Story 2-A: Dwarf Woodlands

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Written by: Kanemaki Tomoco
Original Plan: Nomura Tetsuya and Oka Masaru
Illustration: Amano Shiro
Translations: Goldpanner
Copyrighted by Disney Enterprises, Inc and Square Enix. No profits are gained from these unofficial fan translations. 

✫✫✫

Clad in armour, Ven raced through the Between on his Keyblade Glider. I can’t see Terra. Where did he run off to? From beyond the Between, which was full of something like floating fine shards of stars, Ven could see the shining light of a world. A forest, and flowery fields, and… a little house?

Ven made his Keyblade speed to that world.

He touched down on a rocky mountain. However, beyond it he could see trees growing thickly. His heart rate started to pick up, a little nervous and excited at this world he’d never seen before. Even the warmth of the air was different. So was the scent. The strength of the light shining down, different. Everything he saw was completely new.

He remembered the stars he’d seen from the world he’d trained at. Terra said that each and every one of those stars was a world. So that would mean, there are as many different worlds as there are stars? Or, are all the other worlds not much different to this one, and the world I was on before just special? There’s so much I want to know, thought Ven. I want try and learn about all different kinds of worlds.

Ven climbed down the mountain, looking all about with wide eyes. Sensing someone’s presence, he peered down over a cliff edge.

Walking there were seven dwarves. Each one wore clothes of a different colour and carried a pickaxe over his shoulder. They are stepping in time… No wait, the dwarf on the very end is a little bit out of file. Even so, they passed right under Ven as they went.

Seeing the dwarves entered a slightly secluded cave, Ven jumped down from the cliff and ran into the cave after them.

Yes, this was the world of the dwarves—Dwarf Woodlands.

✫✫✫

The cave Ven had entered was a mine. Lamps shone here and there. Glittering gemstones were buried in the rugged walls. The dwarves swung their pickaxes, digging out the gems.

Ven drew nearer, and a dwarf wearing glasses—‘Doc’—turned around.

“Hm? Who are you?”

“I’m Ventus,” Ven began with a smile. “But you can call me…”

“Robber!” shouted a scowling dwarf—‘Grumpy’. “Hide!”

The dwarves all took off at once, hiding themselves from Ven behind rocks.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you,” said Ven awkwardly, rubbing his cheek.

A fat dwarf—‘Happy’—popped his head out from behind a rock. “Really?”

“You didn’t come to steal our gemstones?” added a drowsy-faced dwarf—‘Sleepy’.

“That’s pretty terrible, treating me like a robber. I’m just looking for someone,” Ven said desperately, hoping they’d understand if he explained. “His name is Terra, he’s dressed kind of like me, and he’s about this tall…”

“Who cares!” interrupted ‘Grumpy’, of course. “Huh, you won’t trick me!”

“Never heard of him,” answered a dwarf whose cheeks went pink for some reason—‘Bashful’.

Feeling stuck, Ven let out a little sigh. “Um, hey, it’s a bit hard to talk to you like this, so why don’t you come out?”

“It’s a trap! Nobody move!” ‘Grumpy’ shouted again.

Well in that case, I guess I have no choice.

“Right then, I’ll come to you!”

Ven ran towards the dwarves.

✫✫✫

Just then, at about the same time, Terra touched down on the same world, in a gloomy castle a little way off from where Ventus was. This was the second world Terra had visited.

As he went to get a feel for his surroundings, a strange voice echoed all around. Terra hid behind a pillar to investigate the presence.

“Man trapped in the mirror, come forth from the dark depths of the universe. Ride fast on the raging winds! Now!”

It was a woman wrapped in a black cape and wearing a crown—a Queen, standing before a huge mirror that reflected her entire body, both hands raised in the air. As she did, something like strange black flames began to burn inside the mirror.

“Show me your face,” said the Queen, and a huge mask-like face rose up in the mirror—the Magic Mirror.

An eerie, unearthly voice came from the mirror. “What is it you wish to ask?”

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Who is the fairest of them all?” the Queen asked the Magic Mirror.

“I see a young girl gathering flowers. Her humble beauty is stunning.”

“What are you saying!” The Queen, beside herself with rage, turned back to the mirror. “What is her name?” she pressed.

“Her lips are as red as rose, her hair shines black as ebony, her skin is white as snow,” the Magic Mirror continued, and the Queen closed her eyes.

She muttered one name. “Princess Snow White!”

“How dazzling she is! That girl’s heart is filled with light,” finished the Magic Mirror, words dripping with praise, and disappeared.

A princess—with a heart filled with light. Is this Snow White girl one of the princesses of light, too?

Terra frowned for a moment , remembering his actions on the first world he’d visited. However, now was a chance to do what he could to make up for that. He had to.

If Snow White is a princess of light, then there’s a chance Master Xehanort came to this world after her.

Terra came out from behind the pillar, and moved towards the Queen.

The Queen turned to Terra “Who goes there?”

“I am Terra. I’m looking for someone. Do you know of someone called Master Xehanort?”

“I’ve never heard such a name.”

“I see, that’s that then,” Terra replied, turning away.

“Wait,” the Queen called to his back. “Hm, yes… if you do something for me, I’ll ask this mirror the whereabouts of Xehanort for you.”

Terra turned, and saw that the Queen was smiling unpleasantly at him.

“The mirror will know?”

“Are you saying I would lie?” the Queen returned.

If the Queen asks something I can’t do, then I just won’t do it. “I’ll hear you out,” said Terra.

“Kill the girl known as Snow White. If it goes well, take her still-beating heart as proof, and bring it to me in this box.” The Queen held out a small box.

Terra stared at the box, wondering. I can’t think what use she would have for a ‘still-beating heart’. Maybe I should ask… “What do you mean, her heart?”

“What else could I mean, her precious little heart of gold?” The Queen snorted. “There’s nothing meaningful in something so fickle as the human heart.”

The human heart is fickle…? So what does she mean then? Terra thought for a second, then casually turned his line of questioning casually to the fundamental doubt. “Why are you after Snow White?”

“You do not need to know. However, I will say this. I am the only light that needs be.”

I hadn’t thought there was any light to this Queen, but first of all, there must be something significant about Snow White’s heart full of light that the mirror spoke of. I have absolutely no intention of taking Snow White’s heart like the Queen is asking. However, there is a high chance that she is a princess of light, so it seems like a good idea to go meet her.

“Where is Snow White?”

“The mirror said she was picking flowers. I suppose that means she is in the flowery fields outside the castle.”

“Got it.”

Terra began to walk away. Behind his back, a horrible smile appeared on the Queen’s face.

✫✫✫

Leaving the mirror’s alcove, Terra ran through the gloomy castle, which was filled with Unversed. I wonder why they are appearing in this number. Terra cut them down as he continued on.

Underground he came into a courtyard, then leaving the courtyard he left the castle, finding himself in a field that seemed unbelievably beautiful after the dankness of the castle. Flowers grew in wild masses, and little birds sang. In the middle of this flowery field, one woman was picking flowers.

Lips red as rose, hair shining black as ebony, skin as white as snow—there’s no mistaking it, she has to be Snow White.

Terra moved closer, and Snow White turned.

“Oh, who are you?” she asked with a smile, and not a trace of timidity.

“Aren’t you afraid?”

She tilted her head. “Why should I be?”

Standing there with her flowers, Terra could feel pure light coming from her. I’m sure she is a princess of light after all.
“Do you need something?” she asked.

“Do you know anything about a Master Xehanort?” Terra returned.

“Xehanort? I’ve never heard of them.”

“Oh…” Looks like Master Xehanort hasn’t come here yet. Just as Terra began to worry what he should do next, his thoughts were interrupted. Sensing a strange presence, Terra looked up. Right near the two of them appeared—

“Unversed!” Terra yelled, summoning his Keyblade to hand.

“Aahhh!” Snow White, frightened, ran the opposite way, away from the castle.

“Wait! It’s dangerous by yourself!”

Terra went to chase after her, but an Unversed stood in his way.

“Get out of my way!” Terra yelled, swinging his Keyblade down and destroying the Unversed in one blow. But, a whole bunch of Unversed appeared, blocking his way. Terra kept swinging his Keyblade.

✫✫✫

Ven had managed to get all seven of the dwarves out, and was explaining himself before them.

“Please believe me! I’m not a robber!”

“That’s what all robbers say! You won’t fool us!”

Some of them were looking at Ven with concern, but most seemed to not believe him, ‘Grumpy’ being central.

“…Fine. I guess I should just leave.”

Dejected, Ven began to trudge towards the entrance to the mine. The very first people I meet on the very first world I visit and this is how… Wait, now that I think about it, I wonder if there are other people on this world?

Ven stopped and turned back towards the dwarves. “Oh, hey. Is there anywhere else I might find people?”

“There’s a castle just as you leave the forest,” ‘Doc’ answered despite everything, bringing a smile to Ven’s face.

“Gotcha. Thank you,” he said with gratitude, and left the mine.

The dwarfs didn’t seem like they were bad people, but it seems like it would take a lot for someone to get past their suspicion of robbers.

Ven left the rocky mountain he’d first touched down on, sights on the forest, but—

“Ahh! What is that!”

The way ahead was blocked by creatures he’d never seen—Unversed. They pounced, and Ven fought back with his Keyblade. He fought out all his mortification at being treated like a robber.

“I will not lose!”

He ran away from the rocky mountain, cutting down the Unversed as he went, and found a little house surrounded by forest.

Is this where the dwarves from before live?

Just as Ven quietly tried to peek in the window, he heard a girl scream.

“Ahhhhh!”

That sounded like it came from the forest on the other side of this little house. “Must be over there!”

Ven ran into the trees.

There, unlike the bright forest from before, this place was dark and full of damp air thanks to the trees growing tall and dense, blocking all sunlight.

Deep within this, a girl was crouching. Ven ran over to find that the girl was squatting there crying.

“What’s wrong?”

“The trees… the trees are attacking me.”

“It’s okay. You were probably seeing things. Sometimes our mind makes us see things that aren’t there when we’re afraid,” Ven said encouragingly, putting his hand on her shoulder. It was something Aqua had told Ven once.

At those words, the girl finally looked up. She was a very cute girl with white skin, red lips and black hair.

“Thank you. I think I’m feeling better. I’ll be fine soon. But I wonder if there isn’t somewhere to rest… Is there anywhere nearby?”

“Well, there’s a little house just up ahead. I’ll go with you.” Ven held out his hand and helped the girl stand slowly. “I’m Ventus. But please, call me Ven.”

“Thank you, Ven. I’m Snow White,” said the girl—Princess Snow White—with a shy smile.

This is great, she isn’t treating me like a robber or scared of me. “Okay. Well then, let’s go!”

Ven began to walk, Snow White’s hand in his.

✫✫✫

The battle over, Terra put his Keyblade away in the field of flowers, catching his breath a little.

While I was fighting those Unversed, I completely lost track of Snow White. But then again, she said she didn’t know anything about Master Xehanort either. In that case, the only lead left on this world is that mirror.

Terra headed back towards the castle.

Anyway, what kind of beings are the princesses of light, I wonder. What does it mean to have a heart full of light? Terra was able to sense light too. But, I never assumed my own heart was filled with light. I wonder why that is.

I don’t have enough power to supress the darkness—but, then again, Master Xehanort was saying that I should control the darkness. There’s no mistake, there is darkness inside my heart. But, isn’t that true of anyone’s heart? So, if you just don’t let the darkness control you, isn’t that enough? I want to turn these doubts I’m feeling all over again on Master Xehanort and see what he has to say.

Leaving the courtyard and making his way through the underground waterway, Terra found himself in the mirror’s room again.

The Queen stood in front of the mirror.

“Look who has the nerve to come back here,” she said, turning to Terra with a face full of rage.

“What do you mean?”

“Why did you not take Snow White’s heart?” the Queen pressed, immediately.

It looks like she can consult that mirror to know what’s happening elsewhere. “I was never going to do it from the start. You said you yourself were light, but your jealous heart is stained with darkness,” Terra said. Yes—it should never be stained so.

“Darkness, me?!” The Queen’s body began to shake with anger. “Man of the mirror! Swallow him in!”

Terra readied his Keyblade.

But, the Magic Mirror spoke. “I cannot. I can only answer questions with the truth.”

“You dare to disobey me!” The Queen’s body trembled even more violently, then an ominous red aura began to surround her.

Is that—the power of darkness?

When her rage reached its peak, the Queen picked up a flask of green potion that was sitting on a table nearby and flung it at the mirror. The flask broke and potion ran down the Magic Mirror, causing the mask inside to groan.

“Ughhh…”

Then, it roared as a strong light shot from the mirror.

“What!”

The moment the light dizzied him, Terra was swallowed into the mirror. Inside, many masks lined up ominously in the darkness. The Magic Mask, swallowed by a heart of darkness, began to laugh as he attacked Terra. It felt as though the line of them reflected forever, like holding one mirror up to another.

But the real one has to be here somewhere.

Cutting down the fakes, Terra worked his way towards the one mask with a difference expression. He swung his Keyblade down on it. It was over disappointingly soon.

The mirror let out a cry—and spat Terra out with a shower of light.

“…How did you get out!” the Queen moaned, and then she screamed. The Magic Mirror was already back to himself.

“I want you to ask the mirror the whereabouts of Master Xehanort.” Terra closed in on the Queen, Keyblade in hand.

Head down in mortification, the Queen asked the mirror, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, where is this Xehanort!”

The mask in the mirror was silent for a moment, then it spoke. “He is beyond light and darkness, in the wastelands of an ancient battle…”

“Is that all?” Terra asked, but his question was wasted. The mirror remained silent.

“Thank you for your co-operation,” he told the Queen and the mirror, putting his Keyblade away and heading off.

If Master Xehanort isn’t on this world, then I have nothing more to do here.

Snow White, filled with light, and the Queen, stained with darkness. And the truth-telling mirror. I wonder which one the mirror saw more of in me? Terra thought, and he left that world behind.

✫✫✫

By and by, Ven emerged from the forest with Snow White and reached the little house he’d thought was safe. The door wasn’t even locked, so they were able to enter with ease. Seeing that the every-day objects in the were all one size smaller than usual, there was no mistaking that this was where the dwarves lived.

“I think you’ll be safe here, but just in case, I’ll go take a look around.”

“Thank you… Oh dear, I feel so tired.”

“You should take a rest,” said Ven, leaving the little house.

The dwarves still aren’t home yet. If they find out I snuck into their house then they’ll probably get mad at me and call me a robber again, but there doesn’t seem to be other safe place for Snow White around here. If I were on my own I could see there being a problem, but I’m sure it will be fine as long as Snow White is with me, thought Ven, walking around the little house.

He didn’t see any Unversed. Behind the little house flowed a small river, and flowers bloomed here and there. Relieved, Ven went back inside.

“It’s okay. There are no evil spirits around here—uh.”

Standing around Snow White where she sat on the floor were the seven dwarves.

“You again! You dirty robber! What are you doing here!”

“Wait, he’s the one who helped me,” said Snow White, standing up for him against ‘Grumpy’s’ condemnation, but the dwarves all had their hackles up.

“Don’t let him trick you, Princess Snow White,” ‘Doc’ warned.

“Get out now!” ‘Grumpy’ added, yelling.

“Please don’t chase him away, I beg you,” Snow White appealed. “Before Ven helped me, something terrible almost happened to me.” She hung her head.

Something terrible…? “What happened?” Ven asked, the words having caught his attention.

Snow White looked up at Ven. “In the flowery field on the other side of the forest, I met a man with a key-shaped sword, and I was attacked by monsters the likes of which I’d never seen.”

“A key-shaped sword? You can’t mean Terra?” Ven muttered unconsciously.

‘Doc’ looked sideways at Ven. “You mean that man made those monsters attack you, Princess?”

“Terra would never!” Ven denied, furiously.

Surrounded by the dwarves, Snow White also looked a little worried. “Y-you’re right. If he’s your friend, Ven, I’m sure he wouldn’t have.”

“Princess! You mustn’t trust him,” ‘Doc’ shouted, as Snow White gazed sadly at Ven.

“Yeah! He’s a liar!”

No matter what I say, these dwarves will never believe me.

“I’ll make sure of it!”

Ven flew out of the little house. If the man Snow White was talking about really is Terra, maybe I can see him.

The dark forest was just as full of Unversed as it was when he’d saved Snow White just before.

“Get out of my way!”

Knowing if he didn’t hurry he wouldn’t get to see Terra, Ven began to panic. Knowing every second was precious, he desperately cut down the Unversed. He ran out of the dark forest, making his way towards the flowery field.

“Terraaa!”

Ven shouted, even forgetting to dismiss his Keyblade. But there was no answer. He walked further into the field, looking for Terra. However, he couldn’t sense Terra’s presence.

“Terra…”

Ven stopped, and hung his head.

But, I wanted to see him…

At that moment, something rolled up and hit Ven in the foot.

“Huh?”

It was a red apple. Ven picked it up, and looked around. A little way off was an old lady carrying a basket full of apples.

Ven ran over to her, and held out the apple. “Excuse me, Ma’am, but you dropped this.”

“Ohhh, thank you. This one is very special. Heee he he hee.” The old woman smiled unpleasantly as she took the apple, but when she saw what Ven held in his other hand, her shoulders shook in surprise.

“That weapon! I’ve seen one of those before.”

“Ma’am, do you know Terra?” Just because she’s seen a Keyblade before doesn’t mean she knows Terra, but I have to ask.

However, the old lady’s next words were completely unexpected. “I know him. He threatened me with that weapon, telling me to tell him about a Xehanort.”

Terra threatened an old lady? No. There’s no way he would do something like that. But Snow White said she was attacked by monsters she’d never seen before after meeting a man with something like a key-type thing.

“Terra wouldn’t do that,” Ven denied, almost as if talking to himself. “Hey, where is he now?”

“Hmmm I don’t know. Ooh-er, are you going to threaten me too?” the old woman shivered as though afraid.

“Huh? No, I wasn’t going to…” I wouldn’t do something like that, and neither would Terra. But… if the people of this world are telling the truth… well, why would they think such a thing?

Watching the old woman head for the forest, large basket on her arm, Ven let out a sigh. Then he looked up to the sky.

“Terra… what have you gone and done?”

I’m sure Terra’s not on this world anymore. I’ll have to look for him on another world, and then I’ll ask him.

Ven opened a door to a Lane Between, and headed for a new world.

✫✫✫

“You should doubt Terra, doubt him as much as you can,” muttered Vanitas, watching Ven set off again from afar.

The larger his doubt grows, the more confused Ventus’ heart will be, and the more he will begin to stray. That’s another one of our goals.

Vanitas headed for the forest, and made sure that the old woman—the Queen, changed form—come out of the trees.

“Well, I just hope they help me out by getting things done right.”

Vanitas grinned, and the dark trees stirred. The Unversed appeared and surrounded him. Then, Vanitas made a dark corridor appear, and vanished.

✫✫✫

Snow White timidly took a red apple presented to her by an old woman, and took one bite. The old woman’s mouth twisted into a suspicious smile. Then Snow White gave a little cry, and crumpled to the floor.

“Now I am the most beautiful in the land!”

The old woman laughed loudly. Her true form was—Snow White’s stepmother, the Queen. Still laughing, she left the house. Suddenly, the dwarves’ house was struck by a storm. Lightning flashed in the sky.

Along with the animals who had let them know of Snow White’s crisis, the dwarves rushed home.

“Hey, witch!” yelled ‘Grumpy’, riding a deer.

The Queen hurried off. The dwarves wouldn’t be able to follow her if she returned to the castle. She ran through the dark forest, and climbed the cliff. She was going to get away…!

The dwarves chased her desperately.

Climbing the cliff, the Queen looked back down at the dwarves. Her fate was sealed then and there.

✫✫✫

However, Snow White did not awaken.

✫✫✫

Unable to bring themselves to bury Snow White, exceptionally beautiful even in death, the dwarves placed her in a coffin they made from glass and gold, and prayed beside her every day.

✫✫✫

When Aqua touched down in that forest, it was quite a while after those events.

Deep in the forest, by the side of a little house, dwarves with their caps respectfully removed hung their heads. In front of them sat a large glass box-like object.

“Has something happened?” Aqua asked, and each of the dwarves looked up.

“Princess Snow White has…,” began the bespectacled dwarf named ‘Doc’, but he looked back at the glass box, and hung his head once more.

What on earth is in that box?

Aqua knelt down and peered through the box. Inside slept a beautiful woman with red lips, jet-black hair, and snow-white skin, surrounded by flowers.

Is this box… a coffin?

Aqua dropped her gaze, then turned to the dwarves.

The dwarves poured forth their memories.

“She was such a kind person.”

“She sang and danced.”

“She told us a lovely story.”

“A tale of love. Of meeting a prince.”

“Before we left for work, she gave us a kiss.”

“Snow White’s purity changed us for the better.”

So this woman’s name was Snow White?

“I can see you loved Snow White dearly. Why did this happen?” Aqua asked, hoping she could do something to help these dwarves. She could see they were terribly sad. Actually, as Aqua turned to look at Snow White inside the coffin, it seemed to her that life hadn’t truly left the woman.

“The Queen, jealous of Snow White’s beauty, did this. She changed herself into an old woman and made her eat a poisoned apple,” answered ‘Doc’, and unable to stop himself, he sobbed hard.

“By the time we got back it was too late. We chased after the Queen and finished her off, but… the princess still wouldn’t open her eyes,” said a round-bodied dwarf, ‘Happy’, sniffling.

“Isn’t there any way to help her?” Aqua asked, and the dwarves looked at each other.

“Maybe there’s something in the Queen’s castle, but…,” ‘Happy’ began, and the dwarves hung their heads again.

“You guys can stay here shivering in your boots if you like! I’m not afraid of that witch’s castle!” ‘Grumpy’ shouted, and went to march off towards the castle.

‘Doc’ stopped him. “No, leave it. I hear that castle is crawling with evil spirits.”

So many evil spirits would definitely be a heavy task for these guys. Then—I should go.

Aqua stood up from her spot by the coffin. “Well then, I’ll go.”

“Really?” ‘Bashful’ stammered.

“It’s fine. Please leave it to me.”

“Well then… Thank you so much, we’re counting on you,” answered ‘Doc’, and then he began to sob again.

“Which direction would the castle be?”

“Just beyond this forest,” ‘Happy’ answered.

“Got it,” Aqua said, nodding to him and walking away. There’s no way I can ignore people in trouble.

✫✫✫

The forest that spread out beyond the little house was very ominous and crawling with Unversed.

“What on earth…,” Aqua muttered, destroying them. Unversed had appeared in huge numbers on the first world she’d visited, too. Has Snow White’s sleep got anything to do with the strange happenings in the Realm?

Snow White continues to sleep… I wonder why I knew she had to wake up.

Thinking about it, Aqua stumbled upon a certain memory.

It had been several years ago. Ven had come to the Land of Departure unconscious, and he’d only continued to sleep.

“Why are you still sleeping?” she remembered asking Ven as he slept in a bed. Ven’s sleeping face overlapped with Snow White’s. Back then, I’d wondered if maybe he would never wake up. But it’s fine, for sure. She will wake up.

Aqua left the flowery field, heading for the castle. The castle was filled with an ominous atmosphere, too.

Aqua could see a beautiful youth standing there, the white clothes and red cape he wore contrasting completely with the castle’s atmosphere.

“Are you okay?” Aqua called to him.

“What on earth happened to this castle… Was I dreaming that I heard a beautiful princess singing here?” he replied in a voice, fittingly beautiful like the rest of him.

“Princess—Do you know Princess Snow White?”

“It was only once… but I met her following her singing voice. Isn’t she in this castle?” he asked, his finely-shaped brows furrowing.

“No, she… Snow White was made to eat a poisoned apple by the Queen…”

The youth went pale. “What?! Where is she?”

Ah, this youth is in love with Snow White. I’m sure one of the dwarves said something about this.

“Deep in the forest… Please go.”

“Understood. Maybe there’s something I can do.” The youth nodded to Aqua and dashed away.

“And I should do what I can, too.”

Aqua pushed further into the castle. The inside is full of Unversed, too. I wonder if the darkness of that Queen the dwarves spoke of called them here?

Coming out of the underground waterway, Aqua found a room with a large mirror placed inside. The room was filled with a strange atmosphere.

“What is this presence…”

Aqua walked up to the mirror at the far end of the room. At that moment, the mirror—the Magic Mirror—shot out a beam of light and swallowed Aqua.

“What—!”

She was in a world of pitch-black darkness. Many masks were floating in mid-air. They surrounded Aqua and began to attack.

“—Unversed?” Aqua readied her Keyblade, and began to cut the masks down.

It’s no use, there’s no end to them…

An endless line of masks attacked. Unable to defeat them all and out of breath, Aqua cast her gaze around and noticed one mask with a different expression lined up with the rest.

That must be the real one!

Aqua beat it down, and her body was wrapped in light and returned to the same room as before.

“What on earth…?” Aqua muttered, as right before her eyes, the light left the mirror.

“With the Queen gone, my duty is now done,” he said, and the mask inside the mirror disappeared. At the same time, the evil presence covering the castle eased a little.

The darkness can pull itself back, I suppose. But I still don’t know how to wake Snow White…

Aqua headed back towards the dwarves, leaving the castle behind her.

✫✫✫

The youth was gazing steadfastly at Snow White’s face, the dwarves wailing all around him. It seemed he hadn’t been able to help.

As Aqua drew closer to the dwarves she saw the youth press his lips to Snow White’s. He hung his head, and then Snow White stirred and opened her eyes.

“Snow White!” the dwarves cried.

Snow White stretched slowly, and sat up. Then, she reached out for the youth before her. The dwarves clung to each other in joy. The youth quietly took her up in his arms.

“I’m so glad Snow White woke up,” Aqua murmured, smiling to herself too.

In the end, I didn’t do—no, I couldn’t do—anything. And Snow White woke up anyway. It’s just like back then. Yeah, just like when Ven woke up. He had slept and slept, and then suddenly woke up. He was a bit fuzzy afterwards, but at least his eyes were open. 

Snow White kissed the faces of each and every dwarf as they hugged her in joy. Then, the youth took her hand, and they began to walk away.

The dwarves cheered, looking both happy and a little wistful.

Snow White and the youth are setting off on a journey. Open your eyes and there is a journey waiting. Maybe… it was time for Ven’s journey, too, Aqua thought, and turning her back on the high-spirited dwarves, she departed from that world.

✫✫

Continue to  Story 2-B: Enchanted Dominion

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