Chapter I:

A New Beginning

"You'd think with the great Keyblade Master running around, we wouldn't have to do this," Mei muttered, slashing her weapon into the back of a black monster. She straightened up, wiping her brow. That had been the last Heartless.

"Give him a break, Mei," Suki called to the older girl. She dusted her clothes and brushed her hair out of her eyes, staring at the other skeptically. Mei just huffed and turned away.

A young boy ran up to Suki and pointed to a scratch on his arm. She grinned softly and touched the wound, a green light covering it.

"Hiro!" another boy, an older one, shouted, following him. He put his hands on his knees and panted before looking up at Suki. "Thanks."

The four children were back up Key-Bearers. After the Keyblade Master's latest adventure, King Mickey decided to enlist the help of other powerful Keyblade wielders.

Mei was the oldest, being 18. She was tall and lean; bright orange hair covered her head and was usually pulled into short pig tails on either side of her head. She wore a tight, short pink spaghetti-strap tank top and a matching skirt with frayed edges. She had piercing sky-blue eyes and dark tan skin.

The next oldest was Paka, the boy that had been with Hiro. He was 16, the same age as the Keyblade Master. He had short dark blue hair that was messy and usually curved from his forehead into his lime green eyes. He wore a long sleeve tan shirt with a dark brown vest over top of it. His pants were brown as well, like his shoes. His skin was tan although it appeared lighter in contrast to his hair and clothes.

Suki was 13, the second youngest. She had shaggy light purple hair that was pulled back with a black headband and hazel colored eyes. She wore a white shirt with short, puffy sleeves and a black plaid skirt. She had fair skin, making her appear frail and breakable, but a heart of gold was inside of her.

Lastly was Hiro. He wore a sleeveless blue shirt and blue athletic shorts. He had a childish twinkle in his brown eyes, which was usual in a seven-year-old boy like him. He had short brown hair that matched his eyes and always seemed well-groomed. His skin was light and smooth and -- just as a child's will be -- covered with bruises and scratches caused by the silly things youngsters do.

The small group soon set up a camp in the Ravine of Radiant Garden. They pulled wood from the magical bags the King had given them to set up a campfire, then pulled out some onigiri for dinner. Paka summoned his Keyblade, Fantasmic!, and pointed its tip at the wood. A flame sparked from it and the campfire was complete. The four quickly pulled out sleeping bags and huddled near the fire as the night began.

The Key-Bearers had been chosen by King Mickey himself to help the Keyblade Master, Sora. The darkness was again growing in the universe, and it would be their job to help balance the light and the darkness again. They had been told to find the boy here, but they'd searched day in and day out in the world and there was no trace of him. Some of the town's people had heard of him or knew him, but none of them had seen him. It seemed they were losing hope.

Everyone settled themselves, a smug smile across Paka's face for he was satisfied with his fire. He looked to the others; every one of them tired and scratched up. He sighed.

"The Heartless just didn't stop today, huh?" he mumbled, looking back at the fire. Everyone remained silent for a while, thinking back on the hard day and all the other hardships they'd had recently. Even Hiro was still, exhausted from the battles. Mei finally looked up, irritation in her expression.

"Sora's obviously not here," she announced flatly. "Either that or he's really lazy. There were way too many Heartless, and if he's here… Well, it was selfish of him not to come."

"Mei," Suki said shortly but loudly. The older girl glared at her, but the violenette didn't look up at her. She kept an even stare on the ground as she spoke. "He's going through a hard time."

"We all are! Why should that give him an excuse--"

"It's different, Mei. He… He lost someone. They're… dead, you know. I heard it in town."

Mei's anger diminished quickly and was replaced with shock. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. Paka also appeared surprised, paying closer attention to her words.

"He was with his friends, fighting off that… thing," Suki continued. "Remember how the King said Organization XIII is back? He was right. The Heartless thing Sora and the others were fighting came from them. They lost control of it, though, and it was destroying all the worlds. It's still out there." She looked around the crackling fire at her friends. The words sunk into their heads slowly and with a fearful realization. The orange glow of the fire gave the setting a ghost story-like feel, only the story was very, very real. "They tried to fight and kill it after it destroyed their home world. Only… Only it won. Riku and Kairi… were killed."

"Sora's in the Organization," Hiro added softly. "That's what I heard." Paka turned to the youth, a gentle smile crossing his lips.

"It's just a rumor," he replied. "Don't worry. Sora's still on our side." Hiro looked away, thinking. After a moment, he stretched and yawned, curling up next to the young man. The group decided to go to sleep then, knowing the next day would bring more troubles.

Morning came quickly for one of the four Key-Bearers. The golden sun pierced through the dark, falling onto their faces. Suki was the one to wake, standing slowly and looking around. It was foggy from the morning dew, and she couldn't see the canyon's edge. The violenette quietly went to Mei's side and nudged her slightly. She didn't stir; neither did the others when she tried to arose them.

Suki finally decided to go exploring, knowing this would be one of the only times she could be alone by choice. Her feet echoed softly as she left the group, going between the huge rock walls into a large, rocky plain. The fog closed behind her and she felt like she was miles away from everyone else. Although it was a nice illusion, she was paranoid. She had a strong gut feeling that something bad would happen if she stayed away from the others. Still, something else inside her told her to keep going, as if she'd find something important if she continued.

After several minutes, she again began to question why she was still going forward. The fog wasn't as dense as it'd been before, but it was still thick. She could see about 60 yards ahead now, but the end of the canyon was not in sight. The girl stopped, a loud sigh escaping her. The breath echoed like a hiss, growing louder instead of fainter. Confused, Suki peered into the fog. Dark masses formed in the fog, bright yellow orbs piercing through it. Instantly, she knew they were Heartless, and there were thousands. Her Keyblade, Heart of Gold, flashed into her hand as she prepared herself for the ambush. The monsters continued coming closer, excited at stealing the heart of their prey. The girl knew she wouldn't be able to defeat them all, and she was too far from the others to call for help. She wouldn't go down without a fight, but she would go down eventually.

In an instant, group after group of Heartless sprang at her. She fought violently, slashing her weapon this way and that to protect herself. She managed to kill a lot of them, but there were always six more to replace the one slain.

First one beast jumped onto her back, then another. And another. She was wearing down, unable to throw the Heartless from her back. They pulled her down; their weight caused her to fall to her knees. More of them leaped on her, tearing and scratching at any part of her body their claws could reach. She wanted to scream, but she was too exhausted to make a sound. She abandoned her Keyblade and brought her arms up to protect her face, waiting for the pain to stop and death to finally reach her.

However, the weight seemed to be lifted off her, and she cautiously opened her eyes. Suki looked up and saw someone in a black cloak, a hood covering their face. The Organization! she thought. She attempted to pull herself up, but she collapsed on the ground. The hooded figure turned away from her, slamming a weapon into Heartless after Heartless. Why would Organization XIII help me? she wondered.

After a couple of moments, all the Heartless were gone. There wasn't a scratch on the person who'd rescued her, and they hadn't spoken a word since they'd appeared. They lowered their weapon to their side and the violenette gasped. It was a silver and yellow blade; the end had a crown-shaped appendage, and a chain with the King's insignia dangled from the hilt. It was a Keyblade. More importantly, it was the Keyblade Master's Keyblade.

The cloaked figure, their back still to the girl, opened their free hand and a portal appeared in front of them. Instead of the usual dark portals the Organization summoned, it was gray. Suki stared at it, scared but also curious. The person began to walk to it, but also curious. The person began to walk to it, but stopped as she moved again.

"Is… that really you?" she asked hesitantly. Her voice was hoarse and quiet, seeming like a whisper. Yet the cloaked figure heard it and turned to her.

"Don't. Say it," the voice -- a male's -- ordered. It was deep and threatening, but Suki still heard kindness somewhere far inside it.

"You are. I know you are!" the girl pursued. The figure's free hand clenched into a fist and he raised his blade to point at her. The violenette put her arms up in a feeble attempt to defend herself. Instead of feeling the impact of a strike, a green light covered her and her wounds closed.

She slowly put her arms down, staring up at the man. He lowered his weapon and it flashed away. He turned on his heel and walked towards the bizarre portal.

"Stay out of my way, alright?" he said, stopping just before entering the portal. His voice had lost its hostility; the tone was unreadable. "And stay out of trouble. The next time the Heartless attack you, I'm just going to watch. If that. So, get out of here. More of them are coming."

"Why did you help me?" The boy didn't respond, disappearing into the gray portal. Suki sat for a moment more, in complete shock of what had just happened. The fog had cleared by this time, and she could see further in the canyon. Several miles away, a black group was slowly coming in her direction. It soon became apparent that something was wrong with the world. The Keyhole had somehow been unlocked, and the darkness would consume this world. There was nothing she, Mei, and the others could do about it.

Suki pulled herself up quickly and dismissed her Keyblade. Taking one last glance at the advancing Heartless, she bolted in the direction from which she came. She had to get to the others and they had to leave the world before the Heartless overran it.

"Mei! Paka! Hiro!" she screamed as she reached the group. "We have to get out of here! The world's gonna end!"