A/N: Sorry for taking so long to update!! I thank Agrotera Thanatos, KairiDestiny and Hajiscello for giving me so much motivation. Thank you all!!
Note: All Unversed in this fic are made up. So don't worry about BbS spoilers ;D
Disclaimer: Kingdom Hearts and all its characters belong to Squareenix and Disney.
That explained why I had spent the next few nights in my room, shivering like a leaf beneath my covers. In fact, this was my fourth night in Ansem's Castle. I'm glad this wasn't as bad as the first two nights, when my cold had gotten so bad, accompanied by a fever. I could barely get out of bed. I reached out for a piece of tissue paper on my bedside table. Despite all this annoyance, I couldn't help smiling to myself when I thought back about my arrival here.
That day, after Ansem had accepted me as his apprentice, I had followed Dilan to my room, jumping up and down like an excited child on the way as I was unable to hide the happiness. Until, being wet and cold for too long, I started sneezing, and ended up the way I was now, sulking in the bed.
I suppose my room was a little big for me; I'm sure I can survive with a room quarter the size and less than half the facilities (Yes, that's my room before I came here). The room had pretty much everything I need—a bed, enough lighting, a round carpet on the floor, some desks and tables, two chairs, a mirror, a wardrobe, lots of books, and a computer. ...Oh, and don't forget that empty flowerpot seated next to one big window.
By the way, Ansem had always been occupied with his experiments downstairs. I myself haven't gone out of the room at all, so I had neither seen nor talk to anyone other than Dilan, who brought me all my necessities on a daily basis. I couldn't stand being idle, so I thought I'll just improve my skills while I was in bed. I'd really hate it if Dilan ended up mocking me again. On the second day, he had left me with a cup of water. Once he had left I took the half filled cup and froze its contents.
Seated on the bed, I stared at the crystallized liquid. How convenient would it be if only I can make ice crystals out of nothing... Hey...maybe I can, if I try hard enough. I summoned Frozen Pride. Just looking at it made me feel like I had obtained a new power. I closed my eyes and concentrated on freezing the water vapour around me. And it seemed that I had succeeded in making...
I slapped my forehead. Since then I had been trying to make bigger chunks of ice. It didn't really work until today morning, when I at least managed to form a 1 cm3 block of ice out of thin air after covering half of my room with snowflakes. I had continued making my ice cube bigger little by little since the morning till the current evening.
I sneezed again. ...Who cares? I pulled my blanket closer around me. Then I concentrated in making another ice cube. I slowly decreased the temperature of the water vapour around me, quickly gathering as many of them together while doing so. It was a little hard to gather all the freely moving molecules and freeze them at the same time. Most of the time, they froze before combining, and I ended up only with several small chunks instead of a single big one.
I continued working on my speed and soon, I was able to make a chunk as big as a fist. I was rather pleased with myself, toying with my ice chunk when Dilan entered, shivering from the sudden cold. His eyes widened when he saw what had become of my room—a bedroom covered in piles of snow and ice, with a rather dry air.
"...," no words escaped him as he shifted his attention from the room to me. "...Uhh...Hi?" I attempted to break the silence, waving a hand to greet him. "...," his gaze trailed to my other hand, still holding the ice crystal. I realized it and hid the crystal behind me, attempting to grin and look innocent.
"Were you trying to keep yourself ill?!" he stated, "I can't believe Master Ansem had just recruited a lazy scientist!" I thought I saw some snow near him melting, "No, no! You're mistaken! I was purely trying to ameliorate my skills!" He sighed as I spoke frantically, closing the door behind him. "I suggest you do that after you're fully healed but...," he pulled a nearby chair closer and sat beside the bed, seemingly not so affected by the cold of the room, "Isn't it ironic, Even?" "Huh?" "You had control over ice, yet the cold hurts you." My face was red with embarrassment when he mentioned that. "What about you?" I attempted to change the topic, "I was wondering why you had not caught a cold yourself." Dilan thought for awhile, but he just shrugged. I rolled my eyes, "Never mind, I'm positive I'll be well again in two days. But I can commence working from tomorrow if it so pleases you." Dilan just continued staring at me through bored half-lidded eyes.
"Uhh...alright, what brings you here?" I questioned, feeling rather uncomfortable. "Oh," he was reminded, "Right. Right, I came here to tell you something important. Another scientist came here today." I raised an eyebrow, "Tell me about it." "He... Well, I was the one giving him the first test. He passed quite easily, I'd say. Hmph, a born warrior, that one. His strength was almost, if not equal to mine. He had really come prepared..." "Heh, that's interesting. How'd he fare in the second test?" I asked with a smirk. "Hmm? Faster than any of us, I'd say. He figured out the traps fairly quickly, tackling them down patiently without any form of worry or hesitation. Master Ansem was overjoyed with the fact that recruiting two apprentices in less than a week was possible; it's a record." Why, now I'm impressed, "That would mean that he's now one of us as well, is he not? The fourth apprentice... Why don't you tell me his name?" Dilan spoke again.
Once Dilan left, I had spent the rest of the night cleaning my room off the snow. So, I woke up late the next day. I still had a little cold, but I figure can go out of doors today.
I smiled at the pleasant thought. Finally, some fresh air. Gathering my books in a satchel and throwing on a clean white lab coat, I went out of my room, down the corridor, and a few set of stairs. I searched the surroundings for Master Ansem, or any of my colleagues. I wonder what job he had in store for me today. I dared not wander around in the castle too much. Haven't been out of my room at all, the only road I knew was the road leading out to the castle's postern.
The castle was strangely empty, though, to my great disappointment. Even Dilan was nowhere in sight. 'Perhaps they're outside...,' I thought to myself, heading out. I pushed the doors open and took a step out, when all of a sudden, a thin bright ray of light hit the ground right in front of me. I jumped back to safety.
"Step aside! You're disturbing my practice session!" A man's annoyed voice replied. I looked around, but was unable to detect its source.
"Tch. Up here..."
I walked out and looked up, expecting someone atop the entrance door. But I can assure you, what I saw made me gape. There was a young man, clad in the same attire as Dilan (save for the red scarf he wore), with a pair of arrowguns there, literally standing on nothing and, to make it worse, upside down.
"You should not be pulling stunts like that!" I shouted out the first thing that came to mind, pointing at him.
"Who are you to order me around?!" he yelled back, the tone of annoyance still apparent in his voice, "I control space, now stay out of the way before I shoot at you!" I heard him muttering something about taking revenge on someone who had wet the corridors on that rainy night a few days ago, before he pointed one of his guns at me. Finding it rather rude, I couldn't resist the urge of scolding him again.
"You'd better put that down this instant...uhh..."
"Braig's the name, mad scientist," was the curt reply as he rolled his eyes, "Way to talk to your senior." He made sure to say the last word loud and clear for emphasis.
"Don't call me that! And I'm sure that I'm older than you!"
"Can't help it, you kept getting angry," he tried to stifle a laugh, "and you're the newbie, am I correct? Well, I'm the first apprentice here, so that makes me your senior!"
What he said was the truth, so I can only growl at him. Braig merely laughed playfully. I was about to throw another shout of protest when Dilan came, "Braig!" The young man stopped his laughter and looked there, "Oh, hi there, spearhead!" He greeted, waving at him. Yes, apparently, this…immature apprentice seemed to have the habit of giving people nicknames...on sight. Dilan didn't seem pleased in any way, though. He walked over to us, "Braig, I thought we had an agreement not to call each other names...at least between the both of us." "Aww, c'mon! Doesn't it sound nice? Dangerous like the head of a spear..." He was interrupted by the sight of Dilan glaring back at him. Braig sighed, "Whatever you say...spearhead!" Dilan's glare intensified, and he was just about to object when Braig gave yet another cheerful laugh before warping away.
"Troublesome one isn't he?" I asked. Dilan only sighed, shaking his head. "He seemed to respect you... A little, at least," I pointed out. "Well, that's our Braig. You want respect, you've got to show him you deserve it... Now come along. Master Ansem's got us some work to do."
We went down the labyrinthine corridors once more, ending at that single humble-looking door—Ansem's Study. The room was empty.
"Where could he be?" I questioned. Dilan shrugged, "He'll be back soon, I reckon." He proceeded to take a seat near the great desk. I decided to look around the room. The first time I came here, I haven't really noticed, but upon closer inspection, what I first thought to be normal scientific diagrams hung on the wall were actually diagrams about the heart and darkness. Just what was Master Ansem actually researching?!
I turned around, about to ask Dilan the question, but was instead taken aback upon seeing a section of a nearby wall disappear! It revealed a hidden path behind it, with Master Ansem coming right out of it. This place was really full of wonders!
"Ah, Even, Dilan, you're here," Ansem said, a smile gracing his gentle features. We both took a bow. Master Ansem always seemed to have this comforting fatherly aura around him. I found it rather admirable.
"Impeccable timing. Dilan, this way, please. I need some help with the mainframe," then he turned to me, "Even, Aeleus haven't returned since I sent him to the marketplace. Do me a favor and look for him, if you would."
I nodded, making a hasty leave. I still felt somewhat unfamiliar with this castle and its people, but I'm sure I would get used to them soon…at least I hoped so.
I went through the corridors, the castle postern, some rocky paths, through the Bailey, and finally, the Borough. Well, welcome to my home, the Radiant Garden. There were many houses lining either side of the street here, all of which were bright and none looking too extravagant. They blended in harmoniously with the beautiful flowers in the nearby patches.
I quickly shuffled down the street. There were several people around, a few of whom greeted me warmly with either a 'good morning' or a simple wave of the hand. All of them had smiles on their faces, radiant with hope and happiness. That was one of the many reasons I love my home; everyone was so friendly. I smiled to myself as I trotted lightly down the path.
The marketplace was always the busiest area of Radiant Garden. Trade flourished, people continuously come and go from this place, starting very early in the morning and quietening only in the late hours of the night.
I stood on my toes and scanned the area, looking around for Aeleus in the sea of heads. According to the descriptions Dilan gave me yesterday, Aeleus was tall, well-built, with short reddish-brown hair and blue eyes. Dilan had also mentioned that he should be wearing the same uniform as he and Braig did, so he shouldn't be that hard to find.
Much to my dismay, I didn't find him, although I had given the crowded Marketplace at least three careful scans. I decided to go back and look elsewhere. I may have missed him and he was probably on his way back right now.
There was no way I could have missed him at the Bailey or the Borough, so I went back through the town square. To my luck, I found him sitting there, on one of the white benches, with a little girl beside him. He seemed to be tinkering with something.
As I approached him, the thing he was tinkering with started to look familiar… It was small, shiny…very twisty… And when I came close enough, I recognized the object immediately.
It was none other than a pair of metal puzzles!
Oh, those cursed things! I remembered those days when one of my former lab partners, who happened to have an unhealthy obsession with these little trinkets, brought some to the labs. I had taken up his challenge of solving them, but after a few days of trying without any success, I found them to be rather pointless! I quickened my pace. "Aeleus!"
The girl, probably just around seven years old, looked my way, but Aeleus didn't, opting to continue his quest for the puzzle's elusive solution instead. I stopped beside him, ending my quick steps loudly to catch his attention. It failed miserably. I cleared my throat and began, "Aeleus, return at once. Master Ansem is—"
"I'll finish this soon," he said without looking up, "Yuffie can go home, then."
I glared at him. 'Soon'? I can guess that it's going to take him another century to solve all those loops! "How insolent! You're ignoring Master Ansem's orders! I shall not have you wasting precious time here."
"Be there in a moment."
"No, you shall return this instant. I see no point in your current activity."
"It's a task Yuffie had given to me, so I shall have it finished."
I let out an exasperated sigh. That's Aeleus for you—ever firm, somewhat like the earth. Once he's set on doing something, I doubt there was anything that could make him change his mind. "In all my life, I had never met someone so hard to convince!"
Aeleus chuckled, "My fellow apprentice, you'll never stop researching until it's complete, am I right?"
He caught me off-guard with that. Indeed, it's something I found hard to disagree with. "…Fine, you can have a few minutes. Then I'll drag you back to Master Ansem if necessary."
"A few minutes it is, then."
I folded my arms and stood by him, observing. Wait until he gives up, then I'll make sure I pick on him. The girl, Yuffie, seemed to have lit up, hearing the King's name being mentioned and finding herself in the company of his apprentices. She had the most cheerful look on her face, but was pretty shy to talk to us. So she was just sitting on the other side, watching Aeleus with a beaming smile. I can imagine how she's going to talk about us to her friends later.
I continued watching how Aeleus dexterously twisted the puzzle around in various ways. He seemed to end up in many dead ends, but he did not cease his attempts, always finding many other ways around his failures. And his calmness—I admired how it's never once lost. He frowned in concentration, silent, never once complaining about his difficulties (if he actually had one to begin with). Outside, he may look like he's more of the strength-type, but he was as intelligent as he was strong.
But however admirable Aeleus may be, I was getting more irritated as time passes, "What have you been doing? I find it hard to believe that you have so much time for these things—it's such a waste!"
My colleague smiled, "I wouldn't think so. This is one of my pastimes and I found it rather enjoyable. It helps you think of various creative ways to solve a problem."
Thinking that this will surely take some time, I decided to take a seat beside him.
"Heh, this set of puzzle was tougher than carving rocks," he muttered, more to himself.
"You sculpt, too?" I asked. It's a somewhat random question, just to fill the time.
"If time allows. I work with rocks, clay, and the like. It requires a lot of patience, so it's good practice. Otherwise I move from job to job," Aeleus explained, still twisting the puzzle around, "It's rather hard to find a proper job near the outskirts. My family wasn't that well off either…"
"Then… You came here so that you can help them?"
Aeleus paused for a moment, then began, "They're all gone now. I came here searching for a new purpose…" There was a deep tone of sadness in his voice as he trailed off.
I immediately regretted asking the question, "I'm sorry…"
Aeleus shook his head, "Don't be. It happened just a few weeks ago—it was a great loss. I once thought that maybe I should just follow them. All those I battled had always said that I was strong. Yet at that moment, I felt as if I had the weakest heart. I had once worked part-time in a lab. Being a scientist, I had been taught to be rational, not to be a slave to my feelings. Emotions are meant to be ignored, reasons worshipped." He twisted the puzzle a few more times, "But it's hard to follow that dogma when you lose those close to your heart."
I listened to the metallic sounds of the puzzle pieces sliding smoothly across each other, pondering his words before he continued his tale, "When I heard of the possibility of becoming Master Ansem's apprentice, I decided to come here. I want to discover true strength, and I know Master Ansem would be the one to show me the way." He smiled. "So don't dwell in the past—just keep looking forward."
Aeleus held the now-solved puzzle pieces apart, a victorious look in his face.
Yuffie clapped and cheered. My colleague was just about to return the metal puzzle to her when a scream rang through the town square. It came from the street adjoining the marketplace. I frowned. Aeleus had a worried look on his face as he quickly gave back the puzzle and told Yuffie to go. However, the girl, stubborn as she was, shook her head and took out a set of little shuriken. "I want to fight, too!"
"It's dangerous, Yuffie! Go!" my partner commanded. After some more convincing, Yuffie finally took the advice and left. "Hurry!" I shouted to Aeleus. We both ran towards the source of the commotion.
Those unknown creatures had appeared in town some time ago and had caused quite a lot of havoc. The townspeople scurried away to safety. I was glad that the Unversed that had appeared this time didn't seem to be very dangerous—just the minor variety. I was about to summon Frozen Pride when Aeleus suddenly stretched an arm in front of me to stop me.
"Let me do this. Just take it as a compensation for making you wait," he said with a smirk.
Aeleus charged at the small group of Unversed, "Skysplitter!!" A large axe sword materialized in his grip. A powerful horizontal swing, followed by a diagonal swipe. Aeleus then leapt into the air and slammed his blade on the ground, creating a shockwave and raising several earth pillars, heavily damaging multiple enemies at once.
I watched in awe as the Unversed slowly faded away and my colleague straightened his posture, placing his axe sword across his back. The Skysplitter, one who possesses strength to split the skies, enough power to break the limits and go further beyond, eliminating those in his way. So that was his strength!
"Shall we?" Aeleus tilted his head to look at me, asking triumphantly.
I snapped out of my enchantment and walked over to him (I wonder how they're going to fix these shattered pavements!!).
And that was how I met Aeleus for the first time.
A/N: Thanks for reading. It'll be very nice of you to review because it gives me so much motivation. I'd also love to know how to improve so I can write better in the next chapter :D