Chapter 1: Beginning of the End

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Written by: Kanemaki Tomoco
Original Plan: Nomura Tetsuya and Nojima Kazushige
Illustration: Amano Shiro
Translations: Goldpanner
Copyrighted by Disney, Square Enix and Touchstone Pictures. No profits are gained from these unofficial fan translations.

xxx

That place is always lit up by the same scarlet sunset.

I wonder where that place was. It must have been Twilight Town.

“Roxas…”

I wonder who it was that spoke to me.

I don’t remember the name of the person that stood in front of me, wearing a black coat.

But I must have been given a name there.

And then I met him.

Him—that guy with the red hair, and of course wearing a black coat.

And then, we ate ice cream.

I remember.

I remember that, I haven’t forgotten.

I won’t forget.

xxx

The preparations for his awakening are complete.

As a Heartless, he has already vanished, the Nobody remaining—and, it is he, returned to normal.

xxx

The sound of waves could be heard.

The tide was moving in and out, washing sand away from the beach.

The boy’s body sank slowly into the water.

Or, perhaps he was trying to be caught by the waves.

And then, the boy opened his eyes.

A stark white room. A stark white bed. Through the wide window, a pitch black sky and the neon of skyscrapers were visible.

Where is this place, again?

This is my room.

This is a place called ‘The World That Never Was’.

And, my name is Roxas.

That’s my name.

I’m number 13 of the Organisation.

I feel like I’ve been dreaming the whole time.

No, I also feel like I was awake the whole time.

Yesterday—yesterday, I was by a dark ocean. I met him there.

Our boss.

After that—I don’t really remember so well.

Maybe the stuff that happened yesterday didn’t really happen at all.

Maybe I’m still dreaming.

The boy—Roxas got out of bed, and left the room.

He continued along a corridor, white just like his room, and made of something inorganic. It was a little like stone, and a little like something artificial; Roxas didn’t know what it was. Only that there was a space that continued along there. Many doors, like the one to his own room, lined the corridor. The design of the rooms on the other side of the doors were also probably the same. And so, inside were probably people just like him.

Shortly, the space opened out, and he started descending a sloping hallway. At the end of it was The Garden of Weaving Light and Dark—the lobby, it was called. He had been told to come here upon waking.

By who?
He didn’t really remember.

The lobby was chilly, enclosed in transparent glass, outside of which there was nothing but pitch black darkness and white buildings.

‘Huh? You finally up?’

Roxas turned. A blonde woman, wearing the same black coat as Roxas, was looking down at him. Roxas couldn’t answer at all, and she—Larxene curled her lip, resting her hip on the side of the sofa. Roxas had no idea what on earth the change in her expression meant. But, when he saw that look, he got just a little uneasy.

There were three people other than Larxene wearing that same black coat, spending the extra time they didn’t know what to do with inside the lobby.

Roxas approached someone who was looking at the pitch dark outside the window; a person with red hair.

Perhaps there was a reason he was chosen to pair up with Roxas, perhaps there wasn’t. Roxas didn’t know that, either.

But, when Roxas drew nearer to that person, he turned around, a smile showing on his face.

“Hey, Roxas.”

“…………”

Roxas cast his gaze downwards. He didn’t really know what he should say in reply.

“What’s up? You need something?”

I don’t really need anything, but I was thinking maybe it would be nice to talk to someone, that’s all.

The red-haired person—Axel looked at Roxas, who was still looking down.

That reminds me—that’s right, that day, it must have been the first day, the one who was with me was—

“Oh yeah, they said we have to meet at the Round Room today… what a pain in the ass…’

“Round Room…” Roxas murmured.

I remember the place they call the Round Room.

That was also on the first day—no, wasn’t it after that?

Roxas looked up at Axel.

“Apparently there’s something we have to hear. Let’s hurry up and go.”

Axel held up one hand, and darkness opened up before it.

Oh, I know. We people of the Organisation can manipulate that darkness at will.

That darkness must be a—

“You wanna hurry and use a dark corridor?”

“Dark corridor…”

That’s right, a dark corridor.

On the other side of the darkness, other worlds open up. Instead of using doors, so to speak.

“I hate it, always get a sore ass from sitting on those hard seats,” said Axel, laughing as he spoke.

He was interrupted by a person standing in the centre of the lobby.

“You two, hurry up.”

Axel and Roxas were the only ones left in the lobby, apart from a man with long blue hair and a large scar on his forehead—Saïx. Larxene had already left. The others had probably left to be present at the Round Room long since.

“Yeah yeah—let’s go, Roxas. Open a dark corridor for yourself, too,” said Axel, entering the darkness he had opened.

“…………”

The darkness closed up before Roxas’ eyes.

“Hurry up,” announced Saïx, and he also disappeared into a dark opening.

Roxas was the only one left in the lobby.

Roxas stared at his own hand.

How do I open the dark like that?

Roxas lifted a hand, like Axel had, and closed his eyes for a second.

He recalled that darkness.

I have to get to that place—the Round Room.

Beside Roxas, the darkness opened its gaping mouth.

Is the Round Room really at the end of that?

Roxas stepped inside.

xxx

The hall that they called the Round Room was enclosed by a circular wall. The walls were made of the same white material as the other rooms. In the middle of the room was a large circular table—a stage-like ‘round table’, and thirteen seats surrounded it. The chairs were tall, and each had a different height.

And, twelve other black-coated people had also taken their seats.

Roxas couldn’t remember all their names very clearly, and he stared vaguely at the ‘round table’ placed in the middle of the room. Painted there was a mark that was very similar to a cross; it was also painted on Roxas’ bed. Roxas knew what it meant.

That’s the seal of the Organisation—of the Nobodies.

But, I don’t know who told me that.

“Today is a day that deserves commemoration.”

The air quivered with the resounding voice.

Oh, I know. That voice belongs to—that guy, our boss, Xemnas.

And then, a lone person appeared in the Round Room.

“A new comrade has joined our ranks.”

I can’t tell what that person’s face looks like, what with it hidden so deep in their hood.

“The 14th…”

Thing were suddenly flitting across Roxas’ mind. It was only a few days ago—probably six days ago.

Axel dressed him in a black coat, and then brought him to this room.

The one chosen by the Keyblade—

Xemnas must have said that to me, that day.

The Keyblade?

I don’t even know what that is.

Roxas looked at the person standing in the middle of the Round Room.

The person lifted their face for just a moment, and Roxas stirred, getting the feeling that they were looking at him.

It looked like that person’s mouth, which should have been concealed and unseeable under the hood, was smiling.

I feel like I’ve seen that smile somewhere before.

But I can’t remember where.

Until now, these seven days past, I haven’t once been scared of the things I can’t remember.

But now, I’m somehow—scared.

Scared?

What does it mean, to be scared?

Roxas sensed something flicker, and he looked up.

Xemnas had disappeared, wrapped in darkness. And then, one after the other, the members of the Organisation disappeared.

The 14th was still looking at him.

And then, Roxas passed out.

xxx

What’ll happen to me—?

I’m—fad——ing—into the dark…

xxx

Xemnas watched Roxas, who had been put down to sleep on his bed.

“—Hurry up and awaken.”

There was no answer.

Xemnas’ figure vanished from Roxas’ room.

xxx

The air in the Round Room quivered.

As if the darkness was burning, many dark corridors opened into the seats, and the figures of the black-coated members appeared.

There were seven of them. The seven people between No. I and No. VII—in other words, Xemnas, Xigbar, Xaldin, Vexen, Lexeaus, Zexion, and Saïx.

“To allow the newcomer to attend.”

The biggest newcomer amongst the members in attendance—Saïx stared straight at the centre of the Round Room, without showing any particular reaction to Vexen’s words.

“Have we been able to extract the ‘key’?” Xigbar asked.

“Key? You must be talking about the fragments. If it’s only the fragments, we can take them out without the aid of the witch’s power,” Vexen answered.

“Are more fragments necessary?” asked Zexion.

“That depends on the movement of the hero,” Vexen said, without hesitation.

Lexeaus opened his mouth. “More importantly, are the movements of the heroes being properly monitored?”

“Marluxia has been ordered to act without any slipups,” answered Saïx, this time.

“The hero’s Nobody appearing was pretty irregular in itself, anyway,” said Xaldin, and all gazes concentrated on him. “Doesn’t the existence of the hero’s Nobody make continuing the plan meaningless?”

“Well, we need some kinda insurance, is what I’m sayin,” said Xigbar.

“The plan has been set in motion,” Xemnas interrupted, and all six faces lifted. “In order to assure our new power, we will put our first plan into action,” he stated, in conclusion at last, and the other six each nodded.

xxx

He opened his eyes, and found himself on top of his bed.

What happened yesterday?

I can’t really remember, like always.

Roxas got out of bed, and went to look out the window.

The sky is as pitch dark as always, so I don’t really know, but it seems like the date has changed.

I have to go to the lobby once I’ve woken up. At the moment, that’s all I understand.

Roxas left his room and walked the hallways just like had had the day before, heading for the lobby.

“Roxas,” came the call, the instant he stepped into his place of destination. It was Saïx. Roxas stared vaguely up at him.

Mission.

Somehow I get that it’s not okay for me to just be here.

I don’t really understand what I’m here for, though, like always.

“It’s closer to training than a mission. There are various things we’d like you to remember before going out on missions. Today you will be moving with Axel. Isn’t that nice, Axel.”

Roxas shifted his gaze to the side of Saïx, and Axel was standing there. And, behind him, Roxas saw one more member was standing there.

That was the 14th.

“What is this… am I supposed to be his mentor or something?” Axel answered, scratching his head.

“Yes. Teach Roxas mission basics.”

“Yeah yeah. Understood.”

Removed from Axel and Saïx’s conversation, Roxas watched the 14th.

Like always, their face was hidden deep in a hood, and he couldn’t tell anything.

“We’re going, Roxas,” said Axel, peering into Roxas’ face. Following his gaze, he turned to the 14th.

“What’s up? You interested in that one? That must be… come to think of it, I dunno either,” said Axel, scratching his head again.

Saïx opened his mouth. “It’s Number 14, Xion.”

“Xion, then…” Axel muttered.

“Xion…” Roxas voiced, quietly.

“Got it memorised? Roxas.”

He shrugged, and Axel looked deep into his face again. “Yeah…” Roxas replied, voice lacking strength. Xion was still at the end of his gaze. But, it was also possible that Roxas wasn’t looking at Xion.

Roxas’ blue eyes reflect the view of his surroundings, but for some reason, it feels like he isn’t looking at anything.

Is this vagueness just what you expect of a newly-woken Nobody?

I want to try and hear him answer me, thought Axel.

“So, what’s my name?”

“Axel…”

It seemed that Roxas hadn’t been able to forget it, somehow.

I wanna ask one more thing.

“What’s our boss’ name?”

“Xemnas…”

“Not like you’re gonna forget that, anyway. Okay, let’s go, will we?” asked Axel, a smile playing on his lips, as he opened a dark corridor beside him.

xxx

At the end of the dark corridor was Twilight Town’s underground passageway.

“So… well, first I’ll explain the mission, and we’ll go from there, will we…”

Axel turned to face Roxas, who was following behind him.

“Okay? Today’s mission is—ahh…”

Axel went to explain, scratched his head, and sighed.

Roxas’ eyes were as indifferent as always, like he wasn’t seeing a thing.

“Rather than explaining stuff, it’d be faster to just do it. Okay, first, come with me.”

Axel started running. He hadn’t seen Roxas ever move fast before, but to his surprise, Roxas followed him pretty quickly.

Climbing up a level, Axel stopped halfway, and turned to Roxas.

“During a mission, you shouldn’t run straight for the target. You gotta pay attention to your surroundings.”

“—Pay… attention?”

Those words that came from Roxas just now are the most ‘with it’ I’ve seen him so far.

Maybe it’s cause he’s moving his body.

Even though it’s not perfect, Roxas, who hasn’t been saying anything but the names of things and people until now, is joining words together.

“It means you gotta look hard at the things around you. You’ll overlook surprising things, otherwise. Got it memorised?”

“Yeah—got it.” Roxas nodded obediently.

“Okay, let’s go practise, will we,” said Axel, brightly, able to think that those eyes were finally taking him in. “There’s a treasure chest somewhere in this area. Today’s mission is to find that.”

“So we should look for the… treasure chest, right?”

“Yeah, that’s right. Look carefully, now,” said Axel, and Roxas looked around him.

From the beginning, Roxas was like a pure white canvas that had to be painted on. Some of his reactions are slow, but it feels like there’s some bigger reason why.

From the first day we met, he’s been different from the others somehow.

xxx

Axel watched a vanishing dark corridor, scratching his head. On the other side of that corridor, he had faintly been able to see the Organisation’s boss—Xemnas.

“He told me all of a sudden to take him back, but…”

Axel gazed at the boy standing in front of him, remaining in the trails of vanishing darkness.

The boy in the white shirt was at least ten years younger than himself, Axel guessed. Though age wasn’t something that existed, for nobodies.

I don’t even know the boy’s name.

He must be a Nobody that was just born today, in this town.

I know that this town, the one they call Twilight Town, is a special place.

It’s a town of twilight, standing in the rift between darkness and light.

The darkness of dusk blurs the figure, in the same way light does.

Here, those that belong to neither darkness nor light—even nobodies are allowed to exist.

And so, Axel hung about in this town when he had free time.

Walking around idly like always, Xemnas had suddenly appeared in front of him.

He hadn’t been wagging missions or anything, but there’s nothing like bumping into one’s boss all of a sudden for awkward.

But, Xemnas had merely given Axel one order, without reproaching him.

“It’s a new member. Take him back to the castle, prepare him suitably, and bring him to me.”

“Huh?” Axel had asked, and a dark corridor opened up behind Xemnas. And then, he disappeared as if being swallowed.

Well then take him back yourself, I thought, but I’m not in the position to be able to say things like that.

And, the boy didn’t move at all.

A tiny sigh escaped Axel. “Follow me.”

He opened a dark corridor, but the boy didn’t react.

“….Oi.”

“………..”

Axel closed the portal, nothing for it, and stepped closer.

The boy finally moved, looking up as Axel.

“What’s your name?”

The boy blinked.

Dunno if that blink was actually a reaction.

“I’ll ask you again. What’s your name?”

“…Ro, xas…” he said, in a husky voice.

I know that Xemnas gave him that name just before.

I got my name in the same way.

“I see, Roxas. My name is Axel. Got it memorised?”

The boy—Roxas did nothing but gaze straight up at Axel.

“Anyway, let’s go home.”

Well, I doubt whether that gloomy castle is any place for Roxas, who has just begun his existence, to go home to, but even so, there’s nothing else to do.

Just then, Roxas’ gaze shifted.

That’s the first time he’s showed a direct reaction-y kind of reaction.

“Hm? What’s up?”

At the end of Roxas’ gaze were some of the town’s children.

I’ve seen them countless times.

A noisy group of three kids from around the town. They look like they’d be about Roxas’ age.

And, in their hands was sea-salt ice cream.

A special flavour—a sweetly salty blue ice treat.

Axel didn’t exactly hate it—actually, he liked it. Well, he remembered liking that ice cream.

“…We’ll go home after we eat some ice cream, will we?”

Axel started walking towards the shop in the middle of the town plaza.

“Follow me, Roxas! I’ll even show you around my special place!”

Roxas didn’t move.

“Geez, guess I got no choice.”

Axel went back, and clapped his hand on Roxas’ shoulder.

Roxas trembled, surprised, and looked up at Axel.

“Let’s go,” said Axel, and when he started walking, Roxas came along. Slightly relieved, he headed for the milkbar in the middle of the plaza.

xxx

“Is this… a treasure chest?” Roxas’ worry made Axel turn around.

There was a treasure chest at Roxas’ feet.

“Good on you, you found it.”

Roxas stared at the treasure chest, unmoving.

“…What’s up?”

“Today’s mission was to find the treasure chest…”

Like I thought, Roxas seems a little… off, somehow.

“You know, Roxas. Even if you’ve found it, it doesn’t really mean much if you don’t take what’s in it, right?”

“Is it okay to take it?”

“Yeah, you can do what you like with whatever you find inside boxes during missions.”

And, a shining key appeared in Roxas’ hand.

Each member of the Organisation has their own weapon, but, could that be—a keyblade?

Roxas touched the treasure chest with the key, and it opened with a burst of light.

It’s a keyblade, no mistake.

That’s right, on that day, when I took Roxas back to the castle, to stand under Xemnas, he said so.

The one chosen by the Keyblade—

If so, is Roxas the Nobody of the keyblade hero?

But of course—I haven’t heard anything about the hero becoming a Heartless.

From inside the treasure chest, Roxas collected a—potion, and the key disappeared from his hand.

“Okay, good work. How was it? Do you kind of get how a mission works?” said Axel, making an effort to be composed.

“—Yeah.”

“You really okay?”

Roxas lifted his face. “This kind of thing is—”

“Hm?”

“It’s nothing,” said Roxas, with a shy smile.

That reaction was completely different from anything else until now.

Axel also let a smile spread across his face, with a strange sensation he’d never felt before.

“You’re getting there, aren’t you. Okay, since you worked really hard today, you get a reward,” said Axel, and he started walking.

“We’re not going to—RTC?”

“Come with me. You remember the special place, don’t you?”

Axel knew Roxas was following behind, even without turning around.

xxx

The special place—the big clock tower on top of Twilight Town station.

You could look out over Twilight Town from there.

Axel sat down at the front of the tower, and looked up at Roxas, who was still standing.

“You sit down too,” he said, and Roxas sat down next to him.

“Here, a reward.”

And so, Axel gave Roxas a sea-salt ice cream.

Roxas stared at the ice cream.

“Do you remember what this ice cream is called?”

“Umm…”

Roxas tilted his head to one side, looking like he was thinking back.

“Sea-salt ice cream—I told you before, right? Memorise it properly,” said Axel, gnawing on his ice cream. Roxas gnawed on his own ice cream, copying Axel.

“Salty—but sweet,” murmured Roxas.

“Roxas, you said the same thing recently, you know.”

“Did I—I don’t really remember all that well…”

Roxas turned his gaze vaguely at the sunset.

His hair was moving in the wind.

“Come to think of it, it’s been about a week since you joined the Organisation, hasn’t it?”

“Maybe…” said Roxas, eyes still on the sunset.

“Maybe…? Don’t you remember that, either?”

Roxas’ gaze dropped.

“Well, it means you finally get to go on missions like a real Organisation member.”

“Organisation member…”

Roxas was making a weird face for some reason.

“That makes today the beginning, or something, maybe.”

“The beginning—”

Roxas was looking at his ice cream again.

“If you don’t hurry up and eat it, it’ll melt on you.”

“—Okay.” Roxas bit his ice cream.

The clock tower’s bell rang out, telling the time, and a train was running in the distance.

This was Twilight Town.

And this clock tower—was still a special place only to Axel.

xxx

Continue to Chapter 2: Seasalt Icecream

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