As the Polar Express made its way towards the lucky children who would be given the incredible honor of riding the magical train, the conductor (who told the Keyblade Wielders that they could call him Chris) explained what he wanted the four to do- apparently, Santa had been worried for the children's safety thanks to the Unversed and Heartless running free across the worlds, and requested that the Keyblade Wielders take up certain posts on the train in order to ensure that no harm came to them (to which they agreed, Heavyn more eagerly than the others).
Kairi had chosen to monitor the back of the train including the caboose, Riku had insisted on guarding the engine (according to Sora, who had clued Heavyn in via the X-blade's connection, Riku had been obsessed with trains when the two of them had been very young), Sora wanted to wander about the passenger cars, and Heavyn was left with accompanying Chris all around his duties, including picking up the lucky children who were given the chance to ride.
It was also agreed by the four Keyblade Wielders that unless danger from the Heartless or the Unversed truly presented itself, they should not summon their Keyblades. At this, the X-blade protested slightly, however when Riku mentioned that the kids would more than likely either freak out or get way too excited at them suddenly summoning strange weapons, it reluctantly agreed. However, it insisted that in return they would keep it in the loop as to what would be going on in each of their posts so that Heavyn could be there to help in case danger did show up.
"Well, this ride is going to be even more interesting than I thought it would be," commented Heavyn silently to the others as she watched the latest passenger, a certain spectacled boy with yellow pajamas and a nasally-sounding voice, boarding the Polar Express.
Riku was the first to respond from his post at the front of the train with the very simple, yet very apt question of, "Why?"
"Because I recognize the kid that just came on- he's the annoying know-it-all from the movie adaptation of the book," was the answer as Heavyn once more followed Chris onto the train.
There was a universal groan upon the announcement that a know-it-all just boarded the train. Then, "So, are you saying that you're familiar with this particular train ride, then?" came Sora's question.
"Yep. So, the key people to keep an eye out for are a little black girl wearing a pink nightgown, a boy wearing a blue robe with one of its pockets torn and yellow pajamas, and the little boy named Billy who'll be the last one to board the train. In particular, you'll want to keep an eye on the boy with the blue robe. The know-it-all, as well, will occasionally pop up, but he's not as important as those three."
"Wait, why do you mention Billy by name and not the others?" inquired Kairi.
"Quite simply, they never revealed their names. In fact, I had no idea that the conductor's name was Chris until he told us so."
"That's weird!" exclaimed Sora and the X-blade simultaneously.
"I know, but in the movie it worked. Now, let's get back to our scheduled guarding."
"Well, you coming?"
Heavyn watched with a small smile as the boy who had been the star of the movie asked, "Where?" She tuned out as Chris went into his famous speech, and instead informed the others that the boy she had told them about was about to get on. When she registered their acknowledgement of this fact, the ravenette turned her attention back towards Chris and the boy.
Chris was leaning towards the boy as he suggested, "If I were you, I would think about climbing on board." Heavyn blinked in shock, for she hadn't realized that her mental conversation had taken that long if she had missed that much of Chris' speech.
It was at this point that reality deviated from the movie when the boy asked, "Why?"
Hearing this, Heavyn decided to help Chris to move things along by placing a hand on her hip and replying, "I think the true question here should be, 'Why not?'"
Turning toward her, the boy looked surprised at her response. Heavyn, however, didn't let him respond as she continued, "You're unsure that Santa exists. Understandable, considering that there's considerable evidence suggesting that he doesn't. However, as you deciding whether or not to climb onboard, ask yourself this- would you like to know for sure one way or the other? Because if you climb onboard this train, I can personally guarantee you that you will find the answer to that question."
The boy stared at her for several seconds. "This will remove all doubt?" he finally questioned her.
Nodding, Heavyn responded, "It will."
Cautiously, the boy said, "Alright then, I'll guess I'll come."
"Splendid! Now, hurry up and get on! We've a schedule to keep, and if we're going to make it to the North Pole on time then we need to get moving!" came Chris' voice.
As the boy moved towards the train, Heavyn stepped aside and gestured towards where he could climb on. "After you!"
Climbing on, the boy paused for a moment as he turned towards her. "What's your name?" he inquired.
"It's Heavyn," she replied. "What's yours?"
Smiling, Heavyn greeted, "It's very nice to meet you, Daryl. Now, let's find you a seat."
"Someone please save me from my torment! That know-it-all is just awful!" cried Sora through the connection five minutes later, as all of the children onboard were gazing at the decorated windows of the store called Herpolsheimer's.
As Heavyn tried her hardest not to laugh at the overdramatic plea, the X-blade responded with amusement, "Well, Sora, you did want to be with the kids…"
"Yeah, but that was before the know-it-all kid came on!"
"Suck it up, Sora, you've been through worse," admonished Riku. "Need I remind you of Maleficent? Her rants on how she's the mistress of all evil, her insistence on trying to possess Kingdom Hearts…"
"Okay, okay, I get it, sheesh," Sora relented.
Heavyn finally lost the battle with herself and snickered just as she and Chris walked into the same car as Sora. When Sora gave her a mock glare as Chris started to punch tickets, she stuck her tongue out at him causing several of the children to giggle at her antics (including Daryl and the little girl that Heavyn informed the others about- Sora was the one who found out that her name was Nona).
Ignoring the childish antics of the two Keyblade Wielders, Chris finally made his way towards the microphone at the front of the car (even though she had heard the official term for it many times, Heavyn still couldn't remember what it was called). Activating it, he announced, "Next stop, 11344 Edbrooke."
"Is this the last stop?" Sora asked Heavyn lowly as the know-it-all kid commented in the background about how they were heading for the other side of the tracks.
Nodding, Heavyn made sure Riku and Kairi were listening as well before she answered silently, "Yes, this is Billy's house. If things happen like they did in the movie, then everyone be prepared for unexpected stops." Hearing their acknowledgement, she then prepared to accompany Chris on his last pick-up of the night.
"Show offs," Sora muttered good-naturedly as he and Heavyn were pressed against the wall while the waiters, chefs, and (to Sora's surprise) Chris made a huge spectacle out of serving cups of hot chocolate. The X-blade, highly entertained by it all, made sure to pass the image onto Riku and Kairi, who were stuck at their posts.
As the other two Islanders shared Sora's opinion, Heavyn merely smiled and drank from her cup. Personally, she was impressed seeing the show in person- the movie definitely didn't have the same quality of dancing as the real life waiters did.
By this point, Heavyn was feeling sorry for poor Sora. As she accompanied Chris and Nona on their way to the engine (reassuring Nona that nothing bad would happen to her along the way), she could feel the Keyblade Master's exasperation at Daryl's good-natured antics upon finding Nona's missing ticket.
"Kairi, would you mind terribly keeping an eye on the kids while Sora chases after Daryl?" she requested silently.
Curiosity filled the connection as Kairi replied, "Sure… do you know where they're going?"
"Onto the roof of the train."
Heavyn thought she could faintly hear Kairi yelling at Daryl and Sora to stop over the noise of the train itself… although that was probably thanks to the X-blade, who despite not being summoned yet was having way too much fun with this train ride. It wasn't every day, after all, that you got to see Sora being handed a taste of his own medicine by some random kid.
"Whoa!" Daryl cried as he suddenly slipped.
Sora was once again grateful for his trained reflexes as he grabbed onto the boy's robe, preventing him from falling off of the roof of the train. While he was thankful that Kairi (after realizing that she wasn't going to be able to stop Daryl- the boy, when performing a task, was surprisingly single-minded about reaching his goal) was taking over his post while he was up here following the kid, he still didn't like the fact that he had to burden her in such a way.
"We need to go back! It's not safe for you up here!" he said loudly to Daryl.
Shaking his head, the boy replied, "I can't! I have to return her ticket before she gets off the train!"
Closing his eyes, Sora silently prayed that he wasn't normally this bad when it came to saving someone (he ignored the little voice inside his head insisting that he was, indeed, that bad- after all, it sounded suspiciously like the X-blade). Finally opening them, he relented, "Alright, but I will be accompanying you until I'm positive you will be safe, understand? Also, when we return her ticket you are to wait until Chris—"
"Anyway, you are to wait until Chris and Heavyn can take you back to your seat, okay? I'll have to return to my post as soon as I feel you're safe. Agreed?"
Nodding, Daryl quickly agreed to his conditions. As one, the two started to march towards where they had last seen the light of Chris' lantern. Soon enough, they once again caught the warm glow. When they got closer, however, Sora's eyebrows furrowed. That wasn't the light of a lantern… suddenly, however, he could hear some sort of musical instrument being played.
"What the…" he muttered as he moved in front of Daryl. He wasn't going to take any chances in case this was a Heartless or Unversed. When the two of them arrived at the source of the light, Sora was surprised to see it was a bum playing some sort of string instrument while cooking a pot of something on the fire. Taking a cursory sniff, he realized that there was coffee in that pot (and not the good kind, either).
Suddenly, the bum stopped playing and looked at them. "Is there something I can do for you two?" he asked, his voice very gravelly.
"I'm… uh, we're looking for a girl," Daryl replied as he stepped around Sora.
The bum immediately burst out in laughter. "Ain't we all?" he managed to get out, before bursting out into another round of laughter.
Undeterred, Daryl continued, "I have her ticket." As he said this, he held up the ticket that had caused so much trouble.
His laughter stopping immediately upon seeing the ticket, the bum immediately pushed his instrument towards the side. "Well, lookie here… what's this?" Grabbing the ticket out of the boy's hand and inspecting it, he continued with amazement filling his voice, "This is an official, authentic, genuine ticket to ride." Looking back up at Daryl, he finished, "You better keep this in a safe place, young man."
As the bum handed the ticket back to Daryl, Sora's eyes slightly narrowed. There was something rather… odd about this man.
When Daryl went to put Nona's ticket into the pocket of his robe, the bum stopped him. "If I was you, I'd keep all my valuables right here," he recommended as he lifted up his right foot. Grabbing it, he continued, "Right here in the old size thirteen. Experience shows this is the safest place."
Sora was slightly tempted to refute this, but then again not everyone had magically reinforced pockets like Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather had given him. Instead, he put that piece of advice into his mind. You never know, after all, when you'll need information like that. However…
"Where's your ticket?" he demanded as he saw Daryl placing Nona's ticket into his slipper out of the corner of his eye.
"Eh, I don't have much use for those," answered the bum. "I hop aboard this rattler any time I feels like it. I own this train."
"Really," Sora drawled, disbelief filling his voice. Okay, this bum was officially put into the crazy category.
The bum smirked as he replied, "Oh, yeah, it's like I'm the king of this train. Yeah… the king of the Pol Ex. In fact, I am the king of the North Pole!"
Obviously sharing Sora's camp, Daryl rebutted, "What about Santa?"
"Isn't he the king of the North Pole?"
A calculating look filled the bum's face upon hearing this. "You mean this guy?" he asked, pulling something out of his jacket. That something was revealed to be a worn Santa hat, which he placed upon his head. The bum then promptly acted like a robotic Santa (complete with sound effects), which creeped Sora out just a little bit. After about thirty seconds of this, the bum took the Santa hat off of his head as he inquired, "What, exactly, is your persuasion on the big man?"
Shrugging, Sora answered, "I know he's real."
Nodding slightly, the bum then turned to Daryl. "What about you, kid?"
Daryl looked uncomfortable as he shifted from foot to foot. Finally, he responded, "Well I… I want to believe, but—"
"But you don't want to be bamboozled," interrupted the bum with a knowing gleam in his eye (which made Sora wonder if he really was as crazy as he had appeared earlier… he had to ask Heavyn what she knew about this guy). "You don't want to be led down the primrose path. You don't want to be conned, duped, have the wool pulled over your eyes. Shall I continue?"
Daryl looked down at his feet, as if ashamed. Then, "Heavyn told me that if I rode this train, then I would finally find out for sure one way or the other. I made the choice to find out, and I'm… I'm going to stick to it!"
"Heavyn? Who's Heavyn?" inquired the bum, curiosity filling his face.
"A companion of mine," answered Sora. The bum studied him for a minute, then suddenly dumped his pot of coffee onto his little fire.
"Well, then let's go find that girl!" he announced as he picked up what were probably all of his worldly belongings. As he started to make his way towards the front of the train, the bum paused. "One other thing…" he began, turning the upper half of his body back towards Sora and Daryl. "Do you believe in ghosts?"
"No," Daryl answered.
A thoughtful looked filled the bums face as he uttered, "Interesting…" He then turned towards Sora. "What about you?"
"I've met quite a few ghosts and other various ghoulies, actually," replied Sora, a smile filling his face as he recalled his various adventures in Halloween Town.
Daryl gave Sora an odd look as the bum laughed. "Well, then you two wait right here- I need to grab something." With that, he walked away leaving the boy and the teen to await his return.