Dedicated to Divine Wolfe, who's profile inspired me to write this. Sorry if it reads awkwardly. I tried to keep Vanitas in character, and this was the result.

Something Evil This Way Comes

Aqua made her way down an open hallway in the Land of Departure. One side of the hallway was a wall of the castle, white and pure, but cast over in the shade of the afternoon sun. On her other side, past the railing, the mountainous landscape spread out around her, vibrant lakes and lush vegetation covering everything in sight. Usually, she relished in the beautiful scenery, but not today. She was nervous.

"The Exams will be starting any minute, and I'm already late!" she groaned, "Of all the mornings I had to sleep in, why did it have to be today?"

As she rounded a corner, she made the mistake of looking down to fix her sleeves and ran head first into someone. She stumbled backwards, startled, and was about to start yelling when she noticed that she didn't recognize the person. He stood at her height, dressed in an almost organic looking suit of black and red, his face obscured by a black mask of glass. He was muscular, his build firm but lean, which was why she had mistaken him momentarily for Terra.

"P-pardon me," she stuttered, bowing deeply.

The stranger laughed, a light, juvenile sound, and she guessed that he was smiling under his helmet. "Aqua, correct?"

Surprised, all she could do was nod. Who is this guy? And how does he know my name?

"You're prettier than I expected," he mused, "Especially for a Keyblade wielder. Shame if something horrible were to happen to you…" His tone was peculiar, as though he didn't really mean what he was saying, but Aqua didn't notice.

Blushing, she cleared her throat. "C-can I help you with something?"

"Indeed you can, but not quite yet. I don't think you're quite ready for it."

"Huh?" His cryptic words were confusing her, but that wasn't all that was confusing. The man seemed like he was constructed out of enigmas, from his speech all the way down to his name. "Who are you?"

"No one important," he answered, waving his hand nonchalantly. "At least, not to you."

"Why not?"

"You'll see."

Trying to get straight answers out of this guy is like asking Master Eraqus for a day off. Thinking about this, she realized that she was even later for the Exam than before. "I'm sorry, whoever you are," she said hurriedly, miffed that she had been distracted, "but I have somewhere I need to be. Excuse me." Bowing her head, she brushed part him and starting walking away.

"Your Exam, yes? I wouldn't be too worried about that," the man replied, leaning up against the wall behind her. She stopped and turned around, eyebrows raised. "You'll pass that Exam with ease, no doubt."

Aqua blinked in confusion. I think he might be trying to psyche me out or something. If he is, it's working. "I'm sorry, but what do you mean by that?"

"Exactly what I said. There won't be any problems in the Exam. At least… not for you."

"If you're not going to make any sense, then stop trying to talk to me," she snapped, losing her temper.

He chuckled, making Aqua shiver at the harshness of the sound. "Oh, but I am making sense. You just don't know enough to understand it."

Resisting the urge to slap him, she turned around. Not looking at him made it easier to talk to him. "I really have to leave. If you've got nothing to say to me that I'll understand, I'm not wasting my time on you."

"Then I have one piece of advice for you, Aqua. Stop while you have a chance to."

She stopped. "Stop what?"

"Stop being a Keyblade wielder. You're wasting your life on something that won't accomplish anything. You're smart enough to do anything you want, and pretty enough to be anything you want, so why waste it on something like this?" he gestured around him, "No one appreciates you for your talents, and they never will."

Aqua let his words sink in for a minute. "I'm doing what I decided to do."

"And you're content to accomplish nothing because of it? You really should think about what you're doing more carefully before you decide. Your life is worth much more than a life as a Keyblade wielder dictates."

He could be right. I've spent a long time as a Keyblade wielder, and what have I accomplished? Nothing. I have Master Eraqus, Terra and Ven, but other than that, who appreciates me? Do I even appreciate myself? …Wait a second, what am I thinking? I chose this because it's what I wanted, and I'm sticking with it! "You're…" She paused, a thought occurring to her suddenly. He's… Is he… Is he hitting on me? "Flattery will get you nowhere," she grumbled, blushing profusely.

The man tilted his head, genuinely taken aback. "Really now? That's too bad. And here I thought I was doing a good job…" He shrugged. "Ah well. There's no saying I didn't try. Too bad for you."

Without another word and before she could reply, the man vanished around the corner, leaving Aqua alone, more confused than ever. It took her a while to come to her senses before she realized that she was extremely late for the Exam. Shaking her head to clear the enigma man out of her thoughts, she sprinted off.

When she arrived, Master Eraqus was talking to a bald old man with a goatee. Neither of them paid any attention to her, but she could see the corners of her Master's lips turn up briefly in relief. Terra stood rigid at the bottom of the stairs, and he didn't budge when she came to stand next to him.

"What took you?" he hissed under his breath, sounding agitated, but his eyes were glued ahead of him. "Master Eraqus was about to fail you for not showing up."

She smiled sheepishly. "I got held up."

"By what?"

"A curious flatterer," she chuckled softly, hoping Terra didn't notice her blushing.

His eyebrows knit together in confusion, but his only reply was a quiet "Hmmm."

Master Eraqus turned to his students, who snapped to attention. "Today we hold the Master Qualification Exams. Thankfully, Master Xehanort," he motion towards the old man, who was now seated, "is here to observe…"