A/N: Wow! Long time, no write for this story. I hope I can get chap 4 up in less time than three years, LOL. Don't worry, though - it's already being worked on. Well, see you next time!
Lara slowly came to, rubbing her aching head. Looking around, she saw that she was in a city; it was almost fully night, the stars twinkling beautifully against a purple-blue sky. I don't think I've ever been in this section of town before, she thought, getting up. Walking out of the small alley, she realized that this wasn't her home. She spun around, frantic. How had she gotten here? Then she remembered the destruction of her world, and the giant sphere of darkness that had pulled her in. She calmed herself, trying to get a mental grip on what happened. This isn't my home, she thought. That means that this must be another world! Excited, she began to look around. The first building was a shop, so she opened the door and went inside.
Shelves on the walls held accessories, necklaces and bracelets that twinkled with an inner light. In a glass case was a large crystal. Looking around, she didn't see a shopkeeper, but there was a large red creature sleeping behind the counter. It looked dangerous. I'd better think twice before stealing something with that kind of guard, she thought. About to leave, she saw it open one eye and look lazily up at her. Shaking its head, it stood up. At full height, it stood high enough to actually look over the counter.
"Oh," it said. "A customer. How rude of me. What can I do for you?"
Lara stepped back. "You… talk?"
The creature sighed, then shook its head. "I'm sorry, I should be used to that by now. I'm Red XIII, shopkeeper for the time being."
"Oh… okay." She was having a hard time with the concept of an animal as a shopkeeper. "Um, can you tell me where I am?"
"This is Traverse Town. You're probably missing your home," it replied. "Things like that have been happening a lot lately. This is where refugees eventually end up."
Lara nodded. Things were starting to make sense. "Have you seen my friends?" she asked Red.
"What did they look like?"
"Well, one of them was a boy. He had red-brown hair, a little redder than mine, and his eyes were blue, like the sea. The other was a girl about a year older than me, with silver hair and eyes like ice. The girl would've been very sarcastic."
The red lion shook his head. "I'm sorry, but I haven't seen them." Lara's eyes fell. "But I will keep an eye out for them," he said. "Just about everyone comes through my shop sooner or later."
"Alright," she said, cheering up. Exiting the shop, she started to walk around the city. The item shop was run by three ducks who were always arguing. Strange things called Moogles seemed almost to infest the place, but she was used to them - there had been quite a lot of them in Radiant Garden. Finally, she ventured through the large doors near the alley where she had woken. The sign above them read 'Second District.'
A man ran towards her, screaming, chased by a creature in armor. Collapsing, the creature clawed him, releasing a glowing thing, which was swallowed by darkness. The man disappeared. Horrified, Lara turned back toward the first district, but was immediately attacked by the shadows that attacked her island. Fighting them, she managed to defeat most of them. She set out to explore.
Meanwhile, a good distance away….
"Tech! When will you stop being all macho and admit we're lost?" asked a girl dressed in blue. Her hair was green and set up in long ponytails, and two weapons that looked like smaller versions of Lara's hung at the ready. Her blue eyes were amused, but exasperated.
"We are not lost!" replied her companion. He was dressed in an anime-style short-sleeved jacket over a long T-shirt and jeans. His blond hair was spiked up in a gravity-defying way, making his actual height a mystery, but he seemed to be taller than his companion. His eyes were also blue, but they were determined. A sword hung at his belt. "I know exactly where we are!"
"Oh, really?" she asked.
"Yes! We're in Traverse Town!" he said. His companion raised an eyebrow that said, 'I am not impressed.' He sighed. "Okay, okay, we're lost. Happy Keya?"
The girl called Keya nodded. "Let's ask for directions. That accessory shop looks promising." Her companion sighed.
"All right, all right." He walked into the shop.
Walking out a few minutes later, he went to search the second district.
Lara walked back into the First District, wiping sweat off her brow. Shadows set upon her. "What the heck?" she cried, pulling her weapon off her back. "Not here, too!" She cut her way through them, ducking into the accessory shop.
Panting, she leaned against the counter. Red walked over to her. "What's going on?" he asked.
"Those…. shadow…. things…" she said between pants. "In this… District." The shop's owner growled, then let out a huge roar.
Looking smug, he said, "It should be safe to go back out there. Those things are quite afraid of me." He smiled, showing off sharp teeth, and his tail twitched in anticipation. Lara nodded at him.
"Thank you, sir."
Exiting the shop, she heard a voice behind her. "They come at you out of nowhere," it said. She spun quickly to see a tall man, pale skin forming a strange contrast with his ebony-black waist-length hair. He wore a red cape, high-collared and tattered around the edges, over a black gunner's outfit. His right hand had been replaced with a golden claw. "And they will keep returning, so long as you wield the Keyblade." He looked up, and she saw that his eyes were a deep red. "Give it to me." He held out his claw.
Lara stepped back. "No way!" she shouted, holding the Key in front of her defensively. "Are you crazy?"
The vampiric man nodded. "You leave me no choice." At that, he swept aside his cloak and drew a long gun, then pointed it at her. "Begin."
She leaped out of the way of his first shot, managing to get a hit in before he leaped away. His firing became rapid and hard to dodge. She found that it was also very painful. Running, she entered the more open courtyard where he had less cover. Landing several more hits, she ran away, but he was faster, aiming ahead of her to keep her occupied. It was hard to close in on him, and his range beat hers. Finally, she fought him to a standstill. "Who… are you?" she panted before collapsing at his feet.
Heaving himself up, he holstered his gun. A woman walked up behind him. "That's her, huh?" she asked. He nodded. "Time was, you wouldn't have had to fight her to exhaustion. You must be a little rusty, Vincent." He shook his head.
"It was a test of her strength." He looked back at the woman. Her hair was long and black, though not quite as dark as his. She was dressed in black leather, with a sleeveless leather top over a half-skirt attached to black shorts. Her black and white shoes were sensible, and she moved with the grace of a professional martial artist.
"Yeah?" she asked.
The man called Vincent nodded. "She is skilled, but she has far to go."
Tech growled in frustration. "You wouldn't believe how vague the directions 'somewhere in the second district' could be!" he said. "I've half a mind to kick that shopkeeper's fuzzy butt halfway back to Disney Castle!"
His companion put a hand on his shoulder. "Calm down, Tech. We can probably start by getting out of this alley," she said. "It's creepy and probably isn't helping your nerves!"
"I'm not scared!" he said bravely. Someone cleared their throat.
Tech spun around, nearly impaling the quiet woman standing behind him. Her brown hair was short with beads braided into it. Her white top was a fabric wrap and her skirt was blue, with flowers along the bottom. Her different-colored eyes were kind.
"Excuse me," she said politely, "but are you the ones the King sent?"
Tech relaxed. "Yeah," he said. "We're looking for someone named Vincent. You know him?"
The woman nodded. "There's a lot more going on than you realize. If you come with me, I'll tell you what you need to know."
Tech nodded back. "All right."