Chapter 1 - Beginnings
Destiny Islands, Ten years before Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
The sunlight stained the coastline orange as afternoon shifted into evening. A light breeze, peppered with the scent of ocean salt, brushed along the edge of the empty beach, bringing with it the heat of a day over water in the middle of summer. Not even a single seagull or crab was present, though, when a dark portal opened in sky ten or so feet above the beach and a figure dropped onto the sand. His armor, colored in vibrant copper and gold, shone in the sun, but he didn't notice. Instead, he growled at the sand under his feet and pulled off his helmet one-handed, his sweaty brown hair plastering itself to his face. In his other hand, he held his Keyblade, a large, normally unwieldy slab of brown metal with a bluish-green hilt-guard, but quickly dismissed it in a flash of bright light.
"I hate the beach," Terra grumbled, putting his helmet back on before he punched his shoulder pad in annoyance, his armor twisting and collapsing back against his arm.
Behind him, Aqua was doing the same, her silver and cobalt armor collapsing away as his did. "You shouldn't be so negative about it," she smiled, her eyes teasing, "I, for one, like it. I feel like I'm a little kid again."
"Good for you. Meanwhile, I'm dying," he grunted, looking down at his clothes. "I never dress for this kind of weather."
He was wearing a dark brown tank top, tight to his muscular skin, but he was also wearing loose beige pants, and his armored boots didn't help. Sweat had absorbed into every inch of his clothes or beaded up on his bare skin, rolling down as it accumulated. Aqua had prepared a little better, wearing loose black shorts and a loose grey tank top, but her armor was attached to a pair of light blue sleeves, detached from the rest of her clothes. Her blue hair was plastered to her face as well, but she wasn't suffering from the heat as he was.
"You dress for combat," she pointed out, "and I dress for comfort. It's a gender thing, so I wouldn't worry much about it."
He rolled his eyes. "That's not what I'm worried about. I'm worrying about why Master Eraqus sent us here."
"There's something here that's drawing in the Heartless, and the world is pretty much defenseless. They haven't produced a Keyblade wielder here for ages, and he left without preparing any defenses for them," Aqua explained, staring out at the ocean with a serious look on her face.
She continued talking, but Terra zoned out and ended up staring at her instead. The two of them had been training under Master Eraqus for around five years, and he found that he had formed a deep bond to her. Five years ago, she could barely lift her Keyblade, let alone use it, but the two of them had been through a couple close situations and now trusted each other completely. It was something that surprised him. He had never thought that he could trust anyone again, but Aqua was a kindred spirit. They could relate to each other, no matter how many things they disagreed on. Lately, though, he had felt things begin to change. He couldn't always speak his mind around her, leaving him speechless in certain situations. It hurt sometimes when she laughed at his mistakes. Most of all, he found himself staring at her, watching the way she held herself, the way she expressed herself with her eyes as she talked. It was little things that he had never noticed about her before that were drawing his attention, like how her lips were forming an angry frown right at that moment…
"Terra, are you listening?" she snapped, "I asked you a question!"
Breaking out of his daze, he scowled and crossed his arms, looking away from her. "I didn't hear you. The waves are getting in the way," he lied, trying to fight against the blood rushing to his face.
Aqua tilted her head in confusion, but she just nodded. "Figures as much. You're not used to the sound of the waves. Come on. We'll find somewhere to talk."
Together they walked away from the beach, passing the line of palm trees that separated it from the town. The town was one in the loosest sense, consisting of a small collection of houses and other assorted buildings spread up a gently sloping hill. Each building had a large lot of land around it in an attempt to make the town look bigger, but it didn't seem to help. It looked like a ghost town, and Terra shivered. 'It looks like my home town. Deserted, depressing… but it doesn't feel dead. There are people here.' Behind them, an island blocked off the horizon, trees of all sorts littered along the edges of a steep mountain.
"As I was saying before," Aqua started up again, walking up the road beside him, looking hastily around at the houses, "We should really find somewhere to rest. If we're going to be fighting a lot of Heartless, we're going to get worn out easily, especially you," she pointed out, poking him, "so we should probably start looking around."
From somewhere behind a building, a scream echoed out, and both of them immediately snapped into action. They darted in the direction of the scream, weaving around buildings until they reached the source, Keyblades at the ready. Three Neoshadows, inky black creatures with twitching limbs, had pressed a girl up against the wall of a house, but they all turned their attention to the Keyblade wielders as they rounded the corner. One lunged forward, but Terra struck down, splattering it under the weight of his Keyblade. Aqua back flipped over him, pushing lightly off his back as she let loose a powerful blast of blizzard magic. A second Neoshadow froze into a block of ice, and Terra smashed through it easily, putting him between the girl and the last Heartless. Aqua landed on its other side.
Surrounded, the Neoshadow twitched and squirmed in place, judging its situation. Aqua shifted on her feet, trying to draw it in, but it didn't budge. Instead, it lunged for the girl, moving in a straight path, and was met by Terra, who roundhouse kicked it backwards. It stumbled back into the path of Aqua's Keyblade and ceased to exist.
"Any more?" she asked, still on her guard.
Terra reached into his inner calm and relaxed, testing his senses for another Heartless. It was a skill he had acquired over the years: a keen sense of prediction about the movement of Heartless. Aqua had acquired something similar, but it extended only to strong magical powers, and only those that had been awakened. "Nothing," he replied after a few moments of searching. "We're clear."
"Wh-what was that?" a smooth, gentle voice asked, and he sensed movement behind him. "What were those things? And who are you?"
Turning around, Terra's mind went blank. Standing before him was the girl they had rescued, but he had been too preoccupied to notice much about her. She was their age, slim, dainty looking, with beautiful auburn hair down to her waist, and brilliant aqua colored eyes. She didn't look scared, only a little shaken up, but she used the wall for support. Feeling the blood rushing to his face again, he turned away as Aqua approached, his back to both of them. Out of the corner of his eyes, he could see Aqua looking at him with raised eyebrows, but her expression said that she'd ask about it later.
"Sorry if we startled you," she explained, using her polite voice, which she used whenever she wanted to convince someone of something without question, "Those were Heartless, creatures of darkness. We're here to get rid of them. My name is Aqua, and this is Terra."
Having composed himself, he turned back to them and nodded politely at the girl. "Nice to meet you."
"Likewise," the girl replied, sounding a little more relaxed. "I'm Demetra. Beating up those Heartless things… that was pretty amazing. You're not from around here, are you? No one here can do things like that."
Aqua nodded. "We've been through a lot of training to be able to do that. And you're right. We're not from around here. In fact, we came here from very far away."
Demetra's eyebrows rose. "It's a big problem, huh? …Well, you two can stay at my place, unless you already have somewhere else in mind…"
Terra looked over at Aqua and raised his eyebrows. It was their common body language for a question. Aqua looked back at him and blinked once, smiling: a yes. "That's very kind of you," he nodded, "And we'd be happy to accept your offer."
"Good! I can properly thank you for saving me. Come with me," she said, and lead them off.
"What do you think?" Aqua asked as they walked, the two of them hanging back slightly.
Terra blinked a few times, clearing his thoughts. "Something about this situation just stinks. I don't know what we're dealing with here, but the Heartless are up to something."
"You mean they have a plan?"
"It doesn't seem like a plan. More of… a goal. They're after something."
Aqua's eyes flashed to Demetra's back, posing a silent question.
He shrugged slightly. "Not sure. We'll have to keep our eyes open. Until then, there's not much else we can do."
Demetra's parents were happy to accommodate them when she explained to them what had happened. They were given a spare room on the second floor, but unfortunately, they had to share it. There was only one bed in the room, and Terra had insisted that Aqua take it. He took a spare pillow and declared that he would sleep on the floor, much to her chagrin.
"Stubborn jerk," she muttered, when they had finished discussing their arrangements, "You always have to pick the hard way. What if I wanted to sleep on the floor?"
He smirked. "I wouldn't let you. It goes against my morals."
"I didn't realize you had morals," she joked, and he glared at her.
Demetra laughed. "Are you two always like this?"
"Yes," they replied simultaneously, and after a quick glare, indignantly refused to talk to each other for an hour.
Terra was the first to head up to their room, but he had only started undoing the straps on his armor when Aqua entered, flopped down on the bed, pulled her sleeves and laid down, her back to him. He stared at her for a moment before he finished and lay down as well. They were silent for a long time, and he was on the verge of sleep when she spoke.
"Do you think… there will ever be a time when the world is at peace? When we don't have to travel to other worlds, train, or fight Heartless?"
He turned his head to look at her, and she was staring back, her eyes shining with moonlight from the window. "I'm… not sure. Maybe someday, I guess."
"What are you going to do then?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, if you don't need to wield the Keyblade anymore, if you don't need to fight," she whispered, "what would you do with your life?"
He thought for a moment before turning to lie on his back. "I won't do anything. I don't think I'll be around when that happens."
"But what if you were? What would you do? Like… if the fighting ended tomorrow, where would you go from there?"
"I… don't know. I wouldn't have anything to live for if it did."
"Do you really think that?" she asked finally, sounding a bit sad. "That's… really sad."
"I've got nothing else left, Aqua. Just this."
She rolled back over, hugging her arms. Terra barely heard her mutter, "I'd help you find something," before her breathing evened out and she was fast asleep.