Chapter 1 - Remembrance
Realm of Darkness, Two years before Kingdom Hearts
Aqua stared along the dark beach, watching the silent waves break against the shore. She was alone, or so she hoped: having Heartless attack her and catch her off guard was the last thing she wanted. 'It's been too long,' she mused, 'Much to long. I've lost track of how long I've been here. Years, probably, but there's no way to be sure.' She grimaced. "How did I get myself into this mess?" she sighed, and winced at the thought.
She knew perfectly well what the reason was. She had tried to save her friends and failed. Ven was asleep, resting peacefully in the one place where no one would find him. Terra was another matter, his body possessed and his soul waiting in a place she couldn't find. Neither of them was truly safe, but it was all she could do. She had tried to help them and failed, and her current situation was how she was paying for it. 'But, did anything I do mean anything? Did I save Terra, even a little, with my actions? Or did I make everything a whole lot worse?'
Against her wishes, tears started rolling down her cheeks and she wiped them away quickly, only for them to be replaced by more. 'I can't cry. I shouldn't cry. I swore that I wouldn't.' She sighed and sat down, staring out at the pale moon along the horizon. 'I promised I wouldn't…' Quietly, she thought back, back to when she first learned of the Keyblade, not long before she got her own…
"Crying gains you nothing. It can't bring people back, and it only brings more pain…"
Aqua's home world, Fifteen years before Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
Aqua's home world was a large continent bordered by an ocean, and she loved it. She would spend hours walking along the beach, sometimes with others, but mostly by herself. She enjoyed her time alone the most, listening to the waves, smelling the salt, and enjoying the cool breezes that wafted against her arms and legs. It may have seemed strange for a ten year old girl to enjoy spend time with the ocean more than spending time with her friends, but that was how Aqua had always been. It was how she always believed she would be.
Things, however, rarely stay as we want them to stay, and Aqua's life changed drastically one day. It was a routine day for her: she went to school, went home to grab a snack, and then headed out to the beach. She had changed out of her uniform during her pit stop and was dressed in her usual tank top and shorts, ignoring the fact that other girls commented on her boyish wardrobe. She had never cared much for expensive or pretty clothes, only what was comfortable.
She arrived at the beach at her usual time and decided which path she would take, picking the left, rockier path as opposed to the right sandy one. She worked her way along the shoreline, clambering along the rocks with ease, careful not to skin her knees. She knew the path well enough to know which rocks to climb and which rocks would try to flatten her if she grabbed them. There were a few times where she lost her grip, but she only scratched her palms slightly.
After about an hour of climbing and walking, she got to her usual resting spot; a little expanse of beach between some rock clusters, in front of a large tide pool. She sat down and ate he snack as she watched seagulls sailing through the air, feeling spray from the waves on her legs, arms, and face. After a while, she stuffed the remnants of her snack into her pocket and continued. She climbed up to a rock ledge, her final destination, and stopped.
Standing on the ledge was a little black creature unlike anything she had ever seen. She took a few cautious steps towards it, wondering if it was some kind of dog, but as she got within a few meters, it started twitching and turned to face her. It had hollow yellow eyes and, at the sight of it, Aqua suddenly got a horrible feeling that the creature was dangerous. She took a few steps back, but the creature didn't move, still twitching and starting at her. Out of nowhere, three more of the creatures appeared out of the ground, rising to stare at her as well. Aqua tried to back up a bit more, even more frightened, but she had reached the edge, and there was too much of a long, uneven drop for her to think of jumping. All at once, the group of creatures ran at her, wobbling along on unsteady legs. Letting out a scream, she covered her eyes and braced herself for their attack.
The attack never came. All she heard was a splattering sound and felt a rush of aim brush past her. Cautiously, she peeked out from behind her fingers and gasped. The strange black creatures were gone, replaced with a boy, standing with his back to her. He had messy brown hair, which was odd to her. Brown was an abnormal hair color in her home world, shades of blond and black being the some of the more common, natural ones. He was also wearing beige pants, which was odd considering they were on the beach in the middle of summer, and a black tank top. His left arm was covered in some sort of metal armor, mixing colors of black and brown, as well as his feet. He acted as though he didn't notice her, his head turning slightly as he looked around.
"Um, e-excuse me?" she spoke up, trying to catch his attention, "Did you see some odd black things around here? I-I'm pretty sure they were here just a…" She trailed off as he turned around.
The boy was her age, but with a face far too serious than that of any normal ten year old. His blue eyes regarded her with interest for a moment, but none of that interest reached the rest of his face. He was far more muscular than any boy her age was, and even some older ones, but that wasn't what caught most of her attention. Supported by both of his hands was a weapon that looked like a cross between a sword and a giant key, almost bigger than he was. The hilt consisted of a black grip with blueish green metal wrapping from the cross-guard to the end of the hilt, creating a ring to act as protection for his hand. The blade was a thick bar of brown metal, indented all the way down both sides of the shaft except for in the middle, allowing the lighter brown bordering metal to form a ridge around both sides. The shaft ended in a misshapen section of metal that resembled a fragmented boulder, the metal darker than that of the shaft with more of the lighter metal bordering and forming the outline of sections of the boulder, but the section was flat. Hanging from the end of the hilt was a vial filled with dirt on a grey metal chain.
Without saying a word to her, he turned and walked off. Having seen the strange weapon made her realize that he had killed off the strange black creatures, but when she thought to thank him for helping her, he had already vanished.
After having backtracked all the way back home, the sun was setting, leaving long shadows that threatened to smother her ask she walked. She laughed and ran around the edges, playing a game that she was a warrior, fighting off the monstrous shadows. The gate to her house was unlocked, just as she had left it before she had left, but she knew her father was home. He worked at home, especially because she lived in the largest house on the continent, the President's house. She slid off her sandy shoes inside the door and rushed up the stairs in her socks to her father's office.
Her father, hard at work, didn't hear her ease the door open and slide inside. Smiling mischievously, she snuck up behind him and, making sure he wasn't writing something important, she grabbed his elbows around the back of his chair. He jumped, but then started laughing, standing up to slide the chair out of the way before he enveloped her in a suffocating hug. She giggled and hugged him back, planting a kiss on his cheek. "Welcome home, Father," she laughed, when he had released her. "How was work?"
He sighed, running a hand through his graying black hair. "A pain, as usual. Forms, bills, more forms, and all kinds of petitions. I can never seem to get a rest around here. There have also been more complaints about 'moving shadows' from all over the continent. I'm not sure what to think anymore."
Aqua used her father's chair to sit down on his desk. 'Moving shadows? Like the ones I saw?' she wondered. She was about to mention this to her father, but a knock at the door cut her off.
Her father's secretary, one of the many assistants Aqua had included in her makeshift family, opened the door. "I'm sorry to bother you, sir," he breathed, struggling with his asthma, "but there's a man here to see you, and he's very insistent that he sees you now."
Aqua glanced over at the clock on her father's desk. 7:14 PM. "Isn't it really late?" she asked. 'It's almost my bedtime too, but if I don't mention it, maybe Father will let me listen to his meeting.'
The secretary nodded. "Right now. He insists that his business is of the utmost importance." He loosened his tie, trying to give himself more air. "Shall I send him up?"
Her father sighed. "Well, if he says it's urgent, I might as well see him now. Send him here."
The secretary disappeared and, a few minutes later, returned with the guests. The man, presumably the one who wanted to speak with her father, appeared to be in his mid-to-late-twenties, with long black hair tied in a topknot. He wore a long white jacket with a hood and pair of long, flared beige pants that Aqua had seen samurais wearing on TV. He wore a dark blue shirt with an X on it under a dark green metal chest plate. His shoes were also armor. His eyes were weary but sharp, and he sported a dark mustache and a soul patch. The person accompanying him was the boy Aqua had met on the beach.
The man stepped forward and held out his hand to Aqua's father. "I am Eraqus, Keyblade Master, head of the Keyblade order, and caretaker of the Land of Departure." He indicated the boy with his other hand. "This is Terra, my apprentice." Terra bowed, respectful but not flattering her father's position, and then proceeded to stare off into space. "I thank you for agreeing to see us at such a late hour," Eraqus continued.
Her father shook his hand. "Not at all. I'm President Tatsuza Nozume, but if you're coming here on such important business, I'm sure you already knew that," he chuckled, taking on his usual light-hearted nature, which Aqua called his 'Important People Act'. "This is my daughter, Aqua."
She jumped off the table and curtsied as best she could in shorts. "Nice to meet you."
Eraqus nodded his approval with a smile as her father began talking, but Aqua ignored their conversation. She walked over to Terra and smiled, trying to be nice, but he didn't seem to notice. He continued staring off into space as if she wasn't there. 'Maybe he doesn't realize I'm here,' she mused, and tilted her head into what she believed to be his line of sight. The skin at the corners of his eyes crinkled, but he didn't move. Frustrated, she waved her hand in front of his face.
"Aqua, don't do that. It's rude," her father reprimanded, sounding a bit annoyed at her for interrupting his conversation.
She blushed. "Sorry."
Eraqus smiled. "Please excuse my apprentice. He's not comfortable around people, so he pretends to ignore them to spare himself trouble."
Terra broke his stare to glare at his master, but said nothing.
Aqua giggled. "I just wanted to thank him for saving me earlier."
Both of the adults looked at her in surprise for a moment. Then Eraqus looked at his apprentice as if to ask 'So that's what you were doing earlier?' Terra glanced back at him, his eyes reading an affirmative.
Her father ignored this exchange. "What do you mean, Aqua?"
"I was at the beach earlier and I saw these little black things with yellow eyes," she explained, "They came at me and I… kinda got scared, and when I looked up, he was there and the black things were gone. So, I figured it was him who got rid of them."
"More 'moving shadows'," he father sighed, running his hand through his hair again before turning to Terra, "Well, it seems I owe you my thanks as well, for saving my daughter."
Terra nodded once, not even opening his mouth to breathe. Eraqus placed a hand on his apprentice's shoulder. "Though he may seem ungrateful, he also knows that it's his job. Those creatures, 'moving shadows' as you call them, are in fact Heartless, beings that we who wield the Keyblade are hunting."
Aqua listened intently. 'Keyblade? Oh, that sword-key thing Terra was holding! That must be a Keyblade. But how could something like that hurt those things?'
"The power of the Keyblade is not to be taken lightly," Eraqus continued, as if he could read her mind, "Keyblades are very powerful weapons, designed to fight creatures, like the Heartless, who threaten the balance of the universe. Of course, Keyblades are very selective of their wielders, making their powers desired by many who cannot wield it themselves. We've come here to defeat the Heartless residing in your world, and to prevent them from coming back," he added to her father, "With your permission, of course."
Her father nodded. "You have my permission, but we'll have to discuss the finer details before I let you go about your business. Politics and all that stuff; you know how it is. The discussions, I presume, can wait until morning?"
"Of course," Eraqus agreed, looking down at his apprentice, "We've traveled a long way to get here, and I'm sure my apprentice is tired." Terra raised an eyebrow at that statement, which Eraqus returned, but neither of them spoke a word in argument.
"There's plenty of space here at my home, so you're welcome to stay here until you can find accommodations more to your liking," her father offered, gesturing around him.
Eraqus smiled. "We'd be honored."
Aqua watched quietly as her father led the Keyblade Master out of the room, talking about some adult matters, and sighed. Looking up, she noticed Terra staring at her, but when she met his eyes, he turned and walked away.