Chapter 14: Return to Hollow Bastion
Several warships drew closer and closer to Hollow Bastion. All of them filled with Cut-throats, a new form of Heartless. They were six-foot high, possessed razor-sharp sword blades, clawed hands and feet and razor-sharp jaws. They were very skinny and were the same colour as Shadows. They had round, sinister yellow eyes and possessed the infamous Heartless emblem to prove that they were artificial.
They were all assembled in the hangers of the warships. Thousands of them had been assembled, twitching uncontrollably like some Heartless did as a habit and yearning for blood. In the head warship that was leading the attack, Sharak resided with Maleficent, Jafar, Hades and Ursula. Sephiroth, Captain Hook and Oogie Boogie were separated and on different vessels, each assigned with their own unit of Heartless. The emperor spoke to all his fellow allies, via video communication. He wanted everyone to hear his words, his allies and his followers.
"Hear me, my fellow members of the council and my children", began Sharak, "The day of reckoning has arrived. It is time for enemies to fall, my rebirth to enter the next stage and for our total rule of all worlds to begin. Each of you will have an important role to fulfil. All members of the council have proved to me that they deserve the opportunity to rule all by my side, each of you will glory in my supreme moment of triumph, that is if you justify my trust and confidence in each and every one of you. Understand that failure is NOT an option. If this invasion does not bring me what I want, you will all perish brutally and horribly for your inability. If everything goes according to plan, then you will all receive the greatest rewards imaginable. You have all been rewarded highly for all your loyal and admirable service, now it is time to succeed in the biggest task of your lives and earn the biggest prize you can obtain. I trust you will all put one hundred percent effort into successfully carrying out your roles in this mission?"
All the council members expressed their commitment. The Heartless bowed down to their father's wishes.
"Good. Now it is time to strategize. Sephiroth, you will lead your unit for a central and frontal attack on the castle. Captain, your unit will proceed to the left and unleash an assault from the side. Oogie Boogie, you will join in on the pincer movement you share with the captain by leading your Cut-throats for an attack on the right side of Hollow Bastion. Now I am perfectly aware of the possibility that Sora may get there before us, resulting in a greater resistance then expected but regardless of the power that will try to stop us, we are only trying to distract the rebels long enough for Jafar, Ursula, Hades, Maleficent and myself to take the princesses to the grand hall and use their power and our own to reveal the keyhole. Once I have what I came for, we shall return to Castle Sharak to carry out the final stages of my regeneration, and proceed in the conquering of all worlds. Any questions?"
"What shall we do with him?" asked Maleficent as she looked over to the far corner of the room.
"He will assist in making sure all is in readiness", said Sharak, "Then he will proceed in trying to get rid of the Keybearer."
"What if he should fail...again?"
"I have many a back-up plan, my dear. Many a back-up plan indeed. Any more questions?"
Everyone shook their heads, understanding everything that Sharak had said.
"Good. Our ETA is thirty-five minutes. Make preparations for combat and transportation of the princesses."
Everyone returned to their duties and proceeded to make all the necessary preparations. Sharak was left by himself. He "smiled" as he thought to himself...
Soon. So very soon.
At Hollow Bastion, Aerith was giving Adam a tour of the castle. The seventeen-year-old was now confined to a wheelchair thanks to a broken back sustained at the hands of Sharak. The two exchanged stories of their pasts as their conversation lead to the library.
"That is so horrible", said Aerith when she heard of everything Sharak did to Adam and Jaron.
"Yeah, I thought it was as well", said Adam, "Yours is quite the story too, Aerith. Kairi told me about Ansem when I arrived on her island. She told me he was one evil dude but she didn't explain the story like that."
"Ansem was quite a nice man before he let his research eat away at his better judgement. I don't think the same could be said for Sharak."
"I've lost everything because of him. I don't know if my brother's still alive and I've been haunted by that everyday for the last six months. And now thanks to Sharak, I may never walk again."
"I'm so sorry, Adam."
"Don't be, Aerith", smiled Adam, "You and the others have got nothing to be sorry about. I really appreciate everything you guys have done for me, you've all been great about all of this. I don't know how to thank you."
"You don't have to", smiled Aerith, "We..."
"Hey, guys!" shouted Yuffie as she burst into the library, "We got something the two of you might want to see!"
"What is it, Yuffie?"
"It's a couple of old friends, Aerith! You haven't seen 'em, Adam, but you might like 'em! Come on!"
Several minutes later, Sora and the others met with Leon, Cloud, Cid, Aerith, Yuffie and Adam. After happy reunions, countless introductions and explanations, everyone present understood the current situation. Sora and Adam talked a lot with one another during the gigantic conversation, both taken aback with what they had to say to one another.
"My little brother is alive?!"
"And he's fallen under Sharak's control", said Sora, "Jaron is now his personal slave. I'm so sorry."
"That piece of garbage is making this too personal", seethed Adam. He looked at Sora and replied, "I'm sorry too, man. I'm sorry about Kairi and what happened to your home. If I could've done something, I..."
"Jaron told me the whole story, Adam. I understand. I had no idea that Sharak had..."
"Sharak's dished out a lot of pain, Sora. I think it's about time he was made to pay for it."
"My sentiments exactly", agreed the Keybearer, "That's why we came here to help, Leon. Sharak needs to be stopped along with the Heartless. We know he's coming here to reopen the keyhole."
"It is possible that it can be reopened", said Leon, "But it will be difficult to say the least. He made a smart move by having Maleficent and all the others to help."
"I'm confident that we can stop Sharak from getting what he wants, but I don't think we can stop him altogether here and now. That's why as soon as he's gone from Hollow Bastion, we have to all stick together to bring him down. We need your help."
"And you've got it, Sora."
An alarm sounded. Everyone knew what it meant.
"Sounds like they're here!" shouted Yuffie as everyone rushed outside to see the vessels landing from the sky and surrounding the castle. Heartless poured out of the ships and sprinted towards the castle, Sephiroth, Captain Hook and Oogie Boogie leading their units to attack from all directions. Sharak hovered above, watching the Cut-throats that hungered for hearts running towards the army of heroes.
Thousands and thousands of Cut-throats ran closer and closer towards Sora and friends, who ran to engage the Heartless. In a matter of seconds, Heartless were "biting the dust". Sora tore into the Cut-throats with the Sonic Blade, leaving them either destroyed or dazed. The ones that were stunned were easy pickings for Goofy as he charged them with his shield sending them flying upward into the air where they disintegrated.
Cloud and Leon easily tore apart the Heartless with their formidable swords. Cloud speed-dashed through the Cut-throats with his sword held in front of him. They were all too easily obliterated. When ever the Heartless tried to use their swords and claws to counter-attack, Cloud just blocked their primitive attacks and taunted, "That the best you can do?", before leaping into the air and plunging his sword into the ground as he fell back down, creating shockwaves that decimated the dark creatures.
Leon shot powerful projectiles from his Gunblade, destroying more Heartless. For the man formerly known as Squall Leonheart, this was about pride and revenge. When the Heartless invaded Hollow Bastion eleven years ago, Squall had been unable to stop them and had changed his name to Leon to part with his past. He lost so many of his loved ones because of his failure and he was determined not to let it happen again. He used his incredible speed and agility to leap from Cut-throat to Cut-throat, wiping them out in an instant with powerful Gunblade strikes.
Genie was having no problems at all. Brutal savagery was no match for phenomenal cosmic power. Heartless fell a dozen at a time as Genie zapped Cut-throats everywhere. As far as the Heartless being able to fight back was concerned, they couldn't. Genie unleashed powerful thunderstorms on the unbelievably, mismatched creatures and continued smashing and striking the Heartless.
Sharak knew that his warriors were being destroyed at an alarming rate. He realised that he had to put his plan into action as quickly as he could. Jaron and the Heartless were escorting the seven unconscious princesses to the grand hall as fast as they could.
"Hurry, you fools!" roared the source of all darkness, "We're running out of time!"
Back outside, Tarzan and Aladdin were teaming up well to eliminate the Cut-throats. Tarzan jumped high into the air and struck multiple Heartless with his spear. The stunned creatures were then easy targets for Aladdin, who charged at them, swinging his sword, destroying them instantly. Tarzan then hurled his spear twice at the enemy, before sweeping them and then finishing them off with spear stabs. Aladdin jumped into the air, delivering an upward sword strike, connecting with many more Cut-throats, where they flew up into the air and vanished into nothingness. Both Tarzan and Aladdin were powerful warriors and were having no problems whatsoever in dealing with this new breed of Heartless.
Hercules sent dozens of Heartless flying halfway across the world with one punch before they disintegrated. A yellow barrier formed around the demi-god as he ran through the Cut-throats. They were easily sent flying as he just ploughed through them, destroying anything that came into contact with him. God-like strength and power was another huge advantage for the good guys, who despite being outnumbered, were firmly in control.
Yuffie somersaulted to wherever she could go, punching and kicking Heartless. She threw ninja stars, which eliminated the Cut-throats before returning to her. If she got injured, she just healed herself with Curaga magic and came back on the attack. She threw more ninja stars at the Heartless taunting, "Come and get it!", somersaulting and running all over the place, kicking and punching anything that moved.
Jack Skellington just smiled as he dodged the savage strikes from the Cut-throats and made use of his excellent reach due to his long limbs. He punched and kicked the Heartless, stunning them long enough to slide attack his enemies and unleash magic on them. The ruler of nightmares and terror shouted, "Come on, fellas, let's go!", rallying the others into more continuous decimation of the Heartless. He continued using his excellent reach and extraordinary magic to eliminate the Heartless.
Carpet and Peter Pan were using their flying talents very offensively. Carpet ploughed through the Cut-throats, either shunting them aside or eradicating them. Peter was using his powerful Stop magic to make them easy targets for his dagger combination attacks. Because they were flying so fast and so high, the Cut-throats couldn't get a single blow in. All they got was more of the same from the "high-flyers".
Donald was also making effective use of his magic. Firaga, Blizzaga, Thundaga and Graviga spells were destroying dozens and dozens of Heartless. The Royal Wizard struck the Cut-throats again and again. Whenever mass units of Heartless were destroyed, Donald just calmly blew the smoke off his staff and smiled before rejoining the attack.
After several minutes of running through Hollow Bastion, the Council of Darkness made it to the castle chapel, the grand hall was only seconds away. Sharak could taste his regeneration coming closer and closer to him. Sharak and the others were halfway across the chapel when a figure slowly emerged from darkness.
"Going somewhere?" asked Adam innocently. The council just laughed at him in his wheelchair.
"Honestly, Adam", said Sharak, "I thought our business had concluded a while ago."
"It's not over until I say it's over, freak-face."
"You obviously don't remember what I said to you when we first met, do you? I told you that there isn't anything you can do to stop me and you know it. Things haven't changed, they never will."
A smile appeared across Adam's face as he slowly rose out of his wheelchair. Everyone except Sharak looked in astonishment as the seventeen-year-old stood before them.
Adam leapt at Maleficent and Ursula and brutally banged their heads together, sending them down to the floor. Hades hurled fireballs at the seventeen-year-old, only for them to be dodged and the king of the Underworld to be viciously kicked in the jaw and sent crashing into the wall nearby. Jafar shot powerful lasers at Adam but his speed and agility enabled him to dodge the genie's attack and retaliate with an uppercut that sent Jafar crashing through the chapel's stain glass window. He ran to his wheelchair and threw it at Sharak. The wheelchair struck the source of all darkness in the face, stunning him long enough for a punch from Adam to send him crashing out of the chapel onto the lift stop.
"I've waited a long time to say this, Sharak!" shouted Adam as he ran in to continue his onslaught, "IT'S PAYBACK TIME!!!"
Adam kicked and punched Sharak all over. He used his speed and agility to bounce around like a Ping-Pong ball using "hit and run" tactics. Sharak hurled darts at Adam and tried slashing away at him but Adam refused to stay still.
"I thought breaking you would have been enough, Adam", remarked Sharak, "An intelligent individual would have STAYED broken."
"Like YOU, you mean?" taunted Adam as he continued pummelling the emperor.
"Insolent child!" roared the creature as he kicked Adam away from him, "I can see now that breaking you would NEVER be enough. Now I will undoubtedly have to kill you."
"Talk, talk, talk."
Adam sent his fist crashing through Sharak. The source of all darkness screamed in pain as the sheer strength of the seventeen-year-old tore him apart.
"ENOUGH!" shouted Sharak as he held his hand over his chest and ran away, "I do not have the time for these childish games! We'll conclude our business another time, Adam! I promise you that!"
"YOU'RE NOT GETTING AWAY FROM ME!" shouted Adam as he chased after the emperor.
The doors leading to the castle chapel closed behind Sharak as he re-entered the room. The creature used his powers to form a barrier that locked the doors. Adam hit the doors as hard as he could, desperate to get revenge but he couldn't get past the door. Sharak used his powers to heal the others and they recovered in an instant.
"Hurry!" gestured Sharak as he ran to the great hall. The others followed behind him.
"DON'T RUN AWAY FROM ME, COWARD!" shouted Adam as he continued striking the doors, "COME BACK SO I CAN GIVE YOU THE BEATING YOU DESERVE!"
Adam then remembered the conversation he'd had with Sora. Sharak was going to resurface the keyhole. All the pieces were in place. Adam knew that he alone couldn't get past the doors, but Sora could. Adam also realised that the Keybearer and everyone else needed to know about Sharak, the survival of all worlds was more important than his personal vendetta. He ran off to warn the others.
Back outside, Sora and the others were clearly winning but they were too distracted by the Cut-throats to notice that in the heat of the battle, Sharak and the other members of the Council had disappeared. The Keyblade master then realised this just as soon as he had decimated several more Heartless with a Ragnarok attack. His momentary daydreaming allowed several Cut-throats to sneak up on him. They were just about to strike when a monstrous roar sounded and the Heartless vanished in an instant. Sora turned around to see the Heartless destroyed and another old friend standing before him.
"Watch your back, old friend", said Beast.
"Thanks, I will", smiled Sora as the two teamed up to wipe out more Cut-throats, "I take it you're looking for Belle. Sharak's got her."
"I know. The source of all darkness was responsible for the loss of my world. I've been tracking him for weeks."
"HEADS UP, BOYS!"
Sora, Beast and everyone else looked up to see Adam leaping from a fifteen-foot high balcony and punch his fist into the ground as he landed, creating powerful earthquakes that destroyed more and more Heartless. Adam punched and kicked Cut-throats, sending them flying all over the place.
"I'm in da house!" laughed Adam as he back-flipped over countless sword swings from the Cut-throats and lifted Heartless up one at a time and threw them at one another.
"Alive and kicking!" laughed the seventeen-year-old as he waded through the Cut-throats, tearing them apart, "And yes, Leon, I'm feeling ALL better now. Thanks for asking!"
"How did you..."
"Call it a gift, Cloud! Hey, Sora! Sharak's at the great hall! He's got everything he needs to do you-know-what!"
"Sora, go!" shouted Leon, "We'll take care of everything here!"
"You'll need help!" shouted Donald and Goofy as they ran over to Sora.
"The three of you alone don't have a chance!" yelled Adam as he ran over to them, "But with ME watching your backs, I'd say the odds are just about even!"
"Come on!" shouted Sora as he made his way back inside. Donald, Goofy and Adam followed behind the Keybearer and the four ran as fast as they could to the grand hall.
At the grand hall, all seven princesses of heart, Kairi, Alice, Jasmine, Snow White, Belle, Cinderella and Aurora, were assembled in capsules and unconscious. Sharak, Jafar, Hades, Ursula and Maleficent made their way up the stairs to the gigantic podium at the end of the hall. Jafar, Hades, Ursula and Maleficent took their positions around the podium whilst Sharak took centre position.
"Hear me, o purest of hearts!" began Sharak, "As the source of all darkness and the superior of all, I demand that you resurface the keyhole! Grant me the power that it offers! Return to me that which was once mine! Use the power that the Council of Darkness offers to expand your own! Utilise the combined power of a genie, a god, a sea-witch, a sorceress and the ultimate darkness to help you do as I command!"
A purple light shone out of each of the princesses' hearts and formed an overhead ray of light that concentrated into a singular line of light where revealed the spot of where the keyhole had once been. Sharak, Jafar, Hades, Ursula and Maleficent used their combined power to help the princesses. An image of the keyhole appeared but it flickered and faded again and again. The council grunted in pain as the intense strain of trying to reopen the keyhole to the darkness took a tremendous toll on them. After several minutes of effort, determination, pain and screaming, Sharak and the others succeeded in reopening the keyhole. The council members groggily rose after collapsing from the intense energy drain. Sharak's eyes changed position so it looked like he was smiling. His eyes glowed the usual bright-red light whilst doing so.
"At last", he said to himself. The emperor turned to the others.
"You have all played your part extremely well", congratulated the creature, "You will all receive what you hunger for and so much more. Return to Castle Sharak. I will return there soon for our...celebration."
Maleficent and the others smiled as they wearily opened a portal to return to Castle Sharak. The source of all darkness was left alone with the princesses. He looked at Kairi and telekinetically moved her to the podium. She lay by his feet.
"Many a back-up plan", Sharak reminded himself. He turned to Jaron who had witnessed the keyhole's resurfacing. The ex-Saviour walked up to him.
"Now destroy the Keybearer", ordered the emperor. Jaron nodded and left to carry out his orders. Sharak turned to the keyhole that was now teeming with darkness. The creature just stood in the centre of the podium, watching the darkness in awe.
"After so long, I will reign supreme again."
After spending ages running through the cavernous Hollow Bastion, Sora, Donald, Goofy and Adam arrived at the doors that lead to the castle chapel. Sora used his Keyblade to open up the doors. The Keybearer went through the doors first but they immediately closed behind him, locking Adam, Donald and Goofy out.
"Not again!" sighed Adam.
"Come on!" shouted Goofy, "We gotta help Sora!"
"I'm trying! I'm trying!" shouted Donald.
Sora realised that he was probably going to have to do this alone. As he ran down the castle chapel, he stopped when he saw Jaron unmasked, his sword in hand and ready for battle.
"I've...been...waiting...for...you", said the ex-Saviour. Sora noticed that Jaron was speaking in a tremendous amount of pain. The Keybearer soon realised that the darkness must have done this to Jaron's heart.
"I know what Sharak's done to you", replied Sora.
"W-what?" asked Jaron. He then screamed in agony as he fell to his knees and held his hand over his heart. Tears fell from his eyes as he tried to bear with the pain that the darkness had given him.
Memories flooded Jaron's mind. Memories of what Sharak had taken away from him and memories of his intense fight with the emperor haunted him. He screamed in pain as he remembered all of this and what Sharak had done to his heart after the battle.
"Jaron, you're not his pawn!" shouted Sora, "You're your own being! You don't have to take this from him! Fight his control! You can do it!"
"I...can't!" he screamed, "It's...too...painful!"
Jaron picked up his sword and leapt at Sora. The Keybearer brought forth his own weapon and blocked the ex-Saviour’s attack.
"I don't want to fight you!" yelled Sora as he dodged Jaron's sword strikes.
"No! I can't and I won't!"
"Sora! I'm...begging...you! Please!"
"If there's any trace of light left in you", said Sora as he continued blocking and dodging, "If there's any trace of the OLD you left inside you, then there's still hope! And if there's still hope, then you're still worth the effort to try and save!"
The two continued to clash their weapons against each other. Sora then realised that fighting Jaron may be the only way to save him and so unleashed the Sonic Blade on him three times in quick succession. Jaron held his hand over his ribs and started breathing heavily. He tried punching and kicking the Keyblade master but his reflexes and speed were greatly impaired due to the immense pain he was feeling and so Sora was easily able to dodge the incoming blows. Sora swung his Keyblade at Jaron repeatedly, sending him flying across the chapel. Jaron somersaulted towards the Keybearer and swung his sword at him but Sora was at his peak, whereas Jaron clearly wasn't. Sora was able to avoid the attack and punch the ex-Saviour in the face.
Jaron rotated his sword in front of him and ran towards the Keybearer. Sora was able to glide out of the way and deliver a Strike Raid attack to the ex-Saviour. The Keyblade knocked the sword out of Jaron's hand. Jaron tried to unleash a fireball on Sora but didn't have the strength to do so. He screamed in his attempts and grunted and seethed in even more pain as Sora unleashed Blizzaga magic on him. Jaron endured a Ragnarok attack from the Keybearer before suffering three Thundaga spells and more Keyblade strikes. The ex-Saviour staggered before falling down in defeat.
Sora withdrew his Keyblade and walked up to Jaron who was breathing heavily and seething in pain. He held his hand over his heart and cried even more as he stood up and looked at Sora, who just couldn't bear to see his friend like this.
The ex-Saviour ran away. Sora was just about to chase after him when Adam, Donald and Goofy burst in.
"Sora, what happened?!"
A long silence followed. No words were needed. Adam, Donald and Goofy knew what Sora was trying to say.
"It's not too late", said Sora, "We can still save him and stop Sharak."
"So what are we waiting for?!" asked Adam. The four friends ran off to the grand hall, where they knew Sharak would be.
Meanwhile, the source of all darkness was still standing in awe of the keyhole. He was also wondering how he could have been destroyed in the first place. He was the ultimate power, how could he be removed from his position as the master of all? To him, it seemed illogical. So many thoughts were running through Sharak's mind as he continued to observe the darkness that flowed out of the keyhole.
Sephiroth then arrived via a portal and walked up to Sharak.
"I gave strict orders that I wasn't to be disturbed", reminded the creature.
"I apologise", said the One Winged Angel, "But there has been a complication."
Sharak didn't need to ask what the complication was. He knew what it was when Sephiroth said they had a problem.
"I don't suppose, at the very LEAST, he was able to slow HIM down."
"Of course not", sneered Sharak.
"If I may, Sharak..."
"I know what you are going to say, Sephiroth, and I agree with you. Believing for a second that a failure like Jaron could accomplish an execution was sheer delusion. One thing at least, it will be a while before the Keybearer and the king's idiots make it to here."
A brief, whistling wind sounded. Sharak and Sephiroth swung round.
"I stand corrected."
"What are your orders?" asked Sephiroth.
"This matter requires my personal attention", answered the emperor, "Rejoin the others and continue to hold the enemy at bay. Make sure no-one else gets here."
"As you command."
Sephiroth left the grand hall. The source of all darkness stood still in silence. Jaron appeared out of a portal and walked up to the creature, who swung round and hit him in the face, knocking him off his feet. The emperor grabbed Jaron by the throat in a vice-like grip and started choking him.
"You haven't outlived your usefulness...yet."
Sharak threw him to one side and looked towards the doors that led out of the grand hall, waiting for Sora to arrive. His eyes narrowing in anger and glowing bright-red.