My Brother's Keeper

Chapter 14

For his whole life, the simple building has been his safe house, but now Roxas distrusted its protection as he walks through the door. He wraps his cloak about his body and quietly slips upstairs. It was late in the evening, and either the other members are asleep, or out on contracts. Roxas' stomach tightens as he prepares himself to enter his room. No doubt Xemnas will be in there for a progress report, or maybe he'll leave Roxas alone after what he did today. Axel has retired to his chambers, just as exhausted as Roxas.

But what made Roxas anxious the most is his complete loss of Xemnas' trust. No doubt Xemnas will be having him on surveillance; hiring other members to stalk him, watch him and make sure he stays on task. How is he supposed to do anything with Sora with the members? Surely Xemnas must know how it can jeopardize his mission.

Roxas grabs the brass knob of his bedroom door and pauses. Taking a deep breathe, he rotates it to the right and pushes inward. The door opens wide on noisy hinges. Once it stops, Roxas takes cautious steps inside. Waiting for someone to knock him out, put a sack over his head, or just plain stab him in the back. He takes wooden in front of the other, and still nothing happens.

He decides to play it more, and hangs his cloak on the coat tree. He unstraps his belt with multiple daggers and explosives attached to it and tosses it on one of the armchairs posted in front of the fireplace. He then sits on his bed and begins to untie the laces of his boots. Still nothing. He sets them aside and strips out of his tunic and trousers. Pulling on a night shirt, he unsheathes a dagger from his belt and simply twirls it between his fingers.

Lying on his bed, still keeping his guard up, Roxas tries to think. If the organization finds out he know the truth, the most likely possibility is that they kill him. With him knowing, there's no point in keeping him alive since betrayal is to be expected. Then again, why would Xemnas go through all that trouble? Roxas can now easily picture that even if the plan had gone successful, Xemnas would then tell him the truth, and throw him in the dungeon or either kill him then. But if never were to tell, Roxas would spend the rest of his life in a lie.

Both possibilities are plausible. Seeing as how Xemnas went to, extreme measures to make sure Roxas didn't find out, it shows that Roxas is still valuable to him. And maybe he could use that. If Roxas is so valuable, perhaps he can take matters into his own hands.

Too valuable to be allowed to die. The closest Roxas will ever come when it comes to love from Xemnas. Not that he needs it, or wants it.

Still spinning the dagger between his fingers, Roxas tries to think of ways he can allure Xemnas enough for him to believe that Roxas loyalty still lies with him. Though, since it's Xemnas, Roxas can probably assume he'll never earn back his trust. It would take only the killing of the royal family to prove that.

Suddenly a creak breaks the chain of Roxas' thoughts. Roxas instantly springs up, the blade of his dagger out. He comes to face Larxene with her arms folded and that usual scolding look on her face.

Roxas doesn't hold back a look of disgust. "You don't normally come up here, so what do you want?"

Larxene scoffs. "Can it twerp. Obviously I have some important news for you if came all the way up here."

"Well I ought to give you a freaking trophy. 'Larxene actually moves her lazy, fucking ass up stairs!'" Roxas quotes.

Larxene growls and reaches for her knives, and Roxas points his dagger straight towards her.

"Go ahead." He whispers. "I dare you."

Larxene takes a deep breath and sighs. She speaks through grit teeth. "You are so lucky Xemnas needs you, you little shit!"

"You know what, fuck you Larxene!"

"What is your problem?! I came up here to deliver you some news and you his at me like a Rattlesnake!"

You know what my problem is, Roxas thinks. But really, he doesn't know where the anger came from, except that he can feel it swirling around inside him, violent and vicious and the strongest he's felt all day. So he decides to feed it. "Well, you want to know what's funny? The fact that you're now becoming the courier of the family."

"You little bastard!"

She goes to reach for a knife but Demyx suddenly walks in.

"Hey! What is going on in here?"

"What's going on is that I can't do a simple task without this little fucker making me want to strangle him!" Larxene yells.

"All I heard is that you can't do a simple task." Roxas replies.

Larxene is about to lunge at him but Demyx steps in her way. "Larxene! Is facing against Xemnas really worth, this?"

Larxene looks to Demyx, then Roxas, then snarls. "The minute Xemnas doesn't need him anymore, he's dead."

She then leaves the room, stomping down the steps. Once they hear her door slam shut, Demyx sighs and turns to Roxas.

"She doesn't normally get that pissed with you. What did you say?" he asks.

"I just felt like pissing her off since she's lied to me all these years." Roxas snarls as he grips the hilt of the dagger as a stress reliever.

"Lied? What are you talk -?"

"Don't dig your hole deeper, Demyx. I know I'm really the King's son, and lying to me will only make things worse for you." Roxas' voice is sharp and clear, like he's scolding him.

Demyx shuts up instantly; snapping his mouth shut. He looks to Roxas cautiously now. Roxas can practically see him debating on whether to kill him or beg for mercy. Demyx isn't a fan of lying, but he's easily influenced with threats, and food.

"I want to get you out of here." Roxas nearly whispers. "And Xion too. But I need help."

Demyx seems to regain sense as he blinks, then nods.

"I . . . I just, I mean -"

"Yeah, yeah I know. You're sorry for lying and that I had to find out this way. Whatever." Roxas interrupts. "It doesn't matter. What matter now, is that you prove your worth, and help me get Xion to safety."

Demyx nods. And he steps to closer to Roxas. "Then let me start with this. Xemnas is going to ambush you. He's going to have Zexion cloak you with a spell."

"Any idea what kind?"

Demyx shakes his head. "He limited what and how much information he distributes to most members. I think your whole Sora thing set in motion something that's definitely got Xemnas on his toes."

Roxas nods his head. Figures now that Roxas is on the line, Xemnas is extra cautious with whom he circulates plans to.

"Well listen, after I leave, right as I walk out of this room, you need to get Xion to Sora." Roxas instructs. Demyx nods. "Nothing is secret in this house anymore. Act fast."

Roxas then pats Demyxs's shoulder and pulls him into a hug. With hard pats on the back, Roxas leaves the room, strapping two daggers to his waist, and throwing stars to his belt. He pads down the stairs and immediately heads out the door. He stops just at the first step and finds another carriage, like the one from before, waiting outside. The other members – excluding Axel – have gathered around it. Xemnas himself standing in the entryway. Saix, Marluxia, and Xaldin stand around it, the other on an outer circle.

He expects Roxas to run, and he will.

"Get in." Xemnas demands.

"No." Roxas defies.

Xemnas stiffens, and his lip fights back a snarl. He's become very ill patient now that he's suspicious of Roxas. So much for Roxas' plan to allure him. His hatred for Xemnas now burns like I ravenous fire that wills to destroy any remnance he has connected to Xemnas; except for those who have proven where they're loyalties lie. Xigbar is debatable, Lexaeus seems to follow wherever Zexion leads. Vexen and Xaldin seem to still alley with him only for their on intentions, and Saix and Marluxia and Larxene are unquestionable. Roxas slowly shifts his hand back so his fingers grasp the hilt of his dagger.

"Where are you off to?" Xemnas asks.

"Don't see how that's any of your business."

"Everything you do is my business!" Xemnas hisses.

"Not anymore." Roxas placidly replies. "I'm eighteen and deserve some privacy."

"Privacy?!"

"After everything I've done – dedicating my life to the Organization, following every order you ever gave me to the letter, not failing a single mission – this is the least you can do to reward me." Roxas negotiates.

"You're reward is that I allow to eat, sleep and live in my house." Xemnas snarls. "And within that time, you should've learned that you can never get the drop on me."

As he finishes the sentence, Roxas spins around and slashes his blade across Vexen's face as he tried to grab him from behind. Vexen screeches and grabs his face as blood flows from the cut. Roxas spins the hilt of his dagger out and rams his elbow into Vexen's nose before ramming his knee into Vexen's diaphragm, drawing him to his knees. Roxas spins around, drawing another blade and leaps back just as Larxene comes hurdling down with her knives between her knuckles.

Roxas spin kicks, his foot landing in Lexaeus' chin and sending him sprawling; and as Marluxia goes to slash him from behind, Roxas ducks and grabs him by the arm, throwing Marluxia over him. Thick arms grab him from behind and Roxas instantly brings his legs up to kick aside Xigbar and Xaldin as they come to restrain him. Then wrenching himself free, Roxas spin kicks Vexen.

Roxas jump and flips back as he feels Lexaeus hurdling towards him. Xigbar aims his crossbow and fires. Roxas jumps and swipes each one aside and hurdles towards him. Xigbar aims again and when Roxas ducks, he can feel the steel of the arrow scratch a few strands of his hair. Roxas spins and knocks Xigbar's weapon aside with his right hand, then following the spin brings his left leg up to keep it aside, then jabbing Xigbar in the stomach. As he dances around Xigbar, Xaldin grabs a spear and launches towards Roxas. Just as Xigbar had tried to punch Roxas, Roxas leans aside and the lance now aims at Xigbar. In seconds he brings up his weapon, and it shatters against the point of the lance.

Drawing his keyblades, Roxas sprints for Xemnas and leaps high into the air. Xigbar aims his arrows at Roxas, and one shoots out a net. Roxas easily slices through it, but then he's tackled to the ground by Marluxia. Rolling over one another, Roxas ends up pinned to the ground with the blade of Marluxia's scythe at his neck.

"You can't possibly expect to take on all of us, little boy." Marluxia smiles.

Roxas sneers. He brings his legs up and crosses his ankles in the front of Marluxia's neck, then thrust him downwards so that when his head hits the ground, Marluxia's unconscious. Roxas windmills up and leaps back.

As he's about to charge, he feels a sharp pain in his neck. Roxas grunts and flinches aside to se Zexion with a syringe in his hand. Roxas snarls like a rabid animal, but suddenly his vision blurs. He begins to feel the trademark symptoms of fear: sweaty palms, racing heart, tightness in his chest, dry mouth, a lump in his throat, difficulty breathing. His vision goes green around the edges and he feels himself starting to falter. His head feels as if it weighs more than his body and she stumbles to one side, then the other; never seeming to be able to regain balance.

Finally his knees weaken and he drops to the ground. The other members surround him, some holding their chins and arms. Xemnas stands next to Zexion and pats his shoulder. Roxas lets himself drift, for he knew that his battle gave Axel and Demyx enough time to escape. Sure Xemnas would know they left and betrayed their loyalty, but apparently Roxas is still a more important matter that he let them go.

Xemnas takes two steps closer to Roxas. "This is for the best, son."

Roxas growls. He tries to speak, though his words a slightly slurred, his voice croaks like a frog. "I . . . am not . . . your, son."

Roxas then collapses to the ground, unconscious.

Roxas' awareness rise and falls, and as it does he feels the pain. It stabs into his wrists and forces him back down. Water splashes across his tongue. Dull chanting shakes the rhythm of his dreams, flooding them with color that vibrates to the sound. He sees red and blue. The colors work a sharp discomfort. More pain, this time in his ankles. Water dribbles up his lips. This doesn't make any sense. Why up?

Roxas opens his eyes. Expecting to be upside down, he is surprised to see a man standing before him. He has silver hair with sharp eyes and a bitter frown. Xemnas. He wears dark robes. Hanging from his neck is a pendant shaped like an upside down heart with the tip narrowing and spreading out into a pointed star.

"Where'd you take me?" Roxas demands.

"Zexion's study." says Xemnas. "Well, more like a secret study. Now you know why he spends so much time locked in his dark room reading books. We plan to cure you, Jesse. May you find some comfort here."

Roxas snarls, baring his teeth in hatred. He looks all around the room and finds the other members wearing similar dark robes with their hoods pulled over their heads. Cowards, none able to look him in the eye.

Xemnas holds out his hand. In it was a waterskin. When he presses against it, the water travels up instead of down, splashing across the ceiling. The sight is so strange Roxas gazes at it for a few seconds.

"Shouldn't he be a little groggy?" Larxene asks.

"Most men would've expired by now from the poison, but it has only weakened him." Saix answers. "He's small, but he's as tough as nails."

Roxas gathers a wad of saliva in his mouth and spits. He watches in awe as it smacks atop the ceiling, splattering a messy red.

"His curiosity also tends to outweigh his better judgment." Xigbar chimes.

Zexion approaches Roxas, and Roxas looks to him. Zexion expects Roxas to glare at him, snarl or even hiss, but Roxas looks to him normally, but his face holds a sense of, hurt. He smiles.

"What an obedient dog I've been, huh. All those days I spent with you thinking I was learning some magic."

"Roxas -"

"Zenxion," Xemnas interjects. "Is the spell ready?"

Zexion closes his eyes and sighs. He turns and faces Xemnas. "Yes sir."

"Excellent. Get into position." Zexion leaves Roxas, not even a glance back. Xemnas steps forward. "Many things are strange here, and you will see only a blessed few. We have concentrated this room with blood and tears."

Roxas tries to move but he can't. He looks to his wrists, where he feels cold iron chains. He sees nothing but air. The same for his ankles. As he struggles, he sees indents press against his skin, made by no visible source.

"Chains are a deceptive thing," Xemnas says. "Who makes them? What gives them their strength? It is shallow to call them iron and unbreakable, yet foolish to call them self-made. You have chains upon you."

No matter how hard he tries, Roxas can't break the chains.

Xemnas steps back. "Start the incantation." He commands.

Roxas's head jerks to Zexion. He stands behind a podium with a large white book opened. Roxas looks to him, his sapphire eyes pleading with Zexion to help him; to stop whatever illusion Xemnas is causing and free him from the invisible bonds. Zexion looks to him, and Roxas feels his heart drop.

It shows regret.

Zexion begins to chant. "Hasberak, abmoanae. Gostwenthen verbesnex." He waves his hands in circular motions and closes his eyes in concentration. "Endobruim, ruspendrae. Haeran secortex rex!"

Tendrils of darkness burst out from behind Zexion and envelope the space. The room turns completely dark, although both the chains and Xemnas remain perfectly visible. A fire sparks in the center of the room. Within its center Roxas sees the briefest image of an eye. The fire sparks again, then grows. It roars to the ceiling, enormous but without heat. Its life is quick, and as it dies a young man stands before him, his fiery red hair tangled and unkempt.

"Roxas?" Luxord asks. Roxas feels his body tremble at the sound of his voice.

Just a lie, he thinks. Just another lie.

But it is hard to believe that as he touches the side of Roxas' face. His hand felt cold, but his touch was real. Tears flowed up Roxas' eyes and to the ceiling. His robes are charred as if by fire.

"There's no safe place." He says. "The Abyss is cold. The fires give no heart. The gods didn't want me because of what I did, and now I'm here. I didn't give enough love to receive forgiveness, so I get no love."

"You're not real." Roxas says. It sounds like a plea. "You're with the gods. You went to a better place. You were good. You deserve an early pardon."

Xemnas laughs. Luxord cries. His body fades upon an unfelt wind.

"People such as us don't deserve forgiveness." Luxord says through his sniffles. "But my soul was already tainted. It didn't matter how I acted in the end. I was already on death's door."

Roxas flings himself against his chains, desperate to touch him. Luxord is fading like a ghost. The darkness is claiming Luxord, eating into his flesh so that it turns translucent. Xemnas waves a hand through Luxord's hair, scattering his image like smoke.

"Do you not see how foolish you are boy? Luxord is unwise. How could you think that a man of his stature has wisdom?"

Roxas slumps, his eyes stare at a floor with no texture of shape.

"He tried to help me." He says. "The loneliest people are the kindest. Because they do not wish to see anyone else suffer the way they do. He showed me beautiful."

Xemnas grabs Roxas' hair and jerks upward so they could stare eye to eye.

"Madmen gibber that demons live within them, and that their voices torment them daily. Do they not believe as deeply as Luxord did? Why not go to them for guidance?"

To this Roxas has no answers, but Xemnas does.

"Because he had a dream that you desired." Xemnas says, letting go of Roxas' hair. "You liked what kindness he gave you. It sounded sweet. But the only thing that matters is the truth. Would you willfully betray everything you know because of something you liked? Should I tell you that Luxord is alive, and that the world is a beautiful place, and that no one will ever hurt you? I'd love to live in that world, but that doesn't make it real. What is real, Roxas? What do you know is real?"

He thinks about Luxord dead, killed by his master's hands. Xemnas' hands.

"I know you killed him." Roxas snarls.

"Ah yes, and why?" Xemnas asks, clearly offended but trying to keep a level head. He asked for the truth. "What is it that brought on his murder?"

A light flashes in Roxas' eyes. He knows. He sees his love and devotion, sees to whom he had given them. His guilt and shame coalesced into a hardened arrow, no longer aimed at himself. There is one person who deserves it all. The one who has strangled his soul and perverted his desires. The one who had used his love to inspire murder and destruction. Xemnas.

"He was showing me something. Something important. A secret that you didn't want exposed. Because it would ruin everything."

"Precisely," Xemnas says. "I run this organization. And I won't have mutiny spread like a disease throughout what I've worked so hard to build. The plan, the plan we've created will go through. And you will be the one to do it."

Suddenly Xemnas is gone. The chains crack and break. Roxas crumples to the ground, shivering in the darkness. He feels cold. His teeth chatter.

And then a giant black creature approaches. It stands like a giant with its entire torso nearly cut out by a giant heart shape. Its hair looks like tentacles of darkness that sway and billow about. It has elongated arms with clawed hands and nails that shape into the fangs of a snake. Two pinpricks of light poke out of its skull and with no pupils, Roxas can't tell if it sees him.

It walks from afar, too far to be inside the small room. Its body is fire, burning atop skin made of molten rock. Eyes swirling with smoke fixed upon Roxas' trembling form. When it opens its mouth, teeth the size of daggers glisten with fresh blood.

Behold the Darkside, shouts a voice, impossibly deep and booming from every corner of the room. Deep within its gullet Roxas sees a thousand pink glistening hearts, and twice a thousand weeping lives. They reach upward and wail, their cries mixing with the mighty roar of the demon. Roxas feels his soul quiver. He mashes his face to the cold dark stone. Tears flow from his eyes. He couldn't think. He could only tremble in wonder.

Do you doubt my authority? The demon asks. Who are you to me, mortal? When your life ends, I am the Truth that awaits you. Where shall you stand in my eternity? Will you worship the dark, or will it consume you in fire and grind you bones in my teeth?

Roxas sobs shamelessly. He has never felt such terror. He is naked before a demon, pathetic and helpless. He pounds his fists against the floor. Sweat covers him like a cold sheet. The demon roars again, and its breath is fire and steel. His clothes rip from his flesh tore. Blood spills outward bearing within the sacred room.

Will you swear your life to me? The demons asks.

Roxas wants the terror to end. The darkness would consume him, and it seems wisest to surrender. Standing before the demon is better than the wailing he hears within. Indefinitely better.

With tears in his eyes he looks up to the demon. He gazes into the fire. He gazes into everything he can't control. Death, consumption, anger, condemnation looks upon him, smoldering in physical form. None of the love that Sora gave could live within that horrific creature.

Somewhere beyond that pain there must be a way to break through.

Swear it! the demon roars. On your knees, swear your life to me. I will have it no other way. Death is your fate, child. I see it clearer than you see the sun and moon. You will die by the hand of a friend if you resist my mercy.

Terror overwhelms him. Stars swirl in the darkness about the demon, as if the very heavens circle the embodiment of death. Smoke billows from its nostrils. Its eyes flare with impatience. The demon opens its mouth and snarls. His time was up. The moment is gone.

Roxas feels the roar wash over him, stronger than ever before. It feels like the world will shatter beneath its strength. His ears will never hear again. His eyes burn with tears. The breath in his lungs halts, and his heart beats wildly. Within his mind a fire rages, consuming all.

A guard stands outside the balcony of the Radiant Garden castle dour. The city of Radiant Garden is quiet. Night has taken over the city and several taverns windows glowing with a soft buttery light.

Hovering in the overhand, Roxas crouches. He's been like this for a minute, timing the patrols the guard takes every. After two glances left and right, the guard leaves out of sight and is gone for thirty seconds. Roxas pulls out a dagger with a silent hush. He stands, ignoring the feeling of pins and needles in his legs. Spinning the blade, he jump down and pierce it into the guard's right shoulder. He dropped to the floor and Roxas yanks the blade free and sneaks into the castle dour.

Saix emerges from the dark behind him, and follows close behind Roxas observing intently. Keeping at least twenty paces behind him, Saix stops and hides at a corner. He glances behind him every few moments, feeling almost certain a guard will find him.

The sound of a scuffle reaches his ears, coupled with a single pained scream that is cut off halfway through. He looks around a corner. He finds several bodies lying in a bloody path that ends at another corner. He gives chase. Roxas sprints ahead like his muscles are working by themselves and have limitless energy. Their path leads them to the dining hall, which looks naked with the empty chairs, covered table, and unlit chandeliers.

The plush carpet mutes their footsteps, and Roxas presses against the wall and holds up a hand signaling Saix to stop. Two guards mingling with one another casually stroll by sharing a laugh. Roxas then immediately slips around the corner and glides down the hall.

Finally, they come to the end of the hall where only one door on the right hand side is present. Roxas kneels down and picks the lock in under twenty seconds. He opens the door and sticks to the wall. Looking around, a beautiful crystal chandelier hung suspended at the center of the vaulted ceilings. The thick gold-and-red chamber had thick velvet draperies spilling from tall windows, like motionless crimson waterfalls. Enormous tapestries hung over the walls. Marble floor-to-ceiling marbles pillars stood at the entrance to the study as though standing guard. Embroidered pillows and carpets lined the floor. A gathering of plants and a nude statuette of a voluptuous woman took up one window. King Ansem sits behind a mahogany desk scattered with papers. A trio candelabrum along with a marble fireplace are the only source of light. Large double doors are thrown open, billowing the lace-white curtains and drawing them outwards. There are three guards present.

Roxas loads a water, made by Vexen, and aims for the fireplace. The fire goes out with a quiet hiss.

"Aw, dang draft." One guard says. Roxas instantly slips in and swoops up to the guard. When he turns, a serrated dagger awaits him. It slices at his throat and splatters blood across the floor.

The sound of a struggle alerts the other guards. With a silent swoop, the candles go out on the desk. The only light is the full moon that peers down into the room. The guards draw their swords, and King Ansem cautiously rises from his seat. Shadows swirling around them, one guard gets yanked forward, and after hearing several punches, they hear a heavy thump.

"Show yourself!" one guard demands.

The shadows coalesced before them into a shrouded figure. Every inch of its skin is wrapped in black cloth. Except the glowing sapphire eyes. His eyes are so deep-set dark blue, a dreaming, sleeping, waiting color. A mask covers the lower half of the face, obscuring the features just enough while still allowing fresh air. From his shoulders hangs an ebony black cloak. Wisps of shadows float off him like smoke.

As the men gaze, a throwing star spins towards King Ansem. One guard manages to hear it and smacks it away with his sword. "You're majesty, get down!"

Their eyes flick back to the figure. He wraps his cloak about his body, its fabric seemingly made of liquid shadow. A sudden jerk and he is gone, his body exploding into dark fragments that splash across the floor and fade like smoke.

Within seconds, the other guards grasp their throats and choke. Blood drips from their lips and leaks into their hands from their necks. They collapse on the floor and Ansem begins to step back in fear.

The King carefully rotates in a circle, ordering whoever is there to show himself. Shadows danced around the room. They grow in volume and swarm together, grow volume and mass, and then Roxas finally steps forward into the rays of the icy moonlight. The ragged cloak pools on the floor as if it is liquid darkness, yet when he steps back, it immediately snaps erect and wraps about his sides.

"You! What, what do you want?!" The King demanded.

Roxas only stares. The King can't get past the vacant look in his eyes. Like someone had sucked out all the color from them. Suddenly a dagger plunges into his back. He shrieks. He twisted to one side, hoping to keep the blade from pushing in farther, but then Roxas' hand grab the King's head and slams it against the mantle. Spurts of blood splatter across the fine marble.

Roxas yanks the dagger out. The King clutches his arms against his chest, rocking back and forth as pain shot though his body. Warm blood runs down his spine.

Roxas twirls in his left hand the bloody dagger, flecks splattering across the carpet.

"You filthy vermin! How dare you! I'll see to it you rot for eternity in the -"

Roxas grabs his hand and thrust the serrated dagger through his palm. To the King's credit, he didn't scream. He grits his teeth and tries not to look at the blood pooling in his hand.

"Hello, your majesty." A voice whispers.

Xemnas steps from the shadows. Ansem instantly shows recognition and fear.

"You. What are you doing here?!"

"Can't a man visit an old friend?" Xemnas says mockingly.

The King coughs. With how wet his cough sounded, Xemnas knew Roxas had pierced his lung. It wasn't fatal, not yet . . .

"Not if that friend is you!"

Without uttering a single order to him, Roxas yanks the dagger out and then rams it back downward, this time penetrating King Ansem's wrist. He screams.

"Have you met my protégé? He's showing quite the promise." Xemans continues as if nothing is wrong. "And I'm sure you know him by his frequent visits to the kingdom."

The King coughs and twitches.

"I'll have his head for this!" he gurgles.

Xemnas looks to him and smiles. "That's what I'm' hoping for."

Xemnas turns his back to the King and Roxas. His hands casually held behind his back.

"Finish him."

It wasn't until he leaves the room does Roxas turn his head back towards King Ansem. Roxas yank the dagger out and thrust for his chest. It penetrated clothes, and into the King's chest burying up to the hilt. Blood runs down Roxas' wrists and he watches as the King's body slacks. The blood slid off his robes like water.

Roxas blinks twice and the color floods to his eyes. He looks around dazed. He finds himself in the parlor the Radiant Garden Castle.

But how . . .

Roxas looks down and finds the body of King Ansem. Blood drips from his lips and slides along the hilt of the dagger pooling into Roxas' hands. Hid lungs burn; hid next breath rattles as on the way in. Roxas comes undone and begins to shake.

"No!" He screams, releasing his grip. He grabs the shoulders of the dead King, placing crimson handprints on the sleeves. "No, no, no, no, no! Please, please wake up!" he begs.

But the life in the King's eyes have faded, leaving their brilliant gold color rusted and dull. Something inside him collapses. His chest is so tight, suffocating can't breathe. Roxas turns away and collapses to his knees and sobs.

"See what happens when you disobey." All around him members of the organization drop to the ground.

"What did you do to me?!" Roxas shrieks, holding his dagger in hand. Tears streaming down his still covered face.

"I simply made you more useful than before. I had Zexion place a cloak spell on you. Now whenever I give you an order, you follow through, and eliminate anything that stands in your way."

His body grows cold. Roxas haunches over, unable to support his own grief. The floor is soft under his knees.

Still can't breathe.

"You belong to me, Roxas. As you always have. And this is to make sure you never disobey me again."

Roxas presses both palms to his chest and rocks back and forth to free the tension in his chest.

The other members scatter just as the double doors open to the study.

"Father?" a voice calls. Roxas freezes.

Riku.

Adrenaline takes over and Roxas pushes to his feet. The two make eye contact for seconds. Riku's eyes flick from shadow figure, to the blood on his hands, to the dead body of King Ansem bleeding on the floor.

"Wha – what did you do?!" Riku screams.

He draws a sword, but when he looks back the figure is gone.

"No!" she shouts. But instantly he drops his sword and rushes towards his father's cold corpse. His hands can't stop the bleeding, but he tries. Pressing against his wound, Riku tries to make sense of what had happened.

"Son." King Ansem's voice is nothing but a whisper straining against the blood filling up his throat.

Tears stream down Riku's cheeks as he grits his teeth. The curtains sway in the breeze and icy moonlight drifts across Riku and Ansem. Blood spots dot along the bottom of the curtains, and the rusted scent of crimson carries around the room.

Ansem doesn't speak again, and Riku covers his wound with his bloodstained hands until Ansem's chest falls silent.

Roxas read somewhere, once, that crying defies scientific explanation. Tears are only meant to lubricate the eyes. There is no real reason for tear glands to overproduce tears at the behest of emotion.

He always thought we cry to release the animal parts of us without losing our humanity.

Roxas now thinks he is right. Because inside him is a beast that snarls, growls, and strains for freedom, towards Sora.

As hard as he tries, Roxas can't kill the animal.

He can't kill it.

So he sobs into his hands instead.

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