Written by: Kanemaki Tomoco
Original Plan: Nomura Tetsuya and Oka Masaru
Illustration: Amano Shiro
Copyrighted by Disney Enterprises, Inc and Square Enix. No profits are gained from these unofficial fan translations.
The old man was looking up at the sky. The night-darkened wasteland was empty save for the wind. The sky, however, was filled with thousands and thousands of stars. One of those stars seemed to glow brighter than all the rest, and then it slid through the sky, falling.
The old man had already known that tonight there would be falling stars. On each star dwelled a world. Stars falling meant the worlds were changing.
“Vanitas—are your preparations complete?”
A boy stood next to the old man. The boy, Vanitas, was also looking up at the shooting stars. His hair was as jet black as the darkness of night.
The old man clapped Vanitas on the shoulder. “We’ll be up early tomorrow, so go take a short rest.”
A glint took residence in Vanitas’ eyes, as if he’d realised something. “You know I don’t give a damn about going without sleep for a day or two,” he grinned.
The old man—Master Xehanort—also smiled. “Our story begins now, Vanitas.”
“Story…? Piece of cake,” Vanitas answered, putting on the mask he’d been holding to his side before looking back up at the stars. The old man scoffed.
Stars streaked across the sky.
A boy stared up at his ceiling in a trance. Striking blue eyes blinked out from under fairly long golden hair.
I have to hurry up and drop off. But no matter how hard I try to make it happen, I just can’t sleep. There are too many thoughts floating in and out of my head. Tomorrow is the Mark of Mastery Exam.
The boy himself wasn’t taking that exam, though. His two important friends were.
Master—short for Keyblade Master—was a title earned by worthy warriors who wielded the Keyblade.
The boy—Ventus—sat up in bed, and heaved a sigh.
He and his two friends were working hard to become Keyblade Masters, training every day. They were both older than Ventus, or Ven, and he held no ill will concerning the fact that his two friends, who had been training for a very long time, were getting to take the exam before him. He did feel some sort of vague foreboding, however.
I’m worried. Why, I have no idea. There’s no way my two friends—Terra and Aqua—will fail the exam. Even so, I can’t shake this feeling.
Just then, something glittered outside his window.
“A shooting star!”
Ven stared up at the sky, face practically glued to the windowpane. Shooting star after shooting star was streaking across the sky. He wanted to see them closer up.
I feel like I’ve seen this before…
Ven flew from the room and down the stairs into the garden, to stare up at the sky. He could see the stars falling between the shapes of distant mountains, but he didn’t have a very good view from here.
Ven broke into a run again. He wanted to see them from even closer. Maybe he could see them even better if he went somewhere closer to the sky. He ran up an incline that led to the top of a mountain, panting for breath. The night air was a little chilly.
“Wuhh…uh,” Ventus sighed in relief, having reached the top of the slope.
Both arms thrown up to the sky, as if trying to grab the stars, Ven flopped backwards onto the grass. The starry sky filled his entire vision, and soon enough he felt as though he were drifting through it.
Stars everywhere—and shooting stars.
“The starry sky was just like this… that time…”
I feel it, somehow. But I don’t know why. This sensation, just like I’m being swallowed up by the night sky. It’s…
Heart fluttering, Aqua closed her eyes. Her short-cut blue hair cast shadows on her cheeks. Even after training had ended, today Aqua had stayed right here swinging her Keyblade. She was at the place halfway up a mountain on the edges of the world, where everyone always had their lessons together. Even after the sun had gone down she’d continued to work hard and train.
Becoming a Keyblade Master means having one’s heart tested. But my heart is shaking so hard. There’s no way I’m worthy of becoming a Master, surely.
Aqua’s hands stilled, and she sat down on a large rock. Then, she took some glittering pendants from her pocket. They were prettily-shaped charms; three of them, all different colours. One for herself, one for Terra, and one for Ven. Matching charms.
When did I hear that legend, I wonder? The thing is, I trusted in that legend and made those charms because I feel worried. Unbearably worried.
She looked up and saw—shooting stars falling down.
“How pretty,” Aqua heard herself murmur, and she hugged her knees. Star after star went streaking past.
It’s okay. It’s just because I’m stressing out over the exam.
Just then Aqua turned, sensing a presence behind her. Ven was running up the slope that led to the mountaintop. He’s chasing after the shooting stars, for sure.
Aqua stood up with a gentle smile. Putting the charms back into her pocket, she headed up the mountain after Ven at a leisurely pace.
Reaching the top of the slope, she found a whole sky full of stars and, spreadeagled on the grass asleep, Ven.
Aqua stole a look at Ven’s sleeping face. Did it only take him an instant to fall asleep like that? That sleeping face reminds me of when Ven first got here. We were awfully worried because he wasn’t waking up.
Just then, Ven suddenly opened his eyes.
“Argh!” he yelled, sitting up, and Aqua accidentally burst out laughing. “Don’t scare me like that, Aqua.”
“You scared yourself, Ven. You know, you’ll catch cold if you go sleeping in a place like this.”
Ven scratched his head self-consciously, and then he looked up at the sky again.
“It must have been… a dream. I thought I’d seen a starry sky like the one tonight somewhere else before.”
Somewhere else? A shred of worry flitted through Aqua’s heart. She was once again reminded of how Ven had been when he had first come. Ven’s definitely not from around here. But where he came from his something Terra and I both don’t know. Even Ven doesn’t know—well, I guess we were told he lost all his memories from before he came.
Aqua smiled, trying to smooth it over. “We’ve always been together though, right,” she said, patting Ven’s head.
Ven nodded. “Yeah… you’re right.” He looked down for a moment, before throwing himself to his feet. Then, eyes on the sky, he walked to the edge of the cliff and sat down. Aqua walked over to be beside him.
“Hey, Aqua,” Ven said, still looking up at the sky. Aqua sat down next to Ven and looked over at him. “What are stars? What is light?” he asked, gaze fixed on the starry sky.
Stars… light… and darkness.
It was a difficult question. “Umm,” Aqua replied, choosing her words. “Stars are…”
“Each and every star is a world,” came a low, clear voice from behind them, taking control as Aqua wavered over how to answer.
That’s Terra’s voice.
Turning, Aqua saw Terra walking leisurely towards them. He stopped and stood close behind where she and Ven sat, gazing up at the starry sky.
“That’s how many worlds there are that we don’t know of outside this one. The light is the brilliance of the world’s hearts, shining down on us, I guess.”
Aqua looked up at the sky too, listening to Terra’s words. Yeah, the light is the brilliance of the world’s hearts. The hopes and wishes of the people who live on the worlds.
Ven tilted his head. He didn’t seem to quite understand what Terra was trying to say. “What’s that mean?”
“Basically, the way you do, Ven,” Terra answered, and Aqua felt her chest squeeze.
Yeah, you could say Ven is our light.
“What the hell?” Ven said, brow creasing. It seemed to have only worsened his understanding.
“You’ll understand soon enough,” Terra said playfully, and Ven looked unsatisfied.
“I wanna know now!”
“You won’t get it.”
“Still with the treating me like a kid?”
The two of them were bickering just like siblings, and it made Aqua snort. “Heh heh heh…”
“What are you laughing about, Aqua,” Terra asked.
“It’s just, you two are acting just like brothers…”
It sounded even weirder when she said it out loud, and she laughed.
“What’s so funny, Aqua,” Ven chimed in, sounding displeased, but his voice was laced with a smile. Terra couldn’t help but laugh, then, and Ven couldn’t hold his sulky look and burst out laughing.
I wish the three of us could just laugh like this together forever…
Their laughing voices resounded against the backdrop of the starry sky.
Guess none of us were able to sleep.
Feeling slightly calmed, Terra gazed at his two friend’s backs as they looked up at the stars.
Unfortunately wide awake, he’d gone outside to get some night air and seen the shooting stars, along with Ven, who was running just as if he were trying to chase them. He’d followed Ven towards the mountaintop to find Aqua there as well. They’d all laughed together like always, and his nerves for tomorrow’s exams had gone down.
And then, after they’d laughed for a little bit, there was a moment of comfortable silence as the three of them sat on the cliff.
On each and every one of those lights is a world where someone is living.
“Oh yeah,” said Aqua, turning to Terra as she stood up. “Tomorrow we have our Mark of Mastery exam, right. I made us some charms.
Aqua took something shiny from her pocket.
What are they, stars … no, flowers? They look like they are arranged from five shiny petals, but they also look like stars.
Terra and Ven, who had also stood up, each caught a charm as Aqua tossed one to them. Terra’s was orange, and Ven’s was green.
“I get one too?” Ven asked.
”Of course,” Aqua answered, a blue star clasped between her own hands. “We all match.” Aqua held hers out towards them in the palm of her hand, and Terra and Ven held theirs out too. Three stars in a row.
“Somewhere in this realm,” Aqua began, spinning a story as she gripped her blue star, “there’s a tree that bears star-shaped fruit, and they say those fruit are a vow of ‘connection.” Aqua looked up at the sky. “And they say that if you carry an imitation of those fruit made from shells with you as a charm, no matter how far you are separated, you’ll always be able to meet again.” She finally turned to Terra and Ven, smiling. “Well, I couldn’t get my hands on the real materials, so I did my best to make something similar, that’s all,” she said, with a dismissive shrug, making Terra want to tease her.
He held up his charm, which was giving off an orange glow, to the sky. “That’s what girls do, I suppose.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Terra grinned, paying no attention to Aqua’s displeased look.
Aqua can use her Keyblade and magic just as well as I can. No, maybe even better, Terra thought. Aqua is excellent at everything. That’s why I’m a little bit worried. Will I really be able to become a Master tomorrow? If it turns out only one of us can become a Master, the one who deserves it is… well, maybe.
“Will it do anything if it’s not the real thing?” Ven said, pulling Terra out of his thoughts.
”Hmm, I don’t really know if it will yet, but I did put some magic of my own into them,” Aqua replied. A happy smile broke over Ven’s face. “Huh? What kind?”
“CONNECTION, of course.” Aqua held her blue charm up to the sky. “No matter where we are, we are connected. The power of our connection will always help all of us.”
Ven also held his charm up against the starry sky.
Our connection would never break even without the help of a charm, Terra thought. But Aqua’s also worried about tomorrow.
“Right, one last time before tomorrow’s exam. Someone spar with me.” A Keyblade appeared in Terra’s hand. Ven turned happily, shoving his charm into his pocket and facing Terra front-on. “I’ll be your partner!”
“All right then, come at me!”
Ven kicked off the ground. Ven’s Keyblade was fast but light. Their physique suffered a gap too, and right now, Terra far surpassed Ven.
“Don’t go easy on me!” Ven complained, lashing out with his Keyblade. Out of the corner of his eye, Terra realised Aqua was watching and laughing.
Tomorrow Aqua and I will have to cross Keyblades, I’m sure of it. Not only that, but we’ll have to seriously give it our all.
Terra built power in his Keyblade. Ven’s Keyblade went flying.
”Waah!” Ven cried as he fell on his ass. Hiding completely how he’d lost his bearings for a second, Terra helped Ven stand.
“Still got a ways to go.”
“Pfft,” said Ven, brushing sand off himself, and then Aqua was gripping her Keyblade.
Does she really mean for us to cross Keyblades right here and now?
“Okay, I’ll be your partner next, Ven.”
She chose Ven. A nameless feeling, some part relief and some part disappointment, flitted through his chest.
Ven broke into a run, Keyblade in hand once again. “I won’t lose!”
Just like before, Ven couldn’t win against Aqua. She nimbly dodged his blows, and shot small bursts of magic at him. The match was decided in an instant. Ven tripped over trying to dodge a fireball that hit him anyway.
“Are you okay?”
Aqua ran over hurriedly, but Ven lunged to his feet without any help, Keyblade in hand. “That didn’t count. One more time!”
“There’s a gap in ability here,” Terra called over as he laughed at Ven.
“Nooo, I just tripped!”
“That still means she won,” Terra said, and Ven put his Keyblade away with a little exhale and smiled.
“You two are strong enough. You guys are going to kick that test’s ass tomorrow for sure.”
“Well, that’d be nice,” said Terra, and Aqua also put her Keyblade away, a mixed expression unfolding on her face.
“The Master said it. Awaken the ability of the heart and…”
It’s a question of heart. To be a Keyblade Master, it’s not strength that is called for, it’s heart—goodness and justness, I think it would be fair to say. But…
“If you decide for yourself that you’ve grown enough, then you need to take another look inside your heart, Ven. Losing a match because you tripped yourself over is just spacey.”
“So mean!” Ven returned, and Aqua laughed.
But… Aqua’s words could just as well have been directed at me, Terra thought with a twinge. I’m… my heart is. Trying to shake off his worries, Terra looked up at the starry sky. All those twinkling stars. Those lights are the lights of people’s hearts. I’ll be okay.
“Hey, we should head back,” Terra pressed his two friends, and he started walking.
Ven nodded, and followed after Terra. “Yeah. Let’s head back.”
“Yeah—let’s go together,” Aqua answered, turning to follow after the two of them. She stopped, and looked up at the night sky. In her hand was her ‘charm of connection’.
Terra and Ven stopped too, and looked up at the night sky.
Shooting stars were streaking down again.
Let’s watch the night sky for shooting stars again someday, the three of us together.
“We going?” Aqua said, and Terra and Ven exchanged a glance before nodding. Then, the three of them began to walk.
In the darkness, with furious waves attempting to suck him under, Mickey was riding on a book of magic. As an apprentice of the great sorcerer—no, as one trying to become a Keyblade Master, his training was a difficult and harsh journey lasting many days.
On top of that, Mickey was by no means what one would call an excellent apprentice.
Suddenly the waves began to surge from the opposite side, and Mickey was thrown off the book.
I’m going to drown…! he thought, and in that instant he was standing on the floor like normal.
Yen Sid, the grand sorcerer, and also Mickey’s teacher, glared at Mickey with bugged out eyes. Mickey stood scratching his head, waiting for Yen Sid to speak…
“Mickey. It appears we are on the brink of something dire…”
Mickey hadn’t been expecting that. What on earth does he mean, something dire?
The starry sky that connected all the worlds could be seen from the window of the solemn tower that served as training grounds. Of the stars in that sky, a few stood out in how bright they shone… three of them, in fact.
A cloudless sky opened over a refreshing morning. Having slept in a little, Ven was hastily making his way towards the hall where the Exam would be held.
Bright sunlight streamed through the stained glass that decorated the hall.
Terra and Aqua were already lined up. There were three chairs at the front of the hall, and in the left-hand one sat the man who served as teacher to the three of them, Master Eraqus. There was no-one in the seat sandwiched in the middle, and in the right-hand chair sat an old man Ven hadn’t seen before. He had a blald head, wrinkled face, white beard, and his eyes gleamed gold. Ven straightened his spine as he felt those bug eyes move to stare at him.
Ven glanced timidly at the old man again. He felt… strange somehow. But, he didn’t really understand why. Just then, Master Eraqus’ voice echoed through the hall.
“Now the Mark of Mastery Exam will commence.”
Terra, Aqua and even Ven’s spines went ram-rod straight. Master Eraqus’ abundant dark hair was tied back, his facial hair groomed into a dignified moustache and goatee. There was a more solemn atmosphere around him than usual.
“On this occasion there are two candidates, however, it is not a question of which one is superior or inferior to the other. As ones chosen by the Keyblade, this is a test of the condition of their hearts.” Upon saying this, Eraqus looked at Terra and Aqua in turn, then turned to the old man. The old man nodded in silence. “We are favoured with the presence of Master Xehanort, who has travelled a long way to be with us on this long awaited occasion, the birth of a young Master. The two of you, face this test with care.”
“Yes, Master,” said Terra and Aqua in unison.
That old man is Master Xehanort, then. I’ve heard that name before, thought Ven, looking over at Xehanort’s face once more. I’ve heard his name, so is that why I remembered such a weird feeling? But I’m sure I’ve never met him, so…
“Now, let’s begin,” said Master Eraqus, pulling Ven out of his thoughts as he straightened his back a third time.
It was time.
Master Eraqus summoned his Keyblade to hand, and as he readied it, several balls of light appeared in the hall. Terra and Aqua readied their own blades. And then—for a split second, Ven felt some other presence shiver through the air.
The balls of light meant to test Terra and Aqua began moving towards Ven. Master Eraqus, Terra and Aqua jumped into action.
But, Ven called his Keyblade into his hand. “I’m fine,” he shouted. “Terra, Aqua, concentrate on your exam!”
This here is no sweat.
“But Ven, it’s dangerous for you to be here. Go back to your room and wait,” Aqua said, worriedly, as she sent a ball of light flying from in front of her with her Keyblade and making to run towards Ven.
“No way. I’ve been looking forward to this. I want to be here to see you two become Masters,” Ven yelled back, swinging his Keyblade down on the balls of light that were going after him, too.
“Ven will be fine,” said Terra, facing off against the other balls of light that had followed. “He’s been training alongside us all this time, after all.”
Hearing Terra say that for me makes me so happy.
“Be careful, Ven.”
I don’t hate having Aqua worry for me either, though.
Then, the three of them turned to their own balls of light.
Why… did Ven get dragged into this, when the exam was meant to be for us two? Aqua thought as she looked up at Master Eraqus after all the balls of light had been destroyed. There’s no way those balls of light should have turned on Ven, who wasn’t even a candidate for the exam. Ven stood at the edge of the hall, panting, but with a slightly proud look on his face. I don’t really like him sticking his neck out. Even though it can’t be helped sometimes, seeing as he’s training to become a Keyblade Master. Even so, Aqua worried about Ven. I wonder what Terra’s thinking?
“Despite the unforseen circumstances, it was a good chance to test whether one maintains a calm heart no matter what the situation, and so we see no particular reason to stop. Let’s continue the exam.”
At Master Erauqs’ words, Aqua straightened her posture. I was probably the worst shaken out of everyone here. It’s because my heart is immature. Well, it just means I haven’t trained enough. A Master cannot slip up in what they do. If so, maybe those balls of light turned on Ven because the Master willed them to.
“Next, Terra and Aqua, show us a mock battle amongst candidates. Regardless of who wins or loses, this is about the ability brought out in your heart when you face a rival.”
Unforseen circumstances… and ability when facing a rival. It’s all to measure the strength of our hearts.
Aqua looked at Terra, admonishing herself upon seeing his perfectly composed expression, and moved set to face him. Terra stood facing her in the same way.
“Begin,” said Master Eraqus, and at the exact same time Aqua and Terra flew at each other, Keyblades in hand.
The shock of impact rattled right to his fingertips.
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt Aqua go all out, thought Terra. The thought that maybe he really was no match for her power flitted across his mind. What am I lacking? Is it power? Or is it lots of things?
Terra drew back for a second, catching his breath. Aqua immediately closed the gap. Their Keyblades clashed again, and sparks flew.
I don’t want to lose. I can’t let myself lose.
He struck Aqua’s Keyblade with all his might. Distance opened between them again.
More power… I want power.
Terra clenched his fist. In his hand, power welled up–What is this power? A strange, unknown power rolled through Terra. It feels… threatening, somehow….?
Feeling uneasy, Terra opened the palm of his hand, trying to push the power down. Just then, Master Eraqus’ voice echoed around.
Aqua was looking straight at Terra. Terra nodded in return, putting his Keyblade away, and returned to where he had stood originally.
I… no, I should be okay. I fought as hard as I could. I used up all of my strength.
Master Eraqus took one step forward. Behind him was Master Xehanort.
“I will announce the results of the exam. Terra, Aqua, you were both excellent, however—on this occasion, Aqua is the one who has shown the Mark.”
Terra’s throat closed up. There’s no way. That’s just.
“I have judged that Terra does not have sufficient power to control the darkness in his heart.”
I guess that means that was the power of darkness. That power…? There’s darkness in my heart…?
“I’m counting on you to apply yourself to further training—that is all. Aqua, there is special knowledge that you must hear as a Keyblade Master, so please wait here.”
Master Eraqus is gone. I can’t really remember the last thing he said, though. Ventus is running over. Master Xehanort just left the hall. Aqua is looking at me. The hall is horribly quiet, and my chest sort of hurts.
“Terra…,” Aqua said.
“I, Terra, you know you’re also…,” Ven began. But Terra couldn’t speak to anyone right then.
“…Sorry, I need to be alone…,” he told the two of them, and walked off alone.
As if waiting for Master Xehanort to leave the hall, somebody was standing inside the castle.
The person snorted, as if they—Vanitas—had also been watching the Mark of Mastery Exam.
However, not pausing at Vanitas’ behaviour, Master Xehanort asked, “How is it, Vanitas?”
“Still nothing. I’ll have to drill him into shape,” Vanitas said with a laugh.
“Not here. It would be troublesome if they figured anything out.”
“I know. I was thinking maybe I should send him out on a little journey of his own.” Vanitas put on a mask he’d removed, and started walking. Staring at his retreating back, Master Xehanort’s mouth twisted into a smile.
The worlds had begun to move, and to plunge them further into chaos, there was still work to be done.
Terra left the hall and sat on the stone steps leading to the garden. He stared at his palm. What I’m really worried about—no, what I’m really scared about—more than how I the Mark of Mastery Exam, is how that power I harboured for a moment was the power of darkness. I’ve learned about the power of darkness. I know about the sticky end that comes to those whose hearts have been taken by darkness, too. That power… is in me. I learned that power is necessary to overcome the darkness in one’s heart. The power of the heart… no, the power of the flesh. If I discipline my physical ability, then the strength of my heart will naturally come along too. And in the same way, if I discipline the power of my heart, then the power of my Keyblade will rise. That’s what I learned. I have power. Why should I be afraid of the dark? I’m sure I can overcome this darkness too.
“Yes. You do have power,” came a voice from an unexpected place. Terra turned to see. “There’s no need for you to be afraid of the darkness,” said Xehanort, and Terra stood.
That’s right, if I only have power, then there’s no reason I should be afraid of the darkness.
Terra bowed his head automatically. “Master Xehanort…”
“However… Eraqus will never recognise the darkness. If you continue to train under him in this way, I wonder if you can ever become a Master…”
Master Xehanort nodded slowly, and began to walk, back turned to Terra, who followed after him.
If Master Xehanort recognises my power, then I have a feeling he could also release me from this fear. From the fear towards the darkness.
“Please tell me! Master Xehanort, what do I have to learn?”
Master Xehanort slowly turned to Terra. “You’re fine as you are. It’s not about destroying the darkness in one’s heart, it’s about having the power to command it.”
The power to command the darkness…
“Yes, Master Xehanort,” Terra answered, and knelt before him. Master Xehanort put a hand on Terra’s shoulder and smiled—and then, he went back inside the castle.
Still on his knees, Terra stared at the ground.
Aqua stared at the pattern on the floor, head bowed.
“Keyblade Masters must have good sense…”
Master Eraqus’ words aren’t staying in my head at all. I’ve been accepted as a Master, but my worry for Terra is so much bigger than my happiness over it.
Just then, an unfamiliar-sounding bell tolled.
That’s the bell that tells us when something unusual is happening in the Realm. But who on earth could be ringing it?
Master Eraqus turned back to look at a pedestal. Light began to shine from a mirror at the back of the pedestal. Master Eraqus faced the mirror, and began to say something. Aqua knew that the mirror was used to contact other worlds, but she’d never seen Master Eraqus use it to talk to someone before.
What on earth…?
Staring anxiously at Master Eraqus’ back, Aqua heard the door to the hall open behind her, and Terra came running in. He lined up beside Aqua.
“What happened?” he said, still facing forwards.
“I don’t know… What is Ven doing?” If the bell tolls, we all have to assemble in the hall. Aqua eyed the door worriedly.
“…Well then, I will send my students to investigate,” Master Eraqus answered, and the light from the mirror dimmed as though the connection had been cut as Master Eraqus turned and faced the two. Tension ran through Terra and Aqua. “My old friend Yen Sid, even after retiring as a Master, has kept his eye on the trends of light and dark, and presents mark for the path we Keyblade wielders ought to take.”
Yen Sid… I’ve heard his name. He’s a grand sorcerer.
“This Yen Sid has sent report that something is threatening the Princesses of Light. However, this threat is not simply darkness, but an overflow of beings that sprout from negative emotion, so-to-speak. Yen Sid has named these who are unfamiliar with life the Unversed.”
Unversed… Beings that sprout from negative emotion. Why would they…?
“As Keyblade wielders, we must not let the threat of the Unversed erode the light and destroy its balance with darkness. Also, I wanted to inform Master Xehanort of this misfortune, but I could not contact him. I don’t think the situations are connected, but it gives me a bad feeling.”
Aqua and Terra both failed to hide a jolt.
He couldn’t contact Master Xehanort, who I thought was here just a second ago… Where on earth did he go?
Terra cast his eyes down. “Master Xehanort…”
Eraqus continued. “And so, I would have you two endeavour to control the situation. Supress the Unversed threat, and find Master Xehanort. I have opened the Lanes Between. These are forbidden paths, not normally traversable, that lead to outside worlds. If overused, one’s heart may be taken by darkness, however, your armour will protect you from that. Also, for the sake of world order, you must keep the secret of the existence of other worlds. In any case, please take care.”
“Yes Master,” Terra and Aqua answered in unison.
I wasn’t expecting that. We’ve never received a mission like that before. Is this because I’m a Keyblade Master now? Even so, the timing of everything is too perfect.Feeling some kind of looming threat, Aqua felt sweat gather on her brow.
“Terra,” Master Eraqus called. Terra looked at him. “I want to reconsider marking you as a Master, depending on how this mission goes.”
“Huh?” Terra blurted, his face filled with surprise.
“I think of you as a real son. If I could, I would name you Master right here and now…” Master Eraqus cut himself off and closed his eyes, but after a moment he looked back at Terra and continued. “However, you are too concerned with power. Terra, do not fear defeat. A deep connection between power and fear will beckon darkness. Do not forget this.”
Terra nodded, and bowed his head. “Thank you so much. I promise I will live up to your feelings.”
Terra’s now upturned face wore a tense and grim expression. Feeling somehow anxious, Aqua stared at him. Why am I so uneasy? There’s no way Terra would fall to the darkness.
Aqua watched Terra as he turned and walked away, then turned to Master Eraqus and bowed her head. “I’ll take my leave too, then.”
“Wait,” Master Eraqus called, stopping her. “For you, I have one more top priority mission—no, I have a request.”
Aqua looked at him. “What is it?”
Master Eraqus’ eyes began to grow wet as Aqua gazed steadfastly back. “I want to name Terra a master with this mission, that is the truth. But, in the small shred of darkness hiding within him, I felt something fathomless. If worst comes to worst, if Terra falls to the darkness, bring him back to me immediately. I don’t want to lose a single one of you to the darkness.”
The small yet fathomless darkness hiding inside Terra—maybe the uneasiness I felt is the same thing Master Eraqus was talking about.
“I won’t let Terra be lost to the darkness, or anything. I will return with Terra, fit to be a Master,” Aqua replied. She pressed her lips together. I will never let that happen to him.
Master Eraqus nodded sharply. “I’m counting on you.”
There’s no way Terra will fall to the darkness.
Not really feeling up to seeing Aqua be named Master, and not really knowing what to say to Terra even if he chased after him, Ven had returned alone to his room.
He flopped onto his bed, and began to play with a wooden sword shaped like a Keyblade, swinging it about. It was the wooden sword he’d trained with when he hadn’t inherited a Keyblade yet, and it was precious to him.
I wonder why Terra couldn’t be a Master. I’m sure Terra and Aqua are equal.
At that moment, Ven heard the far-off tolling of a bell.
That bell sound is—the sound to let us know when something strange is happening in the Realm. When we hear it, we have to assemble in the hall.
Ven jumped out of bed and headed to the door.
“Hurry, Ventus,” called a sudden voice, “or you won’t see Terra again.”
Ven turned. He knew the room had been empty—but someone was standing there. Clad in a black combat uniform and an expressionless mask that radiated ominousness was a boy who appeared to be the same height as Ven.
“Huh? What are you on about. Of course I’m going to see Terra again,” Ven replied, disagreeably.
“Go after Terra and see with your own eyes,” said the boy—Vanitas, “that Terra won’t be Terra for much longer.” Vanitas was leaning against a shelf as if he had all the time in the world.
He didn’t like his attitude, and he really didn’t like what he was saying, and Ven gripped the wooden sword he had in his hand. “I don’t know who you are, but who says you know anything about Terra. Terra and I are connected, and if you keep that up I’m gonna do something I’ll regret.”
Vanitas snorted, and began to walk. “How useless. ‘Friendship’, or whatever, is that it? You can’t know unless you go make sure yourself. You’re shut up in this tiny world, and you don’t even try to see anything. What would you know?”
After Ven had turned back for a moment, Vanitas made darkness appear in front of himself. Then he stepped into it, and vanished along with it.
What the hell was that? And who the hell was he? I am really freaking uneasy.
Ven flew from the room, wooden sword still clutched in his hand. He dashed down the stairs, and flre into the courtyard, searching for the figure of Terra.
There he is!
He ran to Terra.
Panting hard, Ven was about to tell Terra about what the guy from just before had said, but—Terra put a hand on his head as if to stop him, and ruffled his hair.
It’s okay—I hadn’t even thought you weren’t. That’s not it. I just want to ask, ‘Hey, what this guy said about you not being you anymore, what do you think that’s all about?
But without leaving Ven time to ask, Terra tapped part of his shoulder guard, and in an instant his whole body was covered in armour. In rapid succession he threw his Keyblade into the air, and as it transformed into flight mode, Ven saw Terra go with the same movement to jump nimbly onto it. The flowing chain of movements left Ven unable to call out.
But there are still so many things I want to tell you—
Right before Ven’s eyes, Terra’s Keyblade Glider flew into a hole it ripped in the air—into a Lane Between.
For some reason, the words of the boy from before flitted through Ven’s mind.
Well then—I’ll have to go too.
Ven tapped the part of his shoulder guard just as Terra had, and he was wrapped in armour. Then he threw his Keyblade, and rode the Keyblade Glider it had become.
Aqua’s voice came from far away.
But, I have to go. To see Terra again, to make sure of the truth for myself.
Following Terra again, Ven flew into the Lane Between.
Vanitas watched Ventus leave on his journey from a corner of the courtyard, and stared at the black opening that led to the Lanes Between.
The dice are already cast. There’s no need to get my panties in a twist. Ventus will definitely get it done. Just like how I know Master Xehanort is doing what he has to do right now.
Hearing a woman’s voice, Vanitas hid himself in the shadow of the castle.
That woman must be the spare—Aqua.
“No! Stop Ven!” shouted Master Eraqus, behind her.
I assume that means Aqua is supposed to follow Ven. Master Xehanort did say that Master Eraqus would get in the way of our plans. True enough, thought Vanitas.Someone from the side of light who knows Ven’s—my—true nature. He must surely have fallen into the trap because we used Terra.
“Bring Ven back,” Master Eraqus ordered Aqua.
“I will by all means,” Aqua replied, taking up her armour as the two had before, throwing her Keyblade into the air, and mounting it. Then, just like that she flew into the shrinking opening to the Between.
Now all the actors are on the stage—well, in the Between. I’d better head for a few worlds myself, thought Vanitas, opening a corridor of darkness before himself. It was a dark space that connected the worlds. Vanitas looked at the sky.
Master Eraqus was doing the same. “…Master Xehanort…,” he muttered.
By the time he knows everything it will be too late.
Vanitas stepped into the corridor of darkness, smiling slightly underneath his mask.
Now, the adventure has begun.
Continue to Story 2-A: Dwarf Woodlands