Chapter 1

The night sky threw its dark cloak around the dwellings of Traverse Town, hiding everything in shadow. The only light came from the clusters of stars beaming down from the heavens, and the indoor lamps veiled by drawn curtain. Not a single festivity decorated the streets tonight; the town was fast asleep…

Except for a lone figure that crouched on a rooftop. Long, dark-chocolate hair flowed down her back as the young girl took in her surroundings. Below her stood a small but regal shop; her target. It looked easy enough, but she had to remind herself how deceiving looks could be. She actually hoped this job was harder than it looked; simplicity bored her.

With well-established grace, she leapt from her perch and snuck through a window on the right side of the shop. Inside there were no lamps like the other houses, instead everything was pitch black. After letting her eyes adjust, she crept across the room, searching for the object in question. At last, near the cash register, was a wooden stand holding a massive, beautiful crystal.

"So I'm guessing this is it, right?"

The girl whipped around and grabbed the new intruder, drawing forth a small, three speared weapon—called a sai—from her hip.

"Geez Kalista calm down! It's just me!"

Kalista, which was the girl's name, instantly let go and put her sai back in place. "Ember! How many times do I have to tell you not to sneak up on me like that?!"

Her companion laughed softly, "Hate to break it to ya, babe, but we are thieves. "Sneaking" kinda comes with the occupation."

"Well, it doesn't entail scaring your partner half to death on almost every job," Kalista retorted, although she knew it was a rather weak argument. She knew she was always jumpy; always waiting for something to go wrong.

"So, like I asked before, this is it?" asked Ember again, looking at the giant crystal.

"Looks like it."

"Huh. Why do you think that Shera chic wants it so much? This shop isn't anything fancy, and this crystal may not even be real."

"Don't know," answered Kalista, "but she's not exactly paying us to figure out why she wants it. She's paying us to get it for her."

"Ok ok Ms. All Business," joked Ember, "I was just thinking out loud."

"Let's just get it and get out of here."

"Yes m'am. Gosh you can be so bossy."

"Not that it matters. You never take orders anyway."

"Nope, not really," agreed Ember as she silently lifted the case off the gleaming crystal. Making sure there were no traps or security protecting it, she carefully picked it up. Smirking triumphantly, she waved it in front of her fellow thief.

"Piece of cake," she grinned.

"Not quite."

The store lights flashed on. Spinning around, the two robbers spotted a tall, blonde man with an angry look on his face. A cigarette burned in his mouth, and he held a long spear in his hands. He was evidently the store owner, though he certainly didn't look like one.

"Damn that Shera," he muttered to himself, "does the woman ever get over grudges? I was never that mean to her. And does she really have to get all fancy with the bandit hiring and all?" To the girls before him he said, "Alright ladies, show's over. Just hand over the crystal and you won't get hurt."

"I'm afraid you've got the wrong idea, mister," corrected Kalista, drawing forth both her sai. Ember in turn unfolded her retractable staff, and both girls took fighting stances.

"Well, well, looks like you two are more then just petty thieves huh?" mused Cid. He didn't like the idea of fighting girls, even ones who appeared as dangerous as they did. Still, he was pissed off enough that he didn't hesitate long. Leaning back for a second, he shot himself in their direction with his spear revolving.

"Ready… go!" yelled Kalista. Then the girls did the exact opposite of what Cid expected; they both sprinted in opposite directions. He had been so ready for an attack that in trying to stop, he tripped over his own spear and fell to the floor.

"Hey! Get back here you no good…" But it was no use; the girls were gone.

Kalista raced through the cobblestone streets, veering left to duck inside lean alleyway. Only when she reached the end of it did she stop to catch her breath. She had to admit it; this life of hidden crime she and Ember had stumbled upon certainly had its thrills.

Once her breathing became regular again, Kalista lifted her hand and focused on a point on the wall in front of her. Concentrating, she pictured the wall turning into swirling water. As expected, an aqua-colored portal took shape. Satisfied, she put her weapons back in their holsters and walked towards the portal.

But then she stopped short as a terrible pain shot up her left arm. Biting back a shout at the unexpected hurt, Kalista grabbed her arm, trying to figure out where the pain was coming from. Had she been wounded somehow? She hadn't been hit by the owner. The injury must be internal; it felt like a bolt of lighting was zapping her arm from the inside out. It jolted her over and over again until it forced her to her knees.

Panicking, Kalista tried to think of how to treat this mysterious injury. But the pain was getting so strong that she could barely keep from screaming, let alone think. Then, examining her arm, she was horrified to see it changing color. It was turning a deep purple, like some massive bruise was spreading from her hand to her shoulder.

Then, as suddenly as it had come, the pain vanished. Her flesh instantly turned back to its regular color.

Stunned, Kalista could only sit there panting. Finally, she struggled to her feet. The portal before her was still glowing with plenty of magic; ready to take her to her meeting point with Ember.

Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, Kalista just shrugged her shoulders at the whole ordeal. Then, fully collecting herself, she entered the portal.

"I need you to find someone for me, for this person plays a very important role in Sora's story," instructed a man wearing a red bandage covering his entire face, save for his eyes.

"I thought you wanted me to find Roxas," answered the strange man's companion; a blindfolded boy in a black cloak. His long hair gleamed silver-blue against his light skin. He leaned up against a wall nonchalantly with his arms crossed, staring across the room.

"I do. However, Roxas is the one who will help Sora awaken. The other person I want you to find shall help Sora in his fight against the heartless and nobodies."

"And you know this… how?"

"When your friend, King Mickey, found the book with the prophecy about the Keyblade Master in it, that's when he came to me and spoke with me about it. Then, for safe keeping, he entrusted the book to me. After the King left, I read through the book, and found many interesting histories and prophecies.

One in particular caught my attention. It told about someone stricken with the "Heartless Curse", and that this person's destiny is intertwined with the Vanquisher of Darkness. Also, next to the prophecy was written a spell that could detect this "Heartless Curse". Since this person seemed of great importance to the survival of the worlds, I cast the spell. Well, for almost a year, now, the spell has not activated. I even began to think it never would... until now."

"So because this spell has activated, it means this... "curse" has taken affect on the person."

"Yes, that is correct."

"But why don't we just wait for this person to meet up with Sora after he's awake again. I mean, if they're destinies are intertwined, then they're bound to find each other sooner or later, right? Couldn't interfearing… I don't know… mess things up or something?"

"You've gained some wisdom I see. Yes, eventually they should find each other, but we can't wait for that. You see, once this Heartless Curse has been activated, it will begin posioning the person with darkness, and the longer it is inside them, the more it will control them. The darkness will cause great pain to their body, especially if they fight it. And, if they contain the curse for too long, they could be lost to it forever. The prophecy states that only when Sora and the one who has been stricken come together and share a unique bond is there a chance of lifting the curse."

"Ok, got it. Just one thing, though. How do you know that this "Vanquisher of Darkness" is Sora?"

"Well, who else could deserve that name?"

"... Point taken. So how do I find them?"

"Take this." The bandaged man handed the boy a silver chain. "This is what I cast the spell on. The closer you get to the curse, the brighter red it will glow. However, I'm not sure how accurate it is, so when you bring them here I'll have to make certain of it."

"Ok, whatever," and with that, the boy started walking out the door.

"Oh, and Riku..." the boy glanced back. "If the person doesn't agree to come with you and you have to fight them, remember that the curse may activate during the fight, making your opponent far stronger than before."

A smirk crossed the boy's face. "I think I can handle it," he said, and walked out.