Heya everyone, this is the special episode that I mentioned in the previous chapter before I work on the Hallow Bastion chapter.
What I mean by special episode means that it's a small side story dedicated to a certain character. This episode is dedicated to Ion, a character that had mostly only been mentioned previously and made a brief appearance waaay back in the story.
I hope you enjoy it. Don't worry, the Hallow Bastion chapter is being worked on as this chapter is uploaded.
While typing out this chapter, I listened to a Mipha's Theme cover with lyrics that I felt resonated with Ion's character very well. So if you're interested in listening to it yourself, put in youtube's search engine 'Mipha's theme cover' and look for a youtuber called Aria Rose and you'll find it. =D
So thanks to this person for giving me inspiration for this chapter! =D
Now then, let's go!
Special Episode: Silent Promise
There was a young boy who was gazing at the flowers of the royal gardens that were opened to the public for all to enjoy. He looked only fourteen or fifteen in appearance, he honestly couldn't tell which one was the accurate number, although Seraphim could take any form they wanted, he found that the human form was the most common among his kind. He had cropped fire red hair that reached to his shoulders with eyes as blue as the sky.
He wore a blue sage robe with sleeves that went down until they reached the cuffs of his sleeves. He had a turtle-necked shirt underneath his robes that were a darker shade of blue. The robe went down to his ankles but his boots were still visible. The tabard that he wore over his robe had an insignia that looked like a curved heart, the same emblem that he often seen on a lot of the Seraphic clothing.
He had been the guardian to this world for quite some time now, during that time, he had seen many people come and go. He had even been present for the reigns of five rulers of Radiant Garden to their current ruler Ansem the Wise.
Tis indeed a strange feeling, to see mortals being born into this world, and seeing their life flash before his eyes as they grow older and eventually die to return to Kingdom Hearts, as all hearts do. Even stranger when you realize that Seraphim do not age in the same sense as mortals do. They could be over thousands of years old and still look like a child.
Ion sighed inwardly as he recalled an argument he had with Lord Yggdrasil not long ago. He had recently visited Ion's world to check up on him, and he had once again asked him to reconsider moving to another world, as Radiant Garden was no longer deemed safe given the lack of people who could see Ion now. In the past, Radiant Garden was full of people who could see Seraphim, but over time, those numbers dwindled to a very small handful.
It could very well be because Radiant Garden had become more of a world that was based on facts and knowledge rather than spiritual faith. Or at least that was his theory, even so, while it hurt to be forgotten or his existence as the world's guardian labelled as a myth at best, he loved this world dearly.
He could never part from it, not after looking after it for such a long time. As much as he knew Lord Yggdrasil was just being concerned and cared about his wellbeing as any good leader would. It also annoyed him to no end of how Lord Yggdrasil was still skeptical on trusting mortals even after all these years.
Yes, he understood that the Keyblade War was a terrible thing that should never be repeated, and it also resulted in decreasing the numbers of the Seraphim greatly. Times had changed since the Era of Fairytales, surely humans and mortals have learned from their mistakes.
That was what Ion believed anyway, it wasn't just over mortals that he argued with his leader over. Lord Yggdrasil had often cautioned them to not get too attached to the realm of light, otherwise their attachment could become an obsession and obsessions often resulted in turning to darkness for answers.
He replayed the argument in his head as they stood just outside where the keyhole was in Radiant Garden, in a part of the royal palace that is only allowed for royal blood to visit.
"I really don't get why you're so determined to keep us from making contact with other people. There's no harm in talking to humans." Ion argued, crossing his arms at the Elder Seraph.
"That isn't the point. Not all of them all nice, there are those who would take advantage if you let them. What if that person wanted to you to show them the Keyhole, would you?"
"...Well...it would depend on the person, of course." Ion honestly answered.
Yggdrasil sighed. "You see, this is what I meant exactly. You're too emotional, you'd be wise to keep them in check, it's that kind of unpredictable nature of the hearts of mortals that could end up being your undoing."
"And what's so wrong about that? You'd prefer if we didn't feel anything at all? That would make us no different than the creatures of darkness that we've been fighting this whole time! With all due respect, Lord Yggdrasil, we were given hearts for a reason, that's...what I think anyway." Ion shouted before he softened his voice to keep his frustrations controlled.
"That is true, we are given self-awareness and hearts of our own, that's what separates us from the creatures of the dark. You forget though, that body of yours originates from the wish your heart made all those years ago, even wishes, no matter how pure they are, can become twisted and corrupted over time if you forget what you wished for all those years ago. In that sense, we could become just as primal and dangerous as the beings of the dark themselves."
"..." Ion couldn't counter that, despite how much he wanted to prove him wrong, there was truth in those words.
"Don't get me wrong Ion, having emotions and a heart is not a bad thing at all. In fact, I welcome that, but we must never forget that the heart is an unpridictable thing, it can be our most mightiest weapon of all, but it can also be our worst enemy. I'm not saying to discard your emotions, but unlike mortals, we are unfamilar with these raw yet strong feelings, we lack the understanding of what they mean or how to deal with them."
"I...understand." Ion slowly nodded.
Yggdrasil came closer and gently petted the boy's head. "You know...many years ago, I was probably not that different from how you thought. It would be nice to see the world in the same light as the way you and children do. That's the tragic thing about getting older as time goes by, you slowly lose that innocence. Treasure it while you still can, it won't last forever."
Yggdrasil's words struck a cord within him. Yggdrasil must have seen some truly traumatic things to become so jaded with how he viewed the world as it was now. He recalled hearing old rumors that Lord Yggdrasil had a pact partner once when he had been a young Seraph himself, but no one knew what happened to them. He also recalled hearing some tales about how Yggdrasil and the World Tree had some kind of deep bond between them.
No one could confirm it though, the only one who knew the truth was Lord Yggdrasil himself, and he kept his heart well-guarded all the time so no one could get the truth out of him.
Looking at the flowers always made him feel better after getting into such heated debates like that. He would have to thank Ansem later for the idea to come here to unwind.
Ansem, or Ansem the Wise as he was known by the people he ruled over was a good man, true to his title, he was quite the scholar but he always put his knowledge to benefit the lives of his people.
He had known Ansem since he had been still a young prince, even then he was an inquisitive child, often asking Ion about the Seraphim, he had asked about if there had been other worlds, but Ion being sworn to secrecy about them told Ansem he was not allowed to tell.
Ansem understood and respected that, but being the smart boy he was, he was able to click together to learn by himself that the likelihood of there being other worlds was high.
As the years went by, Ansem soon became the next king of Radiant Garden and had since then had two children of his own, both were able to see Ion just like Ansem could.
A kind-hearted yet mischievous boy named Aster and an adorable and precious girl named Kairi. Sadly the queen had died shortly after Kairi had been born, so the two lacked a mother, thankfully a kind-hearted old lady who had long served the royal family and also knew of Ion's existence filled that role as their 'grandmother', despite the fact they were not related by blood, the two children still treated her as family to them.
He wondered if Ansem's recent interest in the workings of the heart stemmed somewhat from his wife's death, since she had a weak heart all her life, a tragic health condition that thankfully didn't get carried over to either of her children. The queen was a loving and selfless woman loved by everyone, her passing was truly a loss felt in all of Radiant Garden.
"Hey, Ion!" He heard Aster's voice pull him out of his train of thought and turned to face the small seven year old. He had his father's eyes, but they were more hazel than Ansem's more orange/amber hue, Ansem always said his eyes might have scared people on first impression so he was glad his son had inherited warmer eyes than his own.
"Ah, Aster. I thought you were having sparring lessons with Sir Dilan, you aren't skipping them by any chance, are you?"
"Nah, Dilan's unwell so he couldn't do guard duty or train me today. Aeleus said that I'd be free until he gets better." Aster shook his head.
"I see. Poor Sir Dilan, let's hope he get better soon." Ion smiled.
"Oh yeah! Ion, there's someone I want you to meet, he's my best friend, so I wanted to introduce you to him."
"Oh? This is the first time you mentioned him." Ion laughed.
"Well...he's pretty shy, and a nerd, but he's really nice once you get to know him." Aster answered.
"Alright then, where is he?" Ion looked around for who this person could be.
"Huh? Did he run away again? Gah! Hold on, I'll get him." Aster looked around to see his friend had obviously hidden himself, seriously that guy is hopeless when it comes to talking to new people.
It didn't take long for Aster to spot him and drag him out. "C'mon Zen, don't be a chicken!"
"I'm-I'm not a chicken!" Came a very defiant outburst.
"Then prove it!" Came Aster's counter attack. With that, Aster brought over an even younger boy who looked two years younger than Aster with forest green hair.
"Oh I know you, you're the young boy that Lord Ansem decided to raise in the castle." Ion recognized right away.
This was the boy named Zen, around four years ago, Ansem found Zen in the royal gardens and decided to raise him in the castle alongside Aster and Kairi, so in a unofficial roundabout way, Zen was considered part of the royal family, even though he had no blood tie with any of them.
Aster certainly didn't seem to mind that at all considering how close the two seemed just by looking at them. This made Ion smile inwardly, it's true that some still treated Zen like an outsider since...well...he was from another world, but for the most part, Ansem treated Zen kindly while Aster and Kairi had essentially treated Zen like part of their family.
From what Ion saw, Zen was a quiet child, often kept to himself in the library of the castle, at first he kept his distance from Aster and Kairi, but it would seem Aster's perseverance had paid off and got through to the greenette.
He did note that Zen was particularly quite sweet to Kairi, then again, Kairi is most adorable girl you could ever meet, she could probably thaw the most coldest of hearts.
He never tested if Zen could see him or not since he didn't want to scare the child off. However, seeing how Zen was staring straight at him, it looks like Zen had the sight too.
Zen hid behind Aster upon hearing the Seraph speak to him. So he was timid was he?
"It's okay, Zen. Ion won't hurt you, he's really nice. He's the guardian of our world."
"You mean, this is the guardian that everyone says is a myth?"
Ion flinched a little at that.
"Ah, sorry! Was that rude to say?" Zen apologised quickly.
"No, you didn't offend." Ion shook his head and reassured the small boy. "It's been this way for a long time now. Not many people can see me anymore, but they can't be blamed for that. It's hard to believe in something that you can't see."
"Oh...Why can't people see you?"
"Well...how do I explain it? I suppose you could say Seraphim are like ghosts."
"I heard that Seraphim can't wander around the Realm of Light like we can because they're um...what's the word Father used? Vune...ver..." Aster tried to explain but found it hard to say a word that was probably a little too advanced for his age.
"Vulnerable." Ion finished for him.
"Yeah, that's the one." Aster nodded.
"Well, your father is right. Our bodies are much weaker that yours so we get sick very easily from darkness. We need vessels that are untouched by darkness in order to walk around your realm. Sometimes just normal objects would work just as good. The vessel I use as my connection to this realm is a very important part of the world itself."
"An important part of our world? You mean like the castle?" Zen pointed towards the large castle that towered over the town.
"Heh heh, you're very close. It's somewhere in the castle, but not in a place that normal people can go." Ion nodded. He couldn't exactly tell the children that it was the core of Radiant Garden, the world's heart itself that he used as his vessel, but he could tell a white lie about it.
"Um, is it Ansem the Wise's study? Me and Aster can't go there."
"Nope." Ion replied easily.
"Hey, Ion? Why do you think they want me to learn how to fight? I'd rather just be playing with Zen." Aster asked curiously.
"So you can protect yourself and others when you need to, you never know when that knowledge will come in handy down the road. Besides, you like Sir Dilan, don't you?"
"Well...yeah. He's a good teacher." Aster admitted.
"And you want to protect the people you care about right?" Ion continued.
"Of course! Definitely Kairi, Zen, Father, Grandma and you, I want to protect you guys the most."
Ion smiled warmly and petted Aster's head. "Then you have to work hard, okay?"
Zen looked at the many flowers that bloomed and grew in these gardens, his eyes latched on to a strange flower. "Hey, what's this odd looking one?"
"Oh, that. It's called the Silent Iona flower. Do you want to know why it's called that?" Ion explained.
Zen and Aster nodded with interest. "It was given that name because the name Iona in the ancient language means 'Promise' so it is technically called the flower is called 'Silent Promise'. But I think it's old name sounded better, so that's what I usually call it."
"But why are there so few of them? They're so pretty too." Zen asked.
"Silent Ionas are very hard to grow, it is said that the flower came from another world, and a traveller left a bag of seeds behind so the people of Radiant Garden could grow their own Silent Ionas here, they were in the past considered a sign of wealth for wealthy families because of how exotic and rare the flower is, but they learned that they did not last long indoors. So they can only grow out here in the royal gardens."
"Aw, that's a shame. Kairi would have loved these." Aster was saddened to hear that.
"I know, why don't we find Kairi together and then we can look at the Silent Ionas together?" Ion offered.
"Sure, that sounds like an idea. Kairi would really love to see these." Zen nodded.
And so they did just that, it wasn't hard to find Kairi since she is often seen around the flower beds, picking flowers. When they showed her the Silent Iona flowers, she fell in love with them right away.
"They remind me of you, Ion!" Kairi made a comment about them to Ion. If only Kairi knew just how close she was to the truth that he had been in fact an Silent Iona flower himself before being reborn as a Seraph...
It was so long ago, he couldn't remember his wish that clearly. He was certain though that it had something to do with wanting to protect the people of this world. What he did know for certain at this very moment that he wanted nothing more than to protect these children with all his heart.
A week had past since Ion's first encounter with Zen. Since then, Aster was under-going more studies as he was the next in line to the throne after Ansem the Wise, Zen was left on his own a lot more.
Kairi kindly offered to be his playmate when Aster wasn't around, but Zen declined her offer. Not because he didn't want to play with Kairi, it was because he didn't want people to start spreading rumours around him and Kairi if they were playing together.
It would seem the distrusting whispers about Zen and being labelled as an 'outsider' never went away, and they were starting to take a serious effect on Zen's low self-esteem and even less self-confidence.
Like before, he would shut himself away in the library to keep out of contact of people, it would seem this was Zen's way of coping with it. Ion's heart went out to the poor boy, he decided would throw Yggdrasil's constant lectures about keeping out of world affairs out of the window and make the first move.
"Hello there, Zen. I see you have your nose stuck in another book." Ion kindly spoke, sitting on a chair next to the reading table that Zen was sitting at.
"Just call me Ion. It makes me feel old when you say that." Ion shook his head.
"...Sorry." Zen apologised.
"Don't be. Now then, why are you stuck inside this lonely place? It's a nice day outside." Ion asked.
"It's pointless. It's no fun going outside if you're the only one. Aster's busy so he can't play today and I doubt Kairi would want to play with a boy." Zen fibbed.
"Now I know that is a lie, I saw Kairi offer to play with you not long ago." Ion pointed out a flaw in his lie.
Zen sighed and placed a bookmark on the book he had been reading before closing. "Why do you even care? I'm not part of this world, remember? I'm just some stupid outsider." Zen bitterly said, he had a pained look on his face and looked downwards.
"I care about all the people in this world, that includes you." Ion answered.
"You're just saying that to make me feel better. I...don't belong in this world, so don't bother lying to me." Zen didn't believe it.
Ion shook his head. "So...can I ask what you were reading? Is it a good book?" Ion decided to change the subject to see if he could win Zen over that way.
Zen quickly covered the book with his arms with a bright redness in his cheeks. "N-no, you can't look! You'll make fun of me!"
"Zen! I'm hurt! How can you judge me like that?" Ion dramatically faked his acting.
"I can tell you're fibbing." Zen said with a blank unimpressed look on his face.
"Heh, five years old and already able to tell bad acting when they see it. Not bad." Ion laughed, he found that Zen was laughing with him. A good sign indeed, his approach was working.
"Seriously though, I promise I won't make fun of you. I'll stake my honour as a Seraph on it." Ion reassured.
"...You...won't laugh right?" Zen slowly began to remove his arms from the book cover.
"I cross my heart and hope to die." Ion nodded while tracing a single finger over his chest as to illustrate his point.
Zen seemed to still be doubtful but eventually removed his arms completely to reveal the title of the book.
"Ah, an adventure romance fantasy novel. An interesting choice of literature." Ion smiled with sincerity in his voice.
"You...aren't going to make fun of me for liking these kind of books?" Zen seemed genuinely surprised.
"Of course not. I'm actually quite fond of such books myself, it gives a sense of comfort to the reader, a way to escape from your problems in real life when you're transported away into another world woven within the book." Ion shook his head.
"Huh, you're the first besides Aster to say that. Well...he didn't exactly say it like that, but he likes reading stories like this too. His favourite is 'I want to be your Canary', I tried looking for it but this place is so big, I don't know where to start." Zen confessed.
"Oh, I know that one. It's an amazing book. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe I remember where I last saw the book." Ion looked around the library shelves.
"Really?! Can you show me where? U-um, only if you want to though, I understand if you're too busy, since you're a Guardian and all." The words left Zen's mouth before he even realized it, he then quickly tried to backtrack since it might have come off too strong.
Ion laughed. "Trust me, Zen. You'd be amazed how much free time I have right now. Come on, I'll help you find it. You'll soon see why Aster is very fond of it."
And so they spent a good few hours combing the shelves for the book in question, all the while their bond grew in that short time. They eventually found it and even read it together, Ion never felt so content as he did now.
For Zen, he not only found a new favourite book to read, but he felt he had made another best friend within Ion. For the first time in a while, Zen's heart felt lighter than it did before.
Eight months have passed, Ion and Zen had become very close during their days reading in the library. Who knew that Ion had a love for books too? Zen had become quite a fan of Lord Avon's works, the man who wrote 'I want to be your canary'. No wonder it was one of Aster's favourites.
In one of the rare days where Aster was free, he hung out around Zen and Ion in the library, just the three of them talking while eating some Sea Salt Ice Cream, a delicious desert that become quite the craze in this world, all started by a strange old duck who Ion could swear was from another world.
During those months, a lot of things had happened. The old woman who had been affectionately called Grandma by Aster, Zen and Kairi sadly passed on and her heart had returned to Kingdom Hearts, the three children were devastated by the loss for a long time, they eventually cheered up, but they would always dearly miss her.
Five months before their 'Grandma's' death though, a strange man found himself washed up in this world in the main plaza of the town, in a manner very similar to how Zen arrived. Most people seemed to have welcomed him since Ansem took him under his wing as one of his apprentices.
Zen and Aster seemed a little nervous around that stranger though. Especially Zen, he seemed afraid of him, but why?
"Hey, don't you guys think that Xehanort guy is kinda weird? He keeps staring at Zen with this creepy look." Aster started.
"Wha?! He does?" Zen looked startled at this, he really hadn't noticed?
"I must admit, there is something off about him. I know it is not my place to judge someone on appearance alone, but I can feel some kind of enigmatic aura coming from him."
"..." Both of the boys looked confused.
"That means mysterious, but it's not the good kind of mysterious." Ion smiled and explained in more simple words.
"Well, he better not try anything funny with Zen while I'm around. I don't care if he's Father's favourite apprentice, I'll kick him in the shins." Aster huffed.
Ion chuckled at this. "Not quite becoming of a prince, but I as a friend, I would full-heartedly agree."
"That man...he scares me..." Zen admitted.
"It'll be okay, Zen. You know that Lord Ansem would never let anything happen to you." Ion comforted.
"I'm not so sure about that. Father doesn't come out of his study anymore...that research he's doing on the heart seems to be more important than us now." Aster narrowed his eyes sadly.
Ion gently petted the boy's head. "Well then, I certainly wouldn't let anyone lay a finger on you two or Kairi."
"Of course, I'm the guardian of this world, remember? What kind of Guardian would I be if I slacked off at my own job?" Ion joked.
"Heh heh, yeah. That's true." Aster giggled.
"Oh, that's right! Ion? Do Seraphim have birthdays?" Zen asked innocently.
"Birthdays?" Ion raised an eyebrow at this. "Huh, you know I never really thought about it." Ion answered.
"Hey, maybe this is a good time to show what we made for him then, Zen. Consider it a present from me, Zen and Kairi!"
Zen nodded and took out what looked like crudely made charm with Radiant Garden's emblem, but Ion could tell a lot of love and effort went into making it.
"We worked together to make it! There was this blonde kid we met months back, he showed us this thing he called a 'Wayfinder'." Zen started.
"He told us that his friend made it for him and their other friend, it was a way to keep them connected to each other no matter how far apart they are. We were only able to make one right now, but we plan to make one for all four of us." Aster added.
"But we wanted to give you the first one. Um, sorry if it's not very good, we got some help from the Moogles for the hard parts." Zen finished.
Ion gently picked up the small charm and looked at it lovingly. What was this warm feeling in his heart that he felt? He wanted to treasure this emotion he felt forever.
"I love it. It doesn't matter if it looks oddly-shaped, I can tell how much effort and care was put into making it. I feel that's the most important thing behind any gift. Thank you so much for such a lovely gift. I'll have to thank Kairi too, she helped make it as well didn't she?"
"Yeah! She gathered the flowers we pressed into it. Like Zen said though, we did get help from the Moogles for the really hard parts. Charm-making is tough, I wonder how the Moogles are able to do it every day?" Aster nodded, pleased that Ion liked their present.
Ion laughed. "Well, Moogles have very talented paws, after all."
They heard someone entering the library and became alert at this. Zen involuntarily shivered when he saw who it was. It was Braig, one of the royal guards of the castle, but unlike Dilan or Aeleus, Aster didn't like Braig at all.
"Hey there little prince, you're spending your time cooped up indoors instead of playing outside?" Braig confidently spoke.
"What we do with our spare time is none of your business." Aster scoffed.
"Yeesh, harsh, little prince. Oh yeah, greenie, Lord Ansem wanted to talk to you." Braig turned his attention to Zen.
"Me? But why?" Zen looked confused at this.
"Heck if I know, I'm just the messenger boy here." Braig shrugged.
"Hold on, I'm going too! There's no way I'm letting Zen go alone, especially not with you." Aster risen from his chair.
"No can do. He explicitly said Zen alone." Braig smirked.
"I...I'll be okay, Aster." Zen was clearly frightened but he tried to stay strong to not worry his best friend.
"I'll go with him, it's at times like this that being invisible to most people in this world comes in handy." Ion told Aster.
Aster looked at Ion and softly nodded.
Zen followed Braig out of the library to wherever Lord Ansem was waiting, Aster looked on with worry, but he knew Ion would keep him safe.
Ion walked beside Zen, gently taking hold of the five year old's hand to reassure him that he was there.
They found themselves in a part of the castle that neither of them had actually been to before. Ion figured that this place was made recently, since it didn't seem part of the main castle itself.
Zen had become more evidently worried and to be honest, Ion was starting to suspect something was very wrong about this.
"Aha, here we are. Now this is where things get interesting." Braig said cryptically, opening the door to the study, they entered inside. However, it wasn't Lord Ansem they saw inside.
"...You're...Xehanort." Zen's grip tightened around Ion's hand, Ion's eyes started to narrow as his fears proved to be accurate.
"Ah good, you brought the child. I have to admit, finding another who originally came from another world was quite a discovery. And one with such an unusual background."
"Wasn't easy getting the little prince to let the brat go." Braig crossed his arms.
"That's no concern. You can leave us for now Braig."
"Fine by me, I was getting bored standing around anyway." Braig waved off and exited the study.
"What do you mean by that? What do you intend to do with Aster?" Zen spoke up.
"Nothing, child. He's not my target and neither is his sister. You, however, are a different story. I am most intrigue about your origins, considering not even you know where you come from. We are similar in that aspect." Xehanort smiled softly, but there was no warmth in it.
"I..." Zen wasn't sure what to say to that.
"Let me tell you something very interesting. Did you know that a heart can shelter more than one heart?"
Ion looked surprised by this as well.
"A heart can become a host to another, or rather in your case, it has taken sanctuary in yours. As you know, I was washed up on this world with no memories myself, but there are some things that I've noticed about myself that I have not spoken to anyone of. Not even to Lord Ansem."
"One of them, is that I able to see things that no normal person can. I can tell the person that dwells within you is an ancient and strong heart, a powerful light indeed. I also know that you aren't alone right now, the guardian of this world is with you, isn't that right, Lord Ion?" Xehanort stared straight at Ion.
"You can see me?!" Ion jumped back in surprise.
"You really didn't think I could not see you? How naïve. I'm not like most of these ignorant fools."
"Ignorant?" Ion repeated.
"Surely you have noticed yourself, the people of this world have long forgotten that they owe their peaceful lives to the Seraphim, who keep a constant watch on the balance of light and dark. The Seraphim who are creatures of the light, yet are similar to Heartless in many ways. During my time researching the heart, I have come to relaize a dark truth, that the heart's source truly comes from darkness itself."
"Heartless? Either way, you're wrong. The heart is so much more than a hotbed for darkness to grow. You don't understand the heart at all! You mock the people of this world for being ignorant, but from what I see, you're the ignorant one!"
Xehanort laughed. "Lord Ansem told me a very similar thing when he decided to cancel our research into the Heart."
"Really? Lord Ansem wanted to stop his research?" Zen looked surprised at this.
"Apparently, he grew guilty of what we were doing, of the experiments that we were conducting down here. In the end, he wanted to stop all our research, even after we had learned so much from it. I personally blame that infuriating mouse king for putting the seeds of doubt in him."
"Mouse king?" Ion looked confused. Did someone from another world come here? How the heck did he not notice that?
"No matter though, Lord Ansem will not stop me from continuing with my work. Not that he can do anything now." Xehanort smirked.
Zen looked shocked. "Wait, what did you do to Lord Ansem? Where is he?"
"Oh, he's taking a long vacation within the Realm of Darkness."
"You what?! Just who are you, Xehanort?" Ion flashed dangerously, he was now more on guard than ever.
"Wouldn't you like to know? Now then, I suppose I should come clean with why I asked Zen to come here, under the guise of it being it a request of Lord Ansem's. I doubt the boy would be so willing to come here if he knew it was me."
Zen gasped and hid behind Ion.
"I don't know what you're planning but there's no way you're getting your hands on Zen!" Ion summoned his seraphic weapon which was a wizard staff.
"As if either of you had a choice." Xehanort shook his head and casted some kind of dark magic. He saw two black circles below him that suddenly lunged out and pinned Ion down to the ground and his weapon dropped to the ground with a clatter before vanishing again.
"Ion! Are you okay?!" Zen cried out, trying to pull the black hands off the Seraph.
"You...used the power of darkness? You're no researcher!" Ion gritted his teeth and tried to break out of his binds.
"Struggle all you want, you won't escape those binds. As for where my power comes from, you could say that I decided to awaken the truth within me and now I remember everything. Now that I think about it, I have never experimented on a Seraph, this will be an interesting experience."
"Why...? Why are you doing this?!" Zen sobbed.
"I intend to awaken the other heart that is sleeping within you. The one who has far more worth than you, the Foreteller of old."
Xehanort didn't say anything else instead casting a sleep spell over Zen, causing him to lose conscious quickly.
"Zen! Keep away from him you psychotic freak!" Ion struggled harder.
There was nothing he could do as they were both dragged by Xehanort away from the study into the deeper parts of the castle.
"Hey! Wake up! Open your eyes, c'mon snap out of it!" Ion could vaguely hear someone's voice calling out to him. He slowly opened his eyes, they felt as heavy as lead to open.
The first thing he noticed was that he was in a dark cell of some kind. He saw what looked like a black and white rabbit trying to shake him awake.
"Ugh...my head. I feel like I've been asleep for years."
"Well, ya did seem pretty out of it. I dunno what they were doing to you, but it looks like you've been here for days."
"Days?" Ion looked confused and lost for a moment but his memory soon came flooding back to him. "Zen! Where is Zen?" He tried to sit up, but his head still felt like it was pulsing.
"Whoa! Settle down, you just woke up from a long sleep." The rabbit tried to warn him.
"I...I can't rest right now, I need to save Zen. That man, Xehanort, he's going to do something to Zen!"
"Zen? There's another person locked away down here?"
"Can you please help me? I need to save him." Ion begged.
"Don't even need to ask, just point the way. Name's Oswald. Oswald the lucky rabbit." The rabbit smiled.
"I'm Ion." Ion smiled and introduced himself back.
They left the cell to find themselves in what looked like a hallway of other cells.
"Where is this place? It reeks of darkness." Ion crinkled his face in disgust.
"I think this is where that guy with the long silver hair has been keeping all his victims."
"Victims?" Ion looked into one of the cells and cried out in horror. It was a creature of the dark that lurked inside, hissing and garbling noises.
"They're called the Heartless. Or at least that's what I gathered from listenin' in."
"Heartless...So these are just another form that the darkness can take shape from. Oh no, what if...We have to find Zen fast!" Dread filled him when he realized Xehanort could have done something very similar with Zen's heart.
"What brought you here, Oswald? How did you find this place?" Ion wondered.
"Heh, I'm a Keyblade Master trained by the great former Master Yen Sid himself." Oswald puffed his chest proudly. "Master Yen Sid asked me to investigate when he sensed something had gone wrong with Radiant Garden."
"I wonder what's happening up there?" Ion looked upwards, he hoped that Aster, Kairi and everyone else who lived above were safe.
"To be honest, not good. There's been people being kidnapped left and right from the town and brought here for experimenting."
"Are you serious?!" Ion gasped.
"Deadly. I'm worried that we're running out of time." Oswald nodded.
That was when they heard some screaming going on above them.
"Was that a scream?" Ion's eyes widened.
"Oh no, things must have gotten real bad, last I checked, there's Heartless crawling all around up there. Let's find this kid and bail." They hastened their search, looking through various cell doors, each one holding a different kind of Heartless. It almost made Ion want to cry for all the poor souls who had their hearts tampered like this.
Xehanort was someone without a shred of morality for his actions. 'How could I have let this happen? This is all my fault...'
"Hey...have you looked at yourself recently?" Oswald asked the Seraph.
"Hm?" Ion seemed confused by such a question.
"Actually...no, forget I said anything." Oswald then shook his head and brushed off his question.
Eventually Ion found the cell that held Zen. Oswald used his keyblade, a weapon that he had only heard about from Lord Yggdrasil and other Seraphim before now to unlock the cell door.
"Zen, Zen, can you hear me? It's Ion." He tried calling out to the small boy who looked almost dead and lifeless.
After a minute or so, Zen finally stirred from his stupor. "Ion...?" Zen slowly realized as recognition kicked in. He gasped and crawled backwards. "No! Please, don't look at me!"
"Huh?" Ion looked puzzled but on closer expectation, he gasped in disbelief. One of Zen's arms had been replaced by a Heartless claw, and it pulsed with raw dark energy.
"Please don't come near me. I...I don't want to hurt you too. I don't want to steal any more hearts!"
"Steal hearts? Oh Zen, what did Xehanort do to you?!" Ion felt physically sick, never before had he hated anyone so much than Xehanort right now. Wait...where did that come from? Did Xehanort do something to him while he was unconscious?
"Poor kid, this is awful. What kind of sick mind does this guy have to do this to a kid?" Oswald felt sympathy for the child. "Hey, don't you worry little guy, you'll be okay. We're here to help."
"B-but, I did awful things! I didn't want to...the arm just acted on it's own, I couldn't control it." Zen sobbed uncontrollable, wrecked with guilt and disgust at what he was made to do.
"Zen..." Ion approached and hugged the boy tightly. "You aren't the evil one here, Xehanort was the one who did this to you. I know you can fight this darkness, you're not a monster, nor are you weak."
The boy sniffed and hugged back Ion. "You aren't afraid of me, even with this ugly thing?"
Ion shook his head. "You're still the same Zen I've always known, not even Xehanort will change that. I'm so sorry, I failed you and everyone else in this world. I should have never let this happen."
Zen felt exhausted but it felt so comforting in the Seraph's embrace, even though he could no longer see Ion like he could before, he knew he was there, that he was hugging him. He closed his eyes and fell asleep.
Ion noticed that Zen had fallen asleep and gently stroked his hair. 'Xehanort. I will never forgive you for this.'
"...Hey, I need you to do me a favour, can you keep a secret?"
"A secret?" Oswald repeated in confusion.
"I plan to seal away Zen's memories of his time down in this awful place. I don't want him to remember what Xehanort did to him, at least not right now. Maybe when he's older and prepared to take on the pain, I'll restore them. I'm just worried that he could break if he remains the way he is now."
"So you want to keep it hidden until he's ready to take on the pain of that memory?" Oswald summarized.
"Please? You're the only other person besides me who learned what has happened here."
Oswald nodded. "Alright, I promise. The kid didn't deserve any of this."
Ion nodded and proceeded to cast a Seraphic arte that allowed him to seal any memory he wished to keep hidden from Zen's chain of memories. He carefully took all the pieces that involved Xehanort and this dark place and sealed them away into the far reaches of Zen's mind.
"There. I'll be depending on you to act as his moral compass when he needs it, okay?" Ion turned to the rabbit.
"Why, are you going somewhere?" Oswald questioned.
"I'm the guardian of this world, I have to protect the world's core from the encroaching darkness. I want to find two other children as well, their names are Aster and Kairi, please take them somewhere safe, far away from here." Ion told him.
Ion then gently handed Zen over to Oswald. "I'm trusting you with children who are very precious to me, please so long as they are safe, I have no regrets. Their safety is all that matters. So please."
"...You bet. I'll keep those three safe or my name ain't Oswald." Oswald nodded with a grin.
"Thank you. Oh yeah." Ion quickly ripped off a big chunk of his robe and wrapped it around Zen's arm. He then quietly casted a Seraphic arte over it that seemed to have made the Heartless claw less dangerous.
"It's not permanent solution, but it will keep that darkness coming from that claw at bay. Be sure to find someone who can do a better job than I did."
"I know a guy named Merlin, he'll know how to deal with this kind of thing." Oswald nodded.
Ion nodded in gratitude, he then stood up and stroked Zen's hair one last time. "I know that you'll grow up with a brave and good heart, Zen. Don't ever lose sight of your light." With that, he rushed off to quell the darkness that was seeping into this world when he had been absent and away from his post. Leaving Zen in the care of Oswald.
Things were even worse than Ion could have ever imagined, those creatures, the Heartless were swarming all over the town, stealing the hearts of any that crossed their line of vision.
He could only hope that Oswald was able to find those children before these horrible monsters did.
As he ran towards the castle, he saw an man trying to fend off the Heartless while protecting three children behind him. Two girls and a boy, the youngest one crying her eyes out.
"Keep yer claws away from the kids, ya little punks!" Cid was firing what looked like a makeshift cannon that was surprisingly effective.
Ion decided to lend a hand, he casted a seraphic arte and fired it. "Holy Lance!" A beam of light was summoned forth, piercing and burning the Heartless away in a wave of light.
"...The hell was that?" Cid blinked with a dumbfound look.
The older girl seemed to have noticed Ion and smiled at him, mouthing a quiet thank you to him.
Ion smiled and nodded. He then moved on towards the castle. He just hoped he wasn't too late. He needed to save as many lives as he could.
He fought through the countless Heartless that seemed to be multiply faster than he could kill them. He'd have to hurry to the world's heart and fast, if these guys got to the core and devoured it, it would be the end of Radiant Garden. As he continued his climb upwards, he noted that his body felt physically weaker than it ever had before all this happened, he had no idea why though. Just what did that Xehanort do to him? His entire time in that dark dreary place was all fuzzy and blurry to his memory. He looked out an open window for a moment to see a horrible sight.
The world was starting to crack and tear apart, the town's crumbled before his eyes, along with the ground below it, he could feel the ground began to shake and rumble.
"This is bad, the world is starting to fall apart. I still have time to save the castle though, if I can do that..." With renewed determination, Ion continued his climb.
Eventually he came to the chamber where the keyhole to this world was, as he was climbing up the stairs, he saw what looked like an evil fairy.
"Stop! That's as far as you go!" Ion rushed forward so he was facing her and blocking her path to the keyhole of this world.
"Ah, the guardian of Radiant Garden, I had heard of your existence. I had thought that man had disposed of you, it seems he failed."
"What are you talking about?" Ion demanded, bringing forth his seraphic weapon once more.
I had heard that he had disconnected you from your vessel so it was left completely unguarded, to think you have not fallen into darkness yet, Seraphim are more durable than I thought." Maleficent told him.
Ion blinked, in all the panic and chaos, he hadn't actually taken time to notice that he did feel weaker than he did before Xehanort captured him and Zen, but he just thought that was from whatever drug he used to keep him asleep.
"Oh, could it be that you had not realized that you've been wandering the Realm of Light without a vessel? I believe that's very dangerous for your kind, is it not?"
Ion gritted his teeth. He recalled Oswald's words earlier.
"Hey, have you looked at your yourself recently?"
Ion gazed into the reflection on the wall that usually hid the location of the keyhole. He saw that his body had undergone some serious degree of corruption, one of his blue eyes had turned yellow, the same kind of yellow that the Heartless had. "No...Xehanort...he must have exposed me while I was held captive, after he removed my connection to the world's heart." Ion was horrified.
"And so the dutiful guardian becomes one of the fallen Seraphim. That is usually the point of no return for your kind, I believe." Maleficent gave a cold smile.
"My body may have been corrupted, but my heart and mind hasn't, not yet. I'm still this world's guardian, if I can at least protect the heart of this world from likes of you and Xehanort, then I'll use every last bit of my strength to ensure that. I know that someday, someone will come here and free this world from the darkness you have unleashed on this world."
"Hmph, you're such a naïve fool. What possible power do you have against the power of the Heartless and Darkness at my command?"
Ion smiled confidently. "There's still one trick up my sleeve." With that Ion dived into the keyhole.
"Get him you fools! Don't let him escape!" Maleficent barked orders at the tiny insect like Heartless chased off after Ion.
Meanwhile inside the keyhole, Ion found the heart of Radiant Garden, it was a ball of light that even in the depths of this darkness, still radiated a warm and gentle light.
"I can't re-join with the heart of this world while being corrupted like this. I can do something though. I can seal off the Keyhole using my seraphic artes, but maintaining that seal will consume a lot of my strength. Eventually, the darkness will claim me..." Ion shivered, it wasn't an ideal solution but it was his only choice if he wanted to stop this world from sinking into the Realm of Darkness.
For the first time, he was scared of dying, he knew that in the end, he would have to die in order to keep the corruption within from spreading to others and he knew that there was no known cure for it, that's why so many Seraphim fell to darkness in the Keyblade War.
But...he knew it had to end this way, he didn't want to die, but it had to be done. He looked at the wayfinder that the children made for him. "Zen, Aster, Kairi...even if we never meet again, I'll never regret the days we spent together. I promise that I will keep Radiant Garden safe for you until the light returns to this world. Please...remember me every now and then." No longer hesitating, he casted the Seraphic Arte to seal the keyhole away. It was an arte so powerful that only the legendary Seven Princesses of Heart could undo it.
And he faded into the light.
Ion panted as he made his way through the hallways of ruined castle of Radiant Garden, now renamed as Hallow Bastion by Maleficent. He was struggling to keep up with the evil fairy, usually he couldn't move that far away from the chamber of Hallow Bastion's keyhole since he was literally the source of the seal, now that Maleficent had gathered all Seven Princesses of Heart though, he had very little time remaining, he couldn't afford to just wait around.
Not just because the Princesses could undo his seraphic arte easily, but the darkness's hold over his heart was getting stronger, he was losing the fight.
"Please...just give me a little more time..." Ion clutched the slightly worn wayfinder that was made so long ago, he always used this as his reminder of what he was fighting for, the promise that he made back then.
As he got closer, he strangely sensed a familiar heart. "...Aster?" Ion then shook his head and continued following Maleficent in secret, maybe he was really starting to lose his grip on reality.
And there, special episode now finished! About time he got some well-needed character development. XD
Anyways, the Hallow Bastion chapter is now underway, so we will be returning to the main story next chapter. =D
I hope this chapter helped flesh-out what happened ten years ago in Radiant Garden a little from Ion's point of view.
Hopefully it wasn't too much or complex, I'm actually pretty satisfied with how this chapter turned out in the end, had to do a few changes here and there. =D
Alright then, I hope that you all enjoyed this chapter! Please read and review and let me know what you think. ^0^
Speaking of reviews, review corner time~
Ctran03931: Thank you for your review! I was actually going to give Gula a bit of a spotlight in this special episode originally, but I had to remove it since it would have caused a plot hole with Ion and Oswald. But never fear, the Foretellers (at least two of them anyway =P) will be appearing next chapter.
I hope you like how I decided to incorporate them into the story, I'll just say that it's very similar idea of how Ventus joined with Sora's heart at the end of BBS's secret ending. =D
Chirithy564: Thank you for your review! =D KH Days is the one with Roxas as the main protag if I remember, right? Sure, if I can figure out how to fit the Radiant universe into that story, I'll definitely do it. I plan to do all of them if I can, just have to figure out how to fit it all in without making jarring to the canon story. ^-^
Gry21: Thank you for the review! I'll definitely get that chapter as soon as I can. =D
~:End of Review Section:~
As usual, thank you very much to everyone who has reviewed, favorited, alerted or read the story so far. I hope that you continue to enjoy the fan fic!
Until then, Happy Reading!
Moogle Empress out!