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Distant in the Dark

Chapter Text

"That all you got?!"

CLANG, CLANG, CLANG

"C'mon, make this painless for the both of us! Triple Spark!"

cling,cling
                    BRZZT
                     Kokoro ducks beneath the third and- CLANG! "Ack!"

"You call that a swing? Wha-BAM!"

CLANG!GGgggg 'Misaki is trying to hurt me.' That's not the truth. But Kokoro can't close her eyes; if she wants to free her friend, then she has to keep looking at Misaki, e-even as Saki-Inari is using her body to attack her. "M-Misaki, please... you have to fight it!"

CLANG "Hah! You think she even heard that?"

CLANG "I didn't ask you!"

Clang, clang, CLANG "Well, that's not very nice," CLANG!! BRRZZT-
-cling,cling,cling-
                      -CLANG! "I'm offering some good advice here, y'know!"

Kokoro turns around as fast as she can and retaliates. "Forget it! I'm not listening!"

CLANG!GGGggggg-----CLANG!!! But it's far from enough to stop her from being shoved back. She has to grind her shoes into the floor, just to stop herself before she hits the wall. "Fair enough," Saki-Inari says, twirling Wishful Thinking. "Lemme ask you a question though. How are you going to free Misaki?"

"...! I-I'm... I'll do it by calling out to her! I know she can hear me!"

"Ahahaha! That's not how possession works, Kokoro," Saki-Inari says. "Not that it matters anyway. I've locked her heart deep inside her body, so she's not hearing you at all. Forget about setting her free; you're not even gonna reach her!"

CLANG! Kokoro grits her teeth as the blunt end of Wishful Thinking slams down on Morning Star. "I'm not believing... anything you say...!"

Clang! clang- CLANG! Clang, -she's switching to the other end, block, block, block- CcCLANG, CcCLANG -keep blocking-

ccCCLANGG!

-Morning Star is knocked out of her hands,

SsSLASH!!!! "Aagh!"

"Give up already." SssSSLASH, SssSlash-Slash-Slash-Slash-Slash SLAM! "Thundara!" k cC CRCKL-RCKL SLASH!!!

Pain courses through Kokoro's body. You have to concentrate... y-you're in the air, Saki-Inari's leaping up, you have to move, "F-Fire!"

cling!

Even as Saki-Inari deflects it, Kokoro throttles herself away with the recoil and narrowly avoids another slash. "C-Cure!"

la-la-ra-rrrsh-

-CcCLANG! "A-ah!"

"Gah, too late," Saki-Inari says, swinging, "if I was any faster, I could've been DONE with this by now!"

CLANG!!! Sh-she's too strong. We need to keep a distance, or we can't- "No... I'm going back in!"

Clang, clang, Cl-

-THWAM!! "Ack!"

But she can't make a third swing without being kicked in the waist. Shaking her head, she ignores the pain and tries again:

CLANG! Clang-CLANG, CLANG-CLANG-CLANG-CLANG -w-wait, NO, that's too fast- CLANGCLANGCLANGCLANG, CLANGG,

-behind you-

CLANG!!! whoosh

-wait, where'd she go?! Kokoro's eyes dart desperately in fear until they see Misaki's Keyblade-

jump back JUMP BACK NOW

ssSSWING...!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"...Hah... hah..."

Kokoro lands at the other side of the room, panting. She dodged by an inch... if she'd been any slower, then...

bbrrrzzzkkkttt "Hey, you're already better than you were at Stigmatika," Saki-Inari says. "Hah. Wonder who's responsible for THAT!"

She's coming!

CcCLANG,

the saw howls,

CcCLANG, CcCLANG, CcCLANG,

"...gh!" Clang! CcCLANG, the Keyblade howls, "Ggrh...!" CcCcCLANG, CLANK-CLANG-CLANK, s-stay calm, swing under, don't take the brunt of it directly-

"Gotcha."

CLANG, "Gah!" -N-no! She switched to the blunt end-

CLANG!!!!!!

Kokoro's Keyblade shrieks as the force of Saki-Inari's swing hurls her against a pipe. "Ack...- ah!" CLANG! -it's too much- CcCLANG,,, CcCLANG,,, CLANG-CLANG-CLANG-CLANG "Stop it...!" K-Keep your back to the wall; that way, she can't get behind you!

CLANG, CLANG, "Thundaga!"

-cling!cling!cling!cling!cling! Th-that's it; Misaki always controls her Thunder magic, so it always has certain spreads. Just keep blocking at the right time- CLANG!!! "Ack!"

Saki-Inari flips Wishful Thinking around so the spiked end is being swung:

CcCcCLANG, CcCcCLANG, "Ggh... M-Misaki!"

CcCLANG!!

Gasping, she tries to back off;

SLASH

only for Saki-Inari to close-in immediately, giving her a flurry of blows to her chest with a brutal finisher. "Aghh.......! F-Fire!" Before her back can hit another wall, she grits her teeth and resists the sheer knockback with her Magic's recoil, trying to- CLANG! "Ack! N-no... BLIZARRA!"

cl-cl-cling,cling,

"Cure!" She shouts, then swings,

CLANG! "Talk about stubborn!" Saki-Inari says.

CLANG, CLANG, t-to the left, CLANG, sh-she's behind you!

CLANG! Saki-Inari leaps away: "Triple Spark!"

"Reflect!" She deflects the bolts of plasma and-

SsSLASH

-Feels Misaki's Keyblade hitting her side. "Gah!"

"Thanks for taking the bait!"

Slash-Slash-Slash SLAM, Thwack, sl-sl-sl sl-sl-sl SLAM! Slash, SLASH-SLASH-SLASH, SsSLASH!!!

Kokoro falls onto the floor. N-no, please! You have to get up before-

THWAM

At the last possible second, she clashes with the downward slam Saki-Inari makes. It's too much. She hates this. She can't take this anymore. It hurts too much now...

...Misaki. It hurts for you too, doesn't it?

Suddenly, Kokoro's body cools. "Give Misaki back," she says. CLANG! Clang, clang, clang, "Give... her... back!"

CLANG! Saki-Inari lifts Wishful Thinking. "You again. You keep getting in my way, you know that?" CLANG, she clashes again, then zips back; "Thunderstorm! Magnet Pull!"

Now's my chance! "Water - Drench!"

KKCRACKL KKCRACKL
                                        KKRACKL
                     KKCRACKL

     KKCRACKL

Kokoro's body moves on its own, the gems in her Keyblade gleaming as she counteracts the Magnet Pull with Drench's currents and stays away from Saki-Inari, dashing between the bolts that boom down from Thunderstorm as the black blade chases her. Keeping her breaths stable, she skids to the corner and yells: "Blizzara - Forest!"

"C'mon, make this easier for me, will you?!"

kkRSHRKL          kkRSHRKL
    kkRSHRKL      kkRSHRKL
kkRSHRKL          kkRSHRKL

Crystals of ice ascend and clash with the descending thunderbolts, light and darkness colliding. Kokoro darts between the frozen trees for cover and fires spell after spell faster than she ever normally could, continually contesting Saki-Inari's rabid approach with pure magical power. "Blizzard - Bloom!"

kkr-cling,cling, Clang! "There you are!" CLANG! CLANG, clang, CLANG! "Hah! Not bad!"

CLANG, "Water-"

"But not good enough."

            SSLASH! "Agh...!"

With that one opening, Saki-Inari clots Wishful Thinking with electricity and plunges it into the ground, simultaneously hurting Kokoro and shattering the icicle forest. Kokoro's heartbeat doubles as she finds herself back in darkness's clutches, enduring swing after brutal swing from every angle at a demonic, merciless over-pace.

CLANG, CLANG, CLANG

Concentrate. Please, keep concentrating.

What... wh-what's happening to her?

Kokoro can't explain what she's feeling. Her mind feels like it's splitting. The best way she can word is... she doesn't even feel like herself right now! "S-stop it. Leave me alone... just give Misaki BACK already!"

CLANG!!! "Whoa there!" CLANG! "What's the matter, Kokoro? Tired out?"

"Ack! Bl-Blizzard - Thistleburst!" k-SHRACKL!! A shotgun of ice forces Saki-Inari to dart away-

-there it is again.

Since when could she cast Blizzard like that?

It's infuriating her. Something isn't right. This isn't how she wants to save Misaki-

CLANG!!!

Her thoughts are cut short by a brutal swing. "Agh!" Her burning arms try to retaliate-

N-no! That won't work!

"-Shut up!" Kokoro shouts, her head pounding, swinging, CLANG, CLANG, CL-

CLANG!CLANG,

"Ggh...!" CcCLANG! "Agh! Get... off!" Her eyes narrow further as she casts messy arrays of Fires and Thunders again and again and again, swinging and swinging. Then she hears:

"Triple..."

"That's not gonna work!" Before Saki-Inari can finish casting, Kokoro thrusts Morning Star forward at maximum speed-

-only to hit thin air.

The cast was never finished.

"Where'd all that power go, huh?"

she hears.

slash-slash-slash slash-slash-slash SsSsSLASH!!!

Agony follows. Her vision spins with no end, and everything around her seemingly collapses, the walls and ceiling and floors all falling away as she tumbles across the rusty, reinforced steel. Every part of her body starts to hurt. Then, she feels a sudden THUD... and all the movement stops; as if the world just disconnected from her mangled perception of it. "Ack..... M-Misaki..."

Stand up. You have to stand up... you have to-

Anger suddenly flows through Kokoro's veins. More than anything, she wants her head to shut up; so she forces herself to get up. Get up. Get up already. Misaki's right there. She's right in front of you. All you need to do... is free her... what's stopping you?!

With enough force, she manages to stand. "Well, looks like this'll be over soon enough," Saki-Inari comments idly. "I can't even tell if you're trying anymore. What, you think just swinging that stick around is gonna accomplish anything? Forget it."

Her vision's blurry. It takes all her effort to even look forward. "I'm... not... leaving... without Misaki..."

"Like I said, you can't reach her, let alone free her. Quit thinking you're enough of a special someone to her that you can do that; because trust me, you're not."

Kokoro doesn't listen. She just shakes, desperate to stay on her feet even as her dizziness grows stronger... desperate to shut her noisy mind down and keep looking forward. "I CAN do it... I'm not stopping until she hears me!"

"Meh. Suit yourself." Two steps forward; the ebon Keyblade's eyes stare at her. "I mean, I didn't pin you for the sadistic type, but if you wanna beat her up that bad..."

"H-huh? W-wait, no, I'm not trying to hurt her!"

"Sure seemed like it to me. What else were those swings for?"

"No! I don't want to hurt Mis-"

"Then give up already," she hears from behind, "you don't have any way of separating me from her!"

SsSsSLASH!!!

Kokoro takes another blow. Everything gets blurrier; each movement of her arms, each spell she uses, they all become more and more impossible. Her nerves aren't working. Her body is burning.

CLANG, CLANG-CLANG

How can she free Misaki? Sh-she doesn't know. Is there even a way for her to do that...?

CLANG, THWAM!

"Ggh...!" I-if she can't find it, and if this keeps up, then-

SLASH!!!

"Aggh!" Another bruise. Even saying the word 'Cure' is painful now; Saki-Inari's too fast. She's too strong. Kokoro can't breathe for a second without her arms falling to the brunt of another clash.

CLANG, CLANG,CLANG, CLANG,CLANG,

She can't lose her heart. Not now... please...

...p-please don't do this...

 

---

 

"Stopga!"

The Enigmatic Figure is frozen.

Kaoru and Hagumi've taken their positions at the bottom of the tower, covering each other's backs. Letting them handle the Heartless, Chisato locks the bridge in stasis as the Figure crosses it, then flips over from the platform above, flying flawlessly through the air with a trail of aurora and her Sigil of Resilient Hope blaring as the wind makes way for her. The Figure is stuck in place, seemingly defenseless now; so Chisato descends mercilessly upon the bridge, aiming straight for her chest, gazing into the darkness shrouding the Figure's face and-

"...!"

She's moving!

CLAsSH!!

Chisato finds her Keyblade clashing with two shortswords of ice, their grit matching her own. That Stopga barely lasted a second on this person... "...Ggh!"

Clang!!

Chisato and the Figure disengage,

CLANG

before re-clashing with lethal intent.

Clang-clang-clang..... CC-CLANG!!! CLANG, CLANG-CLANG-CLANG

She doesn't cast any Magic. Not yet. She doesn't even need to assess whether it'd be dangerous to; she knows it is. The power behind this person's swings are a measured atrocity, a knell of speed and strength sliced with pinpoint precision.

CLANG CLANG CLANG

If Chisato relents at the wrong time to cast something... she'll instantly give her opponent a free hit.

clang, cl-CL-CLANG! cling,cling, CLANG!!!

The Figure makes an overconfident clash; Chisato matches the dual-swing of those swords with equal measure, bringing them to a deadlock, then takes the opportunity: "Thunder Blade - Advanced!"

BBRRTZKKZK!!!!!!

A surge of power forces the Figure back and shoots Chisato up. Lightning crackles beneath her as she soars and utters two commands: "Tempest! Blizzard Blade - Orbit!"

WWWRRRWRrRSHR- cling,cling,cling,cling,cling,cling,cling,cling,

The Figure blocks each and every gale of Chisato's tower-tearing tornado in regimented silence, before bursting upward in a cross-slash. The storm clears, and she collides with an electrified Resilient Hope-

SHNG!!!

-But the second she does, she finds her side smacked by an icy blade bigger than her own; and it's only one of several. She shoots down to a nearby ledge before she can take further damage, and observes how many are orbiting Chisato.

"You won't run!"

KR-CLANG!!!

A millisecond later, Chisato zips beside her and immediately begins to barge forward, forcing the Figure to deflect both Chisato's electrified Keyblade and the Orbit Blades.

cling,cling-KR-CLANG, KRZZZZT-CLANG, cling, the Figure takes a step back, Chisato circles, shng-shng-KrCLANG-krclang-krclang,

She doesn't let the Figure breathe, not for a single moment; allowing that would be too much of a risk. If this person can have an Orbit Blade as large as herself slam into her stomach, and not feel enough pain to be immobilized... then she's stubborn enough to deserve no mercy! "You're open!"

KKRRZZZZZTTT-SHATTER!

A calamitous swing from Resilient Hope annihilates the Figure's icy dual-blades, so quick that they can't even become dust. Chisato lets the lightning roar through her Keyblade, readies another lunge, and-

"Blizzard."

-moves on instinct just in time.

cling-cling-cling-cling-cling!

...If she hadn't stopped her lunge and blocked, she'd have been wounded by a storm of icicles,

CLANG!

and in the very next moment, she finds herself clashing with a new pair of dual-blades, staring into that hood of darkness again. The Figure... she can regenerate as many of these as she needs!

CLANG, CLANG, Clang, CLANG

The blades in question aren't large, or imposing; but their strength is so simultaneously brute and precise that it's chilling. They can easily match the power of Chisato's Keyblade through some kind of sheer will, even though they look so shatterably fragile- Clang!!! "Gggh! You...!"

The Figure finds an opportunity. "You're open," she says, swinging down and- CLUNK "...what?!"

-finding herself deflected by a barrier of wind ejecting from Chisato. The resulting force mangles the Figure's grip and causes her to stumble backwards; Chisato takes the opportunity, dashes in, and blasts the Figure's chest with a point-blank Fira.

Bwoosh!

She swings:

KRSLASH,SLASH, sl-sl-sl sl-sl-sl SLASH-KR-SLASH, Shing!!!!!!!!

She doesn't have time to make it as damaging as possible; if she'd capitalized any later on this opening, the Figure would've broken free. She lands another SLASH! for good measure, then jumps away to a different platform, keeping her distance. It'll be 60 seconds until the Wind Barrier regenerates... and now her opponent's going to be planning around it.

CLANG!

Sure enough, the Figure is already right behind her; she turns around and meets those icy swords with a perfect swing, leaving her and the Figure in a stalemate. There's an atmosphere of fear; each side is as desperate to land a hit on each other as they are to not be hit. They clash, again and again, their veteranship clear in their continued conflict, both of them knowing that one single mistake or sign of weakness could result in immediate pain. "Kkh...!"

CLANG!!

They deadlock again. Chisato wants, more than anything, to have a moment where she can surge Resilient Hope with as much Magic as possible and overwhelm this person; but she can't find the opening yet...

"Go, go, Chisato! Get her!"
"P-please be careful, my queen!"

Confidence... no, it's more like certainty. The Figure plans each attack believing she always knows the outcome, and she's trying to wear Chisato down. Is it possible to surprise her in some way?

CLANG, clang, CLANG, clang

The clashes never relent. Chisato furiously matches the precision of her opponent; the two of them speed around the tower, running on the ceilings of each platform and flying between levels to try and find any opening. Attempting to cut off the Figure's path, Chisato steps back; "Blizzag- ...ah?!"

-Wh-what?!

She's being... pulled?! From one end of the tower to the other, straight towards the Figure... quickly, she needs to break free- Clang! "Ggh-" SLssH!!! "Agh!"

Sl-slsl-slsl-slShnG-ShnG, Sll-sllsll-SllSll-sll SLssH-

-CLANG! "You... what did you-?!" CLANK! The Figure breaks through her guard again. "Gah...!"

SLL--SLl--Sll-sll- SLssH-SLssH-SLssH! sl-sl-sl-SLssH, SL-SLssH!!! "Limit Break! Ice Cage-"

Chisato narrows her eyes the second the Figure stops slashing, and lunges like a bullet train. "I'm afraid NOT!"

SHHHHHHNGGG!!!!!!

An electric slice cripples the Figure and causes her to groan. "Holy Blade!" Chisato has every intention of taking advantage; Thunder and Ice combine into one, surging a powerful light into Resilient Hope. "Let's see if you can handle this!"

wwSHHHHAAAOOOOWWW

SWING-SWING-SWING
              SWING-SWING-SWING
SWING-SWING-SWING
              SWING-SWING-SWING SHHNGG!!

"Limit Break - Electroweb!" Having thoroughly diced away in retaliation, Chisato flies up and summons strings of Thunder magic around her, letting them weave through the platform floor until they've cut deep inside. With a gleam of Resilient Hope's emeralds, the webs explode and electrocute the Figure, paralyzing her. "Now!"

"...Blizzard...!" The Figure stubbornly gets back on her feet and raises her blades as Chisato descends. Chisato holds her Keyblade up and guards against the storm of icicles the Figure summons, not letting herself be deter-

-no, wait. Are these Blizzards firing on a delay? The Figure is acting independently of them. If Chisato stops guarding and tries to finish her descent by clashing with the Figure, then... "...Tch! Pulse!"

She lands by the Figure's side instead and summons a set of spiralling waves, shielding herself from the rest of the icicles as she settles for an even trade:

CLANG!

"..."
"..."

The tension is thicker than mud. Neither side can overpower the other, no matter how much force they use.

They leap away as the platform beneath them crumbles, and wail at each other from up-close and afar, striking back and forth. Chisato finds her body being pulled around by that strange Magic on multiple further instances; the Figure seems to be hurling her around with a force of some kind, summoning un-cuttable vortexes that draw Chisato either straight towards her, or towards another location the she can try and pressure Chisato from. Fortunately, Chisato's too strong to be controlled by it; it can only send her flying, rather than directly manipulate her movement. That's what lets her plan retaliations in advance; she summons storms of ice and water whenever she's subject to it, so the Figure can't close in and take advantage. But... just what is that Magic? Chisato's never seen anything like it. Where did this person get it from?

               zzip

"Ah!" On pure instinct, she turns around and swings:

CLANG!!! "...You're fast," states the Figure's soft voice. "I was unable to surprise you, even with that."

What's going on...?! Wasn't the Figure on the other side of the tower just now? ...She can teleport?!

CLANG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As the Figure swings down mercilessly with both swords, Chisato mercilessly swings up with her Keyblade. The resulting collision sends them both skidding back; they each pause and catch their breath, letting the Magic inside them automatically heal the scant wounds they've sustained.

This person... just who on earth is she?

 

---

 

"Ugh...!" Morning Star clatters upon the ground as Kokoro is sent sprawling. She shudders as she tries to stand up- SSWING! "Ack!"

-Barely having dodged. "C'mon, you're just embarrassing yourself now," Saki-Inari says. "Give up."

"N-no." Gritting her teeth, she dematerializes Morning Star and re-summons it; "I won't-"

CLANG

"Ack!" ...Her heart nearly stops when she sees Saki-Inari's Keyblade, lifting up her pendant. "NO! Don't touch that!"

CLANG! "Oh, is it important? My bad!"

CLANG "Ggh...!"

CLANG, CLANG, CLANG, "C'mon, c'mon," it drones, "you were almost doing good when you used those fancy Blizzards; those were fun. Why not cast them again?"

C-Clang, "I-I don't need them to beat you...!"

CLANG! "Ahahaha! What kind of logic is that? Are you trying to lose?" CLANG, CLANG, "If you've got Magic like that, now's the best time to use it, you dunce!"

Y-you have to! You'll be overwhelmed if you don't! "Blizzar-"

...Kokoro stops her own words from finishing. What's going on? There's some kind of voice inside her head... and it doesn't feel like her own! Why?! "F-Fire-"

SsSLASH

"Ack!" Her temper flares; "get off...!" C-CLANG! "Get... OFF!"

CLANG! "So you're not gonna use it? Suit yourself."

CLANG CLANG, CLANG, CLANG CLANG, CLANG

It only takes a few more seconds until she loses out again, her grip too weak to fight back. Her body gets battered further and further, sent flying around the bottom of the castle, bruises racking up until everything is aching too much to bear.

SsSLASH!!! "Triple Spark!" Brzzk-brzzk-brzzk, SsSsSLASH!!!

It's impossible. This... this is impossible.

"C'mon, just call it quits. Ragdolling isn't my idea of fun."

"...Ggh..."

Saki-Inari gazes at Morning Star as it shakes in Kokoro's grip... eyeing the aquamarine gems upon it. "Aren't you stubborn. Go on then," she says, spinning Wishful Thinking. "Gimme your best shot."

...c-clang!

It's weak. It's hopeless. "Hey, hey. What about Cure? Don't tell me you've stopped using that too."

"I-I..." Kokoro gulps, her limbs shaking as Saki-Inari starts pushing forward. "I... don't need it to beat you..."

"Man, you're funny." The pressure gets worse. "What's going on in that head of yours? If you're gonna try and 'win' in some way, then the least you could do is use all the power you have-"

C-clang! "It's not my power! It... it can't be," she murmurs. "I don't know how to use Blizzara like that. I don't know how to use Cure. I don't know how-"

Use Thistleburst! She's wide open for it-

"St-stop talking!" CLANG, "I-I can do this on my own! I can save Misaki by myself-"

"Nah. Not a chance."

CLANG!

SLAM

Saki-Inari shoves an elbow into Kokoro, launching her into the wall. She drops and hits the floor, her senses breaking apart. "Ggh... ack..."

P-please use that Magic. You have to.

"...No," she says. Even though it's impossible, she stands up. "If I... can't save Misaki by myself, then..."

"Eh? Then what?" Saki-Inari asks. Her words are barely audible to Kokoro at this point. "Who're you even talking to, dummy?"

"I'm... going to free Misaki. No matter what..."

"Look. I'm not a fan of needless cruelty, alright? This is like the 50th time you've stood up and said that, and it's not gonna end any different. Hell, you're so exhausted that you can't stand straight. Just give up!"

"I... I have to free her-" mid-sentence, she falls to her knees; she has to hold her Keyblade to stop herself from keeling entirely. "I-I have to. It has to be me..."

A sigh. "And why's that?"

She lifts her head back up. "Because I care about her! A-and I know she cares about me. Misaki... we're best friends, aren't we? N-no, more than that, even. We've known each other for ages. If we really are that close, then... you can hear me right now, can't you? Please, you have to break free... you have to!"

"...Oh my god, this is gonna take forever. Fine then. I'll break that stubbornness of yours in one fell swoop."

Kokoro looks up. "H-huh?"

"Misaki can't hear you."

Her eyes narrow.

"I've already said it, but her heart is locked," Saki-Inari states, matter-of-factly. "Lemme try and visualize it for you. Picture a dark, dark cave, so long that almost nothing echoes through it. Then, picture me, putting a giant wall in front of it. That's her heart right now. That's what you're trying to shout into, Kokoro."

Her vision crumbles. She sees Saki-Inari's blurred form, approaching.

"Even if you managed to yell past that wall, you wouldn't reach; because your words're getting lost in tunnels that'll never go far enough to find her. Got it? You can't reach Misaki... because you're not close enough to her heart."

"...Close enough...?" Her body trembles. "What do you mean?! I've been her friend for her entire life! I know more about her than anyone else! If anyone can reach her, it's me!"

"But that's not quite true, is it? Sure, you're close... but you're not THAT close."

"I-I am!"

"You're not." Saki-Inari says that without a jeer or smirk on her face. Her expression is neutral. Clear. As if she's just stating the truth. "Her memories tell me the whole story. Even IF you had a way of freeing her from me... you two aren't close enough for it to work. There's only one person who could reach her now."

"Who...?" Kokoro mutters. "Who is it?"

"Kanon."

.

"You want the truth? Here it is, then: Kanon's heart is inside you."

"...What...?"

The second she hears those words, the voice in her head grows:

Kokoro...!

Th-that voice... it's...

"Bingo. Let's put it simply, so you can give up already," Saki-Inari says. "Kanon is the only reason you've lasted this long. If it wasn't for her, I'd have gotten your heart ages ago!"

K-Kokoro... please, run!

Kokoro can't process it. "But... back at the Islands, you-"

"Took her away. Yeah, that was the plan," Saki-Inari continues. "But I only managed to get her body. She was so stubborn that when I caught her, her heart flew out and hid inside YOUR body instead. She was so stubborn that when I tried to catch you by swallowing up the Island, her heart took you across dimensions all by itself, just so I couldn't find you!"

"Th-then I was in Traverse Town because-?"

"Now I'm starting to get why this has all been such a pain. I've slashed away at you so many times, both at Stigmatika and here, just to try and get your heart out, and HER heart's been getting in the way each time, protecting you. Her Magic's been manifesting inside you, letting your body use it, just so she could keep you safe. She's been helping you fight the Heartless all this time, just so they couldn't finish the job for me, and she's the entire reason you've become stronger so quickly. You wouldn't be here without her."

She drops to her knees. "K-Kanon... Kanon, you..."

"Honestly, when you think about it... it's kinda messed up for you to reject her help, isn't it?" Saki-Inari grins. "She's done so much to keep her precious Kokoro safe, and how'd you pay that back? By telling her she's not wanted. Because YOU want to save Misaki by yourself. Because if you relied on her... then that'd mean acknowledging SHE'S closer to Misaki than you are!"

...

"Admit it. That's what this has all been about."

Kokoro looks down. She holds the sapphire on her necklace. It's coarse. Murky. Uncomfortable. It's nothing like the ones her friends have.

"You're jealous. Because Misaki doesn't look at you the same way she looks at Kanon."

...

...why...

...why did she ever think she would be loved like that too? She's horrible... she pushed away one of her closest friends, just so she could be closer to the other. And it all amounted to nothing. If Misaki was watching this...

...she'd hate her.

Tears spill down Kokoro's face. They stain her shirt. She looks up as Saki-Inari towers over, and stares in anguish. "Where..." she asks, "wh-where's Kanon's body? Where did you put it?! Where is she?!"

"You think I'm gonna tell you that? Nah."

Her head swells with rage. She screams, stands up, runs toward Saki-Inari and swings.

"Guess you'll never know."

SLASH!

Then she falls to the ground.

She tries to move. But she can't. No matter how hard she tries... she can't make her body move anymore. She doesn't have any strength left.

...There's no point, anyway. Even if she could move... why would she? Why should she even try, knowing what a horrible person she is? There's no reason.

There's nothing. "...Kanon... Misaki..."

Everything slowly fades to black. She couldn't save her friends.

It's over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

...

...It's dark. She can't see. She can't tell where she is. But to her right, something appears. There's a figure shrouded in light, looking at her. Who is that?

...No. There's only one person it could be, couldn't it? "Kanon?" She asks quietly.

There's no response.

"Kanon... Kanon." Kokoro's words are frail. She swims weakly through the darkness, reaching out. The figure doesn't respond. "Kanon. I..." Kokoro wraps her arms around the figure, her tears falling. "I'm... so sorry... I'm so sorry... th-this is all my fault. We just wanted her back, and I... I...!"

There's no response. Every word becomes harder to say than the last.

"It's all because of me. I'm an idiot. I didn't understand. I thought that... I was with you two... i-in the same way that you were with each other. I didn't get it. I got confused, I felt like we were drifting apart somehow, I..." She holds her pendant. "I just wanted to believe Misaki felt the same way about me... as I did about her. Because then she'd be able to break free, right?"

No response.

"...Right. Hah, yeah, I forgot," she mutters weakly. "That wouldn't free her anyway, would it?"

No response.

She holds the figure closer. "I just... I-I couldn't bear the idea, of not knowing what to do, even as she was suffering right in front of me. And I just... couldn't stop thinking about whether I was important to her or not. Because no matter what I said, I couldn't reach her. I knew you probably could, but... I wanted to believe she loved me so much that she could break free for my sake. So I started telling myself that I didn't need your help. That I was enough on my own. I didn't think about anything else at all. I was only thinking about whether Misaki loved me... even though you were right there too, experiencing everything I was. It... probably hurt for you, didn't it? It hurt a lot for me. But I was only thinking about how much I was hurt. I... I'm the worst."

From the thawed goblet flows water. It rushes through the lungs, letting Kokoro breathe short, raspy breaths as she lets it spill.

"I'm the worst... I'm s-selfish... I'm so sorry, Kanon. I-I'm so sorry..."

...No response. There's only silence, as the light fades, and Kokoro sinks further.

Further and further into darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"But personally, I... wouldn't call it a weapon, Kokoro..."

 

 

Strange.

Since when did darkness feel like grains of sand?

Kokoro is weightless. She finds her body devoid of the need for strength; so she opens her eyes. Her arms are wrapped around someone's jacket, worn over their chainmail-laced shirt. She looks up; and above a silver pauldron, she finds...

...a face with violet eyes and black hair.

The figure disappears, leaving Kokoro's arms to hold nothing. Memories run through her.

"Meh, I just don't see the point, is all..."

The sounds of waves and seagulls decorate the air.

She's watching herself; a younger Kokoro, from 3 years ago, who's idly tilting herself left and right atop a tree stump as she looks at the golden blade she's holding. The blade isn't very sharp, and it looks kind of strange; above the handle, there's just two discombobulated beams of metal, connecting to an oddly-shaped star. The only other feature of note is the colourless gems, laden into its length. Idly, she stretches out her hand, and positions the blade in front of a backdrop; the sea surrounding Destiny Islands. "I mean, it's funny to look at, but I don't think I'd ever use it. Fighting isn't fun, so I don't need a weapon."

"..."

She turns to her right. Sitting beside her on another stump is that violet-eyed girl; she looks mature, but she's actually not much older than Kokoro is. "What's wrong, Rinko?" Kokoro asks. "You look distracted."

"Um... to be honest, I feel the same way," the girl responds. "I'm... not sure why I should be giving this power to people."

"But you're doing it anyway? You're pretty strange☆!"

"A-ah, sorry... I'm not allowed to explain," the girl says. "But personally, I... wouldn't call it a weapon, Kokoro..."

"Huh~? Is it not?"
"No... I think, um... it's more like a shield. Fufu... I guess that's a strange analogy for a Keyblade, isn't it...?"
"It is! But that's interesting~. I guess I can kinda see it," Kokoro responds, tilting her head and lightly poking herself with the object. "After all, it doesn't look like it hurts much."

"It can, but... it depends on the wielder. The Keyblade is shaped by the heart it was made from," the girl explains. "It can do lots of things; more than just fighting. It's very powerful... using it has helped me a lot."

Kokoro hums, backflipping from the stump and landing on a few large stones. "Well, I've never really felt in danger before, so I don't care whether it's powerful or not."

"Fufu. I can see that..."

"Can it make people smile?" She asks. "Kanon says she doesn't really know what to do with hers, so that's what I suggested. But neither of us know if it can do that."

"S-smile?" The girl seems surprised by this. "Well... in a way, y-yes, I think... but not directly."

"Eh? What's that supposed to mean?"

"It can make you feel safe. I'm... not a Keyblade Master, so I don't fully understand it, but..." the girl manifests her own Keyblade; a beautiful symphony of black and white. "I feel like... the Keyblade is a manifestation of yourself. It's a crystallisation of your desires. When you hold it, it reminds you of them... so if your deepest desire is to see your friends smile, then the Keyblade will remind you of that."

"...But I always want Misaki and Kanon to smile. I don't have any trouble remembering that," Kokoro says. "If it's not actually making them smile itself, then I don't need it, do I?"

"Yeah... I suppose so. In that sense, it... might not be useful to you now. It's not going to do anything for your friends. But if there's ever a day where you're feeling lost, or scared, then... I think having something like the Keyblade will reassure you."

These words go over the head of the young Kokoro. She doesn't really understand them yet.

"That's why, Kokoro... if you ever want to use it... make sure it's for yourself."

 

But now she does. "Because that way... I can smile, too."

 

Everything returns to black. It's cold, and empty. It's all so undeniably real that Kokoro feels like she's breathing fresh air for the first time. There's a soulless chill, running through her body and rapturing her with fear, drawing out her unlocked sorrow more and more. Her tears begin to flow again... her face drowned by all she's gone through.

In front of her lies Kanon; head-in-hands, sobbing. The sweet, wonderful person she's known all her life. Beneath that soft blue hair and those gentle eyes are as many tears as there are on Kokoro's. No, more. She's been crying for a long, long time now... ever since the day they were separated. She's felt all the pain Kokoro has, and more.

Kokoro reaches out. Slowly but surely, she swallows her fears, moves towards where Kanon's sitting... and grasps her hands. Kanon looks up at her in shock; and in response, she clings tight, saying:

"...I'm scared."

I'm scared.

It resonates. Their fingers curl around their palms, feeling each other's warmth. Kokoro stares into Kanon's eyes as her tears flow, just glad to see Kanon's face. Even at a time like this.

Kanon looks at those tears... and holds Kokoro's hands firmly.

Suddenly, willpower runs through Kokoro's body. She finds herself back at the bottom of Hollow Bastion. She sees herself, lying on the floor, swallowed by pain... and Misaki, controlled by someone else. Someone with an empty expression, who's about to sever the hearts lying in Kokoro's body, and end it all.

She takes a deep breath.

"I'm... not as close to Misaki as Kanon is. And I'm not as close to Kanon as Misaki is,"

she states.

"It hurts to say. It really does." She puts a hand to her heart. There's a soft, serene smile on her face. "But I won't run. I have to face it. Because if I don't... then it'll keep getting between us. Just like it's doing now. I want the three of us to be together again. I want us to be happy. So if this sadness will let that happen..."

Her hand reaches up, until it clutches the coarse sapphire resting on her chest.

"...then I'll accept it."

A soft, blue glow embraces her. Blue, like the lovely sea... blue like the endless sky. The diamond beads of the necklace Azelf gave her respond, suddenly glimmering in resplendent cyan until she transforms into Kanon. Her determination pillars unto itself, resting upon her body.

Then, she reaches out to the Kokoro lying on the floor... and the gems of Morning Star Aquamarine shine with her colour.

 

---

 

sssSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHRRRRRRRRR...!

"Wh-what?!" Genuinely staggered, Saki-Inari leaps back, gripping Wishful Thinking. The hell is that light...? It's enormous! "Oh god, what now?!"

Kokoro is flowing with energy; energy so azurely pristine that it pours out around her. A peaceful wind runs through the strands of her colour-changed hair, as her body slowly rises from the ground, enveloped in light. Her eyes open. She stands up. If Saki-Inari squints, she can see the source of the light: A coarse sapphire, dangling from Kokoro's neck.

And when she looks down, she can see Misaki's sapphire, glowing with the same colour. "No. You're kidding me."

 

---

 

sssSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHRRRRRRRRR...!

"...!"

Chisato steps back, startled. An enormous, azure light is glowing beneath the Enigmatic Figure's coat. The Figure seems just as surprised by it as she is. "Eh? What's going on?" Hagumi asks, looking around. "The Heartless seem scared. Is it because of that light?"

"...I see."

The Figure stares down at her chest, where the light is at its strongest, and states those two words... looking at how the glow colours her hand. For a moment, there's silence. Chisato contemplates attacking, but the sudden lack of tension in the air is disorienting her.

Turns out, she doesn't need to anyway. "The situation has changed," the Figure states. "This plan will most likely end in failure."

Chisato frowns. "Are you and Saki-Inari working together? For what purpose?"

"I've been unable to deter you sufficiently. My presence has become pointless... so for the time being, farewell."

"...! Wait!"

But with that, the Figure disappears, blinking away. "Chisato!" Kaoru yells. "The Heartless are relenting. There's still many of them, but...!"

Right; now they have their chance. They can proceed.

Chisato leaps to her friends' side in an instant with a storm of lightning. "Then there's no time to waste. We've kept Kokoro waiting long enough!"

 

---

"Blizzaga!"

Ice blooms from nowhere and batters Saki-Inari by the thousands, throttling her towards the back of the room. She grits her teeth before she falls and manages to land on her feet,

CLANG✶☆!

blocking just in time. "Ggrh...!"

Clang✶☆, CLANG,CLANG, Clang✶,Clang✶✶

She doesn't have a retort, nor any bluster. She's been rendered speechless by what she sees; a beautiful, crystalline-blue Keyblade that isn't Kokoro's, and Kokoro wielding it. Kokoro's hair is silked with a soft blue, and one of her eyes has turned amethyst, just like... just like... "...Kanon Matsubara!"

"G-give her back. Give Misaki back!"

SHHH-RACKL

The fear in her opponent's voice betrays the power of her attack; it generates a trail of ice that catches Saki-Inari's arm even as she parries properly, locking her in place for a flurry of arctic slashes. The swings don't feel any stronger than Kokoro's, but there's power... there's so much power behind them! How?!

Shng-shng-shng✶, shng-shng-shng✶, "Watera - Rapids!" FLLl---Ssh- ssh-ssh- ssh-ssh- ssh-ssh!!!!!

A tube of lasers formed from spiralling currents slashes into her, leaving her wide open for another swing. Her opponent, Kokoro or Kanon be damned, makes it count:

SSSLll -s-- -s-- -s-- sHNG✶☆! "Watera - Drench!"

And right as she recovers, she feels a river surge at her knees, preventing her from leaping in to retaliate. "Pattern-casting Tier 2 Magic... you're kidding. Kanon isn't supposed to be THIS strong!"

CLANG✶, Clang✶,

"Kkh...!" Sure, as far as Misaki's memories indicate, she's more capable than Kokoro; but not by much, right?! "H-Hah. If you really ARE that strong, then... that's actually kinda interesting-"

Clang✶, clang-clang✶, SHNG

"-Gah!" She swings back furiously; "Though I'd probably find it more interesting," CLANG, CcCLANG-CC-C-CLANG "if you weren't getting in my way!"

CL ANG✶

Her opponent leaps back, covering her path with a hail of frozen flowers. After Saki-Inari blocks them, she looks forward; only to find no one there. Instead, there's now a lake of lilypads replacing the ground beneath her feet, and she starts being assailed by swings imbued with Water and Ice, coming gracefully from different sides, their perpetrator skating just out of her sight; they're such smooth, fluid motions, and yet they're so forceful that it takes her full concentration to clash with them properly. "Who the hell am I actually fighting?" Clang☆! Clang✶, Clang☆! "Which one of your hearts is in control?! Kokoro's or Kanon's?!"

"Both!"

✶CLANG☆! Th-then there's only one explanation. Their hearts fused!

"Blizzard - Thistleburst!"

k-SHRACKL!! "Gah!" Trails of ice begin to surround her with each of her opponent's attacks, trying to encapsulate her. She adapts and flips Wishful Thinking around, swinging forcefully with its spiked end to rip through and shatter them. This is happening too fast... she can't afford to fall behind. She needs a plan, now! "Thundaga!"

KkCRACKL- KkCRACKL
                               - KkCRACKL
KkCRACKL-

     - KkCRACKL

BRZZT-BRZZT-BRZZT-CLANG!!!

She follows up her lightning volley with a Triple Spark, locking this confusing Kokoro look-alike down and pushing forward with a brutal lunge. She makes another dark swing, and another, and another, forcing the offensive as much as she can so she doesn't have to face any more of that crazy-ass magic;

CLANG, Clang✶, CLANG, Clang✶✶,

Kokoro and Kanon might be moving as one; Co-Kanon, she'll call them. But whose powers are being used more? Whose knowledge is controlling their swings more? This Keyblade she's staring down looks a bit more like Kanon's, and Ice magic is Kanon's thing, so... ah, damnit, she's never fought Kanon before! What should she do?! This magic's super constrictive on her movement, and Misaki's body is weaker than her own, so she can't freewheel it... agh, but she doesn't know enough about Kanon to be more strategic either! Think, think for once...

...oh snap, right! She has access to Misaki's memories! She's gotta check them again; they might tell her Kanon's habits-

G̨̧̢͘E̵͡T͠͡҉͡ ̵̨͞Ơ̴U̡͘T̴̡͘͞

-

...oh, shit.

Saki-Inari gulps. As she swings, she stares down at her chest; and sees that Misaki's pendant is glowing.

ĢE̢̨͡T͞

OUT

"Ack...!"

CLANG✶✶!!!

As Co-Kanon lunges towards forward, Saki-Inari suddenly feels drained of energy; she only barely blocks in time. "Gggh...!"

"Misaki, c-can you hear me?! Please, you have to fight it!"

"Rrrggh... aggh!" The pendant shines again, and Saki-Inari's head violently aches. Her voice - Misaki's voice - lets out a mangled groan, causing her to shudder in pain. Moving this body is getting harder now... damn it, Misaki's awake, isn't she? She heard Kanon's voice and woke up!

GET OUT OF MY HEAD

Saki-Inari redoubles her focus and starts attacking like her life depends on it, deflecting the incoming swings with so much force she nearly knocks Co-Kanon down in the process. Concentrate, she has to concentrate; screw the headache, she's gotta stay focused! "Aerora! Magnet Pull! Tr- agh...! Tr-Triple Spark!"

Despite the stammer, she still manages an overwhelming assault, pulling Co-Kanon towards a sphere of gales and then forcing her to block the sparks. Shooting around to the other side, Saki-Inari tries to swing as fast as she can:

CLANG!! Cl-Clang! CLANG-CLANG-

Clang✶, Clang✶✶, Clang✶✶✶, kkkkkrkl

"Ack!" Shit, the ice! CcCLANG, CcCLANG-

Clang,clang,clang,clang✶,clang✶

"H-hah, you're fast!" CLANG,CLANG,CLANG

CLANG☆,CLANG☆,CLANG☆

Gah... she actually can't respond quickly enough... damn it, if Misaki would just sit still, then she'd be having such an easier time with this!

        swwww

"...!"

Frightened by a low-angled swing, she jumps back and-

SHNG-SHNG-SHNG

"Gggah...!" That was a feint!

SHNG-SHNG-SHNG, SHNG-SHNG-SHNG, "Thistleburst!" k-SHRACKL!!, k-SHRACKL!!, k-SHRACKL-

"Don't... mess with me!" -CcCLANG-clang-clang-clang-SLASH!! SL- cCLANG☾✶!!!

Curves of thunder and ice strike exactly in intersection, forcing both sides back. Saki-Inari shakes her head and stares, dumbfoundedly, at the aura coursing from the person whose hearts she's trying to snag. "Sh-sheesh... you're being unfair... where's all this power coming from?!"

"My friend," rings the response, as the turquoise Keyblade is raised.

Her gut sinks. "Hah... of course it is." She mutters. "...But you know what? I c-can handle this. Besides, that power doesn't mean anything. It doesn't matter whether you win or not; you can't free Misaki from my body, no matter how much stronger you get. All you're doing with these attacks of yours is hurting her!"

Yeah... exactly... sure, Misaki can make it harder for her to move, but it's impossible for Misaki to actually break free. That's not how possession works. Misaki's soul can't be separated from hers unless she deliberately lets it happen.

And yet Co-Kanon isn't hesitating.

CLANG!

She's still attacking. With just as much power as before. She's taking the lead and forcing Saki-Inari to dart around the place. Saki-Inari has to keep stepping back so she can avoid the full brunt of Co-Kanon's magic and deflect any swings thrown her way; that's all she CAN do, thanks to Misaki. It's like with each call Co-Kanon makes, Misaki's body is fighting her control more and more. "Just... g-give it up and make this easy for me already," CLANG "it doesn't matter how much you beat me up," CLANG,CLANG "and it doesn't matter how much of a pain your friend makes this for me," CLANG-CLANG-CLANG, "she's not breaking free from my control... and you're not getting her back! She can struggle all she wants, but it won't accomplish a thing!" CLANGCLANGCLANGCLANG "There's no known way... of freeing a human... from a Heartless's possession... so just, give, UP!!! Thundag-"

k-SHRACKL✶!! Clang✶!

"Argh!"

Co-Kanon fires a Thistleburst and swings immediately after, overwhelming Saki-Inari with a sudden burst of force,

Clang✶

then she swings, and swings, and swings again, her flowing cuts emphasized by explosive shrapnels of frost. It takes all of Saki-Inari's effort just to keep up with them.

Clang✶

Her heart pounds. Wait, no, she doesn't have a heart; it's Misaki's heart that's pounding right now...!

Clang✶

"Th-this has to be a joke," she manages. "All these swings you're making," Clang✶ "there's nothing backing them up but some wishy-washy hope. Possession can't be undone by force-" Clang✶ "Agh...! Quit it! Like hell you two actually know a way to free your friend, right?! You can't...! There literally is none!"

Clang✶

So... why do they keep swinging? Why aren't they listening to her? Hell, she's doing them a favour by telling them this! This is wasted effort!

Clang✶

Think. Why are they acting like if they thrash her hard enough, they'll win? Is it something instinctual...? Do they know, subconsciously, that there's something they can do?

Clang✶

Subconsciously... no, it can't be the Keyblade, right? Sure, she's no expert on the thing; it's not like she ever became a Master herself. But surely those things aren't capable of separating souls... right?!

Clang✶

There's no way. There can't be-

-Saki-Inari gasps, as she remembers something an old friend once told her:

"I feel like... the Keyblade is a manifestation of yourself. It's a crystallisation of your desires."

...No.

There's no way.

GET
OUT
OF
MY
HEAD

CLANG✶

Her head pounds - Misaki's head, even. She looks at the very Keyblade she's using; Misaki's blade, Wishful Thinking. Right now, Misaki's desire is to break free.

CLANG✶

She looks at the Keyblade she's fighting; it's probably a combination of Kokoro and Kanon's. Right now, their desire is to free Misaki.

Clang✶,
Clang✶,
SHNG✶!!!!

"Agh!"

Her limbs fail to move in time; she's sent flying by the next swing, slashes of frost marking Misaki's jacket. The sapphire on Misaki's pendant keeps glowing, just like the sapphire on Kokoro's. It's glowing, because...

"I, um. I almost forgot. I finished what I was making today. It's... a gift."
"You mean...?"
"Here. This is for you, Misaki."

GET OUT
"This... this is..."
She nods. "Yeah. You made mine, so... I wanted to try and make one for you."

GET OUT
"D-does it look okay? I know it's not as good as yours, but... I wanted to do this, really badly. For you.""...Yeah.It'sperfect."Seconds pass.One,byonebyoneEachbreathcomesinandout"Misaki..."
GET
OUT

Saki-Inari growls. "LIKE. HELL!"

CLANG, CLANG, CLANG!!! "Kkh...!" Co-Kanon stands her ground. "Misaki!"

Saki-Inari starts retaliating in full force. It's funny; she's not normally the type to get angry. But being in this body f-feels like it's making her act like its owner. Maybe all the snark she's been spouting, all the decisions she's been making in her fights, the hostility, the anger... even the panic she's feeling now... hah, i-is Misaki affecting her this much? Th-that's actually kinda interesting! She didn't know possession could do that! "Thunderstorm!"

"Blizzaga - Rainforest!"

Her jaw drops. "Tier 3 Pattern-casts?!"

KKCRACKL KKCRACKL
                                        KKRACKL
                     KKCRACKL

     KKCRACKL
kkRSHRKL   kkRSHRKL   kkRSHRKL
    kkRSHRKL kkRSHRKL kkRSHRKL
kkRSHRKL   kkRSHRKL   kkRSHRKL

Saki-Inari finds the very ground beneath her remade into a magic forest, bark and grass alike formed from ice, attacking her with autonomous Blizzards as if alive and fighting the thunderbolts she rains from above. Furiously, she becomes a living maelstrom, trying to deflect and crush all in her path; "If you want Misaki that bad," she spews, "then try and take her! Limit Break - Dark Aura!"

In an instant, she disappears, her eyes finding that glowing blue hair in a second flat. Then she teleports to the side, and lunges,
CLANG
and then warps to another side, and lunges,
CLANG
then she warps again, and lunges, CLANG and lunges,CLANGand lunges,andlungesCLANGandlungesCLANGCLANGCLANGandlungesandlungesandlungesandlungesCLANGCLANGCLANGCLANGCLANGCLANGCLANGCLANGCLANGCLANG✶CLANG✶CLANG✶

CLANG✶!

-only to be stopped. "You...!" CLANG, Clang✶! "Give me your hearts! They're the last thing I need!"

"Misaki... you can hear me, can't you?!"

The pain surges. "...Ggh...!"

"It hurts. I-It hurts to have to do this," Kanon says, "but right now, I know you're hurting more than anyone. So I'm going to save you, Misaki... I'm going to repay you for all the times you've been there for me."

N-no! Her grip's getting weaker!

"I'm here for you. So, please, hear me... come back home, Misaki!"

"N-no... you're staying... right... here!" Demonically, she swings:

Clang,clang, CcCLANG, CcCLANG, CLANG-CLANG- clang,clang✶,clang✶✶,Clang☆☆!

clang, clang, SHNG! "Ggah...!" CLANG, CLANG, CLANG... clangclangCLANGCLANGCLANGCLANG CLANG✶☆!!! "Give... up already... all I've been dealing with is setback after setback... so just give me what I need already!" CLANG, CLANG, "Give me those hearts so I can open the damn portal," CLANG, "and get this plan OVER ALREA-"

"...There! Blizzara - Thistleburst!"

k-SHRACKL!! SHNG☆✶☆! "Argh...! Like... HELL!"

CLANG,
          Clang,
CLANG,
          Clang,

Saki-Inari feels the pain wash over. Her vision gets darker as she swings. She has to keep going... she can't stop now!

CLANG,
          Clang,
CLANG,
          Clang,

Keep swinging... she has to keep swinging. It doesn't matter how much Misaki tries to stop her, she HAS to see this through... she's getting those hearts, one way or another!

C-cLANG,
          Clang,
clang,
          Clang,

It's taken her too long to get to this point! She didn't get this far just to fail at the last moment!

She didn't throw away everything for nothing! "LIMIT BREA-"

Before her dark aura can flare, she's cut off by a burst of ice, suddenly detonating from the trail of Co-Kanon's swings. Gritting her teeth, she zips around in a split second and tries to exploit an opening:

C-CLANG!

"Got you!" Now-

SHNG☆!

"Ggah-!" N-no, no-

Shng☆,shng-shng-shng✶, shng-shng-shng SLASH✶✶!

one opening, one opening, that's all she needs,

Clang, clang, clang, c-clang, CLANG, CLANG,

THERE, NOW, THAT'S IT

CLANG!!!

There, you've done it, one last slash, that's all you need, it's right there-

fllll

SHOOOOOOOOOM

...

...

...Ah.

She's flying.

What hit her...? It sounded like... Water magic. How did she not notice? ...She doesn't know. She didn't have the time to process it.

And now,

she doesn't have the time,

to process what's about to happen.

She can only look at the Kanon-coloured Kokoro standing beneath her, that blue Keyblade pointed forward, and watch as monochrome lines gather at its tip.

"Reign's... End."

A beam of black and white hits Saki-Inari in the chest.

The two souls are separated.

 

---

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"...Hah... hah..."

Misaki is lying on the floor of Hollow Bastion.

"Hah... hah..." Kokoro pants. "Did it... work?" Sweat pours down her face. Her amethyst eye is turning yellow. Before Kanon's consciousness can fade, she runs over. "Misaki... Misaki!"

Misaki's in her arms... eyes closed, breaths soft. There's no aura of darkness around her. Kanon holds the back of her head, softly combing her fingers between those tangled black knots.

"Misaki... Misaki, please, wake up...!"

Her heart is beating; terrified, yet hopeful. She bears through it and waits, staring at Misaki's face with her chest clenched. Waiting... waiting...

...

...

"...mgh... mrrgh..."

She gasps. Misaki's eyes are slowly opening. Irises of a soft, calm sky-grey are meeting Kanon's. It's...

...i-it's her.

It really is her! "Misaki...!"

Misaki blinks. "K-Kokoro? No... Kanon? Is... that... you...?"

Kanon cries, and hugs her. Misaki lets out a gasp as she feels a pair of shaking arms, clutching tight around her hoodie. Kanon buries her head into Misaki's shoulder, surrounding herself in her girlfriend's warmth. It feels just like home again. "I-I'm... I'm so glad... finally."

"This... isn't a dream, is it...?" Misaki's hands move, finding Kanon's back. "N-no, I can move my body... that asshole's gone. I'm free...!"

Upon hearing those words, Kanon lets out a breath she's been holding for weeks... and she closes her eyes. Her hair turns golden; Kokoro's hair. Kokoro senses their hearts split back apart inside her body, a warm, whole relief emanating through them both as a barrage of sensations overwhelms her. Misaki's in her arms. Misaki is... holding the back of her head, quietly...

...finally...

...Misaki's... finally here.

They're finally together again. After all this time. "M-Misaki... Misaki...!"

"...Ah, sheesh..." The voice is hoarse, but soft. "Don't just keep yourself buried in there, silly. Lemme see your face, at least." At that response, Kokoro looks up. The two of them see each other's tears, flowing from their eyes. "...Kokoro... you're crying...?"

"It... really is you, isn't it?"

There's a weak smile. "Mhm. Misaki Okusawa. The one and only."

That's all she needs to know. She buries herself right back into Misaki's shoulder, and stays there, a smile of her own growing beneath her sobs. It's a new emotion for her. She didn't realize she could feel both happy and sad, all at once.

Misaki shuffles closer and relaxes. "I'm home, Kokoro."

"Yeah," Kokoro whispers. "Welcome back☆."