “Still, I suppose I can at least trust him to not stab in the back. Steal my munny, maybe, but not betray me.”

“It’s a start.” Zidane said. “Either way, let’s go get your prize.”

Omega started walking away in the opposite direction. “No thanks.”  He said simply. “I don’t need it.”

“Huh?” Zidane said. Freya also looked rather surprised by this. “But you won, didn’t you?”

“Did I?” Omega looked in the direction of the Zagnol’s corpse. “Kind of looked to me that we couldn’t finish it.” Omega said, turning back to them, giving them a kind of playful smile. “Next time, though, I’ll win it fair and square. You better bring your all, Freya.”

And with that, he left without another word, off to his ship no doubt to rejoin his friends.

“I think that’s his way of complementing you, Freya.” Zidane said, putting his hands on his head and started walking away too. “Looks like you’re the winner by default then.”

“Where are you going?” Freya asked.

“I got a job to do and that’s keeping an eye on him. Though, might do it from a distance for a while.”

“Why take on such a job?”

“Hmm, who can say?” Zidane shrugged dismissively. “See you around, Freya.”

“Zidane,” Freya interjected before he could leave, “… that boy. There’s something not right about him.”

Zidane looked suddenly passive and… serious. It was a strange sight to her. Though he almost immediately was back to normal, shrugging her concern off. “Freya, you worry too much for your own good. You should relax a bit more.” And with that, he too left without another word, leaving Freya alone to her thoughts.

 

Gummi Ship

 

By the time they finally made it back to the ship, Lulu was utterly drained and exhausted. And perhaps a little disappointed that they hadn’t made it back to help out with the Heartless. Though she supposed she couldn’t complain too much since it just ended with just some property damage. Still… she couldn’t help wonder what the point of this whole situation was.

As she and Zell walked into their little mess hall, they were greeted by the sight and smell of a big plate of hot dogs and a grilled salmon. Seems this was the reason for why Omega left before she and Zell had even gotten back to the city. Zell, naturally, was quite ecstatic about the hot dogs, so he probably didn’t think too much on them.

Sure enough, Omega came over with Lulu and Zell’s preferred drinks in hand. “Seems I timed it just right.” Omega said as he placed the drinks down. “Give or take, maybe a few seconds off.” He added as he adjusted the plate of hot dogs, then the salmon.

“How thoughtful of you.” Lulu said as she went over to the chair with the grilled salmon, while Zell was already going at the hot dogs.

“It’s nothing, I just thought you guys would like a hot meal, so I just put something together.” Omega said. “And an apology that I couldn’t be there to bail you guys out myself. I just-“

“It’s alright, you don’t have to explain, dude.” Zell said, or at least what Lulu thought Zell was trying to say through his mouthful of hot dog meat. “Those Tantalus guys told us the gist of the situation.”

‘Yeah, those Tantalus guys.” Omega said, then fell silent. Lulu knew he was not going to say anything else about them. She took a bite of her own food for a second before saying anything else.

“So… I don’t see Stitch anywhere.” Lulu said. “Did he help out at all during this?”

It was almost as if a bit of gloom had fallen on the room, as Omega looked a bit hesitant to speak. Zell stopped eating for a second to listen as well, having picked up on the sudden change in mood. “Well…” Omega’s mouth twitched a bit in a scowl, but he did his best to hide it again. He explained everything that had happened in the alleyway the night before. About how the man in black, Nero as he claimed this time, had done something which caused Stitch to have a seizure of some sort. When Omega was done, Lulu held her forearms tightly, while Zell looked livid.

“That son of a-!” Zell said as he punched the table. The contents on the plates bounced a little, but thankfully didn’t go flying.

“Zell!” Lulu exclaiming, quickly holding onto her drink and plate instinctively.

“Sorry, Lu! But that’s just messed up!” Zell growled. “The creep couldn’t be happy just messing with us, and that’s just-!”

“I know, I know.” Lulu could feel her skin crawl at the very thought of what might have happened if Omega hadn’t contained the Armored Sneak. “How is Stitch, then?”

“Stitch? He’s fine, he’s just resting. Stiltzkin looked after him.” Omega told them. He didn’t seem like he was going to say anything more on the subject. Lulu made a note to herself to check in on Stitch herself just to make sure how fine he really was.

“Someone say my name?” A voice said behind them, startling both Lulu and Zell, though Omega remained silent and still in his seat.

“Guys, this is Stiltzkin. Though he wasn’t supposed to be out without permission.” Omega explained.

“Sorry, sorry. It’s just that I smelt food, couldn’t help but check it out.” Stiltzkin replied, rather jovially, considering the circumstances. He got up on one of the chairs and looked around. “In all the excitement, I kind of forgot to eat. Guess it wasn’t hard, considering I dropped most of my newly bought rations when the Heartless attacked me.”

“You kept your other bag rather close, though.” Omega said dryly.

“Hey, an adventurer should always keep his exploration tools safe.” Stiltzkin said, this time rather indignantly. He went and grabbed one of the hot dogs, much to Zell’s horror and took a bite before he could say anything. “Hey, this is pretty good!”

“It’s just a hot dog.” Omega noted dismissively, which caused Zell to look aghast at the mere thought.

“Why were the Heartless chasing you?” Lulu asked before Zell could protest either the theft of the hot dog or Omega’s dismissal of it.

“Oh, just the usual reasons.” Stiltzkin said as he took another bite. “Of course, they might have been drawn to this book I had.”

“Book? Why would they be drawn to a book?” Lulu inquired further.

Stiltzkin started to answer, but Omega cut him off, “It’s some kind of special book, containing some kind of world in its pages.” Omega looked at the Moogle. “Though how, he’s yet to tell me.”

“I don’t know! I just happened to find it on one of my travels.” Stiltzkin said. “If you guys want it, you can have it. It’s been more trouble than its worth.”

“We’ll see.” Omega said. “In the meantime, shall we take you back down to Lindblum?”

“That’s not necessary. I was planning to move to the next world anyway.” Stiltzkin said. “But, don’t have a destination yet, so I think I’ll stick with you guys for a while.”

“That wasn’t part of the deal.” Omega said, which amused Lulu. One stowaway was fine, but two was too much it seemed.

“I know, but you might require my help. Or, maybe I can interest you in something I found a while back?” Stiltzkin said, finishing the hot dog as he did.

“And what exactly would that be?” Omega asked, folding his arms.

Stiltzkin left for a moment, then came back with his bag. He must have put it out of sight, as if he had been practicing this. He jumped in the bag, then began to rummage through it in an almost comedic fashion, tossing things out of it. Finally, he came out of the bag again. “Whew, found it.”

“Not very organized.” Omega muttered.

“What did you find?” Lulu asked as Stiltzkin climbed out of his bag.

“This!” He exclaimed as he placed a bottle on the table.

Inside was a rolled up piece of paper. A piece of paper that looked like it had had a fair amount of water damage to it.

The three of them looked at it, though Zell was the first to speak. “What is it?”

Stiltzkin grinned. “A job for three SeeDs, of course!”

 

Alexandria, Town Square

 

The castle was huge, impressive and almost imposing, Iris thought. It was quite the sight to see as they came into the town, though. Especially with how it had the sword like structure in the center that looked like it was piercing the sky.

 

“Are you sure this is the place, Hope?” Iris said as she, Hope and Irvine walked through the town of Alexandria. It was a much older looking world than Traverse Town, with no electricity or machinery of any kind.

“I’m 100% positive that I’m not sure.” Hope admitted as they walked along. “I’m sorry, but it’s the best I could do given what we knew, you know?”

Iris sighed a bit. “I know, I know.” She looked around the square again, which had been filled with many different people in different states of dress. They had already been around a good chunk of the town, asking as many people as they could if they had seen anyone matching the descriptions of Omega, Lulu or Zell and each time the answer had been a no. Despite the fact that there was a general air of apathy with many of these individuals, it was increasingly likely that the trio had never been here.

“Unless they managed to get into the castle, I don’t think they were ever here.” Iris said.

“Seems like we’re on wild goose chase then.” Irvine stated nonchalantly.

“It is our mission, though.” Iris looked around the part of the town there were in. It was a big square with tons of shops, with the castle towering overhead. She very much wished they could just stick around for a little longer than they had previously with Thebes. But she had the feeling that that wasn’t gonna be an option. “Maybe we should split up and explore around the area again, just in case?”

“It’s about an hour before it’s dark out, based on the look of the sun. Do you think we’ll have time for it?” Hope said.

“Afraid of the dark now, after all the time we spent in Traverse Town?” Irvine teased.

“I’m not afraid of the dark! And we knew Traverse Town very well, so it’s not the same.” Hope insisted. Perhaps too strongly, but Iris knew he wasn’t wrong. It’s just that Hope really did let Irvine get under his skin a little too easily. Though, truth be told, she often got tired of his attitude as well.

“Hope is right, Irvine and you know that.” Iris said sternly.

Irvine shrugged. “Yeah yeah yeah. You guys take all the fun out of life.” He pointed his right finger at the sword like structure of the castle and mimed pulling a trigger. “What’s your suggestion then, Hope?”

“Well, we could always go and check Lindblum.” Hope replied. “Get back on the ship and we’ll be there in under an hour.”

Iris wondered about that. If they hadn’t been in this town, they could be in Lindblum, the only other major city on this world that they might find Omega’s group in. Of course, if they did leave, they still would be night and in another town they were not familiar with in the slightest. They’d be back at square one. But still, if they didn’t leave now, they’d run the risk of them already being gone. If they had been there to begin with.

“That might be the only thing we can do.” Iris admitted out loud. “We’ve been here all day and found nothing.”

“Seems like it.” Irvine said, turning back to them. “Kind of a boring place, anyway.”

With the three of them in agreement now, they turned and began to head back to the main street. As they passed by the pub, a woman with light blue hair walked out the door onto the street in a dramatic fashion that it was hard to ignore her. She approached Iris in particular and started talking. She had a strange accent to her that Iris could not figure out. “It’s about time you lot showed up. Fur crying out loud, I’ve been waiting for you guys for hours!”

Iris was taken a bit aback by the woman’s attitude and presence. She was a little shorter than Iris was, but seemed to be a lot taller than she was at the same time. “Um, sorry? Didn’t mean to… inconvenience you?” It was all she could think to say. Irvine chuckled a bit behind her, while she heard Hope chastise him a bit.

“Oh sure sure, that’s what they all say.” The woman said. “Anyway, name’s Ruby. I’m part of the Tantalus Troupe. No need for you to introduce yourselves, I already know yur names.”

“Tantalus?” Hope said soft. “That name sounds familiar.”

“As it should. Either way, come here.” The woman named Ruby said before grabbing Iris’s arm and yanking her away from the main street and into the entrance of the pub. “We must talk.”

“H-hey!” Iris said as she managed to pull her arm free just as they were right on the stairs. “Excuse me! I can walk myself.”

“What a rude woman.” Irvine whispered to Hope as they followed the two woman. If Ruby heard them, she didn’t show it.

“And what makes you think I even want to talk to you?” Iris said, trying to keep her temper even.

“Listen up, honey, it’d be best to talk in here than out there.” Ruby said, seemingly uninterested in Iris’ protestations. “It’s about yur buddies. Names are Omeka, Lala and Zeff, if I remember correctly.”

That caught their attention, but also just more annoyances. “Omega, Lulu and Zell?” Iris said, skeptically.

“Yes, whutever.” Ruby said, waving the correction off. “Now come on inside and we’ll talk about it more.

 

The next thing they knew, they were in a corner of the pub, which was suspiciously empty aside from the bartender, who looked to be trying to avoid looking at Ruby. Iris had a guess how it managed to be so empty. At her insistence, he was making drinks for them, though they were non-alcoholic at least

“Alright, listen up.” Ruby said once they were all settled and their drinks had been delivered by the jittery bartender. “Yur buddies just left this world earlier today.”

“You dragged us into this bar just to say that?” Iris said incredulously.

“What a waste of time this was then.” Irvine says as he took a sip of his drink.

“No, I dragged you into this dive to let you know where he’ll be next.” Ruby retorted. She pulled out of her satchel an envelope. “A tip from a reliable source who knows.”

“And how could he possibly know that?” Hope inquired with suspicion.

“He didn’t say, deary.” Ruby placed the envelope on the table, though she pressed her fingers against it.

“What would you have done if we’d gone to Lindblum instead?”

“It wouldn’t of mattered.” Ruby waved the suggestion off. “Plus, someone else from Tantalus would have just delivered you an identical letter. Once I tell him, he’ll burn his letter.” She eyed the three of them careful, tapping her forefinger on the envelope it a manner meant to draw their attention to it even more. “Whether you take it or not is yer choice. My guess is that yer not gunna get far without it, tho’.”

The three of them looked at each other. It was pretty clear now that Ruby had led them in here so they couldn’t get away from her when she offered this letter to them. Clever. The three of them, however, didn’t need to really think it over in private. They could tell that they were in agreement on this. It was the only lead they had.

Still, there was something about it that Iris didn’t like. “What’s the catch?” She inquired. “Why are you guys going through so much trouble to let us know where they are?”

Ruby gave them wry smile. “There’s no catch, darlin’.” She said. “I already got paid for this more than you kids could ever give me, plus interest. Makes no difference to me or Tantalus as a whole if you do or don’t.”

Iris looked at Hope and Irvine again, before looking back at Ruby. “Fine then.” She said as she held out her hand for the envelope. “Let’s see it.”

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