The shortcut through the alleyway took Max to the path leading to the Sandlot, and just to make sure, she checked the meeting place and found it empty. With no one there, she hurried back outside, "Hey, you're gonna be late." The armor shopkeeper said as he walked by. Max nodded and followed, and could barely get around the crowd that had gathered to watch the matches.
"Who you gonna root for?" Quistis asked as she and Selphie found a spot close to the ring, and waited for the matches to begin.
Selphie giggled, "Both of them, silly." she said as fireworks exploded in the sky, and the crowd cheered as a man stepped into the ring.
"Ladies and gentlemen, Struggle-fiends of Twilight Town! It's time for summer's most sizzling clash! That's right! Today is the day for the Struggle and title match! Who will be the one to break through the ranks and take on our champion, Setzer!?"
"Seifer, ya know?!" Raijin shouted, pumping his fist in the air.
"And who will leave today as our new Struggle Champion!?" The announcer asked as he threw his arms up, causing the crowd to go wild.
"Max! Garnet!" Both Selphie and Quistis shouted.
"Setzerrrrrrr!" Many young women screamed like a bunch of groupies, as the rest of the crowd chanted, "Setzer! Setzer! Setzer! Setzer! Setzer!"
The announcer laughed and nodded his head, "Yes! The crowd is all fired up, so you know what comes next: Let's..."
"STRUGGLE!" Everyone shouted, scaring off the birds perched on the buildings, as more fireworks exploded in the sky.
The announcer stepped off the stage, allowing the ring master/armor shop owner to step in, and begin speaking, "Hey, now. It's time to introduce today's combatants! The two bad boys, and two bad girls who struggled their way through the preliminaries! Regular finalist and head of the Twilight Disciplinary Committee: Seifer! Completely out of nowhere--who knew he'd make it so far this year? Vivi! An underground favorite and local attitude problem: Garnet! It's her first trip to the finals! And Struggler number 4, who happens to be my absolute favorite customer: Max!"
Garnet looked over to Max -who returned her gaze for just a moment, then sadly looked away. "So...who will win this sweltering summer Struggle!? Who will take home the grand prize? The summa cum laude of Struggle--- the Four Crystal Trophy! AND...a chance to take on our defending champion, Setzer!"
Setzer, a six foot tall man with waist length silver hair, and bright blue eyes, held up the championship belt as his eyes settled on the trophy. The trophy looked like a water fountain, and the color of the ocean. One stream of water rose out of the base, rising a foot and a half and curled around, and had a Yellow pearl-like jewel. Two streams exited the first stream on the right, one curling under -back towards the trophy base- and had a green pearl-like jewel. The other one curled around just under the top stream, and in it, sat a blue pearl-like jewel. The final stream exited from the left and curled around back towards the base, and had a red pearl-like jewel. All who participated in Struggle wanted the trophy. "It won't be too long now, folks." The ring master said as Setzer stepped out of the ring, "I suggest our challengers go over the official rules before we begin."
"Alright, I know you four know the rules, but let's go over them again." The announcer said as the two girls, and two guys approached, "Each of you has one hundred magical orbs that will fall to the ground when you're hit. You or your opponent can pick them up by getting close to them. You have one minute to knock off, and collect as many as you can. The one with the most orbs at the end of one minute will be the winner."
The four participants listened to the rules before Max and Garnet stepped into the ring. The ring master handed both girls a blue foam covered club, and pat them on the shoulders before stepping off to the side of the ring. Garnet tossed the club into the air, caught it, and pointed it at Max -who looked very unhappy. "Hey," The redhead said in a near whisper, "I'm sorry about yesterday."
Garnet shrugged as she stretched her arms out, "You're still worried about that?" she asked shaking her head, "You need to learn to let stuff go."
"I've got a lot on my mind." It was the truth, Max did have a lot on her mind. She was still thinking about those dreams, trying to figure out what they meant, and why she was having them. They worried her to no end, mainly because she knew she shouldn't be having dreams of a group of people she'd never even met before.
"Sorry." Garnet said then shook her head, "Wait, what am I sorry for?" she smiled, and in doing so, made Max smile too.
The announcer grabbed a microphone, "Our first match of today's Struggle tournament will be between Max and her best friend Garnet!"
Both girls readied to fight, and began dancing around one another when the bell rang, signaling the beginning of the match. Max dodged a swing, and slid to the side, bringing her club around, and knocking four red orbs from Garnet. Grinning, the redhead side flipped, grabbing two of the orbs, and knocked Garnet's feet out of under her -causing the girl to fall, and lose another twenty orbs.
Max hurriedly ran right in the middle of the fallen orbs, and grinned as they disappeared, and attached themselves to her. 'Ding!' The bell rang out, "And the winner is Max!" The ring master shouted as he ran over and raised the girl's arm in the air, "Not even friendship will slow this kid down, and I have to say, Garnet put up a great fight, too!"
Garnet groaned from her place on the ground as Max ran over and kneeled next to her, "I lost. Awww, I can't believe it!" she said and stood up, "I guess I taught you well." she smirked, "You learned from the best."
"I had a lot of fun fighting you."
The dark haired girl crossed her arms, "Well I didn't smart ass." she let a small smile cross her lips.
"C'mon, let's find a way to cheer you up."
"Nah, that's all right." Garnet gave a friendly punch to Max's hand and turned around to leave, almost walking into Seifer.
"Out of the way." Seifer growled, then pushed Max away and towards Garnet.
Garnet rolled her eyes, "What, you in a rush to lose?" she asked as Max turned, and jumped -startled by the sudden appearance of Vivi standing beside her. The small boy looked up and giggled; a giggle that Max thought was evil. Shaking her head, Max grabbed her friend's arm, and pulled her out of the ring.
Seifer and Vivi stood facing one another, "Don't mess with your elders." Seifer said to the boy.
"Whew, just look at those sparks fly! I guess Seifer didn't expect to fight one of his own boys!" The announcer said as the two boys readied to fight.
Everything happened so fast that no one could believe it. The little guy flew at Seifer, causing the older boy to jump back, only to be pursued by Vivi. Seifer blocked the onslaught of attacks Vivi dished out, and finally knocked the younger boy away -knocking a single orb from Vivi. "You're mine!" Seifer ran toward the orb, and was knocked to the ground, causing every single one of his orbs to fly in every direction.
"When did Vivi get so tough?" Garnet asked, blinking.
"I-I'm not sure what just happened..." The announcer said with wide eyes, "Um... but...the winner is Vivi! In a positively blistering comeback!"
As Vivi hopped down from the ring, Seifer sat up and shook his head, watching the younger boy leave. "That's not Vivi." He said coming out of the ring, then looked to Max, "Thrash 'im." he growled and left.
The ring master stepped over to the girls, "Looks like Seifer's withdrawn from the Struggle for third place."
Garnet perked up, "So I'm in third now? Aw, baby!" She pumped her fist in the air happily as the ring master walked back into the ring.
Max entered the ring behind the ring master and watched as Vivi stepped over, "Keep it clean." The ring master said as he handed the clubs to Max and Vivi. The two stared at the other for a moment and moved center ring.
"And now, the match you've been waiting for: Max versus Vivi!"
Having seen the little guy fight Seifer, Max was ready, and as soon as the bell rang she jumped back -blocking the quick attacks from Vivi. She flipped over him, bringing her club down, and smacked Vivi on the head, knocking him back, and causing several orbs to drop. Watching Vivi carefully, Max hurried toward the orbs, and grinned as they disappeared, she then ran at the small guy -aiming for another strike- and every thing froze.
Vivi blinked, and turned into a Dusk just as three more appeared, "Again?!" Max shouted, just as the Keyblade appeared in her hand. At least she knew how to deal with them, and lunged forward, bringing her blade around, and severing a Dusk's head. She quickly fell backwards and slid around to the back of the three Dusks, confusing them, and in a few more strikes, finished them off. That was too easy, either they were getting weaker, she was getting stronger, or they allowed her to win. She didn't know which, and really didn't care, she just wanted it to stop. Max quickly turned at the sound of clapping and saw a black cloaked man.
"Max. All right, fight, fight, fight." The cloaked man said as he walked closer to the young woman, "You really don't remember? It's me. You know, Axel." he pulled the hood away revealing very light red -almost orange- spiky hair, and a teardrop tattoo under each eye.
"Axel?" Max blinked, just who was this, and what was he talking about? Remember, remember what?
The man named Axel shook his spiked hair and sighed, "Talk about blank with a capital 'B'. Man oh man, even the Dusks aren't gonna crack this one." he said as two large flaming chakrams appeared, both had very sharp looking spikes circling the edges. He threw them into the air, and caught them as the flames burned brighter.
"Wait a damn minute!" Max shouted, "Tell me what the hell's going on!"
Axel looked around for a moment, "This town is his creation, right? Which means we don't have time for a Q and A session. You're coming with me, conscious or not. Then you'll hear the story." He readied himself for a fight, but straightened up as an energy appeared around Max, "Uh-oh."
The young redhead sighed in frustration and threw the Keyblade down, "What is going ON!?" she shouted and in a flash of light the Keyblade reappeared in her hand.
"Number 13. Max. The Keyblade's chosen one." Axel said and once more readied himself for a fight.
"Fine! You asked for it."
Axel smirked, "That's more like it." he said and only took one step before Diz appeared, "So, it was you, huh?" he said and threw the chakram at the red cloaked man, and watched them bounce off without touching him.
Diz turned, "Max, this man speaks nonsense!"
"Max, don't let him deceive you!"
With the two men shouting her name, Max placed her hands on her head, "Garnet! Quistis! Selphie!" she shouted, and at once, everything unfroze.
"What? What just happened?" The announcer asked slightly stunned.
Vivi looked around, confused, "Huh? How did I get here?" The little guy didn't know how he got there, he didn't remember entering the Struggle tournament, what happened?
"Ladies and gentlemen, Max, our new top Struggler!" The announcer called as Setzer walked into the ring, "And now, for the final match, "our champion Setzer versus Max!" the crowd cheered.
"You two play fair now. You're at the top of the bracket." The ring master said and walked to the edge of the ring.
The silver haired man smirked, "There's only room for one up here." He said then cocked his head, "hey, rucksack. How about you throw the match for me? Let me win, and I'll make it worth your while."
"Max, our underdog hero, versus Setzer, our defending champion! The winner of this match will be the true champion! That's bragging rights for a whole year, folks!"
Setzer shook his head, "Whatever you think is right, you're wrong. And that is a big mistake."
The bell rang, and both fighters ran toward one another; Max slid around Setzer, hitting his back, and causing orbs to drop. Setzer stumbled forward, turned, and lunged at Max as the orbs attached to her. Three hits, and ten of Max's orbs fell to the ground, and attached to Setzer. Blocking two more attacks, Max rushed forward, ducking under a third swing, and sweeping Setzer's feet out from under him. As the silver haired man hit the ground, Max slammed her foam covered club on to his chest, and knocked off more orbs than could be counted. As the orbs attached to her; the redhead jumped back, and smirked, the clock ran out.
"Max! Max! Max!" The crowd chanted.
Setzer stood, and began walking away, he turned and pointed at Max, intending to say something -but was stopped when Garnet, Quistis, and Selphie ran by, "That was awesome!" Quistis said as she and the others hugged her. None of them noticed Setzer turn and leave with his head down..
"C'mon girl, come and get your belt and trophy!" The ring master shouted. The crowd cheered as Max held up the championship belt, and was handed the crystal trophy.
The four friends had run to the top of the station tower, and sat down, dangling their legs over the edge. Max grabbed the yellow jewel, pulled it off the trophy, and tossed it to Selphie. She then pulled the green and red jewels from the trophy, and threw the green one to Quistis, and the red one to Garnet. Pulling the blue jewel off for herself, she sat the trophy next to her, and held the jewel up to the sunlight, "As promised."
"Thanks a ton, Max!" Quistis smiled as she held her own jewel up.
"One more treasure for us to share." Garnet said as she held hers up to the sun with Selphie following.
Selphie reached behind her and pulled out four bars of sea-salt ice cream, "I've got a present too, for all of us."
"Cool." Quistis said as she took two and handed one to Garnet.
Max stood up on the ledge, and teetered on the edge, "Whoa!" she gasped as she lost her balance and fell.
Princess Tara walked down a path, her eyes toward the sky, she sighed. Where was her lover? What had happened? She nor princess Faith had any clue as to what really did happen. Tara and the others had said they were with king Mickey, but where was the king, and why couldn't Willow or Buffy contact them? For that fact, where was Willow and the others? No one had seen them since they had left after sealing the final door. Had something happened to them? She hoped not, and could only wish she saw them soon, them and her lover, and Buffy.
"Tare! Wait up!" Princess Faith walked toward Tara at a fast pace, "Do you feel like walking down to the beach today?" she asked and began walking beside her sister, "The others are busy restoring the town, and won't go anywhere."
Princess Tara shook her head, "Not today."
"Thinking about them again?"
The princess nodded her head sadly, "It has been so long since we last saw them, I want Willow and Buffy back." tears filled her eyes, "What happened to them? What happened to the others, why have we not seen them?"
Princess Faith wrapped her arms around her sister, and rocked her from side to side, "Do not worry, they are fine, I know it, can you not feel it in your heart?"
"Yes, but that does not change the fact that I what them back."
"I know sister, I know." Faith whispered, then felt Tara go tense, "What is wrong?'
Princess Tara squeezed her eyes shut, and if it wasn't for her sister, she would have fallen to the ground, "Naminé?" A voice entered her mind, "Naminé, what's happening to me?"
"Who are you?" the princess asked, "And that's not my name, I'm princess Tara."
"I'm Max... I know you, you're the princess that Willow-twin loves."
"Willow-twin? My Willow!? Do you know where she is, Max?"
Max continued to fall and shook her head, "No, I am sorry, I don't know where any of them are..." And that was it, the connection linking both girls was gone.
The princess opened her eyes to see her worried sister, "What happened?" Princess Faith asked smoothing her sister's hair away from her face.
"Someone named Max linked with my mind, she said she knew Willow and the others, but did not know where they were."
Princess Faith laid her head on her sister's shoulder, "Don't worry, they will come back to us. We just need to give them time."
"You're right." The princess smiled, "Let us take that walk on the beach, perhaps it will help me feel better." she watched her sister nod, and held her hand as they walked towards the beach.
"Restoration at 79%" The computer told Diz as he sat at the desk, while one of the cloaked women tossed Max's blue jewel into the air, and caught it as it came down.
Diz sighed as he saw the second woman counting the munny taken from Max, he wondered why she had kept it, oh well, let her do as she pleases, "Her progress is astounding." Diz said as he went back to staring at the computer screen.
"So, what happened?" The cloaked woman asked as she tossed the jewel back into the air, and gave it a gentle toss to the other woman -who put it in the munny pouch.
"Naminé's encounter with Max put her heart in contact with the Princess Tara," Both cloaked figures looked up, And that, in turn, affected Willow. You see?"
The first woman sat down beside the second, "Naminé, she's a wonder." The second said as she leaned back.
Diz turned and nodded before looking back at the screens, "She wasn't born like other Nobodies. She can interfere with the hearts and memories of Willow and those aligned with her."
The first cloaked woman then asked, "But whose Nobody is she?"
The red cloaked man slightly turned his head, "I could tell you... But first, perhaps you could tell me who you girls are."
The two women turned their heads to the other, should they? They had nothing to hide, at least not from Diz any way, but from others... Well, they would cross that bridge when they got to it. They nodded, grasped their hoods, and pulled them back, revealing smoothed back silver hair, "We're..." The first trailed off.
"D'Hoffryn's sisters." The second one said. "You can call me Fayt, her name is Karite."
Diz cut his eyes toward the two women, then looked back at the screens as he laughed, "It's an honor, sisters of D'Hoffryn!" he laughed again, he knew something the girls didn't, but he wasn't about to say -no he would keep that little tidbit to himself.
Max shot up in her bed once more, breathing hard, and sweat dripping down her face, "Dream...dreaming again... But which parts were the dream?" she asked herself and hugged her knees to her chest.
Twenty minutes later a train passed over the meeting place where three friends waited for the fourth -they didn't have to wait long, Max walked though the doorway, and sighed as she sat down.
Selphie walked over to Max and put her hands on her hips as she peered at her friend, "Only three days left of summer vacation, so don't mention that assignment!" Garnet said shaking her hands in front of her face.
"But we agreed we'd finish it today." Selphie said turning away from Max and glared at the dark haired girl.
"Yesterday... I fell off the station tower, didn't I?" Max asked with her head down.
Garnet shook her head, "You wouldn't be here if you did."
Quistis nodded and leaned against a crate, "But damn, that was a close one."
"Stop changing the subject!" Selphie cried out as she threw her hands in the air, "We need to finish that assignment!"
"Alright already!" Garnet rolled her eyes at her friend, "You win. We'll do the damn homework." she sighed, "Stupid independent study." she mumbled so no one would hear her, "So, anybody got any bright ideas for a topic?"
Max thought for a moment before looking up, "Maybe we could study the stuff that's been happening to me. You know, the dreams...and the guys in white..."
"Forget it." Garnet said shaking her head.
"Things have been weird with you and the town since the photos were stolen, right?" The dark haired girl said, and pointed towards Quistis.
"Well, tomorrow, we're all gonna help out, and search the town and find out exactly what's been goin' on."
Selphie slipped her arm around Max's shoulders, "Lots of people are helping out."
"All that for me?" Max asked, and her eyes lit up, "I'll go get the ice cream!" she grinned and hurried out of the room.
Only a few minutes later Max came back with the ice cream, and passed it out before sitting down, "There's this strange rumor going around. Wanna hear it? You know the stone steps at Sunset Station? We use 'em all the time, without even thinking about it. But -and this is the weird part- the steps count different going up and down!" Quistis said, and licked her ice cream.
"Really!?" Selphie asked, blinking.
Quistis nodded, "Yeah, and there are six other weird stories like that. It's like... the seven wonders of Twilight Town." The blonde pulled out a town map, "See, I've got them marked."
"We should investigate those for our school project!" Garnet exclaimed, "Quistis, you're a genius!" she said and ran out the door, "C'mon, let's get started! Meet at the station!"
The others followed their friend to the station, and boarded the small train that would take them to Sunset Station on the other side of town. The ride only lasted ten minutes, but it was enough for the group to figure out what they were going to do. Quistis had been paired up with Max to check the current rumors, and Garnet and Selphie were going to hunt for more. Five minutes into the ride, Selphie held her jewel up to the light, followed by Quistis and Garnet. Max grinned, and reached into her right front pocket, it wasn't there, she checked her left front pocket, not there either. Sighing she shook her head and leaned back, she thought she had it that morning.
As the train pulled to a stop, Garnet ran outside, "Hurry!" she called to Selphie, and both ran down the stairs. Max stretched as Quistis looked at the stairs, "Huh, aren't these the steps you talked about? The ones that count different going up and down?"
The blonde shrugged, "It's the stupidest thing ever, but... Rai's the one who counted them. He's like, "Every time I count, it's different, ya know?" So, yeah."
"So he just counted wrong?" Quistis nodded causing Max to sigh.
"Hey, no worries." She said, "There's an alleyway just down the steps that balls are suppose to appear out of with no one around, go check it out."
Max nodded and left to check it out. Going down the stairs, she took a right and found an alleyway, with nothing there. Sighing, she headed to the back wall, and was surprised to find that a brown ball shot out of the wall. Max ducked, and watched the ball disappear into the far wall back in the street -it nearly hit Quistis. "Oh, it's just you." The blonde shook her head, "Were you throwing a ball? Cause let me tell you, it flew out of nowhere and nearly hit me! Well, that explains one of those seven wonders, kids playing." she said and turned to leave.
Max watched her go, and followed, never seeing the energy appear in front of the wall, and vanished. As the redhead passed by an old train tunnel, she heard a moan; Max glanced around and shrugged before going in. Down two steep inclines she found Vivi, "Hey little guy, how you doing..." she trailed off as Vivi split into three, and felt the Keyblade appear in her hand. Max waited for one or all of the Vivi clones to charge, and blocked their attacks, only to bring the blade down -with one hit each the Vivis turned into data and vanished.
"What is it Max?" Vivi asked as he walked in from the entrance, and approached the girl with his practice sword, "Oh, did you need this? Planning on getting in some practice, I bet."
"Er..." Max shook her head, "It's just that...there were so many of you..."
"Huh? So many of me?" The boy asked, blinking, "I don't get it." he shook his head, "Anyway, I'm done with this, you can take your time." He said laying the sword down, and walked back to the doorway just as Quistis walked in.
"So the moans weren't ghosts, just Vivi practicing."
Max shook her head, "No! Listen, there were a whole bunch of Vivi clones here just a minute ago!" She said causing Quistis to quirk her eyebrows, neither saw Vivi turn into a Dusk and float out.
That was it, Max left and headed to the small waterfall fountain, at least it was quiet there. As the redhead approached, she saw her reflection in the water and gasped as it turned completely dark, and was holding a blade. She jumped back as the reflection stepped out of the water and charged her. Max ducked under the dark blade, and swept the feet out from under the dark reflection, as she felt the Keyblade appear, and brought it down on the reflection's chest. The redhead was knocked down as her reflection turned into data and vanished.
"Max!" Quistis shouted and hurried over to help her friend off the ground, "You all right?" she asked glancing at the waterfall, "Now that's spooky! I thought I saw someone, but it was just my reflection. It has to explain that wonder." she said and walked off.
"Another me?" Max sighed, and followed Quistis, never noticing the dark reflection reappear. The redhead walked up to Sunset Hill and saw a small bag, moving. Blinking, she stepped over, and was knocked back as the bag bounced over her. "That's it." she said and jumped onto the bag, and opened it -allowing a dog to hop out.
Quistis slowly walked over, "Did you let the dog out of the bag?" Max nodded, "Well, there goes that wonder." she said, and both girls didn't notice the dog turning into a Dusk and floating away.
"Well, that wasn't wonderful."
"I understand, but this next one's gonna be really great! Wonder number six." Quistis said as Garnet and Selphie ran up the hill.
"We got a lead, a ghost train!" Both girls shouted.
Quistis sighed, "Everybody knows about wonder number six."
Garnet crossed her arms, "Well I didn't."
Selphie sat down, "We just wait here, this is where you see it from." she said and pulled Max down next to her. "If it's true, it'll be here any minute. They say the train is empty, no driver, no conductor, no passengers... No return." The four girls did not wait long, a blue and gold train -decorated with stars and moons- came barreling down the tracks, and passed through the tunnel.
"It's really true!" Max shouted, "And there's really no one aboard! What's the catch? There's gotta be a catch, right?" she asked as her friends glanced at one another, "Then it's real? C'mon, let's go to the station!" she ran off with the others behind her, and rushed to the station where the train sat. "Let's go in." Max started towards the train, only to be held back by Garnet, "What?"
"You'll get hurt." The dark haired girl said as the train disappeared.
"The train will be arriving shortly." An announcement said as the regular orange train pulled into the station.
"C'mon, let's go back."
"Wait, a train came from the beach right? There was no driver, right?" Max asked Selphie -who nodded. The redhead heard a groan from Garnet, and was pulled into the train that would take them back home.
Once the train arrived back to the inner part of the city, Garnet sighed, "Let's go home and work on our paper."
"The rumors were bogus. The end." Quistis said, grinning.
Selphie rolled her eyes, "At least we can still make it sound good."
Max looked up, "Hey, what about the last one?"
"Who cares?!" Garnet shouted as she crossed her arms.
"I do." Max glared at her friend, "Tell me, Quistis."
The blonde nodded, "It's at the haunted mansion." She said and followed the angry Garnet as she walked away.
Max watched her three friends walk away, and sighed, what was wrong with Garnet? Sure she could be a real bitch, but not like that, shrugging; Max walked down the street, and followed it to the mansion. As she entered, and cleared the woods, she was thankful that none of those monsters attacked her. The redhead stared up at the two story mansion, the curtains were flapping like there was a breeze entering the rooms, "You know something.." Quistis' voice made her jump and spin around, "We were gonna check this place out tomorrow. It IS the most suspicious place. Even Seifer's gang was gonna help."
"Yeah, Garnet asked him to."
Max turned back to the mansion, and looked at the left window, "So, what're we lookin' for?"
"Well, they say there's a girl who appears at the second floor window even though no one's lived here for years."
Max stared at the window, and was suddenly inside a white room with a long white table, and many drawings on the walls. The only color in the room was from the drawings, everything else was completely white. One of the drawings showed the princesses Tara and Faith. "Max."
"Naminé?" Max asked as she looked over another drawing of her and Axel, both wearing black cloaks, "This is...me? And Axel's here too."
"You are friends." Naminé said as she appeared in a chair at the table.
Naminé sadly looked at the table, "Don't you want to know the truth about who you really are?"
Max smirked as she leaned against the table, No one knows me better than me." she said, and the smirk melted away, "But I don't get what's been happening lately." a drawing of Willow, Tara, Buffy, Faith, Donald and Goofy appeared on the table.
"You know this group, don't you?"
The redhead nodded, "Yeah, they're from the dreams."
Naminé glanced back at the picture, "About a year ago, some things happened, and I had to take apart the memories chained together in Willow's heart. But now... I'm putting them all back exactly the way they were. It's taken me a long time, but pretty soon Willow will be her old self again. The process has been affecting you, too, Max."
"You mean...the dreams?"
Naminé settled her eyes on the young woman, "Yes... You and Willow are connected. And...in order for her to become completely whole again... she needs you." she said as Max saw a picture of herself with Willow. "You hold half of what she is."
Max sat down at the far end of the table, "Naminé...who are you?"
"I'm a witch with power over Willow's memories and those around her."
The blonde nodded, "That's what Diz called me. But I don't know why I have this power, I just do. I'm not even sure there's a right way for me to use it."
"Hmm...I can't help you there." Max said looking over at the drawing of herself and Axel, "It's funny... Suddenly I feel like I don't know myself at all... I guess I would like to know. What do you know about me...that I don't?"
"You...you were never supposed to exist, Max."
The redhead's eyes widened as her head shot up towards Naminé, "How could you even say such a thing...even if it were true?" she asked sadly.
Naminé lowered her eyes, and apologized, "I'm sorry," she said with a hitch in her voice, "I guess some things really are better left unsaid."
"Max!" Quistis called as she shook her friend, "Did you see her?"
Max nodded and pointed to the left window, "Yeah, watch that window, closely."
The blonde peered at the window and sighed, "How lame, just the curtains moving in the wind." She said and tuned toward the woods, "Come on, let's head back to the meeting place. Garnet and Selphie are waiting." Quistis took Max's hand and pulled her back toward the town, never seeing that Naminé was standing in the window.
Selphie approached the two as they walked into the room, with a grin she asked, "How'd it go?"
"It turned out to be a curtain flapping in the wind." Quistis shrugged.
The brown haired girl held up the report, "Well, it's already done, so let's go find Garnet, she should be atop the station with ice cream." she said laying the report down, and pulling the others with her. "We only have two more days together." Selphie spoke as she pulled the two girls along behind her, and up toward the station.
"Summer vacation, remember?"
Max nodded, "Yeah." she opened the door to the station, and headed up the stairs leading to the top.
"Tomorrow we search the town." Garnet said as she held out three bars of ice cream as the others approached.
"And the day after that's the fair." Quistis said sitting down between Selphie and Max.
Selphie leaned back, "The last day of summer."
Garnet grabbed the side of her head, "Don't say that! You'll give me an ulcer!"
"Not if you explode from all that ice cream first." Quistis grinned, causing everyone but Max to laugh. The redhead couldn't help but feel sad as she heard bells ringing in the background. Something was going to happen, she didn't know what, but Max just knew something would happen -and for her, it felt like it would be bad.