Chapter Ten

The man named Jigo led Roxas through the forest, hopping silently over fallen foliage atop his stilt-like sandals. With his round frame and strange face, he looked to Roxas almost as absurd as the creatures he had left behind in Wonderland with Alice and the Cheshire cat.

"Where are you taking me, Jigo?" the youth asked, brushing aside a moss-laden tree branch. Everything here was still so alive and heavy with life.

"I'm not taking you anywhere, kid," the monk replied. "You're following me out of your own free will to Iron Town."

"Right," he mumbled to himself. Free will, huh? Not if Xemnas and the Organization have anything to do with me being here. Roxas knew he couldn't raise his own dark corridors, so he knew he was in the forest because one of the Organization members wanted him here. But who?

"Y'know, kid, you look kind of strange. I don't mean anything harsh by it, but, you're not from around here, are you?"

"Well, uhm," Roxas managed to answer before being cut off by Jigo's continued rambling.

"I've heard of people far to the east of here, beyond even the realm of the red elk riders of ancient legend. Golden-haired folks, like you."

As he spoke they stumbled into a clearing, cut through the middle by a wide stream.

"Uh oh," Jigo whispered.

At the far bank of the river a man lay sprawled on the rocks.

"Hey!" Roxas called out to him as he rushed to the water.

"He looks like one of Lady Eboshi's men," Jigo spoke to no-one in particular. "A blessing for us if we bring him back to her, I think."

The monk bounced from stone to stone across the stream, propelled by his strange sandals. Roxas followed, easily navigating the slippery stones.

"He isn't hurt, should be able to walk once he recovers himself," Jigo called back to Roxas. "Help me sit him upright."

The pair hoisted him by the armpits into a sitting position, leaning against one of the larger rocks on the bank. His chest rose and fall with metered breaths, his wet clothes clung tight to his body. His eyes fluttered open slowly, then closed just as quickly to bat away the sunlight.

"Agh!" he cried against the bright light.

"Don't worry, you're alright," Roxas said. Jigo nodded, a useless gesture as the man's eyes were tightly shut.

When he reluctantly opened them Roxas spoke once more. "We're going to Iron Town. You should come with us."

"Iron town?" he asked. "Of course! I'm from Iron Town, and I'm sure the Lady Eboshi is worried about me. My wife, too."

"We'll get you back to your town and your ladies," Jigo smiled. The man turned his head to look at the monk, and his face blanched. Jigo, though, could tell that his eyes were focused on something behind him.


Roxas and Jigo both turned to see the quivering forms of several inky black shadows, though only Roxas knew what they were.

"Heartless!" he cried, summoning Oathkeeper and Oblivion. From the corner of his eye he saw Jigo flee into the woods, not even sparing a glance behind him.

Some companion he was, Roxas thought to himself.

He advanced on the Heartless, throwing Oblivion as he ran. It arced out and struck two of the Shadows before boomeranging back into his waiting hand. Only three remained, which he dispatched quickly with a string of blows. He finished facing the rescued man, who was shaking against the stone he leaned on, peeking out from behind woven fingers.

"Thank you again, stranger," he said.

Roxas walked toward him, banishing the keyblades from his side.

"I am sure now, more than ever, that the Lady Eboshi would like to meet you." He stood up with some discomfort. "Ouch. I'll show you the way to Iron Town. Just follow me."

"Thanks," Roxas said, falling into step beside the man. "I'm Roxas, by the way."

"Kouroku. And thanks again, Roxas."

The End

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