Chapter 0: Rebirth by Sleep
Ven plunged through endless darkness, his body long gone. Reduced to a feeble glimmer, he pursued the distant, nostalgic warmth that once mended his broken heart.
The sea of rolling, black clouds embraced him. If he could, he would've smiled, knowing that he'd spared his friends the tragedy of another Keyblade War. Even if it meant sacrificing his heart to the void. Anything to give them a second chance.
Below, the dark shroud parted. Color clashed with the void. Blue. Gold. Stained-glass illustrations of mushrooms, sailboats, tools, a wooden mask, and at the center, a star-shaped fruit. A larger-than-life mosaic, foreign yet nostalgic all at once.
And he, a fractured existence.
Just a weak, pulsating fragment of a heart.
It should have ended. He wouldn't have complained. With the χ-blade shattered, the worlds were safe, weren't they? Terra and Aqua…they'd carry on. They'd set things right. They'd…understand. What else could Ventus do? To surrender was to rekindle the Keyblade War.
But what's done was done. The light's warmth cradled him down, down, down…
And there, at the center of the stained-glass platform, a little boy with unkempt brown hair toddled closer. He cupped his hands to his mouth and called, "Hey, can you hear me?"
Mickey pushed open the door to Yen Sid's office after the wizard failed to respond to his call. The room was empty. No Yen Sid.
And still no Aqua or Ven.
"Hello?" Goofy called again, the last of the trio to enter the room. "Master Yen Sid?"
Donald crossed his arms and grumbled. "Late for his own meeting. And it's important!"
But Mickey refrained from judgment. The old Keyblade Master always had a reason for his actions. A sealed scroll on the oaken desk stole his attention. "Hey, fellas?" he called to the others as he unfurled the parchment. They sped to his side and read the note over his shoulder. 'Meet me in the library.'
Goofy scratched his head. "This place has a library?"
No sooner than he'd questioned it, the inked letters on the scroll blazed bright gold and shot into the air as a swirling beam of light, arcing for the door and speeding to the stairs beyond.
Donald leapt back and nearly tripped over himself as the stream of light rushed overhead. "WAK! What's the big id—Your Majesty?"
Mickey sprinted right past him, stopping only in the doorway to see where the blazing light trail led. "C'mon, fellas! Whatever this is, it's gotta be urgent!"
And so Mickey departed from the private study with Donald and Goofy scrambling in tow, all in pursuit of the speeding gold light. It led them down the myriad glittering-glass stairs, each flight more labyrinthine and incomprehensibly-structured than the last, and then the gold light led them to a branching hallway that couldn't possibly have existed if the tower's exterior architecture was anything to believe. When it came to wizards, it so rarely was.
The impossible hallway terminated before a towering pair of double doors that opened as they approached, revealing a vast library of sprawling shelves, immaculate sculptures, and all manner of magical arcana, all cast in a luminescent glow from the dancing lantern lights. A spellbindingly lifelike mosaic of stars and nebulas stretched across the distant ceiling. Towering pillars, marble reliefs, and great archways loomed high above the trio's heads. It was all so much to take in.
"Gawrsh," Goofy said as they entered. "How do ya think the architect worked this one out?"
Donald replied, "It's a magic tower, Goofy. It's not supposed to make sense."
No sooner than he'd said it, the floor flaked away, and Donald leaped into Goofy's arms with a violent fit of quacks. Goofy gulped and teetered from foot to foot while the ground gave way to a starry void, but Mickey held his position. He'd long since adjusted to Yen Sid's spectacular spells, so instead of panicking, he smiled at the glistening tapestry spreading all around them.
The floor became the universe. A seemingly-infinite sea of stars, planets, and nebulae projected all around them, stretching as high as the distant ceiling.
Donald grumbled in Goofy's arms. "I hate it when he does this. Space is for outside ."
"I'm glad you agree," boomed the deep, familiar voice of the ancient wizard from every direction. Donald squawked again, nearly choking Goofy with his tightened grip. A whirlwind of constellations and galaxies swirled together in a concentrated mass. Yen Sid emerged from it. "Because you may yet see these worlds in person very soon."
Mickey and the others staggered back at the unexpected arrival. "Master Yen Sid!" they exclaimed in unison.
The wizard walked across the galactic ocean as his guests bowed reverently. Donald had to let go of Goofy to do so.
"You might as well remain kneeling, Mickey," the wizard said, "but don't avert your eyes. Look around you. Take in the countless worlds and the unfathomable number of lives among them."
Mickey did so, staying on one knee, unsure where his Master was going with this. Donald and Goofy kept kneeling as well, even though they weren't instructed to. But, if their king knelt, they knelt.
Yen Sid continued, "Now, ask yourself: how many Keyblade Masters currently protect these worlds?"
Mickey gulped. "Gosh, uh…not nearly as many as there used to be." He thought it over. "I suppose with Aqua and Eraqus, that makes—" He caught himself, heart skipping for a moment. "Oh. Just…Aqua, I guess."
The wizard shook his head. "Not even her."
Donald and Goofy screamed at once, rising to their feet as they did, "What?!"
"Aqua is no longer in the Realm of Light."
Mickey gasped. "Then, ya mean she's…"
"I can't even be certain of that . But, whatever the case, this means there are no Keyblade Masters to protect the worlds. You are the only Keybearer left, Mickey."
The mouse lowered his head glumly. "And not even a Master, at that."
A sharp burst of energy from Yen Sid's palm startled Mickey out of his misery, and when he looked up, he found what seemed a longsword forged purely from light in his Master's grasp. Everything from the pommel to the point was a glowing, humming length of concentrated, golden light, not unlike the magical trail that led them to this library. Was this what Yen Sid now wielded after relinquishing his Keyblade?
With Mickey still kneeling, Yen Sid solemnly lowered the flat of the glowing blade to Mickey's shoulder. It didn't burn—only soothed. The king quickly lowered his head, scarcely believing his circumstances.
The wizard spoke, "My pupil, you have exceeded all my expectations in the short time that I've trained you. What many have taken years to accomplish, you have mastered in months." The sword tapped the other shoulder. "And, in light of recent events, I see no reason to hold you back any further. From this day forth, you are a Keyblade Master. The only Keyblade Master. The last true guardian of the worlds." Yen Sid withdrew the sword, and the blade of golden light dissipated in the palm of his hand. "Arise, Master Mickey."
And so he did, still so overwhelmed by everything. Still surrounded by the cosmic ocean that he was now the sole guardian of.
His friends didn't run to his side. He turned around and found them just as shocked as he was. Donald opened his mouth for a moment, but thought better of it, whatever it was. Mickey understood and faced his Master once more, imperial and dignified before the mouse who could barely stand straight. "Master Yen Sid…thank you."
The old sorcerer acknowledged him with a slight nod and a faint smile. One that vanished soon enough. With a wave of the wizard's arm, a row of weathered grimoires sprung from the simulated stars and nebulae, slithering through the air like a snake that hovered to a stop within arm's reach of the small king.
Yen Sid gave Mickey a pointed look and said, "As a newly-appointed Master, there are a great many matters you must attend to. You must learn proper protocol so that you may impart your wisdom to future stud—"
"But what about Aqua and Ven?!" Mickey didn't mean to shout, and Donald winced at the sound, squeezing his staff in both hands.
Goofy's teeth chattered. Mickey's tail flicked in anticipation. Boy, he was in for it now, wasn't he?
But the scolding never came. Yen Sid only sighed heavily. Then, he waved his arm with a snap of his fingers, dispersing the weightless tomes back into the false cosmos as the map of the universe rushed and shifted all around them to zoom in on a particular cluster of stars.
Once the initial shock wore off, Goofy shifted from foot to foot with a chortle. "Well, I'll be, Master Yen Sid, sir! Your spells just get fancier all the time!"
Donald grumbled beside him. "Yeah. Fancy like an exploding roller coaster."
Yen Sid silenced him with a glance. "Now then, regarding Ventus…" Tipping his head back, he gestured to a trail of light streaking past the swirling galaxies. "Do you see that shooting star? That, I believe, is Ventus' heart."
A frown worked its way across Goofy's snout, and he tilted his head. "Ven's got a purdy heart and all, but…where's it headed?"
"Patience, my friend." The star soared far into the distance, meeting with another. As the two stars met, they glimmered so brightly that Mickey had to shield his eyes. Yen Sid continued. "I do not know how or why, but it would seem Ventus' heart has sought the radiance of another within the Realm of Light."
Goofy raised a finger, chuckling. "Well, that ain't so bad now, is it? It sounds like Ven's made a new friend!"
Mickey asked, "Then, he's safe?" Despite Aqua's dubious fate, a weak smile claimed the king's face. "Do ya know where he is, Master?"
Yen Sid stroked his beard. "That, I fear, is presently unclear. The trail from here is muddy at best. My only suggestion is to scour the worlds bathed in the brightest of lights."
Mickey gulped as he scanned the endless worlds around him. That…would take a while. Years, no doubt. But, Ven was his pal. He'd do anything to find him again. Just knowing he was still out there was a blessing.
But Mickey's smile faltered a split second later as he remembered what Yen Sid said just before dubbing him a Master. "But, what about Aqua? If she's no longer in the Realm of Light…" A light bulb flickered on in his head. His eyes popped wide-open. "Is she in the Realm of…Darkness?" Did such a realm even exist? What sorts of dangers would Aqua encounter there?
A distinct wrinkle formed in Yen Sid's brow, and he turned away with his hands clasped behind his back. "Do not fret about Aqua. Right now, it is pertinent that you locate Ventus."
"But if she's in trouble—"
Yen Sid's voice boomed forth like an explosion, and the starscape flickered and distorted. "She is lost to us! Ventus is not."
A sharp pain seized Mickey's heart. His little gloved hands clenched tight, and he choked out his objection. "Wait! There's gotta be a mistake. Aqua's one of the strongest wielders I know! There's no way she'd fail."
Yen Sid's scowl only deepened at Mickey's remark. "I once thought the same of Eraqus."
"No! She's gotta be okay!" Mickey raised a gloved fist. "And if she's in trouble, I'll pull her out in a jiffy!"
Goofy drew his shield. "Me t—!"
"That's quite enough!" Yen Sid roared, silencing all in the library. "Aqua is gone, without question." The shout had settled to an even tone that retained a sharp edge. The old wizard waved one of his hands again, and the starlit landscape swirled and popped into a brand new backdrop.
Now they stood in stone plaza adorned with small trees and hexagonal flower beds. Stone walls surrounded the clustered houses, and far into the distance, a colossal castle stood with pointed, periwinkle spires and a conglomeration of brass cogs at its center.
"Radiant Garden!" Mickey shouted on pure impulse. But, much like the simulated universe, this projection of Radiant Garden was wholly visual. There was no change in sound or smell. Even to the touch, the brickwork and the greenery felt artificial. The sound of Yen Sid's footsteps along the concrete path incongruously evoked the wood finish of the library floor. Mickey and the others followed him.
"Look closely," the wizard said. Mickey did, and he froze as cracks, craters, and black splotches caught his eye.
Signs of a skirmish.
"This was the site of Aqua's final battle. Against whom, I'm not certain. Perhaps Terra. Perhaps the Unversed. Perhaps Xehanort. Regardless, her trail ends here."
"No…" Mickey fell to his knees beside the deepest crater. He pounded the ground. He squeezed his eyes to hold back tears.
It couldn't be. There had to be more to it! Aqua wouldn't…
"Now, wait just a second," Goofy said, rubbing his chin. "I ain't meanin' no disrespect, Yen Sid, sir, but what about Aqua's star?"
Donald added, "And what about Xehanort? Is he still out there?"
A prolonged silence followed.
"It matters not. Right now, we must prioritize Ventus' well-being."
Mickey hopped back to his feet. "And how come?!"
Yen Sid's eyes squeezed tightly shut, and his lips curled into a grimace. "Because, if they are alive, they are beyond the reach of any within the Realm of Light. Xehanort, Terra, Vanitas, Aqua—there are none among the living who can reach them now. Only Ventus can be saved. And he must be saved! You are the only two Keybearers left. If anything were to happen to you in a foolish search for Master Aqua, Ventus would remain lost forever, and there would be none in this universe to inherit the Keyblade. If you pursue Aqua, the Keyblade dies with you."
Mickey's hands curled into fists. "If Aqua was in my place, she wouldn't rest until I was found."
Yen Sid's eyes narrowed. "Do not make me regret your Mastery."
Donald and Goofy stood in total silence, unsure which side to take.
At last, Mickey turned his back on his Master and walked away.
"Mickey, don't you dare!"
He didn't listen.
"You would condemn our entire order to oblivion!"
With an exchange of worried glances, Donald and Goofy at last followed their king. The vast double doors were still open. With a snarl, Yen Sid thrust his arm forward and commanded them shut. They did with a deafening slam, blasting a gust of wind against the three who strode for it. Only Mickey kept walking. He brandished Starseeker, set the tip aglow, and the Keyblade obliterated the lock and pushed the doors open once more.
Yen Sid roared across the great expanse, "Is this how the Keyblade dies?! With selfish petulance?!"
Mickey stopped at the doorway's threshold. He looked back over his shoulder and answered…
Shattered, split. Broken into a million pieces. Too weak. Inferior. The flash of the moon incinerated all hopes of triumph. Should have perished. Should have embraced oblivion.
But no. Not now. Unacceptable.
Had to live. Had to fight. Had to win.
Everywhere was death. Rusted keys. Brittle soil. Crags and cliffs and canyons cleaved with cracks. Dust danced across the breeze. Clouds cloaked the sun. So empty. So lifeless. A wasteland.
Insulting. It began here, ended here. No escape. Just hatred. Hatred that sparked like flame, drawing ashen flakes that swirled and rose and intermingled. Slivers of black mist crept from the cracks. Reached for the flakes like tiny hands. Clutching. Grasping. Conjoining. Convulsing. Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Shadows stretched. Swelled. Pulsed and writhed, ignited by hatred. Fueled by rage.
Pitiful. Pathetic. Just an inky black mass in a lifeless abyss. Had to get stronger. Had to persist.
And at the heart of that weak, whirling mass, a pair of red eyes glistened.
Ven's eyes flew open. Darted across his surroundings. A vast, starry sky. Wooden poles adorned with hanging lights. A sandy path. Rolling green hills. Houses scattered into the distance, their lights glowing in the night. He turned. His sandaled feet crunched in the sand. But those weren't his feet. And this was not the embrace of sleep that he'd expected. The little boy had offered him a sanctuary inside his heart, where he could rest until Terra and Aqua came to wake him.
Why was he awake?!
A voice—another boy—called to him. "Well?"
Ven jumped. Stumbled. These legs were so much—
He looked down. A white shirt covered his—but no, no, it wasn't his. Bare hands. Red shorts. His heart hammered. Raced. His legs started trembling.
The sand crunched. A hand touched his shoulder. A boy. Short, silver hair. Turquoise eyes. Worry written all over him.
"Sora, what's wrong? You're acting kinda funny…"
No, no, no, NO. Ven clutched his—no, Sora's. The boy's name was Sora. The other must've been his friend. Someone clueless to what had just transpired. Rightfully worried about his pal who'd been…suppressed? Overtaken? Could Sora see, feel, or hear any of this? Was he even still there?
This was all wrong. So very, very wrong. He had to let go. Let the boy have his body back. He just had to—
He shut Sora's eyes, breathed in. Frantic at first, but slowing with each exhale. Maybe, if Ven focused…
"Sora, c'mon. If something's wrong, you can tell me."
Nothing changed. He still felt the other kid's hand on Sora's shoulder. Still heard the waves lapping against the shore. Heard the distant palms rustling. It didn't stop.
His. No, still not his. Sora's eyes stung. Tears leaked like waterfalls. He fell to Sora's knees. Because they still weren't his. None of this was his. None of this was right.
The boy knelt beside him. Ven couldn't meet his eyes. Even as he patted Sora's back, the tears kept flowing. He sobbed. Sniffled. What was he supposed to do, let alone say?
He just wanted a place to rest. To heal. Instead, he'd stolen the body of the boy who'd saved him. It wasn't fair.
But as his tears softened the sand and the stars shone ever onward, Ven found no solace and no escape.
Far from home and without his friends to guide him, he cried into the night.
TO BE CONTINUED
Hello, and welcome to my new AU, Hurricane Heartbeat! This story's been in the works for close to a year now, and I'm so excited to finally share it with you. A HUGE thanks to my editor, chickenscrews, who played a significant part in the production of this story.
Almost all the chapters are written for this first fic, so you can expect weekly updates for the next few months! The next update will be posted on the 22nd and then continue weekly after that. In the mean time, if you want to check out my other works, I have another fic series called Antipode that I've been writing for many years now.
We welcome and appreciate all comments and hope you enjoyed. See you next time!