Twilight Town is a world caught between light and darkness, an end and a beginning. Trains' shrill whistles echo in the air, silently vibrating along the buildings. Shadows creep along the buildings, not the natural shadows cast by the sun suspended in the sky. These creeping blobs of darkness emerge from a 2-D dimensional surface to 3-D humanoid creatures with glowing yellow eyes and two quivering attenda.
They rush forward in mindless attack towards a young man wielding a key for a sword who stands in the crossroads of an empty street section. Each contact with the seemingly blunt object causes a flash, sends the creature of darkness flying back and disappearing when they make contact with the street. The young man grits his teeth while more creatures multiply from the outskirts of his previous attackers.
"Where are they coming from?"
A creature leaps at the young man, but a small cluster of gray-arrow like energy pierces it. The creature vanishes moments after it hits the ground away from the young man. Small spurts of gray arrow-like energy causes the creatures in the immediate vicinity to disappear in a matter of moments. The young man cautiously relaxes, glancing around in confusion.
"I thought you could use a hand, Roxas," a monotone voice speaks from the side.
The young man, Roxas, doubles back his gaze in the direction of the voice. Stepping forward from nearby shadows is a large figure in black robes. A book rests open in one hand while the remains of a light teal ice cream bar, sea-salt ice cream Roxas recognizes, is held in the other. Poking from beneath the black robes are a large set of clean but pudgy feet in sandals. They take a moment to lick at the ice cream before they continue to speak.
"Twilight Town is a borderline between the darkness and light. It stands to reason the creatures of darkness slip through if there's enough darkness in the hearts of man."
The individual walks up, slipping the book into the robes. Roxas sees a label reading 'Property of Neighborhood Public Library' on the book's spine before the robe envelopes it. His attention shifts back to the area around them as the creatures that reform that now encircle both him and the new arrival. The black-cloaked stranger glances around at the newly arrived creatures slowly, humming to themselves.
"Still," the individual states, "They're more active than normal. Perhaps they sense a change in the Realm of Light that draws then here from the Realm of Darkness. That is usual when the cracks appear between the realms."
"Those robes… Are you a member of Organization XIII?" Roxas exclaims. "Are the Heartless yours?"
Several of the creatures of darkness, Heartlesses, charge at the black robed individual. The black robed individual lifts their free hand and moves it in a circle before pushing outwards. A sphere of gray light appears around the individual, causing the Heartlesses to disappear upon contact. Other Heartless lay siege to the shield that flickers black and white with each contact, ignoring Roxas who watches bemused.
"I belong to neither darkness or light. Neither of them accept my existence," the stranger answers. "As you can see, these creatures of darkness, Heartless you call them, seek to end my existence as they seek to end yours."
They murmur quietly while pointing at each individual Heartless, pausing once in a while to take a bite of ice cream. When all that remains of the ice cream is the wooden stick, the individual tosses it to the ground. The shield vanishes. Materializing in the robed individual's left hand is a gray rod the length of Roxas' choice of weapon with difference in the design. Zigzagging black lines circle the half circle guard with the handle in the center of the circle. Similiar zig-zag lines cover the weapon's hilt. At the end of the weapon's hilt hangs a single gray chain piece. The weapon's tip carries evidence of something being cleanly cleaved from the end from the tip.
"A Keyblade?" Roxas asks.
The stranger swings the weapon around them in a fast whirl despite their large size, vanquishing the six Heartless surrounding them.
"Keyblades are weapons full of the light or darkness of the one who wields them," the individual says. "I call this 'Empty Shell,' for it is only a husk of what it might have been. Was it a keyblade? I don't know. I have no memory of it."
The young man glances at his weapon. Except for a few parts, the weapon that the stranger carried carries a semblance to his own weapon. Roxas looks to see the stranger taking a defense position with their back towards him.
"Those arrows were yours?" Roxas asks.
"A small sample of my power," the robed figure answers without looking back at him. "I have an ability that takes care of large crowds, but there'll need to be more before it's worth the side effects. In the meantime, back to back works the best in a gathering of enemies this size with only two individuals."
"Who are you if you're not Organization XIII?" Roxas demands.
Sighing, the figure lifts a hand to pull back their hood. White hair falls in a shaggy disarray around a pudgy, pale face to their waist. Several small dark bruises are on the individual's face. Blue eyes seem to reflect the light rather than absorb it. Roxas guesses they are only a few years older than him.
"Ala," the figure states. "My name is Ala. Is that enough for you to focus on the bigger problem?"
"I got more questions for you, but it'll work," Roxas answers. He stands with his back to Ala and assumes his attack stance. "Ready?"
The pair of them battle the heartless. Ala uses less motion but powerful attack style that eliminates the greatest number of Heartless in one blow. Roxas uses more aggressive attack style with acrobatics and occasional spurts of magic. Regardless of the pairs' efforts to decrease the numbers, more Heartless materialize and emerge from the shadows.
Ala sighs wearily, straightening up with sweat pouring down their face. They look over their shoulder to Roxas who fights, but his movement is slower than previously. Sweat covers the young man's face while he pants.
"When I say jump, jump," Ala instructs him. "You appear in no condition to take even half of what I can do."
"I can go all day," Roxas declares between pants.
"Do not say that I did not warn you," Ala states. Closing their eyes, gray light gathers around the large individual, pulsing. The pulses quicken with each moment passing while Heartless gather, hesitating at the gathering power.
"Huh?" The boy, at hearing the command and his name randomly spoken, turns to the individual. A gray pulse emints from Ala. The power of the magic sends Roxas flying away from them, tumbling to the ground. He rolls a few feet where his head smacks into a neighboring lamp post. A plum of gray smoke rises into the air from Ala who bends over, slightly wheezing.
Heartless, when the pulse makes contact with them, freeze in motion before they fade away in gray light particles, drifting to the sky. Hearts materialize briefly before they fade away.
Ala opens their eyes, looking around. Their weapon disappears from their hand before they approach Roxas, panting slightly.
"That attack of mine does not show mercy to those without and those with hearts if they in contact with the ground within 50 feet of me," Ala informs Roxas. "It takes a lot out of me, so I save it for the big crowds. Nor do I have the ability to spare any allies of the attack. But those with hearts aren't as damaged as those without."
Crouching down with difficulty, Ala eases the injured boy into a sitting position with their shoulder cushioning the young man's head. Roxas stares up at Ala, his eyes struggling to stay open.
"Hold still," Ala orders. "I'll heal your injuries within and outside."
Ala places a hand on Roxas' chest over his heart. Gray light gathers around their hand before seeping into Roxas' chest. Roxas' body resonates with white light. His injuries disappear from his body but reappear on Ala's. A grimace passes over Ala's expression when the gray light disappears except from their hand. They pull their still glowing gray hand away, but Roxas catches the hand in his own, entwining their fingers. Ala tilts their head at the boy's action.
"Have...Have we met before?" The boy asks.
"What kind of question is that?"
"It's just… My heart feels warm...as if seeing a good friend after a long time of not seeing them… Have we met, Ala?"
Ala stares at Roxas who loses consciousness. His hand slips from Ala's hand to fall limp to the side. A flicker of gray light emits from his hand, unnoticed by the black cloaked figure whose gray light faded away from their hand.
"No," Ala answers the question despite the response not being heard. "Even if we did, you would not remember."
Sighing, Ala pulls up their hood over their face. Their hair vanishes into the hood's confines. They lift the unconscious boy over their shoulder, limping from the battle scene.
They walk through the streets with the unconscious boy on their shoulder. Wheezing sounds from within the shadows of the hood.
"It's been a bit since I've used that much," Ala murmurs to themselves. "I'll have to take it easy on the way back."
Ala stops walking at the sight of three familiar individuals: Hayner, Payne, and Olette. The trio stand in a close circle, apparently chatting to each other. Lowering Roxas to the ground, Ala props the unconscious young man in a somewhat comfortable position against the stone wall. Lifting up their gaze towards a neighboring rooftop, Ala snaps their fingers on both their right and left hand. Gray light erupts from their left set of snapping fingers before Ala vanishes. The bright light attracts the attention of the three individuals.
"What's that light?" Hayner asks.
"It's Roxas!" Olette cries.
From the rooftop, Ala observes the three huddling around Roxas. Ala walks away from the rooftop, withdrawing the book from the confines of the black robes.
"Where did I leave off? Ah yes, the fair maiden is taken by the forces of darkness," Ala murmurers. They proceed to walk and read their book, effortlessly handling the obstacles in their walk with only a casual glance to see where they are going. After a few minutes, Ala arrives at the hole in the wall leading into the forest. Ala stashes the book away before they disappear into the greenery.
To Be Continued...