Braig wasn't sure what he had just walked into. While Ansem was busy talking with the king from another world, he had snuck off guard duty and traveled down into the secret lab. He knew the others would be down there, conducting experiments that Ansem had banned—but that's why it was hidden, right? While the others may have been doing it out of some scientific curiosity to truly understand the heart, Braig had other motives. He hoped, somehow, that delving into Keyblades and hearts and darkness would get Xehanort's memory back on track. So far it… wasn't quite working out as planned. He was still as amnesiac as ever.
Well, he had been right about them being downstairs, at least. Xehanort, Even, and Ienzo were in the computer room. What he hadn't expected, though, was the latter two laying face-down on the ground andfading away. Braig took two steps back as their bodies became translucent and evaporated. He stared out the window into the large room below, which was now teeming with those weird shadow creatures that Xehanort had discovered. 'Heartless,' he called them.
And speaking of Xehanort, the man was standing in the corner of the room with his eyes staring off into space. What was up with him?
"Hey! Is this how you wanted it?!" Braig snapped, turning away from the window. Xehanort looked over to Even and Ienzo as they continued to fade away. What had hedoneto them? "Xehanort! You wanna fill me in?"
Braig began walking toward him, but stopped when Xehanort held out his hand and black lightning crackled around his fingertips. "I am…" A blade flashed to life in his hands and Braig stepped back, his one good eye wide with horror. Silver and black with blue eye designs: that was a Keyblade—the old coot's Keyblade! Then, had it been a success after all?
"Hey, do you remember now, or…" Braig trailed off, an idea coming to his mind. It was crazy, but what if… "Wait, did you never lose your memory?!"
"That's not my name. I'm not… Xehanort." Oh hell, was it Terra in there? Xehanort charged forward, his Keyblade aimed directly at Braig's chest. So that's what had happened to the others. Braig swerved out of the way and stood behind the silver-haired man, doing everything he could to avoid that sword. In his madness, Xehanort didn't even seem to be aware that he hadn't pierced Braig's heart. "My name… is Ansem."
Okay, no, his memory wasn't back. But 'Ansem'? Braig knew that Xehanort had been using Ansem's name in the reports he had been writing, but this seemed beyond that. Could it be that in his desperation to regain his memories, Xehanort had somehow convinced himself that hewas Ansem the Wise?
"Listen, er, Ansem…" Braig stopped as the computer room – the whole castle, in fact – rumbled. In the room far below the Heartless suddenly began to move, crawling along the walls and sneaking through any crack they could to break out of the basement. Smoky black wisps of darkness began rising up from the staircase that led to the dungeons far below. The dungeons and, more importantly, the Keyhole.
Xehanort began to laugh; it was a slow, insane chuckle. Nearby a Heartless crawled over a machine full of hearts, jabbing its black claws into the tanks. The machine exploded, and soon others followed as more and more Heartless reached for the lights inside. The lab caught ablaze, a raging inferno that Braig knew would spread throughout the entire castle in minutes. And throughout it all Xehanort continued his laughter.
"What have you done?!" Braig demanded as the room shook once more. Xehanort turned to Braig with wide, insane eyes; in the firelight they looked gold.
"This world has been connected."
A scattered dream that's like a far-off memory. A far-off memory that's like a scattered dream.
I want to line the pieces up—yours and mine.
Remember the Tides II:
The Tides Go Out
Chapter 1: A Winter to Remember
"Argh, Xion, you jerk!"
Xion laughed as half of the screen in front of them exploded. She couldn't help it if she was just that good at Hero's Duty; maybe if they were playing Sugar Rush instead the result would have been different. But then she wouldn't be able to lord her skills over him, and where was the fun in that?
Xion fell back onto the pale yellow sheets – the color of the setting sun – and shoved a playful elbow into the boy next to her. "Not my fault you didn't grab the upgrade, Roxas!"
Her best friend responded by flicking Xion in the forehead. "Next round we're turning those things off." Xion's reply was to shove him off the bed with a giggle. Roxas fell onto the tan carpet head-first. A stray comic that had been lying on the bed as well landed on his face soon after, courtesy of Xion. Roxas climbed up into a sitting position and pulled the comic away while rubbing the back of his head. "Point taken."
"You're just a sore loser," Xion teased. She propped herself up with her right elbow and grinned down at Roxas.
Roxas crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow. "This coming from the girl who demanded we switch games after I whooped her three times in a row?" Xion gave a silent glare at him and he returned the gesture, and then after a few seconds had passed Roxas cracked a smile and broke into a fit of laughter. "You look so silly trying to be angry!" Xion tossed the pillow at Roxas though she laughed alongside him regardless.
She rolled over onto her back and spread her arms out as she stared up at brown ceiling. "Great way to spend the first day of winter break, huh?"
"The best," Roxas agreed. He stood up and unceremoniously dropped the pillow onto Xion. "I'm gonna go get a snack. Do you want anything?"
"Don't say ice cream. You finished it off yesterday."
Xion moved the pillow back to its proper spot and mock-pouted. "I'm fine. Just come back soon so I can beat you into the ground again."
Roxas laughed and walked out the door. "Be back soon. Don't mess up my room while I'm gone, alright?"
"I don't think it can get any messier than it is now."
"I like my junk where it is, thank you." Roxas laughed again and turned the corner, heading downstairs into his kitchen. With the only sound the game's music muffled behind the pause screen, Xion sat up on the bed and looked out the window to admire the orange sky. Orange was probably one of her favorite colors, because it reminded her of the sunset; which was good since she was constantly surrounded by it. Orange sky, orange, buildings, orange roads—all varying shades, of course, but Twilight Town could very easily be renamed to 'Orange Town' and she wouldn't bat an eye.
Off in the distance the train station's clock tower rang out its five minute warning bell. Xion checked the clock on Roxas's nearby desk to see that it was now 2:55 in the afternoon. Man, time flies. She had spent the night at Roxas's house to celebrate the first day of their long-awaited winter break. Two weeks off from school was a godsend, especially this year. Xion really needed a break from PE.
Her eyes trailed right of left of the clock, past Roxas's weird star lamp, and up onto the wall near the door. A picture hung on the wall there—it had been taken four months ago, after Dr. Sweet had finally allowed her to leave the hospital. To celebrate the last day of summer their group had taken a trip to the beach; they had put it off for weeks because, as Olette had put it, "It wouldn't be the same without you, right?" That day had probably been one of the happiest in her recent memory, and the picture showed it. She and Roxas smiled brightly in their swimsuits, standing on the golden beach with the deep blue sea behind them. Just looking at the picture was enough to put Xion in a good mood and bring her back to the sound of the tides. A smile crept up to her lips and she brought a hand up to the necklace hanging around her neck: a blue and yellow thalassa shell.
Roxas tapped his knuckles against the open door and Xion's attention moved from the past back to the present. A chocolate bar was hanging in his mouth as he held up his phone.
"What's up?" Xion asked.
Roxas swallowed the last of the chocolate and waved his phone in front of him. "Pence just called. He says they're waiting for us."
Xion tilted her head in confusion. "Waiting?"
"He says Olette's been sending us messages for like an hour now and Hayner's starting to get ticked off."
"Same old Hayner." Xion pulled out her own phone and scrolled through the messages. Yeah, sure enough, she found texts and a few missed calls from Olette. How had she not noticed? Xion frowned at the little speaker icon in the corner; had she forgot to take it off silence after school yesterday? Evidently Roxas had done the same. "Well, we know now. So the Usual Spot?"
"Actually, Pence says they're down at the Tram Common. They're waiting for us outside Kronk's."
Xion's stomach growled. Kronk's was their favorite restaurant, and just mentioning it reminded her that she hadn't eaten since Roxas ordered some pizza late last night. A trip down there would be nice; the Tram Common wasn't that far away. Still, one thing nagged at Xion. "What is it that Olette wants all of us for?"
Roxas just shrugged. Outside, the clock tower's hourly bell echoed across Twilight Town. 3:00, huh? Xion stood up and stretched while Roxas turned off the game. "Well whatever it is, we've kept them waiting long enough. Let's go see them. I'm getting hungry anyway." She walked out the door and down the narrow staircase, with Roxas not far behind. Something seemed to be worrying him—he was oddly quiet.
As Xion kneeled down to put her shoes on, she looked up at her friend. He was giving her worried glances, but looked away when he saw her staring. "Roxas, could you go get the boards?" Xion asked.
"You want to skateboard down there? But Xion-"
Ugh, could they not have this argument right now? "Roxas, please?"
"I'm just worried about your health, Xion."
"I feel fine, Roxas." She may have sounded angrier than she actually was. She was just frustrated. This wasn't something she wanted to deal with over vacation. "A ride down to the Tram Common isn't going to kill me." Her face softened. "Besides, if we walk and take even longer Hayner will probably end up killing someone out if impatience."
Roxas laughed at that and opened the front door. "Okay, you've made your point. They're by the curb, right?"
"I think so." Roxas walked outside while Xion went back to tying her shoes. Her lips formed into a thin line and her eyes narrowed as their conversation played back in her head. Since she was very young, Xion had had problems over-exerting herself. As a little kid she'd always have to stop and rest while the others were playing tag, but that wasn't too much. They really started to notice it after she, Roxas, and Hayner had started skateboarding. And then one day in middle school she had collapsed during gym class, only to wake up in the hospital hours later.
That's when she had met Doctor Joshua Sweet. He was a tall, imposing man, but basically a big kid at heart. Dr. Sweet's fast-talking, light-hearted style of speech had calmed her nerves a lot. But even with all his friendliness one thing was clear to her during that first meeting: he had no idea what was wrong with her. Every few months since then she had seen Dr. Sweet for some reason or another; usually it was just getting some temporary medication to help her along, but sometimes things were more serious. Four months ago, on the last day of the school year, she had blacked out and spent three weeks in a coma, meaning she missed most of summer break. And they still had no idea what the cause of her weakness was—she was eating fine, she got a normal amount of exercise, no family history of anything like this… It just happened when she got too active.
Xion stood up at pulled on a black hoodie while Roxas came back with their boards. It hadn't start snowing yet, but there was still that winter chill in the air. "Here," Roxas said while he held out Xion's skateboard: black with blue designs. His own was white with black.
"Thanks," Xion took it but Roxas didn't let go. She stared at him—at the frown on his face. She was glad for his concern, she really was, but she felt fine. She had just seen Dr. Sweet the other day for some new medicine. "Nothing's going to happen, Roxas."
Roxas sighed and pulled his hand away. "Right. Sorry, I'm being paranoid."
Xion put a hand on his shoulder as she walked by. "You're just being a good friend." She put the board down on the ground and rolled it back and forth with her foot. "Come on, any longer and they'll probably start whatever it is without us."
"I'm right behind you."
Twilight Town was built along a mountainside, which meant there were a lot of slopes. This made skating through the town extremely simple, and that meant it was popular. On an average day the streets were filled with kids after school, but right now it seemed most people had decided to stick inside due to the temperature. Xion was fine with that; while she had nothing against heat, the cold never bothered her anyway.
She and Roxas glided down the hills of the city, moving out of the residential district and into downtown. The closest thing Twilight Town had to suburbs was probably Sunset Terrace, but that was a train ride away. Xion and her friends all lived in apartments closer to the center of the city, which meant downtown was only a few minutes away. Xion directed the two of them down an alley and onto Market Street, which was exactly what it sounded like. The Tram Common was at the end, at the bottom of the mountain.
They passed by the back alley that led to the imaginatively-named Usual Spot, their group's normal hangout hidden underneath the train tracks, and continued until they reached a fork in the road. While the path directly in front of them did lead to the Tram Common, if you wanted to get to Kronk's it was actually quicker to take the other road and cut through the Sandlot. Less crowds that way.
When they got to the Sandlot, Roxas came to a sudden halt, looking over at someone at the other end of the lot. Xion followed his gaze and frowned. A group of four stood there, talking amongst themselves. Seifer, the boy in a beanie and a white coat, was the leader of the self-proclaimed 'Disciplinary Committee' of Twilight Town, but personally Xion thought they despite the name they did more harm than good. He and his friends, Fuu and Rai, were basically just bullies.
"Don't cause trouble, Roxas," she warned.
"Hayner's the one who has a problem with them, not me." Roxas looked down at his board and slowly ran it back and forth across the ground. "I'm just worried about Vivi is all."
"Vivi?" Xion hadn't even noticed the little boy who stood with them. They hadn't spoken much, but she really thought he was a nice kid. A little shy, but nice. What was someone like that doing with a jerk like Seifer?
"I suppose it isn't any of our business."
Xion was surprised by Roxas's statement, but she supposed he was right. Vivi was shy, but he was smart. He knew better than to hang out with bullies. There had to be a reason.
But maybe she'd check up on him later, just in case.
"Let's keep going." Xion started riding away again, thankful that the Disciplinary Committee hadn't seen them.
Kronk's wasn't a very notable place, really. It was just a small diner sitting on a street corner by the Tram Common's road to the Sandlot—nothing special. There wasn't any special food, or great deals, or celebrity endorsement. In fact usually it was pretty empty except for a few regular customers. But still it was their group of friend's favorite place to eat, for two reasons: one, while the food wasn't special or flashy it was good. Like, really good. And two, the owner, manager, and chef: Kronk himself.
Xion had first met Kronk through Roxas, when they were still in elementary school. He had been Roxas and Pence's scout troop leader—Xion suppressed a giggle at the memory. Roxas as a scout was so weird. But the two boys had insisted to her, Hayner, and Olette that Kronk 'wasn't like the other grown-ups.' And boy were they right; Kronk wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed, but he was funny, sweet, and just an all-around nice guy. Over the years he had sort of become an honorary sixth member of their group, and they had learned a lot about him. Apparently he used to be involved in some darker stuff – drug dealings, Xion thought, though Kronk really didn't like to go into it – and now the restaurant and leading the scouts were attempts to straighten his life out. And it didn't hurt that he genuinely enjoyed doing them.
Putting their skateboards by the bike rack outside, Roxas and Xion stepped inside to the homely little diner It was emptier than usual; aside from one or two older couples, the only people there were their three friends sitting in a booth by the window. Olette stood up and waved them over.
"About time, you guys!" Pence said with a grin. He was a bit of a bigger kid, and so was generally with Xion in gym class in lagging behind everyone else. But he was also one of the smartest people she knew, easily able to get the hang of any electronic device he got his hands on. "Hayner was just about ready to leave." Next to him the blond in question huffed. Hayner had some attitude problems, but he was a nice guy at heart. Mostly it was just a performance to look cool. Hayner was also Roxas's best friend, behind Xion that is.
Xion sat down and held up her hands apologetically. "Sorry Olette, our phones were both silenced."
The brunette waved away Xion's apology. She was probably the nicest of all of them, but she could be pretty pushy sometimes—usually when it involved schoolwork or shopping. She was definitely more girly than Xion, but the two of them still got along great. "It's fine, I figured as much."
Pence had a sly grin on his face. "So, what were you two lovebirds doing? I heard you and Xion were together all night, Roxas." Xion felt her face grow hot. She was used to these jokes about the two of them, but they never stopped being uncomfortable.
Roxas's red, wide-eyed face matched what she could only guess hers looked like. "N-Nothing happened! Xion just spent the night, like we all used to do all the time."
"Of course. No way would any girl fall for Roxas," Hayner said with a teasing smirk.
After their laughter had died down, Olette spoke up again. "Hope you guys don't mind, but we ordered food for you."
"It's fine," Xion said. "What did you get us?"
"Order up!" A deep voice called from the kitchen. Kronk came through the door in an apron and a little paper hat, his muscled arms holding two trays of food. With a big grin he walked over to their table, never missing a beat. "Howdy kids, how ya doin'? What do we got today, let's see…" Kronk spun the first tray in his hand like a wheel, picking up the plates and handing them out as he did so. "First lady and a black cow for Pence, Olette's taking Adam and Eve on a raft, wrecking them with a forty-one, Hayner wanted the groundhog to grunt and some dog soup." The man's mastery of that alien language called 'diner lingo' never ceased to amaze Xion. "Roxas is walking the cow through the garden with the works, and Xion gets Noah's boy on bread. Both of you are drinking fifty-fives." Kronk then reached over to the bar across the aisle and picked up a red basket. "Would you like fries with that?"
After that he returned to the kitchen to work on the other customers' orders, leaving the five of them to their discussion. "So, why are we all here?" Roxas asked.
Hayner crossed his arms and slouched in his seat. "Olette wouldn't tell us either."
"I wanted us all to be together before we started," the girl insisted. "Now that we're all here we can." She pulled out a pen and notebook, earning confused looks from her friends. "Now that we have two weeks off, we need to plan it out."
Xion couldn't hide her smile. Typical Olette, always on top of things. Hayner, though, groaned and slouched further. "That's it? That's why you had us wait so long? Let's just let stuff happen as it happens, Olette."
"I don't want to have everything so chaotic, Hayner. Xion wasn't around for summer break, so this is the first time in a whole year we've had so much time together. We don't want to waste it, do we?"
Hayner just grunted in response.
"I think it sounds fun!" Pence said through a bite of ribs. "So what's first?"
"We have to go see the Christmas fireworks," Olette said, immediately writing it down on the notebook. Her handwriting was the neatest of all of them, it almost looked typed. "And I mean in a high place. Just watching them from my house isn't good enough."
"How about the clock tower?" Xion offered. The others looked at her and she quickly averted her gaze. "Never mind, that's a dumb idea. We probably aren't even allowed up there."
"Actually…" All eyes were on Hayner now. He put his elbows on the table, gesturing as he spoke. "I know a way up to the top. My buddy Zell showed me once. We could totally go watch fireworks at the tower."
Olette frowned. "Sneak in? What if we get caught?"
"The door isn't locked or anything. I just think not many people know about it."
Xion watched Hayner carefully. "What's the deal? Since when did you like fireworks?"
Suddenly strangely quiet, Hayner looked down at his lap. "We can't be together forever…" Xion blinked in genuine surprise at his answer. Had she heard him right? The others were silent too. "So we'd better make the time we do have something to remember."
"Are you sure that's you, Hayner?" Roxas asked.
Hayner's trademarked scowl came back to his face and he looked out the window. "Shut up. Forget it."
Olette giggled at his reaction, but was a bit solemn as she wrote down in her notebook. "So we're going with Xion's suggestion? Christmas fireworks on the clock tower it is."
"What else is there to do?" Xion asked.
The friends spent the next couple of hours sitting at their table and deciding plans for the vacation. Kronk took their plates a half hour into the discussion and returned with desert: five bowls of sea-salt ice cream, as usual. Any other restaurant wouldn't want them to stick around an hour and a half after they were done eating, but Kronk was fine with it. He even tossed out suggestions himself every now and then.
After two hours had passed, Hayner stretched his arms above his head. "We've sure spent a lot of time here, huh?" Pence was sleeping next to him, so Hayner nudged the black-haired boy's shoulder to wake him up. "It's only five. What are you doing taking a nap, man?"
"Sorry," Pence said with a yawn. "So hey, did we decide what the plan is?"
"Sure did!" Xion said with a smile. She looked over at Olette, who picked up the notebook and started reading off her list.
"In the first week: Hayner, Roxas, and Xion wanted to enter that skateboard race a few days from now. We all agreed to go up into the mountains and spend a night at that fancy ski resort. And of course the fireworks."
Roxas looked out the window. The sun was low on the horizon—night came early during winter at Twilight Town. "We should probably head home before it gets night, then it'll be too cold for just our jackets. Anyone have some last minute suggestions for week one?"
Xion leaned back in her seat and tried to think of something. Honestly everything so far was enough for her; she just wanted to spend time with her friends, it didn't really matter what they spent that time doing. "I think I'm good here."
"Same with me," Hayner said. Pence nodded.
Olette stood up and stretched her legs. "Okay, then it sounds good. Hey, are you guys free the day after tomorrow?" They all answered in affirmative. There were no plans for any of them until the race. "Great! Then meet me at the mall, okay? We'll work out times later." She grabbed her coat and waved goodbye to Kronk before heading out.
"I'm gonna head home too," Xion said. "Dodger is probably hungry."
"Do you want me to come with you?" Roxas asked. What kind of question was that? Their apartments were in the same building, so even if they didn't go home together they'd be following the same route anyway. Xion nodded right away; in fact, maybe a little faster than she ought to. That teasing smirk came to Hayner's face again as Roxas stood up.
"See you guys tomorrow," Xion said to Hayner and Pence with a wave. "And have a good evening, Kronk!"
"You kids be careful on the way home." She couldn't see Kronk since he was in the kitchen, but his voice boomed out from behind the walls. "They say freaks in black have been stalking the streets lately."
"We'll be careful," Roxas assured him.
Xion had heard the rumors of the men in black, but didn't really pay much attention to them. Every city had problems with gangs and stuff, right? It was just part of urban life. Still, though, there were minor details about the stories that nagged at her. One rumor says that a man in a black suit wearing a black mask can be found in the woods surrounding Twilight Town, especially in the area around the old abandoned mansion. Others say he watches from the buildings or the alleys. The strange thing was most of those rumors say the man wears black and blue, but as of recently they're saying black and white. Normally Xion would attribute an inconsistency like that to people spreading their own twists on the story, but generally in the past the appearance described had been consistent. It was only just recently when the black and white stories started coming in.
Honestly though, what concerned her more was the apparent connection between those rumors and the old mansion. That mansion had always been one of her favorite places in all of Twilight Town, because it was just so mysterious. No one knew who it belonged to. She and Roxas used to explore it all the time, and she knew all of it inside and out—well, almost all of it. Two rooms on the second floor were locked and she never could get them open. But anyway, ever since the rumors started to grow more and more and sightings started getting reported even in broad daylight, the police had been investigating the mansion nearly daily. They didn't really get a chance to drop by there anymore.
"Xion, are you okay?" Xion blinked and looked over to Roxas, then checked her surroundings. They were at the candy shop already? How had she not noticed how long they had been walking? And yeah, they were walking; while Twilight Town's slopes made skating down great, it didn't work so well for getting back up on a board.
"Yeah, I'm okay. Just thinking about the mansion."
Roxas smiled. He loved the mansion almost as much as she did. "You wanna go check it out tomorrow?"
"Aren't the police still keeping it locked off?"
"I don't think so." Roxas shrugged. "Even if they are we can sneak in. They only seem to pay attention to the front gates."
"Then yeah, let's do it." They were in front of the apartment building now and the clock tower rang in the distance. 6:00. Her parents would be getting home soon.
"You wanna come by my place some more?"
Xion shook her head. "Maybe later. Like I said back at Kronk's, Dodger is probably hungry. I need to feed him."
"Don't give him any more sausages," Roxas warned with a smile. "See you, Xion."
"Yeah, see you later." Roxas went inside, but Xion stayed outside and took in deep breaths of the cold air. She wasn't feeling weak or anything; just as she had told Roxas when they left, she felt perfectly fine. Going to and from the Tram Common wasn't enough to exhaust her. But still, the night air was calming. She closed her eyes and imagined that, instead of in the middle of the city she was standing on a beach and embracing the sea breeze.
When Xion opened her eyes again, someone was standing in the road next to a nearby lamppost. Blue eyes scanned the building and he had a frown on his face, as if he was looking for something. He locked eyes with Xion for an instant and took a step forward, with a look on his face like he wanted to ask something. Then he shook his head and turned around, walking away into the shadows of night.
Xion watched him leave with curiosity, and then shivered when she finally noticed the color of his clothing: black.
I spent way too much time reading about diner slang. The stuff Kronk was spouting is all real terms.
No, you didn't click the wrong link—this is indeed the sequel toRemember the Tides. For those who haven't read the first one, this story started as a "what-if" scenario where Xion won the final battle in 358/2 Days instead of Roxas. However, our last story ended on Destiny Islands, not Twilight Town. The setting change will be explained eventually, though I'm sure some of you have already figured it out. The story's going to be kind of depressing at first (assuming I can write depressing), but it should level out to our old adventurous tone soon enough.