Chapter One - Darkside

The Keyhole opened up and spat the boy out onto the ground in about as unceremonious a manner as physically possible. He landed squarely on his bottom and no sooner had he landed than the gateway closed firmly behind him, leaving him essentially stranded in a strange, foreign place with nobody but himself for company. His name was Taiji. His surname or pretty much anything else about him is fairly unimportant for the moment, bar this: He was a Keybearer. He held in his hands a sword unlike any other, the Keyblade. It had within it the power to either save the World or swallow it in chaos, and exactly which of the two it did was entirely down to the wielder. The Keyblade was unique in the sense that unlike with a regular sword where it was the wielder who chose their weapon, the Keyblade was conscious, and chose its own wielder based on the strength of his or her heart. And this Keyblade's wielder was none other than Taiji, a boy hailing from Traverse Town, one of the smaller Worlds.

He had been sent to this land on which he now stood, rather, effectively forced to come to it, to close its access to the other worlds. Such was one of the Keyblade's special powers, the power to lock and unlock (among other things) the pathways of Light and Dark that connected the Worlds. It was the decision of the King that all Worlds must be sealed off from each other to prevent a threat known as the Heartless from devouring the Hearts of the Worlds themselves. The Heartless were not the only threat, but they were most certainly the most prominent one that the Keybearers faced for the time being. The Heartless were simply this, a Heart which had succumbed to the Darkness and sought to separate itself as a result from its associated Body and Soul. This may be oversimplifying things slightly, but the goal of the Heartless at any one time amounts to basically seeking out Hearts to fill the emptiness they feel. When they devour the Hearts of living beings, said Hearts become Heartless themselves. Thus, the Heartless were a perpetuating threat that needed to be defeated at all costs.

There were also the Nobodies, but these were not a prominent worry at the time for the Keybearers. These were a rare case in themselves; when a living being with a particularly strong heart became a Heartless, the Body and Soul left behind became a Nobody. These were strange creatures that in all fairness to them, should never have existed; they have the same lust for Hearts as the Heartless, but only for the reason that they wish to become whole again. They lack emotion as a result of the lack of Heart, but do in fact remember what it was like to feel said emotion. As a result those that retain the skills necessary to communicate are well versed in emotional blackmail and manipulation. However, they also appeared to lack the wish to cause harm on the same level as the Heartless, and while there were exceptions, they did not seem out to damage the stability of the Worlds, and would often work towards defeating Heartless to further their own goals.

This brings us to another key (no pun intended, I assure you) ability of the Keyblade. It is one of the few weapons in existence that can damage a Heartless or a Nobody. While there are exceptions, as generally one with a strong Heart can use any weapon effectively, the Keyblade is the only weapon that can definitively kill a Heartless and release its captive Heart. This would seem to be all that the reader need know at this stage, and I feel I am digressing from the tale ever-so-slightly, so let us return to Taiji...

He brushed the dust from his clothes and glanced around at his surroundings, seeing nothing of particular interest. He was standing on the outskirts of a desert town wearing altogether too much not to feel the heat. He hadn't even been in the area for a minute before the sweat was rolling down his brow and his medium length black hair was plastered tightly to his Caucasian face. He muttered to himself about the heat as he threw his hair violently out of his wide blue eyes and walked, with noted difficulty, into the city to find shelter. The search for the Keyhole was abandoned in his mind; for now, self preservation came first. By a long way. In the distance, two dark figures stood, looking on at the boy who had appeared out of nothing. They knew who he was and why he was there. He was going to help them, and they him. It was that simple.

He was on the verge of passing out when he reached the centre of the town and saw people, but more importantly, water. He didn't stop to think; he just ran up to the fountain and dove for it. Unfortunately for him there was another, a local, who had thought to do the same thing from the other side at just that moment. The silence of the desert town was shattered when the two teenage boys collided face-first in the air with an impact that should by all rights have shattered both their noses. Instead, they both came out of it fairly unscathed, albeit with a pair of headaches that made them feel like their heads were being ripped apart from the inside out, and covered in what turned out to be... wine. The barman from the stall across the way came running over screaming about "kids these days" and how the children should be better looked out for by their parents, grabbed the two of them out of the fountain and insisted they stop breaking the town rules.

Mid-argument, the barman suddenly realised that neither of the two were in fact locals, and apologised, explained that the fountain was filled with wine rather than water, and was for the explicit use of the adults of the town. The boy Edward, as he introduced himself, shrugged off the apology as if it meant nothing, clapped his hands together and then to his body, and all of a sudden he was dry. Taiji hadn't seen how he'd done it, but he had somehow evaporated the liquid in his clothes through some kind of chemical reaction. His face must have betrayed his ignorance, and the blond boy chuckled "Alchemy, obviously." Taiji nodded as though this statement made sense. Edward clapped his hands again and touched them lightly to Taiji's clothes to remove the wine in the same manner. Taiji was about to ask for a more thorough explanation when a large man wearing a suit of armour came running into view screaming something about monsters.

"Brother! They're here! They're here!!!" Taiji gave the man a questioning glance as he came to a stop beside him, and quietly told him "Brother? You've got the wrong guy, buddy." He was about to suggest that he "Lay off the wine" when Edward walked forwards and patted the man on the chest. The sound of this echoed through the streets. It almost sounded as though the armour was... hollow. Edward gave a curt nod to Taiji as he walked past him, and then both he and the armoured man walked off in the direction he had come from a moment before. Looking down the path, Taiji saw something he had hoped he wouldn't. A giant jet black shadow appeared to be crawling along the sandy ground towards them, but in the middle of the day, right in under the gaze of the Sun! It should have been impossible! It looked like a monster, perhaps it was the monsters to which the armoured man had referred, but Taiji knew exactly what they were. They were Heartless. A small army of the bastards; they must have alright worked out where the World's Heart was. That, or they were simply looking for new Hearts for themselves... after all, Edward and his "brother" seemed like they had strong enough Hearts to make a couple of powerful Heartless...

Edward seemed unfazed by the sight, and clapped his hands once again before slamming them into the ground. The desert floor seemed to shift and warp, and then all of sudden there was a lurch as though something was trying to escape from underneath, and finally the mound leapt up and swallowed the creeping shadow whole before returning to the calm, level ground it was prior to the "Alchemist's" intervention. Taiji was amazed. He had never before seen an army of Heartless defeated so easily. Of course, with the Heartless it never was quite that simple. In fact, Edward had made things far worse for them all. The shadow began to appear again, blackness bleeding through the grains of sand, and bulging upwards... taking shape. Edward had not seen this, and it was the armoured man that pointed the cheering teen back to the fight he had assumed was over. The small bulge became a small hill, and then the hill grew features, and within a few seconds before the trio stood a single, giant Heartless. Taiji even knew the breed's name. Darkside.

The beast was huge. There was no way around it, he would have to fight, and he would have to win. He threw his hands behind his back as if to push Edward and his "brother" back; "Leave this to me" were the only words that escaped his mouth prior to his engaging the giant Heartless. He then preformed a seemingly inhuman leap onto the beast's gargantuan left hand, and summoned his weapon in a flash of light. There it was, the Keyblade. Edward recognised the weapon from somewhere, but couldn't place it, and was preoccupied with watching the frankly amazing battle unfolding before his eyes. The Keyblade was exactly that; a giant key used in the same manner as a sword. The length of the blade and the teeth were silver, the hilt and guard were gold, and the pommel, black. It had a chain at its base coloured silver which had the visage of a mouse hanging from it. It seemed to radiate magic, and this was certainly emphasised by the way in which its wielder, Taiji, had summoned it out of nothing. Taiji's first strike was into its wrist; the creature seemed to jolt in pain and somehow bleed darkness from the wound, but when the shadowy liquid dripped on the ground the Shadow Heartless that made up Darkside formed from the remains and began to swarm around Taiji. With every strike, the Darkside was losing strength, but gaining soldiers, and the Keybearer was slowly but surely becoming seriously outmatched.

It was Edward who stepped in to help. At first he tried to use alchemy to crush the Heartless between blocks of condensed sand, but they just regenerated and continued their attack. When they continued to ignore him, he took it as a personal insult and threw his cloak off to run into the fray. Taiji noticed at the time that Edward's right arm was metallic, and that the boy's alchemy allowed him to turn the wrist guard into a blade for fighting. The assistance helped Taiji a lot, as this meant he could concentrate on just Darkside, rather than the yellow eyed Shadows that Edward was making short work of. He was caught off guard when Darkside slammed its uninjured fist into him, sending him flying. It took him a moment too long to get up, as well; the giant Heartless cupped its hand over Taiji's prone form and proceeded to fill him with Darkness in an attempt to take his Heart. The attempt probably would have worked, as well. Were it not for the intervention of Edward, once again. Darkside slumped to one side as its left leg was taken out from under it. Literally. Edward had transmuted its leg into the Darkness that made it up, and as a result the beast had broken down at the molecular level. This was outside of what Edward understood, but he was a genius after all was said and done, so he improvised. Darkside stopped concentrating on Taiji for a moment and began using its conscious thought to rebuild its body.

This was all the distraction Taiji needed to release a blast of Light from the Keyblade and blow its hand apart. He then leapt forwards atop the handless wrist, and proceeded to run right up the creature's arm to the neck, all the while dragging the Keyblade through whatever the Heartless had for flesh. The attack finished when he reached its head and tore the Keyblade out with such force that there was a release of Light that tore the beast almost completely in two. From there it shattered and faded back into Darkness, the hundreds of Hearts that made it up floating off to freedom once more. The fight had been shorter than expected, but it had taken its toll on Taiji, and he fell to the floor, unconscious.