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Nobody's Pride

By Rachel Taylor

Romance / Adventure

Nobody's Pride

Yazoo the baboon is standing on the tip of the Hollow Bastian promontory, exhorting the animals gathering below him. He stares up to the sky and Xemnas appears in the cloud; Yazoo is blown by the wind, and he gestures to all the gathered animals below, who bow down before the image.

Zack flies in towards Hollow Bastian. Cloud and Leon are there; Yazoo takes the young lion cub from Leon's mouth and holds the cub up before the assembled crowed. The animals all cheer, and Cloud and Leon are blown by the wind from the approving figure of Xemnas.

The young cub struggles playfully in Yazoo's grip. After much cheering from the crowd, he lowers the cub to be nuzzled by Leon as Sora the Meerkat and Demyx the Warthog stand nearby.

"Ah, Dem—look at that little guy. A chip off the old block! And you know who's gonna raise 'im…" Sora said elbowing Demyx in the leg.

"His parents?" Demyx asked.

Sora paused thinking about the question. "Okay sure, get technical. But who's gonna teach him the really important stuff? Like how to belch?" Sora burped for an example. "And dig for grub? I'm telling ya buddy… it's gonna be like old times. You, me… and the little guy."

Yazoo chuckled as Cloud gave a 'Yeah right guys' look. Sora and Demyx acted like it was a death stare and collapse in a dead faint. Gaining chuckles from everyone even the young cub.

Nobody's Pride

Yazoo is in his tree as there is wind and thunder in the background as he sings his goofy song. "Asante sana; Squash banana; We we nugu; Mi mi apana!"

Along with all the paintings he has on his tree. After the ceremony of the newest cub, he went to his tree and painted on the trunk of the tree: a new cub with the ceremonial mark across the forehead, next to the old drawing of Cloud. Yazoo laughed at his work. "Ahh, Roxas…"

The wind blows Yazoo's hair wildly, signifying Xemnas' presence. "Ohh, Xemnas! Such a day this has been! Prince Roxas' birth… another Circle of life is complete, and the Pride's future is once again secure." The wind blows again blowing at the paintings, scattering some of the markings.

"Aaah! Stop it, stop it, stop it! Xemnas—look what you are doing! The Circle is broken now. Why do you—"Yazoo paused understanding what Xemnas did. It was a sign. "Ooh… there is trouble in the Hollow Lands."

He then looks towards the edge of the painting, at a rough red lion figure. "There is another cub? Hmm… where could this be?" His realization comes to him with a puff of wind. "In the Land That Never Was…"

Yazoo remembers the image of the Land. The landscape is a barren desert, with strange rock formation everywhere. "But that is where Cloud banished Sephiroth's followers. Including his most loyal… Saix."


An insect lands on the ground; immediately, the young red cub appears, pouncing on top of it.

"Rrrah!" The cub growls. He opens his paws to reveal the insect, buzzing; he smiles and opens his paws, releasing it to fly away.

"Axel!" Saix yells as he supervises the young cub. He snatches the insect from the air and smashes it to the ground. "Don't let it go. What's the matter with you?"

"But Mother! He wasn't hurting anyone—"Axel pleaded knowing he was about to be punished.

"There is no room for weakness here, my son. Remember… Sephiroth took you in and accepted you as his own son." Saix moved closer and pulled Axel against him, Axel feeling doubtful of the supposed 'love' from his mother.

"But he wasn't my father." Axel said.

"No… but he chose you to become the next king. When you rule, we shall no longer be forced to live in these dry, barren, disgusting, pathetic, termite-infested Land That Never Was!" Saix swatting at the ground said railing against fate. Axel looks down, in quiet agreement. Suddenly, Xigbar and Larxene come bounding in, fighting to be the first back with the news.

"Mother! Mother! Mother!" They both scream. As they reach Saix and Axel speaking over one another, trying to get the first word in.

"We were there—in the Hollow Lands. We saw the whole thing!" Xigbar said.

"At Hollow Bastian. We saw everything!" Larxene said.

"We saw Cloud's cub!" They both shouted.

"What?" Saix said as he paused taking it all in. "Larxene—what did you see?"

"Cloud's new cub is a boy!"

"A boy!" Saix laughs. "Sephiroth, my beloved… did you hear that? This couldn't be more perfect."

"Who's he talking to?" Xigbar asked Larxene.

"Ssshhh. Sephiroth."

"Where? Where?" Xigbar gasped.

"Sephiroth's dead… genius."

"Yes!" Saix said. "Because of Cloud… if not for him, Sephiroth would still be King. And I, Saix—his loving, devoted Queen!"

"You know," Xigbar said. "Speaking of kings… I was thinking, since I am the oldest… maybe I should be King! Huh?"

"Uh?" Larxene butted in. "Don't be a fool, Xigbar."

"Heh heh… Just a thought." Xigbar said as he rolled over onto his back.

"Axel is the chosen one. We must fulfill Sephiroth's dying wish, and train Axel to become King."

"Oh… Yeah… Oh, yeah I can do that!" Saix climbs up on a rock point to gaze out over the land. The others followed.

"Look… at the Hollow Lands, my pets. So green… so inviting. That is our home… that is where we belong. And soon, my beloved Sephiroth… we shall reclaim your kingdom."


Roxas is playing at Cloud's paws atop Hollow Bastian, gazing down over the side. "Wow." He laughs continuously, and Cloud catches him as he comes near the edge of the rock.

"Whoa." He says. "Where do you think you're going in such a hurry?" Roxas wriggles in Cloud's grasp as Cloud moves him to safety.

"Oh come on Dad! Let go!" Roxas keeps laughing as he tries to escape.

"Well," Cloud said. "I just want you to be careful." Roxas pounces after a butterfly; Cloud steps on his tail to pin him down. "Roxas… are you listening? Accidents can happen. You could easily get hurt, or stepped—"

Roxas knowing the line so much follows with his dad and finishes it for him. "…Hurt, or stepped on, or even get lost."

"And remember, … I want you to stay in sight of Hollow Bastian at all—"

"At all times. I know." Roxas knowing the repetitive warning; he continues reciting. "And if I see and strangers, don't talk to them. Come straight home. Okay, okay. Can I go now? Please?" Leon and Zack come out to see the two talking. Cloud exchanges a glace with Leon, reminiscent of when they played out this same scene as cubs.

"Hmm. Very funny." Cloud said.

"Mind your father, Roxas." Leon laughs gently.

"Yes, mom." Roxas laughed.

"And stay away from the Land That Never Was." Cloud said.

"Nothing there but a bunch of backstabbing, murderous Nobodies!" Zack said.

"Zack's right… you can't turn your back on them." Roxas was getting curious about the Land That Never Was and the Nobodies.

"Really? How come?"

"Mmm… Never mind." Cloud said. "Just run along now."

"But Dad, I—" Roxas still wanting answers was cut off as his dad said.

"You'll understand someday. Go on."

"Dad…" Roxas said as Cloud ran a paw over him, then nudged him off; he resumes laughing and runs off down Hollow Bastian.

"And stay on the path I've mark for you!" Cloud called after him.

"Cloud. Who does he remind you of?" Leon chuckled. "Hmm?"

"Huh? What? Who?" Cloud said clueless.

"He's just like you were, when you were young."

"Exactly. Do you realize the dangers we put ourselves in?" Leon tackles Cloud and put him on his back.

"You mean the dangers YOU put us in." They chuckle and nuzzle for a few moments, Leon then get up. "He'll be fine." He moves off and Cloud waits till he is out of earshot.

"Hey, Sora. Demyx. Come here." Demyx walks up to Cloud with Sora on his back.

"Good morning, mon Capitan." Sora said.

"I want you to keep a close watch on Roxas. You know he's bound to run off."

"No worried, Cloud. We're on her like stink on a warthog!"

"Hey!" Demyx retorted.

"It's the hard truth, Dem. Live with it."

"Guys," Cloud butted in. "I'm counting on you. Danger could be lurking behind every rock." Sora looked quizzically at Cloud, the takes him mock-seriously.

"Ah hah." Sora and Demyx head out, scanning behind every rock, making Cloud roll his eyes at his friends.


Roxas is walking through the tall grass, chasing a very familiar butterfly. "Hey! Wait! Come back! I just… Want to play!" He sees the butterfly land, and crouches to attack. "Ahhh… the mighty hunter has cornered his prey."

Roxas' pounce takes him up the side of a small rise, from which he can see a distance into the Land That Never Was. "Whoa… cool! The Land That Never Was! I wonder what's out there…"

A rustling in the grass behind him draws his attention. Roxas turns, and the grass separated. Roxas wasn't surprised to see Sora and Demyx walk out.

"There you are Roxas!" Sora said.

"Now Prince Roxas… as Cloud's song, you know better than to go off all alone. You could have been hurt!"

"But… but…" Roxas tried but was cut off.

"Hurt!" Sora cried. "Oh… Cloud would kill us! You didn't slip a disc, did you?"

"B-But—" Roxas is cut off as Sora hops off of Demyx to make sure Roxas is intact.

"Catch a fever? Get a hangnail?" Sora is examining his claws, but he pulls his paw away.

"Nnngh! Sora…"

"I had one once."

"Very painful." Demyx said.

"Excruciating!" As Sora said this he starts holding a fern branch over Roxas' head, shading him. "Darling… with you complexion, you should stay out of the sun." Roxas swatted the branch away. "Whaaat? Do you wanna wrinkle?"

"Would someone please just listen to me?!" Roxas screamed.

"I'm sorry; I wasn't listening. Did you say something, Princess?" Sora said.

"I'm not just a Prince, you know. That's only half of who I am!"

"Oh, uh…" Demyx said. "Who's the other half?"

"Uh… well, I, uh… um…"

"Well, while you're figuring it out. Let's eat." Sora said as he snapped his fingers, and Demyx lifts up a log. "Grubs!"

"The other white meat!" Demyx said happily.

"And so high in protein!" Sora said as he offered a left-full of grubs to Roxas.

"I much rather stick to the Zebra…" Roxas mumbled.

"No? How 'bout you, big boy?!"

"Aaah. Love grubs!" Demyx said sniffing the bugs.

"Not like…"

"Love!" Demyx and Sora said together. Sora tossed a bug into Demyx's mouth; he crunches and coughs on it a little, then hiccups and spits the fragments back onto the leaf, coating the other bug in his saliva.

"Ohh…" Sora said grossed out. "You always do that! You take a bite out of every one, and then put it back. It drives me crazy!"

"But you can't tell from the outside which are the real slimy ones!" Demyx said.

"Slimy? Demyx… my corpulent compadre. It's the crunchy ones that make the meal!"

"Slimy!... Slimy!... Slimy!... Slimy!... Slimy!... Slimy!... Slimy!... Less filling!... Less filling!... Less filling!... Less filling!... Low fat!" Demyx said.

"Crunchy!... Crunchy!.. Crunchy!... Crunchy!... Crunchy!... Crunchy!...Crunchy!... Tastes good!... Tastes good!... Taste good!... Taste good!... Check, please!" Sora said.

Roxas shakes his head and wonders off while they argue. He crossed a river on a log, tumbles off—directly into Axel, bowling him over. He snarls at Roxas confrontationally, and continues growling.

"Who are you, Somebody?" Axel asked. Roxas doesn't answer, but keeps jumping from side to side, staying facing Axel at all times. Axel keeps growling menacingly, but eventually his curiosity gets the better of him. "What are you doing?"

"Not turning my back on you." Roxas said coolly.

"Who told you that?" Axel snickered.

"My father."

"You always do what Daddy says?"

"No!"

"Bet you do. Bet you're Daddy's super star! Ha Ha!" Axel moves away, hopping on logs across the river. "A Nobody doesn't need anybody. I take care of myself!"

"Really? That's Cool!" Roxas said in awe as he followed him across, wanting more information. Axel looks back at Roxas, and noticed a huge crocodile rising up behind him with it's mouth gaping.

"Look out!" Axel yelled at Roxas. Roxas turned and saw the croc.

"Run!" Roxas called as the croc's teeth crunched just behind them. "This way!" They narrowly escaped, leaping from rock to rock across the river and out of the reach of the crocodiles' jaws as more and more rise up out of the water. They rest on tow unmoving "Stones" further down, and begin to pant and laugh.

"That was a close one."

"Yeah…" As soon as Roxas spoke the stones they were sitting on rose up and reviled themselves as more crocodile head.

"Whooaaa…" They both yelled. Roxas ran up a tree limb, getting out of reach; however, Axel ran past him, leaping from croc to croc down the river.

"Hey… what about me!?" Roxas asked.

"You gotta take care of yourself!" Axel said but his thoughts said otherwise. 'I'll distract them. Run!' Axel slips off the last croc into the water; as he comes up, gasping for air, the crocs loom over him.

"Look out!" Roxas said as he swiped at the crocs from his branch. Axel is paralyzed by fright; the gaping mouth in fron of him is suddenly clamped shut by Roxas leaping on top of it. "Move it!"

The two cubs scramble up a branch and up onto the bank, out of reach of danger. From the top, they panted and rest for a few moments, then moved back to look over the edge. The crocodiles are massing below, furious at being cheated of their meal.

"Wow, that was cool." Roxas then stuck his tongue out at the crocs down below.

"Hah!" Axel laughed. The two move back from the edge and recount their adventure. "Whoah, man –did you see the size of those teeth?"

"Sure did, they were goin' "Rrrararan" Both Roxas and Axel roll over onto their back laughing. "He was just totally eatin' you up right there, and I jumped on his head- I bopped him so good-"

Little did the two cubs know that Saix was crouching in the grass away somewhere in the distance. "We make a great team!" Axel said.

"And you—you were really brave!" Roxas commented his sea blue eyes sparkling a bit.

"Yeah… you were pretty brave too. My name's Axel."

"I'm Roxas" Roxas crouches down playfully, waving his tail; he reaches out and bats Axel. "Tag! You're it!" He jumps back, laughing; instead of chasing, Axel just looks at him silently. He tries again. "Tag! You're it! You're it!" Still no response; Axel just stares at him.

"Hello? You run, I tag… get it? What's the matter? Don't you know how to play tag?" Roxas got an idea, he crouches down and goes back to playing his style, with bared teeth and growls. Axel gets the idea and mock-growls back, but suddenly he finds himself growling at Cloud's leg. Cloud roared, and Saix jumps out of the grass and roars back.

"Saix." Cloud said.

"Cloud!" Leon, Sora and Demyx arrive behind Cloud with the other lions. "Squall."

"I go by Leon now, Saix!" Leon growled.

"Sora, Demyx. Great. Now that we all know each other… GET OUTTA OUR HOLLOW LANDS!" Sora shouted. Roxas glared at his father and sent apologetic look to Axel.

"Your Hollow Lands?" Saix snarls, making Sora leap backwards over Demyx's head in fear. "These lands belong to Xemnas."

"I banished you from the Hollow Lands! Now you and your young cub… get out!" Cloud growled.

"Oh… haven't you met my son, Axel? He was hand-chosen by Sephiroth to follow his paw-prints… and become King!"

"Pbbb! That's not a king… that's a fuzzy maraca!" Sora said earning a silent growl from Roxas.

"Axel was the last born before you exiled us to the Outland, where we have little food, less water…"

"You know the penalty for returning to the Pride Lands!" Cloud growled.

"But the child does not! However… if you need your pound of flesh… here." Saix nudges Axel towards Cloud, daring him to show either ruthlessness or cowardice, to Roxas.

"Take him and get out. We're finished here." Cloud says as he picks up Roxas in his teeth. Saix walks over to Cloud and looks down at a terrified Axel.

"Oh no, Cloud… we have barely begun." Saix glares wickedly at Roxas, the turns and picks up Axel in his jaw. He and Roxas watch each other dangle as they move apart.

"Bye…" Roxas says.

"Bye…" Axel repeats. Cloud and the other lions move off over the ridge, back towards the Hollow Bastian Lands, while Saix takes Axel back to the Land That Never Was. Once within sight of the Hollow Bastian, Leon looks back at Cloud.

"Cloud?" Cloud clears his throat, with Roxas still in his mouth. Leon smiles back at him, understanding that it's time for The Talk. He and the rest of the pride move off back home. Cloud drops Roxas, who grins ingratiatingly up at him; he glares sternly back. Roxas looks to the ground, sighing.

"Roxas, what did you think you were doing? You could have been killed today." Cloud said.

"But Dad, I—I didn't mean to disobey—"Roxas started but was cut off by his father.

"I'm telling you this because I love you. I don't wanna lose you."

"I know…"

"If something happened to you, I don't know what I'd do. One day I won't be here… and I need you to carry on in my place. You are part of the great Circle of—"

"Circle of Life. I know."

"Exactly. And you need to be careful. As future King—"

"But what if I don't wanna be a King? It's no fun."

"That's like saying you don't want to be a lion. It's in your blood… as I am. We are part of each other." He smiles and playfully shoves Roxas off the rock, they were sitting on. Cloud grins back down at him, and they nuzzle as Cloud begins singing.

"As you go through life you'll see
There is so much that we
Don't understand."

A mother bird sternly prevents one of her chicks from trying to fly; a wildebeest calf gets up for the first time as they watch.

"And the only thing we know
Is things don't always go
The way we planned.

But you'll see every day
That we'll never turn away
When it seems all your dreams come undone."

As they walk by Monkeys grooming each other, hippos jumping and playing.

"We will stand by your side
Filled with hope and filled with pride
We are more than we are
We are one"

Roxas sings to his reflection in the river during his verse. A fish jumps out of the water and into his reflection when he sings "The way I am?"

"If there's so much I must be
Can I still just be me
The way I am?

Can I trust in my own heart
Or am I just one part
Of some big plan?"

The wind blows during this verse by Cloud, underscoring the reference to Sephiroth's spirit.

"Even those who are gone
Are with us as we go on
Your journey has only begun

Tears of pain, tears of joy
One thing nothing can destroy
Is our pride, deep inside
We are one"

They run through groups of curiously unafraid animals, many with their young, as they approach Hollow Bastian

"We are one, you and I
We are like the earth and sky
One family under the sun."

Cloud sang running back up Hollow Bastian. He indicates it to Roxas.

"All the wisdom to lead
All the courage that you need
You will find when you see
We are one."

"As long as you live here, it's who you are." Cloud said as he hugs Roxas and licks his side, lifting Roxas' body off the ground. He seems unconvinced. "You'll understand someday."

A bird flutters by Roxas, circles and flies off over the Hollow Lands into the sun. Roxas looks sadly thoughtful for a second, and then turns to face the sun. Sitting down, he looks at the ground for a second, ears flat, but then looks towards the sun, ears erect.


In the Land That Never Was, Larxene is tugging on a root, growling, Xigbar approaches from behind her.

"Axel, Axel, Axel. Sephiroth wasn't even his father. His just took him in." Xigbar muttered to himself. But he turns his attention to Larxene. "Oh hey, Larxene. Where's the little termite, Axel? The "chosen one." Xigbar said sarcastically when he touches the root with a claw making it snap, and Larxene tumbles backward.

"Xigbar! Where's Axel? Did you leave him out there on his own again?" Larxene asked knowing the answer.

"Hey—it's every lion for himself out here. That little termite's gotta learn to be on his own." Xigbar is ridden with vermin and termites. He is continually scratching himself.

"Mother's gonna be mad. She told you to watch him!"

"Oh, who cares? I should've been the chosen one." Xigbar begins scratching his back against the tree trunk. "I'm the oldest, I'm the strongest, I'm the smartest—Ooogh! These Termites!" He starts rolling around, scratching every place he can find on his body.

Larxene looks self-satisfied at Xigbar's condition. "I could be a leader, if she'd just give me a chance!" Xigbar said scooting along on his butt.

"Yeah right. Why don't you tell that to her?"

"Yeah? Don't think I won't!"

"Oh yeah?" She chuckles. "Here's your chance." Saix walks slowly by Xigbar, carrying Axle in his mouth. He ignores Xigbar entirely.

"What? Oh… Mother! Mother, hi!" Xigbar laughs nervously. "Mother, I caught some field mice for your dinner, I left'em by the, um… by the… okay." Saix drops Axel and Larxene pounces next to him.

"Hey, Axel. You wanna… fight?" She mock-snarls; he looks earnest.

Saix turns to Xigbar, who becomes visibly frightened. "You were supposed to be watching him!"

"It's not his fault!" Axel said. "I went off on my own!" Saix turns on Axel, backing him along the ground with her words.

"What were you doing?"

"N-Nothing!"

"Who has made us Nobodies?"

"Cloud!"

"Who killed Sephiroth!"

"Cloud!"

"And what have I told you about them?"

"Sorry, mother!... H-he didn't seem so bad. I thought we could be—"

"Friends? You thought you'd get to the son. And Cloud would welcome you with open arms? What an idea!..." He reconsiders the thought. "What an idea! You brilliant child—I'm so proud of you!" He kneads the frightened Axel with unsheathed claws. "You have the same conniving mind that made Sephiroth so… powerful."

"Yecch." Xigbar said earning a glare and snarl from Saix. Saix then picks up Axel. He then carried him into a cave as Xigbar glowers.

"Ugh. The "chosen one" Xigbar said disgusted. Saix carries Axel into their "den", and deposits him in a hollow tree trunk; he lands with a grunt.

"I now see the path to our glorious return to power!" Saix said.

"But I don't want—"Axel started but was cut off.

"Hush! Hush, my little one. You must be exhausted." Saix then starts to sing his lullaby to Axel.

"Sleep, my little Axel
Let your dreams take wing
One day when you're big and strong
You will be a king."

Saix tucks Axel in.

"Good night…"

"Good night, my little prince. Tomorrow, your training intensifies." Saix's dancing is very reminiscen of Sephiroth's when he was singing "Be Prepared". He leaps up onto rocks to emphasize lines, and punctuates his graphic points by beating up on Xigbar. Lions leap as he musters his forces.

"I've been exiled, persecutedLeft alone with no defenseWhen I think of what that brute didI get a little tense

But I dream a dream so prettyThat I don't feel so depressed'Cause it soothes my inner kittyAnd it helps me get some rest

The sound of Cloud's dying gaspHis son yelling in my graspHis lions' mournful cryThat's my lullaby

Now the past I've tried forgettingAnd my foes I could forgiveTrouble is, I knows it's prettyBut I hate to let them live"

"So you found yourself somebody who'd chase Cloud up a tree" Xigbar sang.

"Oh, the battle may be bloody, but that kind of works for me.

The melody of angry growlsA counterpoint of painful howlsA symphony of death, oh my!That's my lullaby

Sephiroth is gone… but Saix's still aroundTo love this little ladTill he learns to be a killerWith a lust for being bad!"

"Sleep, ya little termite!" Xigbar sang once again. "Uh—I mean, precious little thing!"

"One day when you're big and strong" Larxene sang.

"You will be a king!

The pounding of the drums of warThe thrill of Axel's mighty roar"

"The joy of vengeance" Xigbar sang.

"Testify!" Larxene chanted.

"I can hear the cheering!" Saix screamed

"Axel! What a guy!" Xigbar and Larxene sang.

"Payback time is nearingAnd then our flag will flyAgainst a blood-red skyThat's my lullaby!"

!i!i!i!

Yazoo is in his tree, doing a new picture of Roxas as he grows into adulthood.

"Oh, Xemnas… every day Roxas grows more stunning , into a King that will someday make us all very proud." He paints a mane on Axel, next to Roxas, who just like his father, didn't have a mane, but spikey hair on top of his head. "But this cub Axel grows stronger. And Saix fills his heart with hate. I am very worried, Xemnas. Things are not going well."

The wind blows, rattling Yazoo's gourds.

"Hmm? You have a plan?"

One gourd falls, splitting in half. Yazoo holds up the two halves against the painting of Roxas and Axel, and brings them together until they join.

"What? Axel… Roxas… together? This is the plan? Are you crazy? This will never work! Oh, Xemnas, you been up there too long. Your head is in the clouds!" Yazoo yells.

The wind blows really hard at Yazoo

"Okay, okay, okay! Okay! All right—okay! I don't think this is going to work… but I trust you. I just hope you know what you are doing!"

!i!i!i!

Saix and Axel are sitting at home, Axel on a rock while Saix slinks around him.

"You are ready!" Saix chuckles. "Nice… very nice. You have the same darkness in your soul that Sephiroth had. What is your destiny?"

"I will avenge Sephiroth… take his place in the Hollow Lands." Axel said.

"Yes! What have I taught you?"

"Cloud is the enemy."

"And what must you do?"

"I must kill him!" The lions roar in reply!

!i!i!i!

In Hallow Bastian, Roxas is emerging to part in his first hunt. Leon is walking towards Cloud, who is sitting at the end of the assembled lions. He looks quite worried and sad, but he sighs gently and forces a smile when Leon reaches him.

"Wow, his first hunt! You must be so proud, Leon. Here he is!" Radom lions say as Roxas emerges from over a hill on the trail. He looks at Yazoo, who is standing next to the path. He looks worried until Yazoo speaks to him.

"Roxas." Zack alights nearby, Sora and Demyx embrace goofly.

"Good luck, Roxas! He'll be great. His first hunt! You can do it! It's your day, Roxas. Good luck, Roxas!" The lions all say.

Leon and Roxas nuzzle as Cloud looks vaguely glum.

"You'll do just fine." Leon said.

"Dad… you have to promise to let me do this on my own. Promise?"

Cloud glances at Leon, who raises his eyebrows at him. He rolls his eyes upward acquiescently.

"All right… I promise."

They rub heads; Sora and Demyx break into tears. Roxas looks back, and then runs off into the fields. Cloud moves surreptitiously over to Sora and Demyx.

"Make sure he doesn't get hurt." Cloud said quietly. Sora and Demyx begin humming in a show of nonchalance, and sidle away off the rock until they drop over the side and out of view.

Roxas is hunting, trying to be quiet, he stops when he sees the herd of antelope running. Roxas runs frustrated that someone else was hear and scared the herd.

!i!i!i!

"Yeech." Xigbar said. "This place is even creepier since the hyenas ran off.

"Mmmh. Sheesh." Larxene said with a mouth full of kindling.

"I'm not scared, okay?" Xigbar said annoyed as they jump down next to one of the spouts; Larxene then drops the kindling against the edge.

"I just don't know why we have to be here, that's all." Xigbar said. "If Axel was so special, why does he need us?... I never even had a CHANCE! Yaaah!" He gets his butt burned by a jet of hot gas from the ground. Larxene watches him with amusement, then her face lights up as the near spout bursts, lighting the sticks ablaze.

"That's it! Now come on… Roxas has started his hunt. We have to move quickly." Xigbar grabs his burning stick, and leans his head over the vent's edge; it goes off, scorching his face.

"Oooh! Fire!" He laughs crazily and bounds off after Larxene.

!i!i!i!

In the open fields, Sora and Demyx are following after Roxas. Demyx's tail is sticking up above the grass. Sora rises up next to it, and he sees the tail and yelps in surprise finally ducking back down. The two cross a clearing military-fashin, sniffing the air, and they dart from tree to tree with SWAT-team- style "Hup! Hup! Hup!"noises. Sora leaps into a hollow log and gestures as thought with a two-way radio.

"Tango-Charley-Alpha. What's your position?" Sora asked.

"Uhh…" Demyx starts confused on what to say. "Upright.." Now he is smiling. "Head turned slightly to the left… tail erect."

"Why do I bother?" Sora asked as he scans the horizon, framing Roxas in his fingers. "Ah hah."

Roxas is stalking the antelope again. He carefully steps over some stones with his front feet, but knocks them over with his hind feet, alerting the antelope into running yet again. He jumps up and gives chase as the herd turns and dashes away from him, directly towards Sora and Demyx, who cry in fright.

"This must be where the deer and antelope play!" Sora said.

The antelope pass; Sora and Demyx cry out again when they turn and see Roxas standing there, panting. Sora recovers and chuckles guiltily as Roxas recovers his breath, panting.

"Sora…" Roxas says sternly "What are you doing here?"

"Uh… shopping! We thought a nice pelt for the den… some throw pillows," Sora said as Demyx nods in the background "A little potpourri…"

"My father sent you." Roxas said. "After he promised to let me do this on my own, I swear! I'm not a girl!"

"No… he just doesn't want you to get hurt!"

"I should have known he'd never give me a real chance." Roxas runs past them, still breathing hard. "I'll do this on my own. Away from the Hollow Lands!"

"Hey! Wait! Come back! Oh… who can keep track of that kid? Roxas—come back!" Sora hops up on Demyx and they run after him—but he's far ahead already. "Oh… he's gone again! Somebody's gotta get a beeper for this kid!"

Roxas has ran, towards the edge of the Hollow Lands. Xigbar and Larxene are standing above, with their flaming sticks.

"Let's light fire!" Xigbar cried as he and Larxene run down the slope, Larxene laughing madly. "Roasty toasty Prince… roasty toasty prince…" He lights the grass in several places, hopping around in circles. Soon he is standing in the center of the circle of flames. "Hey, is it hot in here, or is that just me?" He then realizes "Fire! Yowww!"

Xigbar rockets into the air and lands a good distance away, where he resumes laughing maniacally.

!i!i!i!

The antelope are now grazing in the valley, along with various birds. The antelope spook at something near Roxas, and they turn and begin to gallop off. Roxas confused gives chase. Soon, though, he notices the fire burning on the horizon, and the antelope turn and run back in his direction. He panics and turns, and begins to run back the way he came; antelope and birds follow him.

Up on a hill high above the flames, Saix and Axel sit watching the who scene.

"The plan is in motion." Saix said. "Go!" Axel runs down the slope, towards Hollow Bastian.

On Hollow Bastian, where Cloud is pacing with Zack several steps away,

"Don't worry, Cloud. He'll be fine. What could happen?" Cloud looks up and gasps as he sees the smoke rising.

"No… no! Roxas!" He turns to Zack. "Zack! Fly ahead. Find him!"

Roxas is following a pair of zebras away from the flames, but finds himself trapped and hemmed in on all sides, choking on the thick smoke. He sees a high stone overhang above the flams; he leaps up and tries to climb up the side, but he falls unconscious upon reaching the top.

Axel appears from the smoke and looms over him; he wakes for a moment and sees him baring his teeth down at him, then loses consciousness again. Axel grabs the nape of his neck and throws his body on top of his, and begins to carry him away from the fire. He leaps across a chasms with flames roaring, and then tumbles with Roxas down a slope into a pool of water, where Roxas begins to sink. Axel dives for him and drags him to shore.

Zack, flying overhead, watches the event gasping. "I must tell Cloud!" Zack flies back to Hollow Bastian. Axel drags Roxas to shore, and he wakes up, gasping for breath.

"Where am I?" Roxas asked.

"You're safe… in the Hollow Lands." Axel replied.

"The Hollow Lands…. No!" Roxas said bewildered. "Why did you bring me here? Who do you think you are?"

"I think I'm the one who just saved your life!"

"Look! I had everything under control!"

"Not from where I'm standing."

"Then move downwind." The lions confront each other. Roxas begins jumping from side to side, as he had done in their earlier encounter as cubs. Soon Axel's interest is piqued.

"What are you doing?" Axel asked.

"Axel?" Roxas said recognizing him.

"Roxas!" Cloud said as he and the other lions from Hollow Bastian arrive. Cloud jumps in front of Roxas, snarling and growling.

"Roxas! You're all right." Leon said.

"Father…" Roxas said to Cloud. "how could you break your promise?"

"It's a good thing I did. I almost lost you." Cloud said. "No more hunts for you; not ever!"

"But I was doing just fine! Even before Axel—"

"Axel?" Cloud roars at Axel again.

"Cloud?" Leon said surprised at his ferocity. Cloud glares at Leon.

Yazoo has arrived, and is standing on the hillside behind Cloud.

"Hey!" Yazoo said. "You! How dare you save the King's son?"

"You saved him?" Cloud asked. "Why?"

"I humbly ask to join your pride." Axel replied. But Cloud immediately replied back.

"No! You were banished with the other Nobodies."

"I have left the Nobodies. I am a rogue. Judge me now, for what I am… or am I to be blamed for a crime I didn't commit?"

Cloud snarls and paces around. Leon looks hard at him.

"Cloud… you owe him your son's life."

"Mmm… yes, sire" Zack said. "Clearly we are in his debt… and royal protocol demands that all debts be paid. Though in this case you might want to make an exception." Cloud paces a few moments more, then comes to a decision.

"Hmmm. My father's law will prevail. For now, I reserve judgment. We'll see who you really are." Axel smiles inwardly and looks sidelong at Roxas, who smiles back at him. Zack turns his back on Axel.

"Hmph! Riffraff." Zack said as he flies off. All make their way back to Hollow Bastian, with Axel walking behind Cloud and growling to himself.

!i!i!i!

As night falls over Hollow Bastian, Cloud notices Axel about to go into the inner cavern with the other lions; he jumps in front of Axel with a growl and intimidates him away from the cavern opening as he goes inside. Axel walks out onto the rocks to sleep. Roxas comes out to speak to him.

"Hey…" Roxas said. "Uh, thanks for saving me today."

"What kind of hunter are you anyway – Princess?" Roxas rolled his eyes at the nickname, he was called it many times before. "You almost got yourself killed out there."

"What?"

"You wouldn't last three days on your own."

Roxas feels provoked "Oh… and I suppose you could teach me?"

"Heh.. yeah." Cloud shouts from the cavern entrance.

"Roxas!"

"Coming!" He turns back to Axel. "All right—impress me. We start at dawn." Roxas walked back to the cavern; as Axel continues to speaking to himself.

"I look forward to it." He chuckled.

!i!i!i!

On a nearby hill Xigbar and Saix sit watching.

"Oh…" Xigbar said. "Oh… d-d-did you see that? He let him go! If that were me—"

"Hush." Saix said. "The fire-rescue worked perfectly, and Cloud fell for it. Now, the closer Axel gets to the son, the closer he gets to Cloud! And once he has Roxas or Cloud alone… rraaagh!" He emphasizes his point by swatting a young tee from its truck.

It's now midnight, and Cloud is dreaming of the moment when his father died. He is at the top of the ledge, reaching down for Xemnas, who is just out of reach.

"Cloud!" Xemnas cried. "Cloud! Help me!"

"Father!" Cloud called. Sephiroth is above Cloud, laughing on the rocks against the moonlight. "Dad.. just… a little… farther…" Sephiroth latches on to Cloud's upper foreleg with his claws.

"Gotcha!... Trust me." Sephiroth said.

"Cloud!" Xemnas calls as he slides down and into the gorge.

"Noooo!" Cloud turns to Sephiroth, above him. "Sephiroth!" Sephiroth's laughing slowly morphs into Axel. "Axel…?"

Axel suddenly lets go, throwing Cloud down after Xemnas. He is still laughing. At the moment of impact, he wakes, panting. He looks around in fright, seeing that everyone is okay and that Roxas had moved closer to the entrance, sense he went to sleep. Seeing that his son is fine he calms himself, and goes back to sleep next to Leon.

The next morning. Cloud stretches, and then descends to the valley floor, where he walks slowly toward the water hole. Axel is above him, hiding behind a rock; his teeth and claws are bared, ready to strike. Suddenly, Roxas jumps in front of him, from around the front of the rock.

"G'morning!" Roxas laughs. "I'm ready for my first lesson."

Axel is stunned; he takes several moments to disguise his previous mindset and intentions. He looks back to the watering hole; Cloud is gone.

"Hey, c'mon. let's go!" Roxas said laughing once more.

Axel still dumbstruck. After one last glance after his lost opportunity, he turns and follows Roxas.

Axel is attempting to teach stealth to Roxas. He says "ow" in the underbrush a few times; Axel is smiling bemusedly to himself.

Axel is anticipating the pounce "Three… two…" he rolls his eyes "one…" the ducks.

"Gotcha!" Roxas said.

Roxas leaps full over Axel's evasion, and tumbles over on the ground. Axel steps over to his head, looking down at him.

"You could hear me… huh?" Roxas said slightly embarrassed.

"Only… a lot. You're still breathing too hard. Relax… feel the earth under your paws… so it doesn't shift and make noise." Roxas follows his example. A flock of birds interrupts them, alighting beyond a nearby hill. "Ssshh. Watch the master… and learn."

Axel runs silently down into a gully, then up the other side. Leaping over the ridge top, he pounces with claws fully extended right down on top of Sora, who is foraging for bug there.

"Aaaahhhh!" Sora cried.

Axel freezes in the position in which he hits the ground, with his mouth open; he skids to a halt with Sora between his forelegs.

"Don't eat me! Please!" Sora cried. "I…I…I never really met your tyrant. I mean, uh—Sephiroth. Sephiroth. Oh, heck of a guy. A little moody, but, i…"

"Sora!" Roxas said as he joined Axel and Sora. "What are you doing here?"

"Roxas! Thank goodness! Ohh! Hey… for once, we're not following ya. This just happens to be the best smorgasbord in the Hollow Lands. Bugs everywhere!" Sora said as he indicates the field of bugs, with the flock of birds eating contentedly away. "But, you don't call for a reservation, and-yeesh!" he then turns towards the birds. "Get outta here, ya scavengers. Go on! Shoo! Shoo!"

Sora tries to scare away the birds; he waves his arms at one unconcerned bird, who bites Sora's nose.

"Oh!...Oh!...oh." Sora said in pain as nose starts glowing red. Demyx rushes down the hill, and back up, scattering birds, who come back to land right where they were. Roxas watches with amusement, Axel with bewilderment. Demyx is standing with a dozen or so birds sitting on his back.

"Ohh… Sora, I'm getting tired. I gotta lose some pounds!" Demyx said.

"Shoo! Go on! Shoo! Shoo!" Sora said trying to scare the birds off of Demyx.

Roxas and Axel trot down the hill, Roxas laughing.

"Hey! Maybe he can help. Ya think?" Demyx said to Roxas.

"Shoo!" Sora said as he manages to scare the last bird off of Demyx's tail. "Oh! Yeah… there's an idea. Right. Let the vicious Nobody- Hey! Wait! I have an idea!" Sora said as he jumps down off of Demyx. "What is he helps?" Sora said pointing to Axel.

"What?"

"You wanna lend a voice? Huh?" Sora said to Axel, but he wasn't getting through to him. "Grr. Guh… Roar! Work with me!"

"Like this." Roxas said as he roars, scattering the birds.

"Wooo hoo! C'mon, do it again! Do it again!" Sora said. Axel roars this time, sending the birds into a rout. "Yee-haa!"

Roxas and Axel run down the hill, sending birds flying in every direction. Axel is still clueless as to why they are doing this.

"Why are we doing this?" Axel asked. "What's the point of this training?"

"Training?" Roxas laughed. "This is just for fun!"

"Fun?" Axel acts like he's never heard the word before.

Sora and Demyx run by; Sora is handing onto a birds' leg, getting carried up into the air.

"Ya gotta get out more often." Sora said. "Fun! Yee-haa! Ha ha ha ha… Woooo-hoo!"

Axel slowly getting the idea slowly says "Yeee-haa! Yeee-haa!"

The group runs down between a row of rocks; it is blocked at the end by a number of rhinos.

"Yeeee-haa!" Axel shouts.

They notice the rhinos and come skidding to a halt; they notice the birds all sitting on top of the rhinos' heads.

"Uh-oh." Roxas said. They bird then make a nose sounding like 'thhhpppbbt!' The lions, Sora and Demyx turn tail and run back the way they came; the rhinos are in hot pursuit.

Sora says to Demyx "Hey rhino!" as Demyx turns a corner using the edge of a small overhang. The lions turn sideways into a crevice in the rocks, where they hide while the rhinos pass by. They're laughing with delight.

"What a blast!" Axel said.

"Oh… sorry." Demyx said.

"You're okay, kid…" Sora said giving Axel a noogie catching him off guard.

"Hey!"

"… You're okay."

They now try to squeeze out of the crevice. Amid "Scuse me, pardon me" from Sora, Roxas' muzzle brushes up against Axel's. They look at each other, both quite embarrassed.

"Um… S-sorr—uh…" Roxas said.

Sora and Demyx have extricated themselves and are some way up the path way.

"Hey! Are you two comin' or what?" Sora asked.

The lions walk off, side by side and laughing, Purrs soon mix with their laughter.

!i!i!i!

Roxas and Axel are lying on their backs, watching the clouds and giggling.

"See that? See that? Look at that! It's really cool." Axel said.

"What? Oh yeah! Um- look… there's on that looks like a baby rabbit. See the fluffy tail?" Roxas asked.

"Yeah… hey! There's one that looks like two lions killing each other for a scrap of meat!"

Axel laughs; this isn't Roxas' cup of tea, and he grimaces.

"Ah, I've never done this before."

"Really?" Roxas asked. "My father and I used to do this all the time. He says all the great Kings of the past are up there."

"You think Sephiroth is up there?"

They look at each other; Axel gets up and moves off. "No one here thinks he's very great… do they?"

"My father said there was a… a darkness in Sephiroth that he couldn't escape.

"Maybe there's a darkness in me too."

Roxas puts his paw on Axel's, and they nuzzle. Some distance away, Cloud is watching from a hill. He addresses the sky.

"Father… I am lost." He said. "Axel is one of them. Sephiroth's heir. How can I accept him?" Leon approaches from behind.

"Cloud?" He asked.

"I was… seeking counsel from the Great Kings." Cloud replied.

"Did they help?"

"Silent as stars." Cloud sighed. "My father would never—"

"Oh, Cloud… you want so much to walk the path expected of you. Perhaps Axel does not."

"What?" Cloud asked surprised "How do you know what—"

Leon chuckles "I can see them down there just as easily as you can. Get to know them and see." He turns and walks off; after a moment of hesitation, Cloud follows.

Back down the hill Roxas and Axel are still nuzzling, but Axel pulls away clearing his throat.

"What's wrong?" Roxas asked.

"Nothing."

"Axel…"

"It's just that… my whole life I've been trained to…" he stops. "Nothing. I gotta go." Axel turns and walks off.

"Axel—wait."

Axel pauses a moment, and looks back at Roxas' face, staring back at him; he looks away and moves to continue, but is stopped by Yazoo's finger pointing up from the grass.

"And where are you going?" Yazoo asked.

"Nuhh.. nowhere." Axel replied.

"That's what you think!" Yazoo said springing up.

Yazoo slips under Axel and vanishes in the grass.

"Who was that?" Axle asked confused.

"Uh…" Roxas said amused, and slightly apologetic. "Friend of the family."

Axel looks back and finds Yazoo lying on his back. Yazoo slips off and darts away, tugging Axel's tail and laughing.

"Come on!" Yazoo said. "You follow old Yazoo, he knows the way!"

"The way to where?" Axel asked hesitating.

"You follow—you'll see! Hurry now!"

Roxas giggles "Axel, c'mon!"

The lions run after Yazoo, who is swinging Tarzan-like from tree to tree laughing eerily.

"Where's he taking us?" Axel asked.

Yazoo lowers himself above their heads.

"To a special place in your heart… called Upendi!" Yazoo replied.

As Yazoo sings he pushes their muzzles together. As he narrates the song, monkeys of various types dance to illustrate it. Hundreds of animals of all kinds surround them, sweeping the lions up in the spirit. The scene takes on the appearance of a Tunnel of Love, with the two lions being swept down a jungle stream with the matchmaking Yazoo orchestrating the atmosphere.

"There's a place where the crazy moonMakes the monkeys sing and the baboons swoonAnd the sultry scene of the lotus bloomWill carry you away

Where the hippos swing from the jungle vinesAnd the rhino rhumba in a conga lineAnd the pink flamingoes are intertwinedAs the stars come out to play

In UpendiWhere the passionfruit grows sweetAnd it's so divineThat you lose your mindAs it sweeps you off your feetIn UpendiWithout a worry or a careIt just takes twoTo make it trueYour heart will lead you there"

"Where is it?" Roxas asked.

"No place you don't take with you…" Yazoo answered.

"You better watch your step 'cause the path is steepBetter hold your breath cause the water's deepIt's a long way down over Lovers' LeapBut falling's half the fun!

In UpendiWhere the passionfruit grows sweetAnd it's so divineThat you lose your mindAs it sweeps you off your feetIn UpendiWithout a worry or a careIt just takes twoTo make it trueYour hearts will take you there

You can beat the bush like there's no tomorrowFrom Tanganyika to KilimanjaroBut you'll find Upendi wherever you areOh underneath the sun."

"Upendi—it means "love", doesn't it?" Roxas asked.

"Welcome to Upendi!"

"In UpendiWhere the Passionfruit grows sweetAnd it's so divineThat you lose your mindAs it sweeps you off your feet"

Yazoo and the other animals sung,

"In UpendiWithout a worry or a careIt just takes twoTo make it trueYour heart will take you there"

Roxas sang with Yazoo.

"Upendi!" Roxas said.

"Down in UpendiWay downIn Upendi!"

The last few lines repeat. The song ends with Roxas and Axel still singing the words "In Upendi". They are along out on the savannah again.

"Good night…" Axel said.

"Good night…" Roxas said as he walks off to the main cavern, after looking back in Axel's direction and sighing dreamily, and Axel goes back to his standing stone on the promontory; Cloud appears in the direction Roxas is walking, and he approaches Axel.

"It's… kinds could tonight, huh? Come on." Cloud said, as Larxene watches from a distance as the two lions make their way back into the cavern.

"Get him!" Larxene said hushed to herself. "What are you waiting for? Axel, get him!" She lies down and stares with despair as she realizes Axle is not going to attack Cloud. She hisses and jumps up, rushing back to report to Saix.

"You're sure?" Saix snarls.

"Affirmative. I saw it with my own eyes." Larxene reported.

"Axel cannot betray us!"

"It's all that prince's fault!" Xigbar said.

"Yes…" Saix said getting an idea. "It truly is…"

!i!i!i!

"Okay—" Axel said. "I have to tell him today, Oh… where do I start? 'Roxas… Saix had a plot—and I was part of it. But I don't wanna be, because- it's because I love you." He sighs. "Oh, he'll never believe me. But I gotta try."

Axel goes into the cavern, where Roxas and Cloud are waking up.

"Cloud… I need to talk to Roxas." He said. Cloud nodded at Roxas, and Roxas walked up to Axel. He and Axel go out onto the promontory and down onto the savannah. They are walking through the newly burnt section of the Hollow Lands.

"So what is it, you need to talk about?" Roxas asked.

"Well…" Axel starts. "Saix he—" before Axel can continued they hear an evil chuckle from the dust surrounding them. Axel gasps as he realizes what's happening. Many dark lions appear from the clouds of dust, surrounding them. The lions eyes glow a bright sinister yellow. "No… oh, no… no…"

"Why, young Roxas… we meet again."

"Saix." Roxas said as he glares at him.

"What are you doing out here, and—so alone?" The lions encircle Roxas and Axel. "Axel, I had a feeling this brat was changing you, and I was right. But this will be one less lion to kill when we kill Cloud. Like we always planned."

"Axel? Why?" Roxas asked turning to Axel. He knew Axel has changed sense then, but he needed answers. Was Axel just lying this whole time?

"No! I didn't have anything to do with this!" Axel protested.

"Attack!" Saix said.

"No!" The lions attacked. Roxas is fighting off several at once. Axel tries to help Roxas, but is battered off by a lion and falls to the side, hitting his head on a rock. Roxas is thrown to the bottom of a ravine; lions slide down the slope towards him.

"Yes! This will be a great depression for Cloud, that he'll be easily killed!" Saix said as Larxene and the other lions attack again, forcing Roxas to flee down the canyon.

"Remember your training! As a unit!" Roxas is soon trapped; he tries to climb up the wall of the canyon, using the piled –up logs to gain purchase; Axel is above him on the ledge.

"Roxas!" he shouts.

"Get him!" Saix shouted. "Don't let Axel near him!" Xigbar jumps from the crowd.

"I'll do it—for you mother!" Xigbar said as he bounds up the logs, laughing. "Mother—are you watching?" He said. "I'm doing it for you—an I'm doing it for me!" He says softly to himself.

Xigbar chases Roxas up a slope with several broken logs strewn across it. Just as Roxas reaches the top, Xigbar grabs his ankle.

"This is my moment of glory!" Xigbar said.

The log on which Xigbar has his rear paw on breaks, causing Xigbar to lose his grip on Roxas' ankle and begins to fall. Roxas reaches the top, but the pile of logs rolls down the slope with Xigbar among them; they all land in a heap at the bottom of the ravine. Xigbar lies trapped under a large log. He looks up to the top of the slope to see one final lop rapidly falling in his direction. He grimes, terrified, as the log hits him. Axel rushes down to help free Xigbar, but he is swatted aside by Saix, who pulls enough logs aside to see Xigbar's face.

"Xigbar…"

"I'm sorry, Mother… I tried…" Xigbar said gasping for air and coughing.

"Ssshh." Saix cradles his face in his paw.

Xigbar then dies. Larxene appears next to Saix on the edge of the logs.

"Xig…" she said.

In the middle of the Hollow Lands, Roxas is walking wearily back to Hollow Bastian. Cloud sees him from a distance off.

"Roxas…" Cloud then realizes he is hurt. "Roxas! Zack, get help!"

"Oh yes!" Zack said flying off. "Help.. at once! Of Course!"

Roxas is walking with great pain. Cloud, Sora and Demyx reach him.

"Roxas…?" Cloud said.

"Roxas! Talk to me! What happened?" Sora said.

Roxas coughs, wheezing, having a hard time speaking, "Axel…" he then breaths in a painful breath of air "Ambush…" Roxas then collapses on his side, groaning in pain. Just those two words where enough to throw Cloud over the edge. He roared as loud as he could.

Sora grabs Roxas' tail and hugs it; Demyx hoists Roxas on his back, and they start to drag him back to Hollow Bastian.

"It's all right, kid… we're here for you."

!i!i!i!

Back in the World That Never Was, where the lions are gathered in a memorial to Xigbar.

"Sephiroth… watch over my poor Xigbar." Saix said as he then turns back to Axel. "You!" Saix swats Axel across the face with outstretched claws.

"Eeaugh!" Axel looks away in pain, but soon turns his head, glaring at Saix. He recoils at the sight shocked; Axel now has a scar over his left eye just like Sephiroth's. Saix recovers quickly.

"What have you done?" Saix said menacingly.

"I-I-I didn't mean to… it-it-it wasn't my fault, i…" Axel then forced the next part out. "I did nothing! You did! You attacked Roxas!"

"Exactly, we did because you wouldn't attack Cloud! Which we were hoping you would bring him instead of the little brat, but doing nothing, you betrayed your pride.. betrayed Sephiroth!"

"I WANT nothing to do with him!" Axel shouted.

"You cannot escape it! Xigbar is dead because of you!"

"No. He is dead because of you." Axel turns and runs out from among the pride, many of whom are growling and snarling at his departure.

"Let him go." Saix said. "Cloud and Now that little brat of his has hurt me for the last time… now they have corrupted Axel! Listen to me… Roxas is injured and weak, I'm sure the death of Cloud's only child, would bury him into depression, making it easier to kill him. Now is the time to attack! We will take his entire kingdom… by force!"

The nobodies all snarl and roar in reply. Back at Hollow Bastian, where Roxas is just waking up, Cloud and Leon surrounding him.

"Tell me what happened son." Cloud said. Roxas sat up feeling better, he looked down over to the valley floor, where animals are all gathered.

"It's Axel." The cheetahs said. "What's he doing here?"

"That's Axel." The giraffes said.

"Look at that scar… I can't believe he's here. That's Axel?" Random animals said.

"Axel!" Roxas said as he smiled down at the lion seeing that Axel wasn't as hurt as he was. He got up to run towards him, but Cloud snarls and jumps forward, cutting him off. Axel approaches down the narrow aisle between the congregated animals.

"I never trusted him… It's the Nobody… it's that little troublemaker…" Random animals replied.

"Why I oughtta… let me at 'im! Let me at 'im!" Sora said. He then turns to Demyx. "Here; hold me back." Sora said giving Dem his tail.

"Let me at 'im! Let me at 'im!"

"Okay!" Demyx let go of Sora's tail Sora lurching forward; turning back to Demyx. I think you're missing the basic point here.

"Uh…" Demyx replies.

"What's he doing here?... He doesn't belong here… look at the scar on his face… he looks just like Sephiroth." Random animals said.

"Why have you come back?!" Cloud growled.

"Cloud… I had nothing to do with—"Axel tried to protest but was cut off by Cloud.

"You don't belong here."

"Please… I ask your forgiveness. I would never, hurt Roxas!" Axel said.

"Dad, please… listen to him!" Roxas said.

"Silence!" Cloud said to Roxas, he then turned back to Axel. "When you first came here, you asked for judgement…"

"Give him what he deserves!" Random Animals yelled.

"…. And I pass it now."

"Kick him out! That's right! Judgment day is here!"

"Exile!"

"No!" Roxas screamed.

"Exile him! Exile! Exile!" The animals repeated.

"No!... Axel!" Roxas said.

Axel is driven from Hollow Bastian at hornpoint.

"DeceptionDisgraceEvil as plain as the scar on his face."

The animals sung.

"Deception (An outrage!)" The zebras sang"Disgrace (For shame!)" The giraffes sang"He asked for trouble the moment he came" The hippos sung."Deception (An outrage!)""(He can't change his stripes!)" All the animals sung."Disgrace (For shame!)""(You know these Nobody types!)""Evil as plain as the scar on his face." The giraffes sang"(See you later, agitator!)""Deception (An outrage!)""(Just leave us alone!)""Disgrace (For shame!)""(Traitor, go back with your own!)""He asked for trouble the moment he came.""(See you later, agitator!)"

"Born in griefRaised in hateHelpless to defy his fateLet him runLet him liveBut don't forgetWhat we cannot forgive

And he is not one of usHe has never been one of usHe is not part of usNot our kind!"

The animals sang as Axel is hounded from Hollow Bastian. As he runs, he sees his reflection in a pool change to that of Sephiroth's.

"Someone once lied to usNow we're not so blindFor we knew he would do what he's doneAnd we know that he'll never be one of us"

"He is not one of usDeception." The antelope sang."Disgrace" The zebra sang."Deception""Disgrace""Deception"

Axel wanders into the desert; Roxas is weeping and Cloud's face turning away. Yazoo watches Axel leave, from a distance.

"Oohh…" Yazoo said. "Whatever can we do now…?"

!i!i!i!

Back at Hollow Bastian, Cloud is standing at the tip of the promontory, staring off into the distance. Roxas comes up behind him.

"Father… please reconsider!" Roxas said.

"You will not go anywhere without and escort from now on." Cloud said.

"But, dad you weren't even—"

"It doesn't matter if I was there or not, Roxas. He hurt you."

"No! He didn't! He loves me… for me!"

"Because you are my son! You will not leave Hollow Bastian. You will stay where I can keep an eye on you… Away from him."

"You don't know him!"

"I know he's following Sephiroth's pawprints… and I must follow in my father's."

"You… You will never EVER be Xemnas!" Roxas cried. Cloud is stung by his words, but is silenced… Roxas breaks down and runs back to his den to lie down, sobbing. He sees a stream of light shining through a hole in the wall. Determined, he pushes his way through the wall, then runs down away from Hollow Bastian, searching for Axel. He tracks the same path Axel took while fleeing from Hollow Bastian, but he cannot find Axel.

"Axel? Axel…" Roxas said as he walks through the stream Axel walked through, looking down at his reflection. Curiously, only half of his body is clear. He continues looking through a cave, calling Axel's name. "Axel…"

Roxas begins to sing as he reflects on Axel and their time together, all they have seen and been through.

"In a perfect worldOne we've never knowWe would never need to face the world alone

They can have the worldWe'll create our ownI may not be brave or strong or smartBut somewhere in my secret heart."

Roxas sang as he looked up at the sky, seeing their rabbit and two lions in the sky, remembering.

"I knowLove will find a wayAnywhere I goI'm homeIf you are there beside me"

He moves to a log overhanging the stream. He sits down on it, depresses. When he opens his eyes and peers at his reflection, he sees that it is, again, only half clear.

"Like dark turning into daySomehow we'll come throughNow that I've found youLove will find a way."

Roxas is sitting on a high knoll, with his head bowed. Axel is slowly approaching Roxas from behind him.

"I was so afraidNow I realizeLove is never wrongAnd so it never dies"

Axel sung as Roxas turns and notices him.

"There's a perfect worldShining in your eyes"

Roxas then joins Axel and they sing together.

"And if only they could feel it tooThe happiness I feel with you"

They come together and nuzzle lovingly.

"They'd knowLove will find a wayAnywhere we goWe're homeIf we are there together

Like dark turning into daySomehow we'll come throughNow that I've found youLove will find a way

I know love will find a way."

Two butterflies flutter around Axel and Roxas, Axel brightens up at the sight of them, and laughing, rushes off after them, with Roxas in pursuit. They wrestle briefly, then catch sight of themselves in a reflection.

"Hey, look…" Axel said. "We are one." He smiles at Roxas.

Roxas smiles back, then realizes what Axel just said and looks shocked. "What?"

"Let's get outta here. We'll run away together! And start a pride… all our own."

Roxas chuckles. "Axel… we have to go back."

"You're kidding. But we're finally together!"

"Our place is with our pride. If we run away, they'll be divided forever." Axel considers, but doesn't seem entirely convinced.

"Oh, alright. Race you back!" They run off together, laughing.

!i!i!i!

The Nobodies are crossing a river on the way to attack Hollow Bastian. At Hollow Bastian, Sora and Demyx are talking.

"I can't believe we lost him again. This is the eight thousandth time!" Sora said.

"Ooh!" Demyx replied.

"I thought you were gonna watch him!"

"Me? You were gonna watch him!"

"I thought you were gonna watch him!"

"No, you were gonna watch him!"

"You were gonna watch him!"

"Aah, watch this!" Demyx said as he leaps onto Sora.

"Oww! Take that, you creepy warthog! Say it! Say it!"

"Fat! Fat! Fatty fat fat!" Sora and Demyx are all-out wrestling when Cloud approaches. When he speaks, they leap to attention.

"What are you doing?"

"Good question!" Sora replied to Cloud's question. "Now let me ask one."

"Hippo- theatrically…" Demyx said.

"Very hypo-thetical, there's this guy…"

"But he's not a lion…"

"No! No, he's not a lion… yeesh." Cloud looks amused by what they are saying. "Definitely not a lion. And, uh… uh… his son, um, say…. Vanished."

"Roxas is gone?" Cloud asked as Zack flies into shot.

"Sire! The Nobodies are on the attack… heading this way! It's war!" Zack said.

"Zack! Find Roxas! We'll assemble the lions. Move! Now!" Cloud roared as a storm gathers as the two prides close on the field of battle; rain mats Cloud's hair as he advances. Prey animals skitter away from between the advancing lions. Buzzards circle overhead. Roxas and Axel rush home as fast as they can. The two prides face each other across the field; when all are assembled, Sora and Demyx moon the Nobodies.

"Nah, Nah, Nah nah nah!" They say together.

"It's over, Cloud!" Saix said. "I have dreamed of nothing else for years!"

"Boy…" Sora said. "Does she need a hobby."

"Last chance, Saix." Cloud said. "Go home."

"I am home!" Lightning flashes and thunder cracks. "Attack!"

The two opposing lines advance toward each other, first walking, then picking up speed until they hit a full run. Saix coaches his pride from a high rock. "Go for the eyes! Break his jaw! Hit him low! Get them! Do what you must!"

Roxas and Axel approach from a distance, but the dust of battle is already rising; they're worried, but they rush towards the battlefield at full speed anyway.

"What do we do?" Demyx said. "What do we do?"

"There's only one thing we can do, Dem." Sora said. "When the going gets tough, the tough get going. That's our motto!"

"I thought our motto was 'Hakuna Matata'!"

"Demyx, stop living in the past! We need a new motto!" Sora and Demyx run screaming into the battle, trying to appear as menacing as they can. They are stopped shot by a snarling lion; they turn and run back the way they came. "Like I said: Let's get going!"

Axel and Roxas run down as embankment covered with fallen logs; Axel nearly slips, but catches onto one of the logs and jumps down safely. The logs begin shifting. Larxene soon appears on a ledge above Leon.

"Where's your handsome son, Squall?" Larxene asked.

"Larxene!" Larxene leaps down onto Leon; the two roll down the hill, fighting fiercely.

Sora and Demyx are being chased by a number of lions. They get backed up against a wall, surrounded; Demyx puts his face to the wall and covers his eyes. Sora looks around, panicking, and finally sees a way out; he jumps up on Demyx's back, bends Demyx's tail, cocks it, and holds it like a gun.

"Don't anybody move!" Sora said. "This thing's loaded. I'll let you have it!" The enemy lions all laugh and get ready to pounce. "All right then!" Sora pulls Dem's tail which makes him let a very big one rip. The lions all turn tail and flee over the horizon. "Yeah! Yeah… talk about your winds of war!"

Back on the battlefield, Saix is laughing as he views the battle turning in his favor. "Cloud…" He jumps down "You're mine!" He and his two backup lions approach Cloud, who is fighting off several enemies at once. The lions part, making way for Saix and Cloud to fight one-on-one. Just as they are about to land the first blows, Roxas and Axel leap into the scene, and stand between the two enemies.

"Roxas?" Cloud said.

"Axel!" Saix said as Axel stares at him, Axel eyes narrowing at his mention of his name. "…Move."

"Stand aside."

"Dad." Roxas said. "This has to stop."

"You're even weaker than I thought." Saix said to Axel. "Get out of the way!"

"You'll never EVER hurt Roxas again… or Cloud." Axel said. "Not while I'm here." Saix gasps.

"Stay out of this!" Cloud roars."

"A wise King once told me," Roxas started. "'We are one.' I didn't understand what he meant… now I do."

"But… they…"

"Them… us." Roxas said. "Look at them… they are us. What differences do you see? Aren't we all part of the Circle of Life?" Cloud pauses; the battle has stopped. As Cloud and Roxas look at one another, the clouds part and the rain stops. Finally, Cloud and his son nuzzle.

"Larxene… now!" Saix said.

"No, Mother!" Larxene said. "Roxas' right." She walks over to Cloud's side, turning around to face Saix. "Enough." Saix's other lions look shocked.

"If you will not fight… then you will die as well." Saix said. Some of his lions begin to move over onto Cloud's side. Saix's eyes begin to panic as his whole pride leaves him. "Wh-wha… where are you going? Get back here!"

"Let it go." Cloud said. "Saix, it's time to put the past behind us."

Saix now alone says. "I'll never let it go!" More logs pile up in the river, forming a dam. "This is for you, Sephiroth!" Saix leaps at Cloud, but Roxas catches her in mid-fight and rolls over with her; the two lions tumble down the embankment.

"Roxas!" Cloud and Axel say in unison. Cloud jumps down the slope, trying desperately to reach Roxas, but he and Saix have already fallen too far for Cloud to catch up. Roxas manages to catch a hold on the ledge, slowing his descent enough for him to jump onto a small ledge. Saix clings to the rocks some distance below Roxas, hanging by his front paws.

"Hold on, Roxas!" Leon said as the dam of logs breaks; the river suddenly begins to swell to many times its normal flow. "Cloud! Cloud—the river!" The river is rapidly rushing to fill the canyon. Cloud leaps from rock face to rock face, trying to reach Roxas. Below, Saix hangs precariously from the rock face. Roxas is above on the ledge.

"Saix!" Roxas shouts. "Give me your paw!" Saix swipes at Roxas, growling. He slips further down the rock face; he glance at the tumbling water and logs below.

"Ahh… Ahhh…" Saix yells.

"Saix, come on… I'll help you…" He slides further down the rock wall, scrabbling for traction on the rock, but is unable to climb up. A change comes over Saix's face; he grins up at Roxas.

"No… Never!" Saix screams as he lets go and falls back-first into the churning water below. The water and logs carry him under, and the flow in the canyon gradually subsides. Axel looks down where his mother fell, closes his eyes, and lets out a sigh. Cloud is waiting on the rocks near Roxas.

"Roxas…" Cloud said.

"I tried…" Roxas replied.

"Roxas… oh." Leon said.

"Wow… that was really brave!" Demyx said.

"Yeee-haaa!" Sora said as Roxas and Axel approach each other.

"Axel…" Roxas said.

"Oh, Roxas." Axel said as Cloud came up behind Roxas.

"Axel… I was wrong." Cloud said. "You belong here." Roxas leans into Axel. "Let's go home… all of us." The two rpides slowly walk back to Hollow Bastian. Yazoo blesses the union of Roxas and Axel with a gesture of his staff.

"I love moments like this." Demyx said.

"Yeah…" Sora replied.

"…Love. Not like…love!" They said in unison. Zack isn't amused. Sora and Demyx burst into tears. Zack shields himself with his wings.

Cloud and Leon lead the procession through the rest of the pride, flanking them with bowed heads; Roxas and Axel follow. Both couples make their way to the tip of the Promontory; first Cloud roars, and then Axel does. Finally all four roar together. The rest of the pride roars in answer.

The clouds part, and Cloud is illuminated by a sunbeam; Xemnas arrives from the clouds. "Well done, my son." The spirit of Xemnas circles around Cloud. Yazoo smiles and nods as the prophecy comes to completion. "We are one."

THE END

(A/N: Holy crap 32 pages! Long ass story, once again I tinkered with the story line and some parts that are in here are completely made up, so yeah. Let me know what you guys think and once again, I don't care if you didn't like the story or the spots the characters where in. Live with it. Flame me! I don't give a shit! Hoped those of you who did enjoyed the story will stick around for more stories like this. RoxastheWriter!)

Write a Review Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Rachel Taylor
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