Wow, this is my first fanfic in a very long time. The past year or so I've been working on my original stories, but it feels good to jump back into the world of fanfiction. I just want to take this moment to point out that Will and Ellie are not in any way shape or form self-inserts, and to give my huge thanks to the fabulous Rissa, who reads all my stories first and tells me when I suck. But without further adieu, here's the first chapter!

Edit: I have re-vised the first forty or so chapters. Some bits taken out, some lines added. Unless you're me (and you're probably not) you probably won't even notice the difference.

Chapter One: Happy Fun Convention Time

"Put my Cruxis Crystal down you little brat!"

"I'm just looking," Beth whined, turning it around in her hands.

"You're going to break it," Ellie snapped, grabbing her sister's wrist and twisting it toward her.

"Ow! Lemme go!" She snatched the papier-mâché diamond away, checking to make sure her stupid little sister hadn't scratched the bright red paint or bent the gold frame. "I'm telling Mom!"

"Yeah, whatever. Now get out of my room, I need to finish getting dressed before Will gets here." She put her hands on the twelve-year-old's shoulders and attempted to forcibly push her out of the bedroom.

"Ooo, getting dressed up like a nerd for your boyfriend?"

"He's not my boyfriend, you imbecile." She grabbed one of her cardboard chakrams and whacked Beth on the head. "Besides, Will's dressing up, too. It's an anime convention; everybody dresses up."

"A nerd amongst nerds is still a nerd!" Beth sang as Ellie finally pushed her out and slammed the door shut. Ugh, little sisters were the worst.

She pulled her Colette dress over her head and brushed her hair, glad that it was naturally blonde so she didn't need a wig. When she put her brush down, she heard a knock at the front door. As she put her hand on her bedroom door to answer it, she head pounding footsteps and Beth yell, "I'll get it!"

Ellie rolled her eyes and walked down the hall. Will stood there in all his cosplaying glory, jacket red and silver buttons shining. Beth was busy pestering him about his wooden swords, and she pushed past her little sister and slammed the door shut behind her.

"Obnoxious brat."

"Sister problems?"

"She's just being her normal pain in the ass self." They walked across the lawn to the old brown car parked on the side of the street. Will opened the door for her before walking around and climbing into the driver seat.

"When did you get a car?" she asked, frowning as she wiped a finger across the dusty dashboard. A collection of straw wrappers and receipts from fast food restaurants littered the floor and the pine tree hanging from the rear-view mirror was long past its prime.

"It's Jon's. He's home from college for Spring Break. Somehow he managed to get a girlfriend and she insisted on coming home to 'meet his family'." Will started the engine and the car rumbled to a start.

Ellie snorted. "What family? Your mom's been out of town since Wednesday. Who is she expecting to meet? You?"

"Sadly, yes," he said. "Met her last night." He raised his voice to a falsetto and mimicked, "'Oh, Jon! Your little brother is so cute! He looks just like you!' She took us out to some crazy vegan pizza place."

"Oh, I think know the one you're talking about," Ellie said. "The one by the bank? The one that every time I pass I think 'good lord, who would ever want pizza from a place that doesn't believe in pepperoni or cheese'?"

"That's the one."


"Just as disgusting as it looks."

"Well, rest assured that today your meals shall be much more normal," she said, patting his shoulder. Will didn't look up, keeping his eyes glued to the road. Such a responsible driver, especially compared to Ellie's recklessness. "Today we shall gorge on nothing but Pocky and marble soda!"

"I still can't believe you want to go to this convention," Will said as they pulled up to a light.

"Why not?" She looked at him. "We've been to other cons. This one is just better because it's in town. I'm glad they revived it."

Will shook his head. "Yeah, but it stopped a few years ago because those people went missing. What if it's still dangerous?"

Ellie snorted in derision. "Ooooo, you're right, maybe it's haunted!" She rolled her eyes. "Will, there's no such thing as ghosts. Those cosplayers that disappeared probably just went out back and got wasted and then drove off or something."

"I don't know. They were never found. Isn't that kinda creepy?"

"Will, you're not going to chicken out on me, are you? What am I supposed to do, wander around as Colette by myself? And what about the costume contest? I need a Lloyd."

"Don't worry; I'll be there. Just, you know, be careful. In case of ghosts."

She giggled. "Sure, Will. Ghosts. I'll be sure to keep my eye out for them."

Fifteen minutes later, they pulled into the hotel parking lot and climbed out of the car. Will stuck his keys in his black sweatpants pocket, and they entered the lobby. It was filled with people in crazy costumes, fighting with Styrofoam weapons or sitting around eating junk food and talking.

"You know," Ellie said, watching an elderly couple checking in with looks of horror on their faces, "I feel kinda sorry for people staying here who didn't know there was a con."

"Heh. True."

After paying and picking up their passes, they moseyed on over to the dealer's room, wandering around and looking at the merchandise. Will got a few comments on the large blue marble he had cut in half to make his Exsphere, and Ellie was a bit jealous that his was so much cooler looking than her own papier-mâché Cruxis Crystal. She had a few amusing thoughts, though, about how Will's Exsphere was made of Marble.

They came to a monster pile of plushies, and they both set to work looking for specific characters. She found an adorable plushie of Kratos, but put it back to continue her quest for a Raine plushie. She didn't have too high hopes, though. Kratos had a plushie because he was an insanely popular character, whereas Raine didn't have nearly enough fangirls. Or fanboys, for that matter. Raine didn't get enough love. Raine was awesome.

She saw an Edward Elric plushie and reached for it, then noticed the man next to her pick another one up from deep in the pile. She smiled – a Yggdrasill plushie! Hadn't been expecting that. It was really cute, though, with little evil glaring eyes. Mostly, though, she noticed that the man standing next to her – despite wearing a polo shirt and jeans – had a really convincing Exsphere on his hand. She laughed to herself that he must have spent all his money on that Exsphere and Key Crest that he couldn't afford the rest of the costume.

He noticed her staring, and gave her a friendly smile. "Like the plushie? I see you're a Symphonia fan."

She just nodded. "I really like your Exsphere. Mine's just papier-mâché; how'd you make yours?"

He twisted his hand and looked down at the pretty blue gem. "Oh, I didn't make it myself. If you want, I can show you where I bought it. It wasn't that expensive."

"Really? They're selling them at the con?"

He nodded. "Kind of in a back corner, not very noticeable. ToS isn't a very popular anime, so it doesn't get much notice."

"Cool!" She reached over and grabbed Will by the suspenders, pulling him over causing him to drop the plushie he'd been holding. "Will, come on, really cool Exspheres."

"Huh? Okay." The man smiled and led them to the doors of the dealer's room.

"Isn't it in here?"

"Nope. This way."

That was kind of weird. If the Exspheres were being sold by a vendor, why wouldn't they be in with the rest of the dealers? They followed the man around a corner to a short hall that ended in a conspicuous brick wall, quite obviously added after the hotel had already been finished. It looked quite recent, in fact. The man raised his arm and his Exsphere flashed in the light.

She glanced at Will, who shrugged. She turned back to the wall, and did a double take when she saw the door. Wait, that hadn't been there before. Or had it? There was no way a door could just appear out of nowhere. The man had probably just been standing in front of it, or something.

They walked up to the door, and she glanced over her shoulder. They were completely alone in the corridor and she was starting to get a little nervous. She was glad Will was here, because otherwise she'd probably be kind of scared.

The man opened the door, and she saw nothing but total darkness beyond. Even the light from the hallway didn't penetrate the room. There was definitely something wrong with this. She gave Will a look and they both started backing up from the door. Even if there were incredibly awesome Exspheres, she didn't think it was worth going into a creepy pitch black room.

The man lunged out suddenly, grabbing her wrist with an unusually strong grip.

"Hey! Let me go!" she cried, trying to pull away as he dragged her towards the door. Will was shouting, and aimed a punch at her attacker.

He just shrugged it off, though, and with a hiss of, "Give my regards to Sylvarant, Chosen," pushed her through the door and into utter blackness.