There is always sleep between part and meet…
The sky here…is strange.
Aqua stepped out of the Mysterious Tower, the ever changing abode of the powerful sorcerer Master Yen Sid, with the unconscious Ven slumped across her back and shoulders. She was carrying him piggyback-style, his arms draped around her neck. She could feel the reassuring touch of his warm breath on her skin. It meant he was alive, at least, even if his heart was lost.
The girl looked up. It appeared to be either dawn or dusk, for the heavens were a beautiful silky black everywhere except the horizon. There, a vivid line of orangey light pervaded the night, starless, burning like the sun. The stars ranged in size here from tiny, frosty glimmers to intense, large spheres of flaring ivory.
If only Terra was here to see this…and if only Ven was awake.
Standing on the small flight of stairs that led out of the Tower, Aqua turned to address her friend. "I'll take you somewhere safe, Ven."
Nothing will ever happen to you while my heart still beats…I'll find Terra, and then we'll get your heart. I promise. You'll see.
Her thoughts were both seeking to reassure herself and weave a resolute promise for Ventus.
Unexpectedly, she felt the blonde boy move. His fingers twitched and one of his limp hanging hands lifted. The Master gasped, surprised, as in a burst of luminescence he summoned his Keyblade, Fresh Breeze. The black and bronze weapon swirled with snowy light infused with blue before firing a lancing beam of pure radiance into a clear patch of the Tower's front lawn.
The ray detonated, expanding rapidly, assuming for a heartbeat or two the clear shape of a shimmering Keyhole. Then, as fast as it had formed, it spread apart and created a roughly rectangular portal to another world. It was so blindingly bright that Aqua had to narrow her eyes as the wavering, shifting doorway waited for her.
How can this be?
Her question died on her tongue as Ven's Keyblade disappeared once more, and his breathing became deep and slow again. For a moment, disappointment trailed through her before the female Keybearer shook it off.
He's still here. Our bond lets him help me even with his heart gone. Now, I have to help him.
Aqua smiled slightly. "Okay. I got it." She glanced at her sleeping companion. "We just have to go through here, right?" She briefly readjusted her grip on Ven before walking carefully forward, leaving the Mysterious Tower behind.
I'm glad Mickey respects that I have to find Terra alone. I think I'm the only one that can.
Her star charms linked their destinies together after all. Just like the paopu fruits that grew on Destiny Islands.
But first, I have to make sure Ven is safe from harm.
The portal turned a deep gold before disappearing the moment she emerged from it. The warmth of the Light instantly faded, to be claimed by an eerie, cold wind that slowly caressed her skin as it passed. That happened only once—after that, the air was stifling, heavy, still as death.
Aqua blinked, shocked. There was no sun here, no stars even, nothing but a dim glow from above that offered just enough illumination to see by. She was standing in the center of a circular plaza, a massive chunk missing from the left side of it. The stones underneath her armored shoes were cracked and worn, as if time had nibbled into them. A dark, foggy gray haze shrouded anything below her with secrecy; all but the tallest mountain peaks were swallowed by its misty touch.
All but the tallest mountain peaks—and the castle before her. Once grand, once beautiful, the citadel that resided over the Land of Departure was now in a sorry state. Crumbling in places, clearly breaking down, the golden chains that had once kept it aloft by gripping the surrounding mountains missing.
This…is horrible. I can't believe this has happened!
She had grown up here. Her childhood home, training beside Terra and Ventus under Master Eraqus's fatherly tutelage. She knew every rock, every valley, every tree in the nearby forests. But now the place was empty and silent. Not a bird sang, and the constant summer atmosphere of the Land of Departure was long gone, to be replaced with…nothing. The air seemed to press down on her until she couldn't take in a single breath.
Aqua gazed around, eyes burning, and then sighed.
Don't cry. It's not going to help. I can help this place…but it's not through tears.
She almost broke her own philosophy when she spotted something lying before her on the stones, a foot or so away from the steps that led to the castle. She had to shut her eyes tight for a moment before she could even look at it without crying.
Her teacher's silver and black Keyblade, so simple in design but so sturdy and strong, was resting forlornly, dropped by its possessor. It appeared uncomfortably like the ownerless, dull Keyblades that were buried forever in the Keyblade Graveyard.
This is a sign.
Aqua paced forward, her steps precise and wary, almost as if she expected Eraqus to appear and chide her for picking up his Keyblade. She had done that once, years and years ago.
Master never wanted Terra to fall to Darkness. I won't let him. That was the Master's last wish of me.
The girl tightened her grip on Ven.
Understood. I will not let Terra fall to Darkness.
Aqua bent and picked up the Keyblade, lifting the weapon from its place on the ground. It seemed to weigh nothing, just like her own Keyblade, Rain Storm. The Keychain scraped the tiles as it rose.
I will bring Terra back as one worthy of being a Master.
She studied the castle looming above her before heading towards its door.
There's no way Terra will fall to Darkness. He's stronger than that. His heart is stronger than that. I believe in you, Terra. Wherever you are.
Every footfall echoed loudly in the place she had once called home. But the Land of Departure didn't feel right anymore without its Master there to watch over it. Eraqus had constructed this place, given it a life and a soul. But now, it was hollow. An impossible amount of dust coated everything, and time's embrace was moving unnaturally fast.
Regardless, Aqua continued onward, carrying Ventus and speaking to him occasionally. Asking if he remembered this or that. So long as her bond with him was intact, he'd wake up. He had to.
After a period of time that seemed both too long and too short, she arrived in the Training Room. The same chamber where she had battled Terra and performed her Master Qualification Exam, which had been the catalyst to all of the disastrous events so far.
Master Eraqus's words came back to her, rebounding so deafeningly in her head that she swore her memories had come alive, or that she had somehow stumbled into the past.
"Yes." She had replied evenly with a nod.
Eraqus spoke calmly, but with a tone of voice that made it clear she should listen very carefully."Now that you've become a Master, I will let you in on a secret."
Picking her way carefully across a sea of fallen roof tiles, the girl sighed. Ven even seemed to also.
"If anything were ever to happen to me…"
"I used to think that was impossible," Aqua murmured.
"…And you had to protect yourself from the forces of Darkness…use my Keyblade to seal this world."
The two valleys that had formed on either side of her, if she tripped and fell down them, would probably send her hurtling to her death—or more importantly, it would kill Ven. And she'd never allow that, hence her caution as she avoided the gaping holes in the floor. Her azure eyes were narrowed in deep thought.
"What?" She had gasped, covering her mouth with one hand. What did that mean?
A simple Keychain swung from the Keyblade in her hand.
"For generations, it has been the duty of all Keyblade Masters to protect this world in-between, so that the balance between Light and Dark could not be abused." Eraqus went on as if she had not spoken.
Aqua reached the Three Thrones of the Masters that looked out over the ruined Training Room. Placing Eraqus's Keyblade carefully against the right chair, she removed Ven from her back and gently settled him in the middle of the seats, positioning him so that he would be comfortable. The left throne had fallen victim to a loose section of the ceiling.
Her gaze settled kindly on Ventus for a few seconds before she circled behind the chairs, pointing the Keyblade at the back of the middle one.
"This is a strategy passed down through generations of Masters for that purpose."
Inhaling deeply, the girl summoned forth the power within her. A rippling white Keyhole sprang into life on the back of Ven's throne with enough force to cause her clothes to flow behind her, as if caught in a strong tempest. As the hot air slid across her skin, Aqua's eyes flicked across the fallen Land of Departure one more time. Its halls were no longer golden, its skies no longer blue and sunny, but…
I will always remember this place the way it should be. I'll put it back…one day.
Aqua readjusted her posture, leaning the Keyblade's point closer to the Keyhole. She bit back a sharp gasp as foreign energy she had never called on until now welled out from somewhere deep within her, summoned from whatever region of her heart made her worthy to be called a Keyblade Master.
Sapphire light swirled and spiraled around Eraqus's Keyblade, meeting in the center and shooting forth towards the Keyhole.
"You must change the structure of this world…"
A great yellow radiance exploded out, sweeping across the Land of Departure. Aqua didn't need to shut her eyes—she could see straight through it, even though it was far brighter than anything she had ever looked at before.
"…So that all visitors will be lost to oblivion, and no one will be able to solve the puzzle."
Ven…you will be safer here than anywhere else in the entire universe. This is the best I can do.
At last, even she couldn't bear to gaze into the flaring luminescence any longer. The female Keybearer shut her eyes tight.
Even behind closed lids, the light still burned.
"Except for you, Aqua…"
When everything again became clear, Aqua found herself feeling tired. The girl straightened up; staring around at the world she had created to keep Ven out of harm's way.
Something beautiful. If Ven has to be here, I want him to wake up somewhere magical.
She narrowed her eyes slightly.
But it has to be intimidating enough to scare off any trespassers. I guess…this is what I made.
Everything was white. Shockingly white. White on white on white on silver, for a few gleaming flashes of the substance were visible in Ven's Chamber of Awakening. There was only one throne now, and Ven was still safe within it, slumped over, blissfully asleep. Heart shaped sigils and sculptures decorated the room's walls, and silver chains swam along the sides before vanishing, repeating every once in a while their endless cycle.
There was a single door, a soft blue color that was almost gray, also bearing the design of hearts.
Aqua walked to Ven, her gaze moving to the floor. The chains moved again, from the base of the chair all the way up to the walls, and then to the door.
They'll keep him safe. No one will be able to enter here…except me.
Her grin before almost painful as she said good bye to Ventus. She laid her hand on his head; gently stroking him like a mother did to comfort her child. "You may get lonely, but just wait a bit." She placed both hands on the arm of the throne, kneeling a little so she could look at his face, so calm in sleep. "I'll bring Terra, and definitely come back to wake you."
Aqua blinked twice, surprised.
Did he just smile? Even if just slightly?
She sighed, nodding to herself.
Of course he did. He's Ven. He always smiles, even when the world is crying.
Heading out to look for Terra, Aqua turned to survey her handiwork once she had emerged from Castle Oblivion. It was a twisted, frightening behemoth that rose over shadows on a tendril of gray earth, the color of burnt gold with shades of green. There was no light here, just black clouds, though the citadel itself seemed to glow, illuminating the landscape.
It was rather daunting, she thought.
As she turned away, intent on locating Terra, she heard a voice, muttering in her head.
"Aqua...please, destroy me."
Her azure eyes fixed themselves on a point down the lone road. "Terra, lead me to you."
As Aqua started the journey to locate the missing member of their trio, she cast her thoughts back to the castle. Back to Ven.
Rest easy, my friend. I'll be back before you even know I'm gone. Then we can all laugh, just like we used to.
The battle that came after this is depicted in the piece "For A Friend Worth Dying For", the battle before this is depicted in the piece "Fight the Shadows".
Because Fantasy0girl wanted to see this part! I hope it was to your liking!
Special thanks to strwbrymilk of YouTube for the English subtitles!
Reviews are much appreciated!