A/N: Due to lack of school tomorrow, you guys get the new chapter a little earlier than scheduled. This is another chapter with a sucky title. If anyone wants to make a suggestion as to a different name for it, lay it on me in the comments. I shall owe you a thousand thank yous and a Health Drink. As usual, keep checking NekoKingdomHeart for awesomeness and win. Enjoy!
Edit: And the health drink and thankyous go to katana-crazy! Also thank you for correcting me on a foolish error.
Chapter 19: Betwixt Missions
The moment was tense. The four black-cloaked figures stared at one another across the table, assessing one another. Sweat trickled down the eldest’s brow and he wiped it away before it got to his one good eye.
“Don’t trust your luck, Xiggy?” mocked the only woman at the table, a lightly built creature with a wide face, green eyes, and blond hair that was slicked back against her skull except for a pair of cowlicks that never stayed down for long.
“As if,” the older man--who had long black hair streaked with gray, an eye patch, a cigarette dangling from his lips, and a scar on his cheek--snorted. “I’m perfectly set to take all you kids down.”
“Then raise the bet,” said another young man, with thick strawberry pink hair, lovingly cared for, wearing a sort of disdainful smirk.
The man with the eye patch snorted and tossed a few bills on the table before looking back down with his cards with a heavy heart.
“Aw, Xiggy’s got a bad hand,” chuckled the third man at the table--a spry sort of guy with a dirty blonde mullet and green eyes.
“Shut up,” the older man, whose name was Xigbar, snapped.
The other three laughed humorlessly. The one with the mullet--Demyx--turned his attention to his cards without much interest. “You guys seen Axel around lately?” he asked, tossing a wad of cash into the center of the table.
The woman chimed in immediately. “He’s off on a mission with Saïx.”
“Yes, you would know, Larxene,” Marluxia, the other man, sneered at the woman.
Larxene half-rose and slammed her hand on the table. “Watch it…” she warned with a growl, pointing her cards at Marluxia threateningly.
There was a small whoosh nearby. All four poker players looked over at the oval portal that had suddenly broken the monotonous grey of the room they were playing in--and pretty much every other part of the Castle that Never Was.
Out of the portal stepped a short figure, wearing a black cloak almost exactly like theirs, with his hood up.
Larxene sat down and crossed her arms with a humph. The kid clearly wasn’t the one who she wanted to see. Demyx waved cheerily. “Hi, Roxas,” he said.
“How’d your mission go?” Xigbar asked, turning in his seat to look at the kid.
Roxas made no sign that he had heard either of them. He headed soundlessly for the door, giving off a general feeling of hopelessness and despair, and exited without a word, never taking his hood off.
The poker players were silent for a moment. Xigbar turned to sit properly. “Who spit in his Cheerios?” he grumbled, taking his cigarette out of his mouth to blow out a puff of smoke.
“He’s been acting like that for a while,” Marluxia noted, putting his cards down on the table to count his winnings. “Did something happen?”
“As if I would know!” Xigbar replied. “Kiddo barely even looked at me. Ask Axel when he gets back.”
Larxene snorted tossing her head. “Won’t get any answers out of him, either. They don’t hang anymore apparently.”
Demyx looked around, wide-eyed. “What? They were practically Siamese twins last year! What happened?!”
“Beats me,” she responded. “All I know is that last week I was all like, ‘Know where Axel is, Roxas?’ And he practically bit my head off!” She assumed a pouting face and a mocking voice. “‘How the hell would I know? Do I look like Axel’s babysitter?!’ Brat needs to have his mouth washed out with soap.”
Marluxia leaned back in his chair. “Frankly, I think he’s making a smart move,” he commented. “That boy may be a traitor, but if anyone is worse, it’s Axel. I’m surprised Superior even let him back near the Organization. More than likely Roxas is playing politics by distancing himself from Axel.”
“Makes you wonder what he’s got up his sleeve,” Xigbar mused aloud.
There was silence for a moment. Demyx sighed, tossing his cards on the table to indicate he was folding. “But even if the thing with Axel is politics, you have to admit, he’s changed.”
“It’s called puberty, Dem,” Larxene sneered. “It’s something you never experienced firsthand.”
“Ouch. Do you really find it that necessary to shut people down like that all the time, Larxene? Sheesh.”
Marluxia looked to the older guy. “What do you think, Number II?”
Xigbar rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Maybe his beef is about--”
There was another whoosh and another portal appeared, followed by another. Again the players looked around and, from the two portals, stepped Saïx and Axel, neither of them looking pleased. Saïx’s left arm was seriously mangled, bloody and practically ripped apart. Axel had a large gash on his right shoulder that was bleeding profusely.
Larxene jumped to her feet. “My God, are you alright?” She put her cards down on the table and rushed to the newcomers--right past Saïx to Axel.
The other poker players looked at one another and collectively heaved an exasperated, silent sigh.
“Fine,” Saïx said in his usual calm monotone, “thank you for the concern.”
Axel gave Larxene a dose of the evils. “You stay away from me! It’s your fault! You and your damn recon.”
“Alright, so I breezed it,” she sighed. “I shouldn’t even have been assigned anyway. Stop whining and let me fix your arm up.” Without waiting for a response, she grabbed the struggling Axel’s hood and practically dragged him off down a hall adjoining the grey area.
The remaining poker players looked at one another. Xigbar shrugged and reached across the table for Larxene’s abandoned cards.
She put her head back out of the hall and pointed at him accusingly. “You look at my hand, Xigbar you cheater, you can say goodbye to your two best friends.”
Xigbar raised his hands in an ‘I’m innocent’ sort of way and went back about his business. Larxene vanished once more. Demyx rose with a sigh, shaking his head at both of them. And they called him the Organization idiot… “What happened?” he asked, approaching Saïx with caution, gesturing to the latter’s bloody arm.
“Dog,” Number VII replied calmly.
“Aw. Poor puppy.”
“I told you before, don’t call me that.”
“Wasn’t referring to you this time. Want me to patch you up?”
Saïx shook his head. “I need to report in to Superior. Where is he, Number II?”
Xigbar scratched his neck. “Last time I checked, he was in his room.”
Marluxia grimaced. “Guess you’ll have to wait, then. Bothering Superior when he’s in his room is…” He trailed off, uncomfortable with even the thought.
“Like bugging a mother bear,” Demyx completed, clapping Saïx on his good shoulder and shaking his head sadly. “Only, you know, ten times scarier and ten times deadlier. Leave it ‘til later, puppy.”
About as annoyed as he ever made an indication of being, Saïx brushed the younger Nobody’s hand off his shoulder. “It can’t wait. And don’t call me ‘puppy’!” He swept off after Larxene and Axel down the hall.
Demyx looked after Saïx for a moment before running a hand through his mullet, shivering theatrically. “Personally, I wouldn’t even go near Superior’s room…”
“Only because you’re a weakling,” Marluxia snorted in response. “Anyhow, I’d bet anything that that’s the last we’re going to see of him.”
The oldest Nobody shrugged, lazily revealing a winning hand and pulling the stack of money in the table’s center towards him. “Give Saïx some credit. He’s second-in-command. For all we know, he could have that right.”
“True,” Demyx admitted thoughtfully, “but still, you gotta wonder… What exactly does Superior do in there…?”
“Best not ask,” Marluxia sighed, shuffling the deck. “You probably don’t even want to know.”
Saïx paused for a moment outside of Superior’s room, listening. No voice came from inside, so he wasn’t talking to himself… so if there was any time to disturb him in his room, now was the time.
He took a moment to silently, invisibly steel himself, glanced over both shoulders to make sure that nobody was there to get caught in any crossfire that might ensue, and, after another moment of hesitation, knocked.
No reply. Something Saïx had expected.
“Superior? Axel and I have returned.” Obviously, but what else was there to say?
Another moment’s pause. “Come in.”
Saïx opened the door, but did not enter. He had never stepped into Superior’s room--nobody did, even when summoned. It was an understood thing that if Superior called you to his room, you didn’t actually go inside, so nobody had actually seen much of Superior’s room but the foot of his bed pushed against the right-hand wall and the desk and chair immediately across from the door at which the Superior of the In-Between now sat with his back to Saïx, writing something the latter could not see.
“I take it your mission went… badly?” the leader of the Organization said without turning to face Saïx, the scribbling sound his pen was making sounding to Saïx almost like a axe-blade being sharpened.
“That is correct, sir,” Saïx said, bowing a little. “You have my sincerest apologies. The circumstances were beyond my control.”
The oldest of all the Nobodies in the Organization paused, pen hovering over the paper like the blade of a duelist over the chest of its defeated opponent. “And the keyblade bearers?”
“The two met with the one from Twilight Town and escaped,” Saïx reported, still bent at the waist, intently examining his boots. If he hadn’t known better, he would have said that he felt concerned.
His Superior seemed to consider for a moment and then resumed writing. “Never mind, then. No matter. It will be simpler if all the strays are crowded together, anyhow. We will deal with them at length. In the meantime, you’ll find that Luxord is in his room suffering from a hangover. Rouse him and send him after the next wielder.”
Saïx let out the breath he hadn’t been aware that he’d been holding. He straightened with the strangest sensation that he had just dodged a sniper’s bullet. “Yes, sir,” he said with his usual calm monotone that revealed nothing of his inner thoughts. “Thank you, sir.”
Again the Superior paused. “Oh, yes. One last thing: a couple of old thorns are working their way back into our sides. I want them delayed. Preferably irreversibly.”
Saïx considered the meaning of this last order for a moment, and then understood. A smirk slipped past his inner filter. “Yes, sir. Who should I send, sir?”
Number VII could feel the sneer growing on his boss’ face. “Let’s give Roxas another little test. Understood?”
“Good. Now leave me. Have someone look at that arm.”
Saïx closed the door as fast as he could without looking in a hurry. Superior only needed to tell you to go once, because frankly nobody really cared for being within striking distance of him anyhow.
And Superior was one of those ‘people’ for whom ‘striking distance’ was approximately the distance one could throw a pen.
Said pen would usually lodge itself nib-first in another unlucky ‘person’'s throat.
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Keys to the Kingdom
A Kingdom Hearts fanfiction. The fate of the universe lies in the hands of six new teenaged keyblade masters... scared yet?