• Wait!
    This is the third entry in the Keys to the Kingdom series. Reading out of order can cause confusion and brain explosion! If you haven't read the first entry, click here!


    Chapter 2: Angel

    There was a beach near Twilight Town. She’d gone once a year, every year, during summer vacation. That’s how she knew without even opening her eyes that she was on a beach. The pleasant heat of the sand, the feel of the sun, the salty tang in the air, the rushing of the waves.

    Mia opened her eyes and stared at the bluest sky she had ever seen. Sitting up and looking around, she could tell that this was not the same beach that she had been to every year. This beach had palm trees, for one. The second thing was that this was an island, not a beach. Far across the ocean she faced, she could see a mainland where she could barely make out tiny houses.

    Standing and dusting sand off the skirt of her uniform, she frowned. Where was she? How did she get here? Was this a dream?

    “Hey! Over here!”

    Mia looked. Her eyes found a dock a little further down the beach where a lone figure stood, waving. She approached cautiously.

    The figure was a boy about her age. His spiky hair was chocolate brown; his blue eyes were more childlike than anything, giving him a kind expression. He stood, facing the ocean, humming to himself.

    She stared at him. “Who are you?”

    He looked back at her, smiling. “I was the last one,” he answered cryptically. “Or maybe I was the first. I really don’t know, no one ever told me.”

    “I meant... What’s your name?” Mia asked again, thoroughly confused.

    “Oh.” He turned to face her and put a hand in a pocket. “My name doesn’t matter. But what about you? What’s your name?”

    “Mia,” she answered shyly. “But I want to know who you are.”

    Sadly, the boy shook his head. “We don’t have enough time. They’ll come when you wake up, and you need to have made your choice before then.”

    “What? Who’ll come?” Mia was thrown. “What choice?”

    The boy pointed behind her as the sky clouded over. Mia turned and, suddenly, they weren’t on the beach anymore. They were on an enormous stained glass window, hovering all on its own in the middle of a darkness, illuminated only by a few filtered shafts of light from above and the stained glass window itself, glowing in its own luminosity.

    The window itself pictured a girl with blond hair and a red bow. Had Mia had been a more introverted person, she would have noticed that the pictured girl bore a striking resemblance to her. But Mia only saw a pretty girl in a billowing pink dress with angel wings, wielding a bow in one hand and a glowing arrow seemingly made of light in the other. She didn’t have any more time to admire the giant window, because she noticed something else crawling on top of it.

    It would have come up to about her knee had it been standing right beside her. It was completely black except for its bulbous eyes that glowed yellow in the shadows. It looked vaguely humanoid, but its large antennae and the disproportionate size of its legs and arms to its body made her think of a four-legged insect. Although it was a little on the bizarre side, something about it made her afraid. Deathly afraid.

    And then more appeared, seeming to rise out of the window.

    “Don’t worry,” the boy encouraged her. “They’re just Shadows. There are far scarier things than them out there, believe me.”

    He held out something to her. She looked down. It was a sword. “I don’t know how to use this,” she whispered, terrified.

    “I can’t help you with that,” the boy responded. “But if you don’t take it, it’s all over. For you and for me.”

    “What do you mean? Over how?”

    He pushed the sword at her. “Take it,” he insisted patiently.

    The creatures held their distance, seeming to wait for her. Mia glanced at them, back to the sword, then up at the boy. “What’s going on?”

    “I told you, there’s not enough time for silly questions!” The boy’s voice was angry for the first time. “Now take it!”

    Mia took a breath and took the blade. She stared at it, not sure what to do. She looked at the boy for help, but he shook his head. “You have to figure this out for yourself. I’m sorry.” He turned to watch the creatures. “Here they come.”

    And come they did. They seemed to sink into the ground as they moved, approaching in wide zigzagging paths. Mia bit her lip, holding the sword defensively in front of her. One of the things emerged from the ground and jumped for her, holding its hands like claws. She swung. Wide, like wielding a baseball bat.

    Somehow she’d managed to hit it with the edge, cleaving it neatly in two. It exploded in a burst of dark purple smoke. Another one emerged and she brought the sword down vertically, slicing that one open across the face.

    As more and more creatures appeared from seemingly nowhere, she began to try and channel every hack-and-slash movie she ever made, trying to imitate what she’d seen the actors do. Either she was doing well or the creatures were just really weak. She had the feeling it was the latter.

    But they came in droves, each one she killed was replaced by two more. She was slowly being surrounded by the things.

    Finally, a voice cut through the sounds of desperate battle. “I think that will do.” There was a flash of light.

    All the creatures were gone. The boy suddenly stood before her, a giant gold and silver old-fashioned key in his hand. “You know what this is, don’t you?” he asked, holding it out for her to see.

    Her tongue found the word without even having to search for it. “It’s a Keyblade,” she said automatically. It felt so natural, saying that word, that she didn’t even wonder how she knew it.

    The boy smiled. “Maybe she made a good move, choosing you. You’re faster than I thought. So you’ll know what that is, right?” He pointed above them at the heart-shaped moon far above them that illuminated the window they stood on.

    Mia stared at it, transfixed. It shone merrily at them, casting a silver glow down on them both and the other windows that had suddenly appeared. She smiled softly. She never thought she’d see something so pretty. “That’s—


    “—not cool to ask her to do that after she just passed out, y’know?”

    “When did I ask you, moron? And she’s not passed out, she’s faking it ‘cause she thinks it’s cute.”

    “I agree…”

    “Thanks, Fuu. I knew I could count on you.”

    “…with Rai.”


    Mia groaned. Loud, too loud. She needed to find out who the boy was, what he was talking about, what a… oh, man, what was the word… Keyblade was, what was up with that heart-shaped moon… She had to get back to sleep to start dreaming again. She had to let the boy finish what he was saying.

    She opened her eyes. She was lying on a bench near the sandlot. Rai, Fuu, and Seifer seemed to be arguing in a clump nearby. Well, that was new. She didn’t think she had ever seen Seifer and his followers arguing.

    Seifer turned to face her. “Are you okay?” he asked, sitting down next to her.

    Fuu and Rai looked at one another nervously. Their expressions were not lost on Mia. She started to have a bad feeling, and it wasn’t about the guy in the red cloak.

    “I’m fine, Seifer. I think I should go home and… take a nap or something.”

    Seifer smiled and put a hand on her leg. “Oh, come on, sweetheart. You don’t need to play hard to get.”

    “I’m not playing hard to get, Seifer,” she said firmly, pushing his hand off of her lap. Her heart was beating fast—not in the good way—and she was wide awake now. She stood up. “I really think I should go home now.”

    Suddenly he was right in front of her. He pushed her back against the wall and pinned her there with a hand. “That’s really funny, ‘cause, a minute ago, you were begging to stay here with me.”

    “Not like that, Seifer,” Mia whispered, trying to sound as dangerous as possible. Not easy. She supposed her big hair bow probably killed any threat she might have even slightly had.

    He smiled at her, seeming even more dangerous than she could ever hope to. “What did you think was going to happen?” He was right up against her now, pinning her to the wall.


    “What now, Fuu?!” He turned.

    And he was met by Fuu’s fist, clocking him hard on the side of the face.

    “Fujin!!” Rai shouted. No one really used Fuu’s real name, but to him, this was a circumstance that was more special than any that year. He’d even forgotten to say ‘y’know’. It might make the morning news.

    “Go,” Fuu shouted at Mia, but Seifer had recovered faster than she had expected. He stood and backhanded her.

    Mia turned to run again. This time, she really knew it was for her life. Or at least her life as she knew it. There were sounds of Seifer and Rai engaging in a swift brawl behind her, and then a weight dropped down on her back. She knew for a fact without even looking around that it was Seifer.

    It was the last straw when he grabbed at the waistband of her skirt. She had never raised a hand in anger against anything in her life, but the camel’s back had broken. With all of her strength, mustered up in adrenaline, she wrenched a hand free, rolled over to face Seifer, and brought it down in a fist at the back of his neck.

    He let out a shout and jumped back as if he had been electrocuted. He stared at her. “What the Hell is that?!”

    “What’s what?” She looked down at her hand.

    It was a giant key.

    It wasn’t like the one the boy had. His had been just a plain old key. The one she was holding was much more elaborate, barely looking like a key at all. Its shaft was broad and bladelike, its wrist guard vaguely bow-shaped. An arrow with a heart-shaped point was inscribed on the blade. The actual jagged key part looked exactly like an angel’s wing. The metal was white, and the wrist guard was a soft shade of pink.

    Mia didn’t get it, but whatever. She took blessings as they came. She pointed the end of the key at Seifer. “Stay back!” she shouted.

    Seifer snarled at her, then shrugged, standing. “Whatever. Whore’s not worth it, anyway.” He turned and exited the sandlot, leaving his two (most likely former) friends sprawled on the ground.

    Rai was already sitting up. “Wow,” he said dully. “Don’t know if I should think you were cool or he was really uncool, y’know?”

    Mia ignored him and ran over to Fuu, who was face-down in the sand. “Fuu! Fuu, are you okay?”

    Fuu sorely pushed herself up, rubbing the back of her neck. She nodded, looking up at the other girl with the only eye visible through her bangs. “You?”

    “Just fine,” Mia answered. Fuu pointed wordlessly at the key. Mia just shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine.”

    Rai walked over and patted her on the shoulder. “I tried to tell him, y’know? ‘She’s gonna say no, so just give it up now,’ y’know? Didn’t work… y’know.”

    Mia smiled, standing up while helping Fuu do the same. “Thanks for trying, Rai,” she said fondly. She hadn’t thought much of Rai before, believing him to be a little bit on the stupid side. Now she thought him good as gold.

    Suddenly, Fuu screamed, pointing at the other side of the alley.

    Mia and Rai both looked. Mia’s heart dropped. She should have known. If this key was here, then that meant…

    A black creature just like the one in her dream stood staring at them. Staring at her, really. She gulped heavily.

    “Rai, take Fuu home,” Mia whispered.

    “What are you gonna do, y’know?” Rai inquired concernedly.

    Mia pointed the key at the creature. “I can deal with it.”

    A half an hour ago, Rai wouldn’t have believed it far as he could throw her. But since he had just seen her send the person he used to worship running with his tail between his legs, there was not a doubt in his mind.

    Fuu walked up to Mia, unclipping something from her neck. Out from under her shirt she pulled a necklace with a charm that looked like a ball of purple glass. She thrust it into Mia’s hand. “Luck,” she said firmly, before dashing off with Rai.

    The girl thrust the necklace into the pocket of her uniform’s skirt. She held the key at the ready, staring at the thing. “Okay. I can take one of you.”

    Two more appeared on either side of it. Then five more. Then ten more. And then suddenly every available space of ground except for a small ring around Mia was crawling with the things.

    Mia giggled nervously. “Oh, boy.” No way she could fight them all, even if she wanted to. That left only one option.

    She slashed a wide swath in the swarm of creatures and ran.

    Once she had watched a video online about what to do if zombies tried to take over the world. Her initial thought was “that could never happen” but she had, jokingly, made a “zombie plan” and posted it in her room. The gist of the plan was this: barricade yourself in the school until the army can take care of it.

    Though these things obviously weren’t zombies, she figured her plan might still be valid. Hopefully. The school wasn’t even that far, so, even though she was exhausted by all the running she’d done today, she should be able to get there before she collapsed.

    She got there alright, creatures appearing on every side the whole way. But when she got inside, she didn’t like what she saw.

    She was suddenly only standing on a flat tiled floor. No walls, no ceiling, just the tile, floating in the middle of an oblivion of swirling debris, all sucked up into a huge black hole above her head. If she hadn’t known better, she would have thought that the doors to her high school had become a portal to Hell.

    And directly in front of her was a person. She could make out no features, because he was completely covered in a featureless black cloak. She couldn’t even tell if it was male or female. It had its back to her, seemingly staring out at the destruction.

    “Who... who are you?!” she screamed above the roaring of the wind that blew ever upwards into the black mass above them.

    “s**t!” The curse sounded like a whisper over the din. But it was definitely a male voice and, judging by the tone, was only about her age. The boy turned to face her, immediately spotting the key. “s**t...” he repeated, this time more exasperatedly.

    “What’s going on?!” Mia screeched. She’d had a hard day, and she was about to start crying again.

    The boy seemed to at least sense this. He rubbed his invisible temples, groaning, “First a naive fool, now a crybaby! Are the keyblades trying to make this easy for us?”

    “Gee, could you vague that up a little for me?” Mia practically sobbed, fed up.

    He chuckled. “Then again, this might be on the entertaining side.” He held out his hands in a ‘bring it on’ gesture. “Show me what you’ve got.”

    Mia charged, throwing caution to the wind. She held her key in position for a stab. The boy moved faster than a lightening bolt the second the point was an inch from his heart. She stumbled, overshooting her target. The boy swooped in behind her. Suddenly he had keys like hers in both hands, holding them in an offensive stance.

    She turned and countered the right hand with the flat shaft of her key, but he slipped in with his left. The back of the shaft cracked down on her shoulder.

    Even though she had never so much as sprained an ankle before, she knew immediately that he had single-handedly shattered her right shoulder. She screamed and stumbled backwards, grabbing her arm. She really was crying now, big hot tears that blinded her. Her head spun wildly and her key fell to the ground.

    His foot came around and hit her smack in the chest. She felt her heart shudder with the impact, and she fell back with a squeal.

    The boy laughed cruelly. “This is embarrassing! Do you realize just how embarrassing you are right now? Seriously, girl, pull it together, I could have sliced your arm off if I wanted to.” She knew he had the point of his key to her head. “Seriously... just shut the ******** up!!”

    She heard a sound like a whip and then a bang. Her tears ceased and she looked up. The boy looked okay except for a hole in his hood. “Whoa. That was close.” He turned, keeping his key on Mia’s neck.

    It was the man in the red cloak. He looked just as intense as he had earlier. Even more so now, because he had a gun pointed right at the boy.

    “It’s over, Roxas,” said the man. “You’ve lost.”

    The boy pushed back his hood, giving Mia a shock.

    She was almost right in assuming he was her age. He was probably a year older. But the thing that surprised her was that he looked almost exactly like the friendly boy from her dream. Except for his blonde hair, spiked in a different way.

    He pouted. “Oh, come on. I’ve only just gotten started.”

    The man began to pull the trigger. The boy jumped back. “Have it your way, then…” Darkness gathered at his feet then burst upwards, enveloping him in a cocoon of shadows which vanished almost as fast as it appeared, leaving no trace of the boy.

    “You better leave fast though,” his disembodied voice chuckled. “This planet is dying. Don’t wanna be here when it croaks.”

    The man put the gun away and approached her. Mia nursed her broken shoulder silently, biting her lip. Any small motion brought a burst of pain.

    He knelt down and touched her shoulder gingerly in a few places. He nodded. “You’ll be alright. Don’t worry.”

    The ground gave a lurch and began to slowly drift upwards towards the black hole. Mia screamed once more, grabbing the front of the man’s cloak. He reached into his pocket and yanked out a cell phone. He flipped it open and roared, “Cid, I’ve got her! We have to go, now!”

    “What?!” Mia shouted.

    Without a word, he picked her up and slung her over his shoulder. Once again she screamed from a mixture of pain and panic. She couldn’t see anything. The roar became deafening and suddenly they were in what she could only equate to a space ship’s cockpit.

    The man whose shoulder she was over plopped her down into a chair and buckled her in, paying no heed to her wound.

    “She okay?” someone with a southern accent asked, not sounding too concerned.

    “Shoulder’s busted all to Hell, but she’ll live,” the man answered. “Get us out of here. Now!”

    The red-cloaked man stepped out of the way and she caught a glimpse of a blonde man with a cigarette in his mouth at the controls. “Dunno if I can, Vince. No one’s ever actually flown away from one of these things before.”

    “Shut up and fly,” the red-coated man growled.

    "Alright, alright,” the blonde grumbled, pulling a few levers. “Damn, I give you an inch, y’all wants a mile.”

    The G-forces pulled as they tore away from the tiny island in the abyss were amazing. Mia felt as if her stomach was about to get sucked through her back. Debris flew past the wind screen, coming dangerously close to what Mia was more and more sure was a spaceship.

    “Be careful!” Mia shouted.

    “No worries, girlie!” the pilot shouted. “I’m nothin’ but a leaf on the wind—watch how I soar!”

    Something slammed into the front of the ship, causing it to shake violently.

    “DAMMIT, CID!” the cloaked man, who had strapped himself into a chair next to Mia’s, roared. He looked about to throttle something.

    “It’s okay,” the pilot panted frantically. “I’m a leaf on the wind!”

    “But what does that mean?!”

    The ship bobbed and weaved through what Mia was uncomfortably aware what was the remains of her world. A couple seconds later, they were free of the atmosphere.

    There was a ghastly silence.

    There was a ghastly sound.

    There was a ghastly silence.


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