Author's Note: Yay, first story! Ahem, so, not much to say here except I hope you like.

Disclaimer: Didn't you know I owned Kingdom Hearts? …Ok, not really, but I wish I did, (joins other countless fangirls imagining owning the rights to all the KH characters).

Numerus Novem

The sun shone drearily behind a smothering blanket of gray clouds, sending the peaceful upper-class suburban street into a dismal light. Trees covered in crimson and golden hued leaves swayed sporadically in the periodic breeze, which filled the air with an occasional hissing sound. A sickeningly yellow school bus drove down the road along its newly acquainted route, half-filled with students; some bouncing in excitement, others jittery from nervousness. It stopped along the side of the road with a whooshing sound of brakes to pick up the lone, dark-haired boy standing beneath the sign labeled 'school bus stop'.

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With a calming sigh, the boy stepped onto the bus. He surveyed his surroundings wearily, inhaling the stench of sweaty bodies. Someone had attempted to disguise the odor with cheap air freshener, something they only did on the first day of school. The bus itself was nearly empty, thankfully, as this route was not a common one. The few students that were there were sitting together in tight cliques, and not one bothered to look up from their conversations to see the new passenger. He walked down the aisle, shifting his backpack from his back to his shoulder. He was so absorbed in avoiding everyone's eyes that he didn't see the person he had just unconsciously sat next to.

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"You want to sit there?" a voice said to his left. He looked over into a pair of wide, sea-green eyes gazing innocently into his own, bringing a strange, numbing feeling in his chest.

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His silence allowed the other boy to continue. "What grade are you in? You're probably in my class, aren't you? You must be, 'cause I don't think anyone other than sixth graders take this bus…but you look kind of small to be in the sixth grade. Hey, did you skip a grade?" He said all this in nearly one breath, his rather high voice spurting it all out at a rapid speed. His huge grin never left his cutely attractive face, the dimples and messy brown hair only completing the perfect picture of a child's innocent happiness.

"Yes," he said wearily, the exact opposite image and tone of the bliss that was just described.

"You skipped a grade?" He looked rather impressed. "Wow, that's cool. I have a cousin who skipped a grade, but she's a lot older than me. How old are you?"

"Nine."

"Really? I'm ten, but I'll be eleven next month."

The bus stopped with the annoyingly familiar squeak of brakes, and everyone stood up to file out the door.

"I can't wait until lunch time! Food always tastes better on the first day," he babbled on happily, either to oblivious or uncaring to the fact that his newfound companion didn't appear, (and was desperately trying not to), to be paying much attention to him.

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They both stood up from their seats to leave, making it clear that the talkative one was, indeed, a lot taller than the other. They stepped off onto the pavement. The smaller of the two looked up at the school with a deadpan expression, though, inside, his mind was reeling.

1…2…3…

"Can you believe we're in Middle School? I remember when I started Kindergarten… though, I guess anyone would remember the day they were sent to the hospital because they ate too much paste…" He trailed off, his face reddening slightly when the other gave him a quizzical look. "Hey, they told me it was cake icing…a limitless supply of cake icing! How was I supposed to know the difference?" With this he gave little shake of his head, his cheeks still blushing.

…4…5…6

They walked through the front doors and into the crowded hallway. The noise was nearly deafening, but that didn't stop him from carrying on his one-sided conversation. It didn't seem like anything would make him stop talking.

"Did you just move here? I've never seen you before."

"I was home-schooled," the other replied simply, his mind focused on counting, on staying within the routine, the pattern; the boundaries in his head. He didn't seem to be having much trouble carrying on a conversation with himself, after all.

"So this is your first day of, like, school, school? Like your first day of…real school?" He seemed both intrigued and amazed by this fact.

They both turned left into a slightly less-crowded hallway and stood beside the row of lockers.

"I suppose you could say that."

"Awe-some! So, you don't know anyone else your age? I'm, like, your first friend?"

His snippy retort was caught in his throat as he looked up, annoyed, into the other's hopeful face. Well, was he his first friend? Now that he had stopped to think about it, he didn't really know anyone else his own age. Most everyone he knew was older than him, and he probably wouldn't consider any of them 'friends'.

The silence, (well, not complete silence, they were still in a school hallway, after all), that stretched between the two as he struggled to answer the other's casual question was probably the longest that had occurred so far, though it was still rather brief.

His icy voice answered with the first thing that came to mind.

"Well, you're the only one I know that's close to my age, but I wouldn't call you my friend, per say. More like a casual acquaintance."

The other's friendly smile slipped off his face. "Oh," his voice sounded disappointed, but he recovered from it quickly, his huge smile re-appearing on his face after a brief moment. "But we'll become friends, I can tell. I can tell that we're gonna be really great friends!"

That was not the response he was expecting, and his face lost its usual stoic façade to show his surprise. Beaming, the older one beckoned with his hand and started walking towards their first class. "Come on, we don't want to be late."

As they were walking, he asked, "What's your name?" He laughed suddenly, more serious than before, but still almost comically genial. "That was probably the first thing I should have asked you, wasn't it? I can't believe we don't even know each other's names yet!" He shrugged and said, "I'm Myde."

"Ienzo," the other replied, reluctantly, at last.

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11

RENOUNED RESEARCHER FOUND DEAD IN HIS OFFICE

Suspected Murder has Police Baffled

Ienzo stared at the bold headline blankly. It was amazing, really, how much publicity the murder of a rather strange, though, admittedly, brilliant scientist could cause. It was front-page news in the small town of Kingdom, and it seemed that, in one day alone, over ten publicities had already written up quite a few different approaches to the case, all from suicide, to a bad experiment. But the facts remained the same, and Ienzo let his eyes skim down the article again, trying to make sense of what he saw.

Ansem the Wise, a renowned and respectable old scientist went missing six years previously without a trace. Upon his leave, his only recently acquired apprentice, Xehanort, took his place as town scientist and all-around know-it-all. Xehanort was young and generally well-liked, and, over time, he adopted the name 'Ansem', though no one really knew if this was in affection or disrespect for his former teacher. He lived alone in the old laboratory, conducting, the town could only conclude, experiments. And all was well for the next eight years…

…Until Xehanort, or Ansem, was found dead in his lab one morning by a supplier. The doors were locked from the inside. His body showed no trace of harm besides a few long, thin scratches on his chest. He wasn't poisoned or hung. According to the medical reports, in fact, Xehanort should still be alive. But he wasn't, and that left everyone involved in a flurry of confusion.

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"Zo! You're reading that article again?! What's so interesting about some old scientist dying, anyway?" Ienzo looked up to see Myde peering at him from across the table. His eyes narrowed.

"Ienzo. My name is Ienzo. How many times do I have to tell you to call me by my name, Myde?" Ienzo muttered insipidly for what must have been the hundredth time. Myde had a strong affection for nicknames. Ienzo did not.

"Oy, give it a rest, Zo. He's obviously never going to catch on. Might as well save your breath for something more important," Lea said in his familiar cocky drawl as he set down his lunch tray and took a seat beside Myde at their otherwise-empty lunch table. He smoothed back his disheveled red hair and winked at Myde with his flashy green eyes.

Ienzo gave him an icy look, but remained silent. He'd put up with Lea for Myde's sake, but never would they be friends of any sort.

Lea and Myde, on the other hand, had been friends since Kindergarten, after Lea had been forced by the teacher to apologize to Myde for telling him that the paste was actually cake icing. (Yes, apparently it had been Lea who had told Myde that), and Myde, in typical Myde fashion, had forgiven him instantly and asked if he would like to play Heartless and Nobodies. They'd been friends ever since.

"Hey, Lea, did you hear about Ansem's- I mean Xehanort's- murder? They say the police don't know how it happened," Myde said, obviously glad to have something of such importance to say.

"Of course I've heard about it, Myde. Seriously, who hasn't heard? The whole town's talking about it," Lea said languidly as he leaned back in his chair. A tight clique of girls walked by, he gave them a playful wink, and they blushed and giggled as they hurried away. Ienzo rubbed his neck with his clenched fist, his eyes narrowing.

"Hey, Myde," Lea said suddenly after a brief silence. Myde, who had been humming and tapping his fingers on the table, looked up.

"Yeah?"

"I think we should do something more advantageous with our time."

"What?"

"What do you say we skip today?"

Ienzo huffed and asked with venom, "And how, tell me, is that advantageous?"

"Aww…I don't know what you mean, Zo," (Ienzo clenched his jaw), "I mean, skipping school is extremely advantageous. To us, that is." Lea laughed, obviously pleased by his own cleverness, (Ienzo would have to have him look up the word, 'advantageous' sometime, because he obviously had no idea what it meant).

Myde smiled at Lea sadly. "Sorry, but next class for me is chemistry, and Mr. Even said that if I'm late one more time he'd rip my heart out, then put it in the freezer for future experiments," Myde's eyes widened and his mouth frowned in disgust. "Crazy old man…" he muttered dismally, taking a large swallow out of his water bottle.

"Alright, alright, I get it. Maybe next time." And with that, Lea started vigorously shoveling food into his mouth. Ienzo looked at him with disgust, and he picked feebly at the unidentifiable food on his own tray.

"Hey," Myde said to Ienzo as they walked to their next classes. "You're coming over again tonight, right?"

"It's Friday, isn't it?" Ienzo said.

"Yeah, I was just making sure. Mom's making a chocolate cake for dessert tonight, and she told me to remind you."

"Yes, I remember," Ienzo said softly.

Myde hadn't heard though, as he had walked off hurriedly to his next class. Similarly, Lea had wandered off after some curvy blonde girl whose name Ienzo thought was Arlene, (or something like that).

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The hallway was emptying fast, and Ienzo looked down at his silver Rolex watch. He still had a quarter hour until his next A.P. class, and, deciding to get some more studying in, made his way towards the library.

Something almost sickeningly sweet, slightly flowery…

He stopped suddenly.

Something fresh and tropical, like a clear seaside day.

The scent in the air had changed.

…and something that smelt almost like…

"…about it, Sora. They're going to -" a clear female voice started.

…darkness.

"I know, I know," another voice cut in. "But y'know how it is, it's already done. It's too late."

Ienzo ducked into the shadow of the library's large doorway swiftly and without a sound. It was instinctive, almost as if he had spent his whole life listening at keyholes…

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"Aww…don't say that. We still have time, don't we? According to that crackpot, you're last on the list. That's, what, twelve away?" another voice interjected idly, detectably trying to sound as if this were only a minor concern of his. Ienzo wasn't fooled. "Next on the list are, what, the village idiot and…"

Three teenagers came into view walking deliberately around the corner. They were an unusual group, all in almost complete contrast to each other in both looks and demeanor. Ienzo recognized the tallest one immediately. Pale skin, shaggy silver hair, and walking with an obvious confidence in himself: Riku, the most popular smartass in the whole damn school, (in addition, the total epitome of cool).

"Are you sure this is the right way?" the speaker, a slender girl with auburn hair and sparkling blue eyes: Kairi, the sweet overachiever who everyone knew and, (most), liked.

"Of course I'm sure," this time, a lightly built teenage boy with messy chocolate colored hair and tan skin: Sora, a happy-go-lucky, naïve underclassman, (Ienzo remembered hearing Myde muttering complaints about him for cutting in line at the cafeteria and taking the last piece of pineapple cake).

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Suddenly, the door opened behind Ienzo with a click, catching the trio's attention immediately, and causing Ienzo to back away promptly into the lighted hall.

"Oh, hello there," said the kind-natured librarian, Belle, who was laden with history books and with a slightly surprised look at seeing the crowd of teenagers outside the library door.

Ienzo, thinking fast, said in his usual eloquent tenor, "Thank you for your suggestions, Miss Belle. I will most definitely read these," he held out his arms, as if to pretend that he was studiously in the library with Belle the whole time, and she set the small pile of books into them out of sheer impulse, still looking startled.

And with that Ienzo turned on his heel and walked lithely in the opposite direction, leaving Belle looking puzzled, and, effectively, with his classmates unsuspicious.

222

Dilan watched dully as Braig and the bartender talked animatedly about hunting and shooting things that were most certainly illegal to shoot, like big, hairy monsters and fifteen-year-old boys. He twirled the plastic fork in his hand and gazed bleakly around the shabby, rustic bar, his abhorrence towards Braig growing every second for dragging him away from the comfort of his home where he could be sitting in front of the air conditioner on full-blast and talking endlessly to people on the phone. The bar, (called Beast's Castle, ironically enough), was nearly empty, which was no surprise seeing as the bartender, Gaston, alone could empty a room with his egotistical ramblings and random outbursts into songs about himself. Honestly…

Dilan snorted scathingly.

"Somethin' wrong?" Braig asked, as if just noticing his friend's presence.

"…get 20 to 50 calls a day from the lovely women who find my handsome mug attractive. Well, every woman I meet finds my face attractive, of course, so it's actually every woman I find attractive enough to give my number to, you know…"

Remembering the warning the policeman had given him on a previous similar occasion, Dilan resisted the urge to shove his plastic fork into Gaston's throat.

Braig, recognizing the 'stabbity' look in his friend's eyes, said quickly, "See ya later, bud. Me 'n Dilan better get outta here."

Dilan sighed thankfully and rushed out the door into the crisp night.

End Note: Love it? Hate it? I want to know, (yes, even you flamers. Flames help me stay warm in my arctic rooooom). So please review.

Next chapter is almost done.

b9 iNe